I'm pissed off right now because as Neal Shusterman's intelligent, thought-provoking, decade-spanning young adult "dystology" finally reaches its denoI'm pissed off right now because as Neal Shusterman's intelligent, thought-provoking, decade-spanning young adult "dystology" finally reaches its denouement, it bows to a critically offensive and undeserving lack of fanfare better reserved for a lesser set of books. Shusterman weaves each installment of this series with a level of sophistication that you wouldn't expect for texts intended for teenagers; that's not so surprising, considering the role that adolescents play in executing a revolution throughout the course of these books, as well as the lack of condescension that Shusterman offers them.
These books would do better with the subtitle "how to start a war"-- even though Suzanne Collins presented the world of The Hunger Games with a brilliant, grim view of an oppressive government and the citizens rebelling against it, this series possesses a verisimilitude that Collins' trilogy often did not, and to which the juvenile, B-movie level sophistry that most YA dystopia is made up of can never hope to compare.
Shusterman does three things brilliantly in these books-- one, never disrespecting the intelligence of his audience, two, never resorting to cheap blockbuster tricks (although the deliciously horrifying premise begs for that level of adrenaline), and three, presenting a believable dystopia. In this series, Shusterman tackles propaganda, politics, corporations, and most terrifyingly, the responsibility and uncertainty of humans within our ever-evolving man/technology relationship. That's one hell of a subject to tackle within the breadth of spines shunted to the back of Divergent on the YA shelf but Shusterman does so with aplomb.
Given that the first, brilliant book was meant to stand alone, I was surprised by just how much these novels have managed to build off one another, and at Shusterman's gift for invention. With each successive installment he managed to build his world enormously, creatively, and realistically-- second book, propaganda, news reports, the Frankenstein rewind, book three Native American involvement and corporate/political corruption, and book three-- where we see a war begin, or end, realistically.
Other than his unassuming yet phenomenal world-building, Shusterman has also managed to assimilate a visceral undercurrent of tension into this series. The fourth book is almost devoid of action but it doesn't remove the thrill; the way this book resolves its heavy issue is fantastic. Shusterman enjoys punning on "unwinding," and with this novel tackling its issues with characters working independently is surely a sly nod to the idea that people, as well as plotlines are more than just the sum of their parts.
This series, dark, grim, and stunning in its culmination of world-building, food-for-thought, characterization, and good writing, is one that deserves to be remembered as a hell of a lot greater than the sum of its parts. ...more
First of all, I'm going to commend Jodi Picoult for writing this novel--she took a significant, brave departure from her usual brand of storytelling,First of all, I'm going to commend Jodi Picoult for writing this novel--she took a significant, brave departure from her usual brand of storytelling, and I was quite surprised by the direction this took.
Because writing from the perspective of an infertile woman who desperately craves children isn't new for Picoult.
Because writing from the perspective of a couple who divorce after their infertility drives a wedge between them isn't new, either. The paths they lead afterwards aren't new either-- alcoholism and healing are all old hat.
Because writing from the perspective of a divorced woman who discovers that she's a lesbian at the age of forty? That's new for her.
This novel is brave in a lot of ways-- but it isn't bold. The dissection of a society that still insists on being resolutely affected by the existence of homosexuality by bigotry and religious fundamentalism is certainly laudable, but it isn't new. I found it readable. I found it at times sweet, readable, and very occasionally inspired. But never really groundbreaking.
However, I think that it's important for a book like this to exist. I think it's amazing that we have a very mainstream author tackling this issue, especially one of the issues she's claimed in the literary world as her own for the better part of two decades, the logistics of family, It's a novel that can sometimes be mundane, eventually falling into step with medical/legal drama that mirrors Picoult's past works, but it's worth existing. If you're a book-club type in need of a gradual introduction to gay perspectives, then this is for you. ...more
It's a final installment that's essentially meant to wrap up loose ends-- the set pieces aren't as creative or well-engineered as its predecessors butIt's a final installment that's essentially meant to wrap up loose ends-- the set pieces aren't as creative or well-engineered as its predecessors but they're still exciting, still full of myths and magic (although I still maintain that House of Hades was the emotional and epic acme of this second Greek demigod series).
Probably the children's series I've stuck around for the longest, so a little emotional with it being over, having been so invested in these characters for the last six years... especially Nico. Oh my god, Nico, the thrumming pulse of these last two books.
Final set piece, Leo, gods, guts, gold, glory-- breathtaking. Fitting end to what has to be the best post-Potter fantasy I've read. As I've always said, I spend my school year at Hogwarts-- but even if the journey has been a little bumpy with this second series, I'll still always be happy to spend my summers at Camp Half-Blood, quirks, pop-culture-infused humor, heart, and all. ...more
Pulpy, kinetic, and compulsively readable, but lacking a bit on the brain side and one two many deus (dei?) ex machina. But really fun, and the true sPulpy, kinetic, and compulsively readable, but lacking a bit on the brain side and one two many deus (dei?) ex machina. But really fun, and the true story behind it is surprising. ...more
“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaption.”
The fact that this definition is found“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaption.”
The fact that this definition is found between the flippantly perused pages of an old medical text by a character late into Anthony Marra’s brilliant, stirring, Constellation perfectly captures the spirit of the novel in a nutshell. Raw, unalloyed humanity observed in the most clinical of places—a hospital in post-Soviet Chechnya, a refugee home run by a man with fewer fingers than beds, the space between epitaphs in the clay of a pit laden with prisoners, joy amidst desolation in a name, a single name.
It’s startling just how poetic this novel can be, given how uncontrived and unpretentious it is. The beauty in this novel is as natural as language—“for months they’d run their fingers around the hem of their affection without once acknowledging the fabric” or else “he was losing her incrementally… As a web is no more than holes woven together, they were bonded by what was no longer there.”
But Marra isn't gratuitous in his poetry. The moments for the deepest introspection are far and few between in what is essentially a chronicle of life in a small rural village in Chechnya, coping with the fall of the Soviet Union and attempting to achieve autonomy. The Soviet Union is compared to a boulder, from which autonomous republics “fell like pebbles.” Deceptively light at around 400 pages, the novel is dense with reasonably obscure post-Soviet history, offering neither the excuses nor apologies of mainstream historical fiction; it’s all the life and humanity of a Khaled Hosseini read without any of the factual patronizing or blatant emotional manipulation.
The separation of eight-year-old Havaa from her father, abducted by Russian soldiers, sets off a chain of events that involve the attempts of their neighbor, Akhmed, to hide her before the soldiers notice her absence, attempts that usher in the involvement of Sonja, the brilliant head surgeon at an abandoned hospital. Connected to these individuals are a web of others dealing with their own battles, Khassan, who has become a pariah after his son becomes an informant for the Russians, Natasha, Sonja’s sister, who disappears without a trace, Dokka, from whom his friends hide duplicity, and even Havaa herself, clinging to her father’s last memories as tightly as her mysteriously guarded suitcase.
The density and slow pacing of the novel are hard to surmount, especially given how spoiled contemporary fiction has made us, but it’s worth overcoming, as there’s a breathtaking, organic beauty to this book. The nature of the adaptability of life resonates between the pages (pages that cleverly weave between separate years and decades), and Marra’s brilliant at subtly making his points clear. Even more fascinating is how he uses the stage of post-Soviet Chechnya to demonstrate terribly complex ideas, such as the nature of morality to be twisted and shaped by the political climate. Towards the close of the novel, we’re treated to what is one of the most authentic depictions of the constitution of hope amongst devastation that I’ve ever read. The last few pages are viscerally captivating.
Propelled by quiet narrative power and sophistication, Anthony’s Marra’s Constellation elevates itself a tier above most other historical fiction with uncommon resonance and complexity.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review....more
A silently wrenching novel that fostered a dull ache in my heart. Lovingly and tragically describes the complicated, embarrassing mess that being in lA silently wrenching novel that fostered a dull ache in my heart. Lovingly and tragically describes the complicated, embarrassing mess that being in love is. Brunt doesn't sugarcoat her characters, and the honesty captivated me in a way that contemporary novels have difficulty doing....more