A few years ago, Baz was a normal boy living with his family in England—until a cataclysmic event drowned the world. Now just about everything, including food, is submerged below inky, polluted water. Like many of the survivors, Baz and his father are starving.

Only the Eck brothers and their sinister father, Preacher John, manage to profit off the desperate. Living on X Isle, they dredge up canned food from submerged supermarkets. The Eck family lures young, male workers to the island by promising three meals a day in exchange for labor. When Baz and another boy are selected to go to X Isle, they cannot believe their good fortune, until they meet a battered group of boys led by two abusive captains. The work is hard, but the treatment is worse. News of the harsh conditions has never reached the mainland, and Baz knows why: Those selected to come to X Isle never leave alive.

X Isle is a dark and harrowing dystopia reminiscent of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games or William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Steve Augarde, who is also an acclaimed illustrator, uses his artistic insight to skillfully detail Baz’s new and dangerous world, and then heightens the boys’ urgency for escape when Preacher John suddenly forces them to construct an altar for religious sacrifices. When the Eck brothers bring two teenage girls to the island, Baz wonders if they will be next to die.

The violence, which is never excessive, is crucial to understanding the desperation that pushes the boys to make a harrowing decision, even as Baz struggles to cope with the impending consequences. With the death toll rising and the balance of humanity shifting, Augarde’s compelling novel begs the question: Is it ever okay to kill?

comments powered by Disqus