While not quite as satisfying as book one, "The Prey" is still a great middle book for this trilogy, and gives us some much-needed information and morWhile not quite as satisfying as book one, "The Prey" is still a great middle book for this trilogy, and gives us some much-needed information and more excellent worldbuilding based on what Fukuda gave us in "The Hunt". And tons of more action and tension, too. But the lack of satisfaction has me looking all the more forward to the release of "The Trap", which should be released later this year. "The Prey" isn't the most exciting sophomoric effort of 2013 so far, but it's still a very solid and important installment in "The Hunt" trilogy.
In a very Tolkienian move, most of "The Prey" is dedicated to the journey to what the dome hepers call the outside world The Land of Milk and Honey - so there's a lot of walking. Prepare yourself for it. But at the same time, it's not boring journeying - much of the time Gene, Sissy, and the rest are being chased by either the vampires or, in a surprising and rather ballsy move on Fukuda's part, by their own kind. Be it in the continuing Hunt or just on the lam, Gene and Sissy's group is almost constantly on the run, and even when they're not, the tension, the pressure and urge one feels as the reader is absolutely palpable, and Fukuda has improved even more in that technical area, building upon momentous talent that was already there in the first place.
We get a whole bumper crop of new characters in this book, too - literally, a whole village full. Much like Ann Aguirre's "Outpost", this book too is arranged around the idea of an outpost (or as it's known in this book, "The Mission"), a last bastion of humanity in the world full of the supernatural literally wanting to devour them. There are a lot of similarities between the two books, but it ends where the creepy groupthink of the men of the Mission force upon the girls of the village, and Gene, Sissy, and the rest land smack in the middle of it all. This really tests the group's loyalties to each other, and makes the reader ask themselves - if you've spent your life on literal display in front of people who will eat you, would you abandon your life on the run for a simple basic pleasures even if the people providing them are more than a bit dodgy and abusive to one of the people in your group of friends? It's something that really does make you think and put your brain in where it might go if it's in survival mode. While these new characters aren't very fleshed out, they're fleshed out enough to contribute to the worldbuilding in terms of backstory, and where things might go from here. So in the end, they served their purpose.
While I feel like this book could have been edited and certain events and big reveals could have been sped up and exposed compared to how late they were revealed as things stand as they are now, some of the backstory we get from the Mission's elders is absolutely insane and stunning. We get to see more of the world outside of the Institute and the dome - we find out where the Metropolis/Institute is geographically, and we find out how far in the future we are (hint: it's pretty far). A lot of info but not clustered into too many dumps - I'd say that Fukuda interspaced them pretty well with the creepy Mission people's behavior. When writing a second book in a trilogy, the danger of too many infodumps too close together is pretty large, but he managed to overcome it. I love that Fukuda can keep me on my toes when it comes to mystery and worldbuilding - just when you think you know the rules of this world, Fukuda will totally turn things on their head, and give you just barely enough time to digest, and then send you on the run once more.
I did want a little more out of this one - though I'm glad that the romance was downplayed as much as it could have been (a good move on Fukuda's part for sure), but glad all the same it was there. I can't even put my finger on exactly what I wanted more of (maybe a little more active chasing from the vampires? That's definitely one of them), but I just needed more than I was given. I suppose we'll get more in the next book.
Final verdict? While not as satisfying as book one for me, I'd say that "The Prey" largely escapes Middle Book Syndrome and gives another delicious bite of this crazy vampire-filled world. Also, can I just say that I love that Fukuda dedicated it to his grandmother? That's adorable. "The Prey" is out now in North America by St. Martin's Griffin, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com) ...more
This one was a very pleasant surprise, guys. Smith managed to cram three different stories into one, plus add social commentary (which was4.5/5 stars!
This one was a very pleasant surprise, guys. Smith managed to cram three different stories into one, plus add social commentary (which was a pretty ballsy thing to do, if I do say so myself) regarding the Gulf area and how the government has handle and continues to handle it during disasters - yet, she doesn't get preachy about it. Which is hard to do. If you're looking for an awesome adventure book with a disturbing facet of reality to it, look no further than "Orleans".
I don't think anyone who lives in the States will ever forget where they were during Katrina. I myself was into my second month of studying abroad in Tokyo, my first week after moving into the guesthouse and out of ICU's dorms. I remember making breakfast (or lunch?) that morning/afternoon, and putting on CNN international because I was feeling a bit homesick. What I saw made me drop a plate and start to cry. I was watching people on their rooftops, begging to be picked up by the coast guard/military/etc. I was watching Anderson Cooper nearly being blown away by the wind. I was watching the floodwaters rise and rise and I couldn't stop crying because of how horrible it was - even halfway across the globe. I couldn't do anything about it and yet I couldn't stop watching. My housemates, because of the noise, came to see what was going on. They looked at the TV, and then to me.
"What's wrong?" They asked, and I pointed to the TV. "I'm watching a city die", I said, and they still didn't quite get it. "It's a...tatsumaki," I'd been searching for the right word. "A hurricane. Katrina. And it's killing this city. And this part of the US." And then they got it. While most typhoons don't do much damage when they make landfall in Japan, they got it. A little dramatic? Maybe. But as I continued to watch the coverage and things worsen over the coming weeks and months, I still felt more than a bit numb over it. I'm a west coast girl. But when I see what I saw that day, it haunts me. And I, like many others who watched, still carry that helplessness of not really being able to help, except to call my mother and tell her to send part of my allowance to rebuilding efforts. That's all I could do.
But this author - her mother lived through Katrina. Just barely. With this ARC I also got a letter from the author, explaining why she wrote this book. Her mother had one dose of insulin left before the coast guard got her out of there. One dose left. I'm pre-diabetic, so I have to take metformin/glucophage, and I'll be on that for life. While it's not insulin, I understand the importance of how dire that one last dose is because it works the same way as insulin does - it's the difference between living and diabetic shock, and death. Her mother's story blew me away, and then the story of how Fen de la Guerre came to be was pretty inspirational. To write a story that seems so probable it actually gave me nightmares - about a government that will throw away people and cities (and does, whenever we have these disasters - just look at the people on Long Island after Sandy still living in tents!) that they can't fix, or don't want to fix, about a long-overdue pandemic, and about a place that is in a constant state of rebuilding, even after being left behind by its government...well, that takes balls. Huge ones. It's social commentary at its finest (and not preachy at all), and it's also a story of hope. About how these disasters can and do bring out the best in people, even after (and often after) it brings out the worst.
So I have immense respect for this author for even daring to bring out the social commentary hat on a subject that continues to be so very sensitive (and so very immediate and that needs fixing).
The technical aspects of this book were pretty much flawless, but I'll go into them anyway. From the first page, we have this immediate, solid, REAL feeling of the world, of Fen's very original and startlingly clear voice. She's built very sturdily, and she'll do anything to survive. It's that simple. If it means sacrificing something, or someone, she'll do it. Until Baby Girl. And then things get complicated. She has a character journey arc like one I haven't seen in recent YA speculative lit in awhile. And Daniel is a great foil to her, almost her complete opposite in every way, yet it all works. Even the most minor characters have a very real, 3D feeling to them, vibrantly so.
The world. I love it when speculative books use "historical documents", and opening the book with two of them really set the stage and created a great base for building. From there we have this destroyed gulf coast, more specifically, Orleans, with nicely timed infodumps that don't overwhelm the audience and are interspaced with lots of tension and action. What was also impressive is that Smith managed to make the world into one of the antagonists, if not THE main antagonist - full of disease and rot and a lack of civilization, it challenges Daniel and Fen wherever they go. It's incredibly difficult to make your world an antagonist, so my hat goes off to Smith there for being able to pull it off. There are other more minor antagonists (and there are lots of them), but the world itself is lush with all sorts of sensory language and imagery, and just captures your attention and doesn't let go until the very last page.
And then there's the tension/action. It just doesn't quit. The pace is fast, but it gives us enough time to linger in the places we need to linger. We're constantly getting shoved from behind with all kinds of crazy people (or things) on our heels until that last page. I love books like that, and this is one of those books. There's an immediacy you just can't ignore, and you'll definitely stay glued to those pages until the story's done. I know I did.
Finally, the social commentary. It's subtle up until Daniel enters the scene and starts his journey with Fen. And then it's all up front, not disguised much, and very blatant. Even though Orleans is still surviving (just in a different way from the Outer States), Fen and the rest of its inhabitants make no bones about how bitter they are about the divorce from the rest of the country that was pretty much against their will, and a case of total abandonment. In so many recent disasters, while things have gotten somewhat better than Katrina (at least in terms of pre-storm prep), there's still a long way to go. And Smith warns us of the result in this book with the history of Orleans vs the Outer States as a foretelling to real life of sorts. I love that she went there, and that she obviously had no bones about talking about how the government needs to get on emergency management fast - yet it's not all finger-shaking - she thanks the coast guard in her acknowledgments for saving her mom. And that, after all of the insults of Katrina, takes humility, I think. To put aside that general anger long enough to thank them for the one good thing they did. And that's what ends up mattering the most, both in this book and in real life - that one good thing that people can do that can save lives, or help them.
Final verdict? One of the best speculative fiction books all year so far, and one of my faves of 2013 so far, "Orleans" will take your breath away with its savagery and hope. "Orleans" is out now from Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
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
As expected, Kagawa doesn't disappoint with this follow-up to "The Immortal Rules". If anything, she's just gotten better - the prose smoo4.5/5 stars!
As expected, Kagawa doesn't disappoint with this follow-up to "The Immortal Rules". If anything, she's just gotten better - the prose smoother, the pace faster, yet not leaving anything behind. And it's got one of my favorite plot devices in post-apocalyptic/dystopian lit - plagues! Yes! Red Lung is back with a vengeance and time is running out for Alison and company, and the result is absolutely glorious. If you read and liked "The Immortal Rules", "The Eternity Cure" is almost better than that first book, and so much more.
Since all of the technical areas are pretty much flawless here, I'll talk more about the interesting moral issues that pop up in this book - both the paranormal sort, and the bioethical sort (which was a place I thought Kagawa only kind of went into in the prequel, "Til The World Ends").
If "Immortal Rules" was Alison dealing with scrabbling a hard life out as an Unregistered human and then becoming a vampire, "Eternity Cure" is about her really dealing with the complexities that have arisen because she's become a vampire. Kanin has taught her not to become close to humans (because they're so fragile), yet she still loves Zeke. She doesn't want to hurt them, but she has to feed. Alison has a lot of angst and reality to deal with in this book, and Red Lung rising again just makes all of those complexities even more complex.
First real complexity: family. Who makes your family? In the vampire world, it's the family your sire makes. Your "blood" family. So that other family you might have had while you were human? Nope. Gone. Which I thought was an interesting take on things - the "make your own family" message in YA is one very near and dear to my heart, and Kagawa really plays with that notion in "Eternity Cure". Having no choice but to team up with her "blood brother", Jackal, in order to find their mutual blood brother, Sarren, holding their daddy hostage. So, in this case - do you trust one murderous ex-"raider king" brother, the lesser evil, in order to have more firepower against more-evil brother? Or do you go in alone?
And does Raider King brother constitute, throughout your adventures as you semi-bond, as family? Even after he's decimated so much of your semi-boyfriend's family only months before? What makes family at all? We find out. And the results may surprise you. They did me. While I saw the one larger twist coming, the resolution to that twist was a nice surprise.
And then come the bioethics. We get to see a a hint of things of how they unfolded as the rabids were created - both from Kanin's POV, and the journal that they find on their quest to find Sarren. It's mid-Red Lung Crisis, the beginning of which we get to see in "Til the World Ends", and all of the results from the decisions made by desperate doctors, ending up in the world we have within the "Blood of Eden" world. When someone tells you to stop, that you could do further harm should you continue your experiments to save the world - do you stop? Or do you keep going? Should you stop? Should you keep going? Should you bet it all on one gut instinct? We also see the results of that as well.
Zeke is back, and it also brings up the "what is family?" question rather nicely, and everything comes full circle. We're still left with that question of what constitutes family, and how that might tie into book three. Except for that cliffhanger, of course. Which had me screaming and shaking my fist.
And now I simply MUST have that next book. With a novella, hopefully, to tide us over in-between releases. "The Eternity Cure" is definitely an awesome follow-up, and I can't wait for the next book (and hopefully novella). One of the best of 2013 so far, it was definitely worth waiting for. "The Eternity Cure" is out now from Harlequin Teen in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com) ...more
This is a book that is actually two stories in one. Literally. And while I'll get into that later in more detail, "Arclight", even while being a two-fThis is a book that is actually two stories in one. Literally. And while I'll get into that later in more detail, "Arclight", even while being a two-fer in terms of what we get in entertainment value, is a dazzling debut that really can't be missed. This is some of the best high concept YA in the survival/dystopian/apocalyptic genre I've read in awhile, and I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel. If you're looking for a legitimately scary thriller, "Arclight" is your book.
My biggest problem with this book: the fact that there is no bridge between the two halves of the book at one of the most important parts of the story, between opening and climax. "Arclight", in ARC form, anyway, misses a crucial transition and left me going "wait, what?" because of Marina's whiplash-worthy decision that literally changes the direction of the book. If there was a transition, I missed it. And usually, this would be a point where I'd DNF it and give the book to another friend or reviewer, but because of the pure quality of McQuein's prose, I was still riveted, even if I did have to reread the transition-less area of the book a few more times before I could really wrap my head around everything.
Thus, that's why I call this book a two-fer. Literally two books in one, due to one crucial missing transition.
But the rest was excellent - though I could have done without the semi-kind-of-author-couldn't-quite-decide love triangle. More on that later. First the awesome - the worldbuilding and characters. You can feel the intensely paranoid tension of this environment with each page, each chapter - which is something that is incredibly hard to do. While the characters don't seem very deep, their actions as Marina tells her story and the story of the humanity post-Fade, help deepen them. We don't get a great backstory into each, only into the most important of the main cast. And even then, it's still pretty brief (exception being Marina and how her backstory unfolds in the second half of the story), yet it's enough. We get a good sense of pretty much all of the main cast, and thus, of the world, thanks to this minimalist focus on character building in favor of building the world and its backstory more. Which I'd usually wag my finger at, but in this case, it worked and worked beautifully.
McQuein's narrowing of the world solely to that of the Arclight, the Grey, and the Dark was a brilliant move. Through our exploration along with Marina and co of the Arclight, we find out more of the backstory, which helps build the characters, which helps build the world - in a (mostly) positive feedback loop. I found it impressive, to say the least, and even in ARC form (even with the faulty transition), pretty nicely polished.
As for the backstory of how the Fade came to be, I wanted more. But since this is the first in at least a duology, it looks like, I got more or less enough to work with. What I did want was a little less of me having to do math (counting years since the Fade incidents initially happened in terms of "great-grandparents"), and a little more of a hint in those newspaper clippings found in the book. I do think McQuein was playing with us a bit in terms of asking what the true amount of time had passed between the amount of "great grandparents" and Honoria's account, which mentions no real passage of time within years but has a lot of biological flags in terms of her scars. I hope in book two we get a more solid idea of time, since the Fade aren't really rooted in a sense of time and can't tell us (or won't tell us) how much time has passed since they gained control.
Lastly the love triangle - it felt like McQuein couldn't quite make up her mind as to have one, so it was a bit...well, confusing - even to Marina herself. While I love the idea of an unreliable narrator (and Marina turns out to be a great one), the romance area really needed work, and I hope it gets that work pre-pub. Or maybe in book two. But hey, at least there was no instalove. And I think we can all rejoice in that.
Otherwise? This is an absolutely wonderful debut, and had the faulty transition thing not happened? Would be on my best of 2013 list. However - it's pretty damned close to being part of that best of 2013. This book is a lot of fun, and will make you feel a little more paranoid when you hear about the latest scientific advances in medicine. Just a bit.
"Arclight" is out from HarperTeen April 23, 2013 in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance. So much fun, and I can't wait for book two!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
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!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
WOW. This book so wasn't what I thought it was going to be - and that's not a good or a bad thing, just a "what the hell did I just read?4.5/5 stars!
WOW. This book so wasn't what I thought it was going to be - and that's not a good or a bad thing, just a "what the hell did I just read? And can I have some more?" thing. It's rare that I get books that confuse, bemuse, and dazzle me, and "In the Shadow of Blackbirds" is definitely one of those books. If you're looking for something fresh and new within the YA paranormal department that has a firm foot in reality and history, definitely check out "In the Shadow of Blackbirds".
To say that "nothing is what it seems" in this book is a total understatement. I was totally unprepared going in, and this was a good thing - especially considering that ending (which I won't be spoiling). I did NOT see that coming, and honestly, I didn't see most of what was coming in the big reveals or major plot twists department. Which made me cheer - because it feels like there's getting less and less of actual mystery to be kept in one's arcs and plots in YA as of late. There's so many twists and turns in this one, there was only one plot twist I could even vaguely see coming down the road (because it was an inevitability more than anything else), but everything else, especially the ending, really had me gasping for breath. No pun intended.
I'm also happy to see that Winters really did her research when it came to all of the major areas of the plot of this book - WWI, Spanish Flu, and the last gasp of the American Spiritualism movement, which I had no idea had lasted so late into the Edwardian age. This book is thick with realistic history overlaid with a sinister feel of fear and paranoia that was authentic to that year, that age with both the flu and the war bearing down on the US. The atmosphere to the book felt genuinely authentic, and seeing as I'm a SoCal resident myself (and have been in San Diego/around Coronado before), she got everything right. And that always makes me happy.
So with the combination of good research and knowledge of the area of which she was writing about, Winters creates a marvelous world for all of us to play in. The worldbuilding and character building are top notch, and definitely impressed me for a debut. It's all very thorough, and all of the characters (even the most minor bits of the main cast) are very sturdy and 3D. All can hold water (as it were) and are complex, all with their own motives on how to survive both the war and the pandemic (and in some cases, even to thrive, or come out on top of both). They're all deliciously layered, and just when you think you have the antagonist figured out? BAM, said the lady, it all turns around on you.
Also, I love how this is a semi-retelling of "Frankenstein". Semi-retelling. Not entirely, but it took me awhile to actually see it. I see what you did there, Winters. Very, very clever, and it'll have you asking (just like in the original "Frankenstein") - who are the real monsters? Who are the real enemies? Who can we really trust?
What I loved the most is that this is not the feel good read of the year - but it is one of the more important ones. It'll show you how far humans will sink (even as Mary Shelley says in the book) to survive. Conversely, it'll also show you hope and strength in the absolute worst of times, and is almost a Darwinian tale of survival, as the real 1918 flu was. So yeah, you might need to curl up with your blankie and favorite stuffed guy after this one, because it's not happy.
But all in all? I adored this book. Definitely one of my favorite debuts of 2013 so far, "In the Shadow of Blackbirds" is out now through Amulet/Abrams 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
Okay, so for fair disclosure: I still haven't gotten to reading the third book in the "Maze Runner" trilogy, "The Death Cure", before reading this preOkay, so for fair disclosure: I still haven't gotten to reading the third book in the "Maze Runner" trilogy, "The Death Cure", before reading this prequel.
I love this trilogy. I'm so happy it's getting a film, because it's going to be awesome (especially for book 2, when it all gets real). So when I found out that the trilogy was getting a prequel, I was really excited. And you know what? It lived up to most of my expectations - keyword here being "most". I'm not sure if some of these questions get answered in "The Death Cure", so I can't really pass judgment on questions like "How did WICKED as we know it get formed?" and so forth. All I know is that I was disappointed that that answer wasn't included within "The Kill Order". However, the rest of it? Really awesome.
What I think makes me the most happy about this prequel is that we finally get a time frame in which we see when both the events in the trilogy and this prequel take place. As Dashner himself said to me at ALA, we do get the gap between when the flares take place and the events of "Maze Runner" take place. And the prologue does a great job of doing that - giving us information on Teresa and the other participants of the Glade, with their POVs and the POVs of some of the most important WICKED scientists that we see in the trilogy. I thought that this was an excellent touch, giving us a quick dual POV chapter before plunging into how the world as we know it came to be. Between the sun flares that help destroy the earth and the events in "Maze Runner", thirteen years elapse. Later in the book, we're also given a time marker in terms of years (as in, how many years from now) - we know that it's happening after "The War of 2020". My guess is somewhere in the 2030s and beyond. As the time frame of the trilogy was really driving me nuts, I'm really happy this got at least semi-answered by Dashner in this book.
I can safely say that within the books I've read in the trilogy, Dashner doesn't really focus on character development as much as he focuses on plot. The trilogy is very plot-driven, and that isn't a bad thing - it is what it is. And I really enjoyed every moment of it. In "The Kill Order", he also focuses a lot on plot-driven material instead of character development. Usually this would frustrate me, but Dashner does plot-driven so well, I can't complain. "Kill Order" is no exception. The cascade of events after the prologue just keep getting worse - sun flares, which we thought under control should they hit the planet, completely fry people and the liquify what's left of the polar ice caps. In this environment, we see the development of the precursor to WICKED, the PFC (Post-Flares Coalition) - what's left of the ruling bodies of the world coming together to try to keep order from completely breaking down.
What I love about Dashner is that he isn't afraid to torture and kill his darlings in order to get emotional cache and returns on it. And torture the hell out of his darlings does he in "Kill Order". Just when you say to yourself, "Oh man, things can't possibly get any worse", they do. And I love that. We do get answers to questions about how the Flare (the disease) began, and how bizarrely it behaves as a virus. From a virological POV, I like how Dashner fashioned the Flare - it didn't behave as predicted and turned into something so frightening that I had nightmares for a few days afterward about it. Much like in Justin Cronin's "The Passage", we have the magical chosen girl who seems to be immune to the effects of the disease, and she becomes the focus of the last part of the book. Now, we don't know her fate (one lack of answering that got me disgruntled), but from the end of events, we do know that she wasn't enough to help develop a cure, or even a vaccine. Just enough to get an idea of how badly awry the virus went, and to what chilling lengths people will do to "keep order" in the name of saving what's left of the planet.
I could go on, but I won't. Final verdict? If you've read the trilogy, this is a DEFINITE must read. But fair warning - some of the most important questions (How/When did WICKED get founded?) will NOT get answered here. Maybe one day we'll get an answer, but it's sadly not in "The Kill Order". Regardless, I really, really enjoyed it and am sad this story is finally over. "The Kill Order" is out from Random House in North America on August 14, 2012, so be sure to check it out then! It's definitely a great read that will get your pulse racing and leave you wanting more.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
While I do think that there was a nice chunk that wasn't really quite needed (or needed to be edited out) in this follow-up to "Partials",4.5/5 stars!
While I do think that there was a nice chunk that wasn't really quite needed (or needed to be edited out) in this follow-up to "Partials", I really, really, really enjoyed "Fragments". Seriously. This is some bold biopunk YA going on right here - daring to bring issues like apartheid, slavery, bioethics, and other such matters to the table when most YA is still stuck in contemporary or PNR-only zones. The "Partials Sequence" series is definitely in the realm of the next frontier for me when it comes to thinking of the future of YA, so I can only hope that we get more authors to be just as daring. If you liked "Partials", you're definitely going to love "Fragments" if just for Wells getting bolder in his storytelling.
Okay, so biggest issue with this installment: one, the editing. I feel like a lot of the journey across the country could have been cut down a fair amount (at least 50 pages) and the book wouldn't have suffered for it. While I do understand the need to show the external journey to Chicago/Denver and the internal journey that Heron, Afa, Samm, and Kira are making within themselves, I just feel like there was too much of the external journey to deal with.
Two: Afa. I'm not sure if he's supposed to be autistic (somewhere on the spectrum, since he was high-functioning enough to run ParaGen's IT department at one point, or if he's supposed to be a regular guy with some severe PTSD issues, or if he's a savant. Or all of the above? He was a bit hard to get a read on, and while I do feel he was very important to the story, I wish we could have gotten a bit more detail on him. What hinted that he might be autistic was the thing about touch and the savantism re: IT and computers, but at the same time, he obviously was pretty damaged (but wasn't everyone?) after the Break. So I wished Wells would have made him a little bit more declared/obvious in his description of Afa, since it was starting to gnaw at me after awhile. Maybe we'll get a late reference to him in book three? I hope so.
The other technical areas in this book were more or less flawless, so I won't be examining them too much instead in favor of exploring some of the themes that Wells more heavily asserted in this installment of the "Partials Sequence".
I literally could not put this book down. There are so many issues (and two main storylines eventually converging into one) that are talked about in here, all very mature and serious - apartheid (kids, look it up on wikipedia if you don't know what it is), bioethics, slavery, self-identity and more. There's also the question of can these two species co-exist, or if one needs to die so that the other can live, which is pretty heavy stuff. To put it one way, this is not the light, fluffy feel-good book of the year. There's a lot of heavy issues which overcome the "tough stuff" genre of YA (more like blows it out of the water), but it does come around to one of the most common themes of YA books: who am I? What am I? Am I human? What makes me human? All of these are explored slowly but surely throughout the book, mostly throughout the journey to Chicago/Denver, by a lot of internal reflection on Kira's part, and through talking with everyone else on the journey along the way.
There's also the very important question for all literature that's hidden in here that works so easily within the sci-fi genre as a whole - what makes us human in a post-human age? What does it mean to be human in a post-human age? I can safely say that with the ridiculously explosive growth of the internet and devices post-year 2000, we're in a post-human age, and Wells really digs into these questions, using them as a large part of the heart of the "Partials Sequence" series as a way to really explore the idea of humanity in the face of something perfectly engineered and synthetic, and to compare the two. The answers that come up in "Fragments" specifically may really surprise you - I know I was really surprised by some of the Big Reveals in that arena of humanity versus "the other" throughout the book. And while there were some Big Reveals I saw coming thanks to some very heavy foreshadowing at the end of book one, when you gather them all together as a whole, it makes for not only very compelling reading, but a good reason for navel-gazing (a negative term, usually, but here it needs to be used) for humans right now as a whole. We're growing and evolving at such a rate digitally right now...well, I'm not sure we were ever made to go this fast in all areas of life. We text people, but not call them. Email but not write. We're forgetting the old ways of things, and "Fragments" asks us through comparing us to the Partials, talking about the Partial War and the Break itself - is this for the best? Is growing so digital and so...well, almost arrogant with our hold over nature for our greater good?
Or, instead, is Wells warning us - with our pride comes our fall, just like the RM plague (which we'll be getting some very interesting answers about in this book) and the Break itself? Is it time we get "reset" as a society, a planet, a species as a whole?
So, yeah. A lot of thinky-stuff in this book, though there is romance (and very well done - light, gentle, and almost sneaky until it hits us at the end), and other stuff. There were times where I was wondering if Wells was channeling James Kirk through Samm's views on "no-win" scenarios, and that was a nice little surprise that made my fangirl heart skip with glee. This is a compulsively readable sci-fi piece, but it's also a very philosophical bit of YA that seems almost too mature for the genre - but that's not a bad thing. We definitely need more books in this vein, and soon.
Final verdict? Definitely a must-read for 2013, I can't wait to see where Wells goes with this series next. I'm definitely dying for book 3 now, and hopefully we'll get another novella thrown in the mix soon, too. "Fragments" will drop in North American stores February 26, 2013, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more