The next entry on my dystopian fiction reading list is S. A. Bodeen’s The Compound. I was pulled in by the back cover excerpt, definitely not by the less-than-inspiring cover…
The Compound by S. A. Bodeen
Feiwel and Friends, 2008
Courtesy of Amazon.com:
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Bodeen, acclaimed as the writer of such picture books as Elizabeti’s Doll, turns out a high-wire act of a first novel, a thriller that exerts an ever-tighter grip on readers. Eli, the 15-year-old son of a billionaire techno-preneur, has spent the last six years with his family in the massive underground shelter his father has built, knowing that nuclear war has destroyed the world he knows—and killed his grandmother and his twin brother, who couldn’t reach the compound in time. With nine years to go before the air outside will be safe to breathe again, the food supply shows signs of running out, but Eli’s father has a solution—provided they jettison all morals and ethics. Repulsed and already suspicious, Eli begins investigating his father’s claims, and sets up a family death match against a man who grows increasingly irrational and sinister but no less powerful. As far-fetched as the premise may be, Bodeen keeps Eli’s actions true to life and uses clues planted fairly and in plain sight. The audience will feel the pressure closing in on them as they, like the characters, race through hairpin turns in the plot toward a breathless climax. Ages 12-up. (June)
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This is probably one of the best summaries I’ve seen for a book. This really encompasses the major elements of the plot.
Strengths: This definitely IS a thriller, and a good one. Bodeen creates a disturbingly real vision of a frightening question: how would you survive if you were the ONLY survivors of a nuclear winter, and would you even WANT to? It’s an uneasy question that hovers over the entire story, particularly when the mysterious “Supplements” enter the plot. In some sense, the ending does seem a bit predictable; I saw it coming, but it was well-written enough that it didn’t bother me. The real shock of the book hits you from nowhere in the MIDDLE of the story. From that point, there’s a constant building of tension that is very well-crafted.
Potential Flaws: Superficially, the cover art doesn’t do the story justice, in my opinion. A more fickle reader might walk by this one. Covers are important. And where I usually stumble across multiple versions of a cover, my searches only turned up this one. As far as the story is concerned, there’s a bit of unbelievability about the ridiculous wealth Eli’s father must have. However important it is to the plot (there’s no way the compound would exist without it) it’s just a little too convenient.
A tightly constructed, tense thriller. A little too real for comfort, but hard to put down.