Dunkle, Clare B. (2008). The Sky Inside. NY: Ginee Seo Books. 240 pages.
First, a reassurance: the dog does not die. There is a dog character (actually a robot dog) in this book who is featured on the novel’s cover and who, I am glad to say, does not meet a bad end by the conclusion of this story, the first in what may be a duet of novels by fantasy writer Clare Dunkle. Set in a future in which neighborhoods of humans live in tidy suburbs beneath giant geodesic domes, trouble in The Sky Inside begins when a stranger visits the dome and whisks away the community’s “Wonder Babies,” genetically engineered children who are highly intelligent. When the community residents (who, admittedly, encouraged the exodus of the Wonder Babies, who were too smart for most parents to entertain or occupy) learn of a plan to exterminate the Wonder Babies, thirteen-year-old Martin, whose sister was taken, begins to question the integrity of his community.
The novel is pretty standard dystopian fare, and not too bad at that. However, I felt the book suffered for its skimpiness with regards to detail and description. Dunkle’s novel did a lot more “telling” than it did “showing” and, as such, left us in a purposefully and functionally described setting that supported the plot, but did not lend itself to mental exploration. I was intrigued by the appearance of the interloper who spirited away the Wonder Babies, as this scene made what I think was deliberate reference to “The Pied Piper.” This reference was without purpose, however, and, while the same thing happened in the novel as in the fairy tale (at least where the kidnapping of a whole lot of children are concerned), the allusion did not really add meaning to the story which, unlike the fairy tale that encourages focus on either the children or the parents of Hamelin, focuses on a character outside the key categories of parent or kidnapped child.
My favorite character in the whole thing turned out to be Martin’s computerized dog, Chip. The novel is vague as to whether Chip has been “hacked” in the factory; however, this shapeshifting dog saved the day more than once. And with personality! The sequel to this novel, The Walls Have Eyes is supposed to be out soon, and I hope that Chip is as prominently featured.