The best dystopian novels are those that are possible. They involve governments and situations that are eerily similar to our current governments or society. The paths to these future societies are scary in the close link between real life now and the fictional future. World wars, environmental catastrophes, an ever-expanding government involvement, and the shrinking of civil rights in the name of protecting citizens – these all have roots in current headlines, and the belief that such a malignant environment could actually occur in our future creates much of the tension that exists in such novels. Sadly, these important roots in current events is sadly lacking in Shannon Stoker’s The Registry.
To buy into Mia’s plight, one must understand how the United States could go from fighting for civil liberties and rights of all to one in which women are nothing more than slaves, how world wars can create a male-dominated society, and how education can go from being one of our top priorities to becoming the least admired trait possible. The path from now to the future America is too murky to clearly understand the transformation. In other words, Mia’s America is so far removed from our current society that it becomes almost impossible to imagine occurring.
Not only that but it is difficult to fathom a society in which women make up a majority of the population handing over all rights and privileges to men. While the idea that the need for a strong army as the impetus for the government’s transition to this male-dominated society makes a modicum of sense, it quickly loses its realism in light of the sheer number of women currently serving in our military. When one expands this idea to company executives, government employees, educators, and every other inroad women have made into positions of power throughout the country, Mia’s world makes no sense. It is so unrealistic as to be almost laughable.
There is also the issue of the story, which is too predictable and the characters, which are caricatures. The plot tries too hard to be intense, especially given how trite it is. There is nothing about the story which is shocking, or even surprising. In fact, much like Mia, there is superficiality to the plot which only heightens the predictability. The dialogue is stilted, and the establishment of the setting is nonexistent, and there is a focus on physical appearances that is somewhat disturbing. Making things worse are the archetypical characters, which fit every major literary role that has ever existed. Mia is quite literally the helpless damsel in distress. Grant is evil incarnate, while her father the greedy, weak authority figure who does nothing to prevent Mia’s plight. Andrew is the love interest, and Whitney is the sidekick who also functions as the mirror by which Mia can measure her changing opinions and increasing strength. There is nothing unique about them, and like the plot, behave exactly as a reader would expect them to behave given generic descriptions.
Given this rather poor palette to use as her performance, Kate Reinders’ performance could either be sheer brilliance or as lackluster as the material she has to narrate. Unfortunately, her performance falls into the latter category. Yes, the material is mediocre, and that does contribute to a lot of one’s discomfort while listening. Ms. Reinders adds to that discomfort by infusing her words with an air of danger and excitement that the words just do not warrant. Every sentence is important, dramatic, and incredibly urgent, making it feel as if each sentence ends with an exclamation point rather than the more mundane period. It is a performance that is both annoying and laughable given her earnestness but surprisingly fitting given how bad the entire story is. One has to give Ms. Reinders credit however for making this train wreck of a novel amusing, even if that was not her intention.
The Registry suffers from a lack of depth. In spite of all its faults, the premise is an intriguing one, and a reader could forgive the existence of the archetypes had the story been better plotted and less contrived. A better connection, with more realistic explanations, between our current society and the future America would be a 100 percent improvement, just as multi-dimensional characters would help capture a reader’s interest and sympathy. The story as it stands now is just too improbable to create that innate tension which should occur in a good dystopian set-up, and the characters are too hackneyed to generate any sympathy.