Title: The House of Power (Atherton #1)
Author: Patrick Carman
Edgar is an excellent climber, which is a problem in Tabletop because no one is allowed to climb the cliffs and the punishment for trying is severe. But Edgar is looking for something, a treasure left to him by a man he can barely remember. And for that, he is willing to go places where no one from Tabletop has ever gone before: the mysterious Highlands, the land above Tabletop which rules them. When their world is turned on its head, though, Edgar’s boldness brings the two worlds together in ways no one anticipated.
This is a dystopian novel, so certain elements of the society are practically standard fare: a regimented society, a culture struggling to make it day to day, and a boy who has no regard for the traditional boundaries. In this case, the boundaries are physical as well as social, as gigantic cliffs separate the Flatlands, Tabletop, and the Highlands. Illustrations provided throughout offer a nice set of visuals for various places and things.
I’m not a huge fan of dystopian books, and some elements of the society and lifestyle felt oversimplified. Oversimplification is a flaw in dystopian novels generally, that I’ve noticed. For example, there was an attempt to explain the lack of variety in food and animals, but it’s still hard to believe most of the humans aren’t dying of malnutrition since the only plants eaten on Tabletop appear to be the figs and fig tree inner parts, and it didn’t seem to be something they shared with their neighbors who raised rabbits or sheep. And even the fig-farmers don’t eat most of their figs. So where are the vegetables? As long as they’re growing grass (which presumably the sheep and rabbits aren’t after every square inch of it) why not have gardens too?
Another frustration is that the book makes no attempt at resolving much of anything. This is better understood as part one, and it more stops than ends. The oddest part of this is that it almost feels like it could tie up in a few more chapters, once the water supply is reached, and provide a better ending, or at least a more solid cliffhanger. At this point I suppose this would be a more minor irritation because the rest of the trilogy has been published, but be forewarned: this will leave off at an odd place and more or less require the second book to be on hand.
Overall, the book itself isn’t that bad, but I don’t buy into the overall system presented. And it’s annoying to read about extremely cruel bullies who are at best offered a minor setback (presumably he will go down by the end of the trilogy but I don’t know that I want to wait that long). I rate this book Neutral.