The Girl with all the Gifts starts with a very intriguing and scandalous premise. A bunch of kids are waiting in their individual cells for something.The Girl with all the Gifts starts with a very intriguing and scandalous premise. A bunch of kids are waiting in their individual cells for something. Pretty soon, some soldiers walk in to each kid's cell, with one pointing his gun at the kid's head, and couple of other soldiers strapping the kid to a chair. Hands strapped, legs strapped, even the kid's neck is strapped so tight that there is no room for movement in any direction. Once everyone is happy with the arrangement, the kid is wheeled into a classroom, into which more kids will be brought soon, using the same routine. Then class starts.
That was just the weirdest beginning to a book I had read in recent times and I had to know what the deal was with all the mystery and security. There is some hinting of a breakdown that happened a few years back and the current location having some scientists who are busy trying to do some research. There is also plenty of mention of zombie-like creatures, called hungry in this book, because of their insane appetite for humans. (Seriously, that sounds just like zombie to me, and the word hungry took a lot of getting used to.) But the full picture isn't revealed immediately - the story is slowly told in layers, leaving enough mystery to have you reading through to the end.
About a quarter of my way in, I did start comparing this to other zombie novels. There is only so much variety in this department, just like in many of the paranormal books. I was quite bugged by it. I am not one for reading the same kind of books - I like my books to be fun, quirky, and innovative, not steeped in conventions. Luckily, a little after that, things started becoming more obviously different. The titular girl in this book is one of the cell-girls, Melanie. She has quite an inquisitive mind and absorbs a lot of what happens around her. She doesn't quite question why she is being imprisoned though - having grown up like that, she has just taken it for granted. But something happens shortly that soon sends her into denial.
Very early on, I knew what Melanie was. But what intrigued me more was how she could be so different from others of her kind. Now that's where this story takes a completely less treaded path. You don't really learn much about it, until the very end but there is enough suspense to go on till then.
It is a good thing that the story was very intriguing. Because the writing wasn't. The author started off very well, but much of the last three-quarters of the book could have done with a thorough editing. There is a lot of repetition and focus on irrelevant stuff. I also thought that a single narrator would have worked better for this book. The different narrators were focused on with different levels on intimacy - some talked mostly about what they were doing, some others talked mostly about what they were thinking. This inconsistency meant that by the end, I didn't really know anyone well.
If you read a book without knowing who the author was, would you be able to guess the gender of the author? I had no idea who M. R. Carey was and learned later that it is a pen name for Mike Carey. But even without knowing that, I could have told you that this book was written by a male. There is plenty of sex talk in the narratives of the male characters and zilch of that when female protagonists take the floor. There are also lots and lots of military talk in here, which is to be expected considering one of the main characters is a soldier. I don't want to say that's how males write, and females write something opposite, but I like to think that there are some things men like to focus on, and other things women like to focus on. There is also a lot of biology talk in here, and funnily, that is where I generally began to get a little queasy. If you have read the book, you will probably understand what I mean.
Ultimately, when I read books like this, it is the ending I am most interested in. This is a dystopian world after all, and how the author chooses to end is as important as how the author builds the world. Does it end positively? Does it reverse the dystopia? Does it end up revealing something laughably funny just to end the story? Or does it send the world into more dystopia? I thought it was a mix of positive ending and more dystopia, with a little bit of that silly big reveal at the end. It's hard to explain, and it does make some sense, but I did wish for a different ending.
Ultimately, this book is worth reading for the ride and the suspense. The writing isn't great, but it doesn't ruin the reading experience. You can glaze over some of the technical stuff - you will get the gist of it. And while some parts of the book did leave me a bit meh, the sum of it all left a positive feel in my head....more
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'sFinally 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....more
Unwholly starts about a year after Unwind. We have our same three protagonists from Unwind, tasking themselves with some crucial responsibilities thisUnwholly starts about a year after Unwind. We have our same three protagonists from Unwind, tasking themselves with some crucial responsibilities this time, in their continuing fight against the practice of unwinding (whereby parents opt to donate their child's body parts - alive, so that other people can benefit from them). Connor is in charge of a salvaged aircraft yard where hundreds of teenagers are kept safe from the juvenile authority. Risa, crippled in an accident at the end of Unwind takes care of medical matters, while Lev is on probation and is being monitored 24x7 by the authorities.
In addition to the three, we have three new interesting characters. Starkey is a stork (his biological mother abandoned him at someone's doorstep who would become his foster parents) who is about to be unwound but is rescued by Connor and a few others on a rescue mission. Starkey is also not used to yielding to authority and happens to be one hell of a manipulative character. Miracolina is a tithe (a sacrifice to God via unwinding and tithes love being tithes) who has just been rescued, except she didn't want to be rescued and causes much trouble to her rescuers and to Lev. And then there's Cam, the guy on the cover, the most astounding consequence of unwinding.
I'm deliberately leaving a lot out from the plot because 1. Cam's story is a lovely surprise that's best left out and 2. this is a sequel so I don't want to spoil anything. I read Unwind a few months back and found out about Unwholly just a few weeks back. Unwind was a absolutely wonderful and thrilling read so I was hoping to get more of that from Unwholly. This second book of a trilogy wasn't as excitingly paced as its prequel but it still packed plenty of twists and turns.
I liked the addition of the three new characters - Starkey and Miracolina were infuriating enough in different ways. Starkey was a complete douche - he was the perfect example of how a rift can form in a group whose members start with the same goal. Even with everyone at the yard having the same goal of staying alive until seventeen (the age beyond which one cannot be unwound) and fighting in their own harmless way against unwinding, Starkey manages to create a stork club and show how the storks need preferential treatment and be above everyone else. So much like real world - where peace is the first goal and then each sect wants its own state/country/special rules. Cam was the character I expected to hate, but funnily he had one of the most humane personalities in the book. His story raises the same questions that a lot of our medical technologies raise, on the ground of ethics but his is a story that succeeded against these opponents and while there are still plenty of naysayers, there is more acceptance.
There was one thing that I especially liked in this book - Unwholly expresses well how something that is taken for granted today could have been an alien concept at some point in the past. The very idea of unwinding was one such and to kids like Connor, they grew up in a world that accepted unwinding, so any other world was impossible to fathom. The author demonstrated how the public can be swayed easily to accept something they've been revolting against, and how time can change the perception of a lot of things.
Unfortunately, this book suffered from a lackluster writing. The captivating writing style from Unwind was nowhere to be seen here. If the plot wasn't intriguing enough, I may not have bothered with reading this book. Despite the poor writing, this is a trilogy that I would happily recommend to anyone. I don't usually enjoy YA books, primarily because I've read very few of them whose plot rings sensible to me. Since I like my books on the side of reality even in a dystopian world, this trilogy seems to be really working for me....more