"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