Tag Archives: resist

Tracy Lawson’s “Ignite” piles on action, conspiracy and ideas

Lawson,InciteI have previously reviewed Tracy Lawson’s first and second books (Counteract and Resist) in her dystopian Resistance Series, and I am enjoying how her story is arcing and taking shape.

In Ignite, the third book, the characters are becoming more complex, their personal struggles more nuanced. The plot is not just thickening, it’s becoming more layered. New, quirky characters are added with enough foreboding and mystery to keep us hooked. All these are signs of a series that is maturing and is growing with its readership.

One of the great benefits of science fiction, and YA dystopian literature in particular, is the ability to create worlds that grapple with larger issues that can be difficult to address in contemporary novels. The Hunger Games may be one of the most famous examples, where Suzanne Collins used her novels to explore the effects of violence on children, power, and society. Lawson—winner of the 2016 Best YA Fiction award from the Texas Writers Association—follows in this tradition although her ideas are more straightforward and more clearly embedded in the plot.

Tracy Lawson, author of the Resistance Series

Tracy Lawson, author of the Resistance Series

The premise of the series is actually not that fantastical—another trait of good science fiction. Using the threat of imminent terrorist threats, including biological attack, the federal government has developed a serum that inoculates the public against the threat. In truth, public officials use it to control the population. One of the more fascinating subplots is how these public officials seize control of the government apparatus by essentially sidestepping the traditional policy making process. The country still has an elected president, but the real power is in the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense (OCSD). Anyone who has observed the growing power of the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection since the 1970s will have no trouble believing this kind of political ninjitsu (but this is another story for another blog).

Ignite picks up where Resist’s cliff hanger left the reader—the lead character Careen Catecher has been wounded in an explosion that destroyed the student center at the local university (geographically in the Midwest). She is captured, and as a leader of The Resistance she is a coveted prize for the nefarious leader of the OSCD, Madalyn. Meanwhile, Tommy Bailey hides out in the mountains with other leaders of The Resistance looking for his opportunity to rescue her.

While Ignite continues the star-crossed love story of Tommy and Careen—and the most important thread that holds the series together—its role as the literary vehicle that carries the tension and plot of series becomes more clear as the fourth novel ratchets up conspiracies to new levels. The conspiracies challenge Tommy and Careen, but also relationships between families, allies, and enemies.

But Lawson adds a substantive twist to this series and story that is rare in contemporary literature outside of authors such as Ayn Rand—she fuses economic and political commentary into the plot and character arcs. As times become more desperate, the government has seized control of the “commanding heights” of the economy, particularly food production and distribution. The government has banned private grocery stories to prevent price gauging and to ensure fair and equitable distributions of food (and, of course, give the government more control over the distribution of their mind control drug).

But this strategy backfires because Lawson understands economics. She uses basic economic principles to lay the foundation for growing civil unrest, something we’ve seen over and over again in real life. Lawson cleverly uses access to an essential commodity—food—to show the inevitable social and economic dysfunction that arises when policymakers fail to remember that one single entity can’t coordinate the distribution of goods to meet consumer desires and needs efficiently. Inevitably, the product that the central authority—usually the government—attempts to control, becomes more scarce. When policymakers ignore this insight, gleaned from way too much human tragedy in history, shortages result. (Think Venezuela today, but also North Korea or Cuba, or the former Soviet Union.) The masses are deprived of basic goods and services while the politically connected have privileged access. If the shortages persist, civil unrest is often inevitable. The OCSD is not immune from these economic principles, which are robust enough to almost be called laws.

While some of the dialogue tends toward the Randianesque—focusing on content more than action—the tension created by this dynamic propels the plot so the reader gets a healthy dose of ideas on top of emotional tension and conflict. Whether Lawson’s YA readers will grasp this substance has yet to be seen, but so far the Resistance Series has been selling. Regardless, by adding this substance, Lawson adds complexity that reflects a literary evolution of the series that will suit her readers as they mature with the books.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two books, Lawson is promoting the third book with a free giveaway of the first two books (in ebook versions July 19-20, buy Ignite: Book 3 of the Resistence Series from amazon (http://amzn.to/295WBYY). Then, send the receipt to tracy@counteractbook.com. She’ll then send you free downloads of the first two books for free.

Like what your read? We'll make it easy for you to share....

Will Tracy Lawson’s novels become this generation’s Ayn Rand substitute?

By SR Staley

Resist, the second novel in Tracy Lawson’s Resistance Series, picks up right where Counteract leaves off: Heroine Careen Catecher and love interest Tommy Bailey are on the run after the murder of the director of the national Office of Civilian Safety and Defense (OCSD). The OCSD is a federal umbrella agency that has subsumed major bureaucracies such as the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and presumably even the Centers for Disease Control. Careen and Tommy have discovered the director of this super agency and his cronies are plotting to use terrorism as a cover to drug the general population under the pretense of inoculating them against biological warfare.LawsonResist,1

Set in the near future (15 years from current day), the Resistance Series explores the loss of freedom that can creep up on individuals and society through incremental changes that seem small but loom large over time. As Lawson says: “In the Resistance Series, there has been no rebellion, no cataclysmic event. The dystopian world in which they live has been created by fear, engineered by an enemy masquerading as a protector.” The premise is scary enough, and remarkably rooted in modern events and policies, as the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden and leaked classified information on domestic and international spying remind us.

The setting and premise could easily lend itself to an adult thriller by Michael Crichton, but Lawson’s series is firmly rooted in the young adult/new adult genre. The action is faster, and the story carries a syncopated beat that lends itself to the pace of a YA trilogy, not unlike the Hunger Games. In fact, like Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and Gale Hawthorne, the protagonists are older teens who are simply trying to get on with their everyday lives. Rather than the post-apocalyptic setting of Panem, in which the vast majority of the population lives in servitude to the Capitol, Lawson’s protagonists are recent high-school graduates focused on the normal current-day activities of enrolling in college and participating in sports. Only an unanticipated series of small events leads them to discover the sinister plot to turn the nation into a mass of compliant citizens under the thumbs of politically powerful bureaucrats. In this way, Lawson’s series is very much grounded in another characteristic of the YA genre: everyday young adults forced to make significant life decisions without the luxury of experience or preparation. Not surprisingly, both Counteract and Resist tend to be plot- and setting-driven stories although the characters have an opportunity to flesh out in important ways in the second book.

Lawson,CounteractMy review of Counteract compared Lawson’s novel to 1984, George Orwell’s classic dystopian story the coined the term Big Brother and wrestled with government over reach, the tyranny of collectivism, and the implications for freedom. About halfway through Resist, I couldn’t stop thinking about the novels of Ayn Rand, especially her 1937 novella Anthem. In Anthem, Rand tells the story of a Equality 7-2521, a person who lives in a community in which individuality has been purged from the formal institutions of society. A Council of Vocations assigns jobs to people based on what they determine is their Life Mandate. The story follows Equality’s evolution into an individual as he discovers his natural inquisitiveness and intelligence leads him to innovate and produce. Through unregulated exploration, he discovers the word “I” and finds freedom.

Resist, fortunately, is not nearly as abstract as Anthem, making it much more suitable for YA audiences. It’s relentless focus on personal freedom and the right to live independently of the government is strong and tightly woven into the plot, and the action keeps the reader engaged. More importantly, however, as the characters develop, we see in Resist the makings of a trilogy that provokes readers in ways that more popular genre fiction doesn’t. Katniss Everdeen, for example, remains remarkably apolitical through the trilogy despite bearing witness to extraordinary oppression.AnthemBookCover

Lawson has the refreshing courage to push her characters to act and take responsibility for their actions. They don’t just bear witness. They recognize and accept the responsibilities that come with the knowledge they gain. And they act. Thus, unlike other YA fare, the Resistance Series admirably challenges its readers to ask themselves “What would you do?” and explores the implications of acting on those decisions.

For those looking for an engaging, YA adventure/thriller with strong pro-personal liberty themes, the Resistance Series should have a highly visible place in their book case or on their e-reader.

 

Like what your read? We'll make it easy for you to share....

Tracy Lawson’s dystopian “Resist” challenges, engages

When Tracy Lawson published Counteract, her first novel in the Resistance Series (now with 41 reviews, including one by me!), I let out a breath of fresh air. I think dystopian thrillers are at their best when they are challenging conventional ideas about our role as individuals in society or the role institutions such as government play. (See Claire Staley’s take on the unrecognized depth in young-adult literature here, and my take in the context of The Hunger Games here and my short video here.) These are themes that really play out in my books, most clearly in Tortuga Bay, which will be released on September 5, 2015.LawsonResist,1

Tracy’s story, featuring college students Careen and Tommy as star-crossed lovers, did a great job, in my view, of really pushing against conventional ideas in thought provoking but entertaining ways. This is a dystopian series for our times.

Set in the “near” future, the Resistance Series, is squarely in the dystopian science fiction genre. Careen and Tommy discover that the government’s plan to inoculate the general public with a vaccine to combat biological warfare is actually an attempt to control the population. They stumble across the plan, and end up joining the resistance. It’s remarkably plausible and right in tune with modern controversies such as the federal government’s secret spying on Americans in the name of national security. My longer review can be found here.

Lawson,CounteractResist is the second in the series, and it promises to be even better crafted and better paced. In future posts, I will feature an interview with Tracy and provide a more detailed review of the book itselt. In the meantime, check out Resist on amazon. Better yet, buy it, it’s well worth the $3.99. Resist is an entertaining read and, in many ways, more thought provoking and deeper than the Hunger Games and other young-adult dystopian fare.

Here’s what Tracy has to say about the story in the second book:

“Being part of the Resistance presents them with new challenges. Not everyone working for change will prove trustworthy, and plans to spark revolution go awry with consequences greater than they could’ve imagined. Tommy and Careen’s relationship is tested when their philosophical differences and the pressures of interpersonal rivalries and jealousy put a strain on their romance. Can they make time for each other while trying to start a revolution?”

I’ll posting more on this series in the near future. For now, bravo, Tracy Stone Lawson!

Like what your read? We'll make it easy for you to share....