The Headmasters review by juliesaraporter
Age Range - 12 and up
Genre - Science Fiction
Five Star Award

LitPick Review

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Age at time of review - 46
Reviewer's Location - De Soto, MO, United States
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Maple is a member of Blue Ring, a community in what was once Canada after an unexplained global event that left those in Blue Ring among the many survivors. Those in the Blue Ring survived by coupling themselves with those called the Headmasters. Parasitic aliens fused onto the bodies of humans and controlled their thoughts and actions. Each Headmaster fused with different humans before finding another body. This becomes problematic when Maple begins to share memories and consciousness with the former host body, a woman named Zara, whom Maple had a previous connection with. Some of her memories include life before the Headmaster’s arrival along with knowledge and information that had been repressed and banned. The more that Maple learns from Zara, the more that she questions the world around her. She starts to take a stand against the oppression that she and the other Blue Ring citizens apathetically allowed.


The Headmasters is a provocative and intelligent Science Fiction novel that challenges its readers to think about oppression and domination, what it means to truly resist, and what motivates one to fight against a tyrannical system even when the citizens don't know that they are being tyrannized. The description of humans and Headmasters grafted together is deliberately painful and traumatic. The physical and psychological torture of one living being joined with and controlling the other is present. While the Headmasters are not a voice in one’s head or a force controlling the body like a robot, the invasion is always present and more insidious. Maple describes it as a continuous feeling that something is watching and monitoring them. If they act contrary to the Headmaster’s commands, they receive electric shocks.

However, there are times, such as when the Headmasters shut off during a procedure called the “slackening,” and places where the Headmaster’s hold is weakened, like the Deep (in reality what remains of a Deepak Chopra Center), so they are vulnerable. What is particularly interesting and upsetting about this parasitic life is that the human characters make little move to protest or take advantage of the Headmaster’s vulnerabilities. True, the shocks are torturous, but there is another subtle reason about why they don’t rebel. They lost the desire to do so. They willingly surrender to a life of apathy and ignorance to creatures that exploit them. The humans do very little to revolt and line up for the joining regardless of how painful and dehumanizing it is. These characters are so far gone that they are too weak and listless to fight. That this is the third generation since the Headmasters arrived and have undergone this procedure shows how brainwashed and apathetic that the human race has become.

There are vague glimpses of rebellion and they aren’t revealed until almost halfway through the book. Some tried to remove their Headmaster only to be perceived as merely insane and were quietly “released from the community” (i.e. executed by other Blue Ring residents). A close friend and potential love interest to Maple reveals that he learned to read on his own during his time in the Deep. Maple's sister, Lark shows obvious physical and psychological discomfort in her pre chosen assignment as “Birthmother” (a woman selected to sleep with multiple men and bear children for the community). Maple’s grandfather, who raised Maple and her siblings after their Birthmother's death, is from the old generation before the Headmasters arrived, one of the few remaining. He remembers the time before and those precious and now extinct memories. He is willing to share that time with those who will listen, like Maple.

Maple herself does not desire to rebel until halfway through the book. In fact her character meanders a bit, providing exposition to the reader until she takes action against her oppressors. It is only when she begins to see the world through Zara’s eyes and thoughts and recognizes how much her grandfather lost and the grief that he carries but hides, that she takes bold steps to fight the Headmasters and their human slaves. When she takes a proactive stance first within the community and then when she is in exile and encounters survivors, does Maple come into her own as a fully fleshed protagonist and heroine. What helps ignite Maple’s characterization is the awareness of a passage of time within the narrative.

Many dystopian novels seem to take place over a short time long enough to acquaint the readers with the world, the oppressive regime and its laws and standards, the protagonist as a willing participant and secret rebel, the point when the protagonist heeds the call, how they challenge the system and involve others because no one can topple a system alone, and the denouement which results in either the dictatorship defeated or continued with a dead or converted protagonist. Most of these points often occur over the course of a few months or a year or two from inciting incidents to the denouement. What makes the Headmasters different from them is approximately seven years go by from when Maple is joined to her Headmaster to the end. This gives Maple an evolution that comes with age and experience but also emphasizes how slow moving changing from small acts of rebellion to a full scale revolution can be. Sometimes revolution begins with little acts like learning to read or remembering life with families, homes, private spaces, and choices, and wanting to bring them back. Maple has to go through that long growth and development before she is able to have the confidence and strength to learn how to manually shut off her Headmaster permanently, walk away from Blue Ring, and lead the community and outsiders in a new world that will emerge and not make the mistakes of the old world that became subservient.

Content Rating:

Content rating - mature content

Explain your content rating: 

Some violence, discussion of sexual situations, one character is graphically attacked, the joining is described in comparative terms to sexual assault and torture.

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