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Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel
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Article 5

Article 5 - ARTICLE 5 was a book that came highly praised to me. I’m clearly a big fan of politically-based dystopian fiction – I hold a degree in political science, after all. THE HANDMAID’S TALE, WHEN SHE WOKE, 1984. THE HANDMAID’S TALE holds an especially high place in my little geeky heart – the book is beautiful and evocative, and they filmed the movie near my house! Win! The first in a series by debut author Kristen Simmons, ARTICLE 5 follows Ember, arrested and sent to a reformatory by the Federal Bureau of Reformation for being a child born out of wedlock. One of the arresting officials was her old flame, Chase, a boy who seemingly has become a monster just like the rest of them. And when he shows up to take her to trial, she doesn’t know what to think or believe…Let me just start with the biggest pet peeve I had with this story – Ember. She is rather whiny. Threatened with punishment for raising your voice? She argues. Saved by someone she knows she can trust? Oh, let’s just run away! I can get 200 miles in 2 days on my own in a future where cars are hard to come by and safety is at a premium. Safety again? Oh, I’ll just climb out this window and wander aimlessly…Ember’s mother is her main drive in this book, but sadly we are never really let into the reasons why Ember’s mother is in the state that she’s in, or why she’s like it. I could say that her mother needs help from thinking it’s safe to read fashion magazines or date in a world where contact between the sexes is expressly regulated, but it never came off like that. I was led to believe that possibly her mother was bipolar or schizophrenic, but this is never mentioned, which makes the story less plausible.I also did not really believe the political environment. It sounds like a Tea Party wonderland – morality taking over, non-Christians and the sexually active and children born out of wedlock 17 years before being thrown into prison. But the world described sounds like the Tea Party did the morals and the Democrats destroyed the economy. Economic stratification seemed non-existent in ARTICLE 5 – everyone seemed poor, guns were illegal, and the free market destroyed. Yes, this is the politician in me talking, but this future seems very implausible to me with both parts included. Morals, yes. Economic collapse, sure. Both at the same time as pictured? Nope.But there is also a lot of good in this story. I love when an author is willing to take on controversial topics, such as the radicalization of religion. What we play witness to as the reader in this is what could happen if religion became an all powerful force in politics, even though the vision wasn’t as believable as I’d hoped. Chase, the designated love interest in this story, is full of power and courage. He’s brave and he stands up for Ember, risking his life repeatedly just to save her – and because he is in love with her. The romance could have been strengthened – the reader was left wondering what Chase could have seen in Ember, a character so reluctant to trust him for even a second.A lot of work went into the settings and vivid descriptions, from the city of Louisville to the countryside of western Virginia. The set up was fantastic, and I really enjoyed some of the characters in the background – Rosa, in particular, was snappy and fun for the most part. Brock, the warden of the girl’s reformatory, was a scintillating villain that I really enjoyed. But the real villain of this story is the world, and it really was a fantastic villain.For me, this story fell short based on the narrator. I wish she had been less wishy-washy and prone to making dumb decisions based on a poor intuition. Also, I wish the romance had been more solid and less one-sided.VERDICT: With a great setting and attention to the politics of its world, ARTICLE 5 has great promise before falling short on the shoulders of its weak narrator. Still, worth a look. A high 3 star review.