Saturday, July 19, 2014

While We Run by Karen Healey

While We Run, the sequel to When We Wake focuses on Abdi Taalib and Tegan Oglietti's attempts to stop the cryonics program.

In the first novel Tegan who had been revived after being frozen in the year 2128 uncovers what seems like a sinister program run by the Australian government. Terrified after awaking, Tegan escapes the compound she is being held in, only to be recaptured. She is sent to live with Dr. Marie Cameron, the scientist who successfully revived Tegan. Tegan along with a fellow classmate and "thirdie" student, Abdi Taalib uncovered the real reason behind the cryonics program. A rebel group known as the Inheritors of the Earth group told them about the Australian government's secret project whereby thousands of Third World refugees were being imprisoned and frozen so they could be used as slave labour for the colonization of a new world. Earth is gradually succumbing to pollution and overpopulation and a group of select people are looking to recolonize a new planet. Tegan believing what the Inheritors of the Earth had told her, reveals all this to the world in a live broadcast. However when Dr. Marie is captured, Tegan turns herself in to try to help her.

This novel opens with both of them in captivity, heavily secured and monitored as they are forced to speak on tour promoting the cryonics and the Australian government's starship project. Tegan is touring internationally and while Abdi is in Australia, to explain to the world that they were mistaken and that these "thirdie" refugees are in fact, volunteers. Tegan explains her revival and how she was wrong about the Third World refugees. The refugees agreed to cryosuspension and kept it secret for fear of sabotage. Abdi's function is to talk about this and the benefits of the refugee camps in Australia.

Both Tegan and Abdi have brutal handlers and both have implants in the base of their necks that are activated to cause extreme pain whenever either one of them resists.  Abdi's handler is Diane, a cruel woman who has no conscience while Tegan's handler Lat also seems similar. 

At a dinner party hosted by criminal Valda Simmons, Abdi meets Valda's daughter Ruby who despite her mother's reservations about the ArkProject will be undergoing cyronic suspension the very next day before she turns thirty. Abdi is shocked at Ruby's decision and when they are alone as Ruby attempts to seduce him, Abdi both refuses and tries to warn Ruby about what she is doing. This is unsuccessful and Abdi is punished by the implant and blacks out, only to awaken in his cell back at the compound. There is he warned that he MUST cooperate because every time he does not, Tegan will be punished. He is forced to watch as Tegan is mercilessly punished by her handler Lat.

However, Tegan and Abdi escape during the Presidents Ball with the help of Joph Montgomery, and Lat who turns out to be part of the Save Tegan organization. They are taken to an abandoned underground shelter built by Joph's great-great-aunt, Celia Davies. Carl Hurfest, the journalist who helped Tegan broadcast her statement about the truth of the ArkProject is there, along with Bethari Miyahputri who created a twelve kilometer EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which knocked out all electronic equipment, allowing Joph and Lat to spirit Tegan and Abdi away.

Abdi learns several things from this; first that Tegan KNEW they were going to be rescued since her handler, Lat, told her this and secondly that likely some people died as a result of the EMP cutting power to life saving equipment at two hospitals within the radius of the pulse. Abdi struggles to trust Tegan and to control his anger over her not telling him somehow about their rescue. He almost sacrificed his life on stage during the President's Ball because he could no longer go on living under the torture and abuse he was suffering at the hands of Diane. Abdi also suffers from guilt when he learns that his mother, Madame Taliib resigned from the ruling party in Djibouti, Somalia, due to pressure from the opposition on the President there.

Abdi and Tegan are told that Dr. Marie Carmen has also been rescued. She is brought to the safe house by Zaneisha Washington, Tegan's former bodyguard. Marie, who has been heavily sedated,  had been tortured in order to extract information about the revival process and is unable to walk.

When Washington lets slip about a Phase Two plan, Tegan and Abdi, Joph and Bethari discover that that they are planning to use Tegan to help take down the Australian Prime Minister, Nathan Cox. Tegan cannot do this and they decide to play along until they can find a time to leave. However, when deadly bushfires sweep over the desolate Australian land, they must flee into Bendigo.

In Bendigo, the divide between Hurfest and Lat, and the rest of the group is revealed when Abdi confronts Lat about the plans to take down President Cox. With Bendigo in ruins due to the fire, President Cox has decided to visit the devastated area. Hurfest and Lat decide that this will provide them with the opportunity to implement their plan. However, Tegan and Abdi make it clear they will not cooperate with such an undertaking. Zaneisha agrees to escort Tegan, Abdi, Bethari, Joph and Marie out of Bendigo, leaving Hurfest and Lat behind. But when they run into trouble on their way to Crib Point, Marie reveals a shocking truth about the cryonics program that changes Tegan and Abdi's plans about fleeing the country. Who can they trust to help them stop the cryonics program and save thousands?

While We Run is a fine conclusion to this well written duology. Healey truly engages her readers with the unique voice of Abdi, who narrates this novel. Abdi is being physically and emotionally abused by Diane and appears to have no hope of escaping. The terrible predicament he and Tegan are in, is the hook that draws readers in to the story.

Having Abdi narrate this novel further develops his character. Healey allows her readers to get into Abdi's head and to feel what he is feeling. Abdi was prepared by his politician mother to effect positive change in the world. He was trained by her to never show his feelings, to work towards having the perfect politician's face. Eventually all this training pays off in the end, saving their lives and working towards a resolution of the crisis. He is a sensitive man, as evidenced by his wonderful ability to reach people through his singing ability and he has a strong sense of conscience. He protests strongly against the use of the EMP weapon, even if it was to free himself and Tegan and he wants no part of the assassination of President Cox. He is also determined to come up with a plan to save as many of the people in cryonic suspension as possible.

Abdi also has another redeeming characteristic, that of sacrificial love for Tegan which he demonstrates by enduring torture and humiliation at the hands of Diane in an effort to protect Tegan. But Abdi also has many inner conflicts too; he is jealous of Lat whom he thinks might love Tegan and he suffers from guilt and anger towards Tegan for not revealing their plan to escape, as well as his decision to return to Somalia. Abdi also struggles under the burden of guilt over his mother's destroyed political career - the direct result of his involvement with Tegan and his smuggling of vaccines into Africa.

Tension is maintained throughout the novel in various ways. Abdi voices the conflict many of the characters feel as they struggle to determine who they can trust. Abdi has a difficult time trusting Lat mainly because he witnessed him torturing Tegan. They wonder if they can trust Zaneisha Washington, a former government soldier.

Healey does a wonderful job of portraying a government intent upon manipulating its own people and willing to go to greats lengths to do so. She shows how a hostile government can manipulate media and use force to trick people into believing a lie.

While We Run is an excellent conclusion to a duology that explores the possibility of cryonics, what it might be like to awaken in a future world, the ethical implications and potential abuse of such a technology.

Book Details:
While We Run by Karen Healey
New York: Little, Brown and Company     May 2014
327 pp.

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