April 3, 2020

Review: The Crossing: Blood of the Lamb Book One by Mandy Hager.

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Anyone that follows this space knows that we love us some dystopian science fiction. From 1984 to The Hunger Games,  there’s just something that’s oddly comforting about a warning presented by a frightening future heeded.

But what is it that makes us think that doom and destruction is always just around the corner? Why is it that while half of America is tuned into Downton Abbey on Sunday nights, the other half is watching The Walking Dead? And hey, is there a market for a series that mashes up the two?

But on to this week’s review, The Crossing: Blood of the Lamb Book One by Mandy Hager out from Pyr Books. The Crossing presents us with a post-apocalyptic world worked over by solar storms and global warming from the point of view of a girl named Maryam. Maryam’s world is one of religious piety run amok, and her coming of age also means that she is to become a willing sacrifice at the hands of the Apostles. The setting is in the South Pacific in and around the island of Onewēre, one of the few pockets of surviving humanity as revealed in the first book. We thought the inclusion of some southern hemisphere astronomy such as the Southern Cross was a nice touch, but hey, that’s just the astronomer’s soul in us…

Winner of the 2010 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award for Young Adult Fiction, The Crossing presents us with a coming of age story of noble sacrifice. It will probably bear the inevitable comparisons to The Hunger Games like every Young Adult novel after it, but we see allusions to such older tales as Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery as well. Like Katniss Everdeen, Maryam is forced to grow up too soon in a terrible era which no child should ever have to face. Unlike Katnisses’ world of Panem, Maryam’s realm is dominated by religion. In The Hunger Games, the facet of religious life was noticeably absent, with the State substituted in its place.  The Crossing also provides the Rules as codified by the Apostles of the Blood of the Lamb, a handy reference as you start into the series.

But Maryam’s plight is one that many of us face in perhaps a less dramatic fashion; when reality doesn’t match up with fantasy, which one do we choose? While it’s comforting to seek shelter in simplicity, it takes guts to confront the complexity of the world. You can almost hear R.E.M.s Losing My Religion playing in the background as you read The Crossing. Everyone has one overwhelming outlook on life that they defer to in times of crisis; anything real, as in family, government, friends, and even ourselves can falter.  But The Crossing takes this one step further; what if our faith and system of belief falters as well?

Heady stuff for a remarkable young adult book. Definitely, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it isn’t. We look forward to reading Book 2 as Maryam moves out beyond the Holy City on a further voyage of discovery!

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