cover art of pandemoniumPandemonium is the 2nd book in the trilogy that began with Delirium. If you haven’t read that, go do so before reading this.

It seems like a long time since I stepped into Lauren Oliver’s dystopian world where the book of shhh badmouths love as a disease. However, I had no trouble getting reacquainted with the setting or characters. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about how the novel jumps back and forth in time but I thought this was expertly executed. It was helpful that she used chapter breaks to jump in the timeline, because you couldn’t skim and miss that it was happening.

Oliver writes about grief in an eloquent blunt fashion that makes it impossible not to relate to the loss being experienced.

grief is like sinking, like being buried. I am in water the tawny color of kicked-up dirt. Every breath is full of choking. There is nothing to hold onto, no sides, no way to claw myself up. There is nothing to do but let go.

Let go. Feel the weight all around you, feel the squeezing of your lungs, the slow, low pressure. Let yourself go deeper. There is nothing but bottom. There is nothing but the taste of metal, and the echoes of old things, and days that look like darkness ( )

Her prose is full of imagery and powerful emotion.She spends a page describing tree fungus and concludes;

that is what hatred is. It will feed you and at the same time turn you to rot.(pg 166)

Not long after that she has a character describe midnight as smelling like paper, connecting memories of scent to present experience and highlighting the human experience that the people in her fictional world give up for a sense of safety.

Pandemonium argues our humanity is deeply linked to our emotions and attachments. When her friends receive the “treatment” separating them from that side of theirselves she considers them dead. Without the ability to love or hate they are no better than zombies in her eyes. The surgery wipes away the spark that defined them, even as they lived in fear of it.

Depression and hopelessness are explored through the passing of time;

the hours here are flat and round, disks of gray layered on top of the other. They smell sour and musky, like the breath of someone who is starving. They move slowly, at a grind, until it seems as though they are not moving at all. They are pressing down, endlessly down.(169)

This quote is deceptively bleak in a story that is filled to the brim with hope. Even when she has every reason to be disillusioned with her cause Lena tries to see from the perspectives of others and keeps her wits about her.

it occurs to me, then, that people themselves are full of tunnels: winding, dark spaces and caverns; impossible to know all the places inside of them. (276)

She understands better than many of her fellow Invalids that people are complex creatures and not easily slotted into categories such as enemy or ally.

As a bookworm I enjoyed the parts about banned books and the power of reading.
On books

some of them are webs; you can feel your way along their threads, but just barely, into strange and dark corners. Some of them are balloons bobbing up through the sky: totally self-contained, and unreachable, but beautiful to watch.
And some of them-the best ones- are doors. (172)

Pandemonium is definitely worth reading, and I can’t wait for book 3!!


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