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Sean Joyce is a 31-year old British writer currently living in Shanghai. He is the author of the novel, Project Hope.
on Sep. 07, 2012 :
This review is going to be a little different from all the others I have written, so please bear with me.
The reviews I post are a little different than the ones I keep. The reviews I keep on my computer begin with the exact description of the book, usually from Barnes and Noble. Then I write my summary of the book and that is what I use to begin the review I post. I am parting from that with this review because this time it actually makes a difference.
I do not remember how I came across this book. Somehow, I was offered a free eBook to review. I must have read the description because I never enter any giveaways if I am not interested in the book. I already had a couple of books on my 'to read' list before this one but I replied I would be happy to review the book. When I was ready to actually begin reading, I went back to the synopsis and this is what I saw:
"In the Zones, a troubled society walled off from the outside world, nineteen-year-old Dylan lives in the crossfire between rampaging gangs known as hoods, and tyrannical government guards.
Trapped in a brutal reality, he confronts the helplessness of his situation the only way he can—through his art. By day, he takes on the role of protector, caring for his little sister, Lil. By night, he lives a secret life, breaking the curfew and braving the dangerous Zones to paint the perimeter wall with his subversive images. But with the eye of the warden upon him, and the hoods tightening their grip on the Zones, inaction is no longer an option. He must do the one thing no one else has dared to—unite the downtrodden residents and reawaken their hope."
I immediately thought, "Oh no. What have I gotten myself into?" I imagined Footloose with art instead of music and dancing, and a novel instead of a movie with a cute, although a bit nerdy, Kevin Bacon. Or maybe a superhero with special powers of art. Come on, 'by day.... by night...' Doesn't that sound a little super-heroish? Then I felt really bad because I just knew I was going to dislike this book and would probably give it a bad review. However, I brushed those thoughts aside, determined to read the book with an open mind. So I began...
And then I had to continue reminding myself, for two and a half chapters, to keep an open mind. The book is only 156 pages long in my e-reader and after more than two chapters, I was a little concerned because I was having a difficult time getting into it. I was really beginning to worry because I do not have a single artistic gene in my entire body and I should have considered the description more carefully; this book and I were not going to part on friendly terms.
Then at the end of chapter 3... WHAM! There it was- that moment when you are sucked into a book and would rather read than sleep, shower or care for your children. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of the night when that moment arrived. Considering what happens at the end of chapter 3, I started to get a little nervous and kept looking toward my window worrying that someone was out there. Then when I decided I really needed to tear myself from the book and get some sleep, I could not sleep. I kept thinking about what I would do if I had to live in the Zones.
I obviously had turned a corner and was enjoying the book. I pretty much knew around page 100 that I would give Project Hope 4 out of 5 stars. The next day, I even sent my husband away with the kids so I could be alone in a quiet house and finish my book. Project Hope was absolutely not what I was expecting. It was sad and horrific. I was outraged at how callous some of the characters were. It really brought home the sentiment that a crisis brings out the best and worst in people. That is what this book portrays.
I admit that I saw the end coming. I was 90% sure of the ending and of course I was excited when I got there and sure enough, I was right. What I did not see coming was that on page 152, I started crying. That is when I knew I was giving the book 5 stars.
5 out of 5 stars.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on Aug. 26, 2012 :
This book centers around 19 year old Dylan and the life he's had to endure the past two years and presently. The eldest of two children, his family was put behind the wall the seperates those who are free and those who are in the Zones. After a virus swept through the Zones, Dylan is not only the big brother but protector of his young sister Lil. The wall in this story reminds me a lot of the Berlin Wall. In fact Dylan, who is an artist, depicts the warden of the zones as Hitler in one of his pictures. The story follows Dylan over a short period of time, but gives a detailed look at his life and those around him. The monotonous factory work, the constant fear of what can happen in the dark, the thugs who rule the night and are doing what they can to make everyone's life even worse. Dylan finds himself done with this all and takes a stand.
The story never seemed to have lull. Even if the characters themselves weren't doing too much, I was never bored. I didn't understand why Dylan, who is protective of his sister and extremely watchful of her, would go out in the middle of the night to paint part of the wall with pictures. If he had been caught by the guards or warden, he probably would never have made it back. If the Hoods had caught him, he would have been beat up if not close to death, than to death.
As I had said, the wall was a reminder of the Berlin Wall and represented many things over the years. The biggest was The Iron Curtain, which seperated Western Europe from the communist rule of the Soviet Union. Families were seperated from each other, those who tried to breach the wall were shot, guards were a fierce presence. Not only was there similarities there, but also with the bar code tattooed on the factory workers. I found this as a comparison to the tattoos of those in concentration camps.
What I didn't get from the story was why the wall was built in the first place, nor why or how the people who lived behind the wall were put there are chosen to be there. I had hoped there would have been answer to that, but was disappointed when I was left without answers. What I did get, was how a population cut off from society with no true government in place, could slowly implode but never give up hope for better.
This book was provided to me, by the author, for review. I enjoyed this book and hope that there is a sequel. It would be great to see what happens with Dylan, the Zones and get some backstory.
(reviewed 9 days after purchase)
on Aug. 21, 2012 :
A well written and edited book, but ultimately the story let me down.
One night a Berlin-type wall goes up around the "Zones". Inside the wall, life goes on much as it might have done in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II - right down to the daily commute of slave labourers to work in outside factories. Now, ghettoization is nothing new in human history, and the fact that this happened isn't unreal - but why did it happen? We never find out. Why does nobody outside the Zones care? In Warsaw, the Nazi overlords whipped up already existing anti-Semitism and many people were happy to see the Jews confined to the ghetto, but in Project Hope, the Zones are still getting TV from outside, and as far as anybody can tell, nobody even notices that they've been walled off from the rest of the world.
I liked the characters, but they need a better background.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on July 28, 2012 :
Publisher: Self/Plastic Paddy Publishing
Formats Available: Kindle
BLURB from Goodreads
In the Zones, a troubled society walled off from the outside world, nineteen-year-old Dylan lives in the crossfire between rampaging gangs known as hoods, and tyrannical government guards.
Trapped in a brutal reality, he confronts the helplessness of his situation the only way he can—through his art. By day, he takes on the role of protector, caring for his little sister, Lil. By night, he lives a secret life, breaking the curfew and braving the dangerous Zones to paint the perimeter wall with his subversive images. But with the eye of the warden upon him, and the hoods tightening their grip on the Zones, inaction is no longer an option. He must do the one thing no one else has dared to—unite the downtrodden residents and reawaken their hope.
I was sent a mobi file of this book to read by the author. He had heard about my blog from another author who I have worked with and loved her work, Shalini Boland.
The cover is simplistic in that it has a backdrop of graffiti art, with a black circle for the title and author. I don't know whether I like it or not. To be totally honest, if I saw this one on the shelf, it would not be the first book I picked up because of the cover however, when you read the book, the cover then makes sense. The blurb would definitely attract me to the book as I have said on many occasions, dystopian is one of my favourite genres.
The book is set in a place that could sadly exist in a few years time. A troubled, society has been cut off from the outside, so the ill and the trouble maker hoodies are kept away from the main population. Guards prevent people escaping to the outside. the only time you go through the gate is if you are on a work detail at the Ready Meal factory. It's bag breaking mind numbing work but at least you are at the other side of the wall. Your pretty safe as long as you stay on the good side of the guards and the warden. Food is provided in the form of ready meals in boxes to those on the inside, "captive" Zones area. The hoodies fight and steal peoples boxes, money,etc.
The story is set around Dylan, his younger sister Lil, their friend Oscar and his elderly father. Dylan is left looking after his little sister when their parent die, taken by the "illness", they live in a flat in a tower block. Oscar lives a few floors above them in the tower block with his elderly father who is basically existing with his son's help. People trundle on day after day, coping with the monotony and fear, hoping to avoid the hoodies and hoping to stay out of the line of fire of the warden too. The only escapism that Dylan has is his painting. Oscar has a guard "friend" who enables Dylan to send his paintings to the "outside", but where is he sending them? Do they even get there? Does that place even still exist?
There is tension in the zones as the hoodies want more and more from the people, thy take what they want and demand even more. If you don't give what they ask or can't give what they demand you are beaten, often beaten to death. The air is filled with tension as the hoodies demands grow more and more...
Some of then men decide to take a stand, but will it work? What will the repercussions be? How long can people go on living like this. Is there a way of escaping to the outside? Even if there is what is it like outside? Is the art gallery still there that Dylan remembers visiting as a child.
I won't go further as I don't wish to spoil your own voyage of discovery into this book. It's gritty, at times violent, but there's always a sliver of Hope. This book seemed quite short at 151 pages, and I seemed to fly through reading it.
So did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I read a Bk2 or more by Sean Joyce? Yes. Would I recommend? Yes, for all those that love dystopian will certainly enjoy this.
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)