I really liked the middle (roughly) one-third of this book. The rest was incredibly annoying. So I'm going to review this in third parts.
First third:I really liked the middle (roughly) one-third of this book. The rest was incredibly annoying. So I'm going to review this in third parts.
First third: Briddey is just a girl who can't say no, can't set any boundaries (tip: don't give keys to people you can't trust not to break into your apartment), and can't finish a sentence. For the entire first third, that's all that's happening: people are telling her what to do, she's trying to get out of it without every saying "No" or "I don't want to," and she's running from place to place like a chicken with her head cut off and connected to a smart phone. Oh, and she's freaking out. Constantly. If you've ever thought it would be delightful to be immersed in someone else's anxieties 24/7, the first third of Crosstalk is for you.
Second third: The plot actually happens! Developments occur, and they are interesting and entertaining!
Final third: The romance kicks into high gear (cautious yay) and the plot spins out of control, developing to a point well beyond entertaining and deeply into ludicrous. And Connie Willis's traditional Annoyingly Determined Preteen Girl shows up and takes over completely. If you've ever thought it would be fun to try to read a mediocre book while a loud, obnoxious nine year old interrupts you every seven seconds, then the last third of Crosstalk is for you.
I'm not...sorry I finished this? And I do love telepathy stories, so that part was cool. (Although this really skims the surface of telepathy stories; no one has any major feelings about not having any privacy, no one discusses any of the ethical issues, none of that.) But, wow, this is a light Connie Willis book that just did not work for me. So I'm also not happy I finished it....more
Okay, so, full disclosure: this book hits so many of my most-loathed plot elements and character aspects that it was a disaster for me. It would probaOkay, so, full disclosure: this book hits so many of my most-loathed plot elements and character aspects that it was a disaster for me. It would probably work better for -- well, almost anyone else. But I can only review based on my own experience, and wow did I have a lot of problems with it.
I should have known this book was Not For Me at the outset; it starts out with some verbiage that appears to exist solely to demonstrate the authors' mastery of adjectives (note: they have this DOWN) and then cuts to a self-centered, whiny jerk losing everything. Interesting fact about me: I don't like whiny, self-centered jerks, AND YET I also do not like watching them lose everything.
But before he can lose everything (and that is totally not a spoiler, by the way; it's in the book description), first we have to learn about his world, where everyone is Perfect, so of course they're homophobic as hell. Like, I get why the authors thought "Oh hey! Let's make the bad society homophobic, to demonstrate how bad they are, and also to give us Bonus Angst!" I just -- don't like it. It makes no sense for the actual society, given their obsession with only the RIGHT people breeding, and even then doing it in a very manipulated, assisted reproduction type way, and -- I seriously wish authors would consider what message they're sending when they write a whole different world, a far-future world, and make it homophobic. Like, this is not a thing you should do because you want Bonus Angst.
Anyway. Shortly thereafter, we meet the other half of the main pairing, who is an arrogant, easily-angered jerk. Here's the thing: Jerks in Love is not a trope that works for me at all, and Jerks Just Fucking is even less interesting to me. This book gave me both of them, and lots of them. But I wanted to read about basically anyone else, which was my bad luck, because we get to know about 15 people, total, in the entire book, and that's on both sides.
And then we learn about the other society. The good society that is the foil of the Perfect (bad) society. Annnnnnd -- I liked it right up until I realized that, sure, the Perfect society has no place at all for the disabled, but neither does the good one, really. (There's a ritual you have to complete, called the Naming; if you can't pass it, you're exiled. It's not ever made entirely clear what the ceremony is about, but it is made clear that lots of disabled people would be unable to complete it.) So, again, I wish the authors had thought slightly more about the unfortunate things their worldbuilding revealed about them, rather than just plunging into it.
And then -- oh, so many other things, major and minor. The genetics stuff, which sort of holds up until it turns into Babble Consisting of Sciency Words. The fact that I could not care about the main characters as much as the book expected me to. The gratuitous animal sacrifices. The child soldiers. The way a lot of the key scenes weren't earned. I wanted to like this book, I truly did, but it just kept on being stuff I hate.
There were good things. A trans character who I thought (though I am not an expert) was well-handled! Markers of diversity! Gay main characters! Lesbians who are at least named! A plot in addition to the romance! Just -- oh man, these good things did not come close to making up for the bad stuff. For me. For you, they very well might.
(Also, formatting note: I read this on both my kindle and iPad. Do not read this on an iPad. The formatting is messed up, so none of the line breaks that indicate a shift in scene come through. This is super disconcerting, and the authors switch scenes a lot.)
Basically: reading this book was a slog, a slow trudge through an inhospitable land. If you choose to read it, I hope it's more hospitable to you. For my part, I am bummed that I paid five bucks for this, when I've read so many better science fictiony gay romances that were free....more
Apparently my reading theme for 2016 is "Disliking Books That Everyone I Know Loved." I wish it were something else. (Like, say, "Surprise Robots." ThApparently my reading theme for 2016 is "Disliking Books That Everyone I Know Loved." I wish it were something else. (Like, say, "Surprise Robots." That's what I'd've picked if I'd gotten a choice.) I wish I'd liked this book more than I did. But reading it felt like watching someone reinvent the wheel in real time: dull and frustrating, because it's so easy to see how it could be better, but you're stuck watching someone experiment with rotating squares.
Part of the problem, for me, was the characters. I just...didn't like them. It's always a bad sign when you get to the first sex scene and honestly could not care less whether the characters bang or not, and with this book, I wasn't just in the not caring place for the first sex scene; I skimmed all of them, because I didn't give a shit about whether Harry and Julius banged, broke up, or left for the Continent and started up a traveling circus. The only characters in this book that interested me were Silas and Cyprian, and I suspect they are going to have main character roles in books 2 and 3. (Which gives me hope that those books will be more interesting, although I'm worried that book 2 will just be a rehash of what we already saw play out in this book.)
And then there was the plot. You know that plot twist we're all sick of, where person A learns something that he knows will upset person B, so he doesn't tell them, and you know instantly that B is going to find out from someone else and is going to feel betrayed and they're going to have a huge fight and you've read this trope 300,000 times so I don't even need to spell out how it all goes? Yeah, that's one of the big crises in this book. That was the point where I took a break from it and went off to reread Sineala's Chosen Man. My brain needed to spend some time with characters I cared about and a plot that worked.
But probably the most fundamental problem here was that this book talked a lot about the Peterloo Massacre and then expected me to care about whether or not two specific people fucked each other and wore pretty waistcoats. I can care about sex and waistcoats! I love sex and waistcoats! But not against a backdrop of actual tragic, unjust deaths that happened to actual humans.
So, yeah, this book didn't work for me at all. I soldiered through it because I've heard great things about the second one. I'm hoping that one isn't in keeping with this year's theme at all. (Maybe it will have surprise robots!)...more
Okay, so, full warning: I am absolutely not the right audience for this book. If you love YA SFF horror, this might be great for you. But I can only rOkay, so, full warning: I am absolutely not the right audience for this book. If you love YA SFF horror, this might be great for you. But I can only review based on the actual reader that I am: one who regrets reading this.
So, okay, first -- starts out like science fiction, becomes the kind of horror involving lots of gratuitous on-screen bloodshed and a high body count and eyes being gouged out and the brutal deaths of small children. (Amusingly, it does all this while carefully censoring every swear word, which is the kind of detail that either works for you or makes the whole thing look ridiculous. I was in the latter category.) I can handle the bloodshed. The child harm, though, I was very much not at all on board with. So, warning: if you don't like reading books about people crushing the life out of little children, this is not the story for you.
Second, the documentary style of the book. I love epistolary and documentary stories. I LOVE them. The fact that this story was told that way was at least half the reason I read this. But I just don't think it worked, is the thing. I kept mentally rewriting scenes in traditional narrative format, and it was obvious that they'd work better that way. I think the authors chose the documentary style partly to keep the reader in the moment, but -- it did not have that effect, at all. It took longer to get into the story (mostly because it's front-loaded with, like, spaceship specs, which I enjoyed reading, but they are totally irrelevant to the actual story). It took longer to warm up to the characters because they have less point of view time and you hear less of their voices. Because I was less engaged, I kept tripping over minor stuff. (Like, for example, the authors' use of current slang. It's the future! Far future! Slang changes!) This felt more like reading a filmscript than reading an actual book. That's not a good thing.
Third, the big reveal (or, really, sort of a two-part reveal). It was...not that big, or much of a reveal. If you make me wade through blood-covered docking bays, I expect more for it. (This reveal might work much better for YAs, though.)
Fourth, I couldn't help but feel like this future was a little shallow and incredibly heteronormative. The authors do make some nods toward the kind of diversity that is expressed entirely in last names (no cultural differences, and they didn't describe anyone because of the documentary format), but if there was even a HINT that the future isn't 100% straight, cis, and narrow, I missed it. (And, honestly, maybe I did while I was skimming past the bloodshed.) Given that a lot of this is about romance, pairing up, spouses, etc., that got brutally noticeable after a while.
So, in conclusion: this book is not for me on any level. If it sounds like the kind of thing you like, though, it might be for you. (And a quick note on format -- I read this on my iPad and kindle both. They did a good job translating the documents and such to the kindle, but unfortunately there are whole sections where it takes 30 seconds to turn a page because of image loading time. Read in hardcopy or on a tablet is my advice.) ...more
Some years ago, I made a conscious effort to switch my home genre from hard SF to fantasy. Fantasy had more women writing in it,Oh my yes. Oh MY yes.
Some years ago, I made a conscious effort to switch my home genre from hard SF to fantasy. Fantasy had more women writing in it, and it seemed to be growing and developing as a genre, while SF stagnated. There seemed to be far fewer fantasy books where women existed only as prizes, as nonsentients, as set dressing, as motivation for the Man to do Manly Things for Manly Reasons. There were fewer (though still many, sadly) fantasy books where queer people and brown people just didn't exist. There was heart in fantasy, too, that hard SF seemed to have lost.
At first it was rough, trading spaceships for dragons. But I adjusted.
But this book. This book is everything I once hoped to find in hard SF and gave up on ever seeing there. It's smart and fun and imaginative and there's enough science to make you salivate. The characters are real people, the future comes in all colors, and queerness appears to be standard-issue. The technology and science affect society and politics. People remain people, but the world has changed.
And this book is good. It's compelling, it's twisty, it's smart. (Yes, okay, there was a point at like 60% in where I went, "Okay, that's it, that's one twist too many," but I got better.) I read it in a day. (After waiting several days to start it because it begins in my least favorite place: Right Before Everything Goes to Hell. But it's all up from there.) And I finished it wanting more. (And realized it's basically just the setup, and I'm not sure the rest of the series can follow through on the promise of this one. But I'm looking forward to finding out.)
And at the end there was a delightful bonus waiting for me. Most SF books are other genres filtered through an SF lens. Action adventure (but in space)! Court intrigue (but with clones)! Mystery (but with robots)! Literary fiction (but by Philip K. Dick)! It took me until the last 10% of this book to see what genre it's blended with, and once I did, I loved it even more. (view spoiler)[It's a romance, a romance between an AI and someone who genuinely believes she's incapable of love and has put so much distance between herself and her feelings she can't remember where she put them. (In other words, a romance between my two favorite kinds of people.) And that's something I hardly ever saw in SF in the bad old days (romance is for girls, don't you know). I love it. (hide spoiler)]
Basically, this was awesome and satisfying and made me happy in a way SF hasn't in years. Yes, please, thank you....more
I stopped reading you a while back, when it seemed like you were floundering and had no clue what to do with your series and it wDear Janet Evanovich,
I stopped reading you a while back, when it seemed like you were floundering and had no clue what to do with your series and it was really getting pretty embarrassing. But this week I've needed something that was all candy, no brain, and you were there. And - well. It seems like you've found something to do with your series. But it's obvious that you don't understand what that is.
I know! I know it can be hard to pay attention to all the subtleties, the subtext of what you're writing. I know it's easy to miss things. That's why we have friends who read our books and help us see the things we don't.
Except apparently you don't have very observant friends. So I'm going to help you out.
Here's the thing: I know you think you're writing a protracted love triangle, but in fact, you are writing a threesome. There. Doesn't that make more sense?
It's totally understandable that you got to this point. It's hard to write an extended love triangle; for one thing, after about the first three books, your readers tend to be snapping, "Oh my god, would you just CHOOSE?" at the character who is in the middle, or else, "Oh my god, GET OVER IT" at everyone (or both!). Also, in your case, you had two choices: either you could take the route that ends up with Morelli and Ranger killing each other (hint: not really appropriate for your neck of the genre) or you could take the route that ends up with Morelli and Ranger kind of buddies. Except then they start working together. To protect Stephanie. And also spending a lot of time, you know, bonding. Over their mutual craziness, to be all het up over a woman who is, frankly, a walking Bermuda Triangle with a strange addiction to pastry. (I mean, she's funny, no doubt, but more in the oh-my-god-no way.) And then they're sort of handing off Stephanie and negotiating the boundaries of their relationships with her and - do you see where this is headed?
Maybe you don't! Maybe you totally don't. So I will help out. This is another one of those decision points, and here you can go one of four routes:
1. Kill either Ranger or Morelli. (Hint: not really appropriate for your neck of the genre.)
2. Have Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger come to an arrangement, which would probably look something like: Stephanie lives with Morelli but sleeps over at Ranger's occasionally and what happens there in no way counts as cheating.
3. Have Stephanie choose Morelli, which I think is where you're trying to go, except you've written yourself into a corner on this one. Ranger is a big part of her life, and she's demonstrated many times she can't be around him and not want him, so that kind of leaves you nowhere.
4. Have Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger hop into bed with each other and see how it goes. (Hint: it will be hot. Also, you're obviously really tired of writing het sex scenes now; this will give you many new avenues to explore.)
I myself would go for option 4. You could also consider option 2, although I think there's less opportunity for a) hilarity and b) hotness there.
Note: I believe I am the only person on the face of the earth who hated this book. If you liked it, this review will annoy you. Also, be advised thatNote: I believe I am the only person on the face of the earth who hated this book. If you liked it, this review will annoy you. Also, be advised that there will be spoilers for what we might loosely term the plot in what follows.
This book suffers from three main problems:
1. A fascinating world that gets built in the first few pages and then utterly abandoned in favor of
2. An amazingly unengaging, unbelievable romance between a typical Bujold guy and
The thing is, this is actually a solid fantasy world; it had the potential to be as interesting as the one Bujold created in The Curse of Chalion, and maybe in future books it will be. But here, the world gets shunted aside so that 85% of the book can be about the Great Romance. Which is not all that great, in my opinion, or even tolerable.
Look. I love romance FF. But I'm not a good romance reader; I tend to choke on emotion, and an author has to be good to get me seriously invested in a relationship. But. But. Even if I loved romances, I think I'd choke on this one.
Our heroine, Fawn, a hideously naive and very young farmgirl, meets and falls (intensely, world-endingly, OMG GREATEST PASSION OF ALL TIME) in love with the hero during a week in which she: is jilted, leaves home and everything she has ever known, is violently abducted, is nearly raped, and is made to miscarry by a creature she'd believed was just a myth. Among, you know, other notable events. Most people would be too distracted by these events to breathe, never mind fall in love.
And our hero, Dag - intelligent, highly talented, much older and more knowledgeable and talented than Fawn, with a Tragic Past and a Great Lost Love - meets and falls in love with Fawn despite a) having steadfastly refused all romance since the Great Lost Love, b) being emotionally distant and embittered, c) having absolutely nothing in common with Fawn, and d) being old enough and smart enough to know better. For a person like Dag to fall in love - well, I could buy it, but it would have to take months or years, not days. There'd need to be some build, is my point, and not just a shortcut to heat coiling in his belly at her touch.
And Fawn - she's adorable, cheerful, industrious, sweet, resilient, essentially flawless, and utterly uninteresting. In other words: hello, Mary Sue! I think I first suspected that she was a Mary Sue when, in the first couple of pages, I was told that she has long, lovely, bouncing curls even though she has been living rough. I have curly hair. Trust me when I tell you that after a few nights of sleeping in haystacks and a few days of hard travel, it would be a giant matted mess attractive only to birds seeking a nesting spot. Only Mary Sues have hair that stays gorgeous under such circumstances. But, look, I'm not just judging her on the hair. Fawn has so many other traits (Industry despite major illness! Open-mindedness despite being raised in an utterly closed-minded culture! Cheerful acceptance of everything! Adored by all who meet her!) that make her Mary Sue that I'm saddened that Bujold, who has created fabulous characters, wrote her.
This book does display Bujold's very competent writing. And I have a vague, distant hope that a future volume of the series will explain the weird romance - maybe it's unnatural or magical in origin? But, basically, reading this, I found myself wishing Bujold would just write some terrible AU Spock/original female character and post it on fanfiction.net so she could get this out of her system.
If you can buy into the romance, you'll love this book. If you can't, you'll want to stab something while you read this, because the romance is all this book is. I can't, in good conscience, recommend this for anyone, but I will say that many people seem to love it. Just - oh my god, so very much not for me. ...more