Since we saw some of the artwork at ComicCon in July I was holding my breath for this, and it was SO WORTH IT. Gods, it's great to see everyone again!...moreSince we saw some of the artwork at ComicCon in July I was holding my breath for this, and it was SO WORTH IT. Gods, it's great to see everyone again! There isn't much plot here, but there are enough hints at the wider universe and at the very nature of the Endless that I'm back to holding my breath for #2. The art is lush, as you'd expect, and Todd Klein's lettering a constant reminder that yes, you're reading Sandman, and it's glorious.
I'm an experienced, hardened trade-waiter , but not this time. Not this time.(less)
Ooof but this was a struggle. I don't think I've ever been so quickly disappointed with a book I really, really wanted to like. And I'm not even a fan...moreOoof but this was a struggle. I don't think I've ever been so quickly disappointed with a book I really, really wanted to like. And I'm not even a fan of urban fantasy! But Bone Song is also a noir thriller, and I'm a sucker for those, plus I'd heard the world building was amazing, so I threw myself at the book with abandon...and ended up frequently throwing the book at things (wall, floor, bed, etc.). Let me count the ways...
The Awesome The world building. Seriously, I love the concept of a person's bones storing their memories after death, and the fact that they can be used to power entire cities. Necrofusion! Oh my.
Also, the creature show. Zombies and deathwolves and wraiths - the latter especially, as they allow for semi-sentient motor bikes. I WANT A SENTIENT MOTOR BIKE!
The Not-So-Awesome The plot starts out as a proper noir detective story and paces along merrily until about half-way through, when the cast's Jump To Conclusions map breaks and suddenly nothing makes any sense anymore. Or maybe it does, but while Meaney spends a lot of time over-explaining consequences and correlations in the beginning of the book, there's a marked absense of logic in the latter half. By that time I was so fatigued with the writing (see below), though, I couldn't really bring myself to turn back a few pages to see whether I'd missed anything.
The Bad Logicfail: When your own characters know they're being stupid or irrational, don't you think they're trying to tell you something?
Pacingfail: I don't know whether Meaney made a deliberate choice to slow down the plot at various places throughout the book, but if it was on purpose, it back-fired, for it was most frustrating. To give you an example: as early on as page 44, we are treated to Donal's after-work rituals. On four long, long pages, Donal comes home, changes, warms up, goes back outside for a run, comes back, eats something, reads a book and goes to bed. This wouldn't be so bad if anything interesting happened along the way, but it doesn't. IT DOESN'T.
HeroComplexFail: Towards the end, when everything is coming to a head and I've just gotten a bit of interest back in how it all ends, Donal arrives in Illurium to hunt down the evil mastermind behind the murders. But first he sends his driver away and goes to hang out on a station platform. You'd think he was there to catch a train, but no, it seems he's only there so that he can accidentally spot and save a young girl from a pimp trying to snare her. He beats him up, gives money to the girl, takes his gun, and then! Returns to the driver. BECAUSE THAT MADE SENSE.
WritingFail: The worst, the worst thing about Bone Song - and the reason the book flew so often - was the writing. It was okay in most places, but awkward in others, and downright atrocious in too many places to ignore. I don't want to bash the author - I couldn't write a book to save my life, so I have respect for anyone who can. However, the over-use of sentence fragments became so obnoxious, I'd be dishonest if I didn't at least mention it here. I think it's done for dramatic effect, and it sometimes works, for example:
But as Donal walked, he remembered something more, against his will: the deep richness of the world seen through Jamix Holandson's eyes. Through his lifeless bone.
Dramatic, right? But trust me, when this kind of structure occurs on every other page, all drama is lost and the only effect left is one of intense frustration.
Now, on other rooftops, pairs of scarlet eyes blinked, feline and knowing, at Laura sitting at the base of Darksan Tower's spire, straing into the night. The night to which she belonged.
Maybe it's just me. Maybe you won't mind at all. If you like your urban fantasy and you're ready for some pretty cool concepts in world building, go right ahead and read this. It's not a bad book. It just has issues. (less)
Disclaimer: I have ten thousand things to say about the book but it's not here where I can refer to it. Proper review to follow in a couple of months'...moreDisclaimer: I have ten thousand things to say about the book but it's not here where I can refer to it. Proper review to follow in a couple of months' time. Here's the tl;dr for Cyron. ;)
I LOVED THIS BOOK.
Seriously, I don't think I've ever found it more difficult to write a review. Listen: The readers who say that nothing much happens, especially in the first 400 pages? THEY ARE RIGHT. But do you know what else? It doesn't matter. Stick with it. Let yourself be swept away (or dragged along) and you won't regret it.
To begin with, Stephenson cheerfully engages in some of the most meticulous worldbuilding I've ever seen, starting with a 3000-year historical timeline (a bit daunting but very much helpful, in the end) and taunting us with freshly minted words that the narrator "was forced to coin" in order to explain the world. I can see where this puts some people off, but if you are at all interested in language, the whole exercise becomes fascinating. Every chapter is introduced by a dictionary definition covering not just a word's meaning, but also how its meaning has changed over three distinct eras in his world's history. This is awesome. Also, freshly coined or not, if you're an English speaker with a bit of linguistic awareness you'll note how Stephenson draws on Latin/Italian, French and Dutch/Anglo Saxon - much like English did itself. Again: THIS IS AWESOME.
Maybe you're not interested in languages. Fine, how about western philosophy? The brothers and sisters in Stephenson's 'maths' (cloisters) are engaged in science, logic, ethics, and metaphysics - basically, Anathem is a primer on Aristotle. Once more: This? Is awesome.
This is not to say they live in some kind of pre-industrial world. This is science fiction, after all. From genetic engineering to mobile phones and 'new matter', Arbre is technologically slightly more advanced than Earth in the 21st century. However, the entire first half of the book isn't really concerned with the world outside the math's walls. If you find that boring, I can't help you. If you don't, you're in for a treat.
The story unfolds slowly, giving you a chance to wrap your head around the world and the concept of the maths and the role they play in the wider scheme of things. These people are the foremost scientist in Arbre, after all. By the time the (view spoiler)[aliens (hide spoiler)] arrive, it's clear that it's the fras and surs who are called in to deal with the problem. This is where the pace picks up, but not by much. Even in times of crisis, these folks have time for a Dialogue or two.
All in all, Anathem won't be for everyone. This is not a quick read. Sometimes, you need to refer to the glossary. Sometimes, they totally lost me in their logic puzzles, and I certainly didn't get most of the mathematic principles discussed, but the point is: I didn't care. It didn't matter. I worship unrepentantly at Stephenson's altar. The man is a genius.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I nearly didn't finish this. I'm usually a sucker for the opposites-attract trope, but these two just didn't work for me. Their inner monologues make...moreI nearly didn't finish this. I'm usually a sucker for the opposites-attract trope, but these two just didn't work for me. Their inner monologues make no sense; the process of both of them realising that they like each other much more than they want to is a torture (and not of the good kind) to behold; Alex's mamacita makes me gag; Brittany's constant "I won't/can't/shan't let them send Shelley away" is sweet but it's also POINTLESS AND THEY SEND HER AWAY ANYWAY, and look, it's not even a problem because "Brit" can just go to a different college and be as close to her sister as she would have been had her sis stayed at home.
Don't get me wrong, I loved how much Brittany cares for her sister and how protective she feels of her, so when the conflict turned out not to be one, I felt cheated and frustrated and annoyed that I'd invested any emotional energy here.
The epilogue made my eyes roll. (view spoiler)[Of course they live HEA, that's all fine, but did they have to be modern-day Curies, as well? (hide spoiler)]
On the plus side, the sexual tension is great. Also, I liked many of the secondary characters, probably because I couldn't read their inner monologues.
Maybe I'm getting too old for YA romance. Or maybe Pushing the Limits was so awesome that it's ruined all other YA romance for me. Guess I'll have to stay away from the genre for a while.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)