Vertical, seriously. Please translate the original novel. ( ；；) The manga is good, but still. Can't wait until the next volume! Vertical, seriously. Please translate the original novel. ( ；∀；) The manga is good, but still. Can't wait until the next volume! ♥...more
"Three" is just what I've been waiting for in the realm of the dystopian urban fantasy subgenre of adult literature. It has everything I'v4.5/5 stars.
"Three" is just what I've been waiting for in the realm of the dystopian urban fantasy subgenre of adult literature. It has everything I've been craving - biopunk, biohacking, cyberpunk, a bleak post-apocalyptic/dystopian setting, journeys, and more. More than that, it has some of the most awesome fight scenes that I've read within the subgenre in recent memory. If you want something fresh and new and reads like a kick to the face, "Three" is definitely a book you should check out.
Also, did I mention it has zombies? Yes. It has zombies - but like nothing I've ever read. The Weir - electric, cyber-like zombies, who have blue eyes (felt like there was a bit of a "Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones" reference there), and who hunt at night, screaming electronic shrieks to each other in order to catch their prey. This bit really caught my attention, and confirmed to me how skilled Posey is not only in his use of sensory language and imagery (more on that in a bit), but how original his ideas are within this genre. Or rather, how he makes all of the typical parts of this subgenre his own. It blew me away, combined with everything else in this book.
The worldbuilding: mostly using sensory language and imagery, along with his main cast's individual backstories, Posey builds his world very well. While we don't get a good, solid explanation as to why the world itself has ended up the way it's portrayed in this book (general society broken down, people in individual city-states trying to survive the Weir, people born with the automatic ability to access satellites through "pimming", general biohacking called "boosting", and more), we do get hints through the main cast's individual backstories. Like Three himself - his backstory is pivotal to explaining an important chunk of this book, and I won't explain how or why, but it makes it all the more unique. We don't get an explanation of the Falling from his story, either, but it still makes for awesome reading. The sensory language and imagery - there's no doubt that Posey is someone to definitely watch as a rising star with this debut. My favorite parts of the book were with the biohacked people (the man who installed lightbulbs under his skin to light his veins so if you cut him, it made it look as if he bled light was my absolute favorite), but generally, he writes gorgeously in a way that just makes you sigh. There's almost a sense of magical realism there, even though there really isn't in the book as a whole.
There are quite a few tropes that Posey reconstructs in this book to make his own: the lone assassin/protector, the little chosen boy, the journey to a place to either keep him safe or give him power, those that want to stop him. All of these tropes fit in with each other marvelously, and miraculously, the Tolkien-esque journey didn't bother me. There was a lot of walking, but - authors, take note - it was punctuated with a lot of fighting, and a lot of Weir attacks. Now THAT's how you keep things fresh. I loved how Posey was able to viscerally create these attacks out of nowhere, as well as the fight scenes, and the general wrongness that you feel when the Weir are near. Through the attacks and how they react we also find out that the Weir aren't like any kind of zombie that we've seen before - they can be brought back. They're not rotted - it seems like their own electric biology heals them enough to attack people once they "reboot" as Weir - and they don't want your brains, they just want to kill you. I won't say who or how this happens in the book, but it does, and they earn the title of First of the Awakened. I can't wait to find out more about how the Weir came about along with the fall of Society, along with the impotence of the State, and how wonders like the chosen boy came about. Natural evolution, or nurtured biohacking that eventually got passed down along the familial bloodline? We're given both as coy choices as to how this chosen boy has his abilities, but we're not given a solid answer. And usually this would drive me mad, but it just worked. I can't explain it otherwise.
Finally, the characters. Posey builds a very compelling and sympathetic main cast, even with these redesigned tropes. We find out just enough about each character to go on, and eventually through interaction with more of the minor bits of the main cast, we find out more about their individual backstories and how they relate - also known as the relationship web school of worldbuilding. Three, our MC, is sparse and spartan in how he works, moves, and lives, and we're given just as much information as those character traits allow. I rather found this fascinating, the way that the traits of each character tied into how much information/backstory we got from them, and how we had to find out through interaction with other characters, and I found I really liked it. More authors should definitely do it. Also, there's a shout out to "Inception" with the RushRuin group, though I think that RushRuin does a hell of a lot more damage than any of the "Inception" crew could ever have done. I hope we get more on them in the next book, as well.
Final verdict? If you're looking for something deliciously fresh within this subgenre, definitely check out "Three". It's out now from Angry Robot in North America, so give it a read when you get the chance! Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 so far.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
"What's Left of Me" was definitely in my top ten of my favorite debuts of 2012, and so I was really, really happy to get a copy of this ne4.5/5 stars.
"What's Left of Me" was definitely in my top ten of my favorite debuts of 2012, and so I was really, really happy to get a copy of this next installment in the series, "Once We Were". While not quite in frenetic in its pace (except for the last quarter or so), "Once We Were" is a quieter book that reflects on what has happened in book one, and what's on deck for Addie, Eva, and the rest of the hybrids on the run, as well as delves a little deeper into the differences between Addie and Eva in pretty much every way. So for those that want that non-stop action from book one may be a bit let down, but "Once We Were" is just every inch as good as its prequel - just a little emotionally deeper.
Since the technical areas were more or less just as awesome/flawless as book one (though pace did lag a bit, admittedly), I'm going to delve a little deeper into the issues brought up in the book, and maybe try a little analysis/speculation/meta. I'll try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible.
If there was one word I had to pick for this book, it would be "growth". This book is all about growth in so many areas. It's about Addie and Eva, growing both together in one body, and apart as separate entities/people. It's about growth in terms of adolescence - the last phase of innocence of childhood, the shedding of the last ignorances of the world that we wear around us as people before we become adults. It's also about the growth of the world around the Americas, and the Great Wars (Civil [speculative], WWI and WWII [explicitly mentioned]), and the growth of a people on two continents from mild fear into witless terror of the hybrids, by a government grasping on whatever it can to survive, and keep control. And finally, it's the growth of a bunch of people, brought together by pure circumstance, creating and growing their own resistance in order to survive.
The growth of Addie and Eva, and both of them as separate people is obvious. This is where I think where the book slowed down for a lot of the early readers. Addie and Eva very slowly start testing the limits of the body their share, as well as the mind - how long can they "disappear"/"submerge"/"sleep"/"dream", leaving the other soul to have sole control of the body for a certain period of time. They also start testing the limits with each other, both attracted to different boys, and both having to share a body that will be touched by a boy they don't consider theirs (there's a very sensorily vivid scene with Addie, Eva, and Jackson about halfway through, but that's all I'll mention when it comes to spoilers). How does that feel? How long can they can they keep being patient with that other soul, allowing them physical and emotional time with someone that isn't each other? Zhang uses free-form poetry to describe the "dreaming" times of the souls when they leave the other alone, and those are quite vivid, as well. I can see why it might not have worked for other readers - free-form poetry isn't for everyone, especially when experimentally stuck into a traditionally-structured novel. But for me, it worked. It made sense. It made the sense of "dreaming" and separation from that other soul, as well as how far deep down the bond to the other soul went all the more vivid and real.
There's also the sense of psychological growth - from being a child, trusting everyone who helped them get to Anchoit, to becoming an adult - an "awakening" (which made a really nice contrast to the "dreaming" the souls do when they "disappear"), and a loss of innocence. Is the resistance really the best path for Addie and Eva, both together as one person in one body, and as separate entities? Can they really truly trust who is taking care of them, keeping them out of the hands of the government? And can they keep up this path without destroying themselves, each other, and the budding (and established) relationships around them? The rebellion as a metaphor for growing up (that's how I saw it, at least - just a bit of meta on my behalf) was very finely wrought, and you weren't bludgeoned over the head with it. Even if the pace is slower here, I don't think it's an obvious part of the book on the whole as a metaphor, though there were some scenes/chapters that were very obvious about it as individual parts building the whole. You have to look beneath the surface just a bit. Pay attention to the scenes were Addie and Eva are learning how to "disappear"/"dream", and I think you'll see what I saw. At least, I hope so. Even if it was unintentional, I have to give a golf clap for Zhang for pushing the psychological envelope there. In a lot of YA, we see obvious, explicit (in terms of being mentioned and established as official events) awakenings and losses of innocence, but I think that there's a little less of this quieter examination of the fine line between childhood and adulthood, and what it takes to pitch one over the edge into adulthood.
The world also opens as we see more of Anchoit - we get some important information about the world in general, and how it's different in terms of alternate timelines/histories since the US Civil War (this was hinted), and WWI and WWII (this was explicitly touched upon). We also know how far the control of the anti-hybrid government reaches in terms of physical geography, and how the world around it has progressed, basically leaving it behind. I won't spoil anything, but comparing The Americas (as they're called) to Soviet Russia would be a pretty good comparison. Technologically behind by a few decades, trading with whatever country that will continue to side with it and supply it, and so forth. Not a ton of information, but we get a few more bones thrown our way to furnish the physical world of The Americas in our head as we read through this series.
Final verdict? While there is a LOT of exposition (Zhang almost gives George R R Martin a run for his money with the amount of exposition here), there's also a lot of good sensory input as well. "Once We Were" doesn't disappoint, at least, not for me. "Once We Were" is out now from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance. And be sure to stop by the blog on September 20, 2013 for a guest post by Zhang on the process of writing a sequel!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
Oh, "Replica". How I wanted to like you. Really, I did. You had a fabulous premise - one I couldn't resist. But what I got was a serious cas0.5 stars.
Oh, "Replica". How I wanted to like you. Really, I did. You had a fabulous premise - one I couldn't resist. But what I got was a serious case of blurb seduction and bait and switch - to the point where I just couldn't finish you. I'm not easy to offend, but I was pretty upset by this book. Why? We'll get into that in a bit. But if you want a more progressive, kinder LGBT mystery biopunk story, I suggest you look elsewhere. "Replica" just didn't deliver, and on top of things, really goes into a sensitive topic that it shouldn't have. I wish I could recommend "Replica", but I just can't.
Why this book bothered me so much (spoilers ahead): the "love interest" and MC's best friend is gay. His boyfriend Kurt is from "the Basement" aka the slums, whom he made his personal butler/valet in order to keep their relationship going as it's not okay for those in positions of power (or about to inherit positions of power) to be gay. Nope. MC is asked to be a lookout whilst love interest and his man get a little alone time, and she gets mad, mostly because even though they're bffs, she's also in love with him and also knows that he'll never be faithful once they DO get married because uh, she's not quite his cup of tea in terms of gender.
And then he's murdered. Boyfriend is suspected, and hunted down, while love interest is resurrected as a Replica - a very rare clone, supposedly so expensive to create that there's only been 4 ever made since its inception. But he doesn't have his latest backup of memories (kind of like "Dollhouse" there) so he and MC have to figure out who murdered his original. MC hopes that the Replica will be straight, but it's not to be - he still loves Kurt, even if he IS a Replica.
Murder mystery investigation ensues, and Kurt is looking guiltier and guiltier with each page.
Anyone else see a problem here? I do. I hate it when gay characters are killed off, I hate it when their lovers are suspects, and I doubly hate it in this circumstance in terms of "curing gays" in the guise of using cloning/Replicas. Because, let's be real here, that's exactly what our MC wants - for her bff to be cured so they can marry and pop out kids - out of love, and not out of duty.
And at that point, I was just 500% done. I don't get this incensed very easily, but Black managed to hit nearly all of my triggers with this one. While the murder mystery was interesting, it wasn't enough to keep me going. The worldbuilding was shoddy (we're not given a point in time in terms of how far we are in the future, or how the Corporate States really came to be instead of just a one-sentence explanation), and the character construction just wasn't up to snuff (no pun intended). The sensory imagery wasn't really there - way more telling over showing and that was pretty surprising, as it should have been a little more than it was at the ARC point of things.
Basically, it came down to this: I just couldn't keep going in good conscience, and it dismays me that this is being put out in the YA world - especially when we're making such good progress in terms of gender identity and sexual identity. This book is a roadblock in that progress, and it just pains me to no end. As I identify as pansexual/genderfluid, this book was painful to read, and I want the time I was reading it back.
So basically, if you want a pretty backward-thinking scifi biopunk book, "Replica" may be for you. But this is just how I feel about it - "Replica" is out July 16th 2013 from Tor Teen in North America, so check it out and see how you feel about it. I just wish it hadn't gone in the direction that it had - because if it hadn't, I probably really would have liked this book.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com) ...more
This one actually took me by surprise - even though it's very simply written, there's a much deeper element in it. Much like "Never Let Me Go" blendedThis one actually took me by surprise - even though it's very simply written, there's a much deeper element in it. Much like "Never Let Me Go" blended contemporary and alternate universe/biopunk, "The Different Girl" also mixes contemporary/near-future and biopunk as well. With a haunting ending that will stick with you long after you've finished the final page, "The Different Girl" is a nice breath of fresh air within YA and a great quick read if you need something deeper to think on.
Even though this book is really short, you get a very good feel for the world early on. Much like the rest of the technical elements of this book, Dahlquist doesn't wax poetic on things. He keeps them brief, clipped, and at a steady pace - much like Veronika, our narrator, does when she talks to us. You really get the sense that she's talking to us and not him, and I love it when authors can really make me feel their MC's voice. Concerning the main cast - while some characters are more developed than others (May, Veronika, Irene), the rest still feel real enough to work with and get the job done. Because this is Veronika and May's story, primarily, it seems only right that they get the most development. But everyone gets their own little journey arcs, so that helps really finish filling everyone out by the end of the book.
The worldbuilding - Dahlquist does what so many successful writers have done concerning worldbuilding - he shrinks to the world of that of the island, and only towards the end of the book does he start mentioning the outside world. By shrinking things to the island we get the feeling of immediacy and now, and aren't distracted by anything else, aside from when May comes along. Later in the book when tensions are arising amongst May, Robbert, and Irene, only then do we find out what time period we're in, and why we're even on the island in the first place. There are still a few questions left unanswered (why start the girls' project at all?), but otherwise, the world helps answer those questions slowly, at their own pace, and it lingers nicely.
The sensory input - while I think this was the weakest part of the book, I also can't help but wonder if it's because of the way Veronika is the way she is (I won't spoil how or why). At times, it almost felt like an almost autistic narration - noticing details, numbers, patterns, counting things, more than actual sensations and feelings. Which was actually kind of nice, considering the content of the book. Veronika's sensory input and narration change as she interacts with May and learns about the outside world. It's a progressive state, the sensory language and imagery in this book - as Veronika evolves, so does her narration, and thus so does her sensory imagery and language.
But at the heart of this book, the bioethics question of 'what does it mean to be human in a post-human world?' comes up the most. Even if you're not quite made of flesh like a human, can you still become one? Can you learn to love someone that's not quite human? May answers this near the end of the book by couching it in talking about her uncle on the subject of love:
"He told me to remember what was good. He said it would make me sad - he said it was how much you loved things that made you saddest - but that I should remember him anyway. Then he talked about that very day, as if I hadn't even been there, like a story. And in the story, I saw us. Us. I saw our lives." (ARC pg 225)
That quote really stuck with me well after I finished the book, and even now I feel that what May said was true - how much you love things is how much you can feel sad. And for me, it resonated quite a bit. It still does, even now.
Final verdict? A short read, but an important one nonetheless. I think YA definitely needs more biopunk in this vein. Ishiguro would be proud. "The Different Girl" is out from Penguin on February 21, 2013 in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com) ...more
I absolutely love contemporary stories that have a magical reality or sci-fi spin to them. I love how they've exploded within YA, especially, as of laI absolutely love contemporary stories that have a magical reality or sci-fi spin to them. I love how they've exploded within YA, especially, as of late. And "The Shadow Girl" is a good title to add to that canon. But feels like it follows an almost set formula now for the magical reality/sci-fi contemporary genre - there's a mystery, some kind of love triangle with someone of dubious motives, and something that gets that mystery out into the open. Sadly, "The Shadow Girl", while a totally solid and well-written book, falls into this trap.
What lured me in was the mystery - and Archer does that really well. Is Lily crazy? Or is Iris some kind of creature from another world, or a ghost, whispering in her ear? She also teases us with the possibility that because Iris exists, Lily might be an unreliable narrator, and if you've been reading the blog for awhile, you'll know the almost fetishistic love I have for the idea/possibility/use of the unreliable narrator trope. And for awhile, all was well - the mystery continued and the way Archer used her sensory imagery to really build that mystery and unreliable narrator trope was pretty impressive. She did the same thing with the worldbuilding, building a both inner and outer world for Lily, which is really hard to do, and really hard to keep balanced. And Archer does a great job with this.
Until the romance shows up.
It's another love triangle, guys, and it doesn't really serve much of a purpose. Yes, I can see how Archer almost made this into a symbolic choice - should she go with Ty and unravel her own past and that of Iris too, or go with childhood bff, and not dig into her own past and identity? But that symbolic choice isn't fully fleshed out - and had it been? I would've been able to forgive the use of the love triangle, because of those symbolic life-changing choices. The fact that one of said dudes also has a dubious past and secrets also felt very scripted, and at times, stilted and awkward. Neither love interest really appealed to me, and it felt like the romance was there because it had to be there as a use of tension - when really? Lily/Iris' identity mystery was plenty constant tension enough without having to use the romance aspect.
The worst part of the romance aspect? It literally takes Lily up until the end of the book to decide who she wants to be with. Seriously.
I also felt like because of the romance bit, almost an entire third of the book really dragged. I did something I rarely do - I skimmed and skipped to where we actually start finding out about the mystery surrounding both Iris and Lily. I almost NEVER do this, you guys, and when I do, I usually feel really guilty. But here? I'm not even sorry. I just wanted to know what was really going on. From that point on, things got interesting and my attention was there again (especially with the delicious promise of the biopunk aspect), and I felt like the book I'd started reading in the first place was back.
Mostly, it felt like in that middle third, Archer kind of lost her way. Another draft might have helped this book a lot before it got to the ARC stage of things. But she does good work with constructing Lily and Iris as her MCs and a decent job with her main cast as a whole, as well as the worldbuilding , which was awesome. It was how the romance worked into the plot that needed the most work.
But that's just how I feel about it. "The Shadow Girl" is out now in North America from HarperTeen, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
When I heard that there was going to be a sequel to "Masque of the Red Death", I was incredibly excited. Almost indecently so. I couldn't wait to getWhen I heard that there was going to be a sequel to "Masque of the Red Death", I was incredibly excited. Almost indecently so. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. And when I did, most of what I'd been hoping for in terms of a resolution to the duology as a whole was more or less lived up to - though there were a few sticking points that kind of prevented this book from becoming from the five star wonder that I was hoping it would be. Regardless, I think everyone who read "Masque of the Red Death" will find something to love in "Dance of the Red Death".
The great thing about this book is that we get a few new characters, but they're not major enough to shake up the insane dynamic that Griffin created in book one. Unfortunately, there is still the love triangle that goes on, but Griffin does play with it rather well and turns it into a symbolic choosing of future paths for Araby by containing them in Will and Elliott. I'm not sure most readers will see it that way as it does drag into a rather significant portion of the book, but that's the way I read into it. This book is takes off right after the events at the end of book one, and really kind of starts with a bang as we realize that April is not getting better, the city is both burning and flooding, and it's all pretty much going to hell, and the choices that Araby must make are really starting to come fast and hard, and any naivete she might have had in book one is literally being burned away. The characters the Griffin has in this duology are wonderful and unforgettable, and they really help further build the world that doesn't expand too much, but just enough to fit the events that unfold therein.
What was the best part of this book was watching Araby's personal character development/journey arc. She changes pretty dramatically, yet keeps most of the charm that made me fall in love with her, April, and the rest in book one. She really grows into herself as a person, and recognizes that she can no longer hide from reality (poverty, disease, violence, and death) by staying at the Debauchery Club (which cleverly gets turned into revolutionary headquarters, I chuckled over that) and by living in her high apartment in the Akkadian Towers. She no longer has the time to waste by throwing herself into oblivion with Elliott's silver needle, she has to put her big girl panties on and look after April, find the cure as written within her father's notebook, and also deal with how he was involved with the original weeping sickness and now the red death. Griffin tortures/kills her darlings really well in this book - even moreso than book one, and with no one better than with Araby.
There are a ton of big reveals in this book - the true identity of Malcontent, more on Prospero, the aforementioned roles Araby's father played in all of these events unfolding, and more. All of this makes for wonderful non-love triangle-fueled tension, to the point where it's on every page. Where is the cure? Is there really a cure? Is Araby's father dead? And what's going on with this "final masquerade" that Prospero is throwing? So many questions, so much tension, and it all gets answered in some way or another by the end of the book in extremely awesome ways - one of my favorites being the end of Prospero himself.
The biggest issue I had: how long the love triangle dragged into the book. While I understand why Griffin did that, I still feel like there could have been another solution. But she did make it up to us by making us see that by choosing Elliott, Araby would have been choosing a more tangible revenge, a lifetime of impulses instead of real feelings and generally, deception. By choosing Will, is she working with the enemy, one that hates her father? But at the same time, she would be choosing a lifetime of true feelings, and in general, truth in all things. Griffin did a great job by really making these two black and white (even with their shades of gray in between), and a very dichotomized choice of future paths for Araby to take.
Otherwise? The world is just as lush, the prose just as gorgeous, and the violence just as eloquent as it was in book one. If you read "Masque", you definitely can't miss "Dance". "Dance of the Red Death" is out now from HarperTeen in North America, so definitely check it out when you get the chance. It's not part of my best of 2013 list for nothing, guys.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
Oh boy. Where to start? This was a pretty big disappointment me for me, guys. In pretty much all areas. If you know me, you'll know that not only am IOh boy. Where to start? This was a pretty big disappointment me for me, guys. In pretty much all areas. If you know me, you'll know that not only am I a huge "Terminator" fan, I'm also a huge "Homeland" fan. And considering this was concocted by not only the author and the creator of "Homeland", it makes this a double disappointment. Yet, somehow, I'm not surprised this is a packaged TV deal, and I can easily see it doing well in a YA TV-aimed market. However, what I found inside was not only a bad "Terminator"-esque story, but a whole lot of other things that I feel like sci-fi, regardless if it's YA or adult, have been dead horses beaten even deader than they were before. If you're looking for something new or original with "Revolution 19", you may want to look elsewhere. The only really positive thing I can say about this book is that it might get young YA into sci-fi, which is always a good thing.
Let's start with the worldbuilding: anyone familiar with the "Terminator" franchise will know the robots turn against their creators trope of sci-fi is one that's now kind of a standard thanks to James Cameron. Unforuntately, "Revolution 19" also uses this concept, with the "terrifying" addition of cities where humans are taken to be "re-educated" and if that doesn't work, death. There are also ships that fly that are curiously like the Hunter/Killers from the "Terminator" franchise that kill humans from the sky if they get too close for comfort. So much of this is ripped from one of my favorite sci-fi works of all time that it's painful. But here's the best part: there are no terrifying, flesh-melting and oh my god they're metal inside androids. The robots trying to destroy the rest of the human race if they can't pacify them are closer to Wall-E (yes, you heard me right, that adorable little dude).
What? Yes, you heard me. Giant Wall-Es, cuddly as can be, trying to destroy the rest of humanity.
Aside from that, there's a journey aspect, very Tolkien-esque, to go get their parents back from a city that, if they don't submit to, will pretty much eat them alive. I thought by that part of the book I'd be pretty fascinated. But I wasn't.
From the jump, the writing was incredibly flat. No sense of sensory imagery and language, only a vague framing of a hidey-hole where one of the last bastions of free humanity (though we don't know how many of those are left). There wasn't even a Resistance-like area set up! Humanity is literally hanging on by its fingernails. I was actually kind of disgusted at how tame they'd become. I was actually starting to root for the robots on this one.
There was no kind of characterization or definite worldbuilding, and all of the characters felt very 1D, not even 2D. It all felt very colorless, very flat, and I got bored, fast.
So, guys, I can honestly say that there was nothing that really caught my eye here. I can't really recommend "Revolution 19", but that's just me. "Revolution 19" will be out from HarperTeen on January 8, 2013 in North America, so check it out then, and let me know what you think.
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This book is no less than stunning in nearly every way - a luscious, almost decadent read of a future city in a pyramid, with almost something for eveThis book is no less than stunning in nearly every way - a luscious, almost decadent read of a future city in a pyramid, with almost something for everyone, including magical realism, cyberpunk and sci-fi, a crazy mix of South American/Cuban-Afro and Japanese cultures. This is a tale of death and kings, of queens and machines, of youth and love, of war and peace. "The Summer Prince" is definitely one of my favorite books of 2013 so far because of its delicate yet bold storytelling, and because of Johnson's brave portrayal of a future society where who you love doesn't matter, unless it's the Summer King - doomed to die each year so that the Queendom may continue.
This is a pretty spicy read (no pun intended, considering where it takes place) for YA - I'd almost say it moves closer to mature YA than anything else, because of some of the themes it introduces. There's the idea that pansexuality is decriminalized (our MC has two moms, for crying out loud), that polyamory happens (I won't spoil any further on that point), and that a society can only flourish if a woman is in charge, and executes a man each year as her Summer King. I can safely say that this may make it to some banned book lists, but you know what? That would just put the exclamation point in terms of how awesome this book is, how bold it is. It introduces some very provocative ideas that may not even get introduced in adult lit, and my hat goes off to Johnson for being brave enough to try to write all of these things for YA, period.
Let's start with the world. The only issue I had with the worldbuilding was that I was a little bit fuzzy on how Palmares Tres was built (where everything was), and the calendar structure (normal years vs moon years vs sun years, and how the Summer King sacrifices all fit into that. The rest of the world in terms of imagery was gorgeous, and there were no real issues with that for me. The backstory was great, though it was a bit late, and felt a little infodumpy, but otherwise really good. While I could pick a serious bone when it came to the Palmares Tres-adopted idea of "kiri" (as in harakiri, Japanese ritualistic male/samurai suicide), I'm not going to, not really, because everything else is just so good in this book. I'll just say that it fits with this futuristic city, but she got the origins in terms how each gender committed ritual honor suicide a bit wrong. Harakiri/Seppuku (depending on how you read the kanji) was reserved for male samurai, and as the kanji suggests, it's self-disembowelment, not cutting one's own throat - though you did offer it to your servant overseeing your suicide so that they could decapitate you after death. Women would commit ritual honor suicide by drowning themselves after their husbands, or also engaging in harakiri, though the former was a far more "clean" way to go.
That being said, I love how Johnson went ahead and combined all of these different cultures together to make Palmares Tres, and you can see all of those elements of those different cultures throughout the book in very strong, pronounced ways. In that way, the worldbuilding was bold, and I loved it.
The characters. Unforgettable. I think even I fell in love with Enki. They're all very layered, the entire main cast - including the most minor characters. This is where Johnson shines the most - with her characters. June, Gil, and Enki are absolutely amazing, and the messy sort-of-love triangle (which was totally forgivable because it brought the whole GLBT thing into the mix, and that was awesome) and the question of 'friends or lovers?' was present the entire time, and even June herself isn't sure for most of the book, nor is Gil, nor is Enki. June is a great firey, feisty protagonist, and it was a real joy to watch her grow throughout the book.
The theme of this book is perhaps the most important of all - the transience of youth and life, represented by the role of the Summer King. He dies so the rest of the world within Palmares Tres can continue to flourish. In a world where you can now live over three hundred years with body modifications, it seems that everyone forgets that humans can actually die. Everyone but those in Palmares Tres, who the world views as barbaric and backward. I thought this was an excellent touch, especially when we see Ueda explain it all to Enki and June with the whole system of the Aunties, the Queen, and the Summer King.
What did need work aside from the aforementioned parts of the worldbuilding - transitions. Many of these transitions were pretty cloudy and ambiguous, and while I love that in a book and can see it used as a style, here it was just obvious that it needed a bit more editing. Then again, I got an early ARC of things, so I'm hoping by the time the final copy is out on shelves, all of that will have been solved.
Otherwise, final verdict? Definitely a breathtaking debut that can't be missed, you simply must give "The Summer Prince" a try. "The Summer Prince" is out now from Scholastic in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
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I've always been a fan of Rage Against the Machine. So when I heard their guitarist, Tom Morello, was putting out a comic, I was intrigued. The art onI've always been a fan of Rage Against the Machine. So when I heard their guitarist, Tom Morello, was putting out a comic, I was intrigued. The art on the cover looked gorgeous (I'm a sucker for pretty covers. There, I said it.), so I decided to dive in. And I'm glad I did. Even though there's a bit of a slow start to it, "Orchid" is a great dystopian story of the human race being forced back to its beginnings after a major global warming event nearly wipes it out. Warning: this one is DEFINITELY not for kids, so I'd advise older YA and above for an audience. All the same, it's dark and gritty and unflinching, warning us about a future that may be in our reach if we don't shape up our act now.
What I love most about "Orchid" is Morello's absolute staunchness in telling us how bad things get. Well, not exactly that - just when you think things are bad (the seas are rising, people are becoming displaced on boats to survive the flooding), he makes them worse (guess what? the boats are full of crazy cannibals!). People are divided into two classes: the ruling class, and slaves. He also emphasizes that it's probably best to trust no one in either class - because everyone's just doing what they can to survive, which includes killing, maiming, betraying, and the like.
This is not a happy story. I'll say that flat out. But it is one that will make you want to cheer for our heroine. Pretty much everything that can go wrong does for her, yet she still stands up and wants to fight for her right to simply exist. She kicks ass and takes names even after all of the horrible things that happen to her - she refuses to lie down and take it (as so many women in her part of the slave/sex trade do). It's nice to see a heroine so feisty in such a terrible world, so I really, really enjoyed watching how she evolved in the few short issues that are included in this volume.
However - since this is the introductory volume, the character building in the larger sense isn't quite where I would have liked it to be. Anyone who wasn't David or Orchid (or later, Barabas) wasn't really filled out too well, except for the occasional villain of the week. But the worldbuilding knocked my socks off in how detailed it was in the story of how things came to be, and how things are now. The art really puts a gorgeous touch on the worldbuilding, too. Since the worldbuilding really makes up for the wobbly character structure and mostly backstory chapters outside of the main cast and story, I'll give Morello a pass on this one.
So if you're not sick of dystopian stories yet, I'd definitely give this one a read. "Orchid: Volume 1" will be out in North America through Dark Horse Comics July 10, 2012. Definitely check this one out when you get the time, guys - I think Morello is going to prove to be a fantastic comic writer if we just give him the chance.
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Not a bad debut for Tintera, with some fun twists on the idea of zombies and virii and dystopian societies. For pure enjoyment factor, I a3.5/5 stars.
Not a bad debut for Tintera, with some fun twists on the idea of zombies and virii and dystopian societies. For pure enjoyment factor, I almost rated this four stars. But what got me was the romance - which felt half-hearted, and purely a crutch to get us to the final pages of the book. Honestly, I feel like "Reboot" could have been finished in one book easily, but I guess that's just me. Regardless, "Reboot" is mostly a fun look at a scary possible future that I did enjoy. For the most part.
What Tintera was best at: Worldbuilding. While the backstory on some of the finer points of the world (the KDH virus, the somewhat cloudy idea of a Human/Reboot war, etc) could have been tuned up a LOT more (and hopefully will be by the time this goes to pub), it was otherwise really well done. We do get an immediate sense of the world from page one onward, and that's always a wonderfully refreshing thing. We get this sense of utter inhumanity from the Reboots, and from the agency that manages them, HARC. We get a really good look at how Reboot society works, and how humans use them as such. What I did want was more on the slums, more on the virus as a whole (as in, are the only people left on the NA continent all just in Texas?) and how it worked. Otherwise it was very thorough, and it felt as if I were there. The sensory imagery was absolutely leaping off the page, and that's exactly what I want in a biopunk genre book.
What needed work: Character continuity/consistency. This is something I rarely talk about - usually when characters are built, they do aim to change in some way shape or form by the end of the book. That's how fiction works - it's transformative. All the same, it needs to be consistent. Wren's sudden urge to take on Callum for training, and then to escape was very, very, VERY not consistent with the character we were introduced to. While I can understand she might want out after finding what was happening to all of the under-sixties (that would be far more consistent with her character, as she's very protective of Ever, her bff, roommate, and an under-sixty), using Callum as the impetus to start everything was poorly planned, and really just didn't make sense with her character. There was a huge disconnect with the Wren that we met on page one, and the Wren on the final page. While yes, she did change by becoming more human (an important journey arc), it felt far too fast, far too forced to feel real or serious.
The entire last fourth of the book felt utterly disconnected from the previous 3/4ths. How? This wild escape to the Reboot reservation. I didn't quite feel the tension as much as I should have, and there was canoodling with Callum when they're literally supposed to be running for their lives. No. You save that for when you're safe, guys. The last fourth was pretty disappointing in that sense, and really brought down my enjoyment of the book. And we don't need a book two - I think all of it could have been put into one single standalone with maybe a novella here or there to explain some of the finer things we might have missed, like the KDH virus, or something like that. I can't stand it when there's a book that can be finished in one volume but meanders out into two or three or more volumes.
However, regardless of that last fourth, I'm probably going to be reading book two? Why? I'm really hoping my questions get answered and maybe there's some redemption in terms of all of the inconsistencies presented. On the whole, this book is extremely entertaining and I wouldn't be surprised if it got snapped up for a film/TV adaptation. Actually, I'd like that. It might help with those inconsistencies. Otherwise, this really put a spin on the zombie/zombie virus urban myth, and I really enjoyed that. Plus, biopunk! Yay for getting more books into a sorely neglected sub-genre.
Final verdict? At least there was no love triangle, thank the gods. "Reboot" was fast, furious, and fun for the most part, and I think I'll be reading book two. But that's just how I feel about it - "Reboot" is out May 7, 2013 from HarperTeen, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
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Seriously am loving this new Gothic revival going on in YA right now! 2012 busted it out with some seriously awesome books, and I can defi4.5/5 stars!
Seriously am loving this new Gothic revival going on in YA right now! 2012 busted it out with some seriously awesome books, and I can definitely say that 2013 is off to an awesome start in the Gothic/retellings genre with AE Rought's "Broken". While admittedly the blurb gives a lot of the story away, the details and the ending totally blew my mind, and while I feel like this story has resolved itself in just one book, it makes me sad to leave this world behind all the same.
For those who have read Neal Schusterman's "Unwind" trilogy, this is going to be pretty familiar for you in that there are a lot of the same elements going on - bioethics, loss, and how to deal with death. Most of this story is more Emma's story more than anything else, until the last third of the book, where it becomes both Alex's and Alex and Emma's story, together. This book asks sinister, silent questions - what would you do if you found out your loved one's parts were being used to "further science"? Would you seek out whoever had those parts? How would you mourn? Is it ethical to use those parts after death, giving them new life? And one of my favorite questions of all, which has been heavily speculated about in recent medicine - do we have a basic genetic memory, which goes deeper than simple muscle memory? As in, if our parts are donated to other people, do those people take on the traits of those whose parts they've inherited? "Broken" asks (and answers) all of these questions in a way that had me applauding by the end of the book.
I'll admit the pace at first is sluggish, maybe for a good first fourth of the book. My attention wandered, but Emma's mourning combined with the appearance of Alex Franks did keep it from wandering away from this story entirely. Rought could have sped things up a bit, but after some pretty thorough reflection, I understand why she started this story the way she did, at the pace she did. It made for a great set-up, and a wonderful lake of tension that only started to really simmer and bubble once Alex Franks made his appearance and started to regularly interact with Emma.
The characters were well-created, with one exception - Bree. I feel like she was 2D compared to the 3D of literally everyone else in this book. I can see why she wasn't as developed as she doesn't pop up that much throughout the story, especially when we start wondering about the possible connection between Daniel and Franks, but I feel like she could have been developed whenever she popped in a little bit more. Otherwise, all of the other characters felt so solidly defined, it was as if I was right there next to everyone as everything happened.
The other technical areas of this book are extremely strong, too, even with the slow pace - the world is really well-built, tightly constructed, and gives that Gothic feel to things. The arcs, while quiet and a little fuzzy in terms of how they might be executed at first, definitely surprised me with where they went in terms of how honest they were about science, experimentation, and bioethics, and that was a really, really nice surprise.
But I have to say my favorite part was the sensory imagery and language - Rought is masterful with her use of it, and while it's really totally grotesque at times, it really is if you're there with Emma and Alex during that sensory onslaught. I could taste the coffee, feel Alex's scars, taste the autumn air, and so forth. I love it when debut authors can pull off the sensory input area, and Rought definitely gets props from me for being able to do that so evenly, showing way more than telling.
I loved the ending, my only complaint is this - it wrapped up too neatly, too quickly. I think that I could have gone for another 10-20 pages to see how things would have wrapped up, because at the current length, it just felt more than a bit unbelievable. Especially after releasing all of that tension that had been building up throughout the book. Otherwise, I loved the ending, and while I'm sad to see this world go, I do feel like everything was wrapped up really well within it. I feel like I'm able to let go without any further questions.
One of the first books making my best of 2013 list, "Broken" will be out from Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot on January 8, 2013 in North America. It's an absolutely gorgeous debut, so be sure to check it out when you can!
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Okay, so, can I just say how much I love the amount of futuristic semi-apocalyptic westerns that are coming out of YA right now? However,4.5/5 stars!
Okay, so, can I just say how much I love the amount of futuristic semi-apocalyptic westerns that are coming out of YA right now? However, here's one that hasn't been done before, at least not without using space opera as an additional sub-genre - a techno-western. Yep. That's right. And you know what? I totally got sucked in. Put on your seatbelt, folks. Not only do we have a techno-western, but it's a current social commentary-based one. Love it when authors can pull that off without sounding preachy, and Howard does it here fantastically. This is one 2012 debut you don't want to miss.
Where to start? The world. The world was so well-built, and believable, yet at the same time, it's very sparsely written. It's rich and detailed but written in a very compact way, not sprawling or overly flowery, and it all just works. It's not under-furnished with information, nor is it totally over the top like it could have been. It's just there. And it works. The only area I was a bit fuzzy on was the time (we're given a benchmark - a century after the Darkness, when the last of paper/wood/etc kinda disappeared from the planet), but in terms of how far that is from now, we're not given an answer. But since this book looks to be the first in what's at least a duology, I feel like I can allow this when it usually drive me mad. The rest of the world is so complete that the sense of time just isn't a factor bothering me this time, which is always an awesome thing.
I think another reason why the time thing isn't bothering me - this book is equally plot-driven and character-driven. Which is insanely hard to do, because it's so easy to fall into the trap of a plot-driven story (far moreso, I'd say, than a character-driven story), where the characters and their transformational journeys (and the arcs that come with them) get utterly neglected all in order to advance the story. Howard surprised me with his ability to keep it balanced, with all of the main cast changing in some fashion by the end of this first book. Of course, as the protagonist, we see Banyan change the most, but all of the characters, including the antagonists (and the seemingly faceless menace that is GenTech, who actually gets a face - or more than one, but I won't spoil you guys any further) do change to some degree.
While I was excited to keep the pages flipping, I also found myself caring very deeply for these characters and this world that seemed so fragile yet like Banyan and his metal trees, very strong. All of the characters, even antagonists, are surprisingly sympathetic. We also get a lot of racial/ethnic/cultural diversity, which was so amazingly nice to see (it feels like we don't have a lot of that in YA right now aside from the contemporary, but even there, it's still a bit on the thin side). We get Zee and her mother, Banyan, the Rasta Soljahs, and so forth. It was a nice little rainbow of diversity all around, and I love how all of these cultures clashed in this slowly-dying world. We get the rich and the poor (but mostly the very poor), the evil Big Pharma/Con-Agra business, pirates and poachers and slavers, and everyone who falls in between in a huge spectrum. There is no (moral) black and white in this world, as we learn by the end of the book, though it is very tempting to throw the antagonist and the protagonists on either side of the black/white set of scales. There's a lot of murky gray, and that's where I feel like Howard gives us one of the biggest messages of the book in terms of Banyan's solo character development/journey arc - about growing up. When you grow up (or are forced to), there's a lot more gray than everyone tells you about. And making choices suddenly gets harder in that gray haze because rarely are answers that easy or quick.
But some of my favorite bits of this book all have one thing in common - Howard's fantastic use of sensory imagery and language. The Banyan-built trees, the real trees, the tattoo on Hina, the shanty towns around futuristic Vegas (called Vega all these years later) - all of that felt real. The sound of the man-eating locusts was pretty terrifying and yeah, I actually did jump a bit whenever they were in action. The waterfalls of the Soljah camps at Niagara Falls. Banyan's wagon and all the things within it. All of it made for some pretty unforgettable images. There's a lot of cyberpunk and biopunk at work in this book, so you still retain that techno-western feeling (think "Cowboy Bebop" without the bounty hunting or space ships, but with a kid and his dad doing various jobs much like Spike and the Bebop crew in order to keep their bellies full) without sacrificing too much else to these other sub-genres.
And the last: the social commentary bit of the book. Howard doesn't get preachy, but the warning is pretty dire (and considering where we are in our current culture where we actually had to call out Walmart and Monsanto on putting GMO'd fruits and veggies in their markets, we could use that warning) - under the tyrant foot of not just governments, but companies, do we have severe poverty and all the ugliness that comes with it. There is no government in this book but that of GenTech - you live and die by their will. It's pretty sinister, and it's definitely a wake up call - especially when it's revealed that GenTech hasn't just dabbled in splicing for making corn. I won't say another word on that because it'd be a huge spoiler, but for the older readers, two words: soylent green. If we were to have a future without a government and instead a tyrant company, well, I sure as hell would not want to live in it. So I guess Howard's message is more like "uh, guys, we should probably start watching these Big Pharma/Con-Agra-types when they're messing with our food supply". Or something to that effect. And we're not bludgeoned over the head with it.
Final verdict? If you're into cyberpunk, dystopia, biopunk or just plain ol' sci-fi, this is the book for you. And if you're just dipping your toes into the sub-genre pools, this is a great starter book. Just read it, okay? "Rootless" is out now through Scholastic in North America, and its place on my best of 2012 list is well-deserved. Be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
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