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SinlessReview - Sinless
by Sarah Tarkoff
Harper Audio, 2018
Review by Christian Perring
Jun 19th 2018 (Volume 22, Issue 25)

Grace Luther is 17. It is a couple of decades into the future, and the world has changed dramatically. There is no bad behavior, and there is almost no need for a police force. Everyone worships the one god, Great Spirit. If anyone does do anything wrong, then it is Great Spirit who carries out the punishment. The penalty is bodily disfigurement, or if the crime is very bad, it is death from swelling of the throat. These penalties occur swiftly after the sin. Early on in the book, Grace sees her friend Jude die from such a penalty when he gets into a car accident. His death is a harsh punishment since he didn't do anything wrong -- the accident was caused by the other driver, although maybe Jude could have been driving a bit more carefully. It is shocking to Grace to see this swift punishment enacted, although she has seen other people "go ugly" when they do something wrong. Of course, fitting the well-worn model of dystopian series featuring teen girl lead characters, things are not as they appear, and that there is a conspiracy to manipulate the people. Grace gets caught up in a resistance movement, and since she is the daughter of a cleric close to the spiritual leaders, she is useful to the movement. This short novel (7 hours in audiobook) is the first in a series, and we can expect Grace to take more of a leadership position. But in this opening story, she spends a lot of time talking about her family and her friends, and she is interested in boys.  Her mother went missing during the time of revelation, and her father says that she died, but it seems likely that she will turn up at some point.

The themes of linking moral character to appearance is interesting here, providing a justification to only like good looking people. The ideas that religion is a way to manipulate people is also provocative, leading to an ambivalent relation to spiritual belief. But the writing is a bit thin -- Grace's inner life is rather dull and predictable, and she is not a very charismatic figure. Her reactions to extraordinary events are flat. And no other characters are particularly fascinating either. The drama of the story does not compare well with The Hunger Games and other similar series, although there are some memorable scenes. So there are philosophical ideas to explore in Sinless, but it is not very promising.

 

© 2018 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring teaches in NYC.


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