FIRE & FLOOD is probably one of the most gimmicky and derivative books I've read in a while. It shamelessly rips off Hunger Games, the Pokemon/Digimon franchise, and LOST. These ideas are then pieced together in such a haphazard way that I couldn't help but wonder if the author just decided to screw it, and bypass further editing in favor of releasing her book to follow in the wake of the Divergent and Catching Fire releases.
What makes this book like the Hunger Games series?
-The corrupt government recruits people to fight in this gladiatorial style competition for a prize.
-Tella decides to fight because of her little brother.
-The games take place in various ecosystems specifically designed to cause the players as much strife as possible.
-Only one player can win, but they band together for the duration.
-They get special uniforms for the games.
-A snake pin!
-One of the players has an animal symbol of rebellion. (A hawk, instead of a mockingjay.)
-The dash for the eggs is a lot like the dash for the Cornucopia.
What makes this book like the Pokemon/Digimon series?
-Pandoras are zoo animals that come from freaking eggs.
-Everyone gets a different animal.
-The animals have various attacks, like FLY, DIG, HORN ATTACK, SPIKES, HYPNOSIS, MIMIC, and MEAN LOOK. Those aren't the actual names, but still.
-One player decides to take a Team Rocket approach and capture other people's Pandoras.
-The Pandoras can fight each other and also solve real-world problems.
"I'd like to officially welcome you to the Brimstone Bleed. May the bravest Contender win" (59).
Happy Hunger Games to you, too.
The MC is extremely unlikable: vain, shallow, totally focused on her clothes, appearance, makeup even when it was totally inappropriate for the situation. Don't get me wrong, it can be refreshing to have an MC who knows she looks good and isn't shy about it. Mac, from the Fever series, was like that. But Tella, the MC of FIRE & FLOOD, is one of those girls who doesn't know she's beautiful until a man (or several men) help discover this point of fact...in the most disturbing way possible, of course.
The one female character, Harper, who is aware of her sexuality, is ruthlessly slut-shamed. All the undesirable men ogle and flirt with her and stare at her boobs (Tella's love interest is curiously immune). Right at the beginning, Tella says, "She has cream-colored skin and a body that belongs in a magazine--the kind for guys, not girls" which is as good as saying that she belongs in a pornographic magazine. She also talks about how she wants to punch Harper in the face for being so pretty, and that this is the reason why she will not be friends with her. Fuck you, Tella. It's always incredibly disturbing when an MC objectifies the other female characters, and I found it really off-putting how much time was devoted to having people put down Harper. For example, when it's revealed that she's a young mother, Tella and some of the guys joke about how the father could be one of the guys in the camp. Because she's so slutty-looking, even though she's never actually had sex with any of these men in the camp. But hey, if animals can hatch from eggs, maybe you can have sex through osmosis in this world. Who the fuck knows! But don't fucking slut-shame. Okay? Okay.
The male characters are all super-rapey. Tella has two contenders: a washed-out Byronic hero from the Edward Cullen school of love interests who likes to glare at her and treat her like a child, and a complete psycho. The lines between their behavior towards Tella are perhaps not as distinct as the author would have liked so she has the psycho sink to really fucked up and depraved levels of behavior like murder, animal abuse, and attempted rape.
Unfortunately, the lines between consensual and nonconsensual are as clear as a Robin Thicke song. For example, in the desert ecosystem they have to sleep in their undies because...um, it's cold at night and the sand will rob their bodies of warmth (so why not keep your clothes on???). Tella's love interest makes a point of ogling her instead of Harper and even molests her a little in front of their teammates, leading to some truly ribald comments. But Tella gets off stripping for him and plots their wedding while he macks on her. No, I'm not kidding.
Jaxon ogles Harper. The boys gather desert carnage for our beds. Guy watches me undress. I imagine our wedding (219).
Then for the bad guy, we get lines like this.
"I see you're going to need some breaking" (253).
And perhaps even more disturbingly,
He's watching me the way Guy does (264).
That doesn't make you rethink your choice of love interests? Really?
On the other hand, this is a girl who stands stock-still in the middle of what should have been an epic fight scene and fantasizes about her rhinestoned t-shirt that says GIRLS DON'T FIGHT, THEY FLAUNT, wondering if it's still in her closet as the mayhem goes down around her. Again, not making this stuff up. It's in the book. I've never read about a more passive heroine in an action-adventure series who was the main character. It's like if you took Bella Swan (hey, Tella, Bella), and slapped her in the middle of Hunger Games but also rendered her immortal so her stupidity wouldn't cause her to die the way it would in the real world. Tella is a girl who, when she finds herself stripped after being knocked unconscious, wonders what her assailant thought about her mismatched underwear. When she gets molested by her would-be rapist, she thinks the best course of action is to give him what he wants, not make him angry, and endear herself to his men. She thinks kissing can be a weapon. She pines away for her real love interest, hoping he will come and save her.
And yes, while it is nice to have a strong man who will watch out for you, he shouldn't be your first line of defense. Rapists and assailants tend to wait to strike when you're alone; and while no one should ever be blamed for their assault, because they are the victim, and I don't believe in victim-blaming, women should know how to defend themselves, as a general rule.
But unfortunately, this is a rule that Tella does not subscribe to.
Also, there's insta-love.
My body aches for him in a way I've never known. I feel like an animal, all muscle and hormones and lust (186).
The world-building is haphazard at best. Their world is kind of like our world and yet different enough that I feel like some explanation for the transitions are necessary. DELIRIUM is about as vague as I can tolerate with regards to world-building and FIRE & FLOOD definitely crossed that line. For example, the MC mentions Nordstroms and Disney, so I know that their world is our world. And yet, apparently animals can come from eggs and the government has these super sekrit games that they make people play--and yet they don't broadcast it on live TV so if it's not for entertainment and fear, then what is it for? Nobody ever says. Because THEY DON'T KNOW. (Clever. Not.)
FIRE & FLOOD was an attempt at taking several popular gimmicks and combining them in a patchwork opus. It didn't work. The beginning is awful, and while it gets better a little in the middle, the storyline quickly takes a turn for the worse when the two (I hesitate to call them love interests) men make their interest in Tella known. I suppose the one saving grace of this storyline is Madox, Tella's fox Pandora. He was freaking adorable. Too bad he wasn't the MC.
Richard Stokes is the founder and CEO of Adgooroo, a search advertiser. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO PAY-PER-CLICK ADVERTISING is a how-to guide for internet entrepreneurs looking to make a killing with online marketing.
I was a little surprised to see a book like this on Netgalley. At first I thought it was going to be a book about improving the quality of one's blog and getting more hits. I wasn't expecting something so technical and to be honest, I'm not quite sure how many people on NG would possibly fit in the target demographic for this book.
I did get some helpful tips out of PAY-PER-CLICK but unless you're planning a start-up, this probably won't be the right book for many people on this site. :)