I got off to a rocky start with this one (frame stories like this, especially where the frame can seem very intrusive, often have a bit of an uphill bI got off to a rocky start with this one (frame stories like this, especially where the frame can seem very intrusive, often have a bit of an uphill battle to win me over), and so I didn't think I was going to like this one (and even thought I'd probably end up DNFing). But once I got over the hurdle of the first 30 or 40 pages, and really into the meat of the story, it became very engaging and interesting, and from there I flew through it pretty quickly. More thoughts in this video review (along with a few others). ...more
It's not news to anyone who's hung around my blog/vlog for any length of time that I love the work of Ben Hatke. (Also not news to anyone who read th It's not news to anyone who's hung around my blog/vlog for any length of time that I love the work of Ben Hatke. (Also not news to anyone who read that intro, so. . .) I've talked about this many, many times, and pushed his books on many, many people, both online and IRL. So of course, I'm always looking forward to whatever's coming up next, confident in the belief that whatever it is is sure to brighten my shelves. And Little Robot is no exception to that rule.
Little Robot follows in the tradition of plucky young female protagonists and their oddball companions, set by Julia's House for Lost Creatures and the Zita the Spacegirl series. Unlike Hatke's previous books, Little Robot is nearly wordless (and of the words that make it to the page, most of them are in robot, so...), though its no less full of story as a result.
If there's anything Hatke excels at, it's injecting as much personality as possible into every frame, every character, every inanimate object -- and yes, I mean that literally. More than once, this man has made me have feels about rocks, literal rocks with eyeballs, and monsters, and what may have been a giant coil of hair or wire or something, I don't even know, but it, too. And yes, robots.
Hatke is an excellent anthropomorphosizererer, skillfully drawing the reader into caring about even the smallest and most unimposing of creatures/creations, with an immediacy that is impressive. You can't help but fall for our little unnamed adventurer and her newfound robot companion, and once you've decided to care about them, well, you may as well care about the pile of broken machinery in the junkyard, too, right? And that perky little fixer robot-bug-thingy, he's quite adorable now, isn't he? Hatke draws you into their magical little world so seemlessly that it seems obvious that you'd love these things. Of course you want to join our lonely little adventurer girl, let her lead you on explorations and discoveries, and bring smiles to each others faces.
Lest you think Hatke's books are just cute, but inconsequential, they most certainly are not. The robots and their nameless human girl may draw you in with their sweetness, but there's depth there, too. There's a loneliness and sense of longing to the story that grounds it and makes it stick with you. I think at the core of all of Hatke's stories, there's a thread of "finding your people," even if those "people" aren't people. They're all about finding your place, your companion(s), your way in the world. Hatke's characters stumble upon each other by chance and it's as if a missing piece has been found; they fit together perfectly. It's charming and sweet and funny and real, and I think you can see why I end up singing his praises so often... And this time around, I was getting double-feels because it reminded me of another nearly-wordless, unlikely robot companion story, Robot Dreams, that is just one of the bestweirdestawesomest things I've ever read. So this is in excellent company.
And of course, of course, the art is gorgeous. So what's not to like?
I have to say, there came a point in this when I was feeling pretty let down. Hype has been strong with this book, and I was so excited to find out whI have to say, there came a point in this when I was feeling pretty let down. Hype has been strong with this book, and I was so excited to find out what all of that hype was about when it showed up in my mail – and then I found myself kind of feeling like I had to slog through it, and not really connecting with the world or the characters at all. I found it very, very cheesy in the beginning, and jumbled and messy – I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I think it was a number of smaller things: I didn’t fully buy the premise of “Threads” and the various witcheries, didn’t buy the names and the cultures as indeed separate languages and cultures; didn’t fully buy the relationship between the two female leads and the way the complete each other’s sandwichessentences well, fighting moves, really. Names and locations seemed picked for individual sound, not for any truth to the weight of cultural heritage, which is one of my biggest fantasy pet peeves, and the fantastical premise and overall world-building was really hanging by a thread (ba dum tss), which is the other of my big fantasy pet peeves. All in all, I was ready to call it quits on this one at about 50 pages in, and write it off as one of those weird mindfreaks that sweeps through the blogging world on occasion.
But then something happened. I don’t know that it ever became That Book that everyone has been raving about, for me, but it did take a pretty sharp turn into ‘Hey, this isn’t so bad,’ and from there into ‘Hmm, this is vaguely addicting.’ It still sometimes irritated me with its gimmicky treatment of multiple POVs (I call it the Dan Brown Style™ of writing, where each chapter/POV is cut off right at the crucial moment, like a mini-cliffhanger, which is a trick that has a very short shelflife, before it becomes very obnoxious and starts absolutely killing the tension the author has worked so hard to build); the names and gimmicks and the easiness of things still sometimes jangled against me, the jumble of the magic and the “witcheries” still got on my nerves a bit, or felt hollow and a little too far of a stretch for me to willingly suspend disbelief (completely). And yet . . . Somewhere along the line, I grew to start really enjoying it. I couldn’t help but be drawn along, eager to see how it was all going to play out in the end – and I also found myself still thinking about it, still feeling like I should be reading it, should be continuing on with the characters, for days afterwards. It had worked its way into my head, and I came around to it.
Reading it on the heels of Six of Crows probably didn’t help, as you kinda can't help but compare the two, Tidewitches and all, and feel this falls short. But once the ball really got rolling, it was pretty damn enjoyable, and there are elements there that I actually do love (and man! Let me tell you, I was so excited to see a story where the focus (at least, for a time) was on a female friendship. Of course, of course, romantic tension competes hard for top billing, but the friendship aspect remains strong, and from the bits of the world mythology we get sprinkled throughout, I think that’s a trend that’s going to continue throughout the series, and that makes me very happy. YA desperately needs a stronger focus on friendships), and so, though in the beginning I felt sure I was going to abandon this one to the DNF pile, in the end, I find myself actually pretty eager for book two. Go figure.
4.5 Started out a little shaky for me, and also a bit at the end... Bookended by shakiness, but everything in between was very good and very engaging.4.5 Started out a little shaky for me, and also a bit at the end... Bookended by shakiness, but everything in between was very good and very engaging. Can't wait for book 2....more
It's been a good long while since I've had to do one of these, but: This is a DNF review. That means I did notfinish this book, and am going to attempIt's been a good long while since I've had to do one of these, but: This is a DNF review. That means I did not finish this book, and am going to attempt to tell you why, so if these types of reviews are not your cup of tea, or you don't think someone is able to form an opinion without having seen a book through to the last page, then you'd probably be better suited looking elsewhere (and I won't blame you -- there are plenty of glowing reviews out there). But for those of you who are curious to hear my thoughts, or wonder why I couldn't see this one through, I'm going to do my best to lay that out, and I want to start by telling you a bit about me as a reader: 1) I try my best to give a book multiple chances when it's not working for me -- I don't have a super happy DNF trigger finger (though it does itch from time to time). 2) BUT that said, I know myself as a reader, and I know when I'm unlikely to enjoy a book. Life is short, and I've grown unwilling to force myself to finish something that I'm not enjoying. 3) A book doesn't have to be horrible for me to DNF it. Actually, it's more common that I'll give up because I'm indifferent; if I am truly hating a book, I might finish it out of spite, just to be able to fully explain why I loathe it so. But indifference is often the death knell... 4) When I've decided to DNF a book, and still "review" it, I try to make sure I've read enough of it to feel like I've got a handle on the things I want to say, and a clear indication that it's probably going to remain so throughout the book. In this case, I stopped at about 25% of the way through, which is a bit shy of the 100 page mark.
So, all of that said, these are the reasons that I just couldn't bring myself to keep reading:
It does feel overly reminescent of other things out there, most notably Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It's not that DOSAB was so wholly original in every element, because I'm sure there were things in it that seemed unique but had been done before. There's nothing new under the sun, and all that. But there are times that this feels like a straight knock-off: not just influenced by, but actively used as a format /slash/ jumping-off point. When I love a book the way I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, comparisons to it can go two ways: either, 'yay! hopefully that'll be really good!' OR 'it can't even compare, I already know it.' When a book is as stylistically strong as, well, any of Laini Taylor's books, it's likely that the comparison will go the second way, and not work out in its favor. If, the entire time you're reading something, you're comparing it to something else that was excellent, then it's bound to suffer in comparison. If someone does something exceedingly skillfully, and then someone else does nearly the same thing, but less so, all of the flaws are going to stand out FAR more than they would have otherwise. ***Weird Misty Food Analogy in 3...2... If you've only ever had Rice-a-Roni, it's fine. But then if one of the world's top chefs makes you a delicious plate of risotto, and then someone hands you a plate of the Rice-a-Roni you were used to, and calls it risotto, it's probably going to make you a little angry. You've had it before, and you know how much better it could be... It may seem unfair to compare it to someone else's book, and honestly, it probably is. But sometimes these things stand out, and when they're so reminiscent as to seem like they're maybe ripping off that other book, it bears mentioning. (FYI, I've seen people compare it to other books as well, and say much the same thing, so something to bear in mind, especially if you've read one of the books it's compared to, namely Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the Grisha series, and The Mortal Instruments. If you haven't read these books, the similarities will be lost on you, so you may like it much better than I.)
Probably the biggest issue: I couldn't help but find it cheesy. Everyone has different triggers and levels of tolerance for this, so the things that bothered me may not bother you. BUT I found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit more than I'd like, especially for the amount of pages I read. I found the names cheesy (the types of names I would have come up with and been very pleased indeed with myself in middle school); I found the setup and the way the conflict between these two factions was kind of talked around a good bit before it was actually addressed, and I found it cheesier when we were given info, always in very obvious setups and clumsy attempts to work the info-dumping into dialogue. (This is generally something I appreciate, but it's gotta be subtle. This ... was not.) And I found cheesiest of all the main character, Echo; her interactions with others, and really, her entire being. And I felt this was likely to get worse.
And it was this cheesiness that lead to the death knell: I was indifferent. I couldn't connect, and there came a time that I just had to admit to myself that I'd been putting off reading it for a month, and hadn't been reading anything else because I didn't want to let myself get sucked away and find excuses not to finish it, and that it was just dragging down my reading pile for the month of May, when really, did I even care what happened? I did not. I couldn't make myself care about these characters and their war, and their search for the "firebird;" I couldn't get past the jarring way that their otherworldly and high-fantasy selves didn't mesh with their uber-modern, carefree styles of interaction, and how I was never quite able to believe in any of them, at any time, enough to take a leap into the world and begin building my willing suspension of disbelief. I just couldn't.
And so that is why I had to give up. I am hoping that if I set the book to the side for a good long while, enough to clear my head of it and reconcile myself to what it actually is, versus what I was hoping it was, that I can come back to it and try again. Maybe like it more than I have this time around. Maybe even enjoy it. I'm borderline curious to see what is actually going on in this world, and I want to know what the fuss was about for my friends that have read and loved this. But for now, I know that any further reading is just going to make me resentful, and ruin any chances of me liking this down the road, so I've got to let it go. For now, at least. ...more