Saturday, January 7, 2012

Far from the War

Far from the War by Jeffrey David Payne (Seattle: Roche Harbor Books, 2011). Review copy provided by publisher.

When Esther Casey leaves her island home near Seattle to serve as a page in the United States House of Representatives, she expects a learning experience, but she gets so much more.  First she discovers the mean-spirited partisanism that has become the norm, even among the pages.  Then the war starts. Washington, DC, is the epicenter and Esther has to flee with her friend Gwen. Things start to go wrong almost immediately, and Esther must struggle for survival in a continuously shifting landscape. 

Thankfully, politics do not predominate in this not-so-distant-future dystopia although extremism is certainly to blame for the coup that starts the war.  The details on who's fighting who and why remain vague to me,  but I enjoyed the way Esther starts out on the right and ends up not only befriending a left-wing page but ultimately learning that the sides don't really matter.  In fact, once the war was underway, it seemed as if no one really understood what it was about.  Money seems to be part of it (get this--gas costs $30/gallon!  And it goes up as supply diminishes!), and both sides want to control the Federal Reserve. Esther's dad, a tech millionaire, had moved his family to an island to avoid being caught up in what he foresaw as an inevitable cataclysm, though his reasoning seems a bit far-fetched--searches at the airport were his main clue that bad things were afoot.  There is some romance between Esther and a soldier she meets, but the story largely focuses on Esther's trials as she fights to survive and get home. It's easy--and scary--to imagine the way communications and finance networks would disintegrate in war time.

Overall, this was an entertaining read with plenty of action to keep the story moving along, though it dragged a bit at times when Esther was recovering from injuries. It also seemed a bit dubious that every time Esther left her belongings behind something happened so she lost everything.  Recommended for ages 15 and up. Intense situations, violence, sexual situations, language.

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