Thursday, November 26, 2015

The cage by Megan Shepherd

When Cora Mason wakes up in a desert it feels like she is in a bad dream, but she soon discovers that it is not a bad dream and she is far from her home in Virginia.  As she walks across the desert she discovers that it is not merely a desert, it is in fact a series of unrelated environments that have been thrown together in a habitat that seems impossible - desert, snow, swamp, and jungle all together in one place.  The natural environment is stranger enough, but there is also a town that appears to be made up of a completely random assortment of buildings from different times and places.  It doesn't make any sense, until Cora discovers that she is not alone in this strange new world - and then the Caretaker arrives.

The Caretaker is one of the Kindred, an advanced race that has taken Cora and her companions from Earth to ensure the survival of their species, a situation that they are expected to embrace with open arms.  From the start Cora struggles with the idea of being captive, and the fact they are like lab rats or animals in a zoo just makes it worse.  Some of the others seem to adapt quickly to the new environment, and the rules they are expected to obey, but Cora is only focused on escape.  The more she learns about her new home the more she rebels, and the more she rebels the more isolated she becomes from the rest of her group.  Someone is manipulating all of them, pushing them to their limits and forcing them to make choices they never would have had to make on Earth.  The only hope for escape seems to be the growing relationship Cora has with the Caretaker Cassian, but can a human and a Kindred ever cross the line that divides them?

I was expecting the typical teen dystopian fare when I picked up The cage, so it was a very pleasant surprise to discover a book that has incredible depth and complex issues woven around a central story that blends together elements of science fiction, suspense, and psychological thrillers.  Each of the teenagers who make up the captive breeding population of the cage bring their own stories, secrets, and motivations - and it is all too easy to imagine a Lord of the flies kind of self destruction for the group as they struggle to cope with their new life as captives and to deal with the secrets that they all keep inside.  The Caretaker, the other Kindred, and the other alien races add a surreal and creepy element to the story, and it is all too easy to see the parallels with our own tendency to trade in "exotics" in the keeping of humans as pets (and worse).

The cage was an engaging and addictive read, because each time you thought you had figured everything out something else would change and make you wonder if you did actually know what you think you know.  As far as first books in a series go this was pretty impressive, and the rest of the books series will be very good if The cage is any indication of the quality of Shepherd's writing.  There are lots of loose ends and hinted at secrets yet to be uncovered, and it will be very interesting to see how far Shepherd can take Cora and her story.

If you like this book then try:
  • The testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • The Hunger games by Suzanne Collins
  • Renegade by J.A. Souders
  • Eve by Anna Carey
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • Breathe by Sarah Crossan
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Inside out by Maria V. Snyder
  • Amongst the hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The limit by Kristin Landon

Reviewed by Brilla

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