After spending many weeks trying to get through Gone by Michael Grant, I finally finished it. Wikipedia has the whole series down as ‘”a fun, no-brainer read directed towards teenagers” – has been hailed as “ridiculously popular” and “a sensation in the young adult world”‘, while author Stephen King has been a very vocal fan…
And the Stephen King link makes sense. I found Stephen King through the film version of The Shining many years ago as a young teenager, which I soon realised was nothing like the novel. I went through a few King novels: Cujo, Misery, Joyland and as I read more and become a more rounded reader I realised that Stephen King isn’t the best writer out there by far. Plus he did not like the film adaptation of The Shining, which alone shows his judgement is clearly not very good.
And so King’s appreciation of Gone immediately had me feeling dubious about the sci-fi novel. However, the plot does sound interesting; everyone over the age of 15 suddenly vanishes into thin air, leaving a town of kids running riot, while the novel’s reluctant hero Sam Temple tries to find order by doing the right thing. The plot is Lord of the Flies-esque with a YA tone mixed with some Stephen King style gore.
Even though fourteen and below does not count as Young Adult, Gone feels like a YA novel, but, this novel falls into the eventual trap that I could see this sub genre falling into. The trouble with putting younger characters into a story is the restrictions it causes. Hunger Games handles this well, creating believable characters that do not seem too adult and react to the situation accordingly.
‘Intuition is usually just the name we give to heightened but normal perception that takes place below the level of concious thought’ (Gone, p473) said a 14 year old, never.
Yet in Gone, 14 year old children make comments like the above, fall in love and generally do not act 14. This may be nitpicking but I feel this novel has a big problem with making the believability factor fly out the window. Every time I read a 14 year old making something like the above statement I just rolled my eyes because it felt like the author had submitted to the YA genre just because they knew it would be an easy sell, however isn’t keeping up with the characters. Then again, maybe I just underestimate the philosophical strength of a 14 year old mind.
author Michael Grant
Another negative of the novel is the heroes. I found myself not caring for them. The character of Quinn is frustrating, Sam’s messianic descriptions are annoying and I cared about Lana for half of the novel but then her character is just thrown to the side. What really shines is the villains: Drake, the coyotes and Caine. Everyone hates a school bully and here you have plenty to despise, and to Grant’s credit he did this well, apart from Drake growing an odd snake like octopus tentacle like whipping arm (something straight out of a Stephen King novel).
Finally, Grant’s descriptions are confusing and stilted. Like I said before, I had no idea what Drake’s arm became, the final battle felt jumpy and some of the writing reminded me of the fact that this was the authors first novel.
But, as it is his first novel, you have to give credit where credit is due. The story is good and keeps you interested, you’ll find some good villains and the end sets up a good rivalry between Sam and Caine, that despite having not read the other books, I assume will become the driving force of the series. I hope anyway.
Please check out my début novel Faces of a Small City
Thanks for reading.