Rebellion is an elemental creature. It takes shape within the air, the water, the earth, and the fire. In the soil of dystopia, the seeds of defiance are slow to bloom, but spread faster than wildfire once it takes root. When the population is oppressed, belittled and degraded, told what to do and who they can be, the only thing left for them is Resistance.
Set in the post-apocalyptic city of Otpor, orthodoxy is expected of everyone; every individual is brought up into an Elemental caste – Fire, Water, Air, Earth – which dictates their position in society in an almost Brave New World level of genetic manipulation. Once you have been placed, you cannot change, don’t rock the boat, observe the status quo. Any disobedience is punished immediately, publicly and violently. The worst offenders, those who spread the crime of Heterodoxy (having opinions against those of the masses) are executed as an example to the rest.
Resistance is a harsh, gut-wrenching story about Anaiya, a top-caste Fire Elemental who has been chosen to infiltrate a resistance cell of lower-level insurgents who have been spreading anti-establishment messages throughout the city; a trend that could topple the fragile balance.
Trapped between the desire to expunge the taint of heterodoxy laid upon her by her insurgent mentor, and the new emotions she feels after her brain is altered to allow her to blend in with other Elementals, Anaiya is quick to lose her sense of self as she attempts to track down the resistance leader, experiment with her new-found abilities, and keep her superiors happy.
Written in an unforgiving and blunt manner, Kopievsky has illustrated a new world of distrust and struggle where even the most basic natural functions are controlled or sterilised. No trees grow within the high walls of Otpor. In such a world relationships are strained and interactions between the castes terse to the point of aggression. Escapism is sought in any way possible and leads to excess; mood altering drugs a normal state of affairs to keep the populace under control.
Characters are written with depths that will no doubt be revealed as the series evolves, with each caste maintaining their own attitudes and slang. Settings are starkly contrasted between the authoritarian bleakness and artistic embellishments, drawing strong walls between those of the establishment and the free-spirited. When it comes to the smaller-scale world building Kopievsky has done an incredible job of establishing both a setting and society that is unique, while at the same time portending of a future that could all too easily become our own reality.
The first book in the Divided Elements series, Resistance a great read for its incredible prose and its unsettling message. When life is oppressive, all we can do is Resist.