Well, it wasn't the greatest piece of literature, and it relied some of the regular YA genre tropes, including 1) love triangle, 2) orphaned protagoni...moreWell, it wasn't the greatest piece of literature, and it relied some of the regular YA genre tropes, including 1) love triangle, 2) orphaned protagonist with insufferable magic powers, 3) adults with a crazy terrorist plan, 4) girl struggles through training session, and 5) mysterious loner dude/love interest. The latter was pretty bad, I was almost sure Four from Divergent got bored and ended up in a different Chicago YA book, disguising himself as Conn Mcrea. Dug the concept of the Shades - I wish there had been a LOT more worldbuilding on them than the unnecessary character development for Darcy. Also, Chicago YA authors need to stop acting like all the great stories exist on the North Side, and that all Chicagoans are white. Not cool.
With that said, I'm at least glad there are people out there who love Chicago as much as I do. (less)
Honest review: I made it through the first few pages, and was turned off by the prose style and the amount of cursing - didn't feel ge...more**ARC/GIVEAWAY**
Honest review: I made it through the first few pages, and was turned off by the prose style and the amount of cursing - didn't feel genuine at all. I think conceptually, this could be a cool story with a lot of incredibly current and politically-relevant themes, but the "stream-of-voice" format was difficult to follow and at some points, lazy. This deserves a more rounded story with traditional prose. (less)
A tight, post-Bush II short story that brings Philip K. Dick to mind, and presents a terrifying scenario that reveals the ugly side to American Homela...moreA tight, post-Bush II short story that brings Philip K. Dick to mind, and presents a terrifying scenario that reveals the ugly side to American Homeland Security.(less)
Another book one would describe as "Lovecraftian," because of how much it borrows from Lovecraft's world - and not in a cool, Joe Hill way. This book...moreAnother book one would describe as "Lovecraftian," because of how much it borrows from Lovecraft's world - and not in a cool, Joe Hill way. This book is basically one big complicated reference to The Mountains of Madness, and the faerie stuff mixed in complicates it even further. If the author had stayed in the steampunk arena, the worldbuilding wouldn't have soured so quickly for me. Caitlin Kittredge needs to take some writing classes from Cherie Priest.
Aoife Grayson is a really unlikable character, as is her antifeminist best friend Calvin. Dean Harrison, part of the love triangle, is something of a win. (less)
A lackluster continuance of a series that holds some promise. I still don't find Tris to be a very interesting protagonist,and I seriously wanted even...moreA lackluster continuance of a series that holds some promise. I still don't find Tris to be a very interesting protagonist,and I seriously wanted even more Dystopic Chicago worldbuilding. The editing was also very poor - a whole lot of talking and moaning, not enough actual plot development or action. (less)
I'm becoming increasingly impatient with lazy dystopias. I've ranted about how fad-favorites like Divergent* suffer the most from a completely unbelie...moreI'm becoming increasingly impatient with lazy dystopias. I've ranted about how fad-favorites like Divergent* suffer the most from a completely unbelievable premise, which is pretty much the backbone of Dystopia.
Dystopia is scary because you can IMAGINE it. There has to be some logical reason why the Dystopia exists. If you're Orwell, it's fascism. If you're Bradbury, it's people's hatreds towards intellectuals. If you're Robison Wells, it's... ?? I felt inklings of a few ideas in the beginning of the book I hoped Wells would run with, but he didn't. I loved how the students were speculating the whole time that they were in an experiment. I had Philip Zimbardo and the Stanford Prison Experiment in the back of my head the whole time! But... then the twist happened and ruined everything the book had going for it. The advertised twist on the cover (lauded by new genre favorite James Dashner) is actually embarrassingly pedestrian. If I named the movie it was stolen from, it'd be a legit spoiler to ruin the whole entire book. Between that, and the deliberate attempt to "set up a sequel" at the ending... wow. Just wow. Quality writing, guys.
I was also frustrated by the gender roles in this novel, and the increasing genderization of dystopia overall. As a reader and a librarian, I like science fiction because it's a genre where gender expectations can be seriously examined and broken down. However, this is your typical "Boy-Finds-Out-the-Mystery-And-Girls-Cry-Instead-of-Contributing" crapfest. Loved Lily (alas, a minor character) and hated Jane and Becky, the girls Benson was trying oh-so-hard to protect. The only YA title I can think of with worse "boy schlock" is Alex Gordon Smith's Lockdown series: also a prison-break scenario specifically designed to appeal to boys. Are writers and trying to toss out hyper-violent dystopia swith male characters because they think the boys will be threatened by Katniss Everdeen? Come on you guys. Give your audience some credit.
Dystopia is a smart genre. It's supposed to make the reader think and reevaluate some system of society. Alas, Variant's dystopia isn't smart at all. It's a tired schlock attempt at a twist ending, not an actual comment on how young adults police themselves based on external expectations. If you want something better, read Todd Strasser's The Wave and save yourself some annoyance.
* As a Chicagoan, R. Wells doesn't owe me as much of a Reader's Apology as Veronica Roth does for her lame postapocalyptic Chi-City. Boo sandwich, girlfriend. Boo sandwich.(less)
Honest Review: I've put this in my middle-school library, and the cover's generated a lot of interest... but the concept hasn't. I thi...more**ARC/GIVEAWAY**
Honest Review: I've put this in my middle-school library, and the cover's generated a lot of interest... but the concept hasn't. I think it's a bit out of their depth. From my perusal, the book seems a bit melodramatic. The message seems to be a good one, though - and that I appreciate. Thanks for the Giveaway.(less)
A send-up of Wuthering Heights and The Handmaid's Tale, and even Oryx and Crake. Margaret Atwood would approve, and so do I. The worldbuilding in this...moreA send-up of Wuthering Heights and The Handmaid's Tale, and even Oryx and Crake. Margaret Atwood would approve, and so do I. The worldbuilding in this story is pretty cool. (less)
I really wanted to like this book. It's got great prose, and it definitely drops the reader right into the action as it follows your t...more**ARC/GIVEAWAY**
I really wanted to like this book. It's got great prose, and it definitely drops the reader right into the action as it follows your typical noir/mystery format. However, I am seriously bored with these male fantasy authors who are allergic to writing female characters. Polansky peddles in the same misogynistic noir tropes as everyone else: 1) murdered girl child (as prop); 2) untouchable, pedestalized rich girl (with amazing magic powers, of course; 3) And of course, random whores and tavern wenches who the author can't be bothered to treat as anything but furniture.
This book receives two stars only for its succinct, stark writing and allegory - I gotta give props to an author with a honed craft. And I appreciate...moreThis book receives two stars only for its succinct, stark writing and allegory - I gotta give props to an author with a honed craft. And I appreciate the content of LOTF because I think there's something to be said about human savagery. That is, human beings can be cruel and murderous... no denying that. That said, I cannot give this book any more credit because I hate its horrific, anti-humanist philosophy, and its contradictory ending. I do NOT think middle-schoolers should read it in curriculum, (librarian disclaimer: not the same as banning, y'all) unless its to dissect how stupid the themes are.
More personally, I read a lot of dystopic fiction, and I read it as an informed humanist. This means I don't agree that humans are naturally cruel and selfish, but rather, they are conditioned to be that way. People (children in particular) observe cruel behavior and act it out - it isn't naturally ingrained in them in any way. We also socially condition MEN to think that they are biologically savage, ready to rape and kill the second they leave society. I think the Freudian "id" is a load of sexist, superstitious bullshit, and it's unfortunate that this novel is so informed by it. William Golding totally buys into that Freudian BS, and even more cruelly uses children to depict it. The boys devolve quickly because it's their nature?? No. That's a cheap and shabby case of someone using psychology/biology to explain behavior.
BUT THEN, in the worst thematical denouement ever, he brings on a Navy captain rescuer! What the eff, Golding? Is this a twist? Are you saying the boys learn savagery by watching adults blow each other up (which I could get behind), or that ALL MEN are born savages? What the hell, man? The Naval Officer's presence in the novel is more perplexing and irritating than satisfying. He doesn't complicate meaningfully, he contradicts. Bad show, Golding.
In short: this book is full of bullshit. There is no biological impulse to commit violence (unless you have a mental illness, and even that goes into some iffy territory), and it isn't gendered in any way. And if the history of civilization is any proof, people strive to keep societal order, not destroy it.