Fuse is a post-apocalyptic world with two opposing sides: the Dome, and outside of the Dome. Does this remind you of say, District One and District 12 of The Hunger Games? It's not exactly like that… but it's from the same genre of literature.
A totalitarian government controls the lives of the people in the Dome, while outside of the Dome is complete anarchy. That's right, no one would want to live in a world like this, making it a perfect example of a dystopia—it's literally the opposite of a perfect utopia. Novels like The Hunger Games, 1984, and Brave New World are examples of dystopias, and Fuse fits right in with them.
But hey, this dystopian aspect doesn't stop us from feeling like Sherlock Holmes as we read. The whole story is a never-ending mystery; we're searching for Pressia's father, for what Bradwell calls "the truth," for a hidden airship, and for the formula that can reverse Rapid Cell Degeneration.
Without the mystery aspect of the book, there would just be carnage, hatred, and aimless searching. There's even a black box that holds the secrets of Ellery Willux, the mastermind behind the Detonations. And to figure out what he was plotting his whole life, Fuse's characters need to search databases, ancient Greek myths, drawings, and code-words.
Yep: you're going to want to pack your magnifying glass and your post-apocalyptic anti-ash goggles for this read.
Much like Pure, the first book in Baggott's trilogy, Fuse has a deceptively simple title. It might be tempting to think "Oh, yes. Fuse. People are fused to things. Got it!"
But then you'd be missing half the meaning—and all of the cleverness—of this title.
We need to take the other titles of the trilogy into account as we analyze this title. The trilogy has the names Pure, Fuse, and Burn in that order — that's not just a coincidence. Sure, we deal with Pures in Fuse, burns in Pure, and fusings in Burn. In fact, all of these names (pure, fuse, burn) can be found in every book; but there's a reason why the first book is called Pure and not Fuse, (and vice versa).
Pure's main focus is on the struggle between the Dome and outside of the Dome, and, although there's an emphasis on the individual scars and suffering of characters, we mostly get the surface of their scars. But in Fuse, we dig much deeper into the individual fusings of each character—in particular, El Capitan and Helmud's fusing is vividly illuminated.
In Fuse, we also start to delve into the relationships of characters, highlighting emotional fusings. Pressia and Bradwell start to drift apart in the beginning, but then come close together by the end. Similarly, Lyda's pregnancy with Partridge can be seen as a literal fusing.
And then, of course, there's the wordplay present in the titles Fuse and Burn. A fuse is the string you light when you're planning on detonating a bomb: Fuse contains a little foreshadowing for the next installment in the trilogy. Things are literally about to heat up.
We have a three-parter here, and they're all cliffhangers — but that's okay, because this is the second book of a trilogy. To sum the three-part ending up: Pressia makes Bradwell into a monster, Lyda ends up back in the rehabilitation center, and Partridge poisons his father.
Let's explain those in a little more detail.
El Capitan, Bradwell, and Pressia are all hanging out in Ireland, drinking Guinness and eating corned beef… oh, wait. They're in Ireland, but El Capitan and Bradwell have just been attacked by some very unruly plants. Bradwell is about to die, and Pressia sprinkles some vial juice on his birdy-wings. Those wings promptly grow huge, and Bradwell resembles some sort of man-dragon hybrid.
Lyda has finally made it back in the Dome, which is drastically different than where she's been for the majority of the book (with the mothers). She's preggo with Partridge's baby, and has entered the Dome as a sort of renegade double-agent.
Partridge decides to full commit to the whole patricide thing, and gives his father a literal kiss of death: he spits a poison capsule down his daddy's throat. It looks like he's in it to win it: he's decided to lead from inside the Dome.
But you'll have to pick up Fire if you want to learn more…
Think of the two most disparate locations you can think of… the two most radically different places you've ever been to. Now multiply those differences by a thousand, and you're close to understanding the gulf that divides the world inside and outside of the Dome.
The world(s) of Fuse is based somewhere in America —using context clues, we can infer that it's located somewhere near Maryland and Washington D.C. (After all, the main characters easily get to an airship located in the Capitol Building.)
But inside the Dome is where people called Pures live. Most children born in the Dome end up attending the academy and are genetically coded to become super-children, while the adults pretty much eat bon-bons, get massages, and sleep on feather beds.Oh, and it's run by an evil dude named Ellery Willux.
Outside the Dome encompasses the whole world, but Fuse mostly deals with the area around the Dome (although we get a quick trip to the Emerald Isle). We travel through places like the Meltlands and the Drylands, which are just as horrific as they sound.
Fuse is also set during the wintertime, which makes survival much harder for those outside the Dome: snow is everywhere, and you don't have shelter you're pretty much done for. It's a cold, dark world outside the shelter of the Dome… but being frozen and beset by Dusts still beats being spoon-fed lies by the Dome's government.
Just like Pure, Fuse reads relatively quickly. And—bonus— we're accustomed to the language that the characters use, and we already know the backstory to many of them. So when we start to get information that we learned in Pure, it's more of a oh right moment, rather than a oh wow moment. Yet, we're still giving this a "4" on the tough-o-meter, because there's much more historical and scientific mumbo-jumbo that we need to pay attention to.
But hey, that just makes the book more mysterious, and more exciting to read. We've already gotten past the whole what's a groupie and what were the Detonations malarkey, and now we have to use our noggins to connect the tiny pieces together into a larger puzzle.
No, we're not referring to sound bombs or sonic booms. We're not even referring to a trained militia of opera singers than can shatter champagne glasses by hitting all the high notes. Instead, we're talking about the aww-inspiring power of song.
When it really comes down to it, music and singing are the real weapons in Fuse. Not machine guns. Not swords. Not explosives. Just plain old melodies.
And we're not even being cheesy and referring simply to the power that music has in bringing people together. Music in Fuse is a legitimate method of warfare— for example the Zombie-Dusts outside of Crazy John-John's amusement park aren't too fond of music:
The song is so worn out, it warbles […] The Dusts know this song […] this song means something awful to them. (47.34)
Though bullets couldn't stop the Dusts, the music did. (To be fair, we find carnival music pretty unsettling as well—this is probably the only common ground we have with the Dusts.)
Of course, music also used for preservation and sentimentality. Partridge keeps his mothers music box, and not only does he play the music box every night to feel more comfortable, but he also gives it to Lyda as a gift. And lullabies, even in a dystopic hellscape, prove comforting:
A song rises up from a man's throat, a lullaby […] The baby goes quiet. Music still works, music calms people. (1.3)
Don't worry: we're not going to end this analysis with a cornball statement about music equaling togetherness or even love. Nope: we're standing by our statement that music is still very much a weapon. By uniting people, music shows that there is something worth fighting for. It renews their strength, and strengthens their resolve. These lullabies and music box jingles may not be "Eye of The Tiger," but they are pumping up the "wretches" to fight the good fight.
We know that "red" means "stop." Around Valentine's Day, we're reminded that red's the color of passion. The stripes of red in the American flag symbolize valour and hardiness.
But in Fuse, red just means one thing: a memory of a bloody mist. (Definitely the creepiest kind of mist, in our opinion.)
Pressia thinks about the lullaby her mother used to sing to her, and her mother's face appears in her mind. The bloody mist. (12.17)
Ugh! Make it go away!
If Pressia or Partridge ever see something red, the image of their mother's face exploding usually pops up. It's a trauma that can't be reversed, and the color red dominates their subconscious. Even when Partridge loses his memory, the image still remains:
A sprinkler goes off overhead, puffing out mist. Partridge thinks of blood. A misty veil of blood. The image stains his mind. (62.50)
Argh! There it is again!
When a traumatic event happens, it's almost impossible to forget—even when your memory is surgically altered. For Partridge, he doesn't remember what happened to his mother at this moment, yet he still sees that bloody mist.
Traumatic experiences often propel characters forward; they help keep a character determined, and they serve as the impetus for perseverance. For Partridge and Pressia, we're not sure if the bloody mist is a hinderance or a motivator, but we know one thing for certain. It's not going away anytime soon:
Even now her ears ring and she sees the bloody mist rising. It fills her vision. Red blooms before her eyes like the bursting flowers that shoot up in the Rubble fields. (1.21)
When they hear a bang: red. When they see a flower: red. It's everywhere: as pervasive as nebulous as plain ol' gray mist.
We'll be totally frank: we're not the biggest insect fans. Ladybugs are… tolerable. Bees are… sort of cute. But everything else in the insect realm? Meh. We would be totally happy if we never saw another beetle again. (And don't get us started on spiders.)
But in the world of Fuse, insects are more than just annoying little creepy-crawlies. In fact, insects mean two very different things, depending on whether you live inside or outside of the Dome.
Outside the dome, insects a symbol of the natural world. They're annoying, but also beautiful. When the Detonations hit, people tried to catch fireflies:
The people who touched those little flames—even if they only held one for a second, trying to bring it back for their dying kid to see—didn't last long. (50.17)
The reason people wanted to grasp these fireflies so desperately was for their beauty. When the Detonations hit, almost all beauty vanished. The world became a wasteland, and all that was natural seemed to fade away. When people saw fireflies beaming in the night, they would flock to their beauty like moths to a streetlight.
But inside the Dome, insects are treated like total vermin… even the beautiful ones. After all, the world of the Dome is the complete opposite of what's natural. The Dome is artificial, inhumane, and highly sanitized, and insects are ugly reminders of the outside world:
But insects are dealt with harshly. The grounds are laced with pesticides. (39.5)
For the people inside the Dome, insects are seen as an extension of the contamination left by the Detonations. In fact, for the Pures, an insect is like a wretch, and a wretch is like an insect. Both wretches and insects are considered pests that must be destroyed.