The Gardener, by S.A. Bodeen (Author of The Compound) -- A Book Review and Summary
Intriguing read and some food for thought, great for light reading
Ever since an unprovoked dog attack left his face scarred and disfigured, Mason has been introverted and generally overlooked amongst his peers -- at least, until his over-sized shadow falls across a bully at school. Now a sophomore in high school, Mason is fascinated by biology and the endless possibilities its study represents. In order to advance his knowledge in his favorite subject, as well as receive financing for college, Mason plans to apply for a summer program hosted by TroDyn. This is the classic monolith -- the enigmatic local corporate entity that owns everything in the area from manufacturing plants to churches. The only condition on their summer program is that he must work for TroDyn after he graduates from college. His only obstacle is his mother, who works in a nursing home owned by TroDyn. She's dead-set against her son getting tangled up in the corporation. All of these concerns cease to be important when Mason visits his mother at work, where he plays a DVD of his father reading a book. No one is in the room except comatose teenagers -- until the words from the DVD make a mysterious girl wake up.
Choosing The Gardener for some light summer reading
I'd never heard of S.A. Bodeen before picking up The Gardener. Even so, I had little difficulty in selecting this book. I was given the opportunity to receive an advance copy based solely on the title and genre, and that combination alone seemed appealing. Disclosure: While I did receive the book itself free of charge, no other payment came from anyone affiliated with the book. It came to me through a third-party company, with nothing expected in return except an honest review. I'm free to be as critical or as complimentary as I feel like being.
Upon receiving the book, I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I wondered if it'd be any good at all. This is only the author’s second book and I had never heard of the first, The Compound. However, after the first chapter or two dedicated to setting up the world and introducing the characters, the story took off flying and I didn’t put it down again until I’d reached the end.
The reviewed book, which is well worth the read if you like science fiction that deals with the future potential of technology -- good or bad
Plot and story line in The Gardener
True to form for a young adult book, The Gardener begins in a familiar small-town setting, but quickly moves into the eery futuristic setting of the TroDyn compound. While there are no real surprises, there are efforts toward a complex story line that includes Mason's search for answers about the father he never knew. Throw in some light romance and coming-of-age issues amid a wild police chase, and you have a book that's easy to get into and keep turning pages.
While this is an excellent stand-alone book, I will not be surprised to see a sequel or a series stem from this intriguing beginning. Author S.A. Bodeen builds such a complete world in this small-town Oregon setting that it would be a shame to leave it at a single book.This author has published a number of other books since The Gardener's release, and I am quite curious to know if the storytelling is as compelling in those newer books.
There are some organizational issues in The Gardener, mainly revolving around the descriptions. Most are excellent, giving just enough detail to let the reader fill in the blanks and create his or her own unique world with the story. The one glaring, distracting omission is a description of the main character -- other than his large build, we really have no idea what Mason actually looks like until near the end. Other than that, the scant descriptions are actually a benefit, keeping the story from bogging down on trivial details.
Who might enjoy The Gardener?
The Gardener is classified as Young Adult science fiction. It has enough story and substance to make a satisfying weekend read for just about any age over about 12. Younger readers may have some difficulty keeping up with the story, and may find a number of elements frightening. Obviously, this will vary according to each individual, so definitely go for it if it sounds like your kind of book, even if you're younger. Having read this book as an adult who can't read much "brain candy" fiction, I can tell you that it definitely has the potential to become a favorite book for any age.
Overall this is an excellent book for sci-fi enthusiasts, especially if you like vaguely scientific corporate conspiracy types of books. It hints at an impending apocalyptic-type environment, especially in that the bioengineering experiments were undertaken to head off the dual crises of food shortage and over-population. The story is very easy to follow, so it's a great book for breaks or commutes where you may only have a few minutes at a time to devote to the read. Based on this book, I'm definitely keeping an eye on S.A. Bodeen, and will seek out additional works in the future.
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