**spoiler alert** I love apocalypse stories, the The Dog Stars is theoretically right up my alley. Unfortunately, while the premise is interesting and**spoiler alert** I love apocalypse stories, the The Dog Stars is theoretically right up my alley. Unfortunately, while the premise is interesting and full of potential, the book ultimately doesn't deliver the 'riveting, powerful' read promised by the publisher's blurb.
Hig is a fairly well drawn character and his relationship with Jasper is sweet and compelling, but the rest of the characters are really just sketches of people with no really depth. They seem to exist primarily give Hig someone(s) other than Jasper to interact with.
In a lot of ways, The Dog Stars is a post-post apocalypse story; when we pick up the story the majority of the population has succumbed to a virulent flu, and the violence that one would expect to come hand in hand with such a fundamental breakdown in social structure has largely petered out. Descriptions of past incidents and current threats attempt to inject the story with a sense of dread or danger, but I never really felt that the characters were at risk. Given the timeline of the story this wouldn't be a problem if I didn't get the impression that I was meant to feel that sense of danger.
This lack of dramatic tension/imminent threat is especially problematic when Hig leaves the airport to chase after the years old radio message he heard in Grand Junction. He encounters some token danger, but ultimately everything on the trip comes *so easily* to him, it stretches the suspension of disbelief too far. He never has any trouble landing the plane. He's shot at, but not hit. The people he meets are not only friendly, but one of them is a widowed woman as interested in him as he is in her. She's a med student! They want to return to the airport with him, which ultimately ensures both that he gets back alive and that Bangley is saved. It's all just too convenient, and it really detracted from my enjoyment of what could have been a really interesting look at what happens to people who've lived through an apocalypse and come out the other side.
Ultimately The Dog Stars is 'apocalypse light'; not a lot of blood, mayhem, or tension to upset the sensibilities of more delicate readers. While this may ensure it appeals to a wider audience, it also makes for a story that just isn't as good as it should have been....more
**spoiler alert** I started out with the intention of giving this 4 stars (though I'd really like to give it 3.5) but essentially talked myself into k**spoiler alert** I started out with the intention of giving this 4 stars (though I'd really like to give it 3.5) but essentially talked myself into knocking it down to 3. I enjoyed the book and may well read the next one, but there are too many problems with the book to justify 4 stars.
Hounded is clearly heavily influenced by Neil Gaiman, in the sense that it borrows from pretty much every mythology (to its detriment, one might argue) and comes with a healthy dose of irreverent humour. This isn't the sort of book that you curl up with and really sink your teeth into - think Good Omens rather than American Gods - it's a light, fun story told at breakneck pace.
Where Hearne gets things right is in having primary characters who are approachable and likeable, along with an uncluttered plot that moves along quickly, keeping the reader entertained and allowing them to breeze past the odd plot hole without getting too distracted, annoyed, or bored.
Having said that, it would be much nicer if there weren't any plot holes and character inconsistencies to breeze past in the first place, and many of the more noticeable problems could have been solved with more stringent editing. Atticus is likeable, but he's simply too clever, too competent and basically just too perfect. While he gets into the odd spot of trouble things tend to come a little too easily to him, and you never feel as though he's in any sort of real danger. He wins his 'boss battles' (to borrow a gamer phrase) too handily, which is a disservice to the mythology Hearne borrows from, as well as to the book.
Similarly, Oberon is completely charming, but he's presented as being no more than a slightly above average dog (he's smart, but he's not magical), and his dialogue doesn't always reflect that. I felt as though at times Hearne favoured writing witty repartee between Atticus and Oberon to writing Oberon as a consistent and believable character, and that was disappointing at times. As a dog lover I enjoyed Oberon in spite of myself, but he deserves better given the importance of his relationship to Atticus.
This brings us to the most disappointing character in the book - Mrs MacDonagh. Hounded is the sort of book that requires the reader to suspend a great deal of disbelief, but Mrs MacDonagh pushes that requirement well past the breaking point. She's little more than a convenient plot device, and if Hearne wasn't going to bother even trying to make her believable, he should have found a way to tell the story without her.
Mrs MacDonagh is a throw-away character, but she's really just one in a grab bag labelled "deus ex machina", so she's basically the worst of a bad lot. Whether it's the vampire-lawyer, the barmaid possessed by an ancient witch or the werewolf-doctor, there's always a new character to parachute in and solve whatever problem Atticus is facing with minimal fuss, muss, or blowback.
These are the most glaring problems for me, though certainly not the only ones (I could write a whole big paragraph on my problem with how things were tied up at the end, particularly as it pertains to the treatment of the werewolf pack). Given all these issues, I feel like I should have a pretty negative opinion of the book, and be determined never to read the sequels. Oddly though, I enjoyed the book, and will probably check out the next one in the series. Hounded is classic beach/vacation reading; light and fun and genuinely humorous. If you can set your inner critic aside and take it for what it is, it's an enjoyable read. ...more
This is one of those situations where I'd really like to give the book 3.5 stars. The premise is clever and the writing is largely excellent, but I foThis is one of those situations where I'd really like to give the book 3.5 stars. The premise is clever and the writing is largely excellent, but I found the plot dragged on a bit in certain sections. Over all it was a good read though, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of sci-fi, timey-wimey farce....more
I wanted to like this book more than I did; Wool is a great series and I was excited to jump back into that world. Much as I wanted to love this prequI wanted to like this book more than I did; Wool is a great series and I was excited to jump back into that world. Much as I wanted to love this prequel, it just doesn't stand up to the other stories.
First Shift switches back and forth between two separate timelines. In the immediate future, a junior Congressman and former architecture student named Donald is (largely unwittingly) roped into designing parts of what will become Silo 1. In the more distant future, Troy is the leader of Silo 1, working his first 6 month shift (workers in Silo 1 alternate between 6 month work shifts and longer periods of cryogenic sleep).
The Troy timeline is well done; the author does an excellent job of conveying the confusion, despair, and sense of detachment one could easily imagine a person in Troy's situation would feel. As with the original Wool books (particularly the early ones), Howey adheres to the 'show, don't tell' rule, leaving the reader to slot various puzzle pieces together along the way. If you read the Wool books (and you really should read those before First Shift, or I don't imagine you'll get much out of this one), some nagging questions will be answered in the Troy sections, in a mostly satisfying way.
Unfortunately the Donald sections aren't nearly as well done, and in fact I could have done without them altogether. Without revealing any spoilers, the Donald sections are just less compelling to read, especially when contrasted against the much better Troy sections. The main thrust of the Donald timeline in the book is to explain the apocalypse that lead people to the silos in the first place, but the explanation Howey came up with is weak and unsatisfying. It raises a host of questions, and not the yummy ambiguous kind either - the annoyed 'but that doesn't make any darn sense' kind. The book would be so much better if it had taken place entirely in Troy's timeline and the apocalypse hinted at more aggressively than in the Wool series, but still left to the imagination. The workings of Silo 1 and the effects on it's residents would have provided plenty of material, and been more enjoyable without the dead weight of the Donald sections.
I still recommend that Wool fans read this one, but be prepared to skim through the Donald timeline like I did....more
Call me strange, but I enjoy nothing better than I enjoy a well imagined, well told post-apocalypse story, and Wool fits all of those criteria. It's aCall me strange, but I enjoy nothing better than I enjoy a well imagined, well told post-apocalypse story, and Wool fits all of those criteria. It's a fantastic read - the kind of book you pick up and then can't put back down until you're done because OMG WHAT HAPPENS NEXT??
The basic premise of the story is that a indeterminate number of years ago an unspecified event (or series of events) rendered Earth's atmosphere uninhabitable. A small group of survivors (I'd guess around 1000, but I suppose it could be more) live in an underground silo, where their only view of an outside world they've never experienced directly is provided to them via a series of cameras; images from the cameras are projected on certain of the silo's inner walls.
The outside is not discussed, and in fact the silo's residents are not allowed to express a desire to leave the silo. If they do, they are dressed up in Hazmat suits and sent outside to clean the lenses on the cameras in a sort of ritual simply referred to as "a cleaning".
You can quibble with minor details about both the physical space (e.g. the lack of elevators in the silo, the fact that Supply is at all capable of making certain items that are forbidden - where would the specs have come from?) and character behaviour (would the cleanings really keep the population under control?), but over all I think Howey did an excellent job of making both the silo and the people who reside in it believable. For the most part the people in Wool behave exactly as you'd expect people in their situation to behave.
I can think of a handful of minor inconsistencies in the plot, but none of them are troublesome enough to get in the way of thoroughly enjoying a compelling story. Go! Read it!...more
This was a challenging book to read, in part due to the subject matter and in part due to the writing style; the story unfolds slowly, and there are nThis was a challenging book to read, in part due to the subject matter and in part due to the writing style; the story unfolds slowly, and there are no grand moments or revelations. This is a nuanced study of death and at the subtleties of human relationships.
The book gave me a lot to think about, but in the end I found it ultimatley unsatisfying. None of the characters in the book really won my empathy or interest, likely because apart from Laurel they were all quite one-dimensional - essentially window dressing for the story. Laurel herself is largely inscrutable and not particularly likeable. It's certainly not necessary for the main character to be likeable, but a book with an unsympathetic protagonist needs to be particularly strong in other ways, and this book fell short for me.
Apparently The Optimist's Daughter started off as a short story which was later expanded to a novel; I wonder if it might have been better off left as a short story....more
This book had a lot going for it; an interesting premise, well-drawn, realistically flawed characters, and an epic plot filled with political machinatThis book had a lot going for it; an interesting premise, well-drawn, realistically flawed characters, and an epic plot filled with political machinations that were complex and detailed, yet no so much that it becomes impossible to follow. Bacigalupi has created a post-apocalyptic world that is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time; issues and problems that we're already facing are taken to one of their possible conclusions.
Perhaps his greatest success though, is the effectiveness with which he shows the reader this world of the future, rather than miring them in explanations of how this world works and how it got that way. Detailed explanations are unnecessary in that the story is saturated in the themes that underly most of human history; corruption, war, ambition; ongoing human struggles for power, resources, survival and redemption. The reader, for example, doesn't need specifics of the Green Headbands when they can reference any of the numerous genocidal conflicts from our collective past. Bacigalupi holds a mirror up to humanity, and what the reader sees in that mirror is sometimes ugly and sometimes beautiful.
So, why only three stars? The book's critical failure is that it is largely an intellectual exercise. It's incredibly smart and insightful, but lacks passion and emotion. I found myself interested in what would happen next, but in a sort of detached, clinical way. Though the characters are rich and complex, I didn't really care about them as people; I didn't find myself rooting for any of them to succeed or fail - I didn't feel anything for them. Worse yet, though the plot involves some truly dramatic events, there's no sense of urgency; this isn't the sort of book that compels you to stay up reading into the wee hours of the morning, eager to reach the climax of the story.
A smart, interesting read, but ultimately frustratingly unsatisfying....more