4 out of 4 stars
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The Relik by Nathan J. Keller surprised me regularly as I read it. Since it was advertised as young adult dystopian fiction, I expected many of the same things frequently found in novels of this genre lately. So many of these novels today have romantic entanglements, estrangement from parents, and competitive enemies. Instead, I found a fresh take on the dystopian future, and romance and competition really have no impact on the story.
In the novel, Jim goes snowboarding with his family and has a tragic accident where he gets trapped in ice. Five thousand years later, he is resurrected and put on display as a “Holy Relikwa,” or “Relik” for short, in what is called “the Library.” As a part of the Library, patrons may visit and ask him questions about anything they wish, and Jim, as a sort of reference material, must respond. Jim discovers that he has a vast amount of new information as a part of his resurrection, and he is not the only person on display in the Library. He also discovers that the world bears little resemblance to the one he remembers. People no longer value life, and some even count deaths at their hands as a status symbol. After only a few days of this new life, Jim and another of the Reliks decide they must escape from the Library.
Part of what makes this book so refreshing is the world building that lends itself to exploring a difficult theme. Keller paints a picture of a world that has been redefined by a new religious system. As with so many powerful entities, this religion has been impacted by the corruption caused by greed and wealth. Because of this corruption and their circumstances, Keller's characters must wrestle with the question, “What is the value of a life?” This is a hard question to tackle, and he handles it well for the target audience. While I think he could delve a little deeper if he were writing to older adults, his treatment of this theme goes to about the right level to encourage a young adult to begin pondering this question.
From a technical standpoint, The Relik is cleanly edited. I was only able to find a handful of minor errors throughout the book. Keller uses some excellent figurative language throughout, and I found myself highlighting lines simply because I enjoyed the language he used.
My one criticism at this point is that I wanted to know more about the actual beliefs of the religion that dominates this society. For example, I wanted to know why communicating with these Reliks was considered a religious act of worship. I never felt that the book adequately answered this question; however, it is possible that this question and some of my others will be answered in the second book of this series.
There is a little bit of violence, which is handled fairly delicately. Even though religion is a feature of the world in the book, the religion created by Keller is clearly fictitious in a way that explores the good and bad of a society dominated by a corrupt central entity.
As a whole, I give The Relik 4 out of 4 stars. The plot and characters were both well developed. Action and mystery kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next. I was even a little bit surprised by some of the creative plot twists and turns that happened within the story. Readers looking for a fresh take on young adult dystopian fiction will enjoy this book. Since the main characters are only 13 and 14, I would also recommend this book to readers looking for a young adult book that is not overloaded with romance.
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