Book Review: Extraction
ashley | I’m getting tired of books being dubbed “better than the Hunger Games” everywhere I turn, but secretly, I’m always on the hunt for something that compares to how much I do love the Hunger Games series. I guess it’s not the marketing I have a problem with so much as the fact that what they claim never seems to be true. So I was very curious to see how Extraction by Stephanie Diaz would stand against this comparison.
Extraction starts off in a familiar fashion – a group of sixteen year olds are being led to a departure station where they will be tested to see whether they are fit for Extraction and given freedom to move to the Core or whether they’re fated to work as labourers for the rest of their life until they are replaced. A familiar premise, but there’s a deeper level of ruthlessness, as “replaced” means extinguished by the age of 20 and we witness those of age being scanned and torn away from their friends for extermination. And nobody bats an eye. This is just how things are, what is accepted, the cruel fate of those left behind.
I can easily see why there are comparisons to the Hunger Games, but I’m also reminded of the Divergent series. There are different levels of the earth that different classes work and live on, a person is deemed better than everyone else if their Promise seems high, they value strength and intelligence and go through thorough physical and mental testing to wage whether they are qualified to stay in the Core etc. Extraction seems to be a careful combination of elements from a lot of these series that are popular right now, which is kind of frustrating, but thankfully, Diaz does eventually break that structure and makes the novel her own.
Just over half way through, things shift and the big event that will ultimately set everything in motion happens, and this event is something I haven’t seen explored all that much before and it definitely excited me. I was feeling like things were kind of dragging, that it shouldn’t have taken this long to get to where we were, but my enthusiasm and interest was quickly renewed and I was instantly hooked again.
The relationship between the lead Clementine and her childhood friend Logan is the budding relationship I love in books like this, the kind of relationship that hasn’t blossomed into anything yet, so it’s still innocent and fiercely loyal. It’s probably not fair and I know there isn’t much of a difference, but for some reason I’m far more accepting of someone so in love with someone when that love is based initially on friendship. Her love for him exists outside of the love they would have if they acknowledged their affections for each other and for whatever reason, I am more supportive of this kind of love than I am of someone making decisions influenced by romantic feelings towards someone they are actually involved with. But Clementine and Logan aren’t just friends on the brink of romance, they have no one else, they are family and that bond is not something you mess with.
Unfortunately, Logan wasn’t Extracted, so you only hear his name in Clementine’s fond memories, which is a shame. But you hear his name a lot, Clementine constantly thinks about him, uses this as motivation to push forward through everything, almost to the point where it becomes annoying. But I missed Logan a lot, he was a lot better of a character than, say, lieutenant Sam, who takes competitiveness and bullying to a new level, constantly threatening Clementine and wanting to literally kill her every time she beats something he’s held a record for. He’s obviously not supposed to be liked but ugh, every time she sees his cocky smile, I want to roll my eyes.
I also really liked Beechy, a guy Clementine meets in the Core who sort of starts looking out for her. There seems to be a budding romance here, too, which started to remind me of The Hunger Games again, but thankfully Diaz avoids the path you expect her to take and the relationship between the two becomes a bond far more interesting than a love triangle.
It’s weird, though. Extraction almost seems like two different stories. You have the first half, which seems very familiar to your typical story of this nature. And then the second half starts to take on a more sci-fi, space war kind of vibe and it was significantly more interesting for me. I’d even go as far as saying this redeemed this novel for me. While the two stories do flow together, I think Diaz’s strengths lie in outer space and her creativity and imagination thrives much more in that kind of sci-fi spectrum.
Overall, Extraction is a good read, but if you’re familiar with other books of this genre, the similarities might be a bit too much. I’d really only recommend this to people who are somewhat new to this kind of read or aren’t overly annoyed with elements that might be somewhat overused.