Thursday, 22 March 2012

Review: The Killables by Gemma Malley

Hodder & Stoughton were nice enough to send me an ARC of The Killables and, to my eternal excitement , it arrived with a badge attached to the front. I can't even explain how much that made my week. Even as I read it last week, I just could not stop stroking that badge. This didn't affect my review in the slightest, but I thought I'd just give it a quick mention for making me smile :)

Everyone accepted that people were different physically. But inside? Inside, they were different too. You just had to know how to tell, what to look for.

Evil has been eradicated. The City has been established. And citizens may only enter after having the 'evil' part of their brain removed. They are labelled on the System according to how 'good' they are. If they show signs of the evil emerging, they are labelled a K . . . But no one knows quite what that means. Only that they disappear, never to be seen again . . 

Location of the amyglada
So. The Killables. The concept goes that all the citizens of The City have their amyglada removed - the 'evil' part present in every human brain. They're then categorised by how 'good' they are - As are the most pure, with Ds being treated asthe scum of the earth. Every so often though, a citizen beyond redemption is marked as a 'K,' and while nobody knows what that stands for, that person is never seen again.

As teenage dystopian novels go, it's a fairly sound concept. I liked how it was very nearly based on science - the amyglada is the part of the brain that stores the memories of emotional events and controls social interaction and therefore it's a tiny leap to the erroneous conclusion that it monitors morality. God bless Wikipedia - a portion of which Gemma Malley actually quotes in the front of The Killables. The psuedo-science just gave it a small ring of authenticity for me, I suppose.

The plot itself is actually very good. It moves much, much faster than other dystopian novels like Matched or Divergent. This kind of works both in its favour and against- on one hand, it's a very quick read. The action never stops and it's so fast-paced I'm not sure exactly where the story can possible go in the next book. It's intense and I just kept turning those pages, desperate to know the next revelation or twist.

On the other hand, there's not a whole lot of time devoted to world building. The dysfunctional societies are the entire reason I read these novels - I love knowing how the civilisation came to be that way and why certain behaviours have developed in pursuit of a better life. While The Killables does eventually explain the circumstances that changed their world, it comes far too late in the story and there's not enough information about day-to-day life. I don't think it explored it as much as it possibly could have.

The tone of the first half of the book seemed to be a little... strange. There was too much preaching by the adults of The City, to the point where it felt I was reading some form of Christian doctrine. Almost like they were the heroes of the story, not Evie and the rebels. I understand that the entire point is their almost brain-washing customs, but it was still just a little too much.

Unfortunately, the thing that really ruined the book for me was Evie herself. Good Lord, I don't think I've ever wanted to feed a character to a crocodile as much as I did with Evie. She's just so stupid. She hardly ever makes a decision for herself, including what to believe. She automatically trusts the last thing she heard, and goes along with whoever last suggested an option. The one time she makes a decision for herself, it was so mind-numbingly stupid I honestly couldn't believe it. She's so, so weak and blindly stumbles along behind whichever boy she can see. I hardly think it's some big anti-feminist conspiracy, because it's clearly not... but God, she's awful.

That said, I actually liked the romance aspects and that's unusual for me. It presents a new take on confused teenage love, instead of the usual ever-present love triangle. Whilst I found Raffy to be irritating and arrogant, I liked Linus and Lucas. They really stood out amongst the carnage and despair as well-rounded, interesting people.

I'm more than a little curious about the next installment in the series. It feels as though the story is completely concluded;  there's no clear path for the next book. I'll definitely be purchasing a copy when it eventually comes out though, as I can't wait to see where it goes. 

The Killables is like if you got Divergent, Matched and The Psychopath Test and put them in a blender. I liked it though and I don't mean to disparage the work Gemma Malley has clearly put into this. There are a lot of original ideas, it's just I was constantly reminded of the above books as I read. Evie herself could use some work, but the simple concept developed into a quite clever and imaginative dystopian novel.

Visit Gemma Malley's website here, or find her on Twitter.


  1. I really like the sound of this. The more dystopian fiction that I read, the more I realise how much I appreciate a proper scientific background. That said, science isn't that great without a world to put it in...I still quite fancy this though! Maybe next time I'm on holiday and can power through it :)

    On an immature note, that brain picture looks kind of like a grumpy squishy face if you glance at it quickly...just thought I'd share! :-s

  2. I have found a whole bunch of adult dystopian fiction to read which I'm quite excited about getting round to as I'm getting a little fed up of the weak politics in YA dystopias. I like the sound of this in principle but I'd probably be annoyed in the end.

    1. Oh, like what? I've been desperate for adult dystopian fiction. I've read 1984, Fahrenheit 451, a few Philip K. Dick novels, the Handmaid's Tale and I'm currently struggling through Brave New World... but any other ideas? :)

  3. great review, Im really interested in this one now, even if you wanted to feed Evie to a croc! eek!

    also, is it just me who sees the angry face in the picture of the brain... maybe...


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