Enthusiastically compared to The Hunger Games by countless reviewers, and optioned by Ridley Scott for film, Blood Red Road will not disappoint. With the same cultural and social conscience as Suzanne Collin’s bestseller, Moira Young explores a variety of uncomfortable, politically charged issues, in a uniquely western, dystopian future. Written phonetically, in which all spelling illustrates the characters’ twangy accent, you’ll be immediately charmed by Saba’s distinct voice, and Young’s sensational imagination. However, Saba’s unfortunate encounter with an unusual couple, the bizarre Mr. and Mrs. Pinch, drastically alters the course of her journey. From this point on, Young’s novel suddenly morphs from a futuristic, spiritual quest into a brutal portrait of slavery and human trafficking.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is defined as “a crime against humanity. [It involves] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” Blood Red Road intelligently and mercilessly introduces us to a world where actions of this type are commonplace and go unpunished. In this imaginative world, people are commodities, slaves – a means to an end. Humanity and law, as we know it today, cease to exist.
While in search of her kidnapped twin brother, Saba happens upon The Desert Swan, a strange land boat that bumps and sails across the dry desert atop a base of rubber tires, and meets Rooster and Mrs. Pinch. They seem unusual at first, strange and colourful characters. At this point in the story, the reader may be inclined to think the Pinches are a source of much-needed comic relief. He’s utterly whipped. Clearly, his wife wears the pants in the family. We soon discover, unfortunately, that Mrs. Pinch is far more sinister than we ever could have imagined. Once Saba has been drugged, she’s chained and trapped; her head is eventually shaved, doomed to become a cage fighter under Mrs. Pinch’s vile authority.
It is during this time as a trapped fighter, where her “performance” battling other girls in a knock-down-drag-out earns heaps of money for her master, when Saba becomes a martyr-like figure for the whole operation.
While The Hunger Games focuses on the effects of living in a police state and the grotesque consequences of excessive political power, Blood Red Road is bleak in a different way. The people, who populate this dry, dreary world, have been sapped of all their humanity. As a result, they are rounded up like cattle, beaten, drugged and abused without reproach, and encouraged by the insane monarchy to be violent and rabid.
The most touching element of this novel is Saba’s “red hot” survival instinct, which illustrates perfectly the psychological and spiritual impact of being trapped and exploited. Described as more biological necessity than mental fortuity, Saba endures countless brutalities by tapping into that “red hot” needed to live.
One review calls this book a cross between The Hunger Games, Mad Max, and True Grit. Considering I’ve only seen one of the three, I’m unable to agree or disagree, but this description ought to catch your attention. If you can look past the annoying romantic elements, which interrupt the adventure at inappropriate moments and distract the reader from what’s really at stake, Blood Red Road is a powerful and imaginative book. Human trafficking is only one of many issues explored by Young’s intelligent novel, but it is certainly the most captivating.