This review was created by the editorial staff at Thriving Family magazine
This science fiction novel by Jonathan Friesen is published by Blink, a trademark of the Zondervan Corporation, and is written for kids ages 14 to 17 years. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
It is 2250 in the land once known as Australia. Sixteen-year-old Luca will soon inherit the role of his father, Massa, and become the Deliverer. Once a year for generations, a Deliverer has descended below the earth's surface to negotiate with terrifying, formerly human creatures known as Rats. In exchange for light sticks, the Rats promise to give the Toppers (those living above) another year of drinking water, since little is available on the surface.
The Toppers live under the rule of a prime minister and a council of nine leaders. Their henchmen, called Watchers or Amongus, monitor the people. In an effort to keep order, they have banned all art, books and emotion. Toppers wear devices that register any emotion, and Amongus punish or kill those who feel emotions for their infractions.
Massa has always been a mystery to Luca. He's spoken little of Luca's mother or of the things he experiences under the surface. He has always insisted Luca memorize the detailed set of directions to the underground water source, called the Aquifer, since Deliverers are the only ones privy to this path. When Massa vanishes after angering the leaders, Luca is unsure if his father is dead or alive. With the help a pirate named Seward, whom he discovers is his uncle, and a few other Toppers, Luca makes his descent below ground.
When he arrives, he realizes many of the things he and the Toppers have been taught are lies. The Rats are perfectly normal humans, not horribly-devolved creatures. They are good people, and they have no desire to keep water from the Toppers. Long ago, Topper leaders created these myths about the Rats to remain in control. Luca falls for a beautiful girl named Talya and learns that his own mother was a Rat. When his father tried to help her and Luca come to the surface many years earlier, his mother was killed by the leaders.
Talya and Seward return to the surface with Luca in order to locate Massa and right the wrongs of the political powers above. Meanwhile, the Topper world is in chaos. They think their Deliverer, Massa, has died and that his son was killed in a house fire. They fear there will be no way for them to get water, so they begin trying to blast through the earth's surface with explosives to find the Aquifer themselves.
Luca and his companions find a weak but living Massa and set out to share the truth with their world. In the meantime, they get to know many of the Amongus soldiers and realize these Watchers have been deceived like everyone else. They become allies to Luca, and after much death and peril in his adventures, he is able to tell his people what he's learned. He also believes an old book he left with the Rats will somehow offer them a new hope for their futures.
The main characters have not had the opportunity in their lives to know the Bible or learn about God. A group of people called Wishers often pray together. Some uninformed Toppers believe the Wishers practice magic and fall into trances. Luca views the Wishers with fascination and once overhears them talking about hearing the Voice of God. They also talk about mysterious prophesies.
When Luca discovers old books hidden in a cave, he reads a constitution that mentions relying on the blessings of the Almighty God. He takes a book out of a skeleton's grip, convinced it must be important if someone died holding it. While Luca's people talk about the provision of the Fates, Luca thinks he'd like to know more about what the Wishers believe.
Beneath the surface, Luca sees one of his Topper friends praying. She says she doesn't know much about the Wishers but believes they are good people. She urges him to leave the old books he's found below in case they might bring hope to the Rats. Luca begins hearing the Voice. It guides in difficult decisions. When he ignores it, he is trapped by the enemy. A group of Wishers sacrifices their lives in order to protect Luca. The last one alive tells Luca those who died are home now and that he (Luca) must fulfill his role in the prophecy. Talya rallies the Toppers by leading in the singing of “Amazing Grace,” an old tune they somehow remember but aren't really sure why.
Other Belief Systems
Amongus soldiers kill, and bloody bodies can be seen floating in the water when chaos erupts on the surface. A few other scenes include death and bloodshed.
Luca sometimes mentions being smitten by the way certain clothes fall over Talya's body. They kiss deeply one time.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Why do the leaders in Luca's world take away the people's access to art, literature and emotion?
- What do they hope to accomplish?
What would our world be like today without beauty and emotion?
Why does Luca admit that he misses not knowing some of the truths about his world?
When have you found ignorance to be easier to take than the truth in your own life?
Why is Luca intrigued by the Wishers?
- How does their behavior surprise him?
- How is it similar to a group of people you might know?
This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.
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Readability Age Range
14 to 17
Blink, a trademark of the Zondervan Corporation