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Broken Angel: A Novel by Sigmund Brouwer

Broken Angel: A Novel (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Sigmund Brouwer

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1994394,342 (3.59)20
In a futuristic Christian dystopia, inside a state run by literalistic, controlling fundamentalists, reading is a serious crime; citizens are drugged into submission; and those who break rules are either sent to slave labor factories or stoned to death.
Title:Broken Angel: A Novel
Authors:Sigmund Brouwer
Info:WaterBrook Press (2008), Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer (2008)

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Christian dystopia is hard to come by, and BROKEN ANGEL has to be the most intriguing storyworld I've discovered in this genre so far. A portion of the United States has seceded to form Appalachia, an autonomous nation that has banned reading and books, especially the Bible, but in which a church of legalistic extremism serves as the primary government. This government regulates every conversation and every destination (in fact, civilians ride GPS-tagged horses; no cars allowed). Infractions like getting caught without your personal tracking device are punishable by factory work. Infractions like helping the underground railroad called the Clan transport people to freedom are punishable by stoning.

What makes this world even more intriguing is that Outside, as Appalachians call the rest of the US, clearly has its own issues. Cars are allowed; so is unlimited abortion. Freedom is available; so are genetic experiments and farmed replacement organs. In Appalachia, love and grace have been crushed from Christianity; outside it, morality has turned into a free-for-all.

In this world, we meet Caitlyn, a young woman (no idea how old she is, argh) who is fleeing Appalachia at the directive of her father, Jordan. She doesn't know why she was born with a hunchback and other physical oddities. She doesn't know why a sociopath bounty hunter is chasing her on behalf of Appalachia, why an agent called Pierce is doing the same on behalf of Outside. All she knows is that trusting anyone--including possibly her father--has become dangerous.

The prose isn't beautiful, but it's grammatical and mostly clean, with a tell-all style common to thrillers. I prefer a little wordsmithery, but I still could have given this book 4 stars, if only the characters had drawn me in as well as the storyworld did. I found myself curious about several of the cast and wanted to be curious about several more (including the protagonist), but I never got to the point of emotional investment. The author writes in limited omniscient point of view, letting us glimpse characters' thoughts but never diving all the way into their senses and emotions.

I'm also left wondering why on earth the novel is so short. The plot (mostly a manhunt) is simple enough for this length (less than 250 pages in ARC format), but the characters could have been fleshed out more deeply, and the storyworld is so complex, with so much potential for deeper immersion. Add a hundred pages of nuance and I might have fallen in love with this book, thriller style and all. Because the storyworld is just that good.

For me, as an explorer of dystopia, this was definitely worth the read. I'm hoping for more layers--storyworld, character, and plot--in the next book. ( )
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
Imagine a world in the not too distant future, with a truly dystopian big-brother-is-watching type of society. Add in a caste-like system in the new city-states in the United States, and a government sponsored, human genetic manipulation program. Now imagine that there is a sovereign theocratic "country" bordered by these city-states and you get just a hint of the setting for Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer.

Broken Angel is the first in Caitlyn Brown series and focuses on the life of a young girl. Caitlyn knows that she is different and honestly believes this difference is due to her physical deformities. Her father, Jordan, has kept her relatively isolated but knows that she must venture "outside" Appalachia to receive the medical assistance she requires. The only things that can potentially stop their escape to "the outside" are the bounty hunters on their trail. Jordan forces Caitlyn to run by herself, hoping that she'll stick to the map he's provided and his instructions. He hopes to lay a false trail giving her time to get as far away as possible.

After Jordan is captured, Sheriff Mitch Carney acknowledges that all is not as it should be in his small town. People are required to carry vidpods (presumably similar to iPods) at all times to receive special notices and bulletins from their leader, Bar Elohim. Each town in Appalachia is limited in size to three thousand people, because smaller towns are easier to control. Cars are few and far between due to government fuel rationing. In addition, cars are equipped with monitoring devices so that the religious leadership can determine where a vehicle has been and/or monitor all conversations. There are no phones, no televisions and no contact with the outside. There is a death penalty for reading, owning books or teaching others to read. Horses and some people are chipped so that the leadership knows where they are or can track their movements.

Casper Pierce is a government agent from the outside sent into Appalachia to capture Caitlyn. He is assisted by a local bounty hunter and thug, Mason Lee. Pierce and Lee don't get along at all and the situation is exasperated when Pierce intentionally injures Lee to make a point.

Deputy Bill Jasper has always done as told and the leadership told him to begin working as a deputy. He doesn't know why exactly but goes with the flow. Unfortunately Billy gets caught between Caitlyn and some bounty hunters and reluctantly joins her in her quest to reach the "outside." Theo is another runaway, a visually impaired, that is running from the harsh treatment received as part of his sentence to work in the factory.

The idea of genetic modification is hinted at throughout the story, but I felt that the primary focus was on providing the groundwork for the next installment in this series. Broken Angel is a well-crafted dystopian read that openly discusses the problems with religion as a force majeure. The characters are all well developed. It's difficult to discern the good guys from the bad guys for a while but it is important to take each person at face value because circumstances change rapidly and someone that might start off in a bad light becomes heroic. There's a lot going on in this story and the subplots often overlap, but this never causes any confusion. Broken Angel starts a little slow but quickly picked up and kept me engaged until the end. Thankfully I was able to immediately begin reading the next installment in this series, Shadow of Flight. ( )
  BookDivasReads | Nov 21, 2011 |
Broken Angel paints a frighteningly real picture of a fictional but all-too-possible future. An oppressive and dictatorial nation called Appalachia, formed from a broken United States, is a world where the government tolerates no secrets and affords little privacy to have them.

In this tyrannical society, Caitlyn is more special than even she knows, and her uniqueness creates grave dangers for the innocent young woman; Jordan is her adoring father who, despite his secret and shameful past, is now prepared to sacrifice everything including his life to protect his child. On their trail is a cruel and ruthless bounty hunter who’s determined to capture the girl – and take more than just her life.

Alone and seemingly abandoned by the one person she trusts, Caitlyn must accept help from strangers: a near-blind escapee from one of Appalachia’s many forced-labor factories, and a big man with a kind heart and a slow brain. Together, the little group makes its way through the treacherous Appalachian countryside, enroute to the Outside. There, Caitlyn can be freed from the mysterious thing that makes her different. But reaching and crossing that border may cost the girl everything she’s ever held dear.

Sigmund Broewer’s novel is riveting and fast-paced – there’s no time to breathe and no relief from the tension. It delivers mystery, tragedy, uncertainty … and unexpected moments of humor and joy that make all the rest of it bearable. Broken Angel will draw you in and hold you in its spell long after you’ve read the last page.

Amazing detail, gripping storyline, and unbelievable writing. ( )
  DeliaLatham | Mar 27, 2011 |
Review of Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer

“We had agreed – the woman I loved and I – that as soon as you were born we would perform an act of mercy and decency and wrap you in a towel to drown you in a nearby sink of water.” Wow. Talk about impact. Thus Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer begins.
This post apocalyptic novel immediately draws the reader in and never lets up. In a future reminiscent of John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, the government of ‘Appalachia’ has taken its responsibilities very seriously – and very literally. Similar to ‘Big Brother’ in George Orwell’s 1984, the citizens of Appalachia are always under the watchful eye of the state. Blasphemers are sent to the factories or worse – stoned to death.
“Outside”, people have more freedom, but there they have created their own brand of hell. After discovering the secrets behind human DNA, scientists have taken to mutating human embyos.
This is the world that Caitlyn has been born into. Unknown to her, she has become a target to both sides and must flee for her life before it is brutally taken from her. This book is packed with well developed and intriguing characters, lots of action, and tons of emotional impact. It’s a must read for the Sci-fi lover, but fans of crime fiction, mystery, suspense and thrillers will also enjoy this book. Highly recommended. I can’t wait to read the sequel Flight of Shadows. Brouwer has certainly taken his place among writers of high energy fiction. ( )
  Tracykrauss | Oct 27, 2010 |
It was a pretty good novel, but sometimes difficult to follow and in many spots, unable to hold my attention. Because of this, it took me a long while to read. Not to be harsh, but the best part of the book and really the only part that I found interesting was the last couple of chapters because I believe that these pages were the ones with the most depth written in them. They were also the only pages that were really crystal clear on their meaning and the most enjoyable section. ( )
  Songsparrow | Jun 24, 2010 |
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To Cindy and Olivia and Savannah,
Always, as big and forever as the sky
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We had agreed—the woman I loved and I—that as soon as you were born, we would perform an act of mercy and decency and wrap you in a towel to drown you in a nearby sink of water.
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