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The Review Man

Formerly of Goodreads, now of both words, in the coming times only here?

Currently reading

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals
Robert M. Pirsig
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
Jean Baudrillard, Sheila Faria Glaser
Leaven of Malice
Robertson Davies
The Salterton Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Effi Briest (Penguin Classics)
Theodor Fontane
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
Cases And Materials On The Law Of Torts
Robert M. Solomon
Public Law : Cases Materials and Commentary
Philip Bryden, Craik, Neil, Craig Forcese, Forcese, Craig
A Property Law Reader
Bruce H. Ziff
The Giver - Lois Lowry The Giver is an unreadable mess and a complete waste of everyone's time.


1. The Giver is about a bunch of people who arbitrarily live in a clearly made-up, completely unrealistic hippie commune. Lowry doesn't bother to tell the reader why this hippie commune exists, how it came to exist, or why people are stupid enough to want to live there (or read the book, for that matter).

2. The hippie commune's inhabitants cannot see colour. Lowry apparently doesn't feel the need to explain how humans lost their sense of vision or how this even makes sense. Was it a nuclear holocaust? Overzelous genetic manipulation? Poor writing? We'll never know. (Although if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on poor writing.)

3. They also "discard" babies they don't need. Once again, we'll never know why they do this, or how they decided that casually murdering babies is okay, although Lowry probably did it to cheaply and one-dimensionally portray socialism as "evil". (Lowry's logic: if one person does something bad, his entire viewpoint is evil. One socialist kills a baby. Therefore socialism is evil. I don't think I need to point out the obvious flaws in the argument.) Nothing like making villains utterly evil baby-killers, right? Almost as easy as playing the Nazi card. What's worse, it's not even commentary on the abortion debate because they're disposing of babies after birth, not before. Ultimately, it's a pointless plot development, an emotionally manipulative cheap shot aimed straight at the heart of undiscerning readers. (And there seem to be many of those; almost everyone I talk to loves The Giver, a startling and rather worrisome trend.)

4. Jonas has magic powers. No reason is given as to why or how this is even possible. Does The Giver secretly take place in some fantasy parallel universe with completely different laws of physics? We'll never know, but it seems like the only reasonable case (and that's saying something). One thing's for sure: if Lowry tried to convince us that The Giver took place on Earth, she did a pretty awful job. Have you ever met someone with magic powers?

5. In the end, Jonas fulfills his stale Messianic role and "dies" in some weird pseudo-spiritual sense. We'll never know why this is important, what he accomplished, or whether anyone even cares. (I sure didn't.)


It's painfully obvious that Lowry doesn't have a clue how to write dystopia. (Well, I think she has trouble writing, but that's another matter.) Good dystopias allow us to explore hypotheticals — sort of like an Earth-sized what-if test. 1984 warned us about government surveillance. Brave New World explored the dangers of a pleasure-based society. These stories succeed precisely because of their plausibility: take the Patriot Act and SOPA or our entertainment-based society for example. But while 1984 and Brave New World have at least some basis in reality, The Giver has none. The questions I raised above don't have satisfactory answers, so we're left wandering through Lowry's mess of a novel, desperately trying to grab onto something to steady ourselves. Unfortunately, I was sure of only one thing when I finished The Giver: that Lois Lowry is a hack. And I don't need hokey New Age memory training or cardboard-cutout socialists to help me prove that point.