London, Hot Key Books, 2012, 279p
What an unusual, original novel. Whereas The Weight of Water was unique in it's approach to story telling, Sally Gardner clearly has a brilliant imagination and had created a plot like no other.
Maggot Moon does not give much away until you are deep within it's pages - the cover and blurb say little about the plot, and the first few pages make it seem like a normal story of boyhood. Instead, it is about a strange dystopia in which people go missing without warning and the Motherland rules an oppressive regime.
Despite appearances, this is a very dark novel - it is like a world in which the Nazis won the Second World War. Power is held by a minority, and the weak struggle to rise up. Differences are eliminated, and conspiracy is ripe. The Motherland are attempting to launch a rocket to the moon, but the young protagonist Standish Treadwell is sure it it all lies.
The novel jumps about rather a lot, and as such, little is given away in the first few pages. Luckily, Gardner offers enough to make you want to keep on reading. In time, all is revealed. The pages are illustrated with gruesome images of rats and flies, adding to the sense of danger and decay that pervade through Standish's adventure. He is an unlikely hero, finding bravery in comradery. Against the power of the Motherland, Standish has companionship in the form of his subtly rebellious grandfather and the Lush family. Hector Lush becomes Standish's friend, his brother, and their relationship empowers Standish to be strong.
Sally Gardner has created a troubled, horrible world, but in it, she has given her reader hope and offered us faith in humanity. As in many novels about teenage characters, friendship can overcome adversity.