Thursday 16 May 2013

Seige by Sarah Mussi review by Julienne Durber

Siege by Sarah Mussi tells the story of Leah Jackson, a sixteen year old girl who finds herself trapped when her school is overrun by a gang of gun-wielding students, one of whom is her brother.  Told from Leah’s point of view we follow her as she rescues her wounded friends and tries to find a way to escape from the school.

From the cover design, which if it hasn’t featured in the pages of Creative Review I’d be surprised, the reader is fired into an uncompromisingly harsh situation.  The action zips along at just the right rate.  Leah’s internal voice is excelently written and really connects us with the claustrophobia and the harsh decisions she has to face.

Now I remember having a conversation with a friend about the Tarantino film Pulp Fiction after it first came out.  She decided that it was an average film that had been chopped up and re-edited in a funny order to make it seem interesting.  I argued that she was missing the point and that the re-editing was a vital part of the intertwined ‘pulp’ story feel.

But I fell into that exact trap when I started reading Seige.  In fact after twenty pages I was convinced I was going to call this review ‘Die Hard meets Columbine’ (and part of me hopes that was the phrase Mussi used to pitch the book to her agent).

Die Hard meets Columbine

It is undeniable how close to Die Hard this book is.  The violence is visceral and present from the first page.  Leah is caught unawares but escapes as others are captured.  The Nakatomi building is the school, the terrorists are the gang, and the twist … well, that would be giving the game away - if you have seen the film you'll spot the similarity.

And when Leah found herself having to negotiate a corridor strewn with broken glass, in my head she had morphed into a young, female Bruce Willis.  The bald head really didn’t suit her!

I was the one missing the point.

It doesn’t matter that certain elements are familiar.  This is a totally immersive story that raises real questions about society, community responsibility and personal choices.  Leah’s situation forces the reader to question what they would do in the same situation.  And the fact that there have been incidents like this in the news adds a truly chilling edge.  This is a book about today.  Society.  Right now.

Which is why the dystopian thread was the one thing I didn’t like.  It seemed to detract from the purity of the situation – terrified student against terrorising gang.  The events in the school would have had greater impact without it, and it ended up feeling like a device added to allow certain things to be rounded off blamelessly in the last chapter.

The actual ending, however, was excellent.

I don’t think that this is a genre defining book, though I predict some copycat titles are flying towards the shelves as I’m typing this, but it’s certainly genre influencing.

Read and enjoy.  Yippie kay ay …

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1 comment:

  1. Great review, Julienne! This looks great. I'll be getting my hands on a copy ASAP.