Candy coated dystopian SF for the youth set. Not completely shitty, but it certainly squanders a juicy premise.
Society is run by five factions (Abnegation the selfless, Amity the peaceful, Candor the honest, Dauntless the brave, and Erudite the intelligent) because the state has determined that this particular social order keeps the peace. Naturally, the do-gooders in Abnegation run the government and they are virtuous and pure and all of the poor souls in this faction work for the government. They live in homes which are completely uniform, they conserve energy, eat nutritious but meager meals, and most importantly, indoctrinate the idea that you must place the concern of others above yourself and that this sense of altruism must be funneled into government service. They’re presented as one dimensional puritans yet likeable enough to make you somewhat sympathetic. The heroine of the story, Beatrice, is the daughter of the leaders of Abnegation, and as you can imagine, she dreams of escaping the suffocating piety of her faction. Mysteriously, they are apparently as virtuous as they are portrayed and society runs like a charm under their benevolent hand, but whatever. We’ll go with it.
Everyone in society submits their children to a ceremony in which they choose a faction to which they’ll remain faithful for LIFE! Not only that, everyone submits to a chemically induced test which offers a “suggestion” about which faction they should select. So far, this is an awful lot of obedience to government power and yet, life still seems pretty serene and pleasant. Food is apparently plentiful. There is advanced technology, all of the factions are productive and happy, homelessness is present but manageable, and get this, the law enforcement faction, Dauntless, is pure and virtuous and NEVER resort to militaristic crackdowns! They are super sexy have rad tats to boot. Again, this is a lot of overall pleasantness considering that what’s being presented is a totalitarian society, but whatever. We’ll go with it.
Beatrice takes the test, and surprise! She’s Divergent! Which means she cannot be controlled by the government! Of course, she’s warned not to reveal this information because she’ll be marked for death.
She chooses the Dauntless faction, turns herself into a badass, and gets all hot and heavy with her hunky, tattooed squad leader.
As it turns out, the Erudite faction is planning a coup d’état by drugging the Dauntless goons and ordering them to grease the hippies in Abnegation en masse.
And this is where it gets a little groan inducing. The inevitable struggle between Beatrice and the despotic Erudite bitch who engineered the coup ensues. Naturally, the goons are centrally controlled by a computer program and as long as our Divergent heroine dismantles the program, the world is saved, order is preserved, and the spotless virtue and benevolence of Dauntless remains untainted. So in other words, our individualistic dissident Divergent Beatrice asserts her individuality by SAVING THE GOVERNMENT and restoring power to the do-gooders in Abnegation. Because apparently, a totalitarian society with an enforced social order isn’t so bad if it’s run by do-gooders!
The only thing that redeems this bit of inanity is that she and the be-tatted hunky dude bail from society altogether. I realize we live in a society where the lines between corporate power and state power are intertwined. But it really burns my ass when people do dystopian SF and ascribe all benevolence and/or power to government and completely disregard the distinction between economic life and state power.
It feels half-assed and timid. George Orwell was unequivocal about the source of malevolence in 1984, folks. It’s worth remembering this.
But enough carping. It’s entertaining enough. A pleasant Diversion.