July 21, 2013

Compliance (The Dust Chronicles, Book Two)

by Maureen McGowan
378 pp.
Ages 12+
June, 2013

In Deviants (reviewed here on January 6), Glory Solis had made the escape from their enclosed community of Haven with the help of the enigmatic but alluring Burn.  Having found safety for her Deviant brother Drake at the Settlement where her father, long thought dead, lives, Glory has returned from the Outside to Haven as an undercover agent for the Freedom Army to rescue other Deviants from inside. 

Her return has been accepted on the premise that she had been kidnapped by a Deviant and cannot remember her painful experiences at his hands.  In fact, Mr. Belando, the Junior VP of Compliance, has had Glory placed in Compliance Officer Training (COT), believing her kidnapping may give her insight into Deviants, particularly those conspiring against Management and launching terrorist attacks prior to the President's Birthday. 

So, by day, she participates in Comp training, along with her HR department-sanctioned dating partner, Cal, for whom she has conflicting feelings after being with Burn, and enduring the harassment of their Recruiting Captain, Larsson, and fellow classmates.  At night, she searches out Deviants to hand off for transport to the Settlement.  But everything changes when she learns from Burn that her regular contact for transport, Clayton, was killed along with a young Deviant, and that he blames her.  Determined to make things as right as she can, Glory searches for an elusive Deviant named Adele Parry.

Meanwhile, with Cal continuing to cover for her and protect her regularly against any harassment, Glory confides in him about her work for Mr. Belando and a suspected mole in COT.  Everything becomes even more complicated when Cal's brother Scout is seriously injured and video shows Burn loosening the bolts on their scaffolding!  With Scout "going to the Hospital" which many believe is a euphemism for execution, Cal and Scout's dating partner, Jayma, are distraught, unlike Glory who has been reassured by Mrs. Kalin, the VP of Health and Safety, who has taken a special maternal interest in Glory, that the Hospital is perfectly safe.

Whereas Deviants emphasized the false premises upon which Haven has been established and the journey from Haven to the Settlement, Compliance underscores the role of trust in moving the plot forward.  Nobody seems to trust Deviants. Deviants have valid reasons not to trust others, knowing their inevitable fate is being expunged to the Outside and attacked by Shredders.  Glory is confused by the trust she has for Cal, though he is a Comp Recruit, and for Burn, whose tenderness has been replaced by nastiness.  Who to trust now?  And what of Mrs. Kalin with whom Glory feels safest?  Or Jayma who has always been her best friend but may not accept Glory's Deviance?  But as Glory tells a young Deviant she is rescuing,
"I figured out that it's one thing to be cautious and another to never trust anyone." (pg. 7)
Maureen McGowan has topped the uneasiness of Deviants' dystopian story with Compliance's psychological tension, as neither Glory nor the reader ever has any indication whom to trust.  Moreover, trust is an ephemeral concept, appropriate in one situation and not in another.  Glory's strength in continuing to be fair and non-threatening i.e., harnessing her own Deviance just exacerbates the reader's heart-stopping trepidation each time she interacts with someone, friend or foe, Deviant or not.  While Maureen McGowan does relieve some of the reader's tension at Compliance's ending, it's not quite resolved for Glory, whose confusion is now compounded with the convergence of her two worlds, previously separated by space and time.  It's inevitable that Book Three of The Dust Chronicles will extend Compliance's gripping adventure but it's a relief to know that there will be some respite from the tension by way of the unavoidable amorous interludes Glory will share, hopeful of alleviating some confusion.

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