*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The List by Patricia Forde


Being something of a word nerd, I liked the sound of this one, so requested it from Netgalley and was delighted when my request was accepted.

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world. But when events take a darker turn, Letta realises that her responsibilities extend to more than the words in this fragile community…

I’ve paraphrased the rather chatty blurb and my firm advice would be not to read it if you intend to get hold of the book – it gives far too much of the story arc away. I really liked Letta – she gets wrapped up in the words she records for when times get easier and takes great care to copy out The List for the children to learn. But as her job isolates her from most of the rest of the community, she has the opportunity to look and wonder about some of the older words – and make comparisons to their current existence. I also very much like the fact that she is short-fused with a quick temper and cannot abide to see suffering and injustice. Otherwise her actions simply don’t make sense.

In order to believe in this dystopian world, the reader has to go along with the premise that the founder of the Ark, John Noa, has decided that language and words were the cause of humanity’s downfall. He feels that if only humanity is limited to the most basic of communication, they will be nearer the state of animals. He thinks is a great idea – for animals do not harm the planet, or plot and deceive each other. Only mankind is capable of that – because of the lies he can spin with his words. Initially I wasn’t sure this was going to work, but overall I think that Forde has built a convincing case for Noa’s beliefs. Like many charismatic leaders, Noa becomes caught up in his own rhetoric and needs to continue to push the community to make ever more extreme changes as everyone falls short of his grandiose schemes to return humanity to a pristine state.

Forde effectively raises the stakes and it doesn’t take much for this fragile, brutalised community to be tipped into unrest, as events drive Letta ever forward with some plot twists along the way. The climax of the story works very well, though for the more experienced reader, there aren’t a lot of major surprises as the overall story arc follows a well-trodden path. That said, this is aimed at children who haven’t necessarily read much in this genre and it raises some interesting issues regarding the role of language in the development and organisation of human society. If you enjoy dystopian, post-apocalyptic worlds, then this one is worth tracking down.

While I obtained the arc of The List from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.

20 responses »

    • Yes, the idea of limiting words to stop people lying and conspiring is definitely an echo of 1984 – but Noa wants to take it further. As for the name – I’m assuming it’s a deliberate ploy on our antagonist’s part as a direct allusion to the Bible – not that anyone is allowed to read it… No one is allowed to read books:)

    • If it had been aimed at the adult market, I would have been more critical of the lack of originality – but I think Forde is trying to do something else in this book other than produce a new and nifty take on an established trope. And the idea that language not only elevates humanity – but poses a significant threat to the planet such that humans would be better losing their ability to create art and become as the other animals are, is certainly worth an airing.

  1. An interesting idea for a book and a good one for children to think about the power of words. And whether words are the cause of our problems. What age group of children is this for?

    I’m glad you paraphrased the blurb. It’s irritating when they give away to much information. Good review!

  2. I mostly came here to fawn over that gorgeous cover, but the premise actually sounds really interesting. You had me until “though for the more experienced reader, there aren’t a lot of major surprises as the overall story arc follows a well-trodden path”, because i can often predict the twists and turns in narratives. And the fact that it’s YA is another turn off (it has to be really something to get me reading YA).

    • No – I definitely don’t think this one is for you. It’s for youngsters who have yet to read really widely, though nevertheless poses some interesting discussion points in amongst the storyline.

  3. You seemed to enjoy this – and I do love the cover. I don’t think it’s one for me, I’ve gone off YA and Apocalypse – I often just have two many niggles.
    Lynn 😀

    • Thank you, Kristen:). I was attracted by the idea – and while the story doesn’t deliver too many plot surprises, the premise was intriguing and it would be a great one to discuss with youngsters.

  4. This one does sound like it has an unique set-up. It does sound a bit farfetched with how someone decided to limit the amount of words we use, but I am glad to hear the author made it sound convincing. But that’s also one of the things I like about dystopian books how they take certain ideas a tad too far. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one :).

    • Yes – I think this rather gritty read would make a wonderful teaching aid – what words would you decide to get rid of, if you wanted to restrict people’s creative thinking?

      • I’ve never thought about it, but I think the abstract concepts would be the first to go. Or at least to be re-defined and limited when you can’t get rid of them. Also, anything related to beauty and aesthetics. I think if I was doing that, it’d be more about changing how the words are used than restricting the words themselves.

      • Ah, but the restriction is trying to reshape human behaviour to stop them ruining the world as it teeters on the edge of environmental catastrophe. So no words to denote technology or abstract thought, or striving for anything better or higher… Yep you’ve nailed it:). A great teaching project could be designed around this book. Particularly if it was linked to 1984…

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