This is a book in dire need of a really good editorial conversation. In other words, the editor needed to sit down with the author and say, "What is yThis is a book in dire need of a really good editorial conversation. In other words, the editor needed to sit down with the author and say, "What is your story about?" If that conversation ever happened, it ended without an answer.
I wanted to like this book. It's an alternative zombie book, in that it posits the decline of a world without the ability to sleep. Unfortunately, it often rambles into meaningless dreams. Often. Way, way too often. There are also a myriad of characters, none of whom have a resolved story. Those that do resolve end without purpose or meaning. There are journeys that don't go anywhere or accomplish anything, experiences that you can tell start out to mean something but end up meaningless, characters that appear, are fully fleshed, then disappear from the narrative, a love story that goes unaddressed, and to top it all off, a character with an overwhelming fixation on his penis.
OK. Life is kind of like that: issues and characters and storylines appearing and disappearing without notice. I've reluctantly learned to accommodate that in life, but stories should have form and need resolution. To Kill a Mockingbird may at first feel like it peters out, but the ending actually ties a neat bow on the issues of childhood, racism, parental adoration, etc. Black Moon just ends. Plop.
Gads, but I love how Leonard wrote this character. Raylan Givens oozes cool. He doesn't lose his temper, intelligence, or humor, no matter what. I lisGads, but I love how Leonard wrote this character. Raylan Givens oozes cool. He doesn't lose his temper, intelligence, or humor, no matter what. I listened to this book while tearing the rusty metal screen off my porch, painting, then installing new tracks and screen. I desperately needed Raylan's good example.
The plotting in this novel is pretty complex, as it encompasses several complete storylines that seem not to touch each other until about halfway through. Have faith that they will indeed become to integral to each other, and enjoy the heck out of each one. If you liked the TV series Justified, several of the situations and characters will be familiar, but you won't be disappointed.
Soooo close to really good... think steampunk Harry Potter.
My quibble would be that the main character's personality wobbles from immature to overly mSoooo close to really good... think steampunk Harry Potter.
My quibble would be that the main character's personality wobbles from immature to overly mature, which sounds right for a person who is 15 or 16, but the wobbliness inherent in Joel feels almost like split personalities. He does, says, or thinks silly, immature things, then lets out a string of mathematical theory that is rock-solid logic. I'm a high school teacher, and I see this depiction of teenagers quite often. It's not that teenagers are inherently unintelligent; they are simply uninformed. I don't mind a character who doesn't know a thing someone older would know. I do mind a character who is depicted as being ignorant about things that someone his age would know.
The almost brilliantly written character in the book, Melody, is very nearly hilarious. Many of my students have Melody's bite in their words, and one of the conversations (about whether Joel is following Melody or whether she is following him) could have been recorded in my classroom, but Melody is presented as really believing the things she says instead of saying them for their shock power. That annoys me, and is but one example of the missed opportunities. Intelligent, aware teenagers have the same kind of bantering relationships that intelligent, aware adults have, especially when they're receiving the kind of education that the school in the book supposedly provides. Melody also suffers from the patriarchal system in the book. Sigh.
Here's my wish list for the author and the editor, because there are supposed to be more books (probably two)(WHEN will the era of the trilogy die?)(Can it be SOON?): 1. Tone Joel up. He's not an a idiot or a fool. He's a teenager. He lacks information, not intelligence. Those are different. 2. Tone Melody up. She's not an idiot or a fool. She's female. Those are different. 3. Stick with the "They're better together, and don't have to have a romantic relationship to be complete people and good partners" idea. 4. Professor Fitch lacks confidence in battle. Yeah. We get it. Let him shine in other areas. 5. Stick with the math and drawing. Both of those kinds of young people get the short end of the stick. 6. LOVE the steampunk inventions. Stick with them. 7. If you're going to bring in a villain, don't be so melodramatic about it. Teens understand subtlety in plot and character. Because they're people. Like all of us. 8. Either make York a villain or let the heavy-handed hints go. 9. Not every joke needs to have a subtext that goes, "HAR HAR HAR! Wasn't that a GOOD ONE?!?!?" I would refer you back to #7.
I'll definitely read the next one in the series, as will my students who like drawing (the book is illustrated!), math (with a lot of math!), and Harry Potter.
Listen, authors and editors and publishers: girls may start reading because the story is a Twilight clone in another setting, but thSPOILERS, SWEETIE!
Listen, authors and editors and publishers: girls may start reading because the story is a Twilight clone in another setting, but they grow out of that pretty darned fast. You don't want to cater to the girls who will only read one book in this genre, then move on. You want to cater to the girls who spell it "grrl" and think that they can be their own people without a significant other, and are pretty great just the way they are. Yes, that controverts storytelling as you think you know it. Yes, you're going to have to find a different kind of author. Yes, it's going to take a year or two to sell the first couple of novels of this kind. BUT GET ON IT, because I'm old and past the curve of your marketing, and even I am sick of reading "Oh, poor me, I'm homely/dirty/poor/dumb but also weird/lonely/outcast and I have the hots for this perfect/gorgeous/six-packed guy who can solve all of my problems. Please, happenstance, prove that I'm special!" Pffffffft. I'm ALREADY special. Let me get out there and kick some gluteals!
Yeah. Any book whose heroine's problems are mostly solved by finding out that she's a mermaid is going to have to work a heck of a lot harder than Drowned does to make me like it. The only interesting part about it is that the heroine's only got one arm, and I can feel the doom of a "voila!" in the third book in the series, even from this distance. ...more
OH, holy heck. Read this. Eleven times. No. Wait. Hire someone to bring you food and to drive you to therapy afterward. Then read this eleven times.
FOH, holy heck. Read this. Eleven times. No. Wait. Hire someone to bring you food and to drive you to therapy afterward. Then read this eleven times.
First, there's the masterful diction and syntax, which take about two pages to catch the hang of, but once you're on the train, you won't get off.
Then there's the plot, which is not novel, but certainly approached in a novel way: the main character is eternal, but a ghost, who possesses others (and the term "possession" is definitely one of the central ideas of the book... what does it mean to truly own something?) and travels from one person to another by the medium of touch. Got that? Now imagine that there are un-possessed people who are fanatically horrified by this and hunt these ghosts. That's an idea, but it just sits there on the shelf, sighing. When you're Claire North, though, that idea jumps up and does all KINDS of amazing, weird, disturbing things that make you say, "Of COURSE that's the way that has to be" once you read them.
At the peak of the amazingness that is this book is the characters, who are defined by their individuality, but also by the individuality of the ghosts who inhabit them. What does it mean to be "you"? What is love? can you love someone without loving the body they're in? Can you love them NO MATTER WHAT BODY THEY'RE IN?
With the caveat that I'm in a reading moment right now which I think of as "Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse," I stole this book from the desk of aWith the caveat that I'm in a reading moment right now which I think of as "Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse," I stole this book from the desk of a fellow teacher (and read it and put it back before he noticed... like a NINJA!).
As you'll know if you read my other reviews, I am not a fan of Moby Dick. I love The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, though. It's a brilliant little gem of pre-current thinking about the environment (nature exists to serve human beings, and the 300 live sea turtles in our hold will go without food or water until we're ready to eat them... and there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT) and the duties of human beings (life is dirty and mean and short, and frequently the only things that will keep you going are SHEER BLOODYMINDEDNESS and GOOD MANNERS). And GOD SAYS SO, TOO. *foot stomp with nose in air* *dramatic arm gesture*
On the one hand, the horror of what the crew endures while shipwrecked and the atrocious acts they perpetrate to survive make you judge them, but at the same time, they are not only very much a product of their situation and time, the pathos of the situation encourages simultaneous forgiveness. I couldn't help but think two things: 1. I would be dead of seasickness in the first 24 hours, and 2. If that didn't kill me, the boredom would. Honestly, I think I would start doing mean things to my boatmates, just to keep myself sane. Most of sixty days adrift? Nope. I am not that kind of person.
It's short, brutal, and has some brief and gentle meditation on the role in our lives of "right" and "duty." There are a few vocabulary words you'll have to hurdle, and it helps if you can Google pictures of boat parts, but you should read it....more