Jabob's Ladder

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Brian Keaney
Orchard Books
Feb 06

A teenage boy wakes up in a strange field and remembers nothing other than his name. Not where he came from, nor his parents� faces: not even the words home or parents. In a little while a man comes to collect him and takes him by boat across a wide river to a grey settlement called Locus. Here he is allocated a uniform and a bed in a dormitory: one of hundreds of dormitories full of teenage boys and girls, all of whom have woken up in the field and come to make their lives in Locus. The days are spent picking rocks off the ground where new dormitories are to be built, the nights are for playing the 'memory game', when inmates share any little tiny snatches that return to them from the lives they lived before. Such nuggets are priceless, spiritual food to the inmates.

Imagine something with a sixties feel: Holes done in the style of The Prisoner. Imagine it written with an appealing Magnus Mills sort of simplicity, the strong emotions delivered with a muted touch. This is how Jacob�s Ladder begins, and like Jacob himself we cannot avoid the conclusion that there is something afoot, a conspiracy perhaps, to explain why all these teenagers are being kept in this soulless place, fed never-changing tasteless food, robbed of memory and purpose and the will to rebel. Like Jacob we are determined that we would not be such pushover victims to the routine of Locus. Without any guards openly in attendance, why stay? Why do the daily work?

Yet as Jacob desperately fans his own small spark of rebellion � and finds one or two others in whom it still lives � he starts to discover that the bonds of Locus are much deeper and more permanent than he could have realised. And when he does eventually break free with two friends, they embark on a spiritual journey, a series of weird meetings and endless walking that has something of The Little Prince or Richard Bach about it.

What Jacob finds out, and whether his bid for freedom and a return to 'before' is successful should not be revealed here. I read this one in a day, however, and if you�re looking for a book to make huge questions and unknowns accessible to 10-14-year-olds in a compelling story, then this is for you.

My only slight doubt was to do with the importance given in the book to holding on� to the past, to people, to situations. Much of the damage done in our world comes from too much �holding on�. Letting go is something that our children could learn more of from us.

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This page contains a single entry by Patrick Cave published on February 24, 2006 9:31 AM.

The Mob was the previous entry in this blog.

The People of Sparks is the next entry in this blog.

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