Audiobook Review: Fuse by Juliana Baggott

14 03 2013

Fuse by Juliana Baggot (Pure Trilogy, Book 2)

Read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, and Pierce Cravens

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 44 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: With Fuse, Baggott took everything I had expected from a follow up to Pure, and threw it out the window creating a vivid and visually stunning follow-up that made me care about these characters.

Grade: A-

One of the problems when you become obsessed with a specific subgenre of fiction is trying to find a balance between originality and classic themes and images you love. As an obsessive fan of post apocalyptic fiction who attempts to read anything that even remotely fits into the category, I love when I find a truly strikingly original idea, yet I also love when an author reminds me of previous experiences within the genre. It’s hard not to turn the whole reading experience into a sort of mathematical exercise "Oh, it’s the whole roving gang of cannibals trope" -1pt.  “Oh, wait, these cannibals are psychic muties who can only live off the specific prions within human flesh" +2Pts. Last year, when I read Pure, I loved the original concept that Juliana Baggott. Pure was full of some of the most strikingly beautiful, all together shocking and darkly poetic images I have experienced in Post Apocalyptic fiction. Yet, I also was left feeling a little bit cold by the end of the experience. I’m not sure why. It was possible that her Apocalyptic world was so unique that it almost had a different flavor than I tend to enjoy within the genre. This is why I was a bit hesitant going into Fuse. Then Baggott began throwing classic images at me, with new twists. "Oh, an apocalyptic amusement park named for some twisted clown." +2pt’s. "Oh, wait, she’s not going to even let our characters go in and mingle with the mutie carnie folk." -1pt.  "Fused escaped zoo animals in a devastated Washington DC." +3Pts "Hold on there, an apocalyptic Airship journey up the East Coast, and across the Atlantic.’ JACKPOT!!! Of course, in the end, the math is meaningless, since I give letter grades in my reviews…. or is it…?

Fuse picks up after the shocking ending of Pure, with Pressia, Bradwell and El Capitan searching for more answers and Partridge and Lydia trying to come to terms with life outside the Dome. Yet, when the Dome releases a young girl, now made pure, telling those outside they will start killing hostages if Partridge isn’t returned, the group must each make decisions that could affect not just them, but their world. Once again, the story is told from four different perspectives, giving as unique looks at events that are taking place. I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into Fuse, so not so surprisingly my reaction was totally unexpected. After a bit of time to readjust to the tale, I found myself totally absorbed in this world. Whatever coldness that there was in my initial take of Pure left fairly quickly. Instead, I simply couldn’t get enough of the tale. Baggott totally flipped the script on much of her world, pushing her characters in directions I hadn’t expected. My least favorite POV in Pure, that of El Capitan and his fused brother Helmut, became my favorite. My favorite POV in Pure, Lydia, created the most conflict for me. I still loved her character and valued her perspective, but she lost a bit of her agency, being easily manipulated by a group whose motives made me uncomfortable. The frustrating romantic entanglements of Pure became more confusing and complicated, yet even more integral to the plot. Baggott added some new strangeness to the tale, especially in Partridges tale that I simply loved. It was all strange because everything I didn’t like about Pure turned into the highlight of Fuse for me. I think one of the things that helped for me was that Baggott continues to create a unique scenario, yet also added in the classic Apocalyptic roadtrip which gave the story a grounding point I could be comfortable with. I think that Baggott’s world may have lost a touch of its luster here, but her characters became much more interesting. Heck, there were even some incredibly touching moments, particularly between Bradwell and El Capitan, that if I was the sort of person who had like feelings and stuff, I may have been a bit moved. The ending of Fuse was even more stunning than Pure, with one of the most disturbingly unexpected moments I have experience in a while. Honestly, I was a bit blown away by Fuse. My reaction was unexpected. I was prepared to be let down, and when I wasn’t, well, I didn’t know how to react. With Fuse, Baggott took everything I had expected from a follow up to Pure, and threw it out the window creating a vivid and visually stunning follow-up that made me care about these characters. Who’da thunk it?

I really wasn’t surprised when I learned that Pure was nominated for an Audie. It was far from my favorite science fiction audiobook of 2012, but it was a beautiful production. So it was no surprise that Fuse was also wonderfully produced. Again, each perspective was taken on by a different narrator, giving each character its own flavor. Last time I highly praised the performances of the female narrators. Khristine Hvam continues to capture the dark poetic beauty of Baggott’s world while giving voice to Pressia’s internal conflicts. I really loved the awkward, almost exotic pacing Casey Holloway gave Lydia’s perspective. There was almost a robotic feel to it that set her character apart from the others in the tale. Yet, this time, surprisingly I think the guys outshone the gals, which was something I hadn’t expected. New to the series, Pierce Cravens took over the Partridge perspective, capturing the young mans conflicts to come to terms to what he learned about his father perfectly. He counterbalanced Lydia with a smooth flow that made her perspective even more striking. Kevin T. Collins though, got to sing. Sing a quite creepy song that still gives me chills. His performance of the El Capitan perspective was wonderful. His voicing of Helmut was something special, and I think added a level of depth to the interplay between brothers that may be missed in the print text. Collins has slowly begun to become one of my favorite narrators, and the work he does here is stellar. I may have choked up a few times during some scenes, maybe… but you can’t prove anything.

Note: Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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