Dualed by Elsie Chapman (Galley)
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Genre: Fiction, young adult, dystopia, action, can we get a reboot?
Rating: 2.99 out of 5 stars
Summary: Meet West, a teen who picked the wrong time to have an identity crisis, because in Kersh there are two versions of you, you and your Alt, but only one is allowed to live. If you don’t eliminate your Alt in the 31-day time span, you both will die. Sure you can hire a Striker to kill your target for you, but that’s against the rules in this modern take on natural selection. Who truly deserves to live if your Alt is the better you, and how can a world survive where the only people who live to adulthood are murderers? Most of these questions will definitely not be answered in Dualed. That’s what sequels are for.
As a reader, I would like to petition the ability to make reboots for books. If the movie industry can do it (again and again and again), I don’t see why I, as a hypothetical millionaire in this situation, shouldn’t be able to purchase the rights of a book series and let a different author give the story justice. Public domain be damned, that nonsense takes far too long and just ends up resulting in a glut of repetitive books in the publishing world. I’m looking at you Pride and Platypus!
After learning about Dualed during a panel at this year’s New York Comic Con, I knew I had to read it. A dystopic society where you must kill an alternate version of yourself before they kill you? “Sign me up!” I recall thinking, even though my brain’s initial response was probably more like, “Cool.” Which is why I immediately jumped on a chance to receive a galley of the inventive novel. Unfortunately, while its premise is strong and the world in which it resides in is a rich one, the good stops there. Due to a lack of relate-able characters and completely ignoring the ramifications of murder, Dualed is one novel that had so much potential, but ended up stabbing itself in the back.
The novel follows West, a teenage girl who gets some non-traditional training to prepare her to kill her Alt in the future. Through some random happenstance, West takes a job as a Striker, an assassin hired by someone to kill their Alt. People who employ Strikers are often more well off, serving to create a nice dialogue about how the wealthy often have a stronger chance of survival. Unfortunately, this interesting look at nature versus nurture is completely stomped on when the author seems to ignore West’s remorse in killing helpless civilians.
Sure, the first time she kills a little girl she feels bad, but that’s more because her first job is sloppy and haunts her as an inability to use a knife to kill throughout the remainder of the novel. Thereafter, West has no qualms about killing other people’s Alts. Take into account the fact that Alts don’t often feature a good half and a bad half and that lack of sympathy results in West being one of the least likeable characters I have ever encountered. Things only get worse when she gets her assignment and waivers in killing her Alt, which the author goes to great pains to make apparent is actually a cold, heartless, bitch. Ugh, this book.
Yet another weakness is the reason for Alts themselves. Once upon a time, the world lost the ability to reproduce thanks to a shoddy, universal cold vaccine. This is why I don’t get the flu shot. Enter the Board, the mysterious new government who helped the West Coast succeed from the rest of the country when war erupted. They created Kersh, the last war-free zone and trained its citizens to be soldiers and protect their new world from the evil, war mongering Surround. To further their goals, the Board used a genetically created Natural Selection to give itself the best citizens possible.
Sound confusing? In Kersh, when a couple wants a baby, they go to the Board and have a baby made for them. Their genes are modified with another couple also in the market for a baby, making identical looking babies that will one day be forced to battle to the death. The stronger child will survive and the Board will continue its goal of having the best possible super soldiers. You would think the same thing could be achieved by pitting two random citizens against each other, but that would go against the apparent nature versus nurture experiment the whole novel seems to skate over in exchange for some unneeded romance.
So where does Chapman actually go right? The last half of the book is action packed and finally picks up some steam after skipping around in time over all the exciting bits. Seriously, West will leave to take an assignment and in the very next chapter will return without ever explaining what happens on her job. YAWN! Even worse, after finally getting her assignment, only a mere 50 pages later, there are only eight days left to kill her Alt. How the time frames of this novel even work is beyond me. It’s like the worst kind of time machine.
Thankfully, the premise is where Chapman really shines. The world of Kersh is an intriguing place, even if the science behind it is a bit of a mess. All kids attend a school where they’re trained in the art of surviving through classes like combat, weaponry, and kinetics. It’s a world where Completes have access to a full life, Incompletes are dead and Idles have yet to be marked for assignment and therefore have less privileges than their successful murderer citizens. Although the sole stigma seems to be that Idles can’t eat all the same food that Completes can – no hamburgers for them and their bloodless hands!
Sadly, even the premise finds itself bogged down by too much information. The world building doesn’t always come naturally as West tries to explain the genetic timers built into the bodies of the Idles to kill them if they don’t become Completes, the code in their eyes that tells them about their targets, the danger of PKs (peripheral kills), inevitable RKs (revenge kills) and AKs (assist kills) and it all begins to be a bit too much.
You can understand why I want a reboot. These characters need a major overhaul to give justice to the incredible premise. It also requires an author who can better deal with all the amazing implications the book has to offer. Particularly ideas of nature versus nurture, the ramifications of building a world of murderers and the implications of social hierarchy in relation to natural selection. I desperately wanted Chapman to talk about all these things, or even hint at their existence, but she was too busy building a lackluster relationship I could care less about.
Damn you YA and your insistence on having a romance regardless of the costs!
-Amazingly inventive premise and I do like a good premise
-Got much faster paced/more intriguing during second half
-Maybe the sequel will be better?
-The first have of the novel drags/is focused on lengthy world building
-As a result, you could really care less about the characters or their “romance”
-Would work so much better with a different writer (reboot time!)
-Anti-climactic, overly sappy and trite ending
-Now I’ll probably have to read the sequel
Dualed: Book Trailer
So now comes the conundrum. To read the sequel or not to read the sequel? I don’t want this to turn into a Twilight thing where I feel obligated to slog through a painful series (not that I ever finished Breaking Dawn). Part of me hopes it’s only one other book, the announced Divided, but maybe all the writing pains Chapman had with the first book will have been obliterated by number two. So many questions! I suppose I’ll have to wait and see. Or not see.