Book Review: The Fifth: Indoctrinated City by Chris Sykes

With all the craziness in the world, you would think that I wouldn’t love dystopian novels so much. I mean, reading a whole book about how things have gone from bad to worse, often with very little hope in the telling, isn’t usually something one appreciates when in the midst of craziness (though, to be fair, when aren’t we in the midst of craziness). Yet, I do like them. A lot. So when I got the chance to read Chris Sykes’ The Fifth: Indoctrinated City, I was thrilled.

1. Thoughts on the plot

This book starts with a family running from Patrol officers after they were targeted by discrimination under the new British government. Jenny, and her younger sister Zo get separated from their mother Evie and brother Jack. Jenny and Zo end up with their long-missing father as he leads them to the underground civilisation of people known as the Fifth. Evie and Jack, on the other hand, end up in a Scottish castle, hiding in plain sight from the government behind the fortified walls. From there, this broken family must learn to not only come to grips with their new reality, but also see if maybe they hold the key to changing the world.

I think the plot was paced very well. There were no times when I got bored waiting for something to happen, but nor did I get overwhelmed with action scene after action scene. The shift in perspectives from Jenny to Jack also worked very well, balancing out the drama between characters. The only issue I have with the plot is that the premise—the changes in government, who is being discriminated against and why—is never explained. The story flows very well, and some of the pieces can be put together as the story progresses, but the initial premise is missing.

2. Thoughts on the characters

I think both Jenny and Jack are written very well. They have a depth of emotion which is well thought out and complete, even for being in such an overwhelming situation. The emotional development of each is fascinating to read. I personally like Jenny the most because she seems to explore a wider range of emotional situations, and I think she’s got spunk. Jack’s situation, however, is the more empathetic and I like his depth better than Jenny. Both characters are fascinating to read.

I do wish, however, that they would have been described a bit more. I didn’t even find out their relative ages until the last three percent of the book. I had no idea what they looked like, nor what their lives were like before throughout.

3. Favourite part

The party, I think, was my favourite piece. I can’t say a whole lot about it, since it happens closer to the end and would involve a fair number of spoilers. However, it was a relatively low-action scene for Jenny, yet still held that same tension and depth that was found in other, more dramatic scenes. It was also, I think, a turning point in the book that worked very well.

4. Critique

As mentioned in section 1, I think that the only real issue I had with this book was the lack of explanation of the premise. Yes, there is a government causing problems (described as fascist in the blurb), but how. Who built it? Why did it come about? What did it mean specifically for Jenny and Jack and the other people in the Fifth and BLA? I can infer a bit, but not nearly enough to complete the picture. This  is a shame, because the rest of the book was done so well. I really would like to know more, the information just wasn’t there. 

Overall, I would say that The Fifth: Indoctrinated City is a good example of a dystopian novel exploring potential outcomes of terrible situations, with characters that are relatable and intriguing, thrust into situations that are beyond anything you could expect. Except for the lack of premise information, I would say this book is very good. Given that lack of information, it falls squarely in the good category.