Is this a first/early novel? Because it kind of feels like it. Ripping good yarn, with all sorts of interestingish world building and action sequences...moreIs this a first/early novel? Because it kind of feels like it. Ripping good yarn, with all sorts of interestingish world building and action sequences; atrocious dialogue. Characters exposit more than they speak, and nobody has a distinct voice.
Also, I'm afraid that this books suffers a little from that George Lucasian phenomenon of not realizing that hamfisted Good Versus Evil/"I want to control everything because I deserve it; I'm a pretty, pretty princess!" versus "We are all one with the world and everyone is equal and and peace; kumbayah!" storylines done without the slightest hint of irony just makes people laugh, not feel inspired. Also - overexplaining your characters' mystical experiences automatically makes those experiences ridiculous rather than moving.
Still, once you move past the clunky dialogue, ludicrous villains, and dodgy metaphysics, there's actually a really good book in here. You've got a pretty nifty mystical society tracing back through history, etc etc; you've got a lot of ass kicking; you've got a lot of ass kicking by a girl; you've got a far more racially diverse cast than most scifi novels these days (even if it does feel a little bit like a Matrix rip-off) (also - even if the "central" conflict is the manpain of two white dudes), and you've got enough interesting backstory in secondary characters (that I'm actually more interested in than the primary characters) that I will totally seek out the sequels.
All in all, a solid middle of the road effort. (less)
Lordy, I like the way this guy plays with ideas, the way he pokes at reality, the cleverness of their exploration. Lordy, I do not like the way he wri...moreLordy, I like the way this guy plays with ideas, the way he pokes at reality, the cleverness of their exploration. Lordy, I do not like the way he writes about women, on the few occasions he does. It's v. old skool SF in how ladies are only important in how they affect and relate to men. Women are not granted an interior life; I mean, even in the story that explicitly grants the male protagonist access to the previously-impenetrable thoughts of the female love object, she is only thinking about him. The entire narrative of this woman, this story, is that the male POV character had no idea what was going on inside her, and when granted that access, turns out what's inside her is pretty much him. Which is way more innuendo-y than I intended, but still.
I'm torn as to whether to read his v. popular book, as I think his ideas would be fascinating and cleverly executed, but I'm not particularly keen to read yet another interesting book in which the only interesting people are dudes. (less)
**spoiler alert** Hm. Let's see. It's by the guy who wrote Remains of the Day, so it has a bit of a "modern literature, good-for-you, subtly subtle in...more**spoiler alert** Hm. Let's see. It's by the guy who wrote Remains of the Day, so it has a bit of a "modern literature, good-for-you, subtly subtle investigation of people and their motivations, with people going into rooms and going, 'Oh! I, oh, well, oh. I didn't know you were in here.' 'Yes, Sebastian, what is it? I am moving books slightly to the left.' 'Oh. Well. I guess I'd better leave.' 'Yes, I guess you'd better had.'" sort of thing going on, which I find interesting when well-done (which I find very rare). So much of it is just ordinary description of people going about their days, but the subtle subtleness is nice, in that it really *does* convey more going on than merely moving books slightly to the left.
Plus, much of it revolves around a boarding school. What can I say - I have a weakness. There is absolutely no way boarding schools are half as interesting as I was convinced they were at age eight, but it's v. hard for me to let go of that inner eight-year-old fascination. In some ways, this book reminded me of so many of the British Boarding School Novels I read at age eight, except nobody turns into a cat or a long-lost wizard or a hidden princess or anything. It's just, you know. People. Kids. Being cruel and kind as kids can be.
The narrator falls victim to the same fault of so many of these sorts of books, in that she's far less noticeable than some of the other characters, but for once I really do believe that she is a decent person, more decent than some of the other characters. She does things and has little kindnesses that some of the other characters don't that make her a better person than some of them, not by default (hey, at least she's not as cruel as some of the other kids!), but because of some of her own actions. But again - subtle subtleness that is both subtle yet subtle. Or something.
More detailed plot and character spoilers follow.
Like, big spoilers. Seriously. If you want to preserve the conceit of this book, at least a little bit at first (I found it fairly easy to figure out what was going on but found the unfolding of The Secret to be interesting and well-handled), skip this.
So, yeah. The kids in the boarding school? The grown-up kids resolving all their weird relationship issues? Clones. Created for organ harvesting. And their entire lives are shaped around their future "donations," after which they "complete." It's like The Island, only with far fewer explosions, and ultimately nobody escapes.
Maybe that's depressing, but I kind of like the story where the Big Secret - which is never really a secret to the characters, just is referenced obliquely to the reader, because there's nothing Secret or Weird about it to the characters - is revealed and is pretty much horrible and nothing changes. The characters are interesting and valuable because of who they are, not because they are, like, the Liberators Of The Clones or because they beat the system.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's depressing, but I like it nonetheless.
I imagine reading this was like what reading 1984 or Brave New World is/was like when no one really knew what they were about. When their plots weren't already revealed before anyone had ever seen the inside cover of the book. The point is the people, not the science fiction plot idea behind them. (Okay, there is a talky section at the very end, where one of the characters dons Captain Exposition pants and gives backstory beyond what the narrator could know, but it was intriguing and I am willing to forgive its mild hokiness.)
I like that the teachers were revolted by the "students," the clones, because I can imagine that happening. I can imagine people working for the betterment of the students because of the ideal they represent, even as they are horrified by their actuality. I like the way the narrator and her fellow students are clearly established as human beings in the eyes of the readers before the notes of dissonance and oddness are fully established as being Other (and not just a really weird boarding school practice).
I like how art and creativity are deemed "necessary" to prove that the students have souls. I like how creepy that is. I like how creepy the doubt of humanity is, how the students are treated halfway like people, halfway like, well, I don't know what. Less than human. Locked into the endless cycle of caring and donation and completion. I like how depressing it is that the one school to actually educate the students is shut down for lack of support. (Although I would have loved to see that fleshed out more.) I like how even the people educating the students see it as educating them purely for the sake of education, not because they fully see them as human or to give them a chance at a better life (as which education is always trumped). I like how the Hailsham students are a product both of thinking that their education is for something more and good and of thinking about how their lives are already laid out and how questioning their ultimate donation and completion is not even in their frame of reference at this point, only requesting a "delay." I like how the word die is only used once, maybe twice, in the whole book.
Even as all that's going on, I was intrigued by how, hm, typical some of the characters and their interactions are. The best friend is charming yet cruel, and I for the life of me couldn't figure out why people were her friend. Yet isn't that the way it can be in school? The narrator was a little more introspective, a little more caring, a little more something than most of the people around her, but ultimately she wasn't particularly memorable. The boy is friends with the narrator but dates the cruel friend, even as he's in love with the narrator. And what makes it compelling in a way it wouldn't otherwise be is how it plays out over the backdrop of the fact that they're clones and being raised solely to donate their organs and ultimately their entire bodies. It just kicks everything into high relief and makes something that would be interesting but not particularly intriguing into complex and deeply intriguing. At least to me.(less)
**spoiler alert** Okay, yeah, I still love this one. I have to not think about science or villain!logic or much of anything at all, but I love this bo...more**spoiler alert** Okay, yeah, I still love this one. I have to not think about science or villain!logic or much of anything at all, but I love this book. I'm still not sure how Pernese society got from here to what we see in Lessa's time (other than twenty-five hundred years of increasingly feudal society, but damn), but a lot of the, hm, cultural(?) issues I have upon adult rereadings of the Pern books (women are only good for breeding except in rare cases and even if they're kind of useful we hate it when they get uppity I'm looking at you Mirrim! Bloodlines are everything and certain people/dragons are of higher rank by birthright and natural order! I think we're all white!) are much less prevalent in this book or are even explicitly negated (I did love how everyone in the crazy early utopia years is explicitly from varied originating cultures).
Avril Bitra is still the dumbest villain I've run across in a long time (seriously - why would she come to Pern in the first place?!), and I do not understand why the bad guys were given names of Holds that exist in Lessa's day. Does anyone want to remember Nabhi or Bart or Avril? No!
I'm still not sure I understand Tarvi and Sallah, and Sallah's death still seems horrible and egregious and a step beyond even for Avril. I still don't care about most of the other politicking that goes on.
Who am I kidding? I'm here for the Sean and Sorka Show, and I would read about them until the herdbeasts come home. Still adore them. Lots. (less)
Dude, even McCaffrey got bored with her own new (deeply boring) characters halfway through the book, chucked the whole Holdless plotlines for huge swa...moreDude, even McCaffrey got bored with her own new (deeply boring) characters halfway through the book, chucked the whole Holdless plotlines for huge swathes, and went back to focusing on Piemur and Toric and the politics of the Southern continent. It irks my sense of order that huge chunks of the through-narrative from the original (in my mind) six books/two trilogies has to be continued here before being picked up as the A story once again in All the Weyrs of Pern again. It seems a poorly put-together book, but I nevertheless relished the bits about Piemur growing up and continuing his story from Dragondrums. I also like the gaps filled in a bit in and around The White Dragon. Those two reasons are worth it to me to slog around the Jayge-Aramina-Thella bits to fill in details for the overarching storyline.
Oh, also? The cover shown here does not match my book, even though I selected via ISBN number. ::grumps::(less)
Rollicking space opera. A page-turner but not an omg-I-must-forego-bathing-since-I-can't-take-a-book-in-the-shower, although I hear the series gets li...moreRollicking space opera. A page-turner but not an omg-I-must-forego-bathing-since-I-can't-take-a-book-in-the-shower, although I hear the series gets like that. Have also heard that these first few books later read like the first few Peter Wimseys do upon reread after reading everything. Oh, Miles and Peter.(less)
I love when genre authors incorporate other genres into their universe without taking away from the original genre (here, murder mystery into science...moreI love when genre authors incorporate other genres into their universe without taking away from the original genre (here, murder mystery into science fiction). Nice, fast read.(less)
**spoiler alert** More rollicking space opera! By the end, I was a little weary of Miles ever getting captured and finding his way out, but patience i...more**spoiler alert** More rollicking space opera! By the end, I was a little weary of Miles ever getting captured and finding his way out, but patience is its own reward, I suppose. (less)