a review by Nalini Haynes
Set in a post-cataclysmic dystopian society split into five factions and a factionless underclass, Insurgent is the second book in a trilogy after Divergent. The factions, Abnegation, Candour, Erudite, Amity and Dauntless, arose after a cataclysmic event where people believed the causal affect arose from insufficiency of the attribute of their faction: that is, those who believed selfishness was the root cause, became Abnegation; dishonesty became Candour; ignorance became Erudite; conflict became Amity and cowardice became Dauntless. The factions evolved into a caste system where the Erudite rule, the Dauntless police and defend, the Amity grow the food, the Abnegation govern and the Candour were merchants.
Tris, formerly Beatrice Prior of Abnegation, is Divergent. In the novel Divergent, Beatrice was tested before choosing a faction at the age of 16. Tory, the tester, told Beatrice she had aptitude for three factions and that Divergent people were at high risk of murder. Beatrice left her faction to join Dauntless and become Tris. The Erudite used simulations, a form of mind control, to take over Dauntless, causing the Dauntless to execute all the Abnegation leaders and many of the faction. In Divergent, Tris discovered she was immune to simulations. Tris and a few others fought back, undermining Erudite’s efforts. Insurgent begins shortly after the violent climax in Divergent.
Insurgent opens with Tris and friends taking refuge in the Amity sector, in the hopes that Amity will protect them from Erudite retaliation. Peter tried to murder Tris during their initiation. When Amity set conditions for amnesty, Tris knows she won’t be able to stay long; one of those conditions is a complete ban on talking about the conflict that has occurred and no conflict between anyone taking refuge. When Peter steals the hard-drive from Tris; this hard-drive contains evidence of the Erudite simulation, controlling Dauntless murdering Abnegation. Tris fights back only to be drugged. Thus they discover one of Amity’s secrets: they drug their own people to keep the peace. Before leaving Amity, Tris discovers that Marcus, Tobias’ father, has secret knowledge of Erudite plans or motives. The race is on to find the facts before the evidence is concealed or destroyed.
Tris is the central character in this first-person present-tense narrative. Tris is filled with remorse for shooting her friend Will while he was under the influence of the simulation in Divergent; her guilt paralyses her, especially when she deals with guns. The selfless deaths of her parents inspire Tris to be selfless beyond reason, her grief and guilt making her reckless, a danger to herself.
As society fractures around them, people from various factions and the factionless mingle like never before because they’ve taken refuge together. Even members of Erudite have defected, unhappy with Erudite murdering others. Suspicion grows: who is a spy? Where do loyalties lie? And what of the Divergent: do they have supernatural powers? Where do their loyalties lie? Roth works realistic, interesting discussion of national or racial loyalties, suspicion of ‘other’ and fear of spies and terrorists seamlessly into Insurgent. For me the engaging, realistic manner in which Roth wove these threads into a well-paced engaging plot gave Insurgent that extra edge, placing it above a lot of other well-written dystopian novels.
I highly recommend Insurgent as an intelligent and engaging read. Although marketed for a young adult audience, the quality of writing ensures it will appeal to a wide range of ages. Fans of Pure by Julianna Baggott and Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi should enjoy Insurgent.