Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: 'The Ship' by Antonia Honeywell

I wasn't sure what I would think of this novel when I started it. The Dystopian genre is one that is very hit and miss for me. Either there is not enough exposition and everything comes off as unrealistic or the author loses themselves in describing a post-apocalyptic world and abandons his plot. Thankfully, The Ship completely blew me away. 
CHILDREN OF MEN meets THE HANDMAIDEN'S TALE: a dystopian epic about love, friendship and what it means to be free. 
Oxford Street burned for three weeksThe British Museum is squatted by ragtag survivorsThe Regent's Park camps have been bombed
Lalla, 16, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised Lalla and her mother that they will escape. Escape is a ship big enough to save 500 people.
Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla's unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want?
The books that I most enjoy are books that ask questions and don't serve you a picture-perfect answer on a silver platter. Honeywell's The Ship does exactly what I wish from a book, The synopsis may make it sounds sensational and unrealistic, but Honeywell has done her research. Her London, her world, is one of the most recognizable dystopian settings I have read. Many of the "problems" her characters encounter could be potential consequences of many of the things happening around the world as we speak. Of course she draws an extremely bleak future in which a lot of things go wrong which don't have to go wrong, but it is a human future, one in which we could end up. The idea of the Ship is, I think, derived from the Utopia-tradition, the concept that there is such a thing as a perfect society. Although I myself am a skeptic, I really enjoyed the way Honeywell created the Ship and managed to show its different sides. I don't want to give away too much, but the idea that a society that is only perfect within itself is not human is one that definitely pops up in The Ship.

Honeywell really manages to capture some of the darker and lighter aspects of humanity. On the one hand there is love and friendship and trust, but humans are also selfish and desperate for survival. Lalage, or Lalla, was a great main character. There is a real development in her and from the very first page to the last one she is constantly changing and growing up. Initially I found some of her actions a bit childish, but her sheltered childhood kept her away from a lot of things, so that was to be expected. Honeywell then does really well in showing how reality seeps in and how that understanding changes a person. Some of the surrounding characters felt a bit flat, in the sense that some of their actions weren't quite as human as you would expect. However, the novel is told from Lalla's perspective, who is clearly an unreliable narrator, so the extra characters' "flaws" could be down to that. Aside from telling a good story, The Ship also uses Honeywell's thoughts about the world we live in to make some genuinely interesting points. At which point does the survival of a few outweigh the lives of most? Is culture something we need to preserve or reinvent? Do you have to give up on answers if giving in is easier?

There are a lot of twists and turns in this novel which constantly kept me on the edge of my seat. Because you experience and find out things alongside Lalla you start off very unknowing. It's a real pleasure to not be able to anticipate the plot twists because too often dystopian novels are very predictable. Honeywell's writing style is also really evocative, managing to both describe quite brutal scenes and also portray a budding romance in a way I found both endearing and fascinating. The writing evolves alongside the characters and manages to really build up to the climax of the novel, at which point all you want is to know. As I said at the beginning of this review, I enjoy novels that make me think and I had to think throughout this novel.

I give this novel...

5 Universes!

I read this book within a day and that is not something I do often. Although I had plenty of other things to do I kept reading because I had to finish it. Honeywell keeps you engaged throughout and you really come to care about the characters. Apart from that, The Ship is also incredibly clever and interesting. You will definitely be thinking about this one for a while after finishing and I recommend it to everyone.


  1. It sounds like this is a really great book! Strange that I haven't heard about it before now. The premise sounds pretty original - the Ship certainly sounds interesting. Added to my TBR list! Thanks for sharing :)

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. The book is only just about to come out, I think my review was actually one of the first xD I definitely think you'll enjoy this one and the author is really nice on Twitter!