This book review is not about religion, though it is about an apocalyptic/dystopian novel in which religion is a central theme in telling its story. The book, Anomaly, by Krista McGee is about a dystopian society that forms after an apocalyptic event. A group of scientists predicted a future in which chemical and nucclear warfare would be used and logically created the infrastructure and means to survive it. As they were the only survivors in a Norad type of locale, the society’s structure was informed by the fact that the new order was formed by people with scientific and analytic minds. The scientists felt that the cause of the warfare were the people who live via emotions over logic and used the destruction was an opportunity to start over. It’s this plotline that makes it strange that the central character of the story would be a teen named Thalli.
You see Thalli is a musician. Everyone in her pod was genetically modified and born as a test tube baby for a certain skill they could contribute to the new society. You would think music, and the arts, would not be seen as necessary by the scientists, but the author does try to tie it in a little with some information about how math relates to music. Still, the choice of this character, is in itself an anomaly was her only role in the pod is to play music to entertain at certain events.
Thalli is at heart an emotional person with the soul of an artist, so how could these genius scientists not predict the impact that having such a person would have on their society’s rules? It’s not that Thalli is overt, she tries hard to follow the norms of not showing emotion outwardly, not even when her friend and podmate is taken away for displaying systems of a cold. After all, in this perfect society there isn’t room for genetic weakness such as health issues. As much of a blow as that was, Thalli takes it even harder when her childhood friend Berk, destined to join the Scientists himself after his training, moved from the pod.
When Thalli is told to learn the music of a Bach piece to play at the next event, the music causes her to react so strongly that she is scheduled for annihilation. While waiting for her doom she is reunited with Berk, but also meets the father of one of the Scientists. This man tells Thalli about the world before the war, before the pod system and he tells her about Jesus, someone she has never heard of before. This was a new twist for me in this genre as usually religion in post-apocalyptic books is given a bad rap. In other apocalyptic books religion is twisted into something evil, violent and cult like and preys on traumatized survivors and involves either a scarily charismatic leader using women as sister wives or killing other non-believers blaming them for the destructive event, etc. This is the first time in the many books I have read in this genre that the idea of religion benign. Therefore, although the writing was a little obvious in the message it was trying to impart, it wasn’t so heavy handed that I didn’t finish reading. I was interested for two reasons, how someone like John keeps his faith in a world where man has inflicted such evil and continues to, and by what is must be like for someone to encounter the concept of religion as a fully formed young adult who has never been exposed to the idea in any form. Also, this book is an intersection between ‘art and science’ with the characters of the Scientists standing in direct opposition to John and Thalli’s own growing belief. Even Berk, who as a scientist has been trained all this life to believe in what can be scientifically proven and quantified, is exposed to having to think about his world differently. So although the writing is far from sophisticated and the characters a little one-dimensional, I do give this props for a creative angle I have not witnessed before in this kind of book, enough that I might read the sequel.