Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release date: June 7th 2012
Paperback, 411 pages.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Jen
In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.
When I decided to read Claire Merle’s debut novel The Glimpse I was intrigued by the dystopian premise of the book. The story takes place in London in the year 2041 after the collapse of modern society. As the government rebuilds itself society is divided into two sectors: Pures and Crazies. Pures are people who have no genetic predisposition towards mental illness. They live in tidy communities sequestered from the horrors of those living with mental illness: the Crazies. It was the idea of this society that originally piqued my interest in The Glimpse, but it was also this premise that I ultimately found completely implausible.
The main character of the story is Ana Barber, a fifteen- year old girl whose father is the genius behind the test that determines if a persons DNA will doom them to a life in the city with the Crazies. Within the first few pages we learn that Ana’s father had manipulated Ana’s test because he knew that she had tested positive for one of the Big 3: schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. This is where the story began to lose me. Depending on one’s environment and circumstances we can all be prone to experiencing episodes of anxiety or depression. The idea of there being a test to determine whether one will be afflicted in the future just seems far-fetched. After deciding that this scenario was not going to sit well with me I began to really think about the idea of ostracizing people for even the most basic of psychological issues and developing a society based on this principle. The reality is that mental illness is big business. Billions of dollars are spent in the U.S. alone on drugs and other therapies that are meant to ease the lives of those suffering from mild to major depression, anxiety, and other afflictions. The economic ramifications of isolating people deemed “mentally ill” would be disastrous. On the same note many of the most talented and influential people throughout history have suffered from some type of so-called mental illness. How different would the world be if we had adopted the same ideologies as this society?
Aside from not buying the premise of the book there was the story itself. I felt that the plot dragged at points, too bogged down by unnecessary detail. Then without warning a major plot bomb would be dropped. Rather than create an appropriate set-up for these instances the author seems to rush right over them. Instead of coming off as fast paced the book becomes tedious and rushed; a very odd mixture of story-telling that was difficult to follow. I also found some of the elements in the book unoriginal. This is the third dystopian novel I have read this year that refers to a portion of society as the “pures.” The setting also posed problems for me in that it was a weird fusion of Victorian customs and ideals with futuristic technology. This blend works well in steampunk, but not as a basis for this dystopian novel.
Dystopian fiction is rapidly overtaking paranormal romance as the favorite genre of fans of young adult literature. It also seems to be the next step beyond science fiction, which looks at society today and embellishes upon it based on where the author feels we are headed. While society in The Glimpse is certainly dysfunctional I just didn’t find any logical basis for the world and technology that Claire Merle has created.