Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book review: Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz

Five gifted teens, a world swimming in darkness and despair, and a final call to a battle set to take place in the world’s coldest and most inhospitable region, Oblivion - Antarctica.

Disclaimer:
This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section. 

Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz (Walker Books)
 
Ever come across an author whose name you've always recognised, but whose books you've never read?

Up until a few months ago, Anthony Horowitz was that author for me. 

I'm not entirely sure how I could have been ignoring Anthony's books for so long, but after reading Oblivion, I can definitely say that he has a new fan for life.

Horowitz’s Oblivion is a book that more than deserves its best-seller status. 

Not only is it a novel that is incredibly well-written, but it's also a book that is a deeply layered read featuring a complex, but fascinating cast of characters and a masterfully executed plot,  jam-packed with non-stop action.

What makes this book an added win in my eyes is that, although it forms part of a five-book series, it reads incredibly well as a standalone novel. So, if you, like me, have been feeling more than a little series-fatigued lately, Oblivion will be right up your alley.

Best of all, the book is just so good, it will actually make you want to go back and pick up the rest of the series. 

The finale to the Gatekeeper series, Oblivion places us smack-dab in the middle of a world ravaged by war, terrorism and anarchy. Many have died, while those who are alive, are desperately struggling to get by on a day-to-day basis.

To make matters worse, of those who have survived, not all of them are fighting the good fight. Some of them have even been painfully modified, turning them into grotesque caricatures – enhanced for the express purpose of becoming war machines.

Now to give you a little background, legend has long spoken of five teens who are the key to defeating Chaos – demon and King of the Old Ones – who has established a reign of terror all throughout the world.

These five teens– Matt, Scarlett, Pedro, Scott and Jamie (also known as The Gatekeepers) – each have incredible supernatural gifts; gifts which are powerful in their own right, but made even more so when they are together.

The key to ending Chaos’ evil influence, is that these teens should be united in one place in order to destroy him and send him back to the realm he came from before he broke through one of the gates constructed by The Gatekeepers.  

And here is where the fifth and final book comes in.

Oblivion finds the five teens scattered around in different parts of the world, following a narrow escape from a trap set for them in Hong Kong.

Travelling through doors which lead them to various locations around the world, each teen soon discovers that regardless of the destination at which they arrive, that the world they find themselves in has altered significantly.

In a mere matter of seconds, the gifted five have jumped forward a good 10 years forward – something which should not have happened, should not be possible and can only be explained by the fact that the Old Ones have been altering the fabric of time to their whim.

To complicate matters, not only do they find themselves in a world full of pandemonium, but they‘re also unable to go back to where they last met up due to many of the doors once freely available to them to jump through, being locked.

And the doors that are still open, are now being closely guarded by Chaos’ legions.

In true plot conundrum-y workings, Horowitz has made life challenging, if not downright impossible for the protagonists of his book.

As if dealing with being separated isn’t enough, they also have to now rely on the help of strangers to get them to their final destination. To throw a spanner even further into the works,  one of the five, after being disgruntled for quite some time, suddenly decides to turn traitor and join the other side.

What follows is an epic journey fraught with nail-biting tension, treachery and death-defying feats; all guaranteed to keep you on edge throughout the entire duration of the novel.

If I didn't point it out before, allow me to express my view now: Anthony Horowitz is an absolute genius.

Not only has he managed to create a world that encapsulates the horrors of a globe shrouded in turmoil and darkness, but he successfully and aptly captures the resilience of the human spirit in the midst of the most discouraging circumstances possible.

His work is thoroughly researched and is descriptions and depictions of the various countries in the midst of pandemonium, is nothing short of breathtaking.

From his vivid imagery and detailed portrayal of the Italy and its impending doom (in one scene he depicts the eruption of Vesuvius - imagery which I found to be brutal, majestic and tragic), to the desert-strewn sands of an Egypt on the verge of self-destruction, Horowitz takes you on a whirlwind journey that is both terrifying and exhilarating.

He has a masterful ability to create contradictions in the midst of tumultuousness and one scene in particular, a portrayal of an almost eerily perfect life in a little village in England, brought to mind the phrase that "One man's utopia (whether or not as parted of a anarchist regime or because of it), is another man's dystopia."

It is undeniably one of the creepiest scenes I've read in a book.

Aside from the settings, Anthony's characters are just as, if not more, amazing. Ferociously brave and survivors by nature, each and every one of the five will have you rooting for them - even the one who may not initially inspire much sympathy.

The motivations for what they did, the supernatural abilities they have and the bonds they shared and formed with the people helping them on their mission, made for some of the most compelling reading I've done in ages.

In fact, Horowitz's characters are so well-developed, that even if they had not been gifted with supernatural abilities, it wouldn't have impacted negatively on the book. Not only that, but he also brilliantly switches to different characters' perspectives without it being even remotely jarring.

With its jaw-dropping action sequences, haunting imagery and its thoroughly detailed and impressive plotline, Oblivion has definitely become one of my favourite dystopian reads.

You should definitely give this one a read. You won't regret it.

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