Age: Young Adult
I have mentioned before that I like to read dystopian fantasy books (see my review of The Fifth Wave), and Aquifer once again fits this category. In the future author Jonathan Friesen presents, the Earth no longer bears fresh water on its surface. The only water safe for human consumption lies below the ground, hidden in an aquifer (hence the title), which is guarded by a race of humans who have devolved to the state of being called “Rats.” Only one person ventures down to visit the rats, and he is called the “Deliverer.” Once a year, the Deliverer follows a path that only exists in his brain through rote memorization from his forefathers and exchanges light rods with the Rats for the promise of another year’s access to water. The story follows Luca, a sixteen-year-old boy who is next in line to be the Deliverer behind his own father, Massa. Luca, and all other humans on the surface, live in a police state where they are not allowed to have any emotions or show any sign of rebellion against the set order or they will be “undone” (forced to kill themselves). But Luca senses he is different from his peers, and when his father goes missing and Luca must keep the connection with the Rats to save the Earth, he learns why he has always felt apart from others. He learns much else that blows the lid off the current state of the world as well when he descends to the world of the Rats.
I thought this book had an interesting premise and I was eager to find out about the underworld and the Rat people who lived there. The idea reminded me of the Morlocks in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and I wanted to see what this author had done with a similar construct. Friesen presents a nice twist on the subterranean culture, which I will not reveal here, that sets this book apart. I enjoyed reading the story as it did contain many turns, much like Luca’s memorized route, they kept me turning pages. Teens may find Luca relatable as he is a teenager struggling with his place in the world and feeling different than everyone else around him. The other characters help move the story forward and cause changes in Luca, just as good characters should. My only complaint was that sometimes the Australian phrases thrown in seemed forced.
I should also address the fact that this story is printed by a Christian publisher. However, the Christian elements are few and hardly noticeable. Depending on what the reader is expecting, this could be a good or bad thing. There is no mention of God or Jesus, though Luca is guided by a voice that is never identified. There is a book Luca finds that is more important than any other, and when quoted, it is The Bible, though not identified (the characters wouldn’t know what that was). Because the story is a bit ambiguous, it could easily have a wider appeal among non-Christians as well as Christian readers.
Friesen, Jonathan. Aquifer. Grand Rapids, MI: Blink, 2013.