Stunningly beautiful in almost every way, but about 20% longer than it needed to be, mostly at the beginning and toward the end. Still VERY highly rec...moreStunningly beautiful in almost every way, but about 20% longer than it needed to be, mostly at the beginning and toward the end. Still VERY highly recommended, and I'm anxious to get my hands on the rest of the series. Given my general aversion to non-genre contemporary, that's really saying a lot about the strength of Marie's prose and characters!(less)
Disclaimer: I only read 75% of the story. Put it down and never picked it up again. It's not that I don't like the subject matter--in fact, the only r...moreDisclaimer: I only read 75% of the story. Put it down and never picked it up again. It's not that I don't like the subject matter--in fact, the only reason I got through 75% of it was because this sort of stuff pushes all my buttons and so few people write material of this nature. What I didn't like was the way it was handled.
The story is full of grossly implausible situations and behaviors, even within the context of the world it created. Everything was explained and narrated to within an inch of its life (and sometimes well beyond). I liked the way in which the society spiraled so out of control--I thought that was an excellent mirror to hold up to just about any abuse of power, though it read more like a soapbox than a novel--but the author didn't even bother attempting to weave that information in naturally; instead there was just a giant expository info dump at the beginning of the book. Which pretty much sets the tone for the whole thing: one giant expository info dump after another, and worse, they meander all over the place. The story goes off into tangent after tangent. Even the places where the material is actually relevant to plot and character lack focus and wander all over the page.
It's sad because this author is certainly capable of crafting a sentence, and the idea of the world he's created is a fascinating one. Alas, everything was handled with a bludgeon rather than a scalpel, and with a degree of either laziness or utter lack of editorial direction (or both) that made the book suffer deeply--frankly, to and past the point of failure.
I know a lot of people raved about this book, but I can't help but think they were raving about the idea of it rather than the execution of it, which fell so flat I felt nothing pretty much the entire way through--even at the parts where clearly I was supposed to be moved and horrified and full of pity. (Of course, YMMV.) I wish this author had had a strong enough editor and the three or four months of reworking and rewriting it would have taken to kick the book into shape. I do suspect the talent's there, and certainly the creativity. But none of it was realized in this story.(less)
I feel like this story held a lot of potential that was almost entirely sacrificed to length. Essentially, this read like an outline. Conceptually int...moreI feel like this story held a lot of potential that was almost entirely sacrificed to length. Essentially, this read like an outline. Conceptually interesting, but far too much telling and not nearly enough showing. This made forming emotional connections to the characters very hard, as did the hugely insufficient reason for Jinsu to leave behind all he's ever known and loved--with no way to get back--for something he'd only dreamed of. It was a hard sell, and not set up well enough for me to buy (which is a good example, btw, of where I think taking real time and space with the story rather than cramming it into a short might have made a significant difference in quality and believability). I was also kind of blindsided by twincest, of which no mention is made in the blurb. I'll grant you it's not a big part of the story, but it's very much not my kink and some warning would have been nice ;-)
On the plus side, the writing on the sentence level is decent. There were very occasional bursts of absolute brilliance. (My favorite? "Jesus fucking Christ. You're still here? You're really here?" "I am." Jinsu had no idea who Jesus and Christ were, or why it mattered that they were fucking.) There were sadly less occasional bursts of painful cliche, and some language in the sex scenes that put me off completely (". . . his cock pumping sticky creamy juice," for example). The premise is quite interesting. The way that Jinsu reacted to the strangeness of the world around him when he first crossed over was one of my favorite parts of the story. But it was sketched through so quickly that the writer was almost forced into cliche to convey his thoughts because he left himself no room for actual scenes and emotional development. I'd have loved to have seen this as a novella, but as a short story it simply falls flat.(less)
Haha oh man, I don't even know where to begin with what was wrong with this book. Fortunately, it was bad in a really hilarious way, and also it was v...moreHaha oh man, I don't even know where to begin with what was wrong with this book. Fortunately, it was bad in a really hilarious way, and also it was very very short. So short in fact that it reads more like the outline of a wet dream than an actual story.
The characters were completely without an ounce of believable motivation. There was occasional random head-hopping in the middle of scenes that lasted one, maybe two paragraphs; expect whiplash. It was like reading one of those old Victorian-era porn stories where the woman is kidnapped and raped, but, oh!, that's okay because it turns out she LURVES it so much she wants to be the man's concubine forevs and evs and worship him.
So, yeah, it did kinda push all my buttons (kidnapping, rape, minor use of Taser), but only because those buttons are soooooooooooper easy to push and are under-pushed besides. It's worth getting for the humor factor, and it's a very fast read so you won't spend more than an hour laughing your way through it. Just beware that they're charging $3 for 7,000 words (words, mind you, that are arranged in generally poor order), so if you're going to get it, at least get it at Fictionwise when they have a 50% off coupon (like now: snow11). For $1.50, it's good amusement.(less)
1.5 stars, rounded up simply because I actually finished the book.
Very meh, and frankly disappointing for such a master of the short story.
This was ac...more1.5 stars, rounded up simply because I actually finished the book.
Very meh, and frankly disappointing for such a master of the short story.
This was actually two works: Blockade Billy and a short called Morality. BB was better than Morality, but not by very much.
I suspect I might have appreciated BB more if I were a baseball fan, as it seemed very much like a love song to the game. My problem with it--and with Morality as well--was that the actual stories, and the driving forces behind them--were so incredibly shallow that the only way King was able to generate suspense was by deliberately withholding information from the reader that all the viewpoint characters already had. Little drives me crazier than that; it's cheap and it's lazy and it's manipulative and writers only need rely on such tactics when they have absolutely nothing else of worth with which to keep people turning pages. If the viewpoint characters lack information too, then fine, I have no problem at all discovering things along with them. But this way? Not cool.
And really, even for short stories, they were incredibly thin on substance. That super-seekrit long-withheld information in Blockade Billy turned out to be so perfectly average and boring that I'd originally dismissed it as a possibility during my speculation because I simply didn't think King would be so banal.
Morality actually suffered from the same problem of banality, but beyond that, it suffered from constriction. It was a very short story that probably should have been at least a novella, or possibly a book. What we were left with was an outline, where the characters arced from major change to major change with no clear internal motivations or impetus. I mean, the spark that set off the changes was clear, but the characters essentially went from point A to point Z without stopping at ANY of the points in between to show us how they got to Z or why. Which made everything feel orchestrated and artificial, and left me completely unable to connect to the characters after the starting spark happened. The ending was so rushed I was left with whiplash.
I do not recommend this book at all. Just plain lazy. Lazy lazy lazy. It feels half-written. Leave it on the shelf.(less)
**spoiler alert** I must start off first and foremost by saying that this was a brilliant world with supremely well-crafted characters, the best closi...more**spoiler alert** I must start off first and foremost by saying that this was a brilliant world with supremely well-crafted characters, the best closing line I think I've read in years (I mean seriously, that could NOT have been more perfect), and enough emotional punch to leave me in tears. I was literally crying hard enough to make reading the last few pages a challenge.
I also want to applaud Andrea Speed for having the courage to end the book the way she did. When you create such lovable characters, treating them like she did can get you lynched by your readers. But this ending was truest to the story and served it best. I think a lesser author might have whipped up a miracle to avoid the hard choices.
For me, this would have been 5-star read if not for craft issues, which were fairly significant in some places. As with Infected: Prey, Infected: Bloodlines has some serious flab. Literally not one meaningful thing happens in the first 16% of the book; it was all backstory and setup, clumsily done and not interesting at all. Had I not already been so invested in the characters, that beginning would likely have led me to put the book down and not pick it back up. And of course there were also the paragraph-long physical descriptions of every character to wander onto the page, no matter how minor, that tighter editorial control would have caught and cut. There were also some strange POV shifts, where she'd head-hop into a minor character for one or two paragraphs in the middle of the scene, and then hop back out again; and some fairly stark factual inaccuracies that I felt there were no excuse for in a book about cat shifters (cougars can't roar, and boy how did that throw me out of the story when one of hers did, but I'll concede that probably not too many people know that). It's hard to reconcile all these craft issues in the beginning and middle with the ending, which was sleek and elegant and beautiful; I'm not sure how they came from the same author.
Despite these things, this was a brilliant, affective read. I recommend this series quite highly, and I look forward to seeing Andrea's next work. (I'd especially like to see her publish at a house with a deeper editorial touch; hands-off editorial can be a joyous thing for those eagle-eyed writers who can really cut their own works to the bone, but most of us can't, and need the editorial assist. I think if she had that oversight, her work would be masterful.) I hope she revisits Roan, because after leaving him bleeding and broken at the end of Bloodlines, I'm desperate to see him find some semblance of happiness again.
And now I need to go watch kittens playing, or something, because this book basically punched me in the solar plexus and then killed my dog. Which is an amazing thing, to be moved like that. But it also kinda sucks :-p
Thanks, Andrea, for such a powerful, captivating read. This one will stick with me for a good long while.(less)