Right, so some of you may remember my review for the Social Dystopia Divergent a few weeks ago, yes? If not, you can read it here.
Insurgent is the sequel to this great sci-fi novel, and was very kindly sent to me be the wonderful people at Harperinsider for totally free, which is my favourite amount for a book.
Insurgent picks up quite literally where Divergent leaves off, so it misses that annoying “previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer” moment, which isn’t actually that annoying in Anthony Head’s voice. I’ll try to avoid spoilers for the first book where I can, but obviously some stuff I’ll have to detail, so be aware that SPOILERS FOR DIVERGENT WILL FOLLOW HERE!!!
Tris, Four and their band of mishap friends have fled Dauntless in the aftermath of the uprising, and in Insurgent we get to see a lot more of the other factions, Amity and Erudite as they fight back against Erudite’s dominance and seek the peace and shelter offered by the Amity faction. This novel is much more character driven than Divergent, and Tris has to really struggle with her actions, and the selfless actions of others during the previous book’s endings. This, together with coming to blows with Four help develop her as a character into a determined youth into a selfless and brave adult, and ultimately help her (and, of course, the reader) understand that throwing one’s life away is not always brave or selfless, and sometimes there are better ways to deal with situations. Her reckless nature is a bit of an irritating quality to begin with, but as she develops, her attitude towards life becomes much more intelligent, and with that her character becomes much more relatable. Tobias/Four has some of the best character development in this book, with the introduction of his father and mother and the investigation of his relationships with both, he opens up into a much more complex character, and his counterpoint to Tris’ reckless attitude is very refreshing to have going on. Ultimately, throughout this novel, the character’s development is pretty solid, and examination of what it means to be brave of selfless are examined well through them and their reactions to each other’s behaviour and the actions of the others, especially characters who have acted out of the norm for their faction. The introduction of the Factionless is also a good way for the author to examine why the Faction system is inherently flawed, and to show that people need to embrace multiple values before they can really act as genuine human beings.
Insurgent really stands up on its plot more than anything, and despite this, it does still suffer from moments of “filler novel” or being the middle book of a series. It serves to really set up the ending and deliver a great cliffhanger (which it really REALLY does, and I’ll discuss that in a moment), and develop the characters so that their struggles in the conclusion really make us cheer for them. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of the book can be… Not boring by any means, but certainly Insurgent is much slower than its predecessor, and whilst this didn’t bother me personally, I can’t certainly see some people being put off. If they are, then I strongly urge you to KEEP GOING! You know those little secret hints from Marcus and Tri’s parents about Erudite information? Well that pays off, and BIG TIME. Yeah, actually, I’ll talk about that now: Throughout the book, there’s the implication that Erudite’s attack on Abnegation at the end of Divergent is motivated by more than simple lust for power, but over a piece of information so sensitive that it’s feared that this knowledge would bring the city to chaos, and it has something to do with what is outside the city, about what made the world the way it is. This tantalising mystery and constant promise and lead-on of a discovery about Veronica’s dystopian universe made for almost un-put-down-able reading even through slower moments in the narrative itself. The information comes from Marcus, so we don’t know if we can trust it, but it means Tris has to make so very difficult decisions involving loyalty and altruism, and that brings her own thirst for the truth to the surface, which makes all her motivations in the second half of the book much more dynamic and (for me) much for engaging. As the world falls down around her, she is determined to find out what it was that the Erudite where willing to commit genocide to keep secret, and that helps add depth to the story beyond a simple civil war story.
So in conclusion, yes, Insurgent is great. It’s still a smart sci-fi, with a focus on society and how people fit together, but this time it’s added introspective on how young people deal with stress and how the actions of others can alter their entire perspective of the world. It’s a complicated novel, emotionally, and whilst the first third feels lacking in direction in comparison to Divergent, it more than makes up for it in an action packed finale and a cliff hanger that had me begging for more pages to see where this very talented young author is taking her characters and her whole world. One gripe I do have about the Divergent universe though… (Note: This is only semi-serious) Why do Erudite have to be the bad guys all the time? I think I find it offensive because I know I’d be in Erudite hands down, since I see the accumulation of knowledge a very positive thing in general, so maybe I take it a bit too personally. Yes yes, I know, they’re not all bad, but still! Too long have the scientists been seen as plotter’s, schemer’s and manic super villains! Enough I say!