Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Review: METALTOWN, by Kristen Simmons


Kristen Simmons
Tor Books
YA / Dystopian

METALTOWN is one of the best books I have read this year. Reading this novel filled me with an intense mix of emotions. Despair, and dread were like a constant black cloud above me page after page. The slight glimmers of hope were dim, and dreary at best. The three main characters I immediately loved, and cared about. Their plight was real, and hopeless, and they just had to win the fight by the end . . .

But I am getting ahead of myself. There are a handful of union-inspired movies that I will watch any time they are on television. There is the classic, On the Waterfront (Marlon Brando), Sally Field in Norma Rae, and the intense F.I.S.T. with Sylvester Stallone. Great films. Kristen Simmons' METALTOWN is like a combination of the three. Do not get me wrong, METALTOWN is completely original, but there is that . . . flavor to it that was, for me, reminiscent of these epic movies.

Metaltown is a factory town. Small Parts employees nothing but kids and teenagers. Long hours, little pay--if the kids are paid at all--and horrendous working conditions. Safety is not an issue. Churning out product to keep the other factories in town going is all that matters. And the Hamptons own it all. The weapons built supply army of the Northern Federation in their fight against the Advocates (Eastern Federation Radicals). The work performed is important, if the war is ever to be won.

More than best friends, Ty has taken on Colin as his protector. Even though Colin is older, and she is smaller. No one messes with Colin. Safety has been called, and by street rules anyone that starts trouble with Colin, also is starting trouble with Ty. They're a team. They work side-by-side at Small Parts, and barely manage to make ends meet.

With what little pay Colin earns, he contributes to the support of his family. Having a job is everything. Without Small Parts the entire family would be homeless, perhaps dead in months.Ty, an orphan, struggles at just surviving day in and day out. Sleeping mostly at a shelter when beds are available, her safety is in constant jeopardy.

Lena Hampton is wealthy, lives on the opposite side of town, and wants nothing more than to be part of the family business. She knows she can be more resourceful than her often intoxicated and ineffective brother Otto. Her father will never give her the chance, despite her best efforts. Decidedly, she takes a tour of Metaltown, of Small Parts. Inadvertently, she fires one of the shop's employees that sets into motion an industrial revolution that is more bloody, and brutal, and deadly than anyone could have ever anticipated!

Simmons builds a world so vividly that readers will smell the unwashed clothing, and body odor of the factory workers. The frigid cold outside the factory, and the blistering heat within the windowless structure gave me hot and cold flashes. With just a splash of Oliver Twist (should have mentioned it earlier), I was beside the rebels, and a part of their revolt from the onset, and cheering by the end. And crying. It isn't often a book makes me emotional enough to cry. METALTOWN was that kind of story. Simmons has crafted those kinds of characters.

I might have finished reading the book moments ago, but I strongly suspect I will be thinking about them for a long time.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy 

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