Saturday, November 14, 2015

Vessel by Lissa Cresswell

The sun exploded on April 18, 2112. It exploded in a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen. 

They had nineteen minutes. 

Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, every satellite in their sky. 

Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew, forever, and to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun.

Generations after solar storms have destroyed nearly all human technology on Earth and humans have reverted to a middle ages like existence, all knowledge of the remaining technology is kept hidden by a privileged few called the Reticents and books are burned as heresy. 

Alana, a disfigured slave girl, and Recks, a traveling minstrel and sometimes-thief, join forces to bring knowledge and books back to the human race. But when Alana is chosen against her will to be the Vessel, the living repository for all human knowledge, she must find the strength to be what the world needs.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

I was kindly provided with a copy of this book through Netgalley in Exchange for an honest review.

I’ll stick to Goodreads rating system this time and give it two “it was ok” stars.  Because Vessel really was ok; it wasn’t spectacular or horrible, but rather fell into the average range of Young Adult novels.

The story is about a slave girl, Alana, who lives in an unspecified post-apocalyptic world typical in Young Adult. After a solar explosion destroyed all machines, life reverts itself to the dark ages with no technology and great fear of any knowledge of the world before.

As with many other YA stories before, the world-building is not really there. We get solar storms, lots of people dead, “technology is to blame!!!! so we’ll just get rid of it including all the good stuff like vaccines and shit” mentality, and “the world before” kind of stuff. Because people were so ignorant of their own history, it is never really explained how the world came to be and why some people still know some places names such as “Asia” but at the same time they had no idea of where they were.

The characters are all right, really, they were ok. The writing was weird though, I’ll admit it. Sometimes Alana (it’s first person POV) would think with lots of grammatical errors and with a limited vocabulary, after all she was a slave and her masters didn’t care for her, but there were other times when she’d come up with overly complicated metaphors or descriptions with rich vocabulary that had me confused. Was it one thing or the other?

But I didn’t really mind all that as much as I minded how rape was handled here.

Yes, there is rape in Vessel and it’s not dealt with well. I seem to be having problems with books lately, because everytime I pick one up it contains rape, and if you have read some of my reviews you’ll know that I have little tolerance for rape as a plot device. As a matter of fact, I hate it.

Rape it’s not something you put in your book to add some spice like a love triangle or a quest, it’s something horrible and disgusting, and playing it as if it were no big deal is also horrible and disgusting.

In this case, rape is used to show just how cruel this world is. Alana is constantly raped by her master. In fact, she is forced to wear a Billa, which is a sort of black blanket that covers her entire body and face to hide the disfiguration that his master’s wives did to her.
Sometime ago, as a result of the constant sexual assault, Alana got pregnant. But only first wives can carry the Master’s children, so they all teamed up together to pour hot oil over Alana’s face and body, scarring her for life and killing her unborn baby.

Yes, it’s that awful.

But it doesn’t stop there, after that attack she’s forced to wear the Billa so that nobody else can see her ugliness, and so she is also punished for “tempting” her master.

Again, yes. It’s that awful.

Besides those memories, the book is plagued by rape. It’s a treat that’s constantly over Alana’s head. Barely five pages went by without someone trying to rape her, or threatening to have his way with her. It was awful and it infuriated me how little importance this was given. Sure, some people were mad about it but it was more like “Oh this is so bad! Ok moving on.”

So my question is, would the author have used the same plot to show this world cruelty had Alana been a boy? Would she have written a teenage boy constantly threatened with being raped to show us just how awful the new world was?
Considering what I saw of the book, no. I don’t think so. Never is a man in danger from this, it’s only Alana. It’s likely the author would have settled with having the boy being starved and beaten senseless, as it also happens to Alana.

It’s alarming really, to see violence against women being so carelessly dismissed at books directed toward young girls.

The ending was left open, either to interpretation or a sequel we’ll have to wait and see. I for one, don’t think I’ll be sticking around.

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