Ugh. Cutting my losses on this one. I read to about half way and flicked through the rest but it doesn't seem to get any better. None of it makes sensUgh. Cutting my losses on this one. I read to about half way and flicked through the rest but it doesn't seem to get any better. None of it makes sense. The heroine is a hospital doctor who gets turned into a vampire and one of the first things she gets told to do and does in pretty short order is quit her job. Because people will start noticing that she doesn't age. Ummmm, yeah, but probably not for at least another 10 years or so. She's only 28, FFS. And wouldn't it make sense for her to stay working at the hospital at least for a little bit. You know, easily accessible supply of donor blood (however unethical it would be to steal it) would come in handy. But nooooo, the very first time she needs to feed she goes out and stalks someone and gets herself stabbed and nearly dies. The words "dumb" and "ass" come to mind.
Of course the heroine is so incredible everyone falls in love with her on sight, of course there is a love triange, of course she suddenly acquires mad fighting skillz that come literally out of nowhere (you just need to let go and let your nature take over) and of course there is a blood tie that is used to justify a bunch of inexplicable, illogical and downright despicable behaviour. The heroine's "sire" is a psychotic rapist/murderer and the heroine voluntarily and for no good reason hands herself over to him, allows him to abuse and murder 15 year olds (she even starts to enjoy the view!), develops feelings for said psycho which are not entirely down to the tie (yeah, poor boy, there must have been something to cause him to become like that, it's not his fault) and really, I just couldn't go on reading this bull.
Warning: this review is long and ranty and contains swearwords and possible spoilers (although I tried not to be too revealing).
So, for me, this bookWarning: this review is long and ranty and contains swearwords and possible spoilers (although I tried not to be too revealing).
So, for me, this book was pretty much just a big pile of unbelievable sprinkled with absurd and a generous helping of awkward inappropriate romance on the side. The heroine, Beatrice (Tris) Prior lives in a world where, following years of war, humanity (or, at least, Chicago, where the heroine resides) divided itself into five factions based on character traits: GryffindorDauntless, RavenclawErudite, HufflepuffAmity, Candour and Abnegation. Each faction lives separately from the others in its own compound/part of the city and embraces and promotes its trait above and beyond everything else. Yes, that is REALLY, the premise.
Apparently, the rational adults in the world of Divergent decided that all the endless war was caused by one specific character trait (cowardice, ignorance, aggression, I can't even remember what the one for Candour was, telling lies, I guess, and selfishness), the only controversy was which one, so they divided themselves based on that opinion and have since all devoted themselves to stamping out the chosen trait by dedicating themselves to its opposite and all war and adversity ceased immediately and unicorns started flying across the sky (hint: not really). Now, I don't think I even have to go into how patently absurd this premise is. Anyone with an iota of intelligence can surely understand that a complex phenomenon such as war cannot and does not have one single identifiable stamp-outable cause, FFS. How can anyone possibly argue that, yep, it is just cowardice alone and nothing else that causes wars, so once we get that under wraps by jumping on and off trains and beating up people who are much weaker than us, world peace will be upon us? Halleluja! Middle East conflict has been solved. Let's divide them all up into Hogwarts houses and hey presto! Peace for all.
And even if you did manage to convince yourself that all war is caused by cowardice/stupidity/whatever. How the hell do you get from that to the assertion that this must mean that everyone has to be brave (unless they are in another faction, in which case they have to be selfless, honest etc, as applicable) AND NOTHING ELSE. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, much? If you think cowardice is the problem then why not get rid of, you know, just cowardice? But nooooo, not in this looney land. Here, if you are brave, you cannot possibly be anything else. Not clever or selfless or peaceful or honest. Because if you are, that would make you normallike so totally rare that there'd even be a special name for you – Divergent – and it would mean you are a total rebel and impossible to control, so immediate extermination for you. Whaaat? SERIOUSLY?
Unless Ms Roth wants us to believe that this world is populated entirely by morons? Which is a possibility, I suppose. They are surrounded by a fence which is locked and guarded from the outside. Perhaps, later books will reveal that this is in fact a colony where the world had sent it's delusional lunatics. That might actually be fun.
And while I am on the subject of that fence. The book is set in Chicago but for all we know nothing else exists on the face of planet Earth. There is no mention of anything outside of the fence. The city appears to be entirely self-governed and self-sufficient. Nothing comes in or out except for some Amity farmers. One has to wonder where they get shit that is not available in Chicago and its immediate surroundings. You know, like maybe oil and gas and coal and rice and sugar and coffee and tea and oh maybe about a gazillion other things. I mean, even assuming it is a harsh post-many-many-years of war austerity, they'd have to get at least some of those things from somewhere, otherwise how would their cars and busses run and houses be heated and I am pretty sure there was mention of coffee. Did the Erudite discover how to photosynthesize this stuff out of thin air? Who knows. For all her aptitude for intelligence, Tris just doesn't seem to be that curious about or interested in anything apart from herself and the immediate minutiae of her life.
Which brings me nicely on to our heroine. Tris may have been an awesome character had Ms Roth taken the time to flesh her out, given her some context, some depth, something. Instead, she is plucked out of a vacuum and is emotionless to a point where she could give Terminator lessons on how to be more robotic. What has Tris been doing up until the point we meet her at the start of the book? She doesn't appear to have any friends or have any emotional attachment towards her family apart from constantly resenting them. What does this girl actually enjoy, if anything, what interests does she have? Yes, I know she is in abnegation but surely she must have done something, thought something, had some interests for 16 years until we meet her. But there is nothing. No little childhood anecdotes, no memories, no nostalgia. Nothing except for what she is doing and feeling right now, right this minute. The only thing we know for definite is that she is not selfless and has not enjoyed being made to appear so. Yet, for someone supposedly intelligent, this appears a pretty poor basis to make a life-altering decision.
In Tris's world, you choose which "house" you want to belong to at 16. You can choose the faction you grew up in or one of the others. To help you decide, you undertake a highly suspect psycho-pop mumbo jumbo of a "test" which is supposed to determine your natural aptitude. However, notwithstanding the result of the test, you can choose whatever faction you wish, it appears.
Apart from this "test", the kids appear to be given no information whatsoever about what joining a particular faction involves, the initiation process, what the people there actually do, the fact that your survival chances are about 50% or that it might be kinda like moving in with these guys for the rest of your life:
You know, little details like that.
If you do choose a faction other than your own, the likelihood is you will never see your friends or family again. But that's nothing to Tris. Friends? She doesn't have any. Family? Family is for snivelling weaklings. Why would she give a shit when she can get tattoos, wear what she likes and jump on and off trains all day long instead. Yeah!
Oh, and that's another thing that bothered me. Given the initiation approach of half of you will die or be kicked out to become factionless to live in a cardboard box under a bridge, how on earth does Dauntless sustain itself? What was it, 10(?) initiates they were going to keep on? Which makes you wonder, with the off the charts mortality rate they must have with their adrenaline junkie mentality, how many Dauntless actually are there? How do they not become extinct?
My sense of disbelief absolutely refused to let itself be suspended and frankly, it is insulting to me as a reader that any author would think I should just swallow this preposterous world. And for the sake of what? An inexplicable, unexplainable, unexplained, flat romance between two emotionally stunted teenagers who appear to be unable to feel anything beyond their inappropriate attraction to each other?
Four (the romantic interest) is the fucking instructor (not literally) of the new initiates so should, really, concentrate on instructing them, instead of getting a boner for one of his students and whisking her off for additional training sessions giving her an unfair advantage over the others. Just a thought.
Four is also a complete cipher. I have no idea who that man/boy is, beyond a possibly abusive childhood, no qualms about hitting on students who look like 12 year olds and badass awesomeness which I am supposed to take purely on trust (hint: after that world-building, I don't have any) there is just a void of… of… well, nothing, really. I couldn't even tell you what he looks like. Or why he likesloves(!!!) Tris. Or why she likesloves(!!!) him back.
So why two stars? I would have given it 1.5 if I could but I can't so I settled on two because it wasn't totally hopeless. The pacing was good, it was nice to have a heroine with intimacy issues rather than one that melts into a pile of goo at the hero's feet (even if this did carry too far into emotionless automaton territory at times). The writing wasn't bad and I didn't detect any particularly offensive themes. Did that make it ok? Let's just say, I don't think I will continue on with the series but I can sorta kinda see how people might like it if they have a better behaved sense of disbelief....more
I gave up after about 20 pages or so. The conversation between the parents at the very beginning felt very staged and completely re-defined them as chI gave up after about 20 pages or so. The conversation between the parents at the very beginning felt very staged and completely re-defined them as charaters. Apparently, they knew all along what was going on, loved Ender deeply and just allowed their children to believe that they were blind dumbos, while really subtly manipulating them the whole time. WTF, why on earth would they do that? It then moved on to Valentine's introspections and rationalisations and later to Ender's thoughts on Gruff's trial, lest the reader might actually interpret anything that happened in the first book for themselves. I lost my patience for the whole thing at that point and had no will to go on.
I might pick up the series at some point in the future. Maybe. If I do, I will do so with Speaker for the Dead, which is the second book in order of being written, rather than the order of events in the series....more
Veronika is a 24 year old Slovenian woman who one day decides to kill herself, apparently because (1) "everything in her life was the same and, once hVeronika is a 24 year old Slovenian woman who one day decides to kill herself, apparently because (1) "everything in her life was the same and, once her youth was gone, it would be downhill all the way" and (2) everything is wrong with the world and she feels powerless to make things right. After she takes an overdose of sleeping pills, Veronika wakes up in a mental asylum and the remainder of the book is, basically, a series of interactions between Veronika and a number of the inhabitants of the asylum, including a young schizophrenic named Eduard, who mainly stands around mutely and masturbates while Veronika plays the piano. Veronika (what else!) inexplicably falls in love with him, after she similarly inexplicably regains her joie de vivre.
I suppose, that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Veronika, and certainly Coelho does not add much else in terms of characterisation. Some reviewers have pointed out that to create realistic characters or believable plot is not the point of this book and certainly not Coelho's intention. I guess one really has no choice but to agree with this as it is patently obvious that this is not so much a book as a meditation on insanity with characters and plot which are merely vehicles to convey the author's thoughts on the subject and encourage the reader to reflect on the same and to explore how they may feel/behave/think in similar circumstances.
Paulo Coelho himself makes a brief and pointless appearance at the beginning of the book to tell you that it is based on his own experiences as a mental patient and proceeds to bash you over the head with his message, which is that everyone is crazy, insanity and genius are two sides of the same coin and we should all let our inner freak out and stop trying to conform.
As a reader, I find this approach supremely unsatisfactory. For some reason, I tend to be much more receptive to the message when I can actually bring myself to care about the story or the characters, however unsympathetic they may be. I am sometimes able to forgive lack of plot or character development if the book is particularly informative or beautifully written or manages to turn me on or makes me think about a subject in a new and interesting way. Unfortunately, this book did none of that. Veronika fails even as a placeholder because her actions are so absurd and incomprehensible that I was completely unable to relate to them or to put myself in her shoes. So all that was left was the message and I had absolutely no patience for Coelho's particular brand of preachy self-help pop-psychology. ...more
I added a star for Bones (who is undeniably hot despite the name), otherwise this really should have been a one star book as I had too many problems wI added a star for Bones (who is undeniably hot despite the name), otherwise this really should have been a one star book as I had too many problems with the concept to really enjoy it.
- The relationship between Cat and Bones develops too fast. (I can't stand that name, by the way. Bones. Really? Why? I know Crispin isn't great either but Bones, FFS!) About halfway through he has already declared his love for her (after beating her up and threatening to kill her on the first date) and then it's as though Frost got to the end and realised, shit, I can't let them be together already, I am writing a series here, so she writes in some super secret spies to drag things out. The whole ending was just stupid and completely contrived.
- The prejudice and unnecessary violence. It seems that killing people/vamps for Cat and Bones is a complete no brainer. No moral agonising over their actions for these two. And they are pretty disturbing actions. Let's substitute "a black person" for "a vampire", shall we? Cat's story would go something like this: my mum told me she has been raped by a black person and she has detested me all my life because I am half black. To avenge her, I go out to bars where I hit on inebriated black men and then, on the pretext that I will have sex with them, we go off and I kill them (whether or not they have tried to force the issue after I eventually reject them). I intend to go out and kill every single black person out there, 'cause they are all the same, obviously. Words really fail me on this one.
- There was very little in terms of character description. What does Cat actually like to do apart from have hot sex with Bones, drink and kill vampires? There was surprisingly little internal monologue, especially considering this is a first person narrative. It was too factual with almost no personal insight. Unbelievably so, for me.
Overall, the book just didn't "grab" me enough. I found the characters actions too morally suspect and the characters themselves too flat to develop any sort of emotional connection with them. There were some bits that were vaguely interesting (the hot sex, mainly) and some good dialogue but not enough to make up for the points mentioned above. ...more
This book encapsulates everything I hate about the sanctimonious pontificating hypocritical nob (technical legal term) that is Leo Tolstoy. The premisThis book encapsulates everything I hate about the sanctimonious pontificating hypocritical nob (technical legal term) that is Leo Tolstoy. The premise is so absurd it is laughable. What we have here is a religious manifesto promoting abstinence and castigating physical love by a man who spent a significant proportion of his life deflowering virgins and impregnating his wife.
It is a short story, so it would be petty to bemoan time spent on it, however, I do sincerely regret having ever picked it up. I read Anna Karenina and War and Peace when I was 16-17 and have always meant to re-read them when I was older and better able to appreciate the subject matter. Post-Kreutzer sonata, I am not sure I can take anything he writes seriously. A waste of letters. ...more
I meant to write a review but I was feeling quite ambivalent about this book. Still do. I guess I'd better jot some thoughts down before I get completI meant to write a review but I was feeling quite ambivalent about this book. Still do. I guess I'd better jot some thoughts down before I get completely diverted onto other things.
I definitely thought this was interesting. The idea of an alien race that functions as a single organism (almost) and the problems that humanity would have in communicating with and understanding such a race, the ideas about military manipulation, war tactics and online political debate influencing the real world were all pretty good. I saw a lot of reviews where folks thought that the book was boring and had trouble visualising the fight scenes. I actually had no problem with this aspect, though I do agree that the whole thing was very repetitive. I had too many other problems with this book to truly enjoy it, though.
The writing was primitive. I get that he was trying to write for kids and make it as simple as possible in terms of language but it all read forced and fake to me. The way these kids spoke and acted just didn't ring true and this whole they are all geniuses so that's why they don't act or talk like kids just didn't work for me. Characterisation was appalling. Barely anyone had any character at all. Mostly they all seemed like carbon copies of each other with the only thing to differentiate them being their attitudes to Ender. And those seemed to be always polar opposites. Love or hate. No one was allowed to be indifferent to Ender.
The Russians as the head bad guys was completely cliche. I also didn't really like the little description of the earth politics that we saw. It seemed too much a reflection of the international politics as they were at the time the book was written, in early to mid eighties, with Cold War in its dying throws but still alive and, it seems, very much in Card's mind.
The treatment of women in this book was appalling, with most of the female characters mainly serving the purpose of manipulating Ender and Graff stating at one point that there were hardly any girls at this super genius military school because "too many centuries of evolution are working against them". One could argue, I suppose, that this is a reflection of Graff's prejudice and those of the military establishment in this world, rather than the author. But, again, I don't buy that. The author at no point indicates that he might disagree with this point of view and he is the one who has created this world in this fashion.
But most of all, I just couldn't believe in the whole premise that space warfare is really indistinguishable from playing computer games (as much as it may stroke the ego of computer nerds everywhere) and that the military command would put a bunch of kids who don't even realise they are fighting a war in charge of all military strategy and operations. Up until the very last moment I kept on believing that he would not go there. That he could not possibly expect his readers to believe this. Of course, he did.
I also wondered whether I might have enjoyed this book more if I wasn't aware of and disliked intensely the author's views on subjects which are not necessarily connected with the book. It's possible. I do believe the author's conceit and prejudice played a big part in my being unable to enjoy this book. Perhaps, it wouldn't have been so apparent without that awareness. Who knows. At the very least, it threw the homo-, perhaps even paedo-, erotic undertones of this book, that other reviewers have referred to, into starker relief.