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Book Review

This review was created by the editorial staff at Thriving Family magazine

This sci-fi novel by Jill Williamson is the first in the "Safe Lands" series published by Zondervan.

Captives is written for kids ages 15 to 19. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The year is 2088. Generations ago, the thin plague wiped out much of the world. Teenage brothers Levi, Mason and Omar live simply in the small village of Glenrock. In the tight-knit, God-fearing community, people marry young and for life. They live off the land, making occasional expeditions to the decimated Denver City to forage through the rubble for treasure from the pre-plague days. Papa Eli (the boys' grandfather) and the Elders of Glenrock have often warned the children about a nearby compound called the Safe Lands. The ultramodern, high-tech city is an intriguing mystery. What the people of Glenrock do know is that everyone there is infected with the plague, a virus transferred through blood and bodily fluids that soon begins to eat away at a person's flesh. Papa Eli blames the city's wild, immoral lifestyle for the physical devastation.

Inside the Safe Lands, leaders meet to discuss the current crisis. Since the entire population is infected with the plague, any children are born infected as well. Most pregnancies result in miscarriages, though. If they want the nation to survive, they must have uninfected donors and surrogates to provide them with children. In the Safe Lands, all children belong to the government. They are taken away from mothers and raised elsewhere. The leaders decide they must convince outsiders, such as the people of Glenrock, to join their nation. The men can serve as donors, while the women can be inseminated and birth babies for them. Pregnant women in the Safe Lands are given high honors; they become part of the national harem and receive all the luxuries they could want while awaiting childbirth. The Safe Landers can't imagine why anyone wouldn't choose their kind of life, filled with endless technology, luxury and self-fulfillment.

Omar has always struggled to please his demanding father. One day, he runs into some Safe Lands enforcers, who convince him to come inside for a look. When he sees the amazing city for himself, he's sure his friends and family would be equally awed. If he could be the one to lead them in joining the Safe Lands, he would be a hero to his people. He agrees to help the enforcers convince his village.

Unfortunately, Omar is outside of town the day the Safe Lands convoy arrives in Glenrock. When the Elders of Glenrock refuse to leave, the enforcers gun down the grown men and round up the women, teens and children. All females of childbearing age, however young, are sent to the harem and slated for impregnation. This includes Levi's teenage fiancée, Jemma, her younger sister, Shaylinn, and Mason's young betrothed, Mia. The young men will be required to provide regular donations. (The word "sperm" is never used. The young men are given cups and feel awkward.) Safe Lands scientists will ensure healthy babies grow.

Levi, who was also outside of town during the mass kidnapping, returns to find the dead. Though just 18, he is now the oldest living male and therefore the town Elder. He vows to rescue his people and sneaks into the Safe Lands compound.

The former residents of Glenrock find themselves in a bustling, high-tech city. Although they're not allowed to leave, and the women will be forced to bear children for the Safe Lands, they're still afforded every luxury they could imagine. Alcohol and drugs are readily available. Body treatments and modifications, from spa therapies to breast enhancement surgeries, are there for the asking. Most Safe Lands women are curvy and voluptuous as a result, and they're often scantily dressed. Few people mate for life; the rest "pair up" for sex. Like the Safe Landers, Glenrock natives are injected with SimTags. These devices both allow them to be tracked by the government and give them numerous options for body art.

While most of the Glenrock captives reject the enticements around them, Shaylinn is intrigued at the prospect of becoming thin and attractive. Mia embraces the new lifestyle and frequently sneaks out of the harem headquarters to party. Omar, who was made a high-ranking enforcement officer for betraying his people, dives in headfirst. He attends gentlemen's clubs with his new friends and becomes a frequent and heavy drinker.

Because Mason previously studied under the Glenrock doctor, he is given a position in medicine. He falls for his co-worker Ciddah, with whom he frequently debates Safe Landers' lifestyle choices and the government's birthing mandates. Despite Mason's best efforts, he's unable to stop the transfer of embryos into 14-year-old Shaylinn.

Mason, Levi and their friend Jordan find ways to communicate with one another via untraceable walkie-talkies. They form an alliance with the Black Army, an underground resistance team trying to overthrow the government. The young men and their allies eventually create a blackout and rescue the women in the harem. Spurned by the government, Omar reconnects with his people and assists in the escape. Jemma and others demonstrate love and forgiveness toward Omar despite his earlier betrayal. Mason stays in the Safe Lands so he can rescue the Glenrock children still held captive there.

Christian Beliefs

The residents of Glenrock pray together and bless the unions of those about to be married. In difficult situations, they often whisper prayers to God for help and protection. Occasionally, they quote a verse from the Bible.

As Papa Eli dies, he says he's ready to go be with his God and his departed wife. The young Glenrock women pray that 14-year-old Shaylinn won't have to be impregnated. The night before her embryo transfer, Shaylinn has a dream and believes God has shown her He is doing something beautiful through her. She says if she didn't believe in His love and purpose, she'd feel dead all of the time just like the Safe Lands residents. Like them, she'd try anything she thought might make her feel better. She says she's convinced God is going to use her to help turn death into new life.

When Shaylinn watches someone on TV getting horn implants, she thinks that if the Lord had wanted people to have horns, they would have been born that way. Then she starts considering her own desire for enhancements and wonders how God would feel about her making changes. Inside the harem, the girls sing the hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." Mason tells Ciddah he believes a person can't earn his way to heaven. Omar initially enjoys his new life so much that he says he's surprised that God has rewarded rather than punished him for his deeds.

Other Belief Systems

Safe Landers call Fortune their divine giver. They use phrases like "Only Fortune knows," "Fortune blessed us," "Praise (or thank) Fortune" and "Fortune forbid!" A Safe Lander chants a prayer, asking Fortune to have mercy on the soul of a woman entering her next life.

Marriage doesn't exist in the Safe Lands, though some people pair up exclusively and are known as Lifers. All children are taken away at birth and raised by the government. Ciddah tells Mason that mother-child bonding is a myth and that breastfeeding is unsanitary. There's no reason a mother and child should stay together, she says, because the true reward of giving birth is knowing you helped the community survive. Ciddah later reveals a story about a Safe Lands woman who had a Lifer and wanted to keep her babies. She had many babies for the government but was not allowed to quit producing. She was on depression medication. After her 10th pregnancy ended in miscarriage, she killed herself. Ciddah is not convinced when Mason tells her donors and surrogate mothers suffer under the Safe Lands' child welfare system.

Safe Landers are only allowed to live until about age 40. Then they are Liberated. No one knows exactly what this means, but it is supposedly an honor. Safe Landers believe they will have multiple lives, and they strive to get into the next one with as much good fortune as they can earn.

Levi's friend Beshup, from a Native American tribe, says coyotes told their elders to burn the bodies of people who had died. When Levi leaves to rescue his people, Beshup wishes him well by saying, "May the wolf go with you."

Authority Roles

Levi, Mason and Omar's father belittles his two younger sons and calls them names, even in public. They know there is little they can do to earn his favor. Lawten, the leader of the Safe Lands, uses underhanded methods to procure new citizens to reproduce for him.

Profanity/Violence

None

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Levi often recalls a night before he was engaged when he found alcohol and ended up in a tent with a Native American girl. He doesn't remember what happened, and for a long time, he thinks he slept with her. Omar, who was also there, finally sets the record straight. He says there was a lot of kissing but nothing more. Jemma and Levi kiss. The Glenrock women are surprised to see people having sexual relations on television in the Safe Lands. Safe Landers frequently pair up, a euphemism for having sex. A woman who is willing to do this is deemed gratifiable.

Both men and women are thoughtless and self-gratifying in their behavior toward their potential partners. Sweaty bodies are frequently knotted together while dancing, drinking and vaping (inhaling drugs) at Safe Lands clubs. Mia sneaks out to go to clubs and makes out with her new boyfriend. She convinces Shaylinn to join her one night. Shaylinn's date forces her against a wall and kisses her against her will. Mason reassures her by telling her that sexual relations, not kissing, are what cause a person to be infected with the thin plague. When Mason first arrives in the Safe Lands, he's sent to the Donation Center. He's handed a plastic cup and sent to a small room with a shower-like stall and a sink. Feeling the Safe Lands' use of technology this way is wrong, he refuses to provide a donation and spits in the cup instead.

Safe Lands women frequently wear tight, skimpy clothing. Glenrock teens are often shocked by people in clubs or on TV or billboards wearing what looks like only bras and underwear. Mason repeatedly battles his physical feelings for Ciddah. A woman called Red, who works for the Black Army, tries to seduce Levi. She runs her hand up his thigh and dances close to him. He refuses her advances.

Omar spends some awkward moments in the Donation Center before he is able to produce the required specimen. He falls for a woman named Belbeline, with whom he attends numerous parties. There, he kisses strangers and tries all manner of drugs and alcohol. One morning he wakes up in Belbeline's bedroom. He's convinced he wants to marry her, but she laughs at the idea. She's been pairing up with many other men, including Omar's boss. She says no one is exclusive here, but maybe they can pair up again some other time. Omar drowns his sorrows by vaping and kissing women at gentlemen's clubs until he overdoses on drugs. Someone brings him to the medical center. Mason examines his brother and discovers Omar has contracted the thin plague.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • How do the residents of Glenrock respond to the glamorous lifestyle of the Safe Lands?
  • Why do some embrace the culture, while others keep their distance from the new luxuries and experiences?

  • What are some of the consequences Safe Landers experience because they've chosen to live lives of promiscuity and substance abuse?

  • What are some problems you see in our society because of these same types of destructive behaviors?

  • Why does Omar help the Safe Landers capture his people?

  • What happens as a result of his intense desire to fit in and receive personal honor?
  • How do his friends and family respond to him in the end?

  • What's your opinion on body enhancements, such as plastic surgeries or extreme physical modifications?

  • Would you want enhancements if they were readily available, as they are in the Safe Lands? Why or why not?

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs and Alcohol: Drinking and drug (or "stim") use are common practices of the Safe Landers. Everyone owns a Personal Vapor, or a PV, into which he can load various types and strengths of drugs for inhaling, or vaping. Safe Landers don't smoke drugs. Smoking is against the law because it's considered unhealthy, can start fires and causes bad breath. They do vape numerous substances, including marijuana, heroin, meth and cocaine.


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.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

15 to 19

Author

Jill Williamson

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Zondervan

Released

On Video

Year Published

2013

Awards

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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