Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Is Glenrock really so good? - Captives by Jill Williamson - CSFF Blog Tour

Julie one more time! This may be considered spoilers so you might want to just go on somewhere else if you haven't read Jill Williamson's Captives.

But anyone who has read the book, or probably who has read a summary or review, understands that the Safe Lands is not a moral place. The stated goal of life there is to find pleasure (although in fairness, people do seem to work about 40 hour workweeks). Immorality runs rampant. Everyone has an incurable disease. Women are forced into bearing children and not even allowed to raise them. The government has a quite literal three-strikes-and-you're-out policy, or if not, once you hit 40, you get "liberated" (presumably euthanized). As the book put it, the Safe Lands are a "gilded cage."

But an interesting point I was thinking of (and not surprisingly, Shannon McDermott posted it before I did; drat!) is that Glenrock, the rural community outside the Safe Lands, is not exactly a great place either. The basics of life seem to be covered fine--no one seems to go hungry, and while the people presumably work hard, they still have parties and even play Old video games and watch Old movies. Their life goal is not to find pleasure, but a big priority is marrying young and repopulating the Earth and such.

I find this fascinating, because the Safe Lands practices forced surrogacy and forbids the formation of families with children. Whereas in Glenrock, a pair of young people are strongly pressured into an unwanted marriage so that they will have children.
Marriage and procreation were vital to the people of Glenrock, and while Mason saw no logic in waiting to marry until he reached 27.5 years, reaching at least twenty would offer him so much more knowledge and life experience. Why not wait another three years for that?
In addition, Glenrock has some gender biases (besides the usual patriarchal leanings, by tradition the MEN wouldn't practice medicine). While Omar (a young man from Glenrock) is rather self-absorbed and self-pitying, when he basically says that Jemma was the only person in Glenrock who was kind to him, I actually believe that the people there really did see him as an outcast and didn't reach out to him as well as they could have (though I also don't know that Omar wanted to be reached). Never mind the main characters' emotionally-abusive father, who as much as forced his son Mason into consenting to an arranged marriage. And at least one of the female villagers has serious body image problems (yes, even in a village where food isn't readily available at a grocery store, a young teenage girl is routinely thought of as fat, and hates that aspect of herself).

While Christianity wasn't forgotten in Glenrock, I didn't personally feel that it was a particularly Christian community, either. When things go wrong the characters may think of or call on God, but that's about all I noticed in this book.

Obviously the Safe Lands are in general morally bankrupt, of course...but if you judged the United States by our media, we wouldn't look so much better. (And there are millions of Christians in this country! Which makes me wonder if any Christians may be hiding underground in the Safe Lands.)

Anyway, what I liked was that even though the Safe Lands are dystopic, Glenrock was not portrayed as an ideal place. It seems like they did not work an excessive amount, had enough to eat, had a reasonable life expectancy, and had some technology that would have been the envy of people in the 1980s, maybe even 1990s. Yet both the society and some of the individuals had some fairly serious problems. I think people are people, whatever world you put them in. One saying that's not directly from the Bible (as far as I know), but that has a Biblical basis, is that Christians are called to be in the world but not of it (John 15:19; Romans 12:2). I'd almost be tempted to say Glenrock's citizens are instead of the world but not in it.

I also like that instead of wanting to flee the Safe Lands and perhaps get back to their regular lives--Levi's goal--Mason actually has some interest in saving the people of the Safe Lands. The technology itself isn't necessarily evil; vaporizers can be used for medicine, for instance. The problem is how the technology is used and the people in charge of it.

It may take a massive rebellion against the government, or underground movements which may already be in the works...but someday there could be a large population of Godly people in the Safe Lands, actually living in the world but not of it.

One last link to the tour participants:

Julie Bihn (that's me!)
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
Victor Gentile
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Asha Marie Pena
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

 *In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.


  1. Liked your last CFSS post. Have to say Mason was my favorite character.

  2. Thought a lot of the same stuff about Glenrock. Good post.


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