This is not The Hunger Games. I feel that distinction has to be made early on because I was very close to dismissing The Stars Never Rise as suchThis is not The Hunger Games. I feel that distinction has to be made early on because I was very close to dismissing The Stars Never Rise as such and putting it down because the beginning is the same, albeit more brutally realistic. A neglectful mother who is rarely seen or heard, a big sister who has to do everything she can to put food on the table and clothes on their backs while also taking care of her younger sister. The Hunger Games was "just" a dystopia, this is also urban fantasy. Demons are walking the streets wearing humans like clothes while quietly consuming their souls.
In a strictly controlled environment, Nina days away from her 17th birthday and 15-year-old sister Melanie have to be careful to obey the rules lest the all powerful Unified Church find out their mother is a crackhead sinner which would see them sent to a children's home. As it appears their mother won't make it to Melanie's 18th, Nina reluctantly plans to pledge a lifetime of servitude to the Church in order to keep Melanie out of an orphanage for the next three years. What Nina doesn't bank on is Melanie's rebellious nature culminating in an unplanned and illegal pregnancy that Melanie's desperate to keep despite the challenges ahead. (Understatement.) To make matters worse Nina accidentally kills her mother (there's alot more to it than that) and goes on the run, painted as a demon-possessed serial killer by the Church.
There are some striking similarities to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Church and state are one and the same after an apocalyptic event. Purity and virtuousness rule. Procreation is under strict control and punishments are lethal and very, very public. Propaganda is ever present and self-determination is pure fantasy.
TV show Dominion appears to share the same world with The Stars Never Rise. Demons seeking hosts to possess. The war against demons wiping out a large percentage of the human population with those remaining living in walled towns and cities, always on guard against the possessed.
Skimming much of the text for the first two thirds of the book to concentrate on the dialogue was the only way I could continue reading. Obviously I didn't miss much as I never became confused enough to go back to read it properly. Pacing is generally too slow and boring whereas the tense moments, more common in the home stretch, are when everything speeds up and suddenly every word is relevant and interesting.
Figuring out the admittedly riveting twists and turns before the characters was frustrating. All the signs about the truth behind the Church were there. Although Mrs Kane's plans for her poor daughters were a complete surprise.
[SPOILER ALERT: Who would expect a mother to breed and sell her children for mere personal gain? I also don't get the assumption that an exorcist can be possessed, wouldn't one cancel the other out?]
I think the only reason I didn't give up on The Stars Never Rise altogether is the shocking brutality. Sterilizing fifteen-year-olds, including Nina, for having a few non-lethal allergies because they could weaken the next generation, burning innocent children at the stake, the demeaning things Nina had to do in order to get away with stealing - disrobing and allowing herself to be groped. All of that kept me reading despite Nina's clichéd insta-love interest Finn. (At least there's no love triangle, like in Vincent's other works.) I'm not so secretly hoping that Finn's body hopping status means he's really a demon. Or in Supernatural style, maybe he's an angel. Since he grew up with Maddock, seemingly born with and bonded to him - perhaps he received two souls at birth instead of one.
While we're on the subject of souls . . . Everyday we're reminded that our population growth is out of control. Star Trek: Next Generation created a world where 60-year-olds die to prevent themselves from becoming a burden to younger generations. Today we have the problem of needing ever more taxpayers than the increasing number of pensioners in order to pay for pensions and elderly care.
Well, here the demons feast on the souls of their hosts and once that soul has been extinguished they either change hosts or become Degenerates, when the host bodies mutate into monsters described like the vampires from the Kate Daniels world. But that's okay, because there's a neverending supply of souls. Until the the day came when babies inexplicably started dying upon arrival into this world due to a lack of soul. To combat this, volunteers usually offer up their souls (and their life) for their unborn grandchildren and people aged 50 and over are automatically added to a community list should no family or friends of any age come forward. Sometimes there are no donors available and the babies die. Anyway, this regulates population.
With all of that in mind, there's only one logical conclusion. Human extinction. No one seems to acknowledge the fact that humanity is doomed. Countless demons eating up the limited supply of souls means a humanless world is inevitable. Unless this reincarnation process is broken by some miracle that no longer requires state sanctioned suicide to provide souls for the young, then this story isn't going anywhere. A handful of exorcists, i.e. Nina the Demon Slayer and co., won't be able to save our species. There will be no happy ending.
Deus ex machina is not something I enjoy, so where's the incentive to read The Flame Never Dies the sequel in this duology?
I've now read twelve works by Rachel Vincent. Political intrigue and edge-of-your-seat tension in her adult Shifters series were amazing. Unique worldbuilding certainly set the young adult Soul Screamers series apart from the pack, while also never shying away from the tough topics that entrance and haunt adolescents such as sex and drugs, and I can say the same about The Stars Never Rise. Gritty relationship drama is another special talent Vincent possesses although little of that is present here other than the weirdness when kissing your boyfriend means kissing multiple males (no girls so far) that he temporarily inhabits.
Character development feels a little . . . iffy. Melanie, Nina's pregnant sister, is a rebel determined to live her life the way she wants instead of how the Church wants. Falling in love wasn't expected. Clearly the pregnancy wasn't planned and certainly threw a spanner into the works, proving her guilty of both fornication and procreation without a license. This strong, smart fifteen-year-old has a fleshed out personality, others don't. Her sister Nina is the stereotypical fighter and protector willing to sacrifice her life in every way for her sister (and possibly Nina's only friend Anabelle). And Anathema, the small band of exorcists plus the disembodied Finn, seem to share a strong-willed yet affable nature apart from the slightly meaner but more practical Devi. Honestly, I couldn't always tell which of them was talking and I got that irrepressible do-gooder vibe you get from Jehovah's Witnesses on your doorstep that sometimes came across as creepy. I shouldn't be thinking that about the good guys. Bad guys, yes; good guys, no.
To sum up, excellent immersive rather than info-dumped worldbuilding, a diabolical political landscape and shocking twists and turns are the positives. But overall, the snail pace, figuring out the mysteries some time before the characters and the lack of forethought regarding the fate of humanity kind of dampened my enthusiasm somewhat.
If my library happens to stock The Flame Never Dies, I may read it, but I'm not going to go out of my way to finish this duology unless I see some stellar reviews, and maybe not even then....more
Shallow, self-indulgent showing off. Look at my awesome Carrie Bradshaw life, designer shoes, cute daughter and long suffering husband. Envy me, bitchShallow, self-indulgent showing off. Look at my awesome Carrie Bradshaw life, designer shoes, cute daughter and long suffering husband. Envy me, bitches!
Motin really needs to tone it down. Maybe it's because she's French. Nothing of this memoir appears to have been lost in translation, however, the handwriting font is illegible at times but Motin's illustrations are wonderful.
When Motin isn't showing off (boring) I appreciated her humorous frankness regarding the pressures of hair removal, her relationships with her guy friends and the realities of motherhood and the affect it's had on her body.
In some ways Motin's life is very similar to my sister's though with a little less showing off. It must have something to do with living in their respective country's capital cities - my sister in London and Motin in Paris.
If the font was more legible and the tone not quite so snobby, I probably would've enjoyed this graphic novel memoir more....more
"I will gladly do anything you ask as long as it does not harm humans, animals, or property. I will avoid putting myself in danger unless it is to pr
"I will gladly do anything you ask as long as it does not harm humans, animals, or property. I will avoid putting myself in danger unless it is to protect you or by your command. The Tanaka logo on my wrist is the only physical indication that I am an android and I am required by law to keep it exposed at all times. I am not allowed to handle legal tender or helm a vehicle, so please keep that in mind if you send me out on errands. I am in your hands, now. Please take good care of me."
Meet Ada the android
An emotionally depressed 27-year-old Alex in a future I, Robot society with Batteries Not Included robot elves receives his grandmother's birthday present - a Tanaka X5, the first human-looking andorid. (Anyone else get confused with Jessica Alba's X5 genetically enhanced generation in Dark Angel?). Alex has no intention of keeping his grandmother's hugely expensive gesture, finding her sexual partnership with an X5 a little creepy.
Otto looks remarkably like the Fix-its in Batteries Not Included (1987)
For safety, no android is autonomous. Don't bother asking one for an opinion, they have no preferences. Their default is whatever their owner wishes. At least that's what the public's been told, though recent events in the news seem to contradict this. Alex tries to return his X5 but found his conscience couldn't allow it. Her childlike intellect (they learn through experience) leaves her vulnerable. One friend phrased it as ' . . . like getting a girlfriend and a baby at the same time.' No one would treat a baby as property. Instead Alex saw her potential. Loneliness probably also had a hand in his decision to keep the newly named Ada. After all, what's better than having a friend you know won't betray or leave you.
In order to help Ada, Alex searches for the truth behind the headlines using Prime Wave-X, which is a way to telepathically connect to a virtual reality internet via a brain implant. Can androids be more than what they are? Can they be freed from the shackles of slavery? Ada's eventually unlocked like a mobile phone - a painful and illegal process androids aren't guaranteed to survive, and should the authorities find out, everyone involved would either be decommissioned or imprisoned.
Alex's depression and awkwardness in response to this new responsibility were realistic, although he does come across as monotone and unemotional with his lack of conviction or eagerness about anything in particular, which made it harder to care about him. Strange, because I immediately liked Ada, the one without human feeling.
However, the fantastic detailed worldbuilding and illustrations more than made up for it, in my opinion. The technology involved in Alex's morning routine, the news broadcasts reporting on controversial android stories and the virtual reality internet forums have all inspired me to read the next volume. That being said, I've seen I, Robot at least a dozen times and Alex + Ada is very similar in its philosophy. They share themes of slavery, freedom and what it means to be human.
P.S. Watching TV while in the driving seat has already been done. At least Luna's way looks safer and less illegal....more
Offensive racist stereotyping, rampant sexism, an abundance of rape, clichéd and disjointed storytelling and an unwieldy cast of homogenous charactersOffensive racist stereotyping, rampant sexism, an abundance of rape, clichéd and disjointed storytelling and an unwieldy cast of homogenous characters of which to keep track - what's not to love about this 1940s noir in graphic novel form?
Choosing to read The Fade Out may have been a mistake. I judged this book by its intriguingly pretty cover. I clearly didn't take the possibility of historical gender and race issues and tropes into consideration when forming my expectations. Having never read noir before, this may be par for the course.
Brubaker's Hollywood is a sad and scummy place under the glitz-and-glamour facade. Its ruling elite are selfish, hollow alcoholics with a penchant for illicit sex, drugs and rape. It's a Catholic priest's fantasy with so many emotionally stunted sinners eager to offload their guilt, some of whom wealthy enough to furnish his coffers. Our main protagonist, Charlie, follows this particular pattern by attempting to lose his misery of PTSD from WWII in the bottom of many, many whiskey bottles. Trauma robbed him of his creativity to the point that he could no longer function as a screenwriter. That is until he entered into a deal with a fellow alcoholic screenwriter who's been blacklisted from Hollywood and now ghostwriters for Charlie. Waking up in a bathtub in a stranger's home after a bender with a thunderous hangover and no memory of the night before and stumbling out to find the lifeless body of the star actress of his movie, is how Charlie starts off The Fade Out. An intriguing beginning.
Due to its large cast, there's a list in the opening pages. Despite this I still found it difficult to follow who I was reading about as back stories are revealed one by one. Each character reads like the same person. They're far too similar. All women (bar one, so far) are victims to be used, abused, sold and murdered. Damsels in distress. Watching desperate-to-be-famous actresses meekly submitting to the sweaty hands of ageing, overweight Hollywood heavyweights is unsettling. But what really fired me up was the racist stereotyping of the sole black man as a ravisher of white women, both single and married, for which he's regularly beaten. Historically, black women could go where black men couldn't precisely because of this harmful stereotype condemning all black men for their supposedly irresistible seductive nature around white women. A step too far, in my opinion.
I'm not averse to grim situations or violent altercations. It's the monotony of it all. An absence of contrast. Where are the eccentric and charismatic characters? We have a glut of Frank Grimeses and no Homer Simpsons to balance them out.
Concentrating on character backgrounds and returning to the business of the mystery - too rarely for my tastes - meant the unfolding story felt disjointed. I easily lost the gist of what was happening and I never really got it back again. And the inclusion of real people such as politicians and Hollywood stars - Clark Gable of Gone With the Wind fame, for example - added to the general lack of originality.
I can't fault the quality of the illustrations, however, they do fail the Elliot Test in that they exclusively show female nudity.
Overall, The Fade Out is not something I enjoyed reading....more