I recently finished The List by Patricia Forde. Forde creates a brilliant dystopian atmosphere in which a society has survived the Melting of the world as they know it.
The main characters to be mentioned are Letta, our young, fiery protagonist, Marlo, an adventurous Creator-outcast from Ark, John Noa, the novels antagonist and leader of Ark, Benjamin, Letta’s mentor/father figure, and Leyla, a color catcher.
According to John Noa the dwindling society, amusingly named Ark, having the ability to use language is what lead to the desecration of man kind, and language should be limited to the bare minimum to preserve life. But let’s be real, he’s nuts. He believes that language should be confined to “List” speak. List consists of 500 words each person is allowed to learn in order to speak in short, stunted sentences. Me speak list. Make blog post. Is good, no?
Letta, our protagonist, lost her parents who went to find new lands after the destruction of the world and is now a wordsmith apprentice (person who collects words to add to their collection.) You may be thinking, “why would she be collecting words for a society in which words aren’t allowed?” Well Noa wants to destroy every new word he can come across and erase it from humanity. Smart, huh?
Letta, which ironically enough sounds like “Letter”, is the spark of the rebellion within Ark after helping Marlo, a “Creator,” hide within the Wordsmith shop from the evil Gavvers (police) trying to take him to the holding cells to be punished for being an outsider. Letta eventually befriends Marlo after saving his life and Marlo returns the favor by helping her bring down Noa.
Noa has devised a plan and kidnapped Letta’s mentor, Benjamin, who has raised her from a young age. Noa has him tortured and Letta later finds him dumped in the woods where he uses his last breaths to warn her about Noa’s plan to eradicate language completely with a chemical called NICENE. NICENE damages the temporal lobe and takes away the users ability to form new words, understand them, speak, or communicate. They often die within a few months from the shock of their newfound state. They are always stuck in the present, never able to look back or to the future. What a stagnant way to live.
But, ya wanna know the real kicker? Noa saves himself and a select few from being issued the drug. He equates himself to a savior and believes he should still be trusted to use language. How screwed up is that? Who made him God?
In the midst of all of this, Letta meets Leyla, a musician, a color catcher. Letta is troubled by music as she has never been around music, and has had it ingrained in her that music is evil. She confronts Leyla for playing a sad tune and cannot understand why it is affecting her the way it is. Later it is discovered that Leyla is Letta’s aunt, and that the song was her mother’s favorite. Knowing this information only served to bolster Letta’s determination to destroy Noa and Ark.
Ultimately, Letta, with Marlo’s help, kills Noa and saves the day.
Now that this not so brief synopsis has been told, let’s get down to it. Noa and the Ark. I think this allusion is pretty obvious. Even the reason for the world ending is an allusion to the Bible. The polar ice caps all melt due to global warming and flood the earth, in Forde’s story this is known as ‘the Melting.’ Of course, Noa creates Ark and saves them all from the flood, while the rest that survived the Melting, the ‘non believers’ that did not choose to originally follow Noa into Ark, were forced live outside of Ark with no fresh water and are essentially lepers to society.
Outside of Ark are the non believers, they are known as descretors to Noa, but Creators among themselves. There are also the scavengers that live in Tintown that speak List and live off meager findings within woods ravaged by dangerous animals. Last there are the Wordless, these individuals lost the ability to speak by either NICENE, having their tongues cut out, or forms of mental torture that made them never want to speak again. The Creators and Letta strive to bring down Noa and Ark knowing that life is made for freedom outside the bounds of strict laws rules that have no true foundation other than that of opinion.
Escape the norm. Challenge society. Stand out. Be different. Don’t blindly follow. You are not a sheep. You are an individual allowed thoughts and feelings. Take advantage of that to the fullest and be wary of those trying to influence you to their point of view ‘just because they say so.’ Like Letta, you are your own savior, and it is up to you to decide if you would destroy or if you would create.
Benjamin always said “Extinction was the saddest word”. This is not just the end of a life, but the end or eras, traditions, thought processes.