The second book in the series about an alien-human hybrid teenager and her popular boy love interest. There was far too much whining about their non-eThe second book in the series about an alien-human hybrid teenager and her popular boy love interest. There was far too much whining about their non-existent romantic concerns.
Most of the book was this: Ari: I’m not human! How can Zane like me with me when I’m part alien? Zane: I’m only human! How can I be enough for Ari? Ari tries to run away and leave Zane behind to “protect” him. Zane tells her that’s stupid because it’s his choice and he’s all in. Aaaaand repeat.
It doesn't help that I'm just not invested in Zane and Ari. I feel no spark for them or between them. Zane also spends this book being a doubting Thomas, adding nothing and making things worse. Zane isn't brave, isn't smart, isn't useful. I don't know what he adds to the relationship, except that he's the first boy to tell Ari he likes her. And then at the end he makes a selfish, short-sighted decision that is completely against Ari's interests. He goes from being useless to being actually harmful.
The book did pick up when Zane and Ari track down Zane's missing mom. Turns out that (view spoiler)[she was one of the science techs that experimented on Ari! She was the nicest one, but she's still racist and doesn't think that Ari should date her son, since it's in Ari's nature to be dangerous and bad. This belief is terrible and gross but adds some real drama to the book that's not just about Ari and Zane's self-doubts. (hide spoiler)]
The plot picked up some more when Ari decides that she needs to contact the three human-alien hybrids from a rival Evil Organization. These alien-human hybrids are named Carter, Nixon and Ford. They're three individuals, but are actually one unit (a hive-mind thing). Ford – a female and Ari’s near-twin – is their leader. Ford is brilliant and angry and ruthless. She is wonderful.
The action, once it occurs, is great. The problem is that this book lacks humor (which I know from Kade's Ghost and Goth series she can do) and it spends too much time on its tepid romance plot. ...more
This plot had all kinds of potential: a high-achieving American girl is selected to be the host sister of a newly discovered alien race as part of anThis plot had all kinds of potential: a high-achieving American girl is selected to be the host sister of a newly discovered alien race as part of an exchange program to help facilitate goodwill between the two planets. That has so many exciting avenues the book can explore. PLUS, hot alien boy is a nice change of pace from hot faerie boy or hot vampire boy or hot werewolf boy, etc., etc.
But the execution did not live up to the premise. Cara Sweeney is supposedly a valedictorian and debate champion who is completely type-A and college-focused. And yet she does basically no homework or anything school-related during the alien’s stay. She says she’s super smart and school-focused, but nothing in the story bears this out.
Cara is surrounded by flat side characters who mostly detract from the story. Her boyfriend, Eric, is a horndog who apparently was a sweet friend, but now acts like a dog in heat and is pressuring Cara to be more sexual than she wants to be. What a winner. He is also horrendously prejudiced against the aliens and pressures Cara into not doing the exchange. Basically, he doesn’t care about her or what she wants, he just wants her to agree with everything he says. For some reason, Cara doesn’t want to break up with him. Then there’s Tori, Cara’s “best friend” who I think is supposed to be sassy and headstrong, but breaks under the first hint of pressure. When the other students start turning against Cara for being a host sister, Tori defriends Cara. And then steals her boyfriend. The boyfriend who I assume Tori has heard is disrespectful and selfish and cares more about his needs than his girlfriend’s. So we know that Cara has really, really crappy taste in people.
Which makes it no surprise that she falls for Aelyx, the hot but arrogant and condescending alien. L’eihr are aliens that are genetically identical to humans, except that they have selectively bred themselves into being “superior.” The fact that L’eihrs look exactly like humans (except that they somehow bred themselves into only having 4 toes? Is that really a benefit?) is never really explored. But that is a BIG DEAL. Is it parallel evolution? Because that is unlikely. Aelyx tells some urban legend about a group of L’eihr soldiers who got sent off and landed on Earth and introduced blue eyes into the gene pool – but that still doesn’t make sense, because homo sapiens had already developed. So that doesn’t explain how two parallel species came to be (even if it does non-explain how blue eyes got into the human gene pool). That's the most explanation we get. I think the eerie similarities are a topic that should be explored in a book about alien-human relations. Also, let’s talk for a second about the fact that the L’eihr have basically human names, but kind of exoticized (like, there’s also a Jaxon as well as an Aelyx). These are not very creative names – just creative spellings of very American names. Why do aliens have such American sounding names?
Anyway, the L’eihr are exactly like humans, except that they live in a supposedly emotionless Spartan-like society, and even their planet is full of browns and greys (plus their food is tasteless and their clothes are brown). And there is only one mono-culture on L’eihr, as opposed to the thousands of cultures on Earth. Is their planet smaller? Did one culture take over all the others? Not explained! Basically, the L’eihrs are Vulcans. Because that is everyone’s favorite alien species to emulate. For being supposedly genetically perfect, supersmart, emotionless people, the L’eihr are really dumb and shortsighted and highly emotional.
All the exchange students who come to Earth (Aelyx, Syrine, and Eron) say that they act entirely logically. But they are all super emotional. Syrine hates humans (in an emotional, not a logical, way), especially since she was placed with a lecherous French boy who sexually harasses her (including putting cameras in her room!). One, not cool to perpetuate the stereotype that the French are a lascivious people. Two, did the L’eihr elders not vet the host families at all? Why would they not be able to quickly figure out that there is a potential rapist in the host family? Also, why did they place two of the students with families that had human teenagers of the opposite gender of the L’eihr student? Isn’t that a potentially bad idea? Unless they were encouraging human-L’eihr relationships *winkwink*.
Anyway, the other two exchange students are equally emotional in different ways. Eron is obviously a sweet softy, and is incredibly compassionate. And Aelyx lets his arrogance guide every single action. Not once does he logically analyze the situation and act accordingly. I think he’s supposed to be like Sherlock Holmes, but even Sherlock can be charming when called upon. Aelyx is always an utter prick (until he “falls in love”). He is incapable of of acting in the most logically beneficial way.
The L'eihr elders are equally incapable of making rational, logical decisions. They chose three students who went against orders and failed completely to improve relations which was the whole point. L'eihr elders, maybe try choosing three teenagers (out of your entire populace!) who could ACTUALLY improve human-L’eihr relationships and not screw things up by being terrible to every human they meet (really, they needed three Erons and no Aelyxs or Syrines).
The humans, besides some hippies and L'eihr fangirls, completely turn against the L'eihr. There are race riots and protests and Cara is ostracized at school. The violent humans are violent. There is no subtlety in this book, no multi-dimensional bad guys. They are just racist because. (It doesn't help that they were kind of right about the L'eihr, as the exchange students sought to poison their crops). Very few people seem swayed at all by the fact that the L’eihr cured cancer (including Cara’s mom, in a subplot that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves – where is the heartfelt conversation between Cara’s mom and Aelyx about how Aelyx’s people saved her life?). I’m sure there WOULD be suspicion and fear among some quarters, but it seems completely outsized.
The US government (and the French and Chinese governments, for the other host students) do a TERRIBLE JOB of encouraging human-L’eihr relations on their side. There’s, like, two TV specials about Aelyx’s stay at Cara’s house. They don’t go on any talk shows or anything. There’s no governmental PR person (WHICH THERE TOTALLY WOULD BE) to make sure things run smoothly. When everything goes south from basically the first day, there’s no one there to call or provide help. There’s no secret service or anything. Even when there are riots in the town and protestors march on the Sweeney house to kill Aelyx and beat the family to death nothing is done. Seriously? Also, in what should be a carefully-orchestrated PR event (the human-L’eihr exchange program), the US government just lets Cara put up an unfiltered blog of her experience. What? Shouldn’t there be some kind of privacy clause? Shouldn’t the government want everything that comes out to be on-message? To be carefully vetted? Of course not. Because EVERYONE is incompetent. The human governments, the L’eihr governments, everyone.
Don’t even get me started on the romance. Aelyx is supposedly super bright, but can’t figure out when he’s ticking others off in what is supposedly an exchange to IMPROVE relations. And again, we are TOLD he is super smart because he learns English in three days and memorized the entire human history. But all his decisions are poorly thought-out and the way he speaks is not particularly brainy and he comes across as a one-dimensional jerk. And Cara falls for him anyway, maybe because he’s the only person left that still talks to her. ...more
I liked this book, but also found it too convoluted and episodic. When it started out, it seemed like a China Miéville novel - the reader is thrown inI liked this book, but also found it too convoluted and episodic. When it started out, it seemed like a China Miéville novel - the reader is thrown in in media res to a fantastical world, which becomes more and more clear as the book goes on. Well, turns out to be more like The Quantum Thief, where it starts murky and only gets murkier.
The love story between dedicated, headstrong civil servant Delarua and the stiff, stoic Dllenakh? That I get. That was a delicious slow burn of a romance and I love how it all played out.
But the universe and its races and its worlds - that I don't get.
In the future, there's Terrans (that's Earthlings), Sadiris (essentially Vulcans), and a bunch of other races who I couldn't keep straight. Are all these different race future Earthlings? Or were they cases of parallel evolution? And who the heck are these mythological "Caretakers" and how do they play into the existence/spread of these different races?
The Sadiri were definitely Vulcans – an intelligent, stoic people with a rigid society. They must suppress their emotions because they just feel all the feels too strongly. Also, here they are psychic.
The Sadiris get shafted at the beginning of this book, as it opens with the genocide of their entire planet by a people and for a reason I never understood. Who, why? Doesn't matter - what matters is that EVERYONE IS DEAD except for those who were off-planet at the time. Given the societal make-up, that means it was mostly males (most off-planet Sadiri workers being young males).
Now all those leftover Sadiri are grieving and want to recreate their society. But they need brides. So they go to Cygnus Beta, a melting-pot world which includes a high percentage of Sadiri blood.
The focus is on Councillor Dllenakh, a smart, stiff, overly polite Sadiri official and Delarua, the smart, passionate, Cygnus Beta civil servant. They are part of a team who is tasked with travelling around Cygnus Beta looking for potential brides/societies with the right culture and bloodlines.
It's a travelogue - Dllenakh/Delarua & co. traipse through various cultures on Cygnus Beta. It's as diverse as earth when it comes to culture. There is a culture with psychic flying monks, another with blood feuds, and another with a Sadiri splinter group that models itself after the Fae of Terran legend (complete with Seelie and Unseelie courts).
There were bits that were interesting but overall it was disjointed. It felt more like a collection of interwoven short stories haphazardly strung together than a coherent novel.
Some plot points would suddenly appear then disappear. For example - Delarua has a sister that she suddenly decides to visit because she’s nearby. I didn’t remember that she ever mentioned a sister previously, but cool. And THEN it turns out that her sister married Delarua’s ex-boyfriend. What! Why would that not come up when Delarua thought about visiting them? And THEN it turns out the sister’s husband is psychically controlling his entire family into a Stepford–type perfect contentment (except for his equally psychically strong preteen son, who knows what’s going on but can’t stop it). And he’s trying to use his psychic abilities to keep Delarua around instead of letting her leave again. WHAT. This all comes out without any foreshadowing or any build-up. Delarua never really talks about her family before visiting, then all of a sudden there's enough drama for a Spanish telenova and then just as quickly the plot has moved on.
I think Lord definitely has potential as a sci fi author – she’s imaginative and a solid writer, she just needs to work on creating a more cohesive book. ...more
What happens to a supervillain after he conquers the world? He gets bored.
Emperor Mollusk is much like Artemis Fowl before he's reached his redemptionWhat happens to a supervillain after he conquers the world? He gets bored.
Emperor Mollusk is much like Artemis Fowl before he's reached his redemption arc. He’s a brilliant, arrogant, intellectual, curious, egotistical, condescending genius, though he has developed a fondness for Earthlings and isn’t pro-violence (though he will use it as one of his many tools). His counterpoint is Kala, who is to him what Holly Short is to Artemis Fowl. She’s an honor-bound, law-abiding, fierce warrior who views Mollusk with a mixture of grudging respect, exasperation and annoyance.
I love that Martinez has managed to make a gigantic centipede endearing and adorable (Emperor Mollusk's pet, Snarg). Oh, Snarg! I would cuddle with you! (which I don’t think I could say for any other insect of any size)
The story was appealing, the writing was clever and the humor stuck its landing nearly every the time. Success for Martinez!
And I realize now that what made that series so good was the humor. There was angst and all, butI really, really adored The Ghost and the Goth series.
And I realize now that what made that series so good was the humor. There was angst and all, but it was still funny. This one was not. At all. It is all angst.
Ariane is a human-alien hybrid who escaped from GenTex lab with the help of her adopted father. She is living under the nose of GenTex, remaining in the same town and going to the local high school. To make this work, Ariane must live by the Rules, which are basically that she can’t trust anyone or get involved with anyone. This means she’s a social outcast, with the exception of Jenna, an aspiring (but so far failed) social climber.
I really did not like what Kade did with Jenna. At the beginning, Jenna seems like a bubbly, supportive friend - but apparently she is just using Jenna to feel better about herself. I think there are way easier ways to feel good about yourself than your only “friend” being a quiet, no-fun girl who won’t even hang out with you outside of school. But okay. Lack of strong female friendships might just be a tick of Kade’s writing – Alona in The Ghost and the Goth didn’t have any actual female friends either. In both series, the only real main character relationship is with the love interest. However, that worked better in Ghost and Goth, because Alona was a Queen Bee surrounded by other girls who just wanted to be popular. It’s very Mean Girls, and Alona realizing that her friendships had all been superficial was tragic. In The Rules, Ariane very well could have had a real friend in Jenna, but Kade throws that friendship under the bus to make Ariane ALL ABOUT her love interest Zane. Jenna does a 360 – she seems to be Ariane’s true, loyal friend, always there to support Ariane even when Ariane is being antisocial or weird. But no. Jenna just wants someone around who is an even bigger loser than she is, and betrays Ariane at the first opportunity to be popular. Even after Ariane stood for her when the popular girl (who Jenna keeps trying to be friends with) humiliates Jenna in front of the entire school.
So, Zane, the love interest, the only character that in the end really matters to Ariane. I did like him. Kade did a good job of giving Zane a different voice than Ariane and giving him interesting motivations. Zane’s dad is a social climbing hardass, his brother is the Golden Son that his father loves and approves of, and his mother left on his birthday – even though she stuck around long enough for his brother’s graduation ceremony. Everyone in Zane’s family seems to not care about him, and to love Zane’s brother more. Just as bad, Zane hates his friends. He’s in the mean popular group – he used to like to hang out with them to be cool, but now he sees what jerks they all are and no longer likes them. Unfortunately, by default they’re his social group and he’s too lazy to try to find better friends. Zane is a lazy jerk in the beginning, but he starts growing a spine and standing up for himself and Ariane.
Sadly, this still felt overall generic; “popular boy falls in love with unnoticed girl.” The whole premise of resident Mean Girl Rachel plotting to have Zane ask Ariane out in order to publicly dump her at a party (in retaliation for standing up for Jenna) is meet-cute, but feels a little out of place in a sci fi/thriller with a genetic experiment trying to stay free of the evil lab. Take out the fact that Ariane is an alien hybrid, and this really could have been a contemporary young adult. Ariane’s alien abilities and the fact that she’s a fugitive didn’t feel like it added much to the story – maybe because the focus was so much on the romance. Maybe I’m just missing the humor and fun that I know Kade can insert. Ariane and Zane are just both so dour. ...more
I do not even know how to explain this plot, so I won't even try. The first 50 pages are incredibly hard to understand, because Mieville likes to justI do not even know how to explain this plot, so I won't even try. The first 50 pages are incredibly hard to understand, because Mieville likes to just drop you in the middle of things without explanation. He figures you'll catch on eventually and you know what? You do. I realized this happened when I read The City & The City so for this one I just let the words wash over me until they began to form a coherent picture.
In the end, I liked it a lot. It's a story of alien meet human (even though they have coexisted for possibly centuries [the timing of this is not in earth-years, so it's hard to tell] the aliens/humans don't really understand each other until the events in this book hit). It's also the story of a civilization in the chaos of a cultural shift. There were also politics and power plays and maneuverings and treachery that I love in books when done well (and here it certainly is done well).
I will say that while I understood almost everything that was going on in the end, I still couldn't quite sort out the alien city. The buildings were alive, yes? And most (all?) material objects were also alive in a sense? But...how???? This part broke my brain.
This book was...intense. There is no other word to describe it. The Sparrow was powerful and wonderful, but I knew that everyone but Sandoz would dieThis book was...intense. There is no other word to describe it. The Sparrow was powerful and wonderful, but I knew that everyone but Sandoz would die and I was prepared for that. I knew what happened, even though I didn’t know how, so I was intrigued but not on the edge of my seat. In Children of God I had NO idea what would happen and I spent most of the time white-knuckled and on edge. Poor Sandoz manages to get screwed over all the time no matter what. And it’s all God’s plan and for the best. It’s very little comfort knowing that the poor bastard gets his life ruined over and over again for the good of Rakhat. This book raises so many philosophical questions that I don’t even know how to begin answering them. No author has ever made me think so much and so deeply about complex issues. And at the same time the book never comes off as pedantic and plodding; it is a thrilling novel as much as it is a thinking novel. I simply don’t know how Russell does it and I’m very rarely as awed by a novelist as I am by her.
I will say that I didn’t feel like The Sparrow was set up to have a sequel, though it was very well done. My view of Supaari changed a 100% between the end of the first book and the beginning of this one; he went from a villain to a tragic hero simply because we saw things from his perspective and found out that actions we thought were callously cruel were actually done with the best of intentions. I was annoyed that Mendes turned out to be alive in the beginning—I’d already mourned her death, dammit, and it felt like a retcon especially since the first book said repeatedly that Sandoz was the only survivor. I got over it, though, when Mendes was used intelligently and her and her child became integral to the plot. Though I do wonder about what happened to the guys who rescued Sandoz, disappeared and were never found. And the fact that nobody looked very hard for them and they even stopped being mentioned eventually. Dropped plot thread? ...more
I first heard about this book when I was about 12. My mother had read it and loved it and told me all about it (though she glossed over most of what hI first heard about this book when I was about 12. My mother had read it and loved it and told me all about it (though she glossed over most of what happened to Emilio, since I was 12). At the time I thought it was one of those "grown-up" books I would never read, but now that I read those "grown-up" books on a regular basis, I decided to pick this up to see what all the fuss was about.
And now I see why she loved it so much. It's complex and thought-provoking but also exciting and gripping. It probably has the best examination of God and religion I've seen in a book. The 2060 Italian characters were often mixed together in my head, but the 2019 Jesuit mission crew was full of characters so well fleshed out it was almost like they were people I already knew. I always "cast" characters in my head, and I know it's a good book when doing so is easy and the cast seems to fit exactly (did anyone else feel that Meryl Streep would be perfect as Anne, or possibly that Anne was Meryl Streep?). The only character I didn't have a good grip on was the first to die, so he was pretty much cannon fodder anyway.
I was spoiled already about the aliens/their society, so I already knew all the twists that were coming (well, most of them). But if I hadn't I would have been shocked and can almost guarantee I would never have seen it coming. Some books have "twists" but they are so contrived or WTF that you wish they weren't included at all. In this case, it makes perfect sense but still makes you sit back in shock.
The only gripes I have about the book are nitpicks. The book is set 15 Minutes in the Future, which is weird because it was written in the 1990s and Russell should've known it would've been dated really fast. The only way I can figure it is that she wanted to make the pop culture references made by the older characters (y'know, the ones she knows from her life) and that would only be possible if the book was in a very near future (though I was privately amused that the youngest character didn't get a Star Trek reference; Russell obviously didn't forsee Hollywood's desire to remake everything and how popular the new Star Trek movie would be; or maybe in this future one of the tragedies is that the film was never made). Also, the wrap-up was way too fast. An extra 50 or 100 pages wasn't strictly necessary, but as it was the end somehow felt rushed. When you know that there's only going to be one survivor and yet almost everyone is still alive with only so many pages to go, you know it's got to be a bloodbath. And it was, but it was kind of a blink-and-you'll miss it now everyone's dead thing, and I felt like the characters deserved more. I was surprised the end of the mission wasn't a flashback like most of the rest of the mission had been; instead, Emilio is telling what happened. I felt a flashback would've been much more appropriate and heart-wrenching.
Oh, and I hope you have at least a passing familiarity with French and Spanish or a friend who does. Russell translates the Latin (which is good, because that's the only one I don't know) but most of the French and Spanish is left untranslated (it's only a sentence here or there, but if it was in Chinese or something I couldn't read, I would be annoyed).
But, as I said, nitpicks. It's probably the best first-encounter story I've read. As a sci-fi book, an adventure book, a philosophical book, it is fantastic. ...more