Awe of Mercury by Elon Dann
Hot Key Books, 2014. ISBN 9781471401190.
(Ages: 14+ ) Highly Recommended. Survival. Friendship. Gruesome. Deceit. The Spiral is an underground, circular prison that rotates each prisoner one cell to their left each day. This will continue until the prisoner has reached the last cell where they will receive their last meal. Mo is a 17 year-old boy who is imprisoned in the Spiral along with his cellmate, Nonstop. Mo is being held for escaping an institution along with his friends, Harete and Moth. Unbeknownst to them this also caused a civil war throughout the Fatherland. The Kernel is the name of Mo's subconscious that has now taken a mind of its own, offering advice and even sometimes controlling him. The only method of communication they have is the Cellphone; this is where prisoners bang out a sequence of coded words onto pipes, which will then travel to any other cell in the spiral. Rumours of Moth ruling the Fatherland begin to circulate, causing much mental as well as physical annoyance to Mo making him feel betrayed and vowing revenge on Moth. An anagram message reveals someone he deeply cares about is trying to help him; this causing Mo and Nonstop to pull off an escape worthy of Houdini himself. Whilst they were escaping they also befriended a terminally ill prisoner called Mystrica. Beginning their journey into the woods, a nearby military drone firing a laser at Mo causes him to go blind. Now Mo and his friends must find a place to take refuge.
The relationships that develop between the protagonist and the minor characters in the book as they help each other to adapt to lives as escapees in a war-torn country are enjoyable to watch progress and see how one can help another grow. This is especially evident between Mo and Nonstop who at first could not even bear to be in the same cell as each other, but eventually grow closer than brothers. The use of a multi-layered narrative allows the book to be read as poetic enhancing of the experience and makes you ponder a wide variety of subject matter including war, redemption, corruption and even our very existence. Nonstop's comparison between Justice and Cheese sums up their rights being revoked 'It comes in wheels, it's often full of wholes, sometimes it's mouldy, and by the time we get to see any it's been cut very, very thinly. Oh and the stuff they have abroad is usually better than ours.' An emotionally powerful story with excellent characters and refreshingly witty dialogue.
Corey Joyce (Student)