Title: Banded (Banded, #1)
Author: Logan Byrne
Published: April 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Rating: Are you having a laugh mate?
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In dystopian Manhattan, society is divided into six zones, with each one representing a citizen’s benefit to society: Stalwart (strength), Astute (intelligence), Collusive (greed), Radiant (beauty), Quixotic (no life direction), and the Altruistic (willingness to help others). On a citizen’s sixteenth birthday, a computer suggests a new zone for them based on their inherent benefit to society. When Kalenna Slater is sorted out of her home zone Quixotic and into Altruistic, she thinks things can’t get worse. Life looks dismal until she meets Gavin, a boy also just sorted into Altruistic who becomes the light needed on her cloudy days.
During sorting she receives a device known as ‘The Band’. It’s a large watch-like device that never comes off, and it measures a citizen’s karma on a scale from one to one hundred. If a citizen does good, they gain points. If a citizen does bad, including breaking laws, they lose points. When your number reaches zero, the band acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and you are injected with toxins that kill you within minutes.
After sorting, recruits are taken to a three month long mandatory school named HQ. It’s at HQ she meets new friends from different zones, and finally begins to feel at ease. Everything goes well until a rare trip home makes her discover that her father, who has been missing for a decade, may have taken part in a terrible program that stands to shake the fabric of society.
If you’ve read any of my content before, you know that I hate leaving a book unfinished. But I really wasn’t enjoying reading this one, so, hell. But I did check the “About the Author” section and all it contained were links to Byrne’s social media and a request to review the book, so I’m gonna review it for you! No worries mate.
So let’s do this.
First unoriginal comment here: this book is Divergent. Seriously. People in a dystopian society (in only Manhattan, don’t ask me what happened to the rest of New York) are divided up according to their personality. One single personality trait, which is of course all that we have. Or they could be put in a zone because of the fact that they’re attractive? Which I don’t …? What if they’re beautiful and have a desire to help others?
Basically, reading this book was like reading Divergent. And while I didn’t love Divergent, it was way more entertaining than this book and far better constructed.
This book follows the training of Kalenna after she’s put into Altruistic. The plot is stretched pretty thin. I have to be honest, I got over halfway through this book and I don’t know if I can tell you what happens.
The plot itself has very little direction. Kalenna and her friends want to investigate the suspicious goings on in HQ while HQ are looking for a spy. (I’d also like to point out that the clues and foreshadowing in this book are atrocious and I knew that the spy was a spy before it was even announced that a spy was on the loose, if I’ve guessed right, which I think I have because wow.) But there’s no structure to these events. They’re just dropped in at random times with no flow. The plot isn’t building, its meandering. Also, in Chapter 8 they introduce a tournament where the kids can fight for a chance to go home, which adds nothing to the already nothing plot, so this book is also lazily playing off The Hunger Games to boot.
The characterisation in this book is lazy too. It’s not even like dividing people by personality has to make them one dimensional—it doesn’t with Hogwarts houses—but it sure does in this book. Everyone has the one personality trait from their zone and that’s it. People from Altruistic are, well, altruistic. The kid from Astute is literally just smart, and he’s nothing else. People from Quixotic have no direction in life (so that’d be where I’d go, because self deprecating humour is just the funniest you guys please like me) and people from Radiant have no personality and also neither does anyone else. I don’t remember any of the characters in this damn book.
You know what else is lazy? The world building. Not only was it mostly ripped from Divergent, but you can also tell that no effort was put into it because it doesn’t make any sense. This is yet another book with no idea how a dictatorship operates and this society would quickly fall apart. Never mind that the bands would off them, if a society can’t maintain itself then guess what? It can’t maintain itself! You can’t shove people into different walled off sections of a city based off personality and expect society to function.
The nice people become doctors? What if they’re no good at that? I try to be a nice person but I’d be a terrible doctor with my flat C report card and inability to make eye contact or go near gross stuff. Plus the government has this whole “you can’t know about other zones” policy which makes no sense if one zone is the army and one zone all the medical professionals. The “general labourers” include the builders. How do you build without going to the place you’re building in?
I’m not even actually sure how you become part of the government because it’s made clear that the kids in training won’t be. Those guys must be inbred to shit.
I’m not going to go further into how this world wouldn’t work, but trust me. I could. I could write multiple blog posts about why dystopias like this are dumb. And I probably will.
But I will say: dystopia writers? Stop diving your societies into strict groups like this. That only gives the people another group to identify with that’s separate from the government. That’s not what a dictatorship wants.
Actually, no, I have to ask why they’re fighting with daggers and swords. They clearly have advanced technology! They can run realistic computer simulations! Don’t do swords just because they look cool, Byrne. Give your soldiers some damn bullets. (And also guns. That’d help.)
The third crime of laziness: the writing.
Plot, characterisation, and world building apart, the writing sucked on a technical level. I’ll pull up a few quotes to illustrate what I mean because. Yeah.
“The bag dropped from the shelf and got all over me. To make matters worse, my band is all cloudy now.”
It might have been a little unfair to start with dialogue because that’s one of the tougher things to write, but I’m sorry. It’s awkward. That’s not how people talk. How often to people start a spoken sentence with “To make matters worse”? And all the dialogue reads like that. Clunky and awkward and if you read it aloud you can just feel that no one would ever say that. Yes, dialogue is unnatural and artificial but you’re not supposed to get that quite so obviously.
“And as if things couldn’t get worse, the band is starting to leave a rash on my wrist, and of course I can’t take it off, because I’ve had it stuck on my wrist since I was sixteen,” she said as a few tears began to drip from her tired-looking eyes.
Um? That’s only a couple of paragraphs later. Just to show you that this book is repetitive as all hell. And it’s also full of information that Kalenna, who she’s talking to, would know. She’s also really coherent for a crying person. This book is emotionally dead. I didn’t feel emotion from it once.
“Tired-looking eyes.” RIP.
“Alright,” I said curtly, my annoyance shining through.
The book does this a lot. It tells you something that someone did, and then tells you what emotion this action indicates. If she’s speaking curtly, then yes, Byrne, I’d imagine she’s annoyed. Human beings with brains are reading this, yet it’s explained like we have absolutely no concept of what this stuff means. I hate this in books. If an action denotes an emotion we know what emotion it denotes. It’s just a lazy way of drip feeding (empty, at that) emotion into your writing, this strategy.
And I rant this (man, I need a life) while being aggressively autistic. I ask people to clarify their emotions constantly. If I feel talked down to, you have yourself a problem.
“I’m sure you’re wondering…”
I just threw that in there because the book says it about seven thousand times. By halfway through I laughed every time I read it. But that also segues into another issue: lazy exposition.
As well as endless paragraphs of just exposition from Kalenna, rather than it being interlinked with the “action”, the book also just has government officials stand there and explain things. Endless stuff. And while thanks to the lazy world building they don’t know this stuff, they really should. It makes absolutely no sense that they don’t.
Look, I have to stop this review. I’m annoyed and just stopped reading the book out of annoyance and this whole blog post is improvised, but I’ll say this: this book’s problem is that it’s lazy. It reads like an early draft, not a completed work. Every aspect contains very little thought, and the book itself contains very little editing and I noticed a number of mistakes. I would be totally fine with this book being similar to other things, but I can’t forgive a writer throwing something together with absolutely no effort and expecting us to read it.
Thankfully, I didn’t read this book in its entirety. And I did get it for free thanks to my BookBub (#nonspon, lol humour) obsession, so I can’t complain that it was a loss of money either.
Needless to say, I don’t recommend this book. Even if you’re curious about bad writing, the aimless plot and flat characters leaves this book dead and BORING. If you want a book about bad government and people divided by personality by, go read Harry Potter.
(See what I did there? With the misdirect? Ayyy comedy.)
If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. Oh, and I’ve updated my social links. They’re in the sidebar. Check that out bro.