Friday, July 17, 2015

The Wild Beyond, by Piers Torday

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

The last installment in The Last Wild Series continues to deliver an action packed story whilst also dealing with urgent environmental issues.

The Wild Beyond is the third book in Piers Torday’s dystopian trilogy for children. In the first two books, The Last Wild and The Dark Wild, we followed 12-year-old Kester Jaynes through a series of heart stopping adventures as he endeavoured to save the world from the powers of corporate greed and ecological ruin. Kester is mute. He can’t talk to humans, but he discovers he can talk to animals. He is appointed by a group of animals to be their Wildness, or leader. With the help of these last animals of the earth (they are the few that have managed to escape the fatal red eye disease), Kester is able to take on the evil Selwyn Stone, owner of the rapacious Facto corporation.

In this third book, floods and fire threaten the planet. Most of the earth’s surface is now under water. Selwyn Stone believes he has the answer to this disaster (even though he is responsible for it). He will take the population to a new planet and start again. Kester is not pleased with this solution. Trying to figure out what to do, he receives a message from a mysterious whale. The whale tells Kester that he must go to a place called Faraway, an island that is difficult to get to. With the help of a group of birds, he manages to find his way. Kester doesn’t travel without human company. He takes his two friends, the plucky Aida, leader of the rubbish heap gang, and Polly, who has an extensive knowledge of botany. Along the way, this group face many obstacles and adversaries until the surprise ending.

As an adventure story, The Wild Beyond is just as gripping as the first two installments. Piers Torday is brilliant at setting up some extraordinary scenes. He also draws his characters with great relish, getting their idiosyncratic dialogue just right. He really is a wonderful story teller. What makes this last installment a little different is the sadder tone. There is no happy ending, although there is some resolution of sorts. The novel’s urgent addressing of serious environmental issues also gives the reader pause. Could we be only a few steps away from the disaster scenarios described in The Last Wild series?

The genius of this trilogy is to create a thrilling adventure series based on current environmental issues and science. To be sure, the story is the thing in Piers Torday’s writing, but its serious themes keep pounding away at the back of your mind nevertheless. These are books that not only entertain, they also make you think and empathise. For adults who want to get their kids to learn something without them knowing it, slip them a volume from this amazing series.

The Wild Beyond, by Piers Torday. Published by Quercus. ISBN: 9781848668485 RRP: 24.99

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