Absolutely LOVED this book! Even more than Oryx and Crake. It takes place in the same world, and the stories eventually overlap, which finally gives sAbsolutely LOVED this book! Even more than Oryx and Crake. It takes place in the same world, and the stories eventually overlap, which finally gives some closure on that enigmatic ending. My only issue is that it took longer than I wanted for the stories to finally come together -- I could see where it was going kind of early on, and I wanted the characters all in the same place sooner than they were. Also, I think I could have done without the God's Gardeners hymns. Adam One's speeches were insightful, as they got progressively bleaker, but the hymns themselves left me cold. -----------
Notes from the re-read: 1) I am SO glad I decided to re-read this! First because it was nice to read something quality after feeling like I read a lot of disappointing crap this summer. And second because I did not remember huge chunks of the story.
2) I forgot how long it actually takes for the plots to converge. In my head, I could have sworn they were all in the same place around the halfway point, but it's nearly the end by the time Ren and Toby and Jimmy are all together.
3) I found myself enjoying Ren's chapters more than Toby's this time.
4)I also totally forgot that Ren spent so much time outside the Gardener compound. Her adjustments to the world outside the cult dovetailed quite nicely with my thesis, as it turns out! The whole thing with the Gardeners forbidding anyone to write anything down permanently, because words can be stolen or twisted, but ideas are different...that's so straight out of my argument! And then Ren's difficulty adjusting to having to take notes and keep records and how she feels the terrifying permanence of those words...so much more chilling this time around.
5) Um... I forgot about Zedd. Like entirely erased his existence from my brain. And apparently he's one of the main characters in MaddAddam (he was the original Mad Adam in the Gardeners, after all).
6) If possible, I'm even more excited about reading MaddAddam now, and I'm SO glad I decided to reread Year of the Flood beforehand. I probably would have had to stop and reread it anyway, since I apparently forgot the majority of the plot!
**spoiler alert** I mentioned after reading Delirium that I felt like I had reached a point of dystopia fatigue. I think this novel was the perfect cu**spoiler alert** I mentioned after reading Delirium that I felt like I had reached a point of dystopia fatigue. I think this novel was the perfect cure!
Although I definitely amused myself finding the obvious connections to The Scarlet Letter and Handmaid's Tale, this is probably my new favorite book of the season. Jordan very skillfully drops the reader into Hannah's world and allows us to learn about it as we go, without wasting a bunch of time on massive info-dumps of exposition (although I'll admit I really just wanted some sort of chart explaining the color-coding. Was it ever explained what oranges and greens are? And is there purple?). Though we're treated to a few glimpses of Hannah's past, Handmaid style, the focus is strictly on her future and her ever-changing path. Jordan created an amazingly realistic world, where it was easy to believe how most of humanity ended up the way they did. Like Handmaid, there's an air of "for the greater good" hovering over all of it -- the laws, the restrictions, the chroming, everything.
As I said, some of the references were a little too on the nose for my liking. Hannah Payne the seamstress has an affair with Aidan Dale the reverend? And she names her would-be daughter Pearl? I have to believe that Jordan meant to evoke Hawthorne's tale so forcefully, but again, some of it felt too derivative (particularly Aidan's collapse and confession... Doesn't Dimmsdale do something similar on the scaffold?). On the other hand, the Novemberists were clearly May Day, while The Fist was akin to a vigilante version of The Eyes. Kayla reminded me of Moira...the list goes on. Almost every character reminded me of someone from Atwood or Hawthorne. Not that that's a bad thing, because those are two of my favorite books for a reason.
My biggest issue, and what really more than anything kept me from giving this 5 stars was the ending. I love the end of The Handmaid's Tale so much because it's ambiguous. The Eyes have come for her...or have they? Nick says it's May Day, but who is he working for? Offred is past the point of caring an steps forward "into darkness or light." Hannah's ending, trekking through the snow on the Canadian border, is so forcibly reminiscent...the light is even literal! I would have loved it so much more if Jordan had just ended on Hannah's acceptance of her fate, whatever it was. But the whole "welcome to Canada! You're safe! And we found Kayla!" felt cheesy rather than satisfying. For me it was enough that Hannah knew and trusted herself and her strength (and I knew Kayla could take care of herself, she's Moira!), rather than having the "happily ever after" spelled out for me....more
**spoiler alert** More like 3.5 stars. It's a little slow at first (I read the first 20 or so pages and wasn't particularly motivated to pick it up ag**spoiler alert** More like 3.5 stars. It's a little slow at first (I read the first 20 or so pages and wasn't particularly motivated to pick it up again for a couple of weeks), but the plot does pick up eventually.
In a nutshell: Mary lives in a small village, bordered on all sides by a fence meant to keep out the Unconsecrated, who are essentially a race of zombies. The whole village lives in fear of a breach, and though protective measures are in place, there does not seem to be much of a long-term plan in the event of a serious breach. A whole lot of faith is placed in the Guardians who patrol the borders and the Sisterhood who make all of the rules. Obviously, the borders are ultimately breached and Mary, her brother, her husband-to-be, her best friend Cass, Cass's husband-to-be (whom Mary is of course in love with), and a small boy they rescue along the way, are forced to make their way out of the village.
The novel reminded me of Pleasantville in a way, with the Sisters' insistence that the village is the only place in the world, that nothing exists beyond the forest. I found myself reciting "the end of main street is just the beginning again!" Like every classic dystopia protagonist, Mary believes in a world beyond the walls of her village (kudos to Ryan for actually referring to it as a utopia). Her companions have varying degrees of belief, though ultimately, most of them would likely have chosen not to venture beyond the village.
What kept me from giving this 4 stars was the inevitable inclusion of a love-triangle subplot. Team Harry or Team Travis? Of course both of them love Mary, even though Travis is betrothed to Cass and Mary to Henry (whom she admits many times she does not love as anything more than a friend). What I appreciated about the triangle, however, was that Ryan didn't let it become entirely cliched. In the end, Mary chooses hope (and, really, adventure, although said adventure is deadly and includes zombies) over either boy. Rather than continue searching for someplace safe, and settling for Henry after Travis's death, Mary opts to head into the unknown.
This was the part that reminded me of Oryx and Crake, of all things. Several times, Mary and her companions contemplate the harrowing thought that they are the only people left. It reminded me of Snowman's dilemma, and his belief that someone else had to have survived. And much like Snowman, she meets what she hopes is salvation on a beach.
Overall an enjoyable read, far more engaging than I expected. Ryan does make a lot of comments on religious freedom that aren't fully explored (perhaps that's material for the sequel?), which was a bit of a weakness. I'm hoping the sequel opens up more of the backstory about the time before the Return. I'm also interested to see what my students think of it when I put it on my shelf....more
It occurs to me that I give lots of books 3 stars -- it's sort of a wide-ranging rating in my eyes. I use it for books that I enjoyed, but that I thouIt occurs to me that I give lots of books 3 stars -- it's sort of a wide-ranging rating in my eyes. I use it for books that I enjoyed, but that I thought had some issues. This is certainly one of those books.
I've been wanting to read this (one of my awesome students actually lent it to me when I made the comment on her book report!) because I do love a good dystopia, and I wanted to see how closely it resembled Delirium, which I read earlier in the year. After reading about 20 pages, it reminded definitely reminded me of Delirium (which I had major issues with), but also The Giver, which is one of my absolute favorite books. The whole concept of The Society, and making everything equal, so no citizen is better than any other? Straight out of Lois Lowry. It botherd me how much of The Society here resembled the society in The Giver. Taking a concept and running with it is one thing, but I never felt like Condie ran that far. As others have said, Matched feels like it should be the first 50ish pagse of a much more intersting story.
I will give Condie credit here -- I enjoyed her writing style. I liked the characters she created, and their emotions and reactions felt authentic to me, as someone who has spent a LOT of time around teenagers. All that being said, I personally am not a fan of the "emotions as plot" trope. I like my plot to have plot in it. I get that the story here is about Cassia's journey from someone who is content with the Society to someone who actively wants to fight back ("Don't go gentle," as she puts it, quoting Dylan Thomas). However, that doesn't mean I thought it made for a particularly exciting 300+ page story. I also get that this is book 1 of a trilogy, and from the ending, I sense that the second installment will have more action (I'm hoping the same student lets me borrow her copy of Crossed!). However, I'm getting frustrated with the current trend, not just in YA, that everything needs a sequel. Some books are fantastic just as they are and don't need to be part of a trilogy or a "saga" or an "epic tale." I think the reason I loved Before I Fall so much is because the story played out perfectly in ONE single volume. I didn't need to read three more sequels to know what happened to Sam. I suppose I should reserve judgment until I read the rest of this particular series, but it seems to me that this book could have been greatly condensed (perhaps combined with whatever's set to happen in Crossed) and not lost much of its story.
All in all, I didn't dislike this book, and it certainly didn't fill me with rage the same way Delirium did. It just felt...empty. Like it was well written and I liked the characters, but there was just nothing really satisfying about it (I read a review somewhere that described it as a "really nice creampuff that someone forgot to put cream in"). It's not "fluffy," per se, but it's not the sort of fat, satsifying novel I wanted it to be....more
**spoiler alert** Honestly, I would have given this 4 stars if not for the damn love triangle! What's wrong with just looking at one of those boys (ei**spoiler alert** Honestly, I would have given this 4 stars if not for the damn love triangle! What's wrong with just looking at one of those boys (either one really...they felt fairly interchangeable!) as just a brother, a protector? Why did they both have to be a love interest? And why does neither one seem to mind that she's literally only invested in whoever is right in front of her? To be fair, Ryan does at least have Gabry acknowledge her indecision. But there were large sections that had me skimming, waiting for something worthwhile to happen.
And "stuff" does happen! That's really why I want to give this book 4 stars, because I genuinely enjoyed parts of it. Like its predecessor, I was strongly reminded of both Oryx and Crake and its own companion: The Year of the Flood. I was hoping this book would follow a similar pattern -- follow new characters (like Ren and Toby) but eventually pick up the story of the originals. We got a bit of the original backstory, but I was disappointed with how briefly that was dismissed. I'm hoping the next novel goes into more detail (since it appears to follow Annah, it seems like it could be more like Year of the Flood).
Once again, like the Sisterhood in Forest, the religious aspects remain one of the most interesting yet unexplored parts. The Soulers here seem to exist merely as a plot device to allow Elias an excuse to search for his sister. Unlike Forest, Waves explores the Mudo in a bit more detail, but we're still left with so many questions (the immunity in particular...I hope that thread isn't dropped). Overall, though I enjoyed this more than the first, and I definitely plan on reading the third (and hopefully final), I can't bring myself to award four stars. Maybe next time Ryan will just focus on telling a great story and leave the love triangles behind....more
**spoiler alert** I found this (final?) entry in the series pretty disappointing. I liked Dead Tossed Waves a lot, and I was really excited that this**spoiler alert** I found this (final?) entry in the series pretty disappointing. I liked Dead Tossed Waves a lot, and I was really excited that this book was about Annah and not, say, Gabry's daughter. I figured we would find out about how she and Elias survived in the Dark City, along with what happened to everyone who tried to leave Vista. I'm torn on whether I would have enjoyed that angle more than the one Ryan chose to follow.
As I said in my update, I do really like (maybe appreciate is a better word?) that Ryan isn't afraid to make this story as bleak as possible. She's great at description, and it all *feels* quite real. However, I had the same problem here that I did with the last two books of the Maze Runner trilogy: misery for misery's sake is incredibly ponderous. There's barely even a plan for escape until the last 90 pages (I'll set aside the improbability of the homemade hot air balloons), and then nothing comes of it. After the talk of the map room and Annah's constant wish to find other survivors, I thought the aftermath of the escape would be the substance of the book. I'm not sure if Ryan is trying to leave an opening for a sequel, or if this is truly where the series ends.
Also, I know I keep making Lost comparisons lately, but it really bothers me when people in extreme situations don't ask any questions. I was dying to find out more about what was in the map room, but other than staring morosely at the map, no one seemed interested in fishing out any real information. Were there files? Journals? Any kind of documentation of the world before the Return? Or at least before the rebellion? Speaking of which, it would have been nice to hear more about that too, beyond "Recruiters got power hungry...and stuff..."
Setting aside my intense dislike of the love triangle and "I found my true love at age 16 even though I've only know him for a week!" tropes, I'm disappointed that I still have so many unanswered questions. I get that it's not always necessary to answer absolutely *everything* (after all, no one knows why Gregor Samsa turned into a cockroach!), but it frustrates me and leaves me feeling cranky towards a series that I felt had so much promise. ...more
**spoiler alert** I'm very conflicted in my thoughts on this series. I want to like it, because it reminds me so much of The Giver, which I adore. How**spoiler alert** I'm very conflicted in my thoughts on this series. I want to like it, because it reminds me so much of The Giver, which I adore. However, like Matched, Crossed feels like a lovely, empty package.
I had the same problem here that I've had with several of the Blue Bloods books -- the sense that the events are merely marking time. My go-to comparison is again seasons 2 & 3 of Lost. The whole section in The Carving made little sense to me. Wasn't the point to actually make it across? Why did it seem like they wandered in circles and kept ending up back in the same caves? Just like on the Island, everyone would wander aimlessly through the jungle without doing any substantial exploration. Then once the plot requires them to find something (say, yet another Dharma hatch), they stumble across it quite easily. Here, once Cassia &co find the map, it takes all of 4 pages for them to make it to the Rising. Obviously we're saving the actual work of the Rising for book 3.
My other major issue was that I had a hard time distinguishing between narrators. Cassia and Ky's voices were so similar, I often lost track of who was speaking, until one of them mentioned the other by name. I have no problem with multiple narrators, but when said narrators seem to be the exact same person, it doesn't make much sense.
Overall, I felt frustrated by this book, moreso than Matched, which I did actually enjoy. Probably closer to 2.5 stars. ...more
I will admit, my initial interest in this novel stemmed from the fact that The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. Sadly, the two have noI will admit, my initial interest in this novel stemmed from the fact that The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. Sadly, the two have nothing to do with one another beyond a shared title. I still ended up enjoying this way more than I expected, given all the hype I've been seeing all over the Internet for months.
The protagonist, Jackson Meyer, is a fairly normal 19 year old who has the ability to time travel. He calls it jumping, which is a fairly accurate description. It's almost like he sends an astral projection of himself into the past (he never attempts to go to the future). No one remembers meeting him during a jump, and none of his actions have any effect, although he can interact with people and touch things, making him real on some level. Yet in his current timeline (what he refers to as home base), he appears catatonic. His body never actually leaves his current time period.
Not too far into the story, Jackson's girlfriend Holly is nearly killed (He doesn't stick around to find out) when some mysterious strangers bust into her dorm room. Overcome by panic, Jackson does the only thing he can -- jumps, this time two years in the past, 2007. Once there, he realizes he can't get back to 2009 and resolves to meet Holly all over again and try to prevent the 2009 shooting from happening.
In the midst of all of this, Jackson connects with his friend Adam (in both timelines), and the two conduct all sorts of experiments to test Jackson's abilities. This is where it starts to get confusing, as time travel stories so often do. As long as Jackson can't alter the past, or even visit the future, there are no worries about paradoxes. Yet it eventually becomes clear that others besides Jackson can jump too, and they are even more skilled at it, making "full jumps", in which actions do have consequences, and alternate timelines can be created.
I can't say more without giving away too much, but I really, really enjoyed this book. Cross's writing style reminded me a lot of John Green, in a good way. The characters in Tempest seem like characters that could have come from one of Green's books, and both writers have a similar, dry sense of humor. After reading so much doom and gloom apocalypse YA recently, it's nice to see some characters with a little levity.
While I've mentioned in several reviews recently that I'm not a fan of everything being a series (this one has a trilogy feel to me), I will definitely be picking up the sequel. Cross leaves a number of avenues open at the end, and I'm interested to see where Jackson's story goes from here. ...more
I tried to let this one sit a bit longer before writing a review, instead of just a gut reaction. As many other reviews have noted, Divergent is certaI tried to let this one sit a bit longer before writing a review, instead of just a gut reaction. As many other reviews have noted, Divergent is certainly capitalizing on the success of the Hunger Games. As a dystopia junkie, part of me loves that the genre is finding a wider and younger audience. However, part of me is also frustrated that so much of the dystopian fiction out there (at least the work aimed at a young adult audience) is so strikingly similar. Read one and it's like you've read them all. The Hunger Games definitely felt unique when it first hit the market, but now that every publisher seems to be looking for "the next Hunger Games," some of the power of that initial narrative is lost. I probably would have enjoyed Divergent more if I had read it at a different time.
The plot, in a nutshell, centers on Beatrice (or Tris, as she rechristens herself), a 16 year old girl growing up in future Chicago. Roth has built her dystopia around a group of five "factions," which formed at some indeterminate time in the past, following some indeterminate event (probably a rebellion...it drives me nuts that no one focuses on backstory!). The factions evidently named themselves and each is based on a different value. Tris is from Abnegation, the faction that values selflessness and fairness. They run the government, much to the dislike of the other factions. On Choosing Day (which might as well be Reaping Day for all the strum und drang that surrounds it!), Tris and the other 16 year olds are given an aptitude test -- in the form of a virtual reality simulation -- that apparently determines which faction they truly belong to. What I don't get about this is that everyone is born into a particular faction, and it seems like most choose to stay where they were born, given all of the angst implied about transferring. But if your aptitude test says you belong in a faction you don't want to join, are you *bound* to join it anyway? Could you choose to join any faction you wanted, regardless of your results? The series' tag lines all center around choice: "one choice can transform you" and "one choice can destroy you" (the tag for Insurgent). So it seems like that's clearly meant to be a factor. Tris's results are inconclusive, which marks her as Divergent, which is both Very Rare and A Big Deal. Obviously. She chooses to join Dauntless, known for train-jumping bravery, and the majority of the novel focuses on her initiation process and struggle to hide her Divergent status.
Though Roth clearly put time into inventing the 5 factions (the edition of the book I bought includes "manifestos" for each one), the system itself seems imperfect. As we see fairly early on, the factions don't seem to like one another or even get along particularly well, in spite of the fact that they were evidently created to *prevent* discord. The Erudite, who are supposed to be knowledge seekers, have gotten power hungry and want to overthrow the Abnegation in government. The Dauntless and Candor both have fairly high opinions of themselves and would probably like to be in charge too, but Amity feels like an afterthought. I'm guessing we'll learn more about them in book two. The concept of factions seems like a good idea with poor execution. There's nothing forcing one to conform to the "rules" of his or her faction. As we find out, Candor are supposed to be incapable of lying (to the point of tactlessness), but Christina says Peter (the Draco Malfoy to Tris's Harry Potter) would start trouble and then lie about it. And he was never punished because he was from Candor, so everyone assumed he was telling the truth. What's to stop adults in Candor from doing the same? What's to stop a power-hungry Erudite-born from transferring to Abnegation and taking over the government? Questions like these aren't addressed, but surely in all the time the factions have existed at least one person felt discontent with where he/she ended up.
That's not to say I didn't like the book, because I did actually enjoy it. My biggest problem was that it just felt SO derivative. It was like Roth read a bunch of dystopian fiction (and also Harry Potter...) and then cherry-picked elements from each. I think the Factions were supposed to call to mind the Districts in The Hunger Games, but to me it felt like the houses at Hogwarts, with the aptitude test as a high-tech Sorting Hat. The whole experience at the Dauntless compound reminded me of The Maze Runner series, both in tone and in the frustrating "misery for misery's sake" events. The plot also moved at a fairly leisurely pace. We're given hints at *something* terrible going on in the outside world (also reminiscent of Maze Runner), but don't hear much about it until the last hundred pages or so. For a 500-page book, that's a fairly late appearance.
All in all, though, I will be sticking around for the sequel, and I'll be recommending Divergent to my students as well. It's not the most finely crafted or original plot, but it's interesting and well-written. ...more
I started this one with a cranky attitude. It's not Pure's fault. After finishing A Game of Thrones, all I really wanted to read was A Clash of Kings.I started this one with a cranky attitude. It's not Pure's fault. After finishing A Game of Thrones, all I really wanted to read was A Clash of Kings. But since I have a huge pile of books, I promised myself I wouldn't buy more until I worked my way through a few of them. Also I knew Insurgent was coming on Tuesday, so I didn't want to get into something long or complex. Thus, Pure.
The plot seems borne out of the finest conspiracy theories. At some indeterminate point in the future (sidebar: seriously, how many reviews have I written that start out like that?!), the world is starting to deteriorate. Natural resources are depleted, people are apparently running wild...and a group of wealthy scientists and entrepreneurs are building a Dome. This is where the best and brightest will live, a sort of Noah's Ark, until the earth regenerates itself. After the unexpected Detonations, those outside the Dome suffered the horrifying effects of radiation. Namely, they are fused to whatever they were near at the time. Baggott spares almost no detail in describing these mutations ("wretches," as those in the Dome call them). Pressia, the protagonist, has a doll's head encasing her fist. Bradwell, the resident conspiracy theorist, has birds in his back. Then there are those called "groupies," people who are totally fused together. It's all grotesque, and I probably could have done with a little less description as the story wore on. The nature of these detonations (were they planned or simply unlucky? Who was responsible?) is unclear. Bradwell, raised on a steady diet of conspiracy theories for most of his childhood, believes that those in the Dome actually set off the Detonations themselves, as a way to get rid of undesirables. They’re simply biding their time in there, he says, until the New Eden is ready for them to populate. And they’ll make slaves of any wretches still alive.
Pressia has spent most of her life believing her parents died in the Detonations and that the man who takes care of her is her grandfather. On the eve of her 16th birthday, she must either submit herself to join OSR (Operation Sacred Revolution), or be forced to join said operation, which promises to be unpleasant either way. Her plan to simply hide in a cabinet in the burned out barber shop they call home works out about as well as expected. It makes me wonder what kind of life she expected to have. Was she really going to hide in a cabinet every day? Going out would put her at risk for capture by OSR, so she’s pretty much stuck inside. Is it really worth it?
Partridge (ugh), has spent the last nine years inside the Dome, making him a Pure. He suffered no effects from the detonations and has lived in relative comfort all his life. As he reaches 18, he and other boys are given “coding,” which is supposed to make them better, faster, stronger…something. Mostly it seems like they’re building an army of mutants circa Buffy season 4. Partridge is mysteriously resistant to the coding, and he has a strange hunger to see what’s outside. He believes his father (the big man in charge) is hiding something from him – he has always believed his mother perished trying to save wretches during the Detonations, but his father’s persistent use of present tense in referring to her makes Partridge wonder. He escapes to Dome to find her.
The story mostly follows Pressia and Partridge on their journey, a sort of bildungsroman. The narration is always 3rd person, but we spend time in both Pressia and Partridge’s heads, along with cameos from Lyda (Partridge’s fellow Pure, who may know more than she lets on), and El Capitan, a wretch who is fused with his brother Helmud. I’m not entirely sure the purpose of including these two characters – they serve mostly as convenient plot devices. That’s really my biggest issue with this book – its complete lack of character development. The world-building here is so fantastic, so much more vivid than so many dystopias I’ve read recently (Wither and the Matched series come to mind), that I wish it were populated with better characters. Pressia seems like she could be a badass, or just an awesomely strong independent female, but every male who crosses her path feels this immediate need to protect her, because evidently she is as fragile as freaking Bella Swan. I can understand Partridge’s later need to protect her, given what they learn about each other, but what does El Capitan stand to gain, exactly? It bothered me that we only hear about Pressia taking care of herself, but we never actually see that happen. Once she crosses paths with the boys, that’s all over. I was pleased not to see the typical love triangle, however. The “love story” (if you can call it that) is strictly between Pressia and Bradwell. I do wish that I knew a little more about them as people – again, I’m not sure what they see in each other. Baggott tells us so little about both of them, what they are really like, that their relationship doesn’t feel real. These characters are all drawn with such broad strokes that it’s difficult to truly get attached to them, because they don’t feel like round characters, real people.
I do need to award an extra star for world-building, however. Pure straddles the line between speculative and science fiction. We absolutely have the technology for most of what happens in the book – those atomic detonations could absolutely be real, and the effects, though grotesque, are probably not too far out of the realm of possibility. I would have liked to get more into the mechanics of how the fusing worked. When we meet the group of mothers fused to their children, Partridge’s old neighbor makes a comment about her fused son not having grown up. So if you were fused to another person, you both stay the same size/age/etc? Clearly Pressia at 16 is going to be larger than Pressia at 9…did the doll’s head grow as her hands grew? Is it tighter now than it was? The mechanics of these things need some explanation. The Dusts were also perplexing – I get that they were people who had merged with the earth when the bombs went off, but why were El Capitan and others able to kill them using traditional weapons? Would a gun work on a swirling cloud of dust? Do they still have organs? How do you kill a dust devil? This is what took the book farther into the realm of science fiction for me…but I still wanted some “logical” (at least by this universe’s laws of logic) explanation. Bradwell mentions at one point that his parents studied World War II, and the effects of the detonations were known thanks to the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. So are these sorts of fusings possible, at least to some extent?
The idea of the race of supermen, in addition to reminding me of Buffy, also reminded me of Crake’s Children in Oryx and Crake. Crake wanted to create his own race of supermen, and he was even willing to exterminate the rest of the population of earth to make it possible. Granted, his way is less violent and involves almost no fusings, but the basic premise is the same. Some of the technology Baggott describes reminds me of Atwood; I have to wonder if that’s a deliberate similarity or just a coincidence. Of course Atwood is better at character development.
Overall, 3.5 stars. Definitely sticking around for the sequel, whenever it appears. Though the beginning is slow, once the action picked up I was invested and wanted to see where the story would go. I love Baggott’s world-building, but I hope the second book includes more character development.
No one does dystopia like Atwood. I've never been one to buy (or even look at) Kindle singles, since I'm not a huge fan of short stories/novellas, butNo one does dystopia like Atwood. I've never been one to buy (or even look at) Kindle singles, since I'm not a huge fan of short stories/novellas, but once I saw this one it took me approximately 3 seconds to decide I must purchase it. I plowed through it in one sitting with no regrets.
Having read a great deal of terrible "hopping on the The Hunger Games bandwagon" YA recently, I was incredibly relieved to see that I don't actually have dystopia fatigue. I have bad dystopia fatigue. When done properly, the genre can still feel new and fresh and not at all derivative. While I still wish Atwood would hurry up and write the final book of the Oryx and Crake trilogy, this was a nice way to spend an afternoon. Atwood proves that you don't need clunky exposition or pages and pages of backstory in order to make a dystopia work. In (probably) less than 100 pages, she creates a completely believable world, in which people live in "shifts." They spend one month living in a normal house with their spouse, and one month working in what is essentially a prison while their alternates take over the house. This is all an experiment and so far it appears to be working. Until one day Stan finds a folded up note under the refrigerator reading "I'm starved for you," which sets his mind spinning. He creates an entire fantasy about the Alternates who live in the house while he and his wife are inside the prison, and we spend much of the story in his head as he lives out various fantasies.
The world-building here is quick (established through Stan's memories of joining the experiment, called Consilience) but no less powerful. It could very well take place in the same world as Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, just in a different location. The characters in both novels mention societies living in protected areas...Consilience could very well be one of them. Or maybe I just want it to be because I'm still hoping for one last volume in that series! Anyway, this isn't so much a true dystopia as a piece of speculative fiction. This is something could conceivably happen, but hasn't yet. But we have all of the technology for it to come to pass in the not-so-distant future. Stan and co, however, are still living in the utopian part of the experiment. It hasn't yet progressed to the level of dystopia, since nothing has gone wrong. Yet.
I'm obviously a total Atwood fangirl, and I will read pretty much anything she writes, but this to me was the ultimate showcase of her narrative prowess. She is able to create a whole world in far less space than a traditional novel (this is true of her poetry as well, which is equally beautiful). She has a gift.
**spoiler alert** So I had written a really long, almost-finished review. Then I got distracted and walked away from the computer. By the time I came**spoiler alert** So I had written a really long, almost-finished review. Then I got distracted and walked away from the computer. By the time I came back, the bugger had decided to restart itself, and my review was gone. So this might not be quite so thoughtful as the original!
I have to start by saying that, in spite of a few issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I'd definitely place it in the realm of speculative rather than science fiction, because a great deal of the science seems eerily plausible. But I'm getting ahead of myself; plot first!
Shusterman employs multiple perspectives in a way I really liked. Rather than shifting to various first-person narrators, he simply alters the perspective of each chapter. The primary perspectives here are Connor, a trouble-maker whose parents have chosen to have him unwound; Risa, a ward of the state who is simply not "special" enough to warrant a longer life span; and Lev, a tithe who has been raised from birth specifically for the purpose of unwinding. The logic behind the whole idea of unwinding is pretty horrific. Essentially, after the Second Civil War over reproductive rights, abortion was officially outlawed -- life is considered sacred from conception until the child's 13th birthday. From that point until the child's 18th birthday, his or her parents (or state-appointed guardians in Risa's case) can choose to have their child "unwound," which is not technically a death sentence. The child becomes an organ donor, and every single piece of their body is donated to someone else, so they are technically still living, just in another form. It raises all sorts of interesting questions about the nature of life and consciousness. You read stories all the time about organ transplant recipients somehow taking on characteristics of their donors. The chapters about Cyrus and Lev's interactions with him were probably my favorites for that very reason. Even though brain transplants aren't a real thing (yet), I thought it was an interesting angle. (The party at the end, however, I had a harder time getting behind...I can buy that the people with the son's brain parts had his memories, but I find it hard to believe that every single party guest had some sort of collective memory experience by being in the same room together. It was a little too cheesy for my tastes)
In short, this is the book I assumed Never Let Me Go would be. That story is far more character-driven, and a great example of an "emotions as plot" book that actually works. Granted, the characters in that story have more in common with Lev than Connor or Risa, given that (being clones) they were also raised from birth to be used for their organs, with no true expectations of a life of their own. But the dystopian world of that novel is not explored to the extent that Shusterman does in Unwind. Never Let Me Go is about the characters, first and foremost, and their reactions to the situation in which they've found themselves. How the world got to this point is unimportant (and it's a mark of how well-written that novel is that the lack of world-building never really bothered me).
That being said, with a story so heavily plot driven, I did have some issues with characterization. I felt like a great deal was told but not shown. We're told Connor is this awful trouble-maker, and although he thinks a lot about his anger issues, it's never clear where those came from (since it seems like he was already a pretty angry kid even before his parents decided to unwind him). We're told about Lev deciding to join the extremist movement, but we never see him go through the dramatic transformation it would have to take for him to want to become a Clapper (basically a suicide bomber). Yes, his experience with Cyrus definitely opened his eyes, but there is a great deal of time missing between his encounter with "Cy-Ty" and his reappearance at the Admiral's camp. Risa is a bit more well-developed, but it's hard to figure out what she and Connor see in each other. There's no real build-up of romance, and neither of them seem terribly invested in the relationship. It felt like an unnecessary element.
Finally, some of the logic with the timing of unwinding was confusing. In the real world, when someone needs a transplant, they're placed on a list and have to wait until the correct donor comes along. This universe seemingly eliminates all that -- the cure for any sort of problem is an automatic transplant. A doctor even comments on the fact that the hospital has a whole freezer full of "healthy young hearts" for the Admiral. Now maybe years of watching ER have given me unrealistic expectations, but I was given to understand that there was something of a time crunch with transplantation. Like, say someone dies in a car accident and he's an organ donor -- once the doctors remove his heart, lungs, etc., don't they need to be transplanted into the recipients fairly quickly? Maybe it just makes for better TV to have transplant teams rushing to the hospital against a ticking clock, but logic dictates that, the longer a vital organ is outside the body, the less...effective?...it would be inside a new body. Maybe there's some sort of other technology at work in Shusterman's world that keeps those organs viable until they are needed, but it just seems like a lot of kids would be unwound only to have most of their parts on ice forever. Wouldn't some of those organs eventually go bad if they were never used? This sounds horrible, but...meat eventually goes bad, even if it's frozen. It just seems like, based on what we see at the harvesting camp, that there would be a surplus of organs (some more than others, perhaps) that would end up going unused. And then what's the point of this "humane" procedure?
But overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the story. One of the better dystopias I've read recently -- I might even put it on par with Oryx and Crake in terms of scientific believability! I'm looking forward to eventually reading the sequel too.
Wow. Finally a sequel that lives up to its predecessor...it might even surpass it!
I jumped on the Unwind bandwagon fairly late -- it’s one that kept p
Wow. Finally a sequel that lives up to its predecessor...it might even surpass it!
I jumped on the Unwind bandwagon fairly late -- it’s one that kept popping up on Amazon recommendations, but I never got around to reading it until last summer (I worried about having it on my shelf in 7th grade, since the subject is still pretty sensitive, and 7th graders are not exactly known for their nuanced understanding of moral quandaries!). I blew through it in a day or two, and I had a hard time getting it out of my head. Unwholly is a similar case.
The plot picks up about a year after Unwind ends. After the explosion at Happy Jack, everyone assumes that Connor, the infamous “Akron AWOL” is dead. As we know, Connor has actually taken over the Graveyard for the Admiral. Risa is still heading up the medical division (in a wheelchair, since she refused an unwound spine to repair the damage of the explosion). Lev starts the novel living with his brother, more or less out in the open after becoming infamous as “the clapper who didn’t clap.” His face was all over the news, and living in anonymity really isn’t an option -- as we find out, he’s something of a Christ figure to other reluctant tithes...and something of a traitor to the clappers.
Connor is facing some dissent in the Graveyard -- theoretically, the Graveyard is working with the resistance movement, who are supposed to be working to save potential unwinds (and send them to Conner and crew) and also supplying the Graveyard with necessities...like food. Shipments of unwinds are coming in less and less frequently (and planes are more and more empty when they do come in), and Connor and the others are seeing very little help from the outside world. It’s bothersome to Connor that surely someone out there must know the Graveyard exists, so why has no one tried to find and dismantle it?
Outside the walls of the Graveyard, there is a great deal of public unrest with regards to unwinding. Thanks to the “Cap-17” Law (making it illegal to unwind someone past the age of 17), hundreds of potential unwinds have been spared. The public has definitely begun to question the morality of unwinding, and Shusterman intersperses a number of ad campaigns designed to put the public’s mind at ease. Still, it’s no longer just an accepted fact of life, as more and more people begin to join in various sects of the resistance movement. Sadly, thanks to the Cap-17 Law, organ supplies are apparently drying up, and “Parts Pirates” are making a good living selling black market organs...and they don’t care if they’ve captured unwinds or not.
I mentioned in my review of Unwind that the logic of having so many “parts” seemed off. It’s still somewhat problematic here...we go from a “freezer of healthy young hearts” for the Admiral in the first book, to a troubling shortage of ANY organs here. Obviously, the Cap-17 Law would account for some of that, but there are still plenty of Unwinds between 13 - 16, right? Again, maybe I’ve watched too many medical dramas in my life, but it still seems like tons of organs would go to waste under this system, since you need to have an organ that’s a match, not just any old heart/lung/kidney/etc. We find out that the reason no one has taken down the Graveyard yet is because there’s too much money being made from black market organs...it’s supply and demand, basically. This part, though horrific when you consider that the “supply” in question is living human beings, makes sense to me.
By far the most fascinating character in this novel is Camus (or Cam), a human made entirely of unwound parts...a veritable Frankenstein’s creature of a teenager. Much like Victor Frankenstein’s creation, Cam is meant to represent the best of all possible parts -- legs from a track star, various brain pieces with different skills and languages, skin of all colors...however, the end result is much different than anyone could have expected. I loved all of Cam’s scenes, especially when he’s first learning to express himself in speech. He speaks in metaphors, using the pictures in his brain(s) to attempt to make meaning. It was fascinating watching him make connections and learn language from scratch...even though it’s all there in his head. Cam goes through a crisis of faith similar to the creature in Frankenstein -- since he was created, not born, is he truly human? His first few public appearances are predictably disastrous -- the only thing missing is an angry mob with torches. Like the creature, Cam has to come to terms with the fact that he’s a creation, and wonders what that means with regard to his soul. Does he have one already? Can he have one? Eventually, Risa is brought in to be a companion of sorts for Cam, whom she initially sees as nothing more than a monster. Although their storyline is still somewhat up in the air by the time the story ends, we can see Risa begin to accept Cam for what he is...after all, he didn’t ask to be created, and once he exists, he has no control over how he got here. It raises a number of interesting questions about the nature of life and being...what does it truly mean to be human?
This book was, if possible, even more intense than Unwind. The stakes are higher for Connor and co. once they realize it’s only a matter of time before the Juvenile Authorities decide that black market organs are not enough to meet demands, and take down the Graveyard. Coming up with a plan to fight back is complicated by the arrival of Mason Starkey. Starkey is a product of the Storking Law -- another means of preventing abortion, allowing unwanted babies to be left on someone’s doorstep, and the family who finds that baby must raise him/her as their own. Once the child reaches 13 (unwinding age), it seems the families nearly always choose to have them unwound. Starkey has some understandable rage about this situation, and wants to make a name for himself as a champion for the Storks. He goes about this quietly at first, sucking up to Connor and making himself seem indispensable to the Graveyard operation. Meanwhile, he’s building up a “Stork Club” made up of fellow storks and planning to overthrow Connor. Besides Nelson (the former Juvenile cop obsessed with catching Connor, since he’s the one who let him escape back in Unwind), Starkey is without a doubt the most disturbing character in this book. He’s like a Gillian Flynn creation. He’s the most frightening kind of radical -- the kind with nothing left to lose, willing to do anything to accomplish his agenda. The scene towards the end, when he escapes from his handcuffs is so deeply disturbing and awful that I still can’t get it out of my head two days later.
Overall, I thought this book was just as amazing as Unwind. I think it’s interesting that Shusterman initially didn’t intend for Unwind to be a series, but he apparently couldn’t get the world out of his head any better than his readers could. I like that the sequel actually lives up to, and even improves upon, the original. I feel like I got to know all of the characters a little better this time around -- we actually see some of that anger and unrest in Connor during his time in the Graveyard, as he grapples with the idea and responsibility of being in charge. What I didn’t like was how clearly the end of this book was setting up for a sequel (apparently it’s going to be a trilogy?). One of the best aspects of Unwind was that it although it left the door open for another book, the plot was structured such that a sequel was not necessary. It bugs me when the last few chapters of a book are nothing but cliffhangers to set the stage for the following story. It bugged me when The Diviners did the same thing...it kind of ruins all the story that comes before. There are ways to end a story with a resolution and still leave things open. Hell, Shusterman did that in Unwind, so he’s clearly capable of it! But really, that’s a small issue with an otherwise great book.
I found the first 2/3 or so to be crazy boring. Lots of wheel-spinning and very little plot development. I had hoped for more world building this timeI found the first 2/3 or so to be crazy boring. Lots of wheel-spinning and very little plot development. I had hoped for more world building this time around, but no such luck. However, the last 100 pages or so were a vast improvement. Again, I'm not really sure this plot, as written, needed to be a trilogy. ...more
**spoiler alert** Rating this was hard. I blazed through the first 200 or so pages, but after the time jump, it was like reading a completely differen**spoiler alert** Rating this was hard. I blazed through the first 200 or so pages, but after the time jump, it was like reading a completely different book. I eventually circled back around to enjoying it again, and I'm excited for the sequel, if only because it seems like it might fill in some gaps.
I loved Part I (The Worst Dream in the World) -- if it had stood alone I'd have given it 5 stars easily. The first part deals with the time before (which I swear I've heard used in another book, but it escapes me which one it was). This is where we meet Amy, who is supposed to be our protagonist. Amy's mother had a bit of a rough life (understatement) and dropped her off at a convent when it became clear she was in more trouble than she could get out of. And then all hell breaks loose. Amy, it transpires, is a special child. She becomes even more special when the government gets a hold of her and injects her with an experimental virus. We learn through other perspectives that the government is gathering death row inmates for some sort of experiment. This is where Agent Brad Wolgast comes in. From the description, it seemed as though Wolgast would be a central character, but he disappears a little less than halfway through the book (or so it seems). Wolgast takes a liking to Amy because she reminds him of his own daughter, who died in infancy. Through his interactions with Amy, Wolgast begins to question the ethics of the experiment, and what it could mean for humanity.
What is the experiment? Just the creation of vampires. We get a few excerpts of letters from a research expedition to Africa (I really hope this plot is expounded upon in The Twelve, but I doubt it) that seems to point towards the virus's origins. But Wolgast and his partner travel all over the country, finding death row inmates who are good candidates to join the experiment -- no family, no ties to the outside world, no one to miss them. Each inmate is injected with a new form of the virus -- they're all vampires (although strangely they're rarely called that; most characters refer to them as "virals"), but it's hinted that they are all slightly different. Amy is injected with the most updated form of the virus, and though she exhibits vampire-like qualities -- including an aversion to sunlight -- it's clear that she's the endgame. However, the purpose of reaching said endgame is never clarified, because not long after Amy's injection, the vampires escape and the virus begins to spread. Much like "traditional" vampires, they can make others of their kind by biting humans. Wolgast is able to escape with Amy into the mountains, where he keeps the world at bay for a time, but it's clear that the virus is spreading, and the world will soon be a very different place.
Then we're abruptly dumped about 90 years into the future, with no sign of Amy for a few hundred pages. The world of The Colony reminded me forcibly of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, especially since Cronin's vampires are fairly zombie-like. The Colony has existed since the virus made its spread from the compound in Colorado (where the virals were created) to the west coast. Families were put into train cars and basically whoever survived the trip to the compound got to stay there forever. Though there are walls all around and lights all night, it's clear that this happy utopian stasis can't last forever.
In the Colony we meet an entirely new cast of characters -- Peter, the defacto protagonist; Alicia, a tomboy who has essentially raised herself; Michael, a "circuit" or electrical engineer who is responsible for keeping the lights on; Sara, his sister and a nurse; Maus, as tough as Alicia but hiding a pregnancy; and a whole host of other players, including wise old sage Auntie, who has been around since the Time Before and remembers what life used to be like. I had a hard time keeping the cast straight once we arrived in the Colony. The politics of this made-up society just did not interest me, so I did some hardcore skimming in the early Colony chapters. Eventually, the major complications arise -- Peter's brother Theo is missing, and the batteries that have kept the lights on for 90 years are about to run out. The major cast go on an expedition, first to the power station, and ultimately out into the world, after the arrival of a mysterious little girl and a night of viral attacks.
The little girl, of course, is Amy. She leads them into the world, which it turns out does exist behind the walls of Pleasantville the Colony. We learn about a few different societies -- those that fight the virals and those that appear to honor them -- before the group eventually closes in on its goal.
This is incredibly muddled and nonsensical. Suffice it to say, the plot is complicated. Breaking it down is difficult, especially since, as I said at the beginning, it reads like two separate books. I felt like the Colony chapters, especially at the beginning, were pretty ponderous (unnecessarily so). It was hard to keep the characters straight, and since Cronin dropped so many heavy-handed hints that something wicked this way comes, I was pretty sure most of them were toast anyway. It felt like an awful lot of unnecessary wrenching to get everyone where they needed to be for the Big Journey East. Although I understand that we need some context for the new world before we can start to care about the characters' journey, it was definitely too much, at least for my tastes. I would have rather heard more about what went on behind the scenes at the compound, or what Amy was up to for 90 years.
I do find the concept of the vampire virus to be pretty fascinating. Was it meant to be a military weapon? Were they all supposed to end up like Amy eventually? And what would happen then? Did anyone anticipate the weird telepathy phenomenon? And can all 12 get inside people's heads, or was that just Babcock's specialty? Also, did Vampire Diaries rip off that entire bloodline subplot from this novel? Because it sounds awfully familiar.
I'd say overall I enjoyed this novel. The parts I liked far outweighed the parts I didn't. However, I am almost positive it did not need to be almost 900 pages long (I'm fairly certain I'll be saying the same about 11/22/63 in a few days!). I know it's supposed to be a trilogy, but The Twelve looks significantly shorter. Like half the size. And from what I've read about it, a substantial part seems to focus on the 90 year gap and what Amy and the other virals were doing. So why not write the first book all about Amy? Keep the first 250 pages the same and then continue Amy's story. Then book two could be about the Colony, the journey east, the search for the 12. Book three remains to be seen (maybe there only needs to be one sequel). It reminds me of the 4th and 5th books of A Song of Ice and Fire -- I feel like The Twelve is going to leave out a substantial chunk of somebody's story. And I'm really hoping it includes zero whiny sailors.
This one took me a long time to sit down and actually review. I think I’m officially in love with this series (minus a couple of minor quibbles), andThis one took me a long time to sit down and actually review. I think I’m officially in love with this series (minus a couple of minor quibbles), and I find I have a more difficult time writing reviews for books I enjoy most -- it’s why I never actually reviewed The Book Thief. Also we’re dealing with multiple narrators and settings...the plot is anything but straightforward.
We pick up a bit after the end of Pure (which, as I recall, ended with everyone at Illia’s farmhouse, and the black boxes were crawling out of the woodwork). Pressia, Cap, and Bradwell are all working with the “new” OSR, which has revised its recruitment tactics to be much kinder and gentler. I had actually forgotten that El Capitan was the actual Captain of OSR -- which makes it hard for him to do much recruiting, as people remember him for being rather brutal. But of course, his friendship with Pressia has changed him (and Helmud trying to strangle him might have something to do with it too). Unfortunately, I could see the love triangle coming a mile away -- Pressia and Bradwell are forever on the cusp of admitting their feelings for one another, and the more time Cap spends with Pressia, the more he falls in love with her. However, credit where credit is due -- Baggott manages to avoid most of the typical tropes of a love triangle. First of all, Pressia and Bradwell’s relationship is built up over the course of both novels. She’s attracted to him initially in Pure, but there’s no insta-love here. They both seem to realize that their precious feelings need to take a backseat to the very real war that’s brewing. And for Cap’s part, he understands that acting on his feelings is inadvisable (given, you know, that pesky human fused to his back).
Cap really grew on me in this installment -- I wasn’t a huge fan of him the first time around. Granted, he has every reason to be broody and hate the world....that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable to read. But he seems to have come to grips with his situation by now, and most often his opinions mirrored my own; it drove me crazy that Bradwell constantly treated Pressia as though she was breakable or something. I mentioned it in my review of the first book -- it seemed like every character who crossed paths with her needed to protect her, when she’s pretty much a badass. She’s allowed to act for herself this time around. One of the biggest issues I had with Pure was the utter lack of character development -- I saw little to no point to either Cap or Lyda, other than as convenient plot devices. While I’m still not completely sold on Lyda, I feel like Cap became more well-rounded, and I sort of love Helmud in the same way I love Hodor.
Meanwhile, Partridge and Lyda are traveling with the Mothers (the ones who are mostly fused to their own children). I don’t recall from the first novel why the Mothers are so powerful -- the Dusts and Beasts even seem to be afraid of them. But the Mothers have a plan to infiltrate the Dome, and are using Partridge and Lyda’s knowledge of the place to do so. They’re mostly relegated to drawing maps, and the Mothers are careful to keep them apart so they can’t conspire (as it turns out, they’re actually just interested in doing it). The stakes are raised when wretches start getting kidnapped, and come out of the Dome “repaired” and Pure...they are basically mouthpieces for the Dome -- they can only speak a certain message, and the general theme of said messages is: “Return Partridge. Or else.”
Partridge’s father’s health is in rapid decline -- we learned at the end of Pure that Willux had undergone all sorts of procedures to make himself better/faster/stronger, and now he’s a victim of rapid cell degeneration. Basically, his body is rejecting all of those unnatural elements and he’s slowly dying, one cell at a time. He claims to want Partridge back so that his son can take over. Ultimately, Partridge feels he has no choice BUT to allow himself to be captured, return to the Dome, and continue the fight from within. Unfortunately for him, an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-esque procedure is the first thing that awaits Partridge upon his arrival. Evidently, the doctors have figured out how to isolate neural pathways and erase certain memories -- Willux wants to make his son forget having ever spent any time outside the Dome (I remember after that movie first came out, an actual scientist wrote something about how the procedure, though technically possible, would be akin to killing a mosquito with a cannon -- you’d get the mosquito, but you’d also have a massive amount of collateral damage. So, your memories would be erased...because you’d be a vegetable).
While all of this is happening, Bradwell is working with those black boxes we saw at the end of Pure. Turns out, they aren’t weapons, they’re actual black boxes -- like the ones on planes. One in particular, whom Bradwell names Fignan, is something of a key...once Pressia and Bradwell crack the first code to break him “open,” as it were. We learned in the first book that the Detonations were not actually random, and that Willux might be behind the whole thing. It turns out, he wasn’t working alone -- there was a collective called Cygnus (which just happens to mean swan...) who were all working together at one point. While Pressia at first scolds Bradwell for dwelling on the past (“Shadow History,” as they call it), since it won’t change the present, she eventually sees the point of digging into the Cygnus operation -- it could answer so many lingering questions.
Based on the pace of the first 3/4 of the book, I was convinced that we were going to end on an awful cliffhanger. Although I’m not a huge fan of super long chapters, given that this is not technically YA, I’m not sure why nearly every chapter was 5 pages or shorter. It made the narrative feel choppy, especially since each chapter follows a different character. Overall the pace moved faster than I expected, but I was having visions of Lost during the last 80 pages or so. (view spoiler)[First I thought there was no way we’d see them make it all the way to the airship in DC before the end of the book. Once they were in the air, I figured we’d have to wait to see them land in Ireland. By the time they got to Ireland, I figured Pressia would find the natural dome and it would be just like the end of season 1 of Lost -- we’d know that she found it, and that there was something important, but not what it was. I’m amazed how far Baggott allowed her to go -- we know that there’s information in the dome, and that people in Ireland are still alive. It was a great set-up for the final book without feeling so much like a set-up (which was the big problem I had with the last few chapters of The Diviners). (hide spoiler)]
I like that we got to see more of the world outside the Dome. Again, my memory of Pure is sketchy, but I’m not certain we ever knew where, exactly, the story was taking place (looking back at my review, apparently I pictured it as Old New York, from Futurama...). This time we get a clear idea of the geography, and also a closer look inside the Dome, which is much bigger than I originally thought. What’s still bothering me -- were the Detonations worldwide? Is the Dome Partridge and Lyda came from the Dome? Or are there others? Based on some of the information we get in Fuse, it seems like Baggott is gearing up to answer those questions in the final novel...I hope.
The ending was a bit of an emotional gut punch, and the cliffhanger was not what I was expecting. (view spoiler)[ The vials were a bit of a Chekhov's gun, especially once we saw Partridge test a drop on the bug. I have to wonder how we’re going to resolve the suddenly gigantic birds. I kind of like the idea of Bradwell flying around...like one of Karou’s creatures! (oops, wrong series). (hide spoiler)] As always, I have to award extra points for world-building. Baggott has a true gift for creating real, horrifying places and creatures. My first review lamented that this incredible world was populated by subpar characters, so I’m thrilled that (minus Lyda, who still bores me -- I know she’s Very Important, but I find her impossibly dull) we got to know the characters better.
Unfortunately, this is one I hesitate to put on my shelf. I’ve written in past reviews that I don’t want to feel like I’m censoring my shelf, because I don’t want to have solely middle-grade books available (some people are leaps and bounds ahead of that in reading level). However, even though the characters are teenagers, this series is not shelved as young adult, and although the first book is fairly innocuous, there were a couple of scenes in Fuse that I feel like I would have a hard time explaining to parents. I don’t really have a problem with oblique references to sex, but I think actual sex scenes are a bit much for this set. It’s times like this that I miss teaching high school, because I’d put this on my high school shelf without hesitation.
**spoiler alert** Ultimately, I think I enjoyed this more than The Passage. It felt more cohesive than the original novel, although I’m still not sure**spoiler alert** Ultimately, I think I enjoyed this more than The Passage. It felt more cohesive than the original novel, although I’m still not sure I’m totally on board with Cronin’s storytelling technique. The novel opens with a series of lists, that read a little like Biblical verses, and a little like “previously on”s. These reminded me a lot of the songs in The Year of the Flood, which I skimmed, because they felt irrelevant (given that less than 2 weeks had passed since I finished the first novel). In some ways, this felt almost as sweeping as one of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels -- the huge cast, spanning hundreds of years...a few characters I wish would get thrown off a tower...
At the end of The Passage, Alicia had become “the new thing.” Bitten by a viral and then injected with the Amy-strain of the virus, she was left in a sort of limbo. She has the strengths of a viral, minus the craving for blood (at least in the beginning), but she also suffers from the sensitivity to sunlight. The Twelve briefly picks up where this novel left off, showing us Alicia and Amy, but a good chunk of the novel covers what happened during “Year Zero,” right after the escape of the virals and the spread of the virus. This was unquestionably my favorite section. We learn what happened to Lila, Wolgast’s ex-wife, and we see various groups of people coping with the changed world. In The Passage, I found myself far more invested in those stories than in the stories of The Colony people (Peter et al), so I was glad Cronin included these narratives in the novel. Granted, Lila and Horace’s stories are important here, given what becomes of them later. I almost wonder if the entirety of the first novel should have been about the build up and then Year Zero, while the second novel covered The Colony and the ensuing collapse (plus all of the stuff in Texas and Iowa). In a way, it reminds me of the combination narrative in A Feast for Crows / A Dance With Dragons. Cronin, like Martin, decided to tell some of the story for all of the characters in both volumes, instead of telling all of the story for some of the characters. It’s problematic, of course, given that the narrative spans a much greater time period. But the fundamental problem (for me anyway) with such a sweeping scope is that parts of it are bound to fall flat. I enjoyed Feast and Dance in some parts, but found others tedious, partially because of the characters (I will never enjoy Cersei as a narrator), and partially because of the stalled stories (poor Dany). I had the same problem here, with both books.
I have to say that I was not super excited to catch back up with Peter and company. I did like Amy as a character -- in both novels I found her stories quite compelling -- but for some reason I could not bring myself to care much about either the Colony or the Expeditionary story lines. I found myself skimming those early sections, along with the story about the Field. I didn’t really think the backstory on Tifty and co. was strictly necessary, and I felt emotionally manipulated with all of the “you’re so-and-so’s daughter!” reveals. I could have read a LOT more about Sara’s time in the Dome, and Horace’s rise to power.
This was where things picked up again for me -- military strategy leaves me cold. I was fascinated by the world Horace Guilder and Lila created in Iowa. At first, Sara’s story seemed like it was ripped from a Holocaust novel. I’m sure the parallels were deliberate, but it felt too on-the-nose. The only thing missing was some German subtitles for the guards. However, joining up with the resistance made Sara’s story infinitely more interesting. Oddly, her time in the house reminded me of a better-written Wither, especially given the prevalence of mysterious medical experiments. Lila was morbidly fascinating, and I wanted to hear a lot more about Horace, however. He didn’t seem nearly so corrupt in his original form -- what drove him to become the dictator he ultimately was? The blood? The boredom of immortality? Did he ever have “the greater good” in mind?
Another aspect that bugged me was the apparent different “strains” of virals. As far as I understood the concept in The Passage, the twelve original virals each had a slightly different variation of the virus -- Amy was the 13th and the end goal of the project. Alicia was basically the same as Amy, since they injected her with the same virus. After the death of Babcock, our heroes discovered that if you kill one original, you kill all of the virals he created (not unlike the bloodline plot in last season’s Vampire Diaries). But here it seemed like there were variations on the virus -- Horace and his workers are referred to as “red eyes,” which is obviously a literal reference to their eye color. It seems like they were created by Grey’s blood, but Cronin never fully explained what made him “the source.” Peter at one point makes a comparison to Renfield, but that’s dropped almost as quickly as it’s introduced (plus it’s been too long since I read Dracula). Then there’s apparently a difference between a “dopey” and a “full-blown drac”...but it’s never explained. Are the “full blown” virals just older? Have they fed on more blood? Once Alicia and Amy transform, are they “full blown dracs” or something else entirely?
Also, were Carter and Wolgast sharing a body? That part was outrageously unclear (and also poorly resolved, given that the virals got blown up). I just hope Amy’s still around; she and Sara are probably the ones I care most about.
I’m holding out hope that these questions are answered in the conclusion of this trilogy. There’s some solid set-up for the endgame, but I’m also really hoping that Michael gets past the barrier in the ocean. We've spent the last 2 books not really knowing if the rest of the world is alive, or infected, or in ruins. I’d love to see what’s been happening outside North America. However, I feel like a good portion of the next book should focus on Zero. The Dramatis Personae almost makes it seem like he infected himself on purpose. I need to go back and re-read those letters in The Passage...was he one of the survivors of the doomed African expedition? And if the disease originated there, it doesn't bode well for what’s left in the rest of the world. Either way, I found this entry more compelling than the first (there were far fewer sections that made me want to quit reading), and I’m already anticipating the conclusion.
**spoiler alert** This may actually have been my favorite in the trilogy. If Matched was all about emotions, and Crossed was all about the [extremely**spoiler alert** This may actually have been my favorite in the trilogy. If Matched was all about emotions, and Crossed was all about the [extremely vague] journey, Reached is where the action (such that it is) finally decides to show up. Condie also adds Xander as a narrator, which I enjoyed more than I expected. Cassia and Ky still sound almost identical, so Xander made a nice contrast, since he actually seems more fully developed than either of them. Yes, he’s still in love with Cassia (can’t escape that damned love triangle), but he has an actual personality and an actual goal for being involved in the resistance. I never got a sense of that from Ky...he’s just sort of there. He reads! He writes! He’s frequently angry! He feels like a flat, static character -- from beginning to end, we never really see much change in Ky. Cassia doesn’t really have much to do this time around either; her major journey of character development is pretty much all accomplished after Matched. She transforms from someone who would never dream of opposing society to someone who is starting to question. Granted, the impetus for said questioning is a boy, but baby steps.
I actually didn’t remember much about the end of Crossed. I think we found out that Xander was a part of the Resistance (the “secret” he wanted to tell Cassia), and Cassia and Ky briefly found each other, only to be separated once again (woe). I’m pretty sure it ended up on my Spinning Wheels shelf, because very little of actual consequence happens. We open Reached in much the same place as Crossed. I had actually forgotten the stuff about Hunter and the farmers until they reappeared. Reached opens with the Resistance in full swing; they’re almost ready to declare themselves and stage their radical takeover of Society. Through Xander, we learn that this takeover is happening through the administration of a controlled (ostensibly) plague outbreak. Members of the resistance are immunized, and newborns are given immunity through their special tablets, but the bottom line is that most of Society will contract the plague. Thus, the Resistance can swoop in and save the day, because they happen to possess the formula for the cure. What bothers me here is how fine and dandy everyone in the Resistance seems to find this plan. It reminds me of that subplot in V for Vendetta (the movie, I’ve never actually read the graphic novel), where you find out that the government developed both virus and cure before contaminating the water supply, in order to regain control of a rioting populace. The Resistance, we’ll learn, is functioning in a similar fashion. There’s a reason all of their practices feel eerily similar to those of the Society -- it’s all a ploy to make people think they’re starting over again, when actually most of the Resistance members are full-fledged Society. The actual Resistance fell apart long ago.
Unfortunately, the Resistance did not account for a mutation of the virus. Some people are immune to the mutation -- Cassia and Xander among them -- but others, even those who had an immunization against the original plague, catch the mutation and end up even worse. The plague almost seems like a coma -- patients “go still” and seem unaware of the world around them (Ky apparently has some level of awareness, but he’s mostly dreaming). Eventually the mutation kills people...somehow. This is where Condie’s trademark vagueness comes into play. All three of these books just have a certain fuzziness about them...like an image that just won’t quite snap totally into focus. In this case, it’s the specifics of the plague that are eluding our author. Does it actually shut down the body’s vital organs? How, precisely does the “cure” work? (once they find the right plant, that is) Is it like a shot of adrenaline? It’s all handled very simplistically. People are sick, some die, they find a cure, administer it in a series of shots, and most people get better. Some require more shots than others, depending on how long they’ve been “still.” It reminds me of when I was in 7th grade and wrote a story about computer hackers. I had no idea what “hacking” actually was, and so I just glossed over those parts of the story in favor of romance (of course). A similar feat is happening here -- the virus is basically just a plot contrivance to keep Cassia and Ky apart, and give Xander some false hope that he might have a shot.
Personally, I think Xander’s best option is to run far away from all of these idiots, as he is easily the most sensible character in this universe. Maybe he and Bram can go have a bromance and be awesome together. Speaking of Bram, I wish we’d heard more out of him -- perhaps he could have taken over narration duties after Ky went still. I’m just not all that invested in the great love story that is Cassia and Ky. I feel this way about probably 90% of the YA that I pick up -- romance as a genre does not interest me (at least not the way it did when I was an actual YA). I’m not interested in whether Tris and Four will end up together either.
I did like what plot there was here -- it seemed like Condie took more care to introduce elements other than romance. Yes, the plot itself needs some work, and the only character who gets developed is Xander, and Cassia’s still a little too Bella Swan for my taste (have an actual interest that isn’t motivated by your boyfriend!), but I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. Judging on something of a sliding scale, this is the superior book in the trilogy (not a superior book in general). It’s good for what it is. The series as a whole, however, was somewhat disappointing. All of the elements of what could be a great story are there (after all, much of it is lifted whole cloth from The Giver, which is an amazing story...to say nothing of the sequels, none of which could hold my attention!), but it just never fully takes off.
Like some of my other favorite authors, I think I grade my girl Margaret on a curve. This was probably not my favorite thing s
**spoiler alert** Hmmm.
Like some of my other favorite authors, I think I grade my girl Margaret on a curve. This was probably not my favorite thing she's ever written. It's still a great story, and I think once the final chapter of the trilogy is complete, it might hang together better as a whole. But as a follow-up to I'm Starved for You, it was kind of a disappointment.
I loved I'm Starved for You as a one-off, which I think is what it was intended to be. Atwood has a true gift for world-building; she can do in a few pages what other authors are incapable of doing in an entire series. I'm Starved for You introduced as to the world of Consilience (cons + resilience) and the prison Positron. Atwood skillfully weaves a full backstory for the experiment's creation in just a few paragraphs (we see a flashback to protagonist Stan joining the experiment). Stan spends the entirety of the story obsessing about a note he found on the floor, imagining the beautiful "Jasmine" who sent it. In the final paragraphs, he learns that Jasmine is his own wife, Charmaine, carrying on an affair with "Max," the alternate who lives in their house while he and Charmaine serve their month inside Positron. At the end of the story, Max's wife Jocelyn, intercepts Stan before he can leave for Positron and breaks the news that there is no Jasmine, that Max is actually Phil, her husband, and that she has access to the computer codes to switch his identity with Phil's. As far as Consilience is concerned, Stan is Phil and Phil is Stan.
That's where we leave off, on a perfect Atwoodian clincher, "I switched the lockers too, yours is the red one now." (Stan has been obsessed with "alpha male" Max's red locker and what it symbolizes to him). Although I loved the story, I didn't necessarily think it needed a follow-up. Apparently someone did -- there's talk of turning Positron into a TV series, but whoever Atwood is in talks with wanted more story. Thus, Choke Collar. I think it's an interesting experiment, and I loved Atwood's comparison to 19th century writers publishing serialized novels in the newspaper -- this is the 21st century version. I also like that she's not just chopping up a pre-existing novel into three parts. She wrote Choke Collar after I'm Starved for You had been both published and reviewed, and it still working on the finale, Moppet Shop.
In some ways, this feels like a placeholder between parts one and three. Stan spends the entirety of the novel out of the prison, living with Jocelyn and reenacting Charmaine and Phil's various sexcapades. His resentment grows, but knowing that Jocelyn is in Surveillance and could literally make him disappear keeps Stan from acting too rashly. Charmaine, on the other hand, is still in prison -- a glitch in the system is saying that she's not who she claims to be, and Charmaine is briefly stripped of her position as Medical Supervisor. Her primary job had been to administer lethal injections, but she's demoted to laundry folding. I've always loved Atwood's cautionary tales about reliance on technology. We absolutely live in an age where a few clicks of the mouse can make it appear that you are not, in fact, who you claim to be. And in Consilience, they have to trust the computers, not the humans. So Charmaine stays in prison, fearing that her affair has been found out.
Most of the story felt like a holding pattern -- I sincerely hope Atwood herself is not responsible for marketing this story as "steamy." I'm not reading Margaret Atwood for the sex, and it felt like that was supposed to be the major draw of this installment. It isn't until the final pages (percent? I read this on my Kindle) that the intrigue finally kicks in -- all of this has been a set-up by Jocelyn and Phil to get someone outside of Consilience. Phil deliberately began his affair with Charmaine, knowing Stan would find out, and Jocelyn subjected him to her sexcapades knowing it would breed resentment and make him want to lash out against her. At the end of the story, Charmaine has been restored to her medical position, and her next injection candidate is none other than Stan. Except he won't really be dead -- this is an excuse to get him on the outside. Like all utopias, Consilience isn't working, and Jocelyn and co. want someone on the outside to show the cracks in the system. There are hints that the darker side of Consilience has something to do with organ harvesting, and I'm guessing that's what can be found in the Moppet Shop.
Again, I think once all three parts are written, this middle chapter will hang together better as part of the whole story. I'm interested in the world and invested in the characters, so I'm anxious to see where the final chapter takes them.
However, I really wish she would hurry up and write the final sequel to Oryx and Crake already. I swear that series is supposed to be a trilogy and I have been waiting patiently for the final volume for too long!
One of the things I've always loved about this series is that it doesn't take the traditional dystopia route. There's no disaffected protagonist, no h
One of the things I've always loved about this series is that it doesn't take the traditional dystopia route. There's no disaffected protagonist, no hearty rag-tag band-of-misfits resistance. The Gardners were the resistance, and the resistance failed. We know that from the very outset of Oryx and Crake. There is no happy triumph of the outcasts here, just a group of weary survivors hoping to make it from one day to the next.
We pick up where The Year of the Floodleft off. I’m actually glad I went back and reread it a couple of weeks ago, because I had forgotten substantial chunks of the story. I could have sworn that Toby and Ren were together around the halfway point, and picked up Jimmy, Amanda, and the Painball dudes not long after. Yeah...that’s like the last 10 pages. I evidently blocked out everything else, Zeb included. (I have to admit, I sort of hate the “previously on” segment detailing the events of Year of the Flood and Oryx & Crake...like, trust the adults who’ve followed this series for 10 years to be up on their shit, you know?)
So anyway, the Gardners are back together, at least those that managed to survive the Waterless Flood. They’ve also picked up Snowman (aka Jimmy), and the Crakers, who go wherever Snowman goes. Year of the Flood ended with Toby serving everyone dinner, Painballers included, and wondering what to do about the crazy, tied up murderers. When MaddAddam begins, the Crakers have evidently set the Painballers free, feeling bad about the men being tied up. Essentially, the Crakers have released fear back into the world, exactly the opposite of what Crake wanted for them (they seem to be able to get along with the pigoons and liobams and wolvogs and whatever else is out there that enjoys snacking on surviving humans...being vegetarians...leafitarians? probably helps). The novel is split into several parts, each of which opens with Toby telling a story to the Crakers, taking over Jimmy’s role. These essentially play the same role as the songs and Adam One sermons from Year of the Flood (which did not hold my interest on first reading, but I’ll admit I appreciated them more the second time around). I found these a little more interesting than the songs -- Toby realizes pretty quickly that the Crakers are fascinated with Zeb, so she begins telling his stories, as he tells them to her.
This is what bothered me at first. I was equally as invested in the present day story as I was in hearing more about Zeb’s past (especially given that he and Adam were raised as brothers). But I wish Zeb had been either the primary protagonist, or a first-person narrator (and then he could relive the past via flashback...a little like Offred in Handmaid). This is still very much Toby’s book -- even Ren is more of a sideline character this time. And although the story purports to be about Zeb and Adam, she still reads like the protagonist, if that makes any sense. So all of Zeb’s stories are coming through a filter. Instead of hearing them more organically, they’re always very aware of an audience -- they’re coming through the filter of him relating them to Toby, so she in turn can repurpose them for the Crakers. Zeb is very much aware of his audience, so the stories don’t feel as organic as they could. Eventually, I was able to get past this particular quibble and just enjoy the stories for what they were, but it really bothered me for the first hundred pages or so.
Through Zeb, we learn about his and Adam’s childhood, and the early days of both MaddAddam (the online computer game Crake would ultimately use to recruit the workers for the Paradise Project) and the God’s Gardeners. It turns out that Adam was likely the only true “believer” of the group. It began as essentially a way to hide suspected criminals from the Corps, and the guise of a religious sect was a perfect cover. But the Gardeners got too big and people in charge started to worry they were a resistance group in the making...and we know how all of that turned out. Although we do get to see all of the MaddAddamites being recruited, and some early intel on Crake while he was still Glenn, ultimately there was very little in Zeb’s story that couldn’t be intuited from the previous two volumes. The stuff with their father the Rev was interesting, but I felt like Atwood never delved into it the way I expected her to.
I was equally invested in the present day narrative, wherein the Gardners are essentially faced with the task of restarting the human race...more or less. Toby takes charge of the Crakers and continues the stories, but like Snowman points out in Oryx & Crake, notices that they’re beginning to evolve far beyond what Crake imagined for them. He wanted a perfect race of humans (or humanoids), who would never know fear, or jealousy, or pain, or any of the negative aspects of life. Yet after spending time around humans, they’re starting to learn and evolve and behave differently. Toby takes one child in particular -- Blackbeard -- under her wing and begins teaching him to write. Those scenes were unquestionably my favorites, probably because they dovetailed so amazingly with the subject of my thesis. I mean, seriously:
Now this is the Book that Toby made when she lived among us. See, I am showing you. She made these words on a page, and a page is made of paper. She made the words called writing, that she marked down with a stick called a pen, with black fluid called ink, and she made the pages join together at one side, and that is called a book. See, I am showing you. This is the Book, these are the Pages, here is the Writing.
And she showed me, Blackbeard, how to make such words, on a page, with a pen, when I was little. And she showed me how to turn the marks back into a voice, so that when I look at the page and read the words, it is Toby’s voice that I hear. And when I speak these words out loud, you too are hearing Toby’s voice.
Chills. This might be my favorite framing device ever. I love it when at the end of a novel, it turns out to be a story that someone has left behind as a legacy -- after all, Atwood herself has said that writing is motivated by a desire to return to the Underworld and bring something back from the dead. Anyway, Jimmy heals, most of the girls are pregnant with Craker babies (apparently there was some sort of accidental orgy when the groups all converged? I kind of glossed over that in both readings I guess!), and Zeb wants to find Adam, and hopefully the rest of the Gardeners. Meanwhile, the Painballers are still out there, and leaving messages in the form of dead pigoons, trying to draw out the Gardeners for a fight.
(view spoiler)[You can tell it’s building towards a battle here, and while I guessed along with everyone else that the mysterious third person with the Painballers was Adam, I felt like it was kind of a cop-out to have Blackbeard describe the battle. I do get it from a stylistic standpoint -- someone who has literally never experienced violence observing a horrible blood event -- but at the same time I felt like it cheapens both Adam and Jimmy’s deaths. It seemed like such a waste for Zeb too; he’s spent most of his life searching for his brother (although when they’re together they seem to annoy the piss out of each other), and they don’t really get to have a final conversation. And I’m pretty attached to fucked up old Jimmy, so I didn’t like that his death was almost a footnote in the whole narrative. I figured he was toast, but the poor guy deserved a better swan song. (hide spoiler)]
Ultimately, I feel like this was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, and certainly worth the wait. After reading So Much churned-out YA dystopia, it’s such a refreshing change of pace to read something that the author has clearly put so much thought and love into. I realize that I can’t totally blame the churned-out problem on the authors themselves -- I feel like a lot of that is the publishers pushing for sequel after sequel. It’s like there’s a law that there can’t be more than a year between books, because the audience might lose interest and take their money elsewhere. A more established author like Atwood, has certainly earned her stripes and can finish her trilogy whenever she damn well pleases. I definitely fall into the camp that would rather wait years for the next installment if it means getting a better finished product, but I realize I’m probably in the minority there. I had my quibbles with this book, and I still think Oryx & Crake is my favorite of the trilogy, but it was the perfect way to end the story.
So I seriously feel like the worst Atwood fan ever, for not knowing this whole experiment was happening. After I bought Choke Collar, I thought I wasSo I seriously feel like the worst Atwood fan ever, for not knowing this whole experiment was happening. After I bought Choke Collar, I thought I was up on the whole Positron series. Then I happened to read an interview on NPR that sent me to the Byliner website, where I found this volume. I swear I read that this was supposed to be a trilogy, with the third volume titled "Moppet Shop." But Byliner tells me that one is still forthcoming (and NPR promises she's writing a "traditionally published" novel due out in the fall [which her twitter swears is the 3rd MaddAdam novel...eeeeee!!!]).
Anyway. I have to wonder if some reviews of Choke Collar prompted Atwood to add another episode to bridge the gap between Stan and Charmaine's escape. This story picks up precisely where Choke Collar ended -- Jocelyn drugs Stan and he wakes up strapped to the "relocation" table (he spends more than half of the story immobilized - and cranky). Charmaine is thrilled at having regained her position...until she enters the room and learns that her next assignment is Stan.
The first half of the story is really a character study. We get some more insight into Charmaine's motivations and also Stan's thought progressions as he waits on the table. They both begin to see the cracks in the Consilience model. Atwood also allows Charmaine to grow as a character. In the first two volumes, she's painted in pretty broad strokes (plus we mostly see her through Stan's eyes, and he obviously isn't feeling too charitable). She's certainly not the strongest-willed person, but she's also not just a flighty pushover. She takes pride in her work, rather than luxuriating in the power it gives her. She takes comfort in appearance and routine. It will be interesting to see how she deals with whatever is waiting on the outside. She can clearly tell that her life is not as perfect as she believed a few short months ago, but she's not quite ready to accept what that might mean.
I enjoyed this volume more than Choke Collar. In terms of plot, I suppose it reads even more like a placeholder volume than its predecessor. But as I've always been a fan of (well done) character-driven stories, I found this one to be a more enjoyable read. Plus this volume contained zero unnecessary sex scenes! I'm also not sure I would have wanted to jump right into Stan's adventure on the outside. This volume made me like Charmaine a lot more as a character...I think I'm more interested in following her than Stan. ...more