Author: Christina J. Adams
Series: Book One in the Carillians For the Machines Series
Published: February 20, 2013
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Copy Provided by the Author (in exchange for an honest review)
Thirteen-year-old Silas fears the day when guards come and remove his memories leaving him an empty shell. He is trapped in the Cartiam, a human farm, and knows escape is not possible, but he can’t stop thinking about it. Especially when his older sister Malina is terrified her time will be coming soon. Ever since he was separated from his parents, Malina has taken care of him and now it’s Silas’ turn to protect her. He has to escape and take her with him.
But when the owner comes to visit, things go from bad to worse. Jamar, the owner’s son singles Silas out and the extra attention brings Silas under the owner’s microscope. The other kids in the Cartiam are unhappy with the way they are treated and rising emotions threaten to ruin all of Silas’ plans. Yet worst of all, Malina herself isn’t sure she wants to hang on. It is up to Silas to figure out the escape and fast. If he fails he could lose everything he loves.
About the Author:
Christina J. Adams finds inspiration in the green rolling hills and farmland surrounding her home in Maryland. She loves hanging out with children and teens and gets more excited about a new book coming out, from one of many favorite authors, that it’s probably not good for her health. She didn’t think being a writer was a serious profession until after high school, but has since decided it is the best career ever.
Chapter 1: Silas
The three new boys huddled together in front of the unopened yard door. Silas watched them out of the corner of his eye. He kept his face forward so he wouldn’t draw attention to himself and silently wished they would stop glancing about. It would only make things harder for them, and their first week in the Cartiam would be hard enough if it was anything like his.
The sharp whistle blew signaling the door’s opening. One of the boys jumped. Tymas, the Faan guard standing by the door, walked over to the boy and cuffed him so hard the side of the boy’s face smashed into the concrete floor. The boy began to cry, but he stood up and stayed in his spot as the door opened slowly.
“Now run,” Tymas said nudging the first new boy with his baton.
Along the wall. Silas closed his eyes as the boy ran straight out into the yard.
Two gun shots crackled reverberating again and again in echo. Feet shuffled and Silas peeked to see what had happened. The boy was still running, like a deer in a ripe corn field infested with rabid dogs. The next shot hit the dirt by the boy’s feet and he leaped to the side. Silas didn’t get to see anymore because the line was starting to move. The other new boys were more tentative in entering the yard, but Stephen a fifteen year old jogged passed them, turned right and ran in the dirt groove near the side of the wall.
Stephen set the pace like he did every morning and the other guys fell into place behind him. It was a fast pace. Fast enough to raise everyone’s heart rate above 130 when it was sustained for an hour. Silas remembered wondering how he would ever keep it up the first week he arrived, but it was almost too easy now. The first boy figured out where he was supposed to be running and rejoined the line by the wall.
Before they were halfway done with the first lap, the girls were let out of their ward and they quickly caught up with the boys’ line. No one was in a rush. Most of them had done this before, with the exception of the four new girls at the front. Every chance Silas got he scanned the girls out of the corner of his eye for his older sister. Malina was normally easy to spot, with her bright brown eyes and quick smile no matter what she was doing. But this day Silas couldn’t find her. His heart pounded faster and he feared that she had been taken. The Machine made the lights flicker all night long. One teen was missing from the yard and all he could do was hope it wasn’t her. No one was ever taken without cause, but if the guards were watching they would have had plenty of cause.
Yesterday, Malina had yelled at Sebastian, the yard bully, after he tripped Silas in the yard. Silas knew the instant that his nose came up from the dirt and he saw the look on her face that she was not in control. Her eyes widened and her lips pressed so thin they almost disappeared. What was worse was that Silas knew she was doing everything she could to let it go and she couldn’t. She marched across the yard and Silas had scrambled up to get in her way.
“You little imp,” Malina hissed. “Leave my brother alone.”
Sebastian jerked. Silas wanted him to walk away, but when Sebastian saw how riled Malina was he’d only smirked.
“Looks like someone’s going to have a trip to the slaughterhouse,” he said in a sing-song taunt.
“Shut up!” Malina shouted. Her hands began to shake and she lunged at Sebastian.
Silas caught her and pushed her back.
“It’s okay,” he said, his voice as calming as he could make it. “I’m not hurt. Look at me.”
Malina shuddered, took several ragged breaths and let her attention settle on Silas.
“Your nose is bleeding,” she said.
“I like my nose bleeding,” Silas said, wiping his sleeve across his nose.
“Silly.” It was her nickname for him, but it had been a while since she’d used it so he didn’t complain this time. Malina let out a short laugh. She buried her face in her hands and then collapsed to the ground. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t--you were....”
“Do you think they noticed?” Her voice barely came out.
Silas didn’t know what to say. This was exactly the type of incident they looked for and it had happened in the yard. He’d spent all night worrying that he wouldn’t see her today.
As he began his second lap, Silas had to know she was still safe, that the missing person was not his sister. He craned his neck to check the girls closer to him and almost tripped, but he saw her. Malina had her hair tucked back into a braid, different from her usual ponytail, which was now starting to come loose. Her normal smile was gone and she plodded after everyone as if she were only going through the motions. But she was here and safe.
Silas pushed his relief down. It wouldn’t do for the guards to see it. He refocused on the pounding of his feet and the feel of the breeze as it hit his sweaty matted hair. Any time he grew tired he thought of the picture on the calendar in his cell. It was a beautiful, calming scene. A forest of trees and a small waterfall that flowed cool and free between them. He wondered how it would feel to be that free. Something about the line of the trees and the stilled rush of the water made him want to run faster and run far away. But he couldn’t. The chip implant at the base of his neck made sure of that. Still, Silas couldn’t get escape out of his mind.
The whistle blew again and everyone slowed to a walk. They did one more lap to cool off and then everyone lined up according to age, all 358 of them; the boys on one side and the girls on the other.
The speakers crackled. “We will begin the week off with the selection.”
Silas could almost feel the air stop moving as everyone held their breath. He glanced over to where Malina stood and saw that she was biting her lip. As one of the older girls she was running out of chances. Silas wasn’t as concerned for himself. No one at 13 was old enough to be picked, but next year he would be and then long pauses like these would be torture.
Hearing the selection every week only reminded him that one day he would be hoping to hear his name called and all the while knowing that boys were not picked as often as the girls were. If his name was called, it meant he either had good genes, genes they wanted passed on, or he had average genes they didn’t care were passed on. Silas had no delusions about his chances. But he’d always believed Malina had a chance. She was pretty, at least that is what he figured since many of the older boys would hang around her and follow her across the yard with their eyes. He thought she was beautiful in a way their mother was too tired and too sad to be, but being Malina’s brother he always figured he was bias.
“The name called will report to Officer Westminster for transport. Remember that good behavior is rewarded. You are given food, clothing and beds and you have the opportunity to better yourselves by having your name in the selection, but these can be revoked. Strive to be good and your name might be called.” Another long pause and Silas thought he heard someone give a frustrated sigh. “This week’s name is Emily Fo-ax”
“Faux,” some girl said, but it wasn’t Emily. Emily was squealing and was surrounded by a group of girls hugging her and stroking her back. Malina stood in her place, shoulders dropped. Two of the guards, both from the servant class Ajax who had somehow managed to work higher than their station normally allowed, walked over to Emily and escorted her away.
“That is all,” the speaker said and everyone started to mill around.
Silas walked slowly over to Malina. He kept his gaze on the new boys and as he got within hearing distance he asked, “Are you okay?”
She was silent. He wasn’t sure if she hadn’t heard him or was just trying to calm her emotions. But then she sighed.
“Emily is a year younger than I am. They aren’t going to pick me.” Her tone was quiet, almost resigned.
“You don’t know that.”
“Every morning I wake up and think that they’ve come for me, only one day they will. I can’t live like this. I almost wish they’d take me today.” Malina’s words grew steadily louder. Out of the corner of his eye, Silas saw one of the guards turn to face them. His heart beat faster and he knew she’d act recklessly in her current state.
“What if we did something?” he asked quietly hoping she would match his tone.
“Escape.” The word was out before Silas could think it.
Malina didn’t move and he almost wished he hadn’t said anything. It was a stupid idea.
“Are you going to be ok?”
She just nodded, her loose hair covering her face. Her breathing was back to normal and she didn’t have the wild look in her eyes.
“Just don’t give up. I’m sure it will be you next time,” Silas said. Reluctantly he left her and continued walking. They spent too much time together as it was and he made a point of spending at least half of his yard time with his cellmate, Patton. It was best to hang around those you weren’t close to emotionally. It made you harder for the Machine to crack, at least that is what older teens whispered to the new kids. Yet it was so hard to do. A rule that everyone knew they should obey, but always broke in some fashion.
Malina had moved from her spot at the wall and was talking to one of the older boys, a guy named Marcus. She had re-braided her hair and had a small smile ready whenever he glanced in her direction. Silas sighed to himself and moved to the other side of the yard. Several of the younger boys had opened the box where the balls were kept and started a game of toss. They were allowed to play team games, and even forced to play them every once and a while, but team games generated more emotions than was safe to show, so most of the teens avoided them.
Silas found Patton and they waited for an opening to get to the box. When most of the other boys had cleared out Silas reached in and pulled out a ratty baseball with several of the laces frayed loose. They found an empty area and Silas tossed the ball to Patton.
Throwing the ball wasn’t really a game they played. It just gave them an appearance of activity while both boys worked at slowing their heart rate. Nothing was more dangerous for a Carillian than a raised heart rate. Silas evened his breathing and could almost feel the blood rushing slower through his arteries. After five throws his pulse felt back to normal, but he continued to throw the ball. It was better than randomly walking the yard or leaning against the wall.
He saw the three new boys huddled in a corner. They seemed content to watch how the older kids interacted. It was one of the best ways to learn the ropes of the yard. But as Silas watched he saw Sebastian and his two crones, that Silas had never bothered to learn the names of, walk over to the boys. Sebastian was a year older and had picked on Silas his first day too, but the next morning all the kids were talking about how Sebastian cried at night for his babu. A red faced Sebastian insisted that he didn’t cry all night, but the damage was done. For the rest of Silas’ first year all anyone had to do was say babu when Sebastian tried to pick on them and Sebastian would leave them alone. No one had been able to discover what a babu was, but because everyone Silas’ age and older knew about babu, it meant that only the newbies would cower around him.
Patton’s throw was wide, making Silas missed the ball and had to run after it. When he threw the ball back Patton raised one dark eyebrow and made a slight shake of his head. Patton had the darkest skin of all the Carillians in the yard including Silas. Sometimes he wondered if somewhere in Patton’s ancestry there was a Faan.
What? Silas shrugged his shoulders at him.
Patton looked pointedly at where Sebastian was poking the kid Tymas had pushed to the ground. Then Patton shook his head again as if to say, Don’t think about it. Silas caught the ball and tried to loosen his shoulders. Don’t get noticed. That was the unspoken rule in the yard. But the guards never interfered with bullying and if he confronted Sebastian he would be playing into the guards’ plan to identify those ready for the Machine. Even knowing that couldn’t keep him from wanting to do something.
He tossed the ball back and Patton returned it almost as fast.
Sebastian had moved on to the kid who ran out of the doors first.
“Come on,” Patton said as Silas held onto the ball longer. He shouldn’t watch, but his eyes kept returning to the new boys.
Sebastian pushed the kid. Silas took a step toward them, but then the new kid surprised him. Instead of backing down he looked Sebastian in the eyes, threw his arms above his head and roared like a bear. There was no trace of emotion, only raw sound. It must have shocked Sebastian too because he stumbled back and cast a quick glance up at the guards on the wall. Then Sebastian and his friends retreated to the other side of the yard.
Silas let one side of his mouth turn up for a second before he made it disappear. The kid knew how to take care of himself. He tossed the ball and let his mind shut everything off. It was going to be another normal day. They would play outside, have lunch and then spend the rest of the day in their cells. He’d read some of Patton’s books if Patton wasn’t mad at him for nearly being careless.
He wasn’t sure how much time passed when he smelled Malina standing slightly behind him. Everyone used the same soap, but on Malina it smelled sweeter than on anyone else. Patton held the ball a second and then they kept up the throwing motions. Silas could feel his ears tingling as he waited for her to speak. He checked the position of the guards and was satisfied that their attention was elsewhere.
“Let’s do it,” Malina said. There was a smile in her voice.
“Do what?” Silas asked, his mind shooting back to the new boys.
“Escape, Silly. Let’s find a way to get out.”
My Thoughts and Review:
Anyone who has read any one of Adams' books knows that they are unlike anything else out there. Full of imagination and originality galore.
Having said that, this one is no different. Adams takes us into a society ruled by classes, where some races are considered more dominate and powerful over the others. A hierarchy of sorts, where the bottom class are considered nothing more than stock to be used and abused as they see fit for the rest of the worlds energy needs.
The story is told through the main point of view of Silas (lower class) and Jamar (upper class). These two are sort of thrown together and learn that things aren't always what they seem and not always what they were told to believe about one another and the classes.
While this is predominately told in Silas' point of view it was nice to have Jamar's as well. To see how the different classes are raised, treated and revered. We also get different glimpses of the outside world away from the Car.
While a lot is explained about the farms and what the boys and girls in the Cars are used for, there really isn't as much world building as I would have liked to see. I had many unanswered questions about what was going on and why the world was the way it was, how it cam about and why Silas was different from the other girls and boys with his emotions. Since this is only the first book in a planned series I can only imagine that more will be explained and revealed as the story and characters grow.
Overall this was a very interesting and entertaining read, it did have its slow moments but by the end of the story it did pick back up again and get more interesting. I can only imagine what Adams has in store for the rest of the series.
*All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the author. I was not compensated for this review*