eBook review copy; 336 pages
The Ship by Antonia Honeywell is a recommended YA dystopian coming-of-age novel.
It is the end of civilization. Lalage "Lalla" Paul has grown up in a future London where one act after another limits the registered citizens and controls the increasingly limited supplies. Plagues, viruses and the trashing of the environment have eliminated people and crops globally. People who aren't registered can be eliminated at any time. But none of the restrictions and limits seems to affect Lalla's life as the only child of a wealthy influential father, Michael, and her intelligent strong mother, Anna. They live in a comfortable flat with guards protecting them. While her father gathers supplies and worthy people for "The Ship" her mother tries to educate Lalla on past civilizations, culture, what the world once was, and compassion for others.
On Lalla's 16th birthday, the increasing violence swirling around them has made her father decide it is time for them to leave for The Ship and put his survival plans into motion. Anna bulks and doesn't want to leave the land. She feels Lalla needs to learn more, but Lalla says she wants to go to this mysterious ship. A violent incident sets Michael's plan into motion.
The ship only has room and supplies for 500 people. British troops and a mob try to stop them, but they set out for sea. Soon it becomes clear that Michael wants control and obedience from the people in his utopia. As he instructs them to leave the past behind and consider him the "Father" of all the children, his actions take on a religious tone. Lalla is questioning everything about the endless supplies of food, her father's plan, and everyone's blind following of it. She wants to know when they will reach their destination and start a new life.
The Ship starts out strong in the creation of the dying world, but falls under too many pages and the sheer weight of Lalla's incessant teenage angst and, frankly, odd rebellious behavior. She's lived a very sheltered life compared to everyone else, but surely she should have noticed a bit more about what was happening on land than she apparently did. And she also should have noticed more about the ship than she did. Her love interest has as much depth as a cardboard cutout.
It becomes increasingly difficult to tolerate Lalla. As the plot and pace of the novel slow down, there is no extra character development or insights to keep your interest high and propel the plot forward. I couldn't help but think of Waterworld (don't judge) where they dove down to collect soil to grow things. One of my first thoughts was why didn't they at least try to get soil and grow things on the ship. It could be done. A lot of soil is covered up by buildings, etc. dig under them, get good soil. Or, as other reviewers have pointed out, Lalla had some more options available in the long term, had she used her brains. The opening dystopian fall of society is worth an extra star, but the meat of the book is really so-so.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Orbit.