I was born in the mid-80s so I probably missed out on more than half of the movie/music/game etc. references in this book. Didn't matter, I still enjoI was born in the mid-80s so I probably missed out on more than half of the movie/music/game etc. references in this book. Didn't matter, I still enjoyed the heck out of this. The story is rather simplistic, but once it got going i couldn't bring myself to stop reading.
I also loved how Ernest Cline described the relationships between the characters in the book. A lot of us online gamers can probably relate to the experience of making long-lasting friendships over the internet, the excitement and nervousness of meeting your online friends for the first time in real life but ending up connecting like you've known each other for years even though you've never met face-to-face until that moment, etc. I think he nailed that part perfectly.
A must-read for any MMO gamer, or anyone with a love for geek and pop culture of the 80s....more
For me, there are two kinds of Stephen King books: those he wrote before 1990, and those he wrote after. For some reason, I've never really been keenFor me, there are two kinds of Stephen King books: those he wrote before 1990, and those he wrote after. For some reason, I've never really been keen his works in the former category. For example, It. Nope, couldn't do it, got tired of the way it dragged on and gave up about halfway through, too bored to even be scared.
Don't get me wrong, King is a master storyteller who you can tell by the way he writes that he just loves to spin a yarn, but at the same time he has that tendency to go and and on and on. I believe he admits this freely too, and over the years I think his writing has become more focused if his recent works are any indication.
Although I read the complete and uncut version of The Stand, I knew the original was first published in the 70s so I guess it technically falls into the pre-1990 category. So as such, I'd already anticipated what he himself calls his "Diarrhea-of-the-Word-Processor". This monster of a book is more than 1100 pages, so I knew what I was in for.
Anyway, to get right to the point, I enjoyed this book immensely but as I expected, some parts definitely did drag. I'd get really drawn into a thread of the plot, and then the book would switch tack and follow someone else's point of view that I don't care about for a good long while (never skimping on even the tiniest details) which would distract me and break a good run. A part of me wishes I'd read the original published version instead. After I finished, I did some research into the differences between the two editions. Though the 400 or so pages cut from his manuscript were due more to the publisher's financial reasons rather than editorial reasons, I think King had made the right call in what he decided to cut out. Unsurprisingly to me, a few of the parts I felt were slow ended up being the ones that were left out in the original published version.
I also didn't really see the need for the "updates", i.e. making this take place in 1990 instead of 1980. Sure, pop culture references were thrown in to make the setting more modern, but all it did was create a lot of contradictions, like the technology described or the slang or sayings that would come out of the characters mouths immediately betraying when this book was written and when it actually takes place. In my opinion, they should have just left everything well alone.
Still, this was a very epic tale of the battle between good and evil; I can now see why so many consider it a Stephen King classic.i...more
This was an entertaining read, I'll give it that. But to truly enjoy it you would have to ignore the glaring plot holes and all the nagging little thiThis was an entertaining read, I'll give it that. But to truly enjoy it you would have to ignore the glaring plot holes and all the nagging little things in the story that make absolutely no sense at all.
I couldn't do it. Maybe I've been spoiled by all the great fantasy novels I've read in the past few years, but I expected a lot more world building. Sadly, I don't feel like Roth made much of an attempt. Dystopian fiction usually interests me, but details about the world and society in Divergent are disappointingly sparse.
Let's look at the faction system, for example. Everyone in the novel belongs in one of five factions (Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Candor, Amity) unless you fail initiation and become factionless. Anyway, we're given basic descriptions of each faction along with their ideologies and respective roles in society -- Abnegation values selflessness and runs the government, the Erudite values intelligence and are responsible for research, Dauntless values bravery and manages security, and so on and so forth.
But other than that I have no clue how this world actually functions. The system is so simplistic to the point of being ridiculous, and I wonder how anyone manages to get anything done. Dauntless training, for example, doesn't seem to be anything more than a stunt school for hooligans and daredevils, and makes a mockery of any real military or security institution. There is hardly an adult presence, making it seem like teenagers are left to run everything. Not to mention there's so much conflict between the factions and also so much in-fighting within each. So, like, what's the point? There are also hints of a resource shortage, but no further exploration into this point. And how does the economy work? A point system is briefly mentioned, but again, the author doesn't elaborate.
I'm left with more questions than answers. And I can't stress how distracting it is when I start questioning everything I'm reading. It just pulls me out of the experience and ruins the immersion. Good books don't do that.
Everything about Divergent also felt very typical and uninspired. After the Hunger Games trilogy, it's understandable these days how a lot of authors and publishers will attempt to ride upon the coattails of its success. But does it really have to be so obvious? You've got the dystopian themes, the mindless violence, the cookie-cutter characters, etc. It feels like the same thing, just wrapped in a different package.
Sure, Divergent is classified as YA fiction, but I don't think I should feel obligated to lower the bar just because a book is meant for a younger audience, especially if it's trying to address mature topics. Things should at least be logical, and too much about Divergent just...wasn't. This is only good for a casual, fun read....more
3.5 to 4 stars. This review took a while, because I needed some time to get my thoughts together. This one was definitely a tough one for me to rate.3.5 to 4 stars. This review took a while, because I needed some time to get my thoughts together. This one was definitely a tough one for me to rate. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, but at the same time I'm pretty sure I liked it more than I should. Not really sure if I'm making any sense at all.
Perhaps it had to do with not knowing anything about this book before I picked it up, other than that it's widely popular and highly acclaimed...which was probably why I felt a little like the odd one out when I started reading and found that a lot about the book annoyed me. At times the writing and story felt really awkward and forced, like the author was trying too hard, with pretty much every point, symbol and device etc. spelled out for the reader as if they would not be savvy enough to pick it up for themselves. He is quite heavy-handed when it comes to the conveying of the book's ideas.
It was then I started looking around and saw that this book is considered by many to be more appropriate for young adults. In some ways, that makes a lot more sense. In the end, I had to look at this book a whole different way in order to rate it fairly.
Still, some parts of the book were better than others. The last 10%, for example, was so completely different to me than the rest of the novel that it almost felt like somebody else wrote it. It's almost as if Orson Scott Card had this amazing idea for this profound conclusion but had no clue how to tie it to the beginning, and so simply filled up the middle with a bunch of fights in battle rooms. Such shallow action is a stark contrast to the deeply thoughtful ending, which nonetheless I have to admit made up for my lukewarm reaction to everything else.
Maybe it's not this book, maybe it's me. If I recall correctly, I'd written in my review of Divergent that I found it hard to deal with the numerous pMaybe it's not this book, maybe it's me. If I recall correctly, I'd written in my review of Divergent that I found it hard to deal with the numerous plot holes and just the avalanche of inconsistencies and things that don't make sense in this series' world. The sequel has not rectified this, but while I should really just suck it up and ignore the deficiencies in world building, the truth is that I can't. If anything, these flaws have gotten more distracting and that's only made me more frustrated.
Once again, I have to wonder how on earth it is possible that this faction system even came about in the first place. And how is it that this society has managed to function under it for so long before this? Organizing the population into five groups (well, six if you count the factionless) based on their personalities and aptitudes just doesn't really make sense if you consider how much variation there is in human beings. But the book makes it sound so simple, using such clumsy and unsophisticated science and explanations to prop up these ideas, it's enough to make anyone with even a minimal understanding of human behavior to want to bang their head against a wall. I realize this is sci-fi/dystopian fiction, but the premise is just so implausible I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief.
It also doesn't help that I just don't find the main character and narrator Tris Prior to be all that interesting, and so by extension I don't find the other big part of this novel, which is the romance, to be very interesting. I hate to say this as well, but Tris reads a bit like a Mary Sue, always central to the conflicts at hand, and is more talented and extra special even amongst the other Divergent. She's sixteen, but also appears more competent and knowledgeable than everyone else, which includes the adults.
Though to be fair, it doesn't seem like any adult or any character for that matter in these books are capable of much complex reasoning or thought. I admire the author for wanting to tackle some very adult and mature subjects in these books, but it sort of lessens the impact when everyone seems to have a five-year-old's view of the world. Here's one example: Tobias, our main protagonist's love interest and prominent member of Dauntless, left his old faction in his youth to escape his abusive father Marcus, and the response by some of the other Dauntless is to call him a coward for it. What can I say? Dauntless isn't exactly known for being classy. Anyway, Tobias' solution? To confront Marcus in the middle of a crowded cafeteria and proceed to beat the crap out of him in public, presumably to win back the respect and faith of his fellow Dauntless and prove to everyone that he is not in fact a coward. This, along with the Dauntless idea of jumping out of moving trains as a way of proving you are brave, or the Erudite custom to wear glasses to show that they are smart, are just some examples of the type of schoolyard logic you will find in this book.
I also don't think the adults in this novel actually sound very much like adults, and in general I find the written dialogue very awkward. This makes the main villain sound like a cartoon character when she speaks, and also made for a lot of cringing on my part when Tris and Tobias have their blundering conversations about their relationship.
In some ways, I think this book might have worked better as a hard sci-fi novel. It would have been easier for me to accept all the trappings of this world as the strange customs of a unique alien society, instead of a screwed up dystopic future version of Chicago. Anyway, I still plan on finishing this series (I assume it'll be a trilogy) because I've already gotten so far, but I'll have no problem waiting for the next book. Any speculation as to what it'll be called? My guess is: Emergent....more
A classic that doesn't really feel dated at all, even though I'm reading this more than 60 years after it was published. I remember loving John WyndhaA classic that doesn't really feel dated at all, even though I'm reading this more than 60 years after it was published. I remember loving John Wyndham's the Chrysalids from when I read it for class in high school, so I was quite looking forward to this.
In this book, an unnatural breed of aggressive plants called triffids take over the world after much of the population goes blind after witnessing a strange meteor shower. When it comes to sci-fi premises, I thought it was a very interesting way to bring about the apocalypse. This was great at emphasizing just how thin and fragile the veneer of civilization truly is, and what could happen when it erodes. Description of humanity's efforts to survive along with its propensity to rebuild or run savage brought to mind The Stand, another post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel I recently read. Day of the Triffids preceded it, of course, and I thought it was impressively written....more
While I thought this was a pretty good book, too many things kept it from being phenomenal or even memorable, and I struggled to find anything that woWhile I thought this was a pretty good book, too many things kept it from being phenomenal or even memorable, and I struggled to find anything that would convince me that it deserved any more than a 3 star rating.
First of all, the plot, which was interesting and held potential, was way too thin and full of holes. It's not like I demand everything in a sci-fi novel to work realistically, but I do have expectations that it be somewhat logical. I am much more lenient about this point when it comes to young adult novels, but then that's not what this book is. At times, it does feel like the author wants you to not ask questions and just run with it.
For example, take the book's idea of discrimination against amplified humans or "Amps" -- it feels very crude and underdeveloped to me, like I'm not so sure the country would simply deny a whole swath of the population their basic human rights overnight without a million things happening before that point. Sure, there were a few details about a court case, but I would have loved to see more details. Without them, the story's premise just feels like an empty shell. That said, Wilson is definitely a strong writer on the whole futuristic technology front, but seems to falter when it comes to constructing and describing plausible human societies.
Next up, the characters. I don't know what it is, but I found the main protagonist extremely bland and pathetic. There is hardly anything noteworthy about him at all. The other supporting characters fare a little better, but again, like many of the themes present in this book, they feel underdeveloped. They are like templates, saying things and acting in ways that are very predictable and not very realistic.
Like I said, despite the problems I had with it, I didn't think this was such a terrible book. It just felt like it needed more substance. I did enjoy the addition of news reports, article excerpts, transcript documents etc. at the beginning of each chapter though; I thought that was a nice touch. Pity they weren't enough to flesh out the book's setting and plot. ...more
Like the legions of people who have picked up this book lately, I was first intrigued by the trailer for the upcoming film based on it. Now that I’veLike the legions of people who have picked up this book lately, I was first intrigued by the trailer for the upcoming film based on it. Now that I’ve read it, I’m more curious than ever. It’s not particularly an ideal book to make an adaptation.
It’s like six separate stories all nested within each other like a Russian matryoshka doll, its characters only having a tenuous link to each other. Like six novellas, the first five split in half, interrupted right in the middle, only to be continued after the sixth story is told to completion. Does this even make sense? Every time I try to explain it, I’m given arched eyebrows and confused looks. You can see why I am curious how this will fly as a movie.
The stories are set in different times, different places, each has its own themes and even its own written style. As such, I don’t even really know how to classify this book — it is science fiction, it is fantasy; it is also historical fiction, and it is mystery. It also has a dash of romance and a bit of thriller. David Mitchell has done something amazing, giving each of his six protagonists a distinct voice and personality. The book is thematically quite heavy, with lots to think about during and after reading, but ultimately also very enjoyable to read.
My one gripe is I found that "first halves" of all the stories to be so much more interesting. By the time I reached the second halves, I found my interest waning a bit for each story. The build up is always better. ...more
3.5 stars. This book had a fantastic beginning. I didn't even know what I was in for until I was almost a quarter way through the novel, and then it h3.5 stars. This book had a fantastic beginning. I didn't even know what I was in for until I was almost a quarter way through the novel, and then it hit me that holy crap, this is a zombie book! Not only that, it's your classic tale of zombie apocalypse survival, complete with an annoying kid side character and getting lost in the woods. The book's synopsis only mildly hints at this when I read it, so I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.
I also had no idea that this book was classified YA until I actually came here and saw the user tags. I guess I should have clued in earlier on the many obvious hints; firstly, you have the EMP that "brain zaps" people and turn them into the "Changed", but with a twist -- its effects are age specific, sparing mostly the old but decimating the world's population of adolescents and young adults. Very cool premise and a unique take on the zombie origin theory, but this of course also leaves our protagonist Alexandra, a late teen herself who was one of the "Spared" plenty of reasons to get even more emo. Secondly, and most telling of all, about halfway through the book, the story suddenly transforms into "Zombie Apocalypse, 90210".
This was where I started to get disappointed. I was really enjoying myself up to this point, digging the story and the characters, even the aforementioned annoying kid side character Ellie, who started growing on me. But then all that disappears. All that time I spent getting to know Ellie and Tom, and then *poof!* they go away and I'm introduced to a whole new setting and a whole new group of players. Most frustrating of all, the story also takes a new direction, and we start to drift away from the zombie survival aspect to dwell on this new plot point, which my cynical side cannot help but feel it's there as an excuse to inject some romantic drama.
At the very end, the novel redeems itself somewhat, showing hints that the story will get back on track and with a promise that we'll actually get to see some zombie action again, thank god. Of course, this also meant it ended on a cliffhanger. Why is it that so many books seem to be doing that these days? It's a bit evil if you ask me. Fortunately, at least it doesn't appear I have long to wait for book 2....more
Great read, and yet unfortunately not my kind of novel. I guess cyberpunk just isn't my thing, but hey, I had to give it a try to find out, right?
AndGreat read, and yet unfortunately not my kind of novel. I guess cyberpunk just isn't my thing, but hey, I had to give it a try to find out, right?
And ultimately, I'm glad I did. After finishing Snow Crash, I totally understand why this book is considered Stephenson's greatest classic. Awesome characters, awesome world, and especially awesome concepts/philosophies. I just wish I had a little more interest in some of the latter, but I could still grasp and recognize their merits and appreciate them for that alone.
For obvious reasons it was hard for me to become fully immersed in the novel, but between bouts of ambivalence there were definitely some high points which had me riveted. If nothing else, I found this book fascinating and fun....more
I'd thought the first book was dark, but wow, Freedom (TM) takes it even further. Anyway, high marks on the story, but downgraded to 3 stars because II'd thought the first book was dark, but wow, Freedom (TM) takes it even further. Anyway, high marks on the story, but downgraded to 3 stars because I can't say it was the satisfactory conclusion I expected. I mentioned in the review of Daemon that in the second half of the book everything seemed to wind down, and I had hoped Freedom (TM) would rekindle it again.
It didn't play out that way, unfortunately. Mainly, it was because I felt many of the characters we met in the first book were relegated to the background in Freedom (TM). for example, characters like Ross disappear for long stretches at a time while new ones I didn't really care for were introduced. Natalie Philips, pretty much the only female character in these books, also felt completely useless and wasted. Even the presence of Matthew Sobol appears to have diminished, and it was the all powerfulness of his Daemon in the first book that made it such a thrilling read in the first place.
What this sacrifice bought, however, was a more in depth look at the Darknet and in the lives of people living in these semi-cyber reality societies that we only got a glimpse of in the first book. The concept is kinda cool, actually -- sort of like living in an online game come to life.
Speaking of which, the science and technology has also been dialed up big time. Despite the sci-fi nature of these two books, I find it very interesting how half of the reviews I've read talk about the plausibility of such a scenario, while the other half find it too farfetched and unrealistic. Admittedly, I fall into the latter group, but then again I'm no software designer or network systems expert. I suppose it all comes down to the reader, and his or her interests and knowledge in the novel's topics.
If there's one big gripe I have about this book, it's that at times it could get very "preachy". I find this often happens with books involving groups of people trying to reconstruct civilization and build their own utopian societies. The author invests so much into describing the mission and trying to convince the reader, when really, I'm more interested in these ideas being shown rather than pounded in my face. In my opinion the time could also have been better spent, say, maybe developing the characters involving them more in the plot?
In any case, these two books constituted a very unique techno thriller, well worth the read....more
2.5 stars. As I'd hoped, this series got back on track in delivering more action and zombie survival goodness, meanwhile dialing back on the romantic2.5 stars. As I'd hoped, this series got back on track in delivering more action and zombie survival goodness, meanwhile dialing back on the romantic melodrama.
If only there hadn't been such a lack of cogent progression to the story. It hasn't been that long since I read the first book, but I still felt as if I was missing something. I spent half the time trying to figure out what the hell was going on with the different factions in the novel, trying to keep track of allegiances and betrayals.
It didn't help that the book was so fast-paced. Normally I wouldn't complain about such a good thing, but the author's handling of this was really strange and distracting. She's thrown in a few more characters to keep track of in this sequel, which still would have been okay if the points-of-view weren't jumping around so constantly and frenetically.
Yes, this frequent switching back and forth along with almost every single chapter ending in a cliffhanger provided lots of suspense, but I quickly tired of being jerked around so much, especially when sometimes the POV would change only after a few pages.
Also, be aware -- this book is very gory. Not just violent gory, but pretty nasty disgusting gory too, and involving all manner of bodily fluids. I liked how this gave it a really good zombie vibe, and it's for similar reasons why I like good zombie movies and shows like the Walking Dead, but I have a pretty strong stomach for this stuff and there were still a few scenes here that I felt were pretty gross....more
I thought I would like this a lot more, based on the blurb and the reviews on here. I was instantly reminded of Stephen King's The Stand and Del Toro/I thought I would like this a lot more, based on the blurb and the reviews on here. I was instantly reminded of Stephen King's The Stand and Del Toro/Hogan's the Strain trilogy. Weird zombie-vampires and the end of the world, what's not to like, right?
Well, I didn't even have to finish the first part to know I probably wouldn't really dig this so much. The main reason being, while I can absolutely see all the parallels to The Stand and understand why so many would draw the comparison, it also appears that Justin Cronin suffers Stephen King's propensity for what the latter self-admittedly calls diarrhea of the word processor. Either that, or he tried very hard to emulate it, though God only knows why he would do that. Being wordy hasn't always worked in King's favor, but then again, that man is such an extraordinary storyteller that sometimes you don't even realize it when he's recounted a character's entire life story for pages and pages and pages, while not making a smidgen of progress in the main plot at all.
It's obvious Justin Cronin enjoys writing character back stories as well, which isn't necessarily a negative. Thing is, I just don't think he's very good at it. When he does it, it feels forced and awkward, so instead of making me care more for the characters, I'm just like, "Wow, seriously, another flashback? Can't we just get on with the apocalypse?" It takes him several hundred pages just to get to it. And when I actually DO get into a back story, it's like he quickly jumps away to another time period or character's point-of-view, leaving me hanging. I mean, don't get me wrong, I appreciate what he was attempting to do, but it's like he somehow can't quite make it interesting enough, or he just hasn't quite gotten the pacing down yet.
In the end, not a bad book, but really could have been much more condensed, especially in Part I. Character back stories were a nice touch, but ultimately not that great; I think much from the beginning could have been cut out, and I doubt it would have mattered much in the long run....more
The Twelve is the follow-up to The Passage and the second novel of what is a planned trilogy. In thThis review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum.
The Twelve is the follow-up to The Passage and the second novel of what is a planned trilogy. In the first book, we saw the world before and after it was ravaged by a viral plague that turns its infected victims into vampire-like creatures. This sequel continues the saga, further chronicling our group of main characters in the post-apocalyptic future, as well as filling in the events of the past leading up to the outbreak.
Plot-wise, our group of survivors in the future -- Alicia, Peter, Michael, Sarah, etc. and of course, the all important and influential Amy -- take action to fight back against the virals and their collaborators, and even aim to take down the twelve original infected plague-bearers from the government experiments performed before the world fell (hence, the title). That's the main story of this series, which I found enjoyable enough, but it wasn't what I liked best.
Actually, even now I am surprised that I like this book as much as I do, given my tepid response to its predecessor and especially considering that The Twelve was written in much the same format and style. Though many of the characters in the first book return for the sequel, a few have perished and a handful more are also added. And not surprisingly, Justin Cronin continues to exhibit his long-windedness by insisting on writing back stories for pretty much every single one of them.
While I'm usually one to welcome any and all forms of character development including back stories or other devices authors use to flesh out their characters, I recall that Cronin's way bothered me greatly in The Passage. The book wasn't what I expected; thinking I was going to get a good old-fashioned apocalyptic story, instead I was bogged down by chapters full of flashbacks and found myself wondering when we'll actually get to the part with the end of the world. I was several hundred pages deep already before it finally happened, and the worst part was, when it came it wasn't even all that great or exciting.
That brings me to what I liked best about The Twelve. Yes, Cronin is still as verbose as ever, but the first part of the book and its focus on the early days of the plague and the downfall of the country was exactly what I wanted from The Passage, and which it didn't deliver. It was good to see some of that covered in the second book, even if it wasn't nearly as much as I'd hoped for. Still, it was something, and it filled in many of the missing pieces.
I am also seeing how all the characters are coming together, their connections and relationships like loose threads finally being tied up. This actually made me feel a lot better about this series, since another one of my frustrations with the first book was how I would get emotionally invested in someone (while irritating at times, those lengthy back stories have a tendency to do that to me) only to see them die or have the story change perspectives or skip ahead in time. Often, this made me feel cheated and almost punished for caring about a character. After all, why spend all that time writing about them, just to kill them off and never return to them again?
Well, The Twelve showed that this wasn't always the case. Some of the characters I never expected to see again from The Passage make an appearance, proving Cronin still has plans for them yet. That went a long way in mollifying me and assuring me that I didn't waste my time, and also gives me hope that the third book will continue this trend in weaving all these seemingly random characters together. After this book, I'm starting to get an inkling of just how big the web is.
Only read this book if you've read the first one already, as this doesn't appear to be a story with a real beginning or end, all its parts seeming more like puzzle pieces coming together to form one overarching, comprehensive epic....more
Everyone I know has been saying such great things about this book, so I'm afraid I can do little more than to add to the praise that's already out there. In the interest of full disclosure though, I'm a big fan of Brandon Sanderson and he's one of the handful of writers whose books I will insta-buy without a second thought. On the other hand, it's also true that I often approach my favorite authors' work with higher-than-average expectations.
Admittedly, this has also somewhat affected the way I looked at Steelheart, in that I went into it perceiving it as not so much a Young Adult novel, but rather as any other Sanderson novel. As a result, I confess that my expectations for this were at through-the-roof levels even before I started, and yet what's amazing to me is that even those were met and in some cases exceeded. It also makes me feel more confident in reporting that despite its YA designation, Steelheart can probably be enjoyed and appreciated by a much wider audience.
So even if you have an interest in this book but don't think you're a "YA person", please don't let that be the only thing stopping you from checking it out! Because while Steelheart has many of the elements common in YA fantasy, Sanderson also brings his own brand of storytelling and amazing ideas to this superhero novel, making it special and stand out. And perhaps, it would actually be more accurate to call this one a "super-villain" novel, given how the people who manifest special powers in Steelheart -- the book refers to them as Epics -- turn out to be evil.
As such, there are no heroes in David's world. Ten years ago, his father along with thousands of others died when the Epics took over, with the most powerful one of all who calls himself Steelheart declaring himself Emperor. Now Epics rule regular humans and kill them with impunity, but no one fights back. No one CAN fight back. Steelheart is near-invincible, and nobody can touch him unless his weakness is discovered somehow. David, however, seeks to do just that with the help of an underground group of rebels called the Reckoners. Together, they are determined to see the Epics' reign end.
Once again, I'm reminded that Brandon Sanderson is a master-builder of worlds for a reason. One of the first things I noticed about the setting of Steelheart is how robust and "complete" it feels. As someone who reads quite a lot of YA, I notice that while books in this genre often present great ideas and feature highly imaginative worlds, many also tend to ignore or gloss over the infrastructure of their post-apocalyptic or dystopian societies. And in extreme cases, there is hardly an adult presence at all, which might make a lot of sense for a novel targeted at young adults, but this also makes a story much less realistic. Sanderson on the other hand seems to realize that even in a messed-up world where Epics have taken over, what's left of civilization needs a system and a workforce in place to function. He's included a lot of groundwork for his world that makes it more detailed and conceivable.
What's more, it's the same for the characters, who are all distinctive and have memorable personalities. I'm not so used to reading Sanderson books narrated in the first person, so it's quite the new and refreshing experience to be right in the head of his main protagonist. And David is certainly...interesting. I like him, though I can't say the same about his hopeless metaphors! Megan also gives me pause. I suppose if there's one tiny itty-bitty thing I didn't like too much about this book is how David falls for her. Though, it's important to note that protagonists being attracted to love interests who treat them like crap is a long-held pet peeve of mine, and not even Sanderson could budge that.
Still, overall I loved Steelheart! I honestly cannot identify any "slow parts" in this novel, as it kept me interested the whole way through with its tension and foreshadowing. The level of suspense is kept at a constant high with the Reckoners racing against time to unravel the mystery of Steelheart's weakness so that they can assassinate him. The action scenes are also phenomenal, and the many twists and surprises in the plot will definitely keep you guessing. This was the most fun I've had with a book in ages. ...more
I doubt this would be a surprise to anyone, but the story was very predictable, especially the supposedly explosive revelation at the end which I'm suI doubt this would be a surprise to anyone, but the story was very predictable, especially the supposedly explosive revelation at the end which I'm sure any reader paying the least bit of attention would see coming a mile away. But since this is a fairytale retelling/sci-fi futuristic re-imagining of the classic Cinderella story, I can't really fault it for that.
In fact, I find the concept itself and the portrayal of Cinder as a cyborg living in a plague-ridden dystopian future is actually quite unique. It offers a different flavor from much of the stuff in the young adult genre these days.
Also, I have to say the fairytale aspect of the book excuses it for a lot of factors I usually find irritating in YA novels, such as high levels of emo, the heavy use of cliches, sickly sweet puppy-love romance by the boatload, or the fact the young characters are often so naive you just feel like throttling them and wondering to yourself if anyone can actually be so idiotic. Granted, this book wasn't nearly so bad with all of that, but given the whimsical nature and setting of the story, it even kinda works. ...more
Hollow World was easily one of my top reads of 2013. I was fortunate to receive the ebook version early because I was a backer in the Kickstarter campHollow World was easily one of my top reads of 2013. I was fortunate to receive the ebook version early because I was a backer in the Kickstarter campaign, a project I pledged my support to as soon as I found out about it because I am a fan of the author. At the time I had just finished reading his Riyria Revelations series and was still coming off from the high, so I was pretty keen on the idea of seeing Hollow World take off.
First, though, a bit of history: in his afterword, Michael J. Sullivan writes that he first took this project to Kickstarter because while everyone he spoke to about it loved the concept behind the book, the general consensus was that this kind of story just wasn't marketable. The science fiction landscape these days is dominated by space operas, military sci-fi, or books from established franchises. It seemed there was very little room left for Hollow World and its good old cross-genre time traveling tale about a 58-year-old man dying from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, who decides to journey into the future in the hopes of finding a cure.
To be honest, reading about the reasons why Sullivan ultimately decided to crowdfund Hollow World came as a surprise to me, especially after just having finished the book. Yes, the story is undoubtedly very different than what is typical in the mainstream right now, and Ellis Rogers would not be what you would call a traditional protagonist. Yet the character's adventure through time is no less extraordinary. Hollow World tells the tale of a man who has played it safe his whole life until he has nothing left to lose, and what he finds in the far, far future is way more than just the freedom from his illness.
It's a great time for speculative fiction right now, with what I've noticed is an increased interest in cross-genre novels and so many great and original ideas having found their way into being published in recent years. I thought surely -- SURELY -- this book could have found a place. In any case, thank goodness for small press and self-pubs as well as sites like Kickstarter, because Hollow World is probably my new favorite book by Michael J. Sullivan, right up there with Heir of Novron. I think his style suits a book like this very well, with its modern character and simply astonishing setting.
The story was compelling from page one, with its masterful introduction to Ellis in the moments after he first receives the life-altering news about his disease. Both character development and world building are Sullivan's greatest strengths, and it was easy to establish a connection with Ellis right away. But that feeling of "Oh wow, this book is something REALLY special" did not hit me until later, when we actually find ourselves in Hollow World. The author has created a breathtaking version of the future.
It's obvious that Michael J. Sullivan drew inspiration from The Time Machine, and he even makes mention to H.G. Wells' classic in his Author's Note. How Ellis Rogers managed to travel forward in time in a disembodied old van seat surrounded by a stack of plastic milk crates isn't the point of Hollow World -- it's the character's story, its fascinating concepts and the heartfelt emotions it invoked, that will make this book stay with me for a long time. Authors of time-travel fiction have long speculated on the future of our planet and humankind, and Sullivan has accomplished something truly amazing with Hollow World, mixing together elements from many different genres including science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thriller and suspense, action-adventure and even a bit of romance.
This confluence of ideas from so many different genres is likely what made the book such a tough sell to publishers to begin with, but its multiple facets is actually what I enjoyed the most. In fact, Hollow World is like a study in pluralities. There are some heavy subject matters within, from interpretations of God and religion, to sociological discussions of hive mind versus individuality, harmony versus chaos. It asks questions like, when does a utopia become a dystopia, and does it matter from whose perspective we look at? Is it worth it to trade comfort and security for freedom? Or how about sacrificing peace and happiness for a sense of accomplishment? Is there a middle ground? Why can't we have it all?
Even though I thought I knew the answers, reading this book was an eye-opener. Ellis Rogers' journey to Hollow World changed his understanding of life and love, making him rethink all the things he thought he knew, and I found myself naturally immersed in his experiences. At certain points, the story made me so angry I wanted to smack the main character upside the head; at others, I was so moved that I was almost in tears. Whether or not you'll find yourself shocked, disturbed, ecstatic, annoyed, or deeply touched (I was all of these and more), Hollow World is a character-driven story packed with intensity and emotion.
I rate this book highly based on pure enjoyment factor; Hollow World is so many things, but without a doubt, the best part about it is also its most obvious duality: that is it at once a light and entertaining read, but also heavy on important issues and philosophy. Most important of all, this story will make you think and feel. I absolutely loved it. ...more
Disclaimer: I have never read the Twilight novels. While I do plan on doing so one day, I just so haThis review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum
Disclaimer: I have never read the Twilight novels. While I do plan on doing so one day, I just so happened to have a copy of The Host lying around, the convenience of which led me to my decision to read it for my first taste of Stephenie Meyer. I'd also heard that it was a little more suitable for adults, and was curious about how she would tackle a book not aimed specifically at the teenage female demographic.
Almost right away, the plot held promise. The Host started off as both an interesting and different kind of alien invasion story to me, in which a race of extraterrestrial silvery worm-like parasites called "Souls" have colonized the planet by inserting their bodies and minds into humans, thereby taking over or erasing the original host's identity and consciousness. The story begins with Melanie Stryder waking up from one of these insertions, though now she is called Wanderer, the name of the Soul which now inhabits her body.
Except Melanie is too strong, her consciousness remaining at least partially in the body, causing Wanderer to become bombarded with thoughts and memories of Melanie's lover Jared as well as her little brother Jamie. Inadvertently, Wanderer begins to form emotional attachments to the two men as well.
At this point, I'm still pretty intrigued, especially when Melanie's knowledge leads Wanderer to a complex of caves and tunnels in the desert, where a group of free humans led by Melanie's uncle Jeb have made their home and secret hideout. Here, Wanderer/Melanie are reunited with Jared, but things get complicated when essentially two minds are in one body, with one of those being an alien entity to boot. Things become even more problematic when a love triangle of convoluted proportions begins to form as Ian, one of the residents at the hideout, develops feelings for Wanderer (the alien consciousness) while Melanie (the human consciousness) remains steadfastly in love with Jared.
And here is where the book started to lose me. I had some idea when I picked up this book that I was signing on for a romance, so I wasn't completely blindsided by the relationship drama. Still, I had not expected the story to devolve so rapidly into a sappy soap opera, and I have to say my opinion of almost everyone in the book plummeted sharply from the resulting bad dialogue and stunted personalities.
In essence, my biggest problem with The Host were its main characters. The only people I could stomach were the supporting ones like Jeb or the doctor, especially when the little brother Jamie's role was downgraded to being a convenient and useful plot tool to keep the story moving along. Because quite honestly, nothing much else was really happening.
Still, I could have enjoyed this more if it weren't for how crudely Jared and Ian were both portrayed -- over-protective, controlling, forceful, aggressive and borderline abusive, prone to petty jealousies. Like I said, I have not read the Twilight series in its entirety, but what I perceived from the two men were not so different from the criticisms I have heard about Edward's character. Even allowing for Wanderer's ignorance on human matters and the inherent meekness of her race, it annoyed me every single time either Jared and Ian told her she wasn't allowed to do something.
Speaking of which, Wanderer's portrayal doesn't fair much better. Her character is a blubbering bag of tears, always either weeping or on the verge of doing so. It's a personal thing, but I can't stand characters who constantly cry, because then they start to get me down. And whether Ms. Meyer realizes this or not, she makes Wanderer wince and flinch so much and so often, you can't help but start to wonder if the poor thing has a tic. I started being grateful for Melanie's consciousness; she was more of the firebrand with the passion and initiative.
Anyway, I guess it's hard to enjoy a book when you can't tolerate its protagonist/narrator, and this was probably the major obstacle holding me back from giving this a higher rating. Otherwise, I truly did enjoy the premise especially its science fiction elements. I also have to admire Stephenie Meyer's efforts to explore deeper and meaningful themes like the value of independence and identity, even if the execution of those ideas could have been better. ...more
Wow, what a pleasant surprise this was. My thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey for providing me with an e-ARC of The Darwin Elevator in exchange for an honest review. Loved this book! I don't think I've had this much fun with a new sci-fi novel since James S.A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes.
The book takes place in mid-23rd century Darwin, Australia. The city is home to the last bastion of humanity, thanks to an alien plague that's wiped out most of the planet, turning its victims into mindless, savage "subhumans" or "SUBS". The unknown aliens were also responsible for the presence of a giant space elevator that keeps Darwin enveloped in an invisible plague-suppressing Aura. So too, one other effect of the great Darwin Elevator is a clear division of classes, with the privileged "Orbitals" living high up on one end of it, and the less fortunate masses living down below.
Skyler is the head of one of the many scavenger teams that operate out of Darwin, but he and his specially handpicked crew have the distinct advantage of being immune to the plague, allowing them to travel beyond the Aura without the aid of vac-suits or fear of infection. Their immunity, however, does not protect them against the violence of the infected, so it is disconcerting to all when the elevator begins to experience power instabilities, and even worse -- cases of SUBS are being reported within the Aura, which everyone had thought was too secure to ever fail. Amidst conspiracies and the rising class tensions, Skyler is unwittingly pulled into a conflict whose result could determine the fate of humanity.
With all the talk of aliens, I first thought I should be settling in for a rollicking space opera, but as it turns out, the story is mostly all earthbound (for now, at least). Despite that, the book still has all the good stuff, just without the space. It's intense. It's dramatic. It's sweeping. And most important of all, it's fun. Throw in plenty of action and adventure and also some of that post-apocalyptic goodness, and you have this book. The descriptions of the abandoned, desolate and crumbling landscapes outside the Aura put me in mind of games like the Fallout series, just without the radioactivity. You really get the feeling like a subhuman can jump out and attack at any second. It's fantastic.
Another thing that made me like this book so much was the pacing of the story, the way it teased me into these "not-quite-there" action-suspense sequences at the beginning (that almost got me all frustrated!) before coming down seriously hard with the gun-fighting and battle scenes for real. Basically, things really heat up around the midway point, and they don't slow down from there.
For a sci-fi novel, this book was also very easy to follow. Even with all the advanced science fiction elements and alien technology, it wasn't hard for me to grasp the concepts and picture the descriptions in my head. I'm always a fan of books that can do this without bogging the story down with all the techno-lingo. Thanks to very natural and sometimes humorous dialogue, the characters are also very likeable, and even the disgusting perverted pig of an antagonist is someone you'll love to hate.
All in all, just a really impressive debut. I really wish I'd gotten to this sooner. Can't wait to find out what happens in the next book, Jason M. Hough is going straight onto my list of new science fiction authors to watch.
Note: Just found out that The Darwin Elevator started life out as a NaNoWriMo project! Even more cool!...more
At its heart, Warm Bodies is a "zombie book" because it's a book about zombies, but it's definitely not your classic post-apocalyptic survivalist adveAt its heart, Warm Bodies is a "zombie book" because it's a book about zombies, but it's definitely not your classic post-apocalyptic survivalist adventure involving gory battles with the brain-eating hordes. This sets the story apart and makes it original, but it also helped that I went in knowing what to expect.
The zombies themselves also aren't very typical. On the surface, they appear to be of the usual shambling, moaning and in various-stages-of-decay variety, but the ones in this book are able to maintain a semblance of a structured society. Communication between them is just good enough to allow things like organized hunts or a rudimentary class system, and zombie couples even have wedding ceremonies and are given zombie children to teach and raise.
The book also gives a plausible reason as to why zombies like eating human brains, explaining that it gives them a cerebral high while letting them relive the memories and experience the emotions of their victims. It is in this way that R, our zombie protagonist and narrator, becomes fixated with a girl he encounters on a routine hunt, after killing her boyfriend and chowing down on his grey matter.
In a way, the style and writing reminds me books I've read in the past where the story is told in the point-of-view of a dog or any other kind of animal. In each case the author has to find a convincing way to explain to the reader why their narrator is obviously intelligent and eloquent enough to tell a story, but can't express that outwardly. R, for example, can think and wax philosophical with the best of them in his head, but can't manage to put together more than a couple words or a handful of syllables when he tries to speak.
A persistent need to expound upon this dissonance is very characteristic of these types of books, so the first step on the path to enjoying myself was being able to accept anything and everything the story throws at me. However, a process like that generally takes time, and the fact this book is so short and proceeds at such a break-neck pace probably wasn't the most ideal for me personally, but I could just be a stickler for the details.
If I could do it all over again, though, I would not have chosen the audiobook. My current rating probably wouldn't have changed much even if I had read the text version, because the story, while fun and interesting, was still a bit melodramatic and too cheesy for my tastes. Still, I can't help but suspect listening to the audio version played a part in preventing my full enjoyment of the novel, though I have to admit it's not through any fault of the audiobook production company or voice actor. In fact, Kevin Kenerly was very good.
Unfortunately, the nature of Warm Bodies just simply does not lend itself to be converted that well into voice format, mostly due to the amount of internal dialogue, random and sudden interruptions or changes of perspective, as well as memories and flashbacks galore. This works well on the page, but makes the story hard to follow if you're listening to it, for obvious reasons. I snapped this version up from my county library's digital collection because there was no one else on the waiting list, but I kind of wish I had been a little more patient and waited for the ebook version. The experience might have been vastly different.
But in the end, it was the story that didn't quite grab me. Despite the naughty language and several detailed scenes of gory violence, this is a young adult novel...and for me reads "too much" like a young adult novel. Aside from the underlying angsty vibes, I just felt that it tried a bit too hard to be profound with its pages and pages of R trying to figure out hope, life, love. Don't get me wrong, I think the novel does a great job of asking the question what it truly means to be alive, but there's nothing all that revelational despite the frequently over-the-top prose.
Ultimately, this book might be better for a fan of YA romance than for the die-hard zombie reader. Like I said, I knew what I was getting into before I started the book, but a part of me had still hoped for a little more action and a little less Romeo and Juliet references.