I've just finished reading Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. A couple of weeks ago I read Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld. They are both vampire books and are...moreI've just finished reading Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. A couple of weeks ago I read Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld. They are both vampire books and are two of the better books written for teens last year, but they don't have much in common besides that. They each have a very different take on the traditional vampire mythology and I'd highly recommend both.
Twilight: "When seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not wholly human" (from the library catalog record). This starts off feeling like a contemporary teen issue book that becomes something of a romance with a bit of action, mystery, and tension.
Peeps: "Cal Thompson is a carrier of a parasite that causes vampirism, and must hunt down all of the girlfriends he has unknowingly infected." This starts off as an action fantasy right away with a bit of a mystery to solve. It's made all the more believable, however, by the fact that every other chapter briefly tells the story of an actual parasite. Very creepy.
C. and I were discussing them at work. She absolutely loved Twilight, calling it "the sexiest book [she's] ever read (even though there's no actual sex)." Sue Ellen has consistently recommended it as her favorite book from last year. It's shown up on a lot of best book lists. So I was surprised to find myself a little disappointed with it. Don't get me wrong, I was very caught up in the story and enjoyed reading it, I just never felt the erotic tension the way others seem to. C. said she suspected that might be my experience, since it's a female protagonist/narrator. She said there's just something about that dangerous "bad boy" attraction that provides the sexiness, the thrill of not knowing if the guy would rather love you or kill you. I suppose I can relate to the idea (Angelina Jolie, for instance), but didn't get drawn into it from this book.
Peeps, on the other hand, creeped C. out. She ended up skipping a lot of the stuff about parasites that I found interesting and cool. They are each good in their own way, but if I had to pick one over the other I would say I preferred Peeps. I hate to stereotype and generalize, and I don't think of myself as a typical "guy" (not many other male children's librarians, you know), but I guess it really does make a difference if you are a boy or a girl.
Although I'd say the one thing that didn't work for me in Peeps was the attraction. Like all good parasites, this one wants to find new hosts. Since it is spread by saliva and bodily fluids, then, it makes carriers like Cal all-the-time, super horny. And there is a female lead, of course, who he is supposed to be very attracted to, but I never really felt it in this one either. I'd say it must be me, except I absolutely fell for the character Alaska in my favorite recent book, Looking for Alaska. I haven't experienced yearning like that from a book very often, and would guess again that it depends on whether the reader's gender.(less)
It’s not as witty or wise as the Discworld books I’ve read (which aren’t that many, actually), but it was still good. It’s set in the early 90s during...moreIt’s not as witty or wise as the Discworld books I’ve read (which aren’t that many, actually), but it was still good. It’s set in the early 90s during the time of the first Gulf War and the other President Bush, when computers were first becoming fairly normal and mainstream but before the advent of the World Wide Web. Johnny and his friends like to play computer games, the Space Invader, Galaga type where you fly a space ship and shoot up an alien fleet. The twist is that one of the alien fleets contacts Johnny to surrender because they don’t all want to die. Instead of mindless blips on the screen, they suddenly become real, intelligent lives and present him with a new moral quandary. I thought it was a lot of fun to get the alien perspective, that humans are just bloodthirsty killers who want to destroy them and aren’t willing to negotiate. They encounter the husks of Space Invader ships and other races the human gamers have wiped out in previous generations of games. I don’t know if I liked it enough to read the other two books in the series, but I enjoyed it and recommend giving it a try.(less)
I read this book when I was first getting into the world of young adult literature, and I've been recommending both it and Anderson ever since. Except...moreI read this book when I was first getting into the world of young adult literature, and I've been recommending both it and Anderson ever since. Except I recently realized my memory of the book's specifics were rather vague, so I decided to give it another read from my current perspective. It didn't disappoint.
Anderson's range is amazing, particularly his ability to use entirely different language for each setting (see: Octavian Nothing), and the language used by the characters in Feed is our immediate guide to his future United States. The book begins:
We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.
We went on a Friday, because there was shit-all to do at home. It was the beginning of spring break. Everything at home was boring. Link Arwaker was like, "I'm so null," and Marty was all, "I'm null too, unit," but I mean we were all pretty null, because for the last like hour we'd been playing with three uninsulated wires that were coming out of the wall. We were trying to ride shocks off them. So Marty told us that there was this fun place for lo-grav on the moon. Lo-grav can be kind of stupid, but this was supposed to be good. It was called the Ricochet Lounge. We thought we'd go for a few days with some of the girls and stay at a hotel and go dancing.
Anderson doesn't patronize his readers with omniscient narrator explanations, but lets us naturalistically experience the setting through the story and Titus's voice. He does this with his development of language as something living, from new slang to today's profanity becoming acceptable and more. Most importantly, the characters' inability to articulate their thoughts illustrates the impact of life with the feed, of having an Internet-connected computer implanted in their brains from birth, so there's no reason to learn and internalize facts or vocabulary because the feed is always there to fill in the blanks.
Of course, a feed costs money, so the price for having one is a constant (internal) bombardment of customized advertisements from the corporations who provide and maintain everyone's feeds. I said, "Do you mean . . ." I stopped, and tried, "That could be taken to mean that . . . you know . . . we . . ." My feed was like, "Tongue tied? Wowed and gaga? For a fistful of pickups tailored extra-specially for this nightmarish scenario, try Cyranofeed, available at rates as low as--" There is no escaping the influence of the feed. Except for those too poor, who are then excluded from jobs, status, and just about everything. Feed is a stark, yet realistic vision of the future with an anti-consumer perspective and something to say about privilege and class.
But I get to this point in my review and realize I haven't even mentioned the story, which it most definitely has. A very good one, made all the more powerful and believable because of the language and setting I've gone into above. I'll let Titus describe it for you:
I told her the story of us. "It's about the feed," I said. "It's about this meg normal guy, who doesn't think about anything until one wacky day, when he meets a dissident with a heart of gold." I said, "Set against the backdrop of America in its final days, it's the high-spirited story of their love together, it's laugh-out-loud funny, really heartwarming, and a visual feast." I picked up her hand and held it to my lips. I whispered to her fingers. "Together, the two crazy kids grow, have madcap escapades, and learn an important lesson about love. They learn to resist the feed. Rated PG-13. For language," I whispered, "and mild sexual situations."
A reread has only confirmed to me that this is one to recommend. (A listen actually, to the meg youch audio production; very, very well done.)(less)
City of Ember ended with Lina and Doon finding their way to the surface to discover a wondrous new world and sending a message back to the city for ev...moreCity of Ember ended with Lina and Doon finding their way to the surface to discover a wondrous new world and sending a message back to the city for everyone to follow. It's a "happily ever after" kind of ending. At the beginning of The People of Sparks, though, the 400 some odd Emberites are wandering through the wilderness, lost and confused and in danger of starving. They finally happen upon a village called Sparks and are grudgingly taken in. What follows is an excellent sociological study. Both groups are initially willing to work hard and share their limited resources; both are aware that war has almost wiped out humankind and the dangers that discord can bring. Yet they can't seem to prevent the petty jealousies and divisions that grow to the point of violence. There is very little black and white in this depiction as both Lina and Doon struggle with the moral shades of grey facing them and their survival. This book is a really interesting look at right and wrong, politics and "international" relations, and the fallacy of happily ever after.(less)
Even though it's a sci fi, it reads more like a mystery--Lina and Doon have to figure out what/where Ember really is before they can find a solution t...moreEven though it's a sci fi, it reads more like a mystery--Lina and Doon have to figure out what/where Ember really is before they can find a solution to their problems, and all they know of existence is their city and the surrounding darkness (no one is aware the city is underground). As a sci fi reader, I figured out what was going on before the characters or (I'm assuming) the typical kid reader, but it was still a good book with a lot of appeal.(less)