GONE?

In Gone, everyone aged fourteen and above disappears and Perdido Beach is suddenly encased in an impenetrable spherical dome where some kids develop strange psychic powers and animals develop strange mutations. Think of Gone as a modern Lord of the Flies a la Stephen King with a tablespoon of X-Men, put into a blender at high-speed. In Gone; Michael Grant develops the idea that power doesn’t corrupt, it reveals and exaggerates characteristics. The main character, Sam Temple, demonstrates this idea. Prior to the so-called FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) he saved a school bus full of kids after the driver had a heart attack. In this situation he used his tremendous ability for leadership to take control of the situation and not panic. So, when the FAYZ came all the kids turned to “School Bus Sam” as a natural leader, one who had proven his worth before. Children flocked to him, asking about the whereabouts of their parents and/or looking for guidance, but Sam was reluctant to take this position of power and he fled the city under the guise of helping Astrid (his crush) find her little brother. As a consequence of this, the townies are taken over by Caine Soren and his Coates Academy friends. Caine and Sam are complete opposites, while Sam doesn’t want to take power, follows a code of ethics and is almost completely selfless; Caine is hungry for power is selfish and has only a basic sense of right and wrong. Near the middle we find out that Sam and Caine are in fact twins, which only widens the gap between them. When Sam finally takes his place as leader of the townies of Perdido Beach, we see that all his good qualities become even more apparent. He ceases to care about himself altogether, saving himself for the sole purpose that without him his friends would probably die. At the end of the book Sam realizes his full potential and takes his place as mayor of Perdido Beach, proving that the best leaders are the ones who don’t want power. People who want power will never be appeased until they rule the world. Abraham Lincoln said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This quote illustrates my point, that giving a person power and how they deal with that responsibility shows their true nature. When a leader gets enough power, when he is independent and in control – whether he is the President of the United States or the CEO of a major company – that is when we see how he really wants to treat people. That is when we can see what his goal was all along.

The theme of the book Gone relates a lot to the movie Gladiator.  Although the story may not keep with history, General Maximus Decimus Meridius bears a remarkable likeness to Sam and they both prove the same point. At the start of the movie the General wins a war successfully, gaining the confidence of the Roman people and of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (School Bus Sam). The emperor offers General Maximus the throne after his death, spurning his son Commodus (Sam’s mom gives Caine away when he is a baby), Maximus, however, has no love for war and wishes to retire (Sam refusing to be leader of the townies). After the death of the emperor, Commodus kills Maximus’ loved ones and takes power (Caine and Coates Academy). In the end both main characters take power (only a short time in Maximus’ case) and they use it for good, not because they wanted power, but because they cared about the people being abused by Caine/Commodus. This demonstrates Michael Grant’s point that the best leaders are those who are reluctant to take power. This ties in with the fact that power reveals and exaggerates because if you don’t hunger for power, intend to use it only for good and only became a leader to help others you will be a good leader. When people are in a position of power the consequences of their actions are magnified. If you are selfish and you gain power, your selfishness will be magnified to the detriment of others. If you are selfless and you take power then the consequences of your selflessness will also be magnified for the good of others. This principle applies not only to partially-fictional Roman generals but to real-life politicians today. The problem today is figuring out who the right person to vote for is before it’s too late. The opposite of Michael Grant’s theme is also a very widely used idea. Power corrupts is very much a stereotyped plot. Stories like Lord of the Rings where the rings of power corrupt man are very common in literature. But is man so corruptible? Are we really that feeble? And if this was true does that mean that every person in a position of power is a villain? According to Michael Grant, we aren’t. It’s not that power corrupts; it’s that corrupted people are attracted to power and the more power they have, the larger the impact.

Michael Grant uses a countdown to further the plot in gone. At the start of every chapter there is a number in days, hours and minutes until Sam goes poof (when you turn 14 you disappear). You realize this partway through the book and you begin to see how the novel is sort of based around the fact that Sam is going to poof at the end of the countdown. This technique gives a terrific urgent tone to the book, and makes it difficult to put down. While I was reading the book, I kept telling myself, “just one more chapter…”

A technique that Grant uses to develop theme is character development. When the book starts, Sam is unsure of himself, and not ready to become a leader or not willing to. As the story progresses, he goes through really tough things including having his life and those of his friends threatened (multiple times). He finds love, discovers a dangerous secret and learns to accept that like it or not, he is a natural-born leader and the alternative (Caine) is far worse. In this brutal coming of age story, Sam transforms from frightened 13-year-old to competent leader. This technique develops the theme that power reveals because in the end, Sam is revealed to be the best leader the townies could hope for.

Overall, this book was more than I could’ve hoped for. Although I don’t like pain Caine and Diana (Caine’s crush) absolutely fascinated me. The notion of evil interests me in general. The characters all started out as stereotypes but then blossomed (and in some cases wilted) into completely original characters. The end was predictable, Sam and Caine had a fight, Sam won but then he spared Caine’s life; the most obvious message being that soon they will fight again. Grant has 5 sequels to make it up to me and I can’t wait to read them. Everything about this story pulled me in as a moth is pulled towards bright light. Even if it was around 600 pages time passed quickly. This book hooked me for the thriller-reading sucker I am. At the start I thought that this book might be a little corny, not original enough or just plain boring; now after reading it I can say that my suspicions are GONE.

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