Review: Rogue

Hello again! It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), if you haven’t yet read Hive, this review of its sequel Rogue, will contain spoilers for the first book. Similarly, I have done my best to conceal any spoilers for Rogue but may have had some clues slip by me accidentally. There is one paragraph at the bottom that does contain spoilers that I couldn’t resist talking about, but I have placed a warning before it so you can skip right over it. You have been warned. Continue as you please. 

Rogue was a brilliant sequel and second act to Hive. It was everything that Hive was (wondrous, mysterious, secretive and a touch creepy) across a way bigger landscape. Rogue follows the adventures of Hayley after she leaves her world and finds there is a much bigger world above. She quickly learns this world is complicated, dangerous, challenging and amazing. 

Rogue was a brilliant sequel and second act to Hive.’

There were plenty of things I liked from the start. I enjoyed the ideas behind the vault and the backstory of Earth that triggered this society. It felt very timely and relevant to our current climate crisis. It answered all my remaining questions from Hive and gave depth and context to the world below the ocean. 

I also liked how stories and storytelling were just as important in this book as they were in Hive. The way that stories, myths and secrets all blended and linked together was a clever way of playing with the mysteries and the characters. I enjoyed the references back to stories Hayley was told in Hive and seeing the new ways they linked to stories in Rogue. I loved that all these little stories became one big story, because its true really. Isn’t storytelling just telling lots of smaller parts of one big human story?

During the first half of Rogue, I had a few criticisms and despite the things I enjoyed, I was feeling worried I wasn’t going to like this book. Each aspect I was critical of was serving the book in a way, but didn’t feel smoothly integrated into the story. The characters we had met so far felt superfluous or served as plot devices. They had been used to explain the new world or give Hayley a reason to keep the plot moving. Similarly, the actions and dangers felt much the same, there to serve the pace and push the plot forward rather than to develop complexity or stakes. While this is fine and world-building and plot development are necessary aspects of a story, it meant that I didn’t develop strong attachments to these characters as they didn’t feel integral to the overarching story. 

Another criticism I had was that the narrative felt very aimless and there was no drive or push towards a focused goal. There were no stakes for Hayley apart from staying alive which, for the most part, felt easy enough to do, surprisingly so for a girl new to this world. To be fair, Hayley also had a lot of help here, but again, that lessened the stakes and the danger she faced. In retrospect, the narrative felt aimless because Hayley herself is aimless. While this makes sense, her indecision and lack of clear narrative goals made it less interesting to follow her as there wasn’t emotional investment over setbacks and obstacles. 

Hayley’s main desire is to find a home, a desire which pushes her to travel through many places searching and putting herself in danger. Since ‘finding home’ is such an abstract concept, especially for a girl who doesn’t know the world or what she wants, this wasn’t strong enough for me as a narrative drive and therefore meant it didn’t feel like there were clear stakes or consequences of not finding a home. I struggled with her regrets and nostalgia for the vault, especially given that she idolised the world of the vault while she had almost died at their hands. 

‘Hayley’s main desire is to find a home, a desire which pushes her to travel through many places searching and putting herself in danger.’

The second half of the book really picks up steam and the plot and overarching story become far more focused. There is a clear goal and there are emotional and physical stakes for not achieving this goal. Hayley is driven and we know what we are doing and where we are going. She becomes strong, brave and determined. This is the Hayley I loved reading about. This is where the book really started to strengthen for me and when I started to realise I was going to enjoy it overall. 

Like in Hive, Betts was clever in setting up her dominoes to knock them down one by one in the finale. Almost all my criticisms were resolved or appeased by the end. Characters and their significance became apparent. Character development became richer and the emotional investment I had grown paid off. Minor actions had major significance and became wonderful parts of the story. Overall, the second half of this story really brings it all together and smashes it out of the park!

‘Minor actions had major significance and became wonderful parts of the story.’

There were a few criticisms that remained unresolved, but they aren’t deal-breakers, but just minor things that twinged. I didn’t like how many new words and concepts Hayley understood at the beginning. While I know it is written in past tense, the ‘unfamiliar’ words she uses creates a dissonance between her situation and her narration. This issue rectifies itself with time.

Some of Hayley’s realisations and changes in opinion come too quickly and because of this, feel quite jarring. A little more development or questioning of these thoughts before would’ve been nice, rather than the rationale provided in retrospect. 

There were some interactions with people and beasts that I questioned the necessity of. While I see they served to portray Hayley as different, I feel this was expressed in other areas so these moments may not have been necessary. 

I was interested in the ideas and politics around processing centres and drifters. I’m not sure if they are meant to represent the dangers of how Australia’s current refugee processing could escalate or simply another aspect of the story. If so, as commentary around this topic, it was interesting but a little weak. It was the only subplot that didn’t feel weaved in or resolved. While I don’t think this theme had a place in the ending, I think it needed a sharper commentary or a more conclusive resolution to feel complete. Once Hayley moves on from this part of the plot, the theme feels like it just fades away. That being said, it could’ve been intended as just another obstacle in the plot and not as commentary at all. In which case it works with the rest of the plot, but maybe needed less focus on the future lives of drifters. 

‘The ending was brilliant and I was so satisfied with how it concluded. ‘

The ending was brilliant and I was so satisfied with how it concluded. While it was neat and tied up (almost) all loose ends and questions, it didn’t feel like it would be that neat until literally the final pages. And it didn’t feel forcefully neat to me. It felt genuinely lucky (which is how I imagine the characters felt as well). The emotional climax was far greater than I had anticipated and I really felt for the characters. It’s hard to speak about this without spoilers, so I’ve popped more info in the spoiler paragraph below. But the takeaway is, the ending will make your heart ache and then burst. 

This is the SPOILER paragraph. Proceed with caution or not at all. 

Will makes a return and completely sets the book back on track! His reappearance in the book sets the course and focus for the remainder of the plot and really takes the book to the next level. I didn’t think I had become very emotionally invested in Will. I pitied him and wished for more for him but accepted his choice to stay with slight disappointment but no more sorrow than that. I was even starting to find Hayley’s internal thoughts to him a bit annoying. But by the end of the book, I was so distressed for him. Betts’ makes him a wonderfully complicated character and his emotional turmoil at the end is like a grater to the heart. He may be my favourite character from this series.

Title: Rogue
Authors: A.J. Betts 
Publisher: Pan Macmillian
Extent: 360 pp.
RRP: $16.99
Read If You Like: Hive, The Maze Runner series, The Hunger Games series.

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