Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Uninvited

Author: Liz Jensen
Author's Website:
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Series: No
Source: ARC from Publisher
A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry. Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger's Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioral patterns and an outsider's fascination with group dynamics. Nothing obvious connects Hesketh's Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behavior of his beloved stepson, Freddy. But when Hesketh's Taiwan contact dies shockingly and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, he is forced to acknowledge possibilities that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career, and, most devastatingly of all, his role as a father.
The Uninvited is like an environmentalist, anti-capitalist - and much more violent - Childhood's End. Arthur C. Clarke leaves many things unanswered in Childhood's End - all the whys and what for's - and I feel like The Uninvited is (intentionally or not) a sort of response to that. The group-think of the children is what led me to this train of thought at first, but as the narrative moves on, the motives and results of the children's actions faintly echo how Clarke told his story.

Of course, the way the story is told is affected by Hesketh's Asperger's. The choice of making Hesketh have Asperger's is brilliant in so many ways. First of all, it provides a detached narrator, someone who can relay events in a logical way without having it tinged by his emotional attachment. That of course disappears about halfway through the novel, which makes the effects even stronger. When an outsider like Hesketh begins to feel personally involved, you know there's something really terrifying going on. 

Besides that, Hesketh's voice adds a chilling quality to the story. Having all these crazy things going on, but told in such a matter-of-fact, plodding sort of way - it takes you a step back from the events and forces you to expend energy to think about what's going on and what it all means for the way the adults have to deal with it - and that means that as a reader, you're much more involved and definitely more affected by the shocking turns of events. And then when Hesketh's survival method of origami-making in his mind escalates and escalates, becomes more frenzied and more common, it heightens the eeriness of it all.

I loved watching Hesketh grapple with his innate logical and reasoning skills when presented with things that just don't fit. I loved seeing him fight and fight against admitting that "supernatural" things could be happening. And I also loved trying to stay a step ahead of him and figure out what was really going on. I didn't. But I tried! When he finally comes to terms with it all, when he finally figures out the real truth, I love the way he reacts. It emphasizes the futility of fighting back, the way he accepts it as reality and goes on with his life, albeit very much altered.

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