Truancy - Isamu Fukui

"Control," Umasi answered simply. "They keep you too busy to rebel, too downtrodden to protest being a second-class citizen, and too well-conditioned to challenge them when you reach adulthood. Indeed, many end up joining them so that they can do the same to the next generation. It's really a complicated form of bullying."

In the City, the school is run like a totalitarian regime. In fact the school is part of the regime: Educators, Enforcers and Disciplinary Officers are among those who run the city under the Mayor's leadership. The purpose of school is solely to produce obedient citizens who are easy to control. Students are tattooed with barcodes on their arms which are scanned as they pass through the school gates or subway turnstiles. As with any regime, there are dissidents and rebels: the Truancy. Some are kids who have been expelled and have no future in the City; others have deserted school to fight the system. Under the leadership of the mysterious Zyid, they assassinate Educators and plot the downfall of the Mayor and his government.

Tack is a student who's growing increasingly discontented with school; time after time he is punished unfairly by teachers. One day when he accidentally winds up in the abandoned District 19, he comes across Umasi, another boy who opens his eyes to the world of the Truancy and the true purpose of school. After a botched assassination attempt, Tack joins the Truancy to seek revenge on one of the Truants, but quickly gains sympathy for their cause.

Truancy, as it turns out, was written by a high school student from New York City (who is apparently dissatisfied with his education). He started writing at age 13, and (so the story goes) wrote it for himself but his father found the manuscript in his room and sent it off to a publisher. At any rate, I heard about the book on GeekDad, and although I've had bad experiences with books written by teenagers I thought this one sounded like it might be promising. The premise was a little different and didn't sound like something just ripped off from Tolkien.

Fukui's writing is, for the most part, decent. There are some awkward sentences and not-quite-right words used here and there, but for the most part the story is engaging enough and the writing doesn't get in the way. There are some fight sequences, though, that get a little tedious. Imagine if someone were to describe to you, in prose, a fight scene from "The Bourne Identity" or some similar action movie and you'll have an inkling of what to expect. There are one or two scenes that last several pages, and the action gets bogged down in cliche. To be fair, I haven't read too many action scenes written by adults, so maybe this is the norm; maybe I'll go read a scene or two in Robert Ludlum's books and see if I feel the same way about them.

Our young writer is also not above putting himself into the story, and more than once. The Yoda figure who spouts cryptic aphorisms and trains Tack to fight is named "Umasi" (Fukui's own name backwards), and Zyid, the leader of the Truancy, is described as having jet-black hair pulled into a ponytail and wears a windbreaker buttoned around his neck like a cape ... much like Fukui in the dustjacket photo.

Vanity aside, Fukui has created a nice piece of science fiction, sort of a teenager's version of 1984. It's not the best prose I've read but I think it's something young adults would enjoy, and grown-up sci-fi fans may find it worth a read.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 12, 2008 | Comments (0)


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