Friday, 21 March 2008
‘Truancy’ – Isamu Fukui (Tor Books)
When I was fifteen I wanted to write a book. Unfortunately, not only had Tolkien got there first but also others were copying him. That was that for me… If I’d thought about it though, I could have done what Isamu Fukui did. You see, there was a lot about school that I absolutely hated but it never occurred to me to write a book about it. However, it did occur to a fifteen-year-old Isamu Fukui and ‘Truancy’ was born.
A nameless city serves as an experiment in human conditioning where children are subjected to endless schooling by sadistic teachers. Outside the system; former students have banded together to form the ‘Truancy’, a group dedicated to overthrowing the regime. Fifteen-year-old Tack is about to find himself caught up in this struggle through the most harrowing of circumstances and will have to question who he really is as the violence spirals out of control.
I’ll admit that the first thing I thought was, “a fifteen year boy who hates school is writing about a fifteen year old boy who hates school, did someone have a couple of bad days at school and want to moan about it? Is this the equivalent of someone being told off by their parents and then writing a story about how horrible fathers are?” Well, yes and no…
Some of the school scenes are very black and white in how the characters are depicted, all the teachers are evil (and don’t care about how unfair the homework is) while the students are hard done by and resentful. I can appreciate why the scene is being set like this and the target audience (teenagers who hate school) are going to lap it up. I’m not part of the target audience though and these scenes just left me cold. I ended up thinking, “I had to deal with school, stop making such a fuss and get on with it…”
However, I think Fukui really comes into his own when the story moves out of the classroom and onto the streets. The story itself is fast paced with plenty happening and loads of twists and double crosses. I really got into it and pretty much tore through the book to find out what happened next.
The character of Tack is used to explore themes of honour, friendship and revenge and while it doesn’t come across particularly subtly there was some real hard hitting stuff going on that made me stop and think. While Fukui denounces violence he accepts that it has a part to play in the tale and doesn’t hold back. A young adult audience will love scenes of missile attacks etc on schools and I’ve got to admit that my inner teenager wanted to be the person pulling the trigger.
If I was a teenage reviewer then I’d be giving ‘Truancy’ top marks but I felt that a lot of what Fukui was trying to say passed me by purely because I was too old to really get a feel for it. It is an entertaining read though and good fun, a ‘Battle Royale’ for a younger generation.
Seven and a Half out of Ten