The frequency of terrorist attacks in the United States has led to the creation of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense. Slowly, the OCSD has made life safer for the American people–by controlling all aspects of their lives from food to schooling to travel. If people don’t congregate, they won’t become a target. But when the OCSD releases a new treatment meant to protect the public against airborne chemical attacks, things begin to look suspicious. Former high school sports star Tommy and current college student Careen soon find themselves tangled up in a resistance group bent on stopping the OCSD from accomplishing its real goal: Power. Together they manage to shake the American people’s faith in the OCSD, but the battle is not over. Careen finds herself a wanted criminal and the face of the rebellion while Tommy struggles to reconnect with the parents he thought he had lost and to find his place in the fight. But being part of the resistance bring its own set of challenges. Can everyone be trusted? What should be sacrificed for the sake of freedom?
The concept of this series is a powerful one because it seems only just outside the realm of possibility. What would people give up for the promise of safety? Quite a lot, according to this series, whether they realize it or not.
There were two main issues I’ve had thus far in the series. The first has to do with the OCSD’s master plan. In a bid to gain power, the OCSD convinced the public that an airborne terrorist attack was imminent and began giving the people the drug in phases. Phase one was a sort of LSD-type drug that made people hallucinatate and dependent on the government to help them survive. Phase two weakened their wills so that they became highly susceptive to instructions and orders. Phase three…total control? I’m not entirely clear on what the third phase was meant to do, the plan having been foiled by Tommy, Careen, and the rebellion. This supposed antidote is where the plot sort of loses me. I find it hard to believe that those who were on a placebo drug (employees whose jobs were deemed essential services) would not have noticed that drugged-out behavior of their friends, family, and neighbors. Wouldn’t it have led to a significant number of accidents, injuries, and deaths? I can buy the idea of people willingly allowing many of their rights to be stripped for the sake of safety. I can buy a corrupt government department scheming for power. I’m just not sure this particular plan makes any sense. In book 2, the OCSD has been exposed and embarrassed and yet somehow it seems to mostly be running (with some issues that have more to do with the post office than anything else).
The second issue I’ve had is in the characters. I want to get to know them better, to understand more about their motivations. And I want them to be more active. So much of book 1 had Tommy and Careen on phase one and so much of book 2 had them mostly following orders and reacting to events happening elsewhere. I also wanted to be more invested in their relationship, but that requires seeing them together–truly together, when not on drugs. I think book 3 will see some of this, as this is the final showdown and the characters will have to take a stand in some way or another.
Where Resist shined was in showing that nothing is black and white. It isn’t as simple as the OCSD is evil and the rebellion is good. Much in the way that The Hunger Games made us question Alma Coin, book two in the series makes us question the members of the rebellion. Each person has slightly different desires–glory, love, recognition, philosophy–and those differing goals call into question who the good guys and the bad guys are in this story. If you love that ambiguity, this is the story for you.