Fuse: Book 2 of the Pure Trilogy by Julianna Baggott. Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group. 2013. Review copy from conference. Sequel to Pure. Part of my “vacation reads,” books for adults to read during their vacation — hey, it’s summer vacation! Also, this is a sequel to an Alex Award winner; and just like Pure, there is plenty of teen appeal. Spoilers for Pure.
The Plot: Fuse takes up right after the events of Pure. To recap, it’s nine years after the Detonations, a world-wide series of nuclear explosions. “Pures” survived, unscathed, in a protected Dome ruled by controlling dictator; wretches outside where burnt and fused and scarred by both the Detonations and the world that resulted.
In Pure, a group of teens from both inside and outside the Dome came together, put aside prejudices and preconceptions to start trusting each other to try to make a difference in their world.
In Fuse, those efforts are interrupted when Partridge, 18, a Pure, discovers that his father (leader in the Dome) will not let me go. His father takes a small child, a wretch, and “cures” her, returning her back to the world to tell his message: “This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.” Why is his father so desperate to recover his son?
As Partridge and Lyda, another Pure, try to figure out whether to return to the Dome, those from outside the Dome — Pressia, Bradwell, El Capitan, Helmud — race to try to uncover the secrets of Partridge’s father, Ellery Willux. They already know that he engineered the Detonations, that he is a cruel and evil man who is also brilliant and manipulative. Willux is not brilliant enough: his “cure” is imperfect. Part of the answers that Pressia and the others seek is the complete, real cure.
In a destroyed, dangerous world, Partridge, Pressia, and their friends rush to find answers and to create a better future.
The Good: Guys, it was tough to try to describe that plot!
At this point, let’s assume that you have either read Pure or don’t care about spoilers.
Baggott has created a stunning dystopia, both inside and outside the Dome. Even before the Detonations went off, the world was ours but not-ours. Similar historical events and geography, but the names are just a bit off kilter and the pre-Detonation politics and society such that it’s not quite our world before. I’d go so far as to say that the government at the time of the Detonation was a dystopia. Those are the type of world-building details that I really, really like.
Inside the Dome, Willux has created his idea of a perfect world. Everyone knows their place, especially women. People are re-engineered to make them better. Partridge escaped this world, but he also wants to return there to save it. It’s his home, his friends, and it’s safer than life outside the Dome. Lyda, another former Dome inhabitant, views the Dome differently. She was not the privileged (albeit neglected) son of the Leader. She loves Patridge, but she doesn’t want to return to the Dome.
“[Lyda] doesn’t despise her old self as much as she fears her. Her trapped life was so comfortable that she’d still be in it if she’d been allowed a choice. If her old self had been told that she would one day find herself out here, living among the wretches, she would have pitied her new self. But she’s lucky she got out.” You know what I love about this, aside from the obvious? That it’s also a metaphor for growing up. Childhood is comfortable, a place one would want to stay, but once one has independence, and growth, once one is an adult — how lucky one is! Yes, Lyda has to worry about food and clothes and safety now that she’s left the Dome, but it’s a much better place to be.
Outside of the Dome, life is dangerous and cruel, but it can also be beautiful in its honesty. Pressia, Bradwell, El Capitan and Helmud do not so much want to enter the Dome and be “saved” as to create a safer, better world for everyone outside the Dome.
How unsafe is their world? Each of them was scarred by the Detonations, forever fused to what they were near: Pressia’s hand is a doll, Bradwell’s back contains birds, brothers El Capitan and Helmud are fused together. Children born afterwards are not “Pure,” because the damage done to DNA. It’s not just that their DNA has been altered and society destroyed. It’s a world with cruel, hungry beasts that may have some human in them; even the ground cannot be trusted to be safe. (No, really, there are — things — that live in the ground and can eat you.) Food and water outside the Dome are hard to come by. The technology, the resources, the medicine in the Dome could make the outside world better; and the daily bravery of those outside are something those inside need to see.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Those scarred outside can be scarred inside. El Capitan is on a journey to changing from a hardened military man to a caring young man; while part of the paramilitary he made some brutal choices. His name still causes fear. “Mothers” — women from a suburb who were fused to their children — are now fierce warriors who call all men “Deaths,” blaming them for what the world now is. Lyda they welcome and protect; Partridge they look at with suspicion. (There is also some humor; the Mothers battle the Basement Boys, teenage slackers who fused with video game controllers. Weapon of choice? Lawn Darts.)
In addition to the world building, I just love these characters. Pressia discovered that her life is a lie: her grandfather was not her grandfather, but rather a kind man who saved her and took her in and named her after the Detonations. She had a different name and a different life; she is Partridge’s half sister. She wants to know her past and her self, the parts she forgot; she wants a real hand; and she fights the feelings she has for Bradwell.
Bradwell’s parents were involved in fighting Willux even before the Detonations, so his motivations for seeking answers are different from Pressia’s. He is driven, but in different ways, and I love the half-dance of falling in love these two engage in as they try to survive the world and make things better.
Partridge could easily be dismissed because his life has been, well, soft and easy, but the hard truths he’s learned — especially about how monstrous his father is — has toughened him a bit. (And how’s that for teen appeal! The parent you think is a monster IS a monster!)
Lyda, as mentioned above, is finding herself in the freedom of life outside the Dome.
But El Capitan! Cap is, hands down, my favorite. In Pure, he began as one of the bad guys, but only because, like the others, he was an orphaned teen doing his best to survive. He also had Helmud, his brother, permanently attached, who he had to take care of. Before he meets Pressia and the others, surviving means doing some brutal things. By the events of Fuse, Cap has changed. He’s still tough, but he’s become more compassionate, in part because he has expanded his world of people to care about beyond his brother.
Plot wise, Fuse early on separated the group, so while their is a common, shared goal, everyone ends up in a different circumstances, working towards that end. I won’t give the details, so will avoid sharing the cliffhangers and reveals, but there is lot of action and danger!
So, Fuse (like Pure) is a Favorite Book Read in 2013. And I cannot wait till 2014, when the third and final book, Burn, comes out!
Links to reviews: Rhapsody in Books; Beth Fish Reads; Interview at Caroline Leavitt; BookReporter.