A brilliant, post-apocalyptic gem from Julianna Baggott

Pure, by Julianna Baggott. Grand Central Publishing. 448 pages. $25.99

This amazing novel, by prolific Florida State University creative writing professor Julianna Baggot, is stunning in its vision, specificity, and suggestiveness. Configuring a post-apocalyptic world of the near future, Julianna Baggott achieves nothing less than a profound inquiry into the nature and meaning of what it is to be human. This book is likely to become an instant classic. It is at once science fiction, moral fable, and coming of age tale. The prose is gorgeous, the scale is cinematically epic. When I finished reading it, I was sorry it was over. Fortunately, there are two more installments of “The Pure Trilogy” to come.

The “Pure” are those who were chosen to live in the Dome in order to survive the detonations that destroyed much and created a wasteland for the survivors kept outside. The detonations seem to have been a programmed destruction predicated on future renewal and rebuilding — like burning a forest to make way for new growth. Who chose the elite to be saved and educated as the leaders of a new order? Where was the line between altruistic tough love and simple, naked self-interest? The novel explores such issues with deep sensitivity and intelligence.

Pure is structured around the actions of and relationships among four young adults. The Pures are Partridge (son of the Dome’s leader) and Lyda. These teenagers are being groomed to take over leadership roles in the reintegrated world society, though Partridge has yet to prove himself and Lyda has been institutionalized as unstable (perhaps not yet effectively programmed or “coded”). Partridge, who has begun to doubt the history he has been taught, manages an escape to discover what really goes on outside the Dome. Lyda, wrongly believed to be his girlfriend, is sent out to lure him back.

Julianna Baggott

Those who live outside the dome include Pressia and Bradwell. They are both, like the other Wretches, physical victims of the detonations, which have disfigured everyone – not only with burn scars, missing limbs, and other bodily distortions, but also by being welded in the explosions to nonhuman beings and materials. Pressia’s damaged hand is fused with the face of a doll. Bradwell’s back is inhabited by birds whose wings rustle constantly. Pressia’s grandfather has a small electric fan lodged in his throat. These people constitute the highest order of life outside the Dome, above the Beasts and the Dusts.

Bradwell, like Partridge, is a rebel and a truthseeker. Eventually, fate (or is it complex external manipulation of their lives?) brings the four young people together. The future for everyone seems to be in the hands of this inexperienced and untested quartet. However, they meet some early tests quite well.  .  .  .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the March 1, 2012 edition of the Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Julianna Baggott pdf

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