I had a lot of new novels to choose from when I was picking five fiction titles to include in my September Book Releases post, and The Seclusion was a relatively unlikely candidate. It’s a debut novel from a new author but has been racking up positive reviews on Goodreads and had what I felt was going to be a captivating and currently relevant premise.
Turns out I was right! I found reading The Seclusion equal parts fun and disturbing. The dystopian future in which the narrative is set is plausible enough and sufficiently related to our current political situation to be extra creepy. The book ends with a final cliff-hanger that left me wanting more. Read my full review to find out why.
The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle
Publication Date: September 4th 2018
Length In Paperback: 300 pages
Goodreads Rating: 4.29
While on a routine assignment scouting the viability of dwindling natural resources outside the massive urban centers most American citizens call home, Patricia ’Patch’ and her co-worker Rexx discover a relic from the past containing dangerous contraband―unedited books from before The Seclusion. These texts will spark a thirst for the truth that sees Patch’s father arrested by the totalitarian Board.
Evading her own arrest, Patch and Rexx set out across a ruined future United States, seeking some way to escape the only home they’ve ever known. Along the way, they learn about how their country came to be this way and fall in love. But their newfound knowledge may lead to their own demise.
Fully-realized dystopian setting. The key to a good dystopian novel is the creation of an imagined society that feels unfamiliar and disturbing but also like a potentially foreseeable extension of our present day world. Despite this being a debut novel, Castle is incredibly successful at constructing a frightening future that is connected to current day issues in such an intricate and intelligent way that this only heightens the chilling effect. Castle follows current day themes like disinformation, the suppression of the free media, fear of foreigners/others and environmental concerns to their worst possible (and yet plausible) conclusion.
Action! Action! Action! This novel is just over 300 pages long but it is jam-packed with action. The narrative is extremely fast-paced as one of the novel’s protagonist – Patch – quickly begins to realize that her belief in the world she lives in is a terrible illusion. There are daring escapes, imprisonments, torture, scenes in which the heroes jump from trains in motion and hide from drones. The novel would easily lend itself to being adapted into a special-effects filled action movie. The high pace of the narrative does not come at the expense of the author’s ability to provide a strong level of detail about the dystopian reality her protagonists inhabit, but there is some sacrifice when it comes to character development, as I’ll mention below.
Left me wanting more. Unfolding like a train careening towards an easily anticipated conclusion, the novel still ends with a major (and in some ways literal) cliffhanger. No spoilers of course, but there were so many unanswered questions, subplots left open and unexplained elements within the dystopian world of the novel, that I could easily see the setup for a sequel. I wouldn’t complain either. This may not be the next great literary masterpiece, but it was a very entertaining read and rather than irritating me, the exciting open ending made me eager for the story to be picked up again in the future.
Incongruities and lack of character development. There were a few instances here and there in the novel where I felt that some of the events and decisions of the protagonists did not make logical sense. The most significant was the idea that the United States could have been affected by such extreme ecological damage within a timeline which sets the narrative at only 60 or so years in the future – that was a little hard to believe. The author also has her hands quite full between the action and the careful setting of the dystopian scene that I felt the room left for character development for Patch and Rexx was minimal.
A chilling backdrop that feels like a realistic, if worst-case-scenario, dystopian extension of our times, provides the setting for a fast-paced, daring adventure worthy of an action movie.
Jacqui Castle is a professional freelance writer and first-time novelist. She lives and writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Jacqui’s debut book, The Seclusion, pre-sold over 750 copies through reader-driven publisher Inkshares, and is currently in production and on track for an September 2018 release.
Have you read The Seclusion? What did you think? If not would you be interested in reading it? Let me know in the comments.
You can also read my other recent Just Read reviews, including for the biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, historical mystery Call Of The Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks, true crime title A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, contemporary fiction novel The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang and historical fiction title The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin.
Please note this post contains affiliate links from Book Depository. Thank you to the publisher Inkshares and to Net Galley for the advance review copy of this title I received in exchange for an honest review.