Fear by Michael Grant has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fifth book in the “Gone” series.
Connie Temple, Sam and Caine’s mother, had been working on her laptop when suddenly she was transported to the beach. All around her, other adults found themselves transported from their lives to places outside of Perdido Beach. In the months since the appearance of the Bowl, as it became known to the outside world, the military set up a base and began monitoring it. They are all shocked to learn that after months of identical readings, something appears to have changed. The energy waves the Bowl gives off appear to be weakening.
Within the FAYZ, things have also changed in the past three months. Since throwing her brother, Petey, to mutant carnivorous insects and watching him disappear, Astrid has been living off the grid. Alone along the wall of the dome, Astrid has lost her faith in God but found confidence in her own ability to survive. Still terrified of having to face Drake, she has learned to shoot a rifle and take care of herself.
Sam and a group of kids that number just over 100 have set up a new community along Lake Tramonto. The months of peace have brought a sense of optimism to the children, but Sam finds himself growing bored. Diana, pregnant with Caine’s baby, is worried at how fast her pregnancy is progressing. She is only four months along, and yet she can feel the baby strongly kicking. She can also sense that it is a mutant and is growing more powerful every day.
In Perdido Beach, King Caine holds court to determine the punishment for Cigar, a boy who accidently killed another teen during a fight. Cigar has never caused problems before and is on Quinn’s crew of fishermen, but Caine feels the penalty should be severe. He orders Cigar to suffer an entire day at the hands of Penny, a mutant who can torture people by creating incredibly real hallucinations.
While all this goes on in and around the dome, Pete Ellison, Astrid’s autistic brother, finds himself living in a reality outside of both worlds. In this place, he is free of the tortures of his autistic mind. At first content to be in this new place, Pete eventually grows bored. He notices strange avatars, symbols with squiggles inside, floating around him. He decides to try and play a game with them, but when he touches one, it breaks apart.
Back within the FAYZ, a little boy’s body is twisted and mutilated until he dies. When Pete tries to play with another avatar, a young girl’s face melts into her chin, and her body is mutated into a kind of log. Finally, Pete tries something different and ends up transforming a girl named Taylor into gold. When she tries to transport herself to Lana for healing, her body gets stuck in a car. Her hand and legs are amputated, without blood.
Quinn leaves work to retrieve his friend Cigar from Penny. He is horrified to discover Cigar has gouged out his eyes and cut his wrists in response to Penny’s visions. He takes the boy to the healer, Lana, but she can only regrow two marble-like eyes that do not completely restore his sight. Quinn threatens to go on strike with his fishing crew unless Caine evicts Penny from the community.
Meanwhile, Astrid has noticed something strange about the dome: It is growing dark. She sets off to tell Sam about her findings and hopes to perform an experiment to show how long it will take the darkness to cover the FAYZ. When she arrives at Lake Tramonto, she waits for Sam in his bed. Unaware of her presence, he is surprised when he crawls in and she begins kissing him.
Where Astrid had previously abstained from sex because of her faith, she now initiates intimacy with him and the two make love. The following day, she tells him her theory that the FAYZ is going dark, something that terrifies Sam. Later, she sneaks away in an effort to warn the community at Perdido Beach about the coming darkness. But the darkness spreads through the dome at an increasingly faster rate, and she loses her way in the desert before she can deliver the message.
Drake has spent the past months below the earth with his god, the gaiphage, waiting for orders as to what he should do next since Pete disappeared. The gaiphage wanted Pete dead. Now the evil entity senses it can use Diana’s baby in order to be born again into this world.
It sends Drake above ground to find her and bring her back. He eventually succeeds in kidnapping her. Sam sends Jack, Orc and Dekka to try and save her, but Drake cuts Jack’s neck open with his whip hand. Orc carries him back to the lake for help while Dekka follows Drake and Diana.
Penny tricks Caine into visiting her and then drugs him so he cannot use his telekinetic powers to hurt her. While he is unconscious, she encases his hands in cement so that he will remain helpless. As the FAYZ becomes completely dark, she leads King Caine out to the town square and forces the kids to mock him. Albert, the boy whose organizational skills really run the community, sees the crowds and the encroaching darkness and flees Perdido Beach for a well-stocked, isolated island where he has hidden missiles Sam had previously found.
The kids at the beach do not rally around Penny. They need Caine and his powers to protect them from the coyotes and other beasts that rule the night inside the FAYZ. Penny is eventually driven off, and Quinn is made temporary leader while they try to release Caine’s hands from the cement.
Astrid meets up with Cigar, who has wandered away from Perdido Beach. She realizes with his new eyes he is able to see things in other dimensions. He is able to see Pete. She tries to communicate with her brother but Cigar’s connection to Pete is intermittent. When coyotes attack Cigar, Pete destroys them with his finger. But later, when the boy is attacked by flesh eating worms, Pete does not help him.
Pete reaches out to his sister; he is able to communicate with her on a limited basis. He shows her how he had used a power from inside his body to create the dome. Without his body, he is unable to control it anymore. The barrier had been made of the gaiphage, which used it as a way to be reborn, but now it needs a body. Astrid’s brain begins to scramble from Pete’s touch, so he breaks the connection and leaves her.
Outside the dome, Connie becomes aware of the military’s plan to detonate a nuclear bomb beneath the dome to try and destroy it. She is terrified the explosion will kill the children inside. She and a friend rally other parents and the news media to try and stop the detonation.
Penny is led by the gaiphage to its lair where she meets up with Drake and Diana. As Diana goes into labor, Brianna arrives and shoots Penny and Drake, who has transformed into his alter ego, Brittany. Brittany/Drake cannot die, but is distracted when Brianna shoots off her head.
Brianna helps to deliver the baby. Although Diana begs her to take the baby out of the tunnel, the gaiphage tricks Brianna into giving it the child. The green substance that makes up the gaiphage enters the baby through her nose and mouth, taking possession of her. It heals Penny’s wounds before settling in to nurse. Brianna flees to find Sam and tell him what happened.
Sam finds Astrid in the desert. The two of them make their way to Perdido Beach, hoping to find help to fight the gaiphage. Lana and Caine both sense that the gaiphage has successfully taken a human body and is coming for them. Astrid knows the gaiphage wants to break open the dome and enter the real world. The children set off in the dark to stop it.
As they battle Drake, Penny and the gaiphage (now a toddler,) the military’s bomb explodes. Sunlight streams in, but the barrier doesn’t break. Sam recognizes the face of his mother by the barrier, but he cannot stop fighting the gaiphage. He turns his laser-like beams on the toddler, who is engulfed in flames, but is unhurt by them.
The gaiphage, Diana and Drake run away once they realize the barrier is still in place, only transparent. As the outside world begins to gather around the dome, the children know they cannot stop the adults from judging them for what they see, but they also know they do not have time to waste worrying about what will happen if they are ever free from the dome. They cannot give up the fight to stop the gaiphage.
The novel begins with excerpts from Psalm 88. Astrid’s strong faith disappeared when she threw her brother to the mutant insects and watched him disappear. She equates what she did with the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. She lost her faith in a loving God when He did nothing to save Petey from the carnivorous insects.
She now thinks she was a fool to ever believe in Him. She tells Edilio that she was doing penance in the wilderness. He comments that holy men used to do that to make peace with God. She thinks it is more honorable to wear sins like scars rather than try to be forgiven for them. She recalls Moses and the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the wilderness.
Brittney used to believe in God, but now she serves the gaiphage. She does not believe that the Christian God exists inside the FAYZ. She equates the Christian God with children’s stories. Diana believes she deserves to rot in hell because she resorted to cannibalism in order to survive and had eaten a boy nicknamed Panda. She likens Drake and his whip hand to Egyptians beating Hebrew slaves.
Diana begs God to save her from Drake and the gaiphage, but her prayers seem to go unanswered. Dekka cries out for God to kill her, rather than letting Penny torture her again. Her prayer is sarcastic and demeaning toward God.
Orc is trying to rehabilitate himself after he accidently killed a young boy. He no longer drinks and now reads the Bible constantly. He reads about how the meek are going to inherit the earth. When his friend Howard is killed, Orc is afraid he is in hell because he did not repent of the bad stuff he did before he died.
Diana tries to console him by saying that God probably forgave Howard of his sins.
Astrid cannot believe in a loving God because of how terrible life is inside the FAYZ. She takes comfort in math because numbers do not condemn people for their desires. Near the end of the story, she thinks that the closest thing they have to a god in the FAYZ is her reckless brother, Pete. She says that Pete’s erratic behavior is just like a god, unreliable.
Drake believes the gaiphage is a god, but he knows it is not an all-powerful one because it needs Pete in order to survive. A little girl sees Pete’s finger touch a boy and morph him into a kind of log. She thinks it is the hand of God.
Sanjit’s faith believes that humans have different manifestations of consciousness that will go on forever. Your deeds or karma will determine your next life. Another boy is Muslim. Kids made fun of him at school for praying. He believes Allah sees and understands everything. Even though he has not eaten pork, he thinks about how he would eat it now because he is starving.
Brittany used to have a strong faith in the God of the Bible, but now her god is the gaiphage. She wonders if she should say prayers to it. She likes that this new god is visible. Caine wonders if Lana is going to make a joke about his hands being encased in concrete as some kind of ironic karma.
Orc tells Dekka that God made up stories about hell so we would always think that things here on earth, no matter how horrible, are better than being in in hell.
Within the FAYZ there is no adult supervision. Sam leads one camp; Caine and Alberto the other. Outside, Sam and Caine’s mother stays near the Bowl, trying to learn what the military knows about what is happening inside. She commits treason, ignoring army warnings to stay away from the area, to try and stop the military from setting off a nuclear weapon.
God’s name is used in vain alone and with oh, oh my, swear to and thank. The exclamation Oh Lord is used. The euphemism Jeez is used for Jesus’ name. A– is used alone and with bad. D–n, h— and b–ch are also used. Other objectionable words are poop, scumbag, crap, prig, faggot, p—ed, lesbo and FUBAR, which is an acronym meaning f-word up beyond all repair.
Very few people died when the FAYZ first appeared, although one man was killed when he drove his car into it. Cigar and another boy had fought while drunk. When the other boy took a swing at him with a pipe, Cigar hit him with a nail-studded table leg, and the boy died.
Penny uses her power to convince Cigar that his fingers and eyes are red licorice. The boy gouges out his eyes and scratches open his skin trying to eat them while Penny laughs in amusement. When Quinn sees his friend, he punches Penny in the nose. She retaliates, making him believe his skin is on fire. He kicks her in the head to make the visions stop.
A little boy watches as Pete’s finger mutates his best friend into an indescribable blob. Hysterical, he takes the remains and throws them into a latrine hole. Later, Edilio and Astrid find the girl’s face morphed onto a coyote. Edilio shoots the creature to put it out of its misery. Pete accidently transforms Taylor’s body into gold. When she tries to transport herself away, her body is caught first in a tree with part of her leg morphed inside it. When she tries again to transport herself, she ends up with her body on the roof of a car and her legs sticking through the roof. She is in excruciating pain.
Caine uses his power to send Penny flying into a wall. Penny put Drano in her sister’s cereal to see if anyone would think she was pretty with her throat burned. She drugs Caine and then encases his hands in concrete. She then makes him see maggots crawling into his skin. Later, she makes him think that wild dogs are attacking him.
Cigar tells Astrid how he ate his hands and eyes because Penny made him think they were candy. There are several more instances where Penny violently torments other children with horrible visions. A boy remembers a fight in which his wrist had been broken and a nail was driven into his butt cheek. He also watches as Drake allows coyotes to eat another boy alive. The coyotes eat several more children, some as young as 2, as they try to flee.
Astrid listens to Cigar’s screams and the sounds of him being eaten alive by giant worms. Drake uses his whip hand to slice Jack’s neck open and cut other children’s legs and backs. Gaia, Diana’s gaiphage-possessed baby, laughs as she watches children die in a burning building. She laughs as she causes pain and injury to Sam and Caine. Caine smashes Penny dead with a piece of pavement. Sam tries to incinerate Gaia, but she is too powerful and remains unscathed.
Sam and Astrid kiss several times. They also make love several times, although it is not graphically described. Sanjit and Lana share a kiss. Penny’s father used to dress her sisters up in sexy underwear and take pictures and videos of them that he posted on the internet. Penny was not happy that she had been spared the abuse, however. Instead, she felt sorry for herself that she did not receive the same attention as her sisters.
Penny is able to put images of other girls into boys’ minds so they will have sex with her. Diana grosses Sam out by telling him how her breasts are swollen and sore and that her areolae are changing color. Jack tells Dekka and Sam that Brianna made out with him, which upsets Dekka because she is in love with Brianna. Connie Templeton admits she was having an affair when she became pregnant with her twins, so it is possible that Sam and Caine have different fathers.
Dekka is a lesbian. She told Brianna four months earlier that she loved her, and Brianna never responded to her confession. Dekka finally confronts her, and Brianna admits that does not think she is homosexual, but as she is only 13, that may change. Dekka realizes that she had been assuming Brianna was older because of her courage and strength.
The two agree to remain friends. Dekka tells Orc that she is a lesbian. He thinks it is interesting that they are unique in the FAYZ. Edilio admits that he is homosexual and is in a relationship with another boy named Roger. Edilio wonders if other kids will call him names.
Alcohol: A boy named Howard brews moonshine, although it is illegal. Several kids get drunk. Cigar kills a boy while intoxicated, even though he has never been in trouble before. Connie drinks wine. A soldier she is casually dating drinks beer.
Drugs: Astrid smokes marijuana as a way to calm herself enough to sleep at night. Several other children smoke marijuana recreationally.
Tattoos: A soldier is decorated with tattoos he got while stationed in Afghanistan.
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