Many of you know how much I loved last year's Tin Star, which I never seemed to stop talking about. If you don'tknow, here's a refresher. As soon as IMany of you know how much I loved last year's Tin Star, which I never seemed to stop talking about. If you don't know, here's a refresher. As soon as I found out there was going to be a sequel, my fingers started itching for it, and it planted its self pretty firmly near the top of my must-haves list. So of course, I was very eager indeed to be part of the Stone in the Sky blog tour, and share my thoughts on this highly-anticipated book with you.
[And since this is a sequel, it should go without saying that there may be spoilers for the first book. I say should because it never ceases to amaze me, the things people will cry 'spoiler!' at...]
Now, it should be said, I'm always a little hesitant going into a follow-up to a book I loved. Sophomore Slump and all that, but the truth is, it's not just hard to capture the things that made me love it in the first place; sometimes it's downright impossible. I think such is the case with a series like this, because what made me love it so thoroughly the first time around was the isolation and cold-fish-ness of Tula, which is slowly chipped away by new connections and a new life forged. You can't really recreate that in a sequel, because Tula is beyond that. So the trick for a sequel, then, is not recreating what I loved, but about giving me something new to love. Castellucci does this by sending Tula out into the Great Unknown, forcing her out of the comfortable niche she's carved for herself on the Yertina Feray, and out of the arms of my favorite alien, Tournour. She's alone again, and in peril, so it echoes her experiences of Tin Star, and allows her to prove herself once again, but it's a new venue, a new set of challenges and goals, and I appreciated that.
I like exploring more of the world(s), and that there are still hard times for Tula and the people she meets. In both Tin Star and Stone in the Sky, Castellucci has not shied away from pain and heartache, and just the stark realities of trying to cobble together a life out of barren, hardscrabble worlds. In some ways, this book goes even darker in the actual subject matter, but because of the things Tula has experienced and the people she finds herself now surrounded by (no longer alone!), there is a strong savor of hope. There's a tenacity about Tula that I absolutely love, and I also love that people she meets admire and respond to it. It's a quality that would be very helpful, if not downright necessary, in such a setting, I would think, and Tula puts it to good use. Even when she's selling herself short or downplaying her own role in things, she makes things happen, she fights for what she wants to happen, and I am a big fan of that. From the very beginning of the first chapter of Tin Star, when Tula is literally fighting for her life, straight through to the end of Stone in the Sky, she never gives up reaching and growing and making things happen -- even when the odds are practically non-existent.
And at the core of the story, Tula is still Tula. I said in my review of Tin Star that part of the reason I love the book and Tula is because "I gravitate towards prickly people and hopeless situations," and Tula gives me that, both in her being somewhat prickly and often in seemingly hopeless situations, but also because I feel like she gravitates toward prickly people and hopeless situations. She doesn't shy away from daunting challenges, and she draws people to her against all odds, and by the time Stone in the Sky comes to a close, Tula has really come into her own. She's grown, but she's still her, in all of her prickly, cold-fishy tenacity that I adored the first time around. The same disclaimers from the first book still apply, in that I don't think this is the book/series for everyone. It is slow, in a slow-burning way that I personally enjoy (so I don't really feel it's slow, but that was the complaint I saw most), and I'm sure some people still just won't connect to Tula or her world. I also felt that there were times, especially as it neared the end, that it felt a little rushed or chaotic, and I actually wished it would have slowed down and lingered over some things. But no book is the book for everybody, and for me, I'll always gladly take more Tula Bane (and Tournour!), and this series that isn't really like anything else out there right now. And I have a feeling that these characters will stick with me for some time to come, and when you fly through things and then promptly forget them, the way I do, saying something's memorable is high praise indeed....more
I've actually had this all but finished for weeks, but got distracted and realized that I hadn't finished up the last few pages or so (oops). DefiniteI've actually had this all but finished for weeks, but got distracted and realized that I hadn't finished up the last few pages or so (oops). Definitely enjoyed. Full review (and an interview with its ghostly narrator) to come. =)...more
I've been meaning to share this review with you for ages;I've talked about the book a ton in various other postsand vlogs, and have had the review nearly completed for months — it just kept slipping my mind, and for that, I'm sorry, because I think this book could use the push, and I am more than happy to push it on you. While I don't think everyone will like this, with its cold-fish narrator, Tula, and her detached, inhuman way of relating her story, I think that those who connect to it will find a very unique, compelling story with surprising depth and power and memorable characters.
I've said before that I'm a sucker for those cold-fish characters. [My chronic Resting Bitch Face may give some insight into why this is. Whatever.] I don't think it's just because they're understated that these books appeal to me, but that by their very nature, these characters speak to something in me — despite being a fairly gregarious and outspoken person in most situations, personally, I can be very reticent; I gravitate towards prickly people and hopeless situations; I like a challenge. But beyond the reasons I relate, or at least find myself drawn to, these characters, I find them necessary and psychologically true. I'm going to try really hard not to go off on some absurd philosophical tangent (once again), but the fact is, some people deal by shutting down, or shutting people out. To have those personality types represented is not only right in the sense of creating characters that those types of readers can relate to, but also makes some scenarios more believable for me, varies things up, and adds a layer to the story that I may not otherwise get (enhanced by the challenge these characters present, which is simply just pleasing to my puzzle-loving brain).
Nowhere is this better used than in Tin Star, where the main character, Tula, is literally the only human in her corner of deep space for years, with no hope of seeing another human for the rest of her life. It makes perfect sense that Tula would shut down as not only a coping mechanism, but as a means of survival. Surrounded by alien lifeforms, in a potentially hostile environment that doesn't look kindly on what it means to be human, it's fitting that she'd begin to lose some of the signifiers of 'humanity.' Ironically, it's the very human trait of mimicry, of conscious and unconscious mirroring as means of forming & cementing a place in a community (something humans do with such frequency and ease, we don't always realize we're doing it), that allows Tula to lose some of her humanity alongside the loss of human connection, and become more alien while she seeks connection elsewhere. Think about that for a minute. Her very humanity helps her become alien and lose her human-ness. I can't begin to tell you how much that aspect of the book pleases me, both as a reader and a ponderer.
Of course, while that may please and make the story infinitely more fascinating to me, that same trait is what may put some readers off the book. Tula becomes progressively more alien-like, and more detached and wooden (and that may be the only instance of me ever using wooden in a good way when describing a book), which intrigues me and makes me curious to see what — if anything — will ever break her out of it. BUT, there are many readers out there that want immediate connection and root-for-ableness, and may give up on Tula and Tin Star when they don't get it. People read to escape, and often they want a character to empathize with and — most of all — want something immediate and engaging and always, always, likable. Many readers may not want to work at finding what Tula has to offer, or may not find what she has to offer worth the effort. And while there's nothing wrong with wanting something that simply entertains and takes your mind off things, or makes your heart race and your stomach somersault, the lack of those bells and whistles is what makes this a love it or hate it book.
So it might make me a bit of an odd duck* that I liked this so much, but as has been shown in the past, I like distant, cold-fish characters. I like it even more so when it's so perfectly suited to the world and the disconnect from our own reality that it goes beyond being a gimmick or a trait, and actually adds a whole new dimension to the story. Tula's personality and situation adds a sense of loneliness and isolation, which is made even more poignant by the fact that to survive, to keep sane, Tula steadfastly denies to herself that there's even anything wrong. She pretends to be fine, she makes connections only as deeply as she must to get by, but not so much as to get hurt, if she can at all avoid it, and then she gets back to the day to day business of surviving. And in this, she has a remarkable amount in common with the aliens around her. There is a great sense of Otherness that is explored in Tin Star, both for the aliens and Tula, and the ways in which each is demonstrated to be notably Other, while still maintaining some relatable commonality, is just brilliantly and subtly done. The character dynamics worked both in a human, relatable way, and in a way that was wholly foreign and fascinating. For the love of all things bookish, not only did Castellucci make me care about these aliens, but she may have even made me bookcrush on one. Hard.
...so if I haven't scared you off by this long, rambling review, let me just end by saying this gets a very high (a surprisingly high) recommendation from me. I found myself thinking about these characters long after I'd finished the book, and feeling a little bereft that it was over and I couldn't keep exploring their isolated little world and all the differences and sameness that make their dynamics work. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if it sounds like it may be yours, please pick it up and let me know what you think.
*See what I did there? 'Cause Odd Duck is a graphic novel by Cecil Castellucci? Yeah... ;)...more