**spoiler alert** I finished this book over a week ago, but have been putting off writing a review, because I don't know how I feel. My friends that f**spoiler alert** I finished this book over a week ago, but have been putting off writing a review, because I don't know how I feel. My friends that finished the book before me ranted about how the ending was awful, but before I wrote my review I wanted to be sure that my thoughts were my own, and that I wasn't influenced by friends that had hated it.
I'll admit, the ending was a let down. I'd always hoped that Sookie would end up with Sam, but the way in which Charlaine wrote that ending was less than satisfactory. I'd always assumed that we'd get a lengthy epilogue, showing how Sookie and Sam lived and died, if their children were half shifter half telepath, who Bill and Eric ended up with, and how they too 'lived and died'. Instead the book cut off in the moment, providing us with no solid answers on anything.
Sure, we can assume that Sookie and Sam stayed together, lived happy and full lives, and their children went on to manage Merlotte's. If Charlaine had intended for Sookie to be murdered young by yet another supernatural foe, surely we would have gotten that lengthy epilogue. But showing us fantastic characters like Barry, Mr Cataliades, Eric, Bill, Pam, Bob, Amelia and Hunter over the course of 12 books, then not even giving them a second thought is a total injustice.
What happened to Eric? Did he wait out his 200-year marriage to the Queen of Oklahoma, fulfilling the requirements of his deal and then quietly moving on? Or did he orchestrate her murder and take over her territories? Did Pam ever find true love after the death of Miriam? Who did Bill end up with, and in what century did he die? Did Barry manage to find true love with someone that accepted his telepathy, or did he meet an untimely demise at the hands of a vengeful Texas vampire? How did Hunter's life play out? Was he able to live a fairly normal life and keep his telepathy secret, or did he fall into the company of vampires like his aunt? I can only hope that Charlaine writes another short story in which our questions are at least partially answered.
I could go on and on about the ending, but I won't. It was disappointing, it didn't do justice to readers that had stuck around for the past 12 years, and it didn't do justice to characters we've come to know and love. It sucks, but I'll live. It's just unfortunate that such a disappointing ending had to be paired with such a disappointing story. The series had certainly gone downhill in recent years, but I'd hoped that Charlaine would go out with a bang in her final book. Instead, we got one more random adventure with random characters that made little sense and fostered little suspense.
There are 5 villains in this book, and none of them make sense. The book in Rhodes was my favourite of the series, but even I'd forgotten about Johan Glassport. I wondered 'Should I be more scared of this guy? Does his being the villain not make sense to me because it's been so long since I read the book?' But then Charlaine revealed that Sookie didn't even remember him! And while Steve Newlin is more memorable due to his presence in the show, I doubt anybody remembers what happened to him in the second book.
I vaguely remembered Amelia's father disapproving of her magic, but him wanting the Cluviel Dor and trying to kill Sookie was just bizarre. Charlaine would've been better off if she'd gone the way of the bodyguard: having his Faustian bargain go horribly wrong, sending him off the deep end and on to kill Sookie. And the stuff with Claude....what even? His reveal as the villain the previous book made no sense as it were, so having him back in the human world and pissed because his face got messed up was just ludicrous. As dissatisfying as the storyline with Alexei and Appius Livius Ocella was, having new villains like them possibly would've made more sense.
And to top it all off, the opening of the book reads like a bad Supernatural fanfiction. The chapter with the crossroads devil differs so vastly in tone to the rest of the book, that it's as if some Tumblr user managed to hack into the editor's computer and replace Charlaine's work with an SPNxSookie crossover fic. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Supernatural and Tumblr fan and love it when Charlaine introduces new supes, but it didn't feel right. And that's not even considering how confusing it is to have devils and demons be two separate creatures, and Charlaine suddenly posing the question of the human soul when she doesn't have time to answer it.
Overview: Man, how do I summarise my thoughts on the end of an era? I've enjoyed the series as a whole, with some books providing solace during rocky periods in my life, but there's no denying the sharp decline in quality toward the end. As a standalone book this would have been dissatisfying enough, but as the final instalment in a series that readers have been following for years, it's a pitiful effort.
There's no way Charlaine could have pleased everybody, but her refusal to tie up loose ends on the characters we've come to know and love over 13 books shows not only disregard for the readers, but disregard for the characters. I can only hope that she writes a short story that gives some of our characters the endings they deserved. I thought I'd be devastated and bawling my eyes out over the end of this series, but instead I'm just left with vague feelings of regret and disappointment in the pit of my stomach.
The TV series also appears to be declining in quality, so I can only hope that the writers learn from Charlaine's mistakes and give the viewers the ending they deserve. ...more
**spoiler alert** It's interesting how Map of Bones follows on from Sandstorm. I'd expected Painter Crowe to be at the centre of this mystery a la Dan**spoiler alert** It's interesting how Map of Bones follows on from Sandstorm. I'd expected Painter Crowe to be at the centre of this mystery a la Dan Brown's Robert Langdon, but he takes on a more peripheral role as Director of Sigma Force. And I guess that's a major point where the two series differ: this is called the Sigma Force series, not the Painter Crowe series. It works in Rollins' favour, allowing him to embark on different adventures without the reader thinking "Seriously, how does Robert Langdon/Painter Crowe/insertprotagonisthere just happen to wind up in the middle of all these international conspiracies?"
While the two books varied in tone due to the setting and introduction of a host of new characters, there were actually a lot of similarities! The weather features heavily in each novel, with massive storms breaking at the climax. The Sandstorm protagonists desperately try to avoid being shot to pieces in Ubar by the Guild, whilst simultaneously avoiding the biggest sandstorm the Omani region has seen in millennia. In Map of Bones our heroes rush to decipher the mystery of Avignon under duress from the Dragon Court, while thunder and lightning crash outside.
Electricity also features heavily at the climax of each novel, with the lost cities in either book serving as a ticking electrical time bomb. In the first book, the static electricity from the super sandstorm threatens to drown our heroes in glass, as the lost city of Ubar finds itself charging up with nowhere to discharge the excess energy. In Map of Bones a strange metal compound and elaborately constructed series of obstacles nearly see our heroes turn to ash, stuck inside an inverted pyramid that serves as a giant superconductor. Both climaxes feature electricity arcing all over the ceiling of a long lost monument, not unlike a plasma globe.
Character development is also eerily similar between the two novels. Both feature a budding romance between characters thrown together in less than ideal circumstances, with the female protagonists also struggling to come to terms with the truths about their families. In Sandstorm Omaha and Safia were rekindling their love, with Safia learning that her bloodline contained mystical properties that could be traced back to Queen Sheba. In Map of Bones Gray and Rachel fall for each other, while Rachel learns of her family's Nazi past and the atrocities they committed in the name of preserving bloodlines.
Both books also feature a female Sigma Force agent who is largely relegated to the sidelines, but occasionally called in to save the day with science and kickassness. In Sandstorm we had Coral, who was handy with a gun and her knowledge of antimatter and bucky balls. In Map of Bones we have Kat, handy with a knife and her knowledge of geology and transitional metals. They serve to provide scientific explanations for the historical events recounted by the female leads.
But while both books feature a villain from the Guild, Seichan and Cassandra couldn't be more different. Cassandra was hellbent on killing Painter Crowe, having joined the Guild's ranks after some unknown trauma had been dealt to her. Seichan was in it for the money and the fun of it, crossing and double crossing people as it suited her. While Cassandra was a bloodthirsty pitfighting dog (not unlike the ones seen in this novel!), Seichan was a black cat, slinking in and out of the shadows at will.
The real villain in Map of Bones is Raoul. Though you'd think that historical conspiracy writers would run out of ideas for their monstrous villains, I continue to be surprised. Raoul proudly tortures dogs into bloodthirsty monsters for pit-fighting, happily recounts bashing a prostitute's face in whilst fucking her, and fantasises about the sexual abuse he plans to inflict on every female character in the novel. There are no words for how repulsive he is; I can't even think of a means of torture painful enough to inflict upon him. Cutting off his eyelids, ripping out his fingernails, pouring acid on his genitals....none of it seems like payback enough for him. He makes Dan Brown's self-flagellating albino monk and tattooed castrated behemoth look like children.
Continuing on the villain theme, I was disappointed by the big reveal of the Dragon Court Imperator. General Rende had been mentioned so few times since the beginning of the novel that I'd completely forgotten he even existed. It would've been more effective if Cardinal Spera had been the traitor, and Seichan were employed by someone else within the church. I felt the same about the leader of The Guild in Sandstorm; I'd completely forgotten that character had existed. Rollins would do better to pick different characters for the evil kingpins, or sprinkle more mentions of them throughout the text to avoid readers forgetting about them.
Enough about characters, onto the storyline! I have always been fascinated by the Seven Ancient Wonders, but have never sat down to learn about each of them in detail. I know that the Pyramids of Giza are the only of the Wonders left standing, and that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the only Wonder thought to be entirely fictional, but that's it. I never knew about the statue of Poseidon and brazier atop the Lighthouse of Alexandria, nor was I aware that the Colossus of Rhodes stood taller than the Statue of Liberty. I love this genre for teaching me more about history in a fun and engaging fashion, and inspiring me to spend the next 8 hours trawling Wikipedia.
In these novels it often feels that the characters are reaching, and that symbols are manipulated to line up with historical events as it suits the author. It was refreshing to see the characters in this novel take a step back and actually ask if that's what they were doing! These characters doubted whether they'd extracted the right meaning from the clues, or if they were simply seeing what they wanted to see. I'd love to see Dan Brown's Robert Langdon take a step back and question whether that circumpunct actually pointed to a secret repository of knowledge guarded by the Freemasons, or whether the Freemasons just really liked boobs.
If you weren't a fan of the magic employed in Sandstorm, you'll prefer Map of Bones. While Rollins attempted to explain the paranormal abilities in Sandstorm with bucky ball science, it was less than convincing. I could practically hear Rollins thinking "Crap I said it was magic, how do I explain this?" Thankfully that's not the case in Map of Bones, where Rollins deftly uses m-state metals to explain away historical events that had previously been attributed to miracles. And maybe that's the key: Rollins should have employed bucky ball science from the beginning, linking the strange molecular structures to events throughout Oman's history. Mentioning bucky balls after the fact felt like a lame deus ex machina.
Overall: If you were expecting the Sigma Force series to be 'The Adventures of Painter Crowe and his friends', think again. Unlike Dan Brown's novels which pit Robert Langdon at the centre of every mystery, Painter Crowe takes on a peripheral role as he deploys Sigma operatives to solve the mystery for him. And it works fantastically well. We see enough of Painter to where this 'verse feels familiar, but we're never allowed to think "Seriously, how does Painter manage to get tangled up in every historical conspiracy known to man?"
If you weren't a fan of the mysticism employed in Sandstorm, you'll like this book. Science and history work together much more coherently in this novel, requiring the reader to suspend less disbelief. And while the character development and the themes of storms and electricity bear a striking resemblance to the first book, I'm willing to overlook it as the second book in the series. If I progress through the series and the same stories continue to pop up, then we have a problem! ...more
**spoiler alert** A couple of weekends ago, I found myself out and about with several hours to kill before an event, and no Kindle or iPad to be found**spoiler alert** A couple of weekends ago, I found myself out and about with several hours to kill before an event, and no Kindle or iPad to be found. I headed into the nearest newsagent, hoping that they'd have a selection of cheap books available, and thankfully they did! I've been on a historical conspiracy thriller kick lately, and Final Theory sounded right up my alley. I'm happy to say that it was $4.50 well spent!
These kinds of books usually seek to explain some sort of historical secret or conspiracy using science: like Dan Brown using antimatter to explain Genesis, or James Rollins chalking up the loss of the ancient city of Ubar to a freak lightning storm in Sandstorm. But Final Theory was a little different. In this case the science was the historical secret. The characters are rushing to discover a scientific theory that was hidden by Albert Einstein some 50 years ago, that if harnessed, could destroy the world.
I'm not scientifically inclined at all. I enjoy reading news about various scientific breakthroughs, but only if they're in the most layman's terms. I can't do maths, physics or chemistry to save my life, and my brain instantly goes into panic mode if I'm confronted with anything but the most simple equation. That's why I like these books: they explore the craziest areas of science, but break it down for the average person to understand.
That being said, there were times in Final Theory where I did get lost. I'm sure a physics major would instantly see how the Unified Theory could be weaponised, but I was lost until they explicitly said 'we can do this and this and blow up ALL THE THINGS'. Maybe it's the Supernatural fan in me that loves a biblical apocalypse story, but I was hoping that somehow knowing the Unified Theory could trigger the unravelling of our world: that everything would start breaking down not unlike what the swarms of alien 'termites' do in The Day The Earth Stood Still.
I was also lost during the final scenes at Fermilab. I understood the general premise: smash particles together and create sterile neutrinos that go for a frolic through spacetime and emerge somewhere else for a little fireworks display. But Alpert threw in a lot of extra info about the Tevatron that was totally lost on me. I don't think the reader needed to know so much about the process; just inform the reader that the machine uses super magnets and helium to direct the particles, so the reader isn't surprised when Swift takes an axe to the helium pipes. Just briefly mention the use of mineral oil to detect neutrinos, and the impossibility for a human to swim in it, so the reader isn't surprised when Brock drowns in the stuff. We don't need to know all the scientific details, that doing x and y in the Tevatron creates z, and that neutrinos create little flashes in the mineral oil.
All that being said, I wasn't surprised to read the Author's Note where Alpert says that he writes for Scientific American. I've never bothered to Google String Theory (for fear of sending my brain into panic mode), so all I knew was that it partially explains the universe. I'm now happy to say that I have a very basic understanding of what it is, and I avoided a brain meltdown! I still don't know anything about relativity, quantum mechanics or particles, but this book taught me that relativity and string theory use maths that aren't compatible. To me, math is math, so the idea of different types of physics being like different languages was new and fascinating to me.
Much in the way that Robert Langdon is a Gary Stu for Dan Brown, I was unsurprised to read that Mark Alpert's career path mirrored David Swift's: he had started out as a physicist, but eventually realised that he didn't have the aptitude to be one of the greats in the field, and that his real talents lay in writing. It was really refreshing to read a historical conspiracy novel where the main character isn't this expert in the field that all others defer to on the subject. I enjoyed the scenes where Swift just couldn't keep up with Monique's physics blather, needing her to break it down for him. It made Swift so much more human, compared to Dan Brown's Robert Langdon, who sounds like a robot reciting Wikipedia entries when he's called on to explain a symbol.
That being said, the dialogue wasn't perfect. While it never read like Wikipedia, some of the dialogue was wooden and forced. When Monique's boyfriend yelled at David about being a Nazi, the scene felt forced and contrived, like David would wake up and we'd realise it was an absurd dream sequence. Karen's explanation of the divorce also failed to hit the mark, feeling rushed and unbelievable. It essentially read like 'I'm a selfish bitch and wanted a big house and nice clothes, but he dressed too casually for my taste and didn't go for a promotion that would've let us upgrade the house, so I divorced him'. Fair enough if that had been David's perspective on the divorce, portraying Karen as a superficial selfish bitch, but it was Karen's perspective!
The scene with the Super Soaker was also ridiculous, reminding me of this irrational teacher I had in high school. This teacher read an article once upon a time about a kid getting set on fire by other children when they were dropped off at school before teachers arrived for the day. This teacher lived far away, and was convinced that if she dropped her kids off early (often it was still dark in Winter), the same thing would happen to them. Karen's dislike for the Super Soaker was on that level of irrationality.
Thankfully the other characters were written a lot better. Simon and Brock were utterly repulsive villains, and days later I still feel sick over Brock being so perverse that he would actually masturbate over the torture and attempted murder of David and his family. It's funny how a disturbed villain is a prerequisite of writing in this genre, but I never fail to be surprised by the creepy monsters cooked up by authors. I felt no sympathy for Simon's family perishing at the hands of the American soldiers, not when the crimes he'd committed in revenge were so much more foul. He deserved a much more painful and grisly death than death-by-golf cart, but at least he did die. Brock's death was spectacular and utterly deserved, and I was hoping for something just as gory for Simon.
I really liked Monique. I liked that she had come from a poor background to become the first African American woman in physics, and admired how she continued to deal with racism in this day and age. I liked her strong sense of independence: living just for her in buying that Corvette and sleeping with a guy half her age, not being phased in the least by the knowledge that he had other women on the side.
I loved the inclusion of Michael as an autistic child, too. Although I can't say that I've read too much into the subject, I do find autism fascinating: the concept that while they don't interpret and interact with the world as non-autistic people do, they can do things that the rest of us simply aren't capable of: memorising phone directories, recreating scenes via charcoal or paint that they only glimpsed for a few seconds, and knowing how many matchsticks are in that pile. I remember being intrigued by Philip K Dick's Martian Time-Slip book, in which he theorised that autistic people interpret the passage of time differently. While it's obviously not the current dominant scientific understanding of the issue, it was a fascinating take on it nonetheless and really stuck with me!
Overall: I went into this expecting a run of the mill historical conspiracy, and ended up with something more grounded in science! It was entertaining nonetheless, filled with despicable villains and breaking down string theory so even I could understand it. Although some of the dialogue was wooden and the science a bit complex at times, it was $4.50 well spent! ...more
**spoiler alert** I wanted a break from all the young adult dystopian fiction I'd been reading lately, so I picked up Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. I k**spoiler alert** I wanted a break from all the young adult dystopian fiction I'd been reading lately, so I picked up Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. I know, I know, Dan Brown is supposedly the spawn of Satan and his books are reviled by all, but they're a guilty pleasure of mine. I really enjoyed Ancient History in high school, and would have gone on to study it in university, had I thought it would lead to actual employment afterward. As it were, I studied a Business degree and now just live vicariously these historical conspiracy novels. They're all so similar: some expert in their field stumbles upon an ancient conspiracy that could threaten the very fabric of our existence, and they're on the run from a shady organisation that will stop at nothing to keep this secret hidden. These books are so formulaic, but I find that comforting opposed to dull and predictable – if I aint broke, why fix it? I'll still read it!
I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but my point is that I like these kinds of books. While they may embellish certain aspects, they manage to teach the reader about history in a fun and action-packed way. And not only that, there's usually a healthy sprinkling of science in there too! I'm not scientifically inclined at all. While I love sci-fi and am fascinated by scientific breakthroughs, I don't have the aptitude for science itself. My brain freaks out when it sees an equation or physics reference; I can't help it, my brain just naturally gravitates toward languages, history and geography. That's why I like these books: they appeal to my love and aptitude for ancient history and languages, but also explain science in a way that doesn't give me a panic attack.
I've only really read Dan Brown's books so far in this genre, so my experience is limited to European mysteries of the Knights Templar and Freemasons. Sandstorm is a world away from that, exploring the mystery of the lost city of Ubar on the Arabian Peninsula. I'd heard the names Queen Sheeba and King Solomon, but knew nothing of their backstory or Ubar. While I can prattle on about Akhenaten's douchebaggery or Hannibal Barca's feat of genius in leading the elephants over the Pyrenees, I was a blank slate when it came to Arabian history. And I was really excited by that!
I've always been fascinated by the story of Atlantis, so naturally I was drawn in by the story of Ubar: Atlantis of the Sands. I loved the idea of the stabilised antimatter lake, how the sandstorm and dome below interacted to vent excess static electricity, the glass city, how the city could be accessed through the manipulation of magnetic fields, the naturally occurring aquifers in the centre of the earth, the possibility of asexual reproduction in humans, the idea that Arabia used to be a vast savannah....it was all so intriguing!
But if you don't like a little magic or mysticism with your historical conspiracy novels, you won't like Sandstorm. James Rollins introduces superhuman mystical abilities in this novel, and though he tries to use science to explain them, there were enough gaps to earn a scoff or two from me. But if you were able to suspend your disbelief enough to enjoy films like National Treasure, you'll be right at home with Sandstorm. At the end of the day the reader should remember that these books are meant to be farfetched, and Sandstorm is set in a region that brought us tales of flying carpets. Take it with a grain of salt and enjoy the literally 'electrifying' action.
If you're going to scoff at anything, scoff at the ridiculous names of the characters. Rollins half gets away with Painter Crowe being that he's half native American, but Dr. Omaha Dunn was just ridiculous. I repeat: OMAHA. Kara jokingly refers to him as 'Indiana' throughout the book, presumably not only making fun of his name, but referring to Indiana Jones and his similar line of work. Had Indiana actually been his name, that would have been bearable, but OMAHA?! I felt like I was reading the parody fanfic My Immortal, which features a character called 'Enoby Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way'. Might as well have called the dude Wisconsin, Boise, Des Moines, or Shreveport.
Since I'm talking about characters, I have to say that Safia was fucking annoying. Everybody just loved Safia, wanted to bone Safia, felt sorry for Safia, thought Safia was a genius. And at the end of the day, she had no qualities that I could see that made her unique. She had such a wishy washy bland personality, and even her feelings about the Tel Aviv bombing were like they'd gone through the washing machine and lost their vibrancy. At least in the Robert Langdon books by Dan Brown, Langdon walks with an air of confidence, knows he looks good for an older guy, and knows his symbols. Safia just spends her life wandering around in this grey fog of self-doubt, and yet she has three guys throw themselves at her over the course of the novel. I venture to say that while her academic qualifications prove she's much smarter, she's about as exciting as Bella Swan.
On the other hand, I really liked Coral. We didn't see much of her, but I thought she was smart, sassy, a badass, and not remotely annoying! I wish we'd gotten to see more from her perspective. We only really see from Safia, Cassandra, Omaha and Painter's perspective, and all four characters are obsessed with Safia. Coral is relegated to the sidelines until the team need her expert scientific opinion or sharpshooter skills. Although the end of the book shows Coral and Painter going on separate assignments, I do hope we see more of her later down the track.
Overall:Sandstorm wasn't at all what I expected, but I really liked it! I was expecting The DaVinci Code, and got something more like National Treasure, Atlantis, and Heroes combined! The book requires that the reader suspend a significant amount of disbelief, so if you're not a fan of magic in your texts, you may want to give this one a miss. Although I went into this book eager to learn more about history and science through a farfetched action-packed adventure, I enjoyed the little mystical touches to the story. I wasn't at all keen on the female protagonist, but found a great female minor character to make up for it. ...more
**spoiler alert** Dan Brown's books are a guilty pleasure of mine. I know that they're not the best quality, and some people think he's the literary s**spoiler alert** Dan Brown's books are a guilty pleasure of mine. I know that they're not the best quality, and some people think he's the literary spawn of Satan, but nevertheless I admit that I enjoy losing myself in his farfetched plots and mysteries.
I can't accurately compare The Lost Symbol to The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, as it's been quite a few years since I read them. I wasn't reading the books as critically back then as I do now, so it's hard to say whether an element of the writing was better or worse in The Lost Symbol. So I'll just review The Lost Symbol as a standalone book, with uber basic comparisons here and there.
This book follows a similar plot to The Da Vinci Code. Robert Langdon is suddenly thrown into the middle of a historical conspiracy dating back generations, and races against the clock to solve the mystery whilst simultaneously evading law enforcement and a creepy villain. Twist after twist and symbol after symbol are thrown at the reader, before the villain meets their demise, Langdon solves the mystery, and law enforcement calm their tits.
In both cases the answer to the mystery was very underwhelming. I'll admit that the answer to the Holy Grail in The Da Vinci Code was interesting, but the path taken to arrive at that answer just felt so convoluted, full of twists and turns just for the sake of having twists and turns. This book is much the same, with several of the codes feeling like filler. Langdon discovers a secret room. Langdon discovers a mythical pyramid. Langdon discover 8234924 symbols on the pyramid that lead to a German painting, that lead to Benjamin Franklin's sudoku fetish, that lead to a building, that leads to another building, where we finally find out 'lol, the bible is the answer to everything'.
Perhaps my memory is fuzzy, or perhaps I just read books more critically now, but I remember being gripped harder by The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. I remember being on the edge of my seat, hoping that the anti-matter explosion wouldn't be too far-reaching, and that Langdon would make it out of the river alive. I remember my heart racing as Langdon and co. snuck out of the private plane and hoodwinked the waiting police. I felt no such pull with The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown was clearly trying hard to replicate the suspense and chase of the previous two books, and it feels forced.
The only part of the book that genuinely kept me in suspense was Mal'akh. The self-flagellating albino monk with the cilice from The Da Vinci Code was nothing compared to this castrated, tattooed, deranged monster. I was horrified by everything about Mal'akh, from his voluntary castration, to his willingness to snap necks at the drop of a hat, to his psycho mission for enlightenment, to his use of steroids and illegal hormones that turned him into a mutant freak, to the uncomfortably detailed description of his 'giant tattooed sex organ'. He freaked me the fuck out, and I winced everytime Dan Brown took the reader on another trip into his psyche.
And although I initially scoffed when Mal'akh was revealed to be Zachary Solomon, that quickly began to horrify me too. Up until that point I'd believed Mal'akh was this anonymous villain that was either born a sociopath, or whom became extremely violent and manipulative after a hard life. It was shocking to think some failed tough love from a parent could've caused poor little rich kid Zachary to snap so badly, leading him down a dark path that Charles Manson or Jim Jones would be proud of. It was so much more disturbing to know that the castrated nutjob had been 'normal' at some point.
As for the protagonist, I don't know how I failed to recognise in the previous books that Langdon is a total Gary Stu! He's the foremost expert in his field, teaches at Harvard, is lean, fit and healthy for his age, has rich friends the world over, and his female companion in each book invariably develops an interest in him. It's the older male author equivalent of taming a 150 year old sparkly vampire that could've fallen for anyone, but he fell for ~*you*~.
I wish Dan Brown would work on Langdon's dialogue. Everytime he's called upon to explain a symbol, his dialogue reads like it was copied and pasted straight from Wikipedia. There are no mannerisms in there, no colloquialisms, no acknowledgement that human speech is grammatically different from the written word. Regardless of whether you're describing a trip to the bus stop or the discovery of alien life, you wouldn't speak in long run-on paragraphs with a topic sentence, a body, and a linking concluding sentence. It's so robotic and forced, literally reading as if someone typed 'define: circumpunct' into a journal database.
I didn't mind Katherine and Peter. Katherine lacked personality and Peter's secrecy was mildly irritating, but neither were so annoying that I felt like throwing my Kindle at the wall. Katherine's work in Noetics was fascinating enough to compensate for both of their shortcomings, and it's something I wouldn't mind reading up on in the future! I really liked Inoue Sato. I completely fell for Dan Brown's literary device in the beginning: strongly insinuating that she was male, but omitting personal pronouns in such a way that they'd only be noticed after the fact. By all rights I shouldn't have liked this bossy, masculine hardass, as strong female characters rarely jibe with me, but I'd love to see her pop up again in another book!
The use of persective in relation to Inoue Sato and Nola Kaye was quite interesting. While the book shifts between Langdon, Bellamy, Katherine, Trish, Nola and Mal'akhs points of view, we never really see any scene from Sato's perspective. This is obviously so the reader never knows more than Langdon does, knowing only that the events transpiring are somehow a threat to national security. Nola's perspective further helps to keep the reader in the dark, as we see her called upon to crack codes for Sato with zero background information.
So even though Nola's helping to solve the mystery, she knows nothing about what that mystery is, and therefore doesn't tell the reader anything we're not supposed to know yet. While this initially makes the reader think 'Well that'd be a frustrating job, doing top secret tasks with no context', it's actually a device to maintain suspense and mystery. Dan Brown could've easily written Sato as getting her answers via phone from some anonymous CIA Cryptologist, but giving a face and name to said Cryptologist actually helped to aid the mystery! Even her final scene with the sculpture continues to add mystery - not about the 'Lost Word' conspiracy, but the CIA Director(s) and the secrets they keep.
Overall: I didn't go in with high expectations of this book, just expecting an entertaining and farfetched guilty pleasure read to kill time commuting. By that token, I can't say that I was disappointed. We've all established that Dan Brown isn't the best author in the world, so I won't bother ranting about Langdon's wooden dialogue, the outlandish and convoluted plots, or the underwhelming reveals. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it wasn't the worst either. It was a guilty pleasure read and that's that. ...more
Pure is genuinely the most unique, interesting young adult dystopian novels I’ve read since Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series. It’s set in a post-apocalPure is genuinely the most unique, interesting young adult dystopian novels I’ve read since Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic America where some of the lucky elite live in a dome, sheltered from the effects of a cataclysmic nuclear blast. For the rest of the world it’s survival of the fittest, with the “wretches” (survivors) having melted and fused with their environments at the point of impact. This results in a protagonist with a melted doll’s head for a hand, and a boy with a flock of living birds fused to his back. It’s strangely beautiful, and yet your jaw will drop open in disgust every time the author describes a new character.
I don’t want to give away much of the story, but it basically entails a boy trying to escape the Dome, and a girl trying to understand the Dome. We’re initially told that the Dome was built with good intentions, but being a dystopian young adult sci-fi story, we know that’s not really the case. The leadership have nefarious motives, and death is just a cover story for a larger operation….
The mythology in this series is nothing short of amazing. I’ve never seen anybody build a world like this, where people fuse with objects, animals, and with each other. The Dusts were terrifying, the Beasts horrifying, and the Groupies just too sad and disgusting for words. The image of El Capitan having to carry around a malformed brother who “isn’t all there” for his whole life is so upsetting. And while “the boy with the birds in his back” is a beautiful image and turn of phrase, it’s tragic to think that these creatures are stuck and that Bradwell has never actually been able to see what type of birds they are. Then there are Pressia’s mother and Ingership’s wife, who are like something straight out of American Horror Story.... *shudders*
I’m so damn glad to find a young adult dystopian series that doesn’t have a love triangle at its core. I’m tired of authors trying to inject drama using that old chestnut, leave it to brainless mush like The Vampire Diaries. Spend enough time crafting your world and mythology so that your story doesn’t need to resort to cheap tricks to add conflict.
I don’t want to go into detail on my hopes for the next novel, because I don’t want to spoil it for everyone. But there are a lot of people I’m hoping aren’t as dead as we’ve been led to believe, and I’m excited to see more of what goes on behind the scenes in the Dome. I want to learn more about Willux’ state and Pressia’s family. I want to know if Helmud is secretly incredibly intelligent and just flying under the radar, or if his one moment of heroism was a complete fluke. I also want to learn more about Freedle and other creatures who were caught in the blast, because I spent the whole novel wondering if he was alive, or simply a wind up toy….
Overall: This is the most disturbing, creative and beautiful mythology I’ve seen in a dystopian novel since I read Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series. If you’re sick of love triangles and generic “let’s overthrow the totalitarian government” storylines, give this a shot. I can’t get enough of it. ...more