Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nuclear War or Just Plain Madness?

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen
3Q 3P; Audience: J

Imagine that you've just been told that a nuclear airhead strike has just been launched at the United States. Where would you go? What would you do? Fortunately, Eli doesn't have to wonder. His father has been preparing for this moment for years. He's built an underground compound for the family and stocked it with enough food and clothing to last fifteen years, long enough for the nuclear fallout to dissipate enough for safety. When the warning comes, the family is able to get to the shelter in time. All of the family except for their grandmother and Eli's twin, Eddy, that is.

Eli has known for years that Eddy is the good twin. He was the one that everyone liked and wanted to be around. Eli was the one the other kids accepted because he was Eddy's brother. Eli is the selfish one. He knows it's really his fault that Eddy and his grandmother didn't make it into the shelter, and he'll never forgive himself for that. Eli's pretty much decided that he won't love anyone anymore. He hasn't let anyone touch him in ages. He barely talks to his sisters (one older, one younger) and avoids his parents. He's angry and he hates everything about where he is and how they live.

The compound is stocked with everything a family could need: clothing in various sizes, plenty of books and music to keep them occupied, even computers and lessons so that they can continue with their schooling. It has plenty of food, too. Until it goes bad, that is. The animals die, too, due to poisoned feed. What looked like a fifteen-year food supply isn't going to last even half that long. That's why Eli won't go through that yellow door. He doesn't see how his mother and sisters can bear it. Because what's on the other side of that door -- the Supplements -- no. It doesn't even bear thinking of. It's too gruesome and sick to even contemplate.

Living in the shelter is hard on all of them. His little sister goes around talking in an English accent all the time, and his older sister doesn't talk much at all. His parents obviously get physically close, since his mother has been pregnant pretty much continuously in the six years or so they've been in the compound. But they don't seem to like each other much. His mother's okay. If Eli can bear to be around anyone, it would probably be her. But his father is getting stranger all the time. Sometimes he rushes around in a frenzy of energy, and other times he'll stay in bed for days. He controls everything they do. They're all just a little afraid of him. As it turns out, they should be.

It's not until Eli accidentally stumbles on a computer meant for Eddy that the horror of his situation starts to become clear. Because unlike all the other computers in the compound, this one connects to the Internet. How can there be an Internet? Wasn't the world destroyed? Apparently not. And when Eli actually gets on the Internet himself and sees what he sees...well, then he begins to question everything that's happened in the past six years.

Could it possibly be that his father was lying to them all the time? And if that's true, what possible reason could he have for keeping them locked up in this compound? Is reason the wrong word to use in connection with his father? What do you do when you are locked in an underground compound with an insane man who is the only person who knows the key to getting out of it?

Though not a perfect story, this is still a book that will hold readers' interest and have them holding their breaths waiting to find out just how twisted a mind can get and whether it's possible to outwit a crazy man.

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