Dualed is a debut novel with an intriguing dystopian concept. Every person has an Alt - a genetically identical twin - and they must prove their worth to the community by eliminating that Alt before they turn 20. Only upon "completion" do the citizens finally get to live a peaceful life. That sounds epic, right? Sadly, I was slightly disappointed.
This novel held a lot of promise, but right from the get go it became obvious that the concept left a lot of questions by which you can poke holes in the logic of the world building. Basically, this is a walled community, set up by a society called The Board. After they found a cure for the common cold, they realized later that it made everyone infertile. The community was founded as a sort of utopia - a place that should be free from the wars surrounding them outside. However, they wanted to keep that peace and had to be ready for attacks from the outside. Therefore, when ensuring population growth by fertility treatments they manipulated the DNA to create two identical twins in separate families. The idea is Darwinian by nature. The two will be trained to ultimately eliminate the other. The stronger one should therefore always win and thereby prove their worth to the community. (And if neither of them eliminates the other before the time is up, they both die from a kind of programming in their DNA.) In sum, then, every person in the community is a murderer and has been taught from birth to be a soldier against the evil outside.
Let's start with the positives. What did this novel ultimately contain?
- BAGS of action. If that's what you're looking for, don't worry, you're safe.
A nice love story that is really, really on the side and doesn't detract from the plot.
- A female protagonist who ultimately knows when and how to be strong.
- A very engaging last quarter that pulls the rating upwards a bit.
Inconsistencies or points which really bothered me include:
- So the concept of the world is Darwinian, but around 2/3 into the novel, West (the main character) mentions that one particular district, Leyton, is the wealthy district. They get special treatment, better training, better food, and ultimately have higher odds of completion. That kind of kills the survival of the fittest idea.
- I had an extremely difficult time wrapping my head around the idea that everyone in this community over the age of 20 is a murderer. It's a fact. That's pretty screwed up. I mean, they are trained for this from birth. Death is ALL around them. On a completely regular day, in a crowded square, they can witness a completion. And yes, this is the whole concept. If I couldn't get around that, I shouldn't have picked it up. But what got to me was how everyone reacts to this. Long story short: they don't. People witness a completion right in front of them and barely even blink. I'm sorry, but you cannot just look death in the face like that and accept it as normal. It almost felt like the book was glorifying violence at certain points just because it was so insensitive to the implications.
- And there was barely any mention (besides like two short declarations) that there was a hint of an uprising. Obviously that will come. But this was not covered in this installment at all. In fact, looking at this book alone, it just looks like everyone's perfectly fine with all the killing. When I got to about 70%, I took another look at the blurb. It conveniently states, "When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better." Sorry guys, but in a dystopia, I need those societal questions raised MUCH SOONER.
- Chord, while just recently achieving completion himself, seems to be able to throw money at West whenever he wants. Like he's made of money. Despite being raised in the exact same circumstances as West and also having no parents. It bothered me.
- West, the main character, bothered me to no end. The whole book is written from her perspective but I found it to be extremely bland and static. I felt no emotion or sympathy for her. Right before the end, West mentions she gives herself "over to the coldness again -- closing [herself] off, shifting back to that earlier numbness in which [she] nearly lost [herself]." It was not clear to me before that that was a coping mechanism. The whole novel up to that point read as extremely bland.
- And to make things (possibly) worse I didn't understand West's hesitance with killing her Alt. She became a striker (basically, a mercenary taking out Alts for the rich) to train for the experience of killing. But still she wouldn't go after her Alt. I suppose it was scary and confrontational, but because of the earlier mentioned mask she wears, it didn't come across well. It's like she says she's scared, but then she does something completely fearless. She says she feels guilty for killing others, but then shows absolutely no reaction after taking out another strike. Overall the novel is a lot of telling, not showing. And this inconsistency with West's character is best summed up in the following quote, which takes place after she's taken out at least 20 hits but never shown remorse.
"To kill someone by accident, through carelesssness, someone who's not a strike, or my Alt-my stomach rolls with nausea at the thought of it. Never. I could never live with myself." - Dualed, Elsie Chapman
The characters came across as a bit static and did not capture my heart, the world building was so brief and unexplained it made me sad, and the ultimate (sort of) glorification of violence really put me off. There was a noticeable lack in secondary characters, and the prose was nothing special. Would I recommend it? Not in good conscience. While the blurb was promising, the story never fully captured my attention nor my heart. Sorry Dualed, it's not you, it's me.show more