Penguin Books AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Rio and her twin sister Bay live in Atlantia, an underwater city that was created when the land above became too polluted. Now there are two worlds – Above and Below. And each citizen of Below when they turn 18, gets to make a choice: to continue to live and work below or make the sacrifice and go Above. Rio has always dreamed of the sun and the sand and the sky and she desperately wants to make the choice to go Above when the time comes. But after they lost their mother, Bay made her promise that she would stay Below with her as only one family member can choose to go Above.
But then Bay makes a shocking choice, leaving Rio stranded Below, all alone. She finds out that there are problems in Atlantia, that there are possibilities of it crumbling into nothing. Guided by her aunt, a somewhat notorious figure in society, Rio begins to question everything – the origins of Below, the Gods, the current ruler. In order to be able to do something about fixing Atlantia and to ever see Bay again, Rio will have to go Above. But no one can go Above except those who make the choice and that was taken from her. Rio begins to look into other options of getting Above, some of them very dangerous.
But this isn’t something that Rio can do alone. She’s going to have to trust in her aunt, that her aunt knows the answers and with her amazing abilities, can help Rio find the way to save Below and re-establish the relationship with the Above.
Atlantia is a stand-alone title from Ally Condie, author of the Matched trilogy. It’s set in a futuristic world where the air has become too polluted for humans to live comfortably and so cities below the sea were created. They mine extensively beneath the ocean’s floor and in return, the Above send down food and supplies that they cannot cultivate in the Below. Each year, children of the Below make the choice to either stay and remain with their families or go Above, never to be seen again. Rio has always longed to go Above – it’s something she’s dreamed of for as long as she’s known about it. She wants to feel the sun and walk on sand but sisterly loyalty led her to agree to Bay’s begging that she choose the Below – only for Bay to betray her and leave her behind.
Stuck in a world she doesn’t want to be in, without any family and very little in the way of friends, Rio drifts. She’s already come under the radar of the new Minister, the one who replaced her mother after she died. She’s also being pursued by her estranged aunt Maire, a person she can’t possibly think she could trust. Maire wants Rio to come to her, to ask questions that Maire has the answers to but Rio would rather fumble around alone it seems, having pretty much no clue.
I loved the idea of the world in this book – Atlantia itself is a living breathing character that you can hear, if you listen closely enough. To be honest, the idea isn’t too far-fetched, not that it’s an original one. At the rate we are polluting the air, it’s definitely not too difficult to imagine a time where the air might not be suitable for longevity. I would imagine that the creation of an entire city under the water would take engineering and scientific feats, the likes of which I cannot imagine. Pumping air in (from …where if the air above is polluted?), imitating sunlight and warmth, etc.Although it feels like the world is a character, it’s also a bit of an unfleshed one. I would’ve liked to know more about what the Above send them in return for what the Below mines from under the seabed.
The story is very much about Rio and her learning about herself and coming into her own, having the faith in herself and her power. She’s had to stifle something her entire life, keep it secret. As a result of that and perhaps because of the fact that she’s a twin, Rio comes off as quite suppressed, like she’s not even really sure what her personality is supposed to be. Left on her own in the Below, if Maire hadn’t sought her out and basically demanded her attention, I’m not sure what Rio would’ve done with herself. At least Maire gives her something to feel, even if that feeling is quite often anger or frustration. She also meets a boy named True, which forms a sort-of romance. But not a lot of the book is devoted to this at all, it’s always much more about the Above and the Below and what Rio’s role is going to be.
I think that this book is perfectly enjoyable if you don’t want to ask too many questions. The world is interesting, I was really keen to find out what was happening between Above and Below and precisely what role the Minster was playing in it all. I didn’t mind Rio and I think she does grow considerably as a person throughout the book. She learns to trust in herself and to take risks and she’s always wanting to do what’s right and she loves her sister. I think she also learns that it’s best not to do certain things alone, that sometimes the voices of many are better than just one. People working together is what makes a successful society. However there were a lot of things that seemed quite vague, possibly because the divide happened so long ago that a lot of the information has now been lost and possibly because it was being kept from the people deliberately. Rio does get some answers but there’s a lot of little stuff that for me, is missing. It would’ve added the detail this story needed to make it truly shine.
Book #27 of 2014