This final book in the Matched trilogy again follows the paths of Xander, the boy next door turned physic and a member of the Rising, a resistance group to the Society, which rules all; Ky, an Aberration, someone who’s gene pattern is not quite right for society, or whose behavior doesn’t fit in, or because he is a relative of troublemakers, and who would normally be shipped to the outer colonies, but managed to escape that through his parents and aunt/uncle; and Cassia, a girl who was originally mistakenly matched with Ky, but it turned out that Xander was her “real” match, but she loves Ky, and he loves her, and Xander loves Cassia. Some new characters, notably Lei, another medic, are added, and many minor ones, and we finally get to meet the Pilot, the star of the Rising.
This book opens with Xander being assigned to a medic position in one of the outer cities, Cassia to be a trader with the Archivists in the central city, someone who finds things, goods from the old times, and trades them for other things. For example, since the Society had decided long ago to only keep 100 paintings in their collection available to the public, and 100 songs, and no poetry as I recall, anything written (the people of the society don’t know how to hand write anything – they can read, but not write, and all data terminals are monitored, so poems, like the Dylan Thomas and Tennyson fragments she has, are particularly prized. She has a collection of poems her grandfather hid for her, that he gave her secretly at the time of his mandatory final banquet, before he would be terminated and stored as a bit of DNA, to supposedly be revived at a later date.
But a plague is coming – supposedly from the Rising, in an attempt to show the members of the Society that there government can’t cope with large scale events, and to allow the Rising to come in and give them the Cure. Ky is a pilot, along with Indie, and they fly missions for the Pilot. After the plague starts spreading fast, they fly in shipments into the walled compounds that the Society has erected to keep the pubic from knowing just how many are sick from the “Still,” an illness that puts people into a coma, and from which they will not awake without a cure of some kind.
And it follows Xander’s trip to the Stone Villages – far outposts of people who were rejected by the Society for being Aberrations or Anomalies, and who have carved out a life in the harsh wilderness. They have a natural immunity, and have agreed to help the Rising with the Cure when the Plague mutates, in exchange for transport to the Outerlands, a mysterious place that is supposed to be a land of milk and honey, but from which no one has ever returned.
All in all, a good book to end the trilogy, as it ties a lot of loose ends, explains many missing areas, and helps the reader understand the importance of the Rising, and of Tennyson’s poem, and its relationship to what the citizens must go through in their life journeys. My one complaint is that we never find out what is in the Outerlands – are they that great, or does no one return, not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. And I think that it ties off Xander in a fast and too convenient way. Not enough time is spent developing his ultimate relationship. But still, the trilogy was worth the read.