Audiobook Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

16 02 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Read by Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway

Hachette Audio

Length: 14 Hrs and 9 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Pure is full of tragic beauty, and Baggott does a great job setting up the theme of finding pride in our scars, both real and metaphorically. While there were moments where I found myself enjoying the settings more than the plot, the novel comes together well with a satisfying ending.

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

Grade: B

There is a sort of visual beauty in destruction that is hard to define. One of the things that I have always liked about the Post Apocalyptic novels is the images of desolation, of the earth taking back the land, of skeleton cities and empty highways. The first time I read George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, I was mesmerized with his meticulous descriptions of Nature reclaiming the land after a pandemic plague. This visual image has stuck with me for a long time. Yet, much of the time, these images are of landscape, of setting and not of people. Reading Justin Cronin’s interview with Julianna Baggott about the release of her new novel, Pure, he describe the visual of a young girl with a doll head fused to one hand. I found this image itself both stunning and a bit disturbing. Here is the same beauty that I often find is the descriptions of landscapes twisted by the ravaging of the earth, or the decimating of the earths population yet applied to an innocent young girl. I was quite fascinated with this, and wondered not just about the hows and whys of the circumstance that lead to this tragedy, but how it would play out over a whole novel.

Pure is the story of the world after the “detonations” when a series of nanotech enhanced bombs decimated America, causing the victims to merge with items they were in contact with. Pressia is a young girl with a dollhead merged to her hand being raised in an ash filled devastated world by her grandfather, with a fan lodged into his throat. In the distance stand The Dome, where those untouched by the bomb, called Pures lived is a clean, sterile and safe environment, promising to one day return and set things rights. Then, one day, Partridge, a Pure from the Done, escapes to find his lost mother. Pure is a visually stunning Post Apocalyptic tale which successfully straddles the line between Adult and Young Adult fiction. Baggott melds classic dystopian tropes of the haves and the have nots, sexual politics and social and physical stigmata into this story with Post Apocalyptic themes of survival and adaptation to a decimated landscape. While this tale is definitely science fiction, with nanotechnology, robotic insects and genetic engineering it often feels almost like a fairy tale style fantasy, with technology in place of magic. While I was amazed with the visuals, and intrigued by the future history Baggott presented, I had a hard time engaging with the actually plot for the first half of the novel. I felt so much emphasis was placed on the world building and setting up the basic mystery of the tale, that the characters felt a little flat early on. Yet, once the pieces were all put in place and things set into motion, I became more and more engrossed in the tale. The ending offered a few nice touches, and did a good job completing the tale, while setting up the next novel of the series. Pure is full of tragic beauty, and Baggott does a great job setting up the theme of finding pride in our scars, both real and metaphorically. While there were moments where I found myself enjoying the settings more than the plot, the novel comes together well with a satisfying ending.

Pire utilized the talents of four excellent narrators to bring about this tale with each narrator handling a different POV character. While the four narrators, Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway all did excellent work, I think the women stole the show on this production. Hvam did a wonderful job bringing Pressia to life, giving her a strong, confident voice, yet also capturing the fact that she was a teenager full of self doubts and conflicting emotions. Holloway voiced the POV of Lyda, who gets the least airtime, but may have been my favorite character. In some ways, she is almost the opposite of Pressia, yet, may have had the most significant overall transformation, and Holloway captures this aspect of Lyda well. While the women’s performances stand out, both Kevin T. Collins and Joshua Swanson bring a unique flavor to this production giving their characters distinctive voices. One of the problems with using multiple narrators is the voicing of peripheral characters that appear in multiple POVs. There are some small issues of this kinds of discontinuity that pull you out of the story, but these moments are rare, and mostly occur when switching from a female to male narrator in the midst of an extended scenes. Overall, the production was excellent, and all of the narrators contributed to bringing this striking vision to life.

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