Sunday, 21 October 2012
Review: Pale by Chris Wooding
In Pale, people have the ability to come back from the dead using a special formula known as the Lazarus Serum. Problem is, it turns you into a "Pale" - your skin, hair and eyes go white, and you're shunned by society to the point that you're driven to slums on the edge of the city, unable to get or keep a job. It's even difficult for the kids to attend school, because bullies like our protagonist Jed and his best friend beat them up if they try. Seriously - this is how the book opens. It's not a good way to make a character likeable or even sympathetic.
Jed, like his family and friends, hates Pales, and declares he'd rather be dead than become one. Dun dun dunnn. Before you can say "foreshadowing", he's in an accident and wakes up Pale. His precious girlfriend loved him so much she couldn't let him die... but she doesn't love him enough to stay with him as a Pale. Yep, Jed's world is turned upside down; his family and friends wish he was dead rather than this super white version of himself. Luckily, the boy he and his mate were beating up in the beginning doesn't hold a grudge, and takes him under his wing.
The concept for this novella is great, but it's just too short to develop it effectively. It's like the skeleton of a story, without any meat to give it life. The characters are flat and the plot is predictable. I also found the world-building to be lacking and unrealistic. For instance, Jed's father is a lawyer who specialises in repossessing Pales' property coz they're technically 'dead'. The thing is, the Lazarus Serum has been around for awhile, so wouldn't the government have done something by now to change the law to protect the Pales somehow? I mean, the serum is so prevalent that it's in the freaking first aid room at Jed's school, yet nobody has done anything to deal with the consequences of that serum? It's like society is all, "Yay! Down with death! Except we don't want to know about you if you come back from it." I can understand certain parts of society being bigoted against Pales, but everyone? It just doesn't make sense. Especially because those Pales were once family and friends and presumably somebody made the decision to use the serum on them. They can't all be like ridiculous Sadie, Jed's girlfriend, who rejects the product of her own decision. Seriously, no matter how much you hated something, if the choice is between having the love of your life, or your child, be that thing, or be dead, wouldn't you rather them be alive?
Anyway, I'm getting into ranty territory now, so I'll wrap this up. It suffices to say that I was left pretty unsatisfied with Pale. It was a quick read, but I didn't feel like I got anything from it other than frustration. The premise is great but the story itself isn't.
Published: September 2012, Stoke Books
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