Bees are exceptional creatures. Their hive characterized by drama and high stakes, intelligence and a sophisticated organization that is a marvel to s Bees are exceptional creatures. Their hive characterized by drama and high stakes, intelligence and a sophisticated organization that is a marvel to study and behold. For all its beauty and the tantalizing production of golden, luxurious honey, the bee life comes at a high price -- an existence propped up by slavery and the hive mind. There shall be only one Queen and no original thought. Accept. Obey. Serve. It's Orwell's 1984 in the flesh, Thought police and Big Brother included. Deformity means death and is ruthlessly stamped out in a strive for purity that rivals Hitler's attempts at Eugenics in the creation of a genetically homogenous Aryan Master race.
I was excited to read this book. I needed no convincing that bees could be the stars of their own literary masterpiece in much the same way rabbits became legend in Watership Down. Growing up one of my favorite movies was The Secret of NIMH, a movie I love to this day. I bring it up now because it did what The Bees does not, and that made all the difference for me in my level of involvement and enjoyment of this novel.
NIMH (based on this classic children's book) is an animal fantasy that anthropomorphizes rats and mice to tell a harrowing adventure tale. For me as a child, and even now as an adult, the movie strikes a perfect balance between "humanizing" the animals enough so that the drama soars, yet still allowing their animal natures and the laws of the natural world around them to shine through.
While The Bees is a beautifully written book, with scenes that are quite lovely in their composition, I felt the author lacked conviction and an overall commitment to just what kind of story she was telling. At times, the bees are very humanized. At other times, they feel alien and unknowable. This back and forth and hesitation ultimately prevented me from ever truly bonding with any of the characters. I was emotionally shut out of the story even when my reader brain was fascinated by some of the details contained therein. For that reason, the story dragged in many places.
If you have a personal curiosity of bees, the detailed portrait the author offers here of hive life may indeed appeal to you. She has done her research, and there is definitely poetry contained in some of the pages of this book and in scenes that deal with the harsh realities of the natural world and the strict laws of bee existence.
This is a book you read with your brain, not your heart. ...more
No please, I insist: allow me to put myself out of my own damn misery.
#repetitive, #infodumps, #shallow world-bu Oh my aching, bloodydamn, gory balls!!
No please, I insist: allow me to put myself out of my own damn misery.
#repetitive, #infodumps, #shallow world-building, #repetitive, #show don't tell, #horrible characters, #repetitive, #stupid lingo, #boring, #made me want to hurt myself, #made me want to hurt somebody else #and this won an award? #you suck but not as much as this book, #when good ideas go very bad, #maybe i'm just bitter #am i drunk? #i wish i was drunk...more
This is the second installment of Atwood's great serial ebook experiment, and I'm definitely hooked. Choke Collar is an entertaining blend of dark hum This is the second installment of Atwood's great serial ebook experiment, and I'm definitely hooked. Choke Collar is an entertaining blend of dark humor mixed with delicious hints of dystopia dangers. I'm thoroughly enjoying the pacing and the when and the how Atwood is choosing to reveal things. I'm being pretty conservative with my star ratings so far, but that's only because I know the story is only barely getting warmed up. Don't let my three stars keep you from picking this up. Three stars in this case is not a reflection of "meh mediocrity" but rather "hmmmm...interesting. I want more please."
I love the nasty implications of "social experiments" gone horribly wrong, or hijacked for other nasty purposes. Humans do weird things when they are rigidly controlled. It is not in our nature it seems to respond well to being mere mice in a maze. Both Stan and Charmaine are great examples of this as they persist in their debauched extra-curricular activities.
(view spoiler)[Charmaine is fascinating to me as she continues to have her lurid affair with "Max" while she plays happy housewife with Stan yet still finds the time to take pride in her day job. Even though her day job is killing people by lethal injection, Charmaine finds the romance in it. She believes she has a "talent" -- and has even added her own personal touches -- the kiss on the forehead -- to a very ritualized procedure. It's amazing what can become "normal" under the right, twisted circumstances.
Stan is an ass, but I have to think much of his dysfunction and outright more unlikeable qualities are a result of Consilience than his natural character. He certainly paid for his pervy, lustful obsession with a woman who turned out to only exist in his imagination. Jocelyn is quite the bird too. A dominatrix flair with a Black Widow sting, and I found myself laughing helplessly at Stan's fate when he unwittingly falls into her spider trap and particular brand of torture.
The 'big reveal' offers a satisfying cliffhanger -- organ trafficking? Sweet. What will happen to Stan? Will Charmaine "kill him"? What will he do if he makes it outside the walls of Consilience? Does Stan even have it in him to be a hero? Is that even what Jocelyn and Phil really want or are they setting him up for something else? (hide spoiler)]
Ah Ms. Atwood. We meet again. You and I haven't been getting along so well of late. The Blind Assassin? Oryx and Crake? I tried to love them but it wa Ah Ms. Atwood. We meet again. You and I haven't been getting along so well of late. The Blind Assassin? Oryx and Crake? I tried to love them but it was not meant to be. But here we are. At last you've given me a tantalizing premise that I just can't walk away from. A dark future? Yes please. A sinister dystopian landscape dressed in idealistic utopian clothing? Tell me more!
While this first installment is short and sweet and only begins to hint at sinister shenanigans, I'm hooked already and will be sticking around for the duration. What I love about any well-constructed dystopia, is its construction. The devil is in the details. I love a slow reveal. I want a bit of foreplay. But then you had better be able to deliver on what you're promising!
I figure at this point in her writing career, I'm in good hands with Atwood and this crazy vision for the future she's concocted. I'm ready to go along for the ride anyway. I respect her tremendously as an author despite some painful misses, and The Handmaid's Tale has a permanent spot on my all-star team of favorites. Dystopias are my crystal meth, and Atwood's classic tale about reproductive rights is 'the blue stuff' -- Heisenberg grade if you kennit.
So far we have a kinky story going on that seems more lustful than outright unnerving and paranoid. But already I'm getting Stepford vibes that something is rotten in the the state of Consilience. Oh my my, Ms. Atwood, what do you have up your sleeve?...more
Short story collections and anthologies are always a mixed bag for me. Not only do I struggle with my own personal hang-ups when it comes to the short Short story collections and anthologies are always a mixed bag for me. Not only do I struggle with my own personal hang-ups when it comes to the short story format itself, you pretty much know going in to any anthology there will be hits and there will be misses. If you're lucky, a few will emerge as outstanding pieces of awesomeness, and I'm thankful to report I experienced that here.
Two things attracted me to this collection: 1) Ellen Datlow (editor extraordinaire) and 2) you had me at dystopia. I'm addicted to tales of dark and dangerous futures comprised of post-apocalyptic landscapes, where human survival is not a given, and the long and suffocating reach of a rigidly controlled society is profoundly felt.
I admit that these days we've gotten pretty footloose and fancy-free when it comes to our definition of dystopia. I'm not a purist by any means, but there are elements I expect to see (or not as it were) if I'm going to consider a story full-on dystopian. Much of it has to do with how well the society and its rules are conceived. Dystopia (just like the devil) is in the details. But we are talking about a spectrum. And there are an infinite number of spaces on that spectrum where a story can fall. The joy comes with the discovery of just how much variety and interpretation can be applied to a genre, how much can any one writer push the boundaries past what we've come to know and expect.
For whatever the reasons (and pundits and academics will argue the causes til they run out of oxygen), YA publishing is in the throes of a passionate obsession with dystopian tales and end-of-the-world scenarios. Readers are responding in kind, feeding the monster. And I couldn't be happier about that. The more authors, new and established, are encouraged to play around in the dystopia sandbox, the better off the genre will be. Push it to its limits, see what it can do, uncover all it has to teach us and the infinite number of ways it has to thrill and chill.
The short stories comprising this anthology (like every other anthology I've ever read) are not equally strong. There are definite misses where either the idea is confused or fumbled altogether, the characters underdeveloped, the prose weak. But I don't want to focus on the negative here, because there are also some outstanding pieces of writing not to be missed.
After the Cure, Carrie Ryan: You may already know Ryan from her Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy (which I highly recommend checking out). Here, Ryan tells the story of a young girl who is a recovering blood-sucking predator of humankind. In a new post-apocalyptic world of survivors, she has been cured. But it has left her lonely and longing for something more. No longer quite human, but no longer able to run with her pack, she seeks out the company of a young man with a tragic past. The writing here is beautiful, the mood melancholy.
The Great Game at the End of the World, Matthew Kressel: This one has such a weird and dreamlike quality to it, with an unsettling underbelly vibe that I can't quite call sinister, but feels like something Lovecraft could have written. A brother and his younger sister are the sole survivors of a mysterious, unknowable, cataclysmic "event". The siblings are forced to adapt to their new environment. All I can say is that it's a strange and wonderful piece.
Reunion, Susan Beth Pfeffer: Pfeffer is a prolific and bestselling YA author. This story is dark and damaged in so many ways, with a nice twist at the end. There aren't a lot of details about the society, but what we do get is reminiscent of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. A mother and daughter proceed to interview young girls in the hope of finding their child / sister who was stolen from them years before. They recount their ordeal to her, how they had to submit themselves to the murderous whims of savage soldiers in order to find out her fate. This one is so tightly plotted, it had me sitting on the edge of my seat.
Rust With Wings, Steven Gould: I loved this one because it is such good ol' fashioned, high octane fun of action and peril. It has its roots firmly planted in the 1950's sci-fi tradition of "bugs gone wild".
The Marker, Cecil Castellucci: Interesting idea satisfyingly realized. Trust me, that's all you need to know.
Before I wrap this up, I do want to mention "Faint Heart" by Sarah Rees Brennan because it is the only one that reads like the beginning of a novel, rather than a short story. The cliffhanger ending left me screaming "Nooooo!" because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next. It is a "deadly games" premise where certain males are forced to compete to the death in The Trials. The sole survivor wins the hand of the "queen" - a genetically cloned model of perfection. I was just really getting into the story and warming up to the characters when it was over. This aggravated me more than pleased me.
This anthology is a rich grab bag, so don't be shy about diving in because you're sure to find something to suit your tastes. Just for the sheer variety of the stories -- I never knew what to expect next -- and the overall quality of the writing, I am highly recommending you check it out! ...more
Short and sweet. Interesting to get things from Four's pov, though I found the voice to be a little less than mysterious and a bit whiny. How Tris perShort and sweet. Interesting to get things from Four's pov, though I found the voice to be a little less than mysterious and a bit whiny. How Tris perceives him, and how she must unravel his personality for herself worked extremely well for me in Divergent; this felt more like an enjoyable writing exercise on Roth's part, but lacked any real depth or substance. ...more
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this th Outstanding!
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this thing for ages and ages.
So I'm late to the party, but not that late. Due to excited reader response over WOOL 1, author Hugh Howey quickly released the next four parts in the series. Then came along this Omnibus which collects Parts 1-5. There is now a 2013 edition with a great new cover that features a blurb by none other than Justin Cronin, author of The Passage.
In a few short years, Howey has given all struggling writers out there toiling away at their craft in obscurity real hope. Word of mouth among bloggers and enthusiastic readers on sites like Amazon and Goodreads has the potential to lift the curse of invisibility from self-published works so that they may find their way to audiences who will love them. Never before have the barriers between author and reader been so few, the access so direct. No longer are authors strictly dependent on big publishing houses to discover them and deem their work important enough to go to market accompanied by a sexy publicity campaign. Authors and readers are doing it for themselves, and I for one think it's a beautiful thing.
I love everything about this story -- I love the details of the world-building, I love the characters, I love the shifting points of view, I love the slow burn when you're not sure what is going on. When it became clear to me exactly what was going on I love that I wasn't disappointed. For a post-apocalyptic story trodding very familiar science fiction territory, it still feels fresh. The author definitely gives it his own spin.
I love that the stakes are so high. I love that the author is patient and in control of his narrative. That he doesn't reveal too much too soon. That he understands the relationship between tension and release. All of that to say, I love that the writing is so strong and capable (I've read too much self-published stuff where the prose is inexcusably sloppy). Howey's writing is the exact opposite of sloppy. It's polished. Its engine hums. The shoes are shiny and it's wearing a tie. It's ready to take home to mom.
Finally, I love Juliette. She's Ellen Ripley, Katniss Everdeen, and Dana Scully all rolled up into one. She's got brains and courage and heart and a will made of iron.
There's a lot of under-developed, underwhelming dystopian fiction kicking around out there these days. WOOL leaves those attempts in its dust. It's worth your time. Trust me.
Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment buildi
Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.
This is one instance where I'm painfully aware of the inadequacy of a star-rating system for books. To give Ballard's High-Rise three stars does very little to capture its strengths, but more importantly, its ultimate failure as a novel. I'm going to try and do that in my review here, but just in case my rambling goes right off the rails, check out Jeffrey's spot-on assessment here.
What brought me to this book is an endless fascination with "group in peril" stories that look at how quickly our civilized veneer can be stripped down to our lizard brain impulses. Great writers have shown us that human beings as a species seem to be hard-wired to regress to a primitive state when confronted with the total absence of social rules and obligations.
In Blindness, Saramago's characters revert to their most primal and baser urges when forced to confront the fallout of a plague of blindness. William Golding manages to show this very same regression to a primitive state in Lord of the Flies when there is a profound absence of law and order and other recognizable earmarks of "civilization" in place. Using the example of a bunch of British school boys stranded on a deserted island, Golding shows us it doesn't take long for humans to throw off the shackles of civilized conduct and resort to a more brutal "survival of the fittest" approach.
Blindness and Lord of the Flies are two great novels that ruthlessly give us a nightmare portrait of human regression that is frightening because of its very realism and believability. And this is where Ballard fails in his attempt because there is no realism or believability in his tale. It is strictly an exercise in description. Create a sprawling high-rise edifice, make it a contained society with all the luxuries of a modern city, populate it with 2,000 tenants, and then, with no tangible reason whatsoever have these people begin to transmogrify into a bunch of cannibalistic savages within the course of a few months. As Jeffrey points out in his review: "the outside world is perfectly normal. Civilization is existing just fine. There is no cataclysmic event that has ruptured the natural order of things. To return to the world of order is as simple as leaving the building."
So yes, the zombies haven't risen up, the aliens have not landed. There is no pandemic flu or super volcano eruption. Beyond the concrete walls of the high-rise, people are going to work, shopping for groceries, putting their kids to bed. Yet within the concrete walls, what you have is a total post-apocalyptic decline into delusion and depravity and for what? This is just too cheap and easy for me to respect. If you're going to make humans go there, I want a reason. Show me how it could really happen.
Alright, no question the novel fails that litmus test. Do I give Ballard the benefit of the doubt here anyway? So he doesn't trouble himself with a realistic scenario, but maybe that was never the point. Published in 1976, maybe Ballard was going more for an allegorical vibe on the dehumanization of modern city living. Maybe this novel is his statement on the rise of urban disconnect -- as we cram more and more people into their self-contained units, living elbow to chin, something fundamental to our higher-brain humanity is being eroded away. This is a book that also has characters who start out very class conscious. When the breakdown begins, fractures open and tribes form along class lines. Yet, strip civilization away, and we all go feral in the same way no matter how much money is in our bank account. Succumbing to our lizard brain seems to be the true great equalizer.
If you so choose as a reader, you could go all LIT 101 on this sucker, but at the end of the day, I can't really be bothered. I'm reminded of the frustrated actor who cries out: "but where's my motivation?" Yes, where is the motivation in this story? What exactly is motivating the characters to behave in such a depraved way? Without that motivation, the other "elements" of the story that may or may not be there are lost on me. I do not care to engage.
So why three stars? Ballard's writing is very good. The execution of this novel may have failed for me, but I still recognized his prose as effective. He put me in that high-rise where I could smell the stink of putrid garbage and human waste. I felt a little on edge at all times, like the fillings in my teeth were vibrating. There are several well-described scenes that chilled me to the bone (view spoiler)[especially the last one of the abandoned wives on the roof as they circle around Wilder to make a meal out of him as the children play with a pile of bones. (hide spoiler)] Just a lukewarm recommendation this time for fans of classic dystopian literature and science fiction of the 60s and 70s. I can say this however -- High-Rise won't be my last Ballard. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm really conflicted on this one. For a solid two-thirds of the book there was a lot about this sequel that just wasn't working for me. I was more th I'm really conflicted on this one. For a solid two-thirds of the book there was a lot about this sequel that just wasn't working for me. I was more than a bit lost in the beginning (after forgetting so many salient plot points from Pure). I just wanted to remember dammit, and feel all the feelsI felt reading the first book. So I spent way too much time in the beginning wishing I had done a re-read of Pure before tackling Fuse (which I highly recommend you do).
It's my own fault. Baggott has written a pretty complex dystopian world, rich in detail and rules and creatures and complicated characters. To think I was going to pick up the sequel more than a year later and hit the ground running with it was pure (pun intended) assholery and hubris on my part. Baggott does her best to "refresh" where she can, but she doesn't waste a lot of time recapping and re-exploring territory she's already covered. She's got way more story to tell and it's obvious she can't be handholding the dumbbells like me.
Also, there was a lot more emotional/romantic angst in this one. These books aren't YA (though TONS of people have the series shelved as such), but there were times reading Fuse when it reminded me way too much of the high-octane melodrama that afflicts most YA novels these days. The tension between Bradwell and Pressia felt forced and unnecessarily complicated. With everything else going on around them, the stakes so apocalyptically high, I just wanted to shake the two of them and tell them to get over it already.
But I soldiered along because I LOVE this post-Detonations world Baggott has created. And then something began to happen once I passed the half-way mark -- I began to have a really good time. El Capitan and Helmud are fantastic characters who by the end just about stole the entire show for me. I just love them. I was starting to lose patience with the Lyda/Partridge storyline and then all of a sudden, my eyes could not tear themselves away from the page. I needed to know everything. I was desperate for their safety. (view spoiler)[Lyda pregnant and now trapped in the Dome again? Partridge's confrontation with his father stopped my heart. Kissing him and blowing the deadly pill to the back of Willux's throat? I gasped aloud. No, seriously, I really did. (hide spoiler)]
Bradwell and Pressia began to read like the heroes they are: kick-ass, smart, flawed and complicated. I began to love how they were talking to each other, their bond felt real and earned.
And Fignan?? What an adorable, outright fun contribution to the story. With his flashing lights and vast reserves of vital information, he would make R2D2 proud.
The last 100 pages of this novel is where it really begins to rip and roar, shimmy and jive. (view spoiler)[I mean, there's even an airship adventure and creepy choking vines that seem prescient. And WHAT THE HELL has Pressia done to Bradwell by using the vial contents on him? Those wings sound HUGE. What is this going to do to him, emotionally and physically? And will he hate her for it? (hide spoiler)]
So many questions, so much excitement, and now I have to wait another goddamn year for book 3!!! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book is dark. It is disturbing. It is ruthless in places and feels dangerous in others. Despite the fact that Pure has been released by its publiThis book is dark. It is disturbing. It is ruthless in places and feels dangerous in others. Despite the fact that Pure has been released by its publisher as Adult fiction, it has been quickly embraced as YA. Though I feel as such, it should maybe come with some sort of disclaimer. Fans of popularized YA dystopias choosing Pure for the same satisfying adrenaline injection packaged in a safe, sanitized story with a sweet romantic subplot are likely going to be put off (even repulsed) over what they encounter here. Furthermore, the conscientious detail in the world-building will seem heavy-handed to readers seeking a fast-moving thrill ride. Pure does not give up its secrets easily or all at once. Not all loose ends are tied up, not all questions are answered. There’s enough juiciness and potential left over for the sequel. At least this is my hope – because I’m hooked now and want to know everything.
There is such heartrending beauty in Baggott’s vivid descriptions of Earth’s utter destruction and the devastating deformities of the survivors. I will never think of the word “fusion” the same way again. At the height of the Cold War, an entire generation of people lived with the mind-numbing fear of nuclear annihilation. It’s a fear that’s largely left us now, though I’m hard pressed to think why; the weapons still exist and there are still enough crazy mofos out there, in charge or gone rogue, to make use of them if they so choose. Even the most cursory research into the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will chill the blood and horrify the mind. This is what we are capable of doing to one another. To think that it can’t or won’t ever happen again is wishful thinking I figure of the most deluded kind. But I am grateful we've stopped crouching under desks and building bomb shelters in our spare time. That shit just ain't healthy, you know?
Pressia is a survivor of the Detonations – a global nuclear holocaust that has left her and every other survivor with a diversity of glaring malformations and “fusions”. When the blasts came, they were so strong, the light so bright, humans fused with whatever material closest to them at the time of the explosion, whether it be inanimate, human or animal. Pressia, a child at the time, held her favorite doll and now carries the mark of that day in her doll’s head hand. Such external deformities are a physical manifestation of the pain and loss carried by all survivors, whose souls have surely been burned and scarred just as severely as their bodies.
There are other survivors of the Detonations however – Pures – who have been safely harbored in the Dome. These are the select privileged, protected, their skin perfect. But the Dome has its secrets too, and while the wretches outside the Dome have been busy surviving, those inside the Dome have been watching, and waiting, with a plan of their own.
This was a convincing world to me that left me wanting to know more about everything. The characters are strong and there without coming across as overly sentimental. It takes a while to get to know them, and it takes even longer to warm up to them and start to care. I really enjoyed that slow build. In no way could Pure be labeled a shocking or controversial novel; however, there were several scenes that jolted me, and if you can surprise me in that way where I flinch or my mouth gapes open, I figure you are doing something right. This book has been called "cinematic" and it is a very visual novel (I'm also not surprised to find out that Hollywood has already come a-courting). Parts of the Dustlands and Meltlands even reminded me of Stephen King's Dark Tower landscape (and that is high praise indeed).
What more can I say? If you are looking for a meatier dystopian read with teeth then this is the book for you....more
Which came first, the mind or the idea of the mind? Have you never wondered? They arrived together. The mind is an idea. ~Genesis
In the end, living is
Which came first, the mind or the idea of the mind? Have you never wondered? They arrived together. The mind is an idea. ~Genesis
In the end, living is defined by dying~Genesis
Wow, wow and more wow! I have been swept away and truly humbled by this little book that's filled with such big ideas. The blurb on my edition calls it "sinewy" and "cerebral" and for me, that hits it just right.
I want to start by first giving a shout out to Stephen; his unbridled enthusiasm for this book is what brought it to my attention. I didn't even know this book existed until I read Stephen's wonderful review, so thank you Stephen! I also want to bring attention to Lyndsey's review here as well because she does such a phenomenal job describing what makes this book so special and unique. Trust me, go read those reviews and you will absolutely have to read this book like I did, and you will be the happier for having done so.
I've become so accepting of the watered-down, popcorn-esque dystopias that have invaded mainstream YA of late, that I forgot just how satisfying a carefully constructed and believable dystopian landscape can be. I feel like it's an itch I haven't had scratched in a looooong time. Pardon me while I exhale a sigh of bliss. If I were a cat I would be purring my head off right now.
In less than 200 pages, the author is able to create not only a convincing post-apocalyptic scenario where a society isolates itself behind a huge sea wall, but gives the reader three memorable characters who aren't in the business of making you cry or clutch your chest, but they will make you think -- they will make you think about the nature of fear, the ethics and possible outcomes of technology, and most of all, what it means to be human. What makes us who we are? What we are? Which differences matter and can change the course of everything?
This book is OVERFLOWING with thinky thoughts. The language is precise and careful, taking the reader on a philosophical journey that asks the hardest questions. At first, the answers may seem easy, but they won't by the end. And that ending!!! That made me clutch my chest. There is an undeniable tension that threads through the whole story. As a reader you sense this is all headed towards climax and epiphany and let me tell you, getting there is so rewarding.
The narrative device works brilliantly here -- young Anax facing her three Examiners in an oral interview that will last five hours. It is mostly through her eyes we come to know this world and all the events that have led up to this point in history. But we are also privy to transcripts that give voice to Adam and Art, man and machine. It is their words that give the book its resonance and meaning. What do they learn from each other? What do we learn from each of them?
My only critique: I wish it could have been longer! I was so swept up in the narrative I could have gone on for hundreds of pages more. The real wonder is that the author did not need those extra pages to weave his tale. This novel's brevity is also what gives it its power.
I will be thinking about this book for a long time; I will remember it forever.
Damn, this book is cold. Like, really, really, C-O-L-D. The language is magnificent; there is no doubt Whitehead can write, but he writes with no heatDamn, this book is cold. Like, really, really, C-O-L-D. The language is magnificent; there is no doubt Whitehead can write, but he writes with no heat. His writing here is like a perfect, shiny new Cadillac (but with no engine). Without the engine, what’s the point? You can sit and look pretty all the live long day, but you’re not gonna get anywhere worth talking about (or remembering).
Whitehead’s problem here seems to be that he gets so caught up in delivering the goods on literary stylistics and gymnastics that the story (what little there is) limps anemically along side by side with underdeveloped, emotionless characters. While there may indeed be a method to his madness, I’m not biting, because for me story trumps EVERYTHING. If you ain’t got a story to tell, what the hell are you doing writing a novel?
Not once did Zone One grab me by the throat and make me sit up and pay attention. I felt like a detached spectator, ambivalent, witnessing unfolding events in a clinical matter like the scientist who examines a bug under the microscope.
Whitehead gets too cerebral -- mining his material for metaphor and symbols, layering his post-apocalyptic landscapes with foreshadowing and poetic images. Beautiful yes, but nevertheless soulless and unsatisfying. Which brings me back to my original point -- cold.
I hate “big” ideas (insert jazz hands here) that don’t come wrapped in a gripping story that’s going to smack me in the face. Story. Comes. First. Always. You may be brilliant and have awesome insights into the human condition, but unless you can weave a tale that’s going to put me on my ass I don’t want to hear about it. And I’m not helping you along by faking it When Harry Met Sally style pretending you wrote a great novel because I’m keen to wax poetic on how the world is shit and then we die.
But that's just me.
If you want a literary zombie novel that will put you on your ass, read The Reapers Are the Angels. That book is everything this book is not.
"Let the cracks between things widen until they are no longer cracks but the new places for things. That was where they were now. The world wasn't ending: it had ended and now they were in the new place. They could not recognize it because they had never seen it before."
**spoiler alert** Wowzers. Great premise, but it definitely lost its way somewhere around the middle. I felt myself getting frustrated and rolling my**spoiler alert** Wowzers. Great premise, but it definitely lost its way somewhere around the middle. I felt myself getting frustrated and rolling my eyes at some of the overwrought, earnest narration where too many things are told (repeatedly) rather than shown (or as I like to say, earned). A lot of what pained and disappointed me here is what let me down with Lauren Oliver's Delirium.
Juliette begins this novel as an intriguing character. She's almost feral, having suffered enforced isolation for 264 days. There is a touch of the autistic about her, the way she consistently breaks down her surroundings as a series of lists: 1 window, 4 walls, 144 square feet of space, 14 cracks, a thousand shades of gray. This is obviously meant to be a coping mechanism (but as a narrative device it did begin to irritate me).
While Juliette and Adam share great chemistry, it feels squandered in the second half of the novel. Their initial meeting and reaction to one another draws the reader in. There is mystery and we can sympathize with Juliette's overpowering reaction to Adam's physical presence.
For a young woman who is starved for a physical connection with another human being, Adam becomes her oasis in the desert, her oxygen in an air-tight chamber. She wants to touch him and keep on touching him. After years of neglect and the absence of touch on her own body, to now have someone touch and hold her is almost a religious experience for Juliette, at the very least a sexual awakening she never thought she would be permitted.
Once the pair escape, this tender exchange starts to feel like nothing more than two horny teenagers groping each other at the local drive-in. The finesse disappears. The context of what brought these two together in the first place forgotten. Suddenly, Juliette starts behaving like a "normal" teenage girl with a crush, worrying about her clothes and what she looks like and how others are perceiving her. I don't buy that. After everything this girl has survived (her way less than normal, abusive childhood), such superficial, vain behaviours would be beyond her I figure. That they're not, and on display here, disappoints.
The dystopian landscape is meh (which equals weak and derivative). And the whole X-Men rip-off? Where are you even going to go with this plot development now that the cat is out of the bag? I'm sorry, that skintight superhero uniform Juliette dawns made me gag a little, and when she punches through concrete and steel all I can think of is a Hulked out Lou Ferrigno.
Finally, even though all the characters spend a good deal of time in grave danger, I didn't find myself worrying about any of them. Not really. I didn't get emotional. I didn't feel myself tearing up. When that doesn't happen for me, something is fundamentally missing. Despite Mafi's florid, sometimes gorgeous, mostly purple prose, the reader is left with more style than substance.
I knew there was a reason the cover reminded me of Project Runway or America's Next Top Model!
There are no words. I think my ears are bleeding from the shock of my profound disappointment over this wreck of a book. I don't feel like going off o There are no words. I think my ears are bleeding from the shock of my profound disappointment over this wreck of a book. I don't feel like going off on a huge rant here over what I didn't like (I just don't have the energy), so I will refer you to Emily May's review because she does an awesome job pinpointing the book's flaws and overall epic fail.
I left a comment on her review, that nearly turned into a rant, and I'm just going to copy and paste it here.
I think the author made promises in Divergent that she just couldn't hold to in the sequel. It's almost like she was starting from scratch a whole new book, it just seemed so disjointed from the original.
"Change" in character didn't strike me so much as complete lack of character development period. There are all these kids running around from different factions but quite honestly, they all could have been the same person. They were such stereotypes of their "faction" no one felt fleshed out to me or real. I couldn't worry or feel anything for any of them. And the villains are comic book evil. No nuance or subtlety at all. They might as well have been going around mwah-ha-ha'ing all over the place.
And Tris and Tobias??? Paaaaain-ful. All that bickering and angst amidst make-out sessions. And then Tris on her melodramatic suicide missions. I wanted to pull my hair out and smack her. I never wanted to do that in Divergent.
And you're right: essentially NOTHING happens. Five hundred pages to move the story arc forward barely a millimeter in the last five pages. Arrghhhhhhhh!!!!
I'm sorry but bad, bad, baaaaad book. Way too much teen angst over "who should I choose?" -- the nice, safe boy? or the boy who makes my toes curl (anI'm sorry but bad, bad, baaaaad book. Way too much teen angst over "who should I choose?" -- the nice, safe boy? or the boy who makes my toes curl (and my genetically modified robot parts short out?)
Hmmmmm.... Do I care??? NO! Too much "telling" not enough "showing". Characters fall flat on the page, the tension is superficial, and the "dystopian" circumstances are a joke. Tepid, derivative teen romance packaged and sold as a futuristic dystopian drama. It is not.
Best thing about it is the cover. My advice: skip it and watch The Terminator movies....more
This isn't a horrible book, it just stretched my capacity to suspend disbelief beyond all reasonable limits. Usually I throw myself into these storiesThis isn't a horrible book, it just stretched my capacity to suspend disbelief beyond all reasonable limits. Usually I throw myself into these stories feet first and leave all common sense at the door. I want to be sucked in, swept up and carried away. I am a willing participant. I will do the work. I will shut my mouth. Unfortunately this time DeStefano asks too much and gives too little in return.
For example: (view spoiler)[This is supposed to be a strict, regimented world for these kidnapped young women whose sole purpose is for procreation and perpetuation of the species, so why give a strapping young man like Gabriel full of vim and hormones 24/7 access to all the brides? You mean to tell me with a complete sociopath running the household he can still pull off intimate morning breakfasts and steal kisses anytime that he wants? Wouldn't you have a woman attendant for this job? Also, once Linden's father knows what's going on he merely exiles Gabriel to the basement? This guy is a killer; if he can murder his daughter-in-law, a lowly servant shouldn't be any problem. (hide spoiler)]
So there's that ... and unfortunately, that was too big for me to swallow and kept taking me out of the story.
Also, for all the ugly horrible things that this life represented, I thought DeStefano's version too sanitized. I know it's YA, and it's not like I was literally expecting The Handmaid's Tale, but c'mon! This was all just too fluffy. Reading about the girls prancing around like they are one of Antoinette's ladies in waiting grated on my nerves. There was too much frivolity and not nearly enough darkness for an alleged dystopia. I wanted to see more of that basement!! What exactly was going on down there?
While these elements disgruntled me, there is a small part of me that enjoyed Rhine and Gabriel enough to find out what happens next in this story, but DeStefano better pull out all the stops for Book 2!
This book is getting 5 stars from me because it provided the perfect kind of escapist, “down the rabbit hole” experience I’ve been craving. It’s awesoThis book is getting 5 stars from me because it provided the perfect kind of escapist, “down the rabbit hole” experience I’ve been craving. It’s awesome adventure on an epic scale. Once I read those first few pages I just had to read a few more, and well...after that I could not put this book down -- not even maybe. Okay, so it might not be “classic literature” but it definitely qualifies as “crack literature” keeping me enthralled for hours. Real life fell away and down the rabbit hole I went. Woot! Woot! Perhaps on sober reflection 5 stars will seem a little too exuberant, but right now it feels just right.
**Edit 05/03/2012: I've since dropped to four stars, but I still stand by my original assessment that this is one whopper of adrenalized, escapist fiction of the kick-ass variety!
Blood Red Road is a credible dystopian landscape and while we are not offered a definitive explanation for how the world came to be this way, there are delectable hints along the way to keep the reader guessing. On the one hand, I was reminded of the Mad Max movies, on the other a Clint Eastwood western (Dying’s easy, it’s living that’s hard). This is a quest story, but it also has all the elements of a swashbuckling adventure too. Throw in some gladiatorial action and you feel like you’re watching an episode of Rome or Russell Crowe march into the Coliseum while the spectators bay for his blood.
We’re seeing a lot of YA novels these days featuring kick-ass heroines (Katniss Everdeen leading the charge), but there is something so compelling and magnetic about Saba – who I imagined as a hybrid of Ree from Winter’s Bone and Temple from The Reapers are the Angels. I adore her, even though there were times when I wanted to shake her and smack her upside the head. Saba doesn’t start out a hero; in fact, she’s got a lot of work to do to even come close. She’s a tough, guarded, contrary young woman with a chip on her shoulder and a bad attitude to match. She can be selfish, impulsive and cruel. Rather than a full-fledged mature heroine, Saba doesn’t always do the right thing, or even know what the right thing is to do. Her instincts are not perfect and that's what makes her human.
I love the love interest (even though I will be the first to admit the romance is fairly predictable derivative stuff - sue me, I have my weaknesses). The chemistry between Saba and Jack is fueled by quips and barbs and pheromones. The heartstone bit did a number on my gag reflex -- but Jack is the very stuff of western heroes. There is a strong supporting cast surrounding Saba and while not every character is equally fleshed out, a sense of convincing camaraderie is injected into the story ratcheting up emotions and suspense.
I thought the dialect and lack of punctuation would really bother me, but it didn’t. If anything, it makes Saba’s voice even stronger and the action soar as unfettered as Nero, Saba’s memorable pet crow. This is such a visual novel filled with spectacle that unfolds at a breakneck cinematic pace is it any wonder Ridley Scott has already optioned Blood Red Road for the big screen. Don’t wait for the movie, though. Read the book! ...more