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The Murder Complex: Review
Nowadays, after the Hunger Games books took the dystopian world by storm, a lot of people are tired of the same dystopian YA story told over and over again. It's understandable--there's only a certain amount of predictable doom and gloom a reader can handle.
So, I took up this book slightly weary of what I would find. Normally, it wouldn't be something I'd pick up, but after watching Lindsay Cumming's panel at the DFW writer's conference last year and hearing some hints about the book, I wanted to see if it was any good.
Even after hearing about it from the author herself, this book caught me off guard with its realistic, in-depth world and enthralling and dangerous characters.
The Murder Complex
The Murder Complex follows the story of Meadow, a young woman living on a fishing boat with her ruthless father and brother and her innocent little sister. In this world, they must do everything to survive. After her brother, Koi, failed his test to earn a job at the Initiative, Meadow takes her turn, and must make harsh, brutal decisions that not only impact her family, but her character.
Meadow has been trained by her father to do anything necessary to survive. She has been taught to conquer her fears and follow his rules to the letter--any moment she strays off his path could mean death; not just for her, but her entire family.
Their world is ruled by the Initiative, who rules their every move. Rations are in short supply and murders happen like clockwork every night, and no one knows why.
The book also follows the perspective of Zephyr, who is almost the complete opposite of Meadow. He is sensitive and works by cleaning up the dead bodies off the streets the morning after the mysterious murders occur. But he keeps having strange dreams, and waking up covered in blood...
The biggest qualm readers seem to have with dystopian novels, other than the fact that it's become somewhat of a fad since the Hunger Games, is that these books often have a lack of world-building that leave readers questioning why they should care about the characters in the first place.
For example, something that this book does well is that the reader can always draw ties to how this world came to be. The rations make sense, because there's been overpopulation, which our real world has been speculating about for years. That makes the world realistic and believable, which is the most important key to enveloping a reader in a new world.
Everything in the world of The Murder Complex is explained at the right pace; there's never a massive dump of information, like the author forgot to add details and decided to do it last minute with a page of inner monologue, and there are never any moments where the reader has cause to doubt the legitimacy of the threat of the world Meadow lives in.
It's also refreshing to see characters molded by the world around them. A lot of times, books will do one of two things; either the character is immovable in their personality and the world is a minor detail, or the world is a vast being and the character is a blank space through which the reader only sees the details and wonders of the world built around them.
In this novel, the world has shaped both Meadow and Zephyr into what they are according to their personalities. Zephyr, arguably, has had it easier than Meadow, yet he is more easily broken by the world than she is.
That's partially because Meadow has been trained and trained not to be affected by the world, but also because she herself is quite determined to succeed, driven by pride, survival instincts, and maternal instincts towards her family.Zephyr, however, as no family to drive him, so it is easier for him to falter in moments of weakness.
In style, this book is very similar to the Gone series by Michael Grant. The dark aspects and death surrounding the main characters is gritty and real, striking actual fear and anticipation into the hearts of readers.
Any limits a reader thinks the author won't push, they do, leaving the reader breathless with sympathy for the characters and suspense in wondering if they will get out alive.
One of the biggest critiques to find about this book would be that there is a lot of telling. Telling is fine in certain places, but there are a few moments in the book when it would have been nice to have an event described instead of glazed over simply to move onto the next scene deemed more important.
There's a fine line between two much detail and two little, and while this book does a fairly good job as straddling that line, every so often there are pieces where just a few extra lines added in would have been nice.
One of the bigger issues that ties into this one is the way it is written in general; very movie-ish. This is something found in most YA books today, so it's easier to overlook in this one than some others, but it still suffers from what I like to call the "movie-fad'. After Twilight and Harry Potter and The Hunger Games all made it big at the box office, I noticed a change in the way YA books are written. There will be moments where unnecessary battle scenes are put in, where cheesy romance scenes are added even though they don't necessarily fit into the context of the moment, etc. When reading a book, you picture it on screen, the book suffers from the "movie-fad".
The way this vibe--this please-make-this-a-movie-sincerely-author-vibe--comes across is that everything in the book is set up so it would look great on the scene. There's almost no scene you could cut to make it into the movie because it's already designed to read like a screenplay. This makes a good story but not a great one, and designing a book like this--even subconsciously--leaves out a lot of potential scenes for character development or backstory.
Again, this book doesn't suffer as badly as others from it, but it's noticeable. Still, it's an enjoyable read. Some people might even like reading books that seem almost like screenplays, where speech is described more than actions. Personally, I'm still searching for a YA book made in the past two years that reads like a book.
The Murder Complex will keep readers on the edge of their seats with its exciting fight scenes and colorful world and characters. It's one of the most interesting young adult novels I've read in a long time, and I'd highly recommend it.