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UnSouled continues Neal Shusterman's dystopian YA series that he began with UnWind, returned to in UnWholly, and subsequently wrapped up with UnDivided. UnSouled lives up to the high standard he set in the prior two novels in all ways except one: there is no real ending here -- the sole purpose is setting up the grand finale.
UnWind was originally written as a standalone novel. UnWholly, clearly a continuation of a series it was not meant to complete, still had story lines that came to proper conclusions. UnSouled does a good job of continuation and set-up, as a transitional entry, but does not have its own story line -- indeed, quite a number of characters are left hanging quite early on without showing up any more, sure to return in UnDivided to help finish the series, but reaching no interim conclusions here.
On the plus side, as with UnWholly, several excellent new characters are introduced. Best of all are the brother and sister duo, Argent and Grace, who are not as dim and they appear at first. Jansen Rheinschild, the inventor of unwinding, briefly mentioned in UnWholly, becomes a fully formed character in flashback. One other new character is not as much of a success and does not look like she's coming back in the next book. Two of the better characters first introduced in UnWholly return, Connor nemeses Camus Comprix and Mason Starkey, with major impact.
While the new characters add freshness, the number of characters Shusterman now has to follow has grown to the point of spreading them too thin, especially after they dispersed at the end of UnWholly. So here's to hoping they all come together (their stories) in the closer of the series, which I'm going to get to forthwith.
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This is the book in the middle. It does not stand alone, but sets up for final volumes. You will need to have UnDivided at hand as soon as you finish this one.
This book asks the questions What will your soul allow you to do to survive? What happens to your soul as you observe events unfolding around you? Does Society or Humanity have a collective soul, and who is in control of it? What are the ethics of non-involvement or isolationism?
Cam is searching for Risa. Connor is searching for the Beginning of It All. Starkey is searching for fame and respect and revenge.
In this dance, the characters diverge, come together for a while, and then diverge again. We meet new people, the most delightful of whom is Grace Skinner whose presence grows as her savant abilities slowly shine through the gloom of events. Even as Grace's light brightens, Nelson and other Parts Pirates grow darker as we come to understand the true pit-depths of their depraved and hardened souls.
Most of the names are seemingly just names. However, we can understand the irony of Camus Comprix (camera + moo, composit + prize), but the names of the new characters are meaningful. Grace is grace, she may be the saving grace needed in such horrific times. Her brother is Argent, or silver, which may tarnish but can also gleam and shine if given some appropriate attention. Their last name, Skinner, can show the cruelty of the flesh trade, yet in Grace's hands may merely cut to the quick and bare you to your very soul.
Each volume pushes the Unwinding horror further. We read it, we absorb it, and we go on, just as society does in the book. Atrocities can be justified, then accepted, then embraced, and we are forced to look around at the world we live in and see similar forces at work here. This series is a frightening look into ourselves and what we wouldn't do to save (insert your most cherished person here).
Luke Daniels continues to give accurate, convincing, life-filled voice to the many characters in the book.