Finally this series is over. And I say that with a relief. I don't know why I read it if I knew I wasn't going to enjoy it, but it's a series and it's...moreFinally this series is over. And I say that with a relief. I don't know why I read it if I knew I wasn't going to enjoy it, but it's a series and it's hard abandoning something in the middle. I found both the previous books of this series, Divergent and Insurgent, very immature and insubstantial, but with a good world-building and a somewhat intriguing plot. The world that Tris inhabits has been divided into five factions, each favoring a certain trait in people (fearlessness, honesty, peace-loving, selflessness and knowledge). Of course, too much of one trait does have some other consequences.
In Divergent, one faction leader turns evil and tries to take control of all the factions. In Insurgent, the factionless (i.e., those without factions) take control from the evil faction leader. And finally, in Allegiant, another faction leader tries to get back all that control from whoever last had it. That's the story in a nutshell - Everybody fighting for control. Against that backdrop, they all find out that there is an outside world and other people like them and for some unknown reason, the people of these five factions and the factionless have been boxed into a community.
Of the three, I liked Allegiant best, but only by a small margin. Allegiant finally made sense of the world that author Veronica Roth created without much initial explanation. I didn't like how the first two books seemed to not give any hint of what is the deal with these people and all of a sudden, there is this whole mystery and scandal behind, revealed in the third book. But at least it all made sense to me, even if it was all too convenient. The writing in this one is just as unwieldy and the dialogues very sappy. It surprised me initially when I found that this book alternated between two characters - Tris and her boyfriend Tobias, even though the previous two books were from Tris' perspective alone. The third book is a little too late in the game to start switching narration styles, so I figured there was something more to that kind of decision. Which, when I found out, I didn't appreciate at all.
Anyways, long griping made short, this is a good series for a quick fun read, so long as you don't read too much between the lines. I feel there are more meaty series' out there that are more entertaining and logical. With better dialogues. If you haven't yet started this series, then you probably are not missing much.(less)
I still remember the thrill I got when I read my first Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code. His book was already gracing so many bestseller lists that it wa...moreI still remember the thrill I got when I read my first Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code. His book was already gracing so many bestseller lists that it was hard to back down and say no. Besides, I was very curious about this dude and whatever it was that he had written. I read. I enjoyed. I favorited. Then, I read all the articles of how he didn't really get all his history right and how he bungled some of them for maximum impact. Literary license, they said. That fogged my impression of Dan Brown tremendously, but not before I devoured two more of his books - Angels & Demons and Digital Fortress. Later, I also read The Lost Symbol, and was excited by the fact that it was set in a place I had actually visited multiple times (D.C.).
Still, none of the books, barring Angels and Demons really reached the caliber and awesomeness level of The Da Vinci Code, Inferno included. By now, everyone can write a template of a Dan Brown book in their sleep and they just need Brown to fill in the blanks with some essentials such as location and lead female character's name. They all involve his protagonist, Robert Langdon, racing across a huge landscape within a humanly impossible timeframe. He also seems to have a knack for knowing exactly what mystery to solve to get the next piece of a puzzle, plus, he seems to have a different lady companion each time (whatever happened to Vittoria Vetra (Angels and Demons), Sophie Neveu (The Da Vinci Code) and Katherine Solomon (The Lost Symbol)? For a supposedly unadventurous professor, he sure seems to go through women too fast.
Inferno has pretty much everything you would expect from a Dan Brown novel - there's a puzzle, there's a race against time, there's a woman (ha!), there's a life-and-death matter, and there's a bad guy. The puzzle is constructed almost with the intention that someone should solve it and stop the Bad Deed. Surprisingly, Inferno does deviate from the regular path considerably. For once, there is not much Symbology in here - there's just enough to warrant Langdon's presence. The prime art theme in Inferno is Dante and his The Divine Comedy. Halfway through the book, Dante plays second fiddle to the Malthusian theory, which is actually the main crux of the book.
Dan Brown spends a good chunk of the book exploring the population problem in the world as of today. The various characters give different perspectives on dealing with the problem. While it made me better appreciate the enormity of the problem we really have, I didn't quite enjoy Brown's repeated attempts to dance the issue in front of my eyes - the preaches honestly got tiring. Besides, a lot of elements came showing up repeatedly once in a while, almost as if Brown forgot that he had already mentioned them. A pretty good aspect of the book is the introduction into Transhumanism. I can't say that I've ever come across that term and the idea of it frightens and repulses me but it was fascinating to know that something like that exists.
Besides the few new elements, everything else about Inferno is standard Dan Brown fare. It wouldn't be a Dan Brown book if Robert Langdon could get shot in the head and not wake up from it without any repercussions. Plus spend the next 5-6 hours racing across the world and solving a mystery that would in reality take days, or at least more than a day. But this is Robert Langdon, why am I being so hard on the superman?(less)
Beatrice is nervous. She has a test coming up soon. The test. The test that will determine her future. On a particular day each year, all sixteen-year...moreBeatrice is nervous. She has a test coming up soon. The test. The test that will determine her future. On a particular day each year, all sixteen-year olds have to take a test that will find the dominant quality they possess and thus find the faction that best suits them. A day after the test, they have to make their choice. If they choose a different faction from the one they were born in, they cannot return back or meet their parents. Beatrice's test doesn't go as expected, forcing her to keep a secret, and she ends up making a choice that surprises everyone. However, when she begins to hear hints of a growing conflict, her secret becomes suddenly life-threatening and she has to do something to save herself.
Finally, the review I've been writing in my head for two months but have been really reluctant to translate that to paper (or bytes). I almost feel like I'm standing among a sparse group of people on one side of the fence facing a huge fanbase who loved this book. Honestly, I found just one other person on my Goodreads friends' list who rated this book at 2 stars, everyone else gave it 4 or 5. I'm bordering at 3. You see, I didn't get the appeal of this series. At all. And that was quite disappointing because it is being touted as the next Hunger Games phenomenon, and I loved the Hunger Games series! Just recently, soon after the release of the first HG book, someone in the publishing industry was asked what next after the entire HG movies were released. And he pointed at the Divergent trilogy. I could only look down disappointed. (I wish I had noted down who said this, but right now you only have my word here and it's true.)
Divergent is the first book in yet another YA dystopian trilogy in a market that now seems saturated with them. I love me some good dystopia. I love watching dystopian movies and I like imagining all the possible ways the world can reach a state of utter chaos and mismanagement. (That makes me better appreciate today's world as we know it.) Divergent is actually good. It invests in the concept of a test to determine one's true calling but hides that behind the idea that the individual always has choice in the matter. Quite unlike The Giver, in which what you were deemed good at becomes your job for life, but still not too different for me to not raise my eyebrows. There are five factions in Divergent - each valuing a particular trait - truth, insane daredevilry bravery, selflessness, knowledge, peace. Obviously, there are people who do not fit in either. They become the homeless who have to live on other people's kindness (usually those of the Abnegation faction). And then there are people who spoiler... mumble ... spoiler. As our heroine of this trilogy is.
My big issue with the book is that I felt the author was trying too hard to create the dystopian world. Unlike many other utopian and dystopian lit I have come across, this world never quite felt natural to me. A lot of the elements felt too convenient, and so much goes unexplained, violating the 'Show, Don't Tell' adage. I was reminded of too many other books while reading this one. I am by no means saying that the idea isn't original. It is, to a limit. I just felt that I had read other better similar books, especially The Giver and The Hunger Games. I ended up feeling that the world was standing on some weak stilts. Even the conflict at the end felt artificial and its motivation felt very weak. Although there were very vague hints of some impending danger, the conflict felt to me to have come out of nowhere - without sufficient buildup and anticipation. I guess I could say that it felt more like a terrorist attack than a planned war. But at the same time, knowing something about the coming conflict, spoiled the element of surprise that terrorism usually brings.
As is customary now in YA dystopia, there is some romance too. Actually, cross that. There is just a little more romance than I felt comfortable with. Which is okay. I've never enjoyed the fixation with romance in YA books, but its presence didn't really bother me because I expected it. What did bother me was how lame it all sounded. There is an unapproachable guy who is up to his forehead full of secrets and we have a heroine who is feeling somewhat attracted to that image. Ring a bell, anyone? At one point, the romance felt too sugary and eye-rubbing for me to even enjoy it.
I did like (a little) Beatrice's character. I didn't care for any of the other characters - almost all of them felt very flat to me. I initially felt guilty that I was again being too demanding of strong characters before I remembered that there are other YA books with strong characters. I liked Beatrice because of the reason I like a woman/girl character - she is independent, thinks for herself, can protect herself. I also liked the whole training session in the book - there are skills to be learned and the competitors are ranked by their performance. A little game in any book is always welcome.
I should probably end my review now, lest I get some tomatoes hauled at my face. If you haven't read this book yet, you may not need to take my opinion here. There are PLENTY of readers who loved it, which makes me the oddball, something that rarely happens with dystopia. Last weekend, I went and picked up Insurgent (the second book in the trilogy), because that's how confused I am about my reading choices, but I am yet to open a page of that book. I am thinking it is something I could read over the weekend in a couple of sittings, just to know what happens, but unless Insurgent does the Divergent formula a little better, I may not find my thoughts on that book any different.(less)
Teenager Lucille is having identity issues. The book starts off with her addressing her sexual needs and looking at her thin stalk-like body in vain....moreTeenager Lucille is having identity issues. The book starts off with her addressing her sexual needs and looking at her thin stalk-like body in vain. The boy she is interested in has jumped out of her research team to work with a girl he likes. She is worried that no one will like her, and her mother isn't too helpful when Lucille asks her about it, saying that Lucille's looks doesn't matter since she has brains. Lucille's identity issues soon escalate sending her into a spiraling abyss of anorexia. However, even after she is discharged from hospital care, she is still obsessed with losing weight, and is too weak to even move much.
Lucille, the book, introduces another character - Arthur, who I feel is the more important character of the book. Arthur has extreme OCD; he keeps counting - counting steps, counting slabs, counting just about anything. His father has severe alcoholism and rage problems, which often result in bar fights. After one such bar fight in Arthur's presence makes Arthur disfigure the face of an influential man, his father finds difficulties finding a new job, having just been laid off his previous one. Arthur also inherits his father's temper. Both kids - Arthur and Lucille - have issues, stemming from certain lonesome experiences as kids. As teenagers, they both struggle to fit into society and develop anorexia/OCD as a means to combat with their loneliness and low self-esteem issues.
Lucille and Arthur eventually meet up, and the story afterwards is as rich as the one before. Two people with issues don't always complement each other. Their destructive traits can bring the other person down. I was impressed with how the author played their dynamic relationship. This is a love story and yet not one either. It's about two misfits who find each other and relate with each other's weaknesses. They find comfort in the fact that they can be themselves with each other and not pretend to be someone else. And yet with that acceptance of each other, they also dawdle in their own obsessions and find it hard to overcome them. I found this a very moving story and it is a testimony to Ludovic's brilliant graphics that I found my emotions spanning a whole gamut as I followed the characters' lives. If I had one issue with this book, it was how their first meeting was handled. I thought it appeared a bit cheesy and unbelievable.
Ludovic uses very clean drawing that removes away any clutter in the picture. There's only the necessary amount of detail in it - nothing more, nothing less. And that allows the reader to feel the loneliness of the characters and their anguish in certain circumstances. Most of the focus is on the characters of the book. Their expressions, even when stripped of all emotions, tell a lot. Lucille is not told in a linear fashion, and we learn some things early and some later. This works well for the story because the author doesn't waste time and pages in dragging out a moment but the aftermath of the moments can still be felt. In addition to letting his pictures capture the raw emotions of the characters, he also uses dreams and internal dialogues to exhibit their restless minds. Both Lucille and Arthur dream of flying away from their problems.
This book deals with anorexia, alcoholism, dysfunctional relationships and OCD in a very delicate manner. Although that's a lot of issues, it doesn't feel like too much, because the graphic medium easily laps it up. Those who loved Blankets by Craig Thompson and Stitches by David Small will enjoy this one. Lucille shares the very expressive anguish of Blankets and the uncluttered, simple and articulate drawings of Stitches. The French original of Lucille has already won a lot of awards. At 545 pages, this is a huge book, but I finished it in an hour and a half. And it's just part one, so it ends with a lot of questions. The part two, Renée, has already been published in French, and will be published in English next year. The publisher, Top Shelf Productions, is soon becoming a favorite of mine. They had published Blankets, which I absolutely loved, and also The Complete Essex County, which I can't wait to read. And I just finished another new one by them which I enjoyed.(less)
(If you haven't read Leviathan but plan to, or if you wish not to be exposed to spoilers, skip the following paragraph. The rest of the review is just...more(If you haven't read Leviathan but plan to, or if you wish not to be exposed to spoilers, skip the following paragraph. The rest of the review is just a plain write-what-I-felt review.)
Deryn and Alek are finally aboard the Leviathan. Alek is the heir to the Austria-Hungary kingdom, while Deryn is actually posing as a boy so that she can serve as a midshipman on the Leviathan airship. No one knows that Deryn is a girl, but one person eventually suspects. Those aboard the ship hope to bring the war to an end, but it's not that simple. The Ottomans haven't yet joined the war, but recent actions by the British (Darwinist) have tipped the Ottomans towards the Germans (Clankers). To prevent that, the Leviathan is making its way towards the Ottoman empire, so that they can make a gift to the Ottoman king and thus win his favor. (Potential spoilers over)
The Leviathan series is set against the World War I. Except, this is alternate reality. Although most of the fundamentals of the WW1 are retained, the author has changed enough facts about the WW1 to make this a fictional event in its own right. I've said this before - I'm not a fan of alternate reality. Buuuuuut, I'll swallow my words just for this series. There's something about the way this series is written that makes me want to read more. I stopped making comparisons halfway into the first book. Leviathan shared a lot of similarities with actual WW1 events, Behemoth even less. One thing I truly admired is how well Scott Westerfeld has mapped events in this trilogy to real events without making them appear contrived or duplicated.
Deryn continues to remain my favorite character in this series. Scott writes his female heroines really well. I noticed this in the Uglies series also. Deryn poses as a boy, Dylan, because girls weren't allowed to fight. She's content being a boy and doesn't like any girly traits or behavior. On the other hand, just like any girl, she has deep yearnings that she struggles against. For instance, she's falling in love with a certain someone, and wants him to notice her. A moment later, she remembers he doesn't even know she's a girl, and that fact makes her sad. Yet another moment later, she's chiding herself for thinking like a maiden in distress who needs help, and shakes herself back to the boy she is pretending to be. If this was a real movie, she would have received accolades for her brilliant acting!
Even with all the Clanker and Darwinist jargon, I was looking forward to more "technological innovations" of that period. While I didn't want to support the Clankers (obviously), I could relate more to them than the Darwinists, with their "godless" (as the Clankers love to say) fabricated animals. My favorite highlight of this book is the fabricated loris, that can perceive your emotions so well, warn you about approaching sounds of people/other creatures/machines. That's a pet I would love to have!
Did I mention the awesome artwork inside the book done by Keith Thompson? It would have been so hard to imagine a lot of the creatures and machines otherwise!(less)