**spoiler alert** This appears to be a love it or hate it sort of book. Most of this is predicated on whether the reader in question is open to readin**spoiler alert** This appears to be a love it or hate it sort of book. Most of this is predicated on whether the reader in question is open to reading about a protagonist who is a violent sociopath at the age of 14. He rapes, robs, murders and tortures without conscience or regret. I think the main reason this gets compared to GRRM so often is this grim and really over the top violence and grittiness of the story. The story arcs themselves, beyond involving war and politics and all sorts of treachery and intrigue, really don't have that much in common. So, if you have no interest or stomach for lots of killing without cause or regret, rape, torture and all sorts of evils committed by a fourteen year old who is the voice and POV of this story, then leave this story alone. If you're comfortable reading about such things and intrigued by a fantasy/SF story where the narrator is an antihero, well that's a different thing altogether.
While I didn't necessarily like the book, it was a very fast read that gripped me solidly so that I didn't want to put it down. The writing does make it a compelling story, and it's not the kind of intricate doorstop style of book that Martin writes. Lawrence's writing is generally clear, direct and fast moving. This is essential a written portrait of the story's protagonist, what shapes him and how he chooses to respond.
This story has some interesting world building, but it doesn't manage it with the scope of either Martin or Sanderson. It's a much more bare bones story by comparison, the first in a series. I can't say I ever liked the main character throughout the whole of this read, and there aren't many other likable characters in the book. I don't know if the author plans to actually redeem the protagonist in readers' eyes in the books to come, but I'd be amazed if he could pull it off.
Some reviewers would say they like this book because it is realistic. Eh, no more realistic than any other sort of grand scale fantasy story. But if you want to read a story where everyone is trying to outdo each other for the "absolute effing evil bastard" award, this is it. A roll in the mud of anger, hatred, revenge, and those that like to manipulate it. Beyond the fact that these kind of stories lack a real balance that I prefer in my reading, there were a few other things.
A)It's an inherently "masculine " fantasy in writing, subject and tone. Female characters are few and far between, and only one or two come across as even interesting, let alone having any power. Not saying women won't like it because of that, but it makes for a very particular sort of book.
B) (spoiler point) in one of the final showdown moments for the Prince with Corion, at what is one of the singularly vital points of the story, our oh-so-rebellious Prince with his own will and determination is quite nearly undone. What saves him? A kick from his horse. I'm sorry to say that after pages and pages of reading about the Prince trying to drive his own fate and play the game, to have the author engineer such a trick serves to cheapen the ending of this story. Maybe others won't be so provoked by it, but I think what I was enjoying most about this story, despite it being about a horrendous individual doing horrendous things, is that he kept fighting to try and be his own self, and at the very moment when that fight for self would have been something to cheer for, the author takes that option away, leaving victory up to the luck of a random event....more
To be absolutely fair, if what you're looking for is absolute geek boy nerd fluff and 80s nostalgia, this might be a lovely little bit of reading to fTo be absolutely fair, if what you're looking for is absolute geek boy nerd fluff and 80s nostalgia, this might be a lovely little bit of reading to fill that craving. But I'm afraid it's just not all that for me.
A sort of wish fulfillment geek boy futuristic adventure. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Revenge of the Nerds in a D&D basement. It's a fun premise (the inventory of the world's most amazing VR game has left a hidden Easter Egg that will give the quester that finds it his fortune). Trouble is . . . trouble is, well a lot, I'm afraid.
Let's take the characters. For the amount of time and love invested in the 80's lore, there's fairly little time given to fleshing out the characters. Our main character is very much a male Mary Sue--and our main female character is the gal of his dreams. The bad guys are reeeeeaaally bad. The good guys are amazingly good. Not a lot of middle ground here. And . . . I don't like the protagonist. He's not a real visionary, he's not a wonderful guy, and he's not as smart or talented as he thinks he is. Not to mention it seems a little bizarre that a kid from abject poverty living in a junked out van can go from that to a savvy upscale tech junkie in a few short weeks. He's supposed to be just a kid who isn't even doing all that good in school, but suddenly he's the Macguyver of running and hiding out. His whole romantic attachment and romance with the heroine is . . . sappy. The fact that after discussing appearances she turns out to be five seven and thin and gorgeous (other than a birthmark) is a little painfully annoying.
World building. Because this is focused on the 1980s and then on the current terribly deteriorating world, there isn't a lot in between. This is vaguely bizarre, in that we have absolutely no cultural references in music, lit, or movies that relate to more recent trends. To give this current age a stronger reality as futuristic, it would have been helpful to have some references to social influences other than 1980s trivia. For all that the writer loves his 80's lore, the set up and description of the programming, VR equipment and environment feel very thin and only lightly touched on. I've read other VR stories where you get the feeling of the tech going on behind the VR, but not so much here. There's also the fact that the world outside the game is collapsing, with much pain, poverty and despair. As a reader this bothered me in that it feels like our story, no matter how much fun, is not the story that should be told. Sort of as though Charlie went on a romp in a chocolate factory in the midst of a deadly famine--it completely undermines the fun.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of the 80's references are fun to recognize and chuckle over, but it isn't enough to make me buy into the story....more
Don't know . . . this really didn't work for me as a fantasy. Maybe because I read so many, but there just wasn't enough new stuff to really interestDon't know . . . this really didn't work for me as a fantasy. Maybe because I read so many, but there just wasn't enough new stuff to really interest me in yet another dystopian style story where all creativity and rebellion is quashed. I just couldn't find a reason to care about the characters....more
Probably one of the most unexpected series I've read in a long time. It really avoided falling into all the expected paths and managed to surprise meProbably one of the most unexpected series I've read in a long time. It really avoided falling into all the expected paths and managed to surprise me time and time again. I thought I'd get jaded and frustrated and depressed reading about all the death, oppression etc that go on in this series, but the opposite is true. The author keeps you with the main character the entire series and she's real. She's real and human and imperfect and seeing everything through her eyes allows you to keep going on because she keeps going on in spite of her errors and troubles.
Amazing. I can only hope this author can impress me as much in the future with whatever is next up her sleeve!
eh. Give me House of Stairs by William Sleator any day. That was a great book along these lines, but with a better payoff. Or Lord of the Flies whicheh. Give me House of Stairs by William Sleator any day. That was a great book along these lines, but with a better payoff. Or Lord of the Flies which for all I had to read it again and again in school has some chilling brilliance to it. Even the bizarre Dark Ground trilogy by Gillian Cross, which is not dystopian fic, is a more gripping read. This scenario is not particularly new, and while some of it is interesting, the overall premise just doesn't get off the ground. Just when we're beginning to like Thomas, things go all screwy and we really don't get a full opinion on why.
Granted, we know things are awful in the world outside, but we don't really get any explanations until the last sliver of the book--and it looks like the story continues on with another book.
Shades of Incarceron, and also Dark City within this book, but just nothing that makes me want to keep reading. ...more