The Culling (Torch Keepers #1) by Steven Dos Santos

The Culling - Steven dos Santos

Lucien has done his best to survive since his parents died, for his baby brother Cole’s sake. Surviving in the dystopian world of Usofa is an achievement of itself with the brutal police, health destroying work, lack of food and disease

And recruitment. Recruitment means a few young people are chosen to be the next rank of Imposers, the elite military/police. Forced through a series of terrible trials, forced to compete with the threat of a sadistic death on their loved ones – Lucien must win if his brother is to survive. But his winning means someone else must lose – and their family must die.


Including Digory, the recruit who Lucian is growing ever closer to – as their relationship grows closer the inevitable tragedy looks all the more bleak.




The main thing that bothers me about this book is the whole concept of Recruitment and the Culling because it doesn’t make much sense to me


Making people compete in games for amusement’s sake or punishment, even holding the lives of their loved ones as hostages and forcing them to compete viciously makes sense – in a sadistic evil kind of way. It would be another Hunger Games parallel (a very very close parallel), and it would make sense. So it makes sense that Digory and Lucien would be thrown into the games – both are there to be tortured. To be forced to work with people they would then be forced to turn on, to force people to murder their loved ones, to murder each other’s loved ones – and each of those deaths to be utterly awful, terrible demises? Yes, as the terrible oppression of an evil regime, that works


However, this whole system isn’t designed to punish traitors or force compliance. It’s designed to recruit the uber elite soldier/police, the Imposers. Now, should I ever manage to rule my own Sparkyocracy, I think I will skip recruiting my elite guard from people I brutally torture. How is this even remotely a sensible idea? Why have a recruitment process for your elite (who you then train to be dangerous and, presumably, give the shiny lethal toys and the high level access) involve tormenting them in ways that would make them despise the Establishment and everything it stands for? Hey, let’s ensure we get a loyal elite guard by making them torture their own parents to death! That’s bound to work? It’s supposed to be an incentive to make them compete extra hard but that itself fails because several of the trials require teamwork. So not only are you training all these new recruits to hate the Establishment, but also training your elite guard to be utterly incapable of actually working together.


This does not seem productive



I get the explanation – they’re indoctrinating people to have no ties and not place anything ahead of the Establishment – but how does this achieve that? The idea of nothing being as important as the Establishment, even family, then using the death of family as incentive to work harder is not consistent: either family isn’t as important as the Establishment (in which case you should have been training these people to believe this for a long time and not just spring random death on them) and death threats won’t be needed to motivate, or family is more important and you use death threats because you can’t rely on people to work for the Establishment alone. Which undermines the whole point.


And back to that indoctrination – how badly does this brutal police state fail that it couldn’t, out of five candidates chosen to be elite guards (six if you include the one who committed suicide rather than be recruited) manage to produce ONE brain washed loyalist? C’mon you don’t just have a police state, but it has a huge death rate for the poor AND raises the orphans in separate facilities – how bad are you at this brutal oppressive regime that you can’t rustle up at least a couple of brainwashed sycophants who believe the nonsense being spouted at them?


Again, if this were MY Sparkyocracy I'd have a legion of brainwashed little footsoldiers singing my praises thrice hourly. Four times on weekends.


And I get it, there are cuts everywhere, but, really, merging your “punishing traitors” department with your “recruiting elite guard” department is a terrible way to save resources.


I’ve complained a lot about the concept failing because it makes the whole book feel forced and contrived. Which is a problem because the whole book kind of rests on this concept. Except for a brief moment at the beginning, the entire book is entirely based on Lucien and the other four candidates facing the trials one after another, suffering, working together, competing and having people die in really nasty ways. The whole reason for this book is flawed and it just becomes more glaring as it progresses. It’s all extremely well written, it’s dramatic, it’s emotional the way everyone faces such horrors, it’s excellently paced and exciting and in places even riveting. The action is excellent. The tragedy is excellent. I even like how the five different candidates are all pretty nifty and relatively developed in the time we have of them (which is limited because it is all very action focused)



Read More