The Prey by Tom Isbell
Series: The Prey #1
Published by HarperTeen on January 20th, 2015
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Buy Links: Amazon | B&N
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A hot debut trilogy and a riveting story of survival, courage, and romance in a future where creating a master civilization is the only thing prized, no matter the method. After the Omega (the end of the end), 16 year old guys known as LTs discover their overseers are raising them not to be soldiers (lieutenants) as promised, but to be sold as bait because of their Less Than status and hunted for sport. They escape and join forces with a girls’ camp, the Sisters, who have been imprisoned and experimented on for the “good of the Republic,” by a government eager to use twins in their dark research. In their plight for freedom, these heroes must find the best in themselves to fight against the worst in their enemies.
THE PREY by Tom Isbell is the first book in the Prey series, and a book that has received a lot of hate since it’s debut in 2015. It is a story about a group of teenagers that decide to fight for a life of freedom against impossible odds in dystopian America. Ultimately, I enjoyed this novel, but there were definite issues with the book that makes it understandable why so many readers did not enjoy the book. I struggled to keep reading it, myself.
The first issue I ran across was the grammar. There was an abundance of sentence fragments and unnecessary imagery that didn’t add much to the story line except redundancy. A few examples:
- “Blood. Purpling. Coagulating before his eyes.”
- “other vehicles had arrived, disgorging brown-shirted soldiers”
- “[they] slid him into the Humvee like a pan of dough going into an oven.”
I’m all for figurative language to help develop the plot, the world building, and character development…. but some things just don’t need describing.
While I was able to overlook the grammar, I was almost unable to finish the book due to the excruciatingly slow moving plot. It took 19 chapters to finally hook me. NINETEEN. I must have put the book down a dozen times because anything else was more entertaining then reading THE PREY. The writing style had me convinced it was going to be a fast-paced read, but don’t be fooled – it’s not. However, I am thankful I was able to motivate myself to finish the book, because once things started moving, I could not put it down.
“If you want to change something, change it. Yesterday was yesterday, today is today.”
Before we start chatting characters, let me explain a little bit about the world this book is set in. The Republic of the True America is the new government that was formed after The United States was bombed with electromagnetic radiation that fried everything electronic and ruined the country. After the new Republic took over, they separated survivors into settlement camps and — like your typical dystopian government — blamed all their issues on Less Thans and brainwashed the public into fearing the next Omega (the day the world as they knew it ended) would be their fault, too.
Who is a Less Than, you ask? Homosexuals, people of color, those disfigured by radiation, political dissidents, people of non-approved religious affiliations, the mentally disabled — anyone different. Kinda familiar, isn’t it?
THE PREY follows two sets of characters — Book and his fellow LT brethren at Camp Liberty, a settlement that raises Less Thans to be hunted for sport when they become of age, and twin sisters Hope & Faith as they are on the run from the Republic and trying to survive. The chapters told from Book’s point of view is a first person narrative, while the girls’ is third person. It didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment, but it was a little bit strange at first.
It took me a good dozen chapters to figure out the main cast members of the novel, and even more so for me to sort through my feelings for them. Book and Hope are without a doubt the main characters, and so is Cat, who played a crucial part in their survival.
Book is by far my favorite main character. He is bookish, courageous, and cares about the survival of others. I have fairly mixed feelings about Hope. She’s your stereotypical badass heroine that you see in a lot of YA science fiction these days. Her attitude towards her sister and other characters that weren’t quite as extraordinary might have been realistic, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Cat I wound up liking more than I thought I would. He was an asshole at first, but as the book progresses and we learned more about him, I grew more fond of him.
There is a long list of secondary characters, but only a few of them actually add to the development of the story. Dozer is one such secondary character that I could not stand. He was whiny, argumentative, and created conflict among the others. I hope he doesn’t appear much in book two.
I definitely struggled finishing this novel. It took a long while for me to feel invested in the characters — and to want to keep reading. I can’t say THE PREY is my new favorite, but I will be reading book two – and hoping the writing progresses as the series does.
About the Author
Tom Isbell is an actor turned professor turned author-playwright-director. He grew up in Carbondale, Illinois (go, Terriers!) and went to college at the University of Illinois and then the Yale School of Drama for grad school. He spent ten years as a professional actor, first in New York, then in Los Angeles. In 1994, he took a teaching job at the University of Minnesota Duluth and hasn’t looked back.
During this time, he’s continued to write, both plays and novels, and had three of his plays produced at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The Prey is his debut novel, and he’s married to Pat Isbell, with whom he spends a life of love and laughter.