Book Review: Archetype by MD Waters

March 21, 2014

18079523The buzz behind Archetype is not misplaced. I finished this book in a weekend, and I’m fairly sure that’s how most people have read it – fast and somewhat obsessively. With the proliferation of dystopian novels in the market, it’s becoming difficult to find a standout book among the masses. Archetype does that. It’s been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, Before I Go To Sleep, The Matrix, and The Hunger Games, but to me, while it did have echoes of those stories, it seemed more a beast of its own.

M.D. Waters creates a world in which women are commodities to be bought, fertility is controlled by men, surveillance is commonplace, and the resistance strikes in secret. Birth control is illegal, and male babies are prized while female children go to Women’s Training Centers to learn to become wives. We discover all this slowly through Emma, our protagonist, who awakes in a hospital with no memories but plenty of nightmares. Her only companions are Dr. Travista, the physician who keeps an overly watchful eye on her, and Declan, the handsome and caring man who claims to be her husband.

As Emma falls in love with Declan, she begins to hear a nagging voice in her head, a voice showing her dreams and memories that contradicts the story Declan is telling her. In her mind, she sees herself in love with another man, or storming a Women’s Training Center with the resistance, or floating immobile in a tank of water. Without a sure sense of past or self, Emma struggles to decipher the truth, and the reader follows along with her, desperate to unravel the mystery.

Without spoiling the book, I can say that the plotting of Archetype is excellent. Even readers familiar with science fiction and dystopias will find something to enjoy here. But what sets it apart from hard science fiction and traditional dystopias, in my opinion, is the closeness the reader feels with Emma. Rather than creating distance, we are quite literally inside Emma’s head, and her frustrations, fears, lusts, and confusions are intertwined with the plot, creating a thriller that is also very much a novel of self-discovery. Most of all, though, Archetype is a love story, although I wouldn’t classify it as a romance. The relationships feel accurate to the setting – dramatic because the stakes are so high, and because so much of Emma’s romance is tied up in her burgeoning sense of identity.

It ends, of course, in a cliffhanger. However, you won’t have to wait a year for the sequel; publisher Dutton has taken a page out of Netflix’s book and slated the series as their first hardcover double-debut. Archetype is out now, and its sequel, Prototype, will be released at the end of July, less than six months later. While it might not be quite as binge-able as a Netflix series, it’s definitely a lot less time than one would typically wait between sequels. Dutton, by dint of the publishing schedule, must have agreed to two books before Archetype came out – marking a big investment and a lot of faith in M.D. Waters, a debut writer. In my opinion, she fulfills that faith, and I will definitely be picking up Prototype when it comes out.

Archetype by MD Waters

Dutton (Feb, 2014)

Review by Arielle Yarwood


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