(Review spoiler alert; The Territory is a terrific book. It simply is.)
When Sarah Govett’s publicist approached me about reading The Territory, I replied that it really didn’t sound like what I’d want to read right now, but that actually seeing a copy of the novel might change my mind. (I know, I’m a bundle of optimism and polite phrases.)
It was the blurb, really: ‘The Territory is a gripping dystopian thriller set in a future Britain where unflooded land is scarce. Everyone must pass an exam at 15 to stay in The Territory or be exiled to the disease-ridden Wetlands. But how can Noa compete when the system is skewed to favour rich kids who can upload information through a Node in the back of their neck? And how can she focus when her heart is being pulled in two directions at once?’
You know, just another flooded dystopian romance.
But as they say, the proof is in the reading. I was really sleepy when I started on The Territory, well past my bedtime. No, I didn’t sit up all night. I just couldn’t. But I would have. It’s an admirably short book at 200 pages, and I reckoned there would be no need to read the second and third parts of the trilogy.
Yeah, right. (When will they be available??) The Territory is published on 14th May, so I am early here, but simply couldn’t not review it straight away.
Enough about me and my stupidity. This is a mind-numbingly chilling read, set in 2059, when meat is non-existent and food scarce, and children are sent away to die if they fail their exams. Noa and her best friends Jack and Daisy are Norms, which means they don’t have the expensive Node in their necks to assist with passing exams, like rich kids have. Noa is clever, but the other two are less sure of how they might do. (If you try not to sit your exams you are dead. Likewise if you try to run away afterwards.) And as a reader it’s hard to keep your thoughts off the fact that we already appear to be marching towards this kind of society.
Pets are no longer allowed, and the tale of Noa’s former pet dog is worse to read than you’d think. Likewise Noa’s realisation that she would have killed Anne Frank.
Noa is far from perfect, which is why she comes across as so real. Written in the first person we learn all about how ‘lame’ everything is, as you’d expect from a 15-year-old. And when you mix that normality, however dystopian, with the casual clubbing down of people in the street, you know you have something really exceptional.
It’s obvious that the exam results will mean either that some or all of them will fail the exams and spend the next two books trying to stay alive in the Wetlands, or that they pass and stay in civilisation, fighting against the Ministry. I won’t tell you which it is.
This is so good.