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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Pale - Chris Wooding Righty-ho, today I'll be looking at a short story, containing elements of horror, science fiction, and a society beset by prejudice. And of course, reanimation of the dead. Because why not. This little novella is called Pale by Chris Wooding, and it sounded pretty good when I went to download the ARC.In this world, people can be brought back from the dead. Many years ago, the Lazarus Serum was developed. However, for reasons unknown, it only works on certain blood-types, and if injected successfully, your skin, hair, and eyes turn a ghostly shade of white. Regular 'living' people are nasty to those who have been reanimated, seeing them as unnatural abominations. So, a little bit like District 9, I guess, the solution is to shove this new underclass into a slum and hope they can be kept quiet with rations of cat food.When I say slum, I mean a slum. Hell, there's a part where we're told that all the shops are closed, and these 'Pales' have to rely on soup kitchens set up by the living. So... how the hell do they survive? Market stands? I suppose so.So, enough with the backstory. Our main character is a privileged, living boy named Jed. His father is a lawyer, specialising in repossessing any of the Pales' belongings, because hey, they're half-dead! To hell with the half-dead people and their human rights! For no adequately-explored reason!Jed and his friends come across a young Pale boy named David on their walk to school. Because Jed is a popular kid and naturally, a bully, he and his friends beat up this kid and taunt him about his Pale status. Jed then learns that David and his father were once wealthy, but there was a gas leak in their kitchen one night and they were brought back from the dead, then promptly forced into squalor by repossession lawyers like Jed's father.Something else to note is that Jed has a girlfriend named Sadie. It's only a short story, so she doesn't have much time to shine as a character, but good God, is this girl a complete pansy. Jed throws himself in front of a car to save Sadie from being run over, and when the ambulance arrives, Sadie begs the paramedics to reanimate him. True love~! ...Well, not really. Jed goes back to school after becoming a Pale and is immediately discriminated against, and Sadie begins to cry because she *sniff* didn't know what to do! with Jed after his accident, and is under immense social pressure to reject him! Which she does.Utterly humiliated, Jed runs away to the slums and meets David, who forgives him for beating him up the other day. David and Jed become friends, but Jed comes up with the bright idea to break into the nurse's office after school, and steal a syringe full of Lazarus Serum and inject it into Sadie, so she knows just how horrible it is being a Pale. Um. What? Way to think up a way to take out your revenge on completely the wrong person, kiddo. Sadie saved your life, and yes, it was mean that she broke up with you like that, but surely there are other people who deserve a taste of what it feels like to be discriminated against? Like your friends, who swiftly dropped you from their Christmas card list once you became a Pale? Argh.Also, the Lazarus Serum has to injected right after death, if memory recalls. So Jed was planning on killing his ex-girlfriend and turning her into one of 'them'? Yeah, this character can totally be empathised with, can't he?Anyway, Jed gets the Serum, runs off and decides to phone Sadie, who has now decided to start going out with Kyle, Jed's ex-best friend. They arrange a private rendezvous, but... oh no, Sadie's so wishy-washy that she blabbed to Kyle earlier that Jed had called her to this abandoned building! And Kyle's come armed with a baseball bat, and a bottle of gasoline.Jeez, what's with the psychotic hatred of people who have been saved from the brink of death? No, seriously. I really wish this was expanded upon, rather than 'oh, we think it's an abomination'. If being injected with the Lazarus Serum is an instant ticket to being disowned by society and discriminated against, shouldn't there be a more stringent process? There shouldn't be a supply kept in the school nurse's office in case a student happens to die on campus. I know the Serum has to be administered almost immediately after your heart stops beating, but still. And if the population were so against the 'unnatural' creatures that the Lazarus Serum turns people into, why is it so widely used?It is only a short story intended for reluctant readers, but I would be rather unsatisfied with the lack of attention to detail, as well as the ending. (Spoiler: David and his friends rescue Jed from the burning building, Jed runs back in to save Sadie, Jed thinks over reanimating Sadie, but then decides against it and learns to accept his status as a Pale.) It's a shame, because this is a concept that deserves an expanded universe. The reason why regular people discriminate against their partially-dead brethren deserves more of an explanation, and there's a whole ocean of social commentary on prejudice that could have been dipped into, but nope, it just wasn't there. We also have a largely unsympathetic main character (I don't really see Jed as having learned much of a lesson, if any... if that makes sense), and a few poorly-written side characters – Kyle is just the stereotypical bully character, and Sadie is a female whose only job is to look nervous and burst into tears once in a while. Admittedly, Pale has a clever concept and it's a fine read for its target audience, but it would have been infinitely better with a little bit more meat on its bones. 3/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/pale-by-chris-wooding.html)