> INFORMATION

> SUBMISSIONS

> ARCHIVES

> HOME

 

SEPTEMBER 2006

> A REVIEW OF THOMSON'S DIVIDED KINGDOM (2005) | jason jordan

I suppose it was only a matter of time until I would encounter Rupert Thomson's work, because my affinity for dystopian novels/stories has continued to grow since I read the highly influential 1984. Similar to Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake listed in order of appearance Divided Kingdom (Vintage, 2005) begins in the future while adhering to the dystopian formula. In said books, people are forced change the way they live as a result of several developments that may seem positive in theory, but are negative when carried out to the fullest possible extent. Thomson's seventh novel is indeed a well constructed, solid read for dystopia junkies, but it fails in its unintentional attempt to surpass any of the staples listed above.

Thomson, who almost shares the same last name of one of my favorite writers, is British, and Divided Kingdom centers on a boy who lives in England when the historic "Rearrangement" occurs. Essentially, by command of the government, individuals are separated according to their overall personalities and then herded into one of four quarters (red, green, blue, or yellow) in order to reduce clashes based on personal differences. However, the "Rearrangement" pays no mind to family ties of any kind, thereby driving a wedge between children, parents, and even married couples as people are whisked away to whichever quarter their traits have inadvertently chosen for them. Though perhaps not quite as in-depth as Brave New World, Thomson allots a significant amount of time to explaining the reasons behind the separation, the security at the borders (walls, gates, and armed guards), and the development of the red quarter-relegated, main character Thomas Parry.

So guess what happens. Yeah, Parry decides to escape the shackles he's in purportedly against his innate nature and venture forth into other quarters, all the while haunted by the memories of his real family, subsequent foster family, and former school friends. Of course, like in any book with several themes related to the nature of humanity, philosophical discussions and brushes with authority make up the paths on which Parry travels. It's an interesting premise, but since Divided Kingdom contains a handful of lackluster characters, too much aimless wandering, and an unexpected, unfulfilling ending, the enjoyment to be gleaned comes primarily from the suspense strewn throughout the 340-page book. Thomson's latest also suffers due to the differences between the form of English that England uses and the form of English that America uses spelling variations ("tyre" for "tire"), word interchanges ("lorry" for "truck"), among others.

Still, even though the book is far from perfect and not immensely satisfying, it's fluid, well-written, entertaining, and intriguing. I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the dystopian novel much less the pinnacle but if you're a fan and have exhausted the other avenues, give Thomson a chance. Or I will kill you.

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Jason Jordan is many things. He is staff reviewer for this magazine. He was the host of the BEAN STREET READING SERIES. He was an editor of The IUS Review. He has been a featured writer at the Tuesday Night Reading Series in Evansville, Indiana. His writing appears in THE EDWARD SOCIETY and THE2NDHAND. He teaches college writing to college students. His book is called Powering the Devil's Circus. Visit his official WEBSITE. He is a writer.