Published: April 2014 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 338 pages
Goodreads ● Booktopia ● Bookworld
Abdi Taalib thought he was moving to Australia for a music scholarship. But after meeting the beautiful and brazen Tegan Oglietti, his world was turned upside down. Tegan's no ordinary girl - she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life in Abdi's time, 100 years later.
Now, all they want is for things to return to normal (or as normal as they can be), but the government has other ideas. Especially since the two just spilled the secrets behind Australia's cryonics project to the world. On the run, Abdi and Tegan have no idea who they can trust, and when they uncover startling new details about Project Ark, they realise thousands of lives may be in their hands.
An accomplished sequel, While We Run continues to explore a dystopian Australia which has closed off its borders to refugees and jealously guards her wealth and good fortunes. When Tegan Oglietti woke up after being cryogenically frozen for 100 years, she thought she’d been brought back to a better world. But she uncovered a huge governmental conspiracy that she made public at the end of the last book.
While We Run is Abdi’s book. He’s a thoughtful, nuanced character and I loved being in his head. He has a very different outlook and temperament to Teagan – she prefers action where Abdi prefers diplomacy. Abdi’s usually quite and restrained, where she’s louder and more prone to anger. However, Abdi kind of hates himself too, because he’s been trained to think politically by his mother and he’s afraid that he’s always manipulating everyone around him. I think it’s an interesting struggle for him to go through, because very few protagonists ever think about their actions in the way that Abdi does.
I liked seeing the other characters from Abdi’s eyes as well. Abdi sees them quite different from Teagan, and I enjoyed the feeling of getting to know them again. I was surprised at how little Abdi trusts those around him, but I think this would change if we were to go back to Djibouti, where everything is familiar to him.
The writing is style is very different in this novel when compared to the first one. When We Wake was formed as a ‘cast that Teagan uploaded to the public, so it was conversational and rather more informal. Aside from the changes in tone because of Abdi is now narrating, While We Run is meant to be a book that Abdi writes for the public, so it’s stylistically different as well. I think this format – of an unflinching printed memoir – has been more enjoyable for me to read, but it’s a matter of personal taste.
I was horrified by the beginning of this book. It’s a brilliantly written sequence where Abdi and Teagan have become prisoners of the government, and are forced to parrot devastating lies to keep the conspiracy under cover. It was a fate I hadn’t expected – hadn’t even considered – at the end of When We Wake, so I was initially very confused at how it had come about. I feel that many books would have shied away from the brutal torture and abuse they suffered, and admire that Healey included everything. Not in gritty detail, but enough to affect me.
One of the issues I had with When We Wake was that the sexual orientation of the characters seemed to be defining factors – the author had included people from all walks of life and then kept bringing it up, which I disliked because I felt it didn’t need to be pointed to any more than their hair-colour or any other fact about them. This book does a better job, in my opinion, of treating every person fairly – there is no undue emphasis on the sexuality of any character. It’s mentioned, and readers will keep it in mind, but it’s no longer the defining thing about that character.
There is also more of an Australian tang to this novel – another thing I thought When We Wake was lacking. It’s still a very different Australia to the one we’re used to, but I finally felt like the book is set in this country where before I’d thought the action could have been set in any dystopian city without impacting it at all.
While We Run is an enjoyable, memorable read which I recommend to those interested in reading an Australian dystopian novel. Like every good sequel it builds on the foundation of the first book, improving the world-building and depending the characters and their conflicts. However, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have read the first book before picking this one up. The change in narrators, writing style and main conflict between the two mean that either could be enjoyed independently of the other, but the best experience will still be had when they are read in order. I’m really looking forward to the next book!