I can't say I agree with all these comparisons to Gone Girl (especially those that don't seem to understand that this book was published first!). To b...moreI can't say I agree with all these comparisons to Gone Girl (especially those that don't seem to understand that this book was published first!). To be as unspoilery as possible, let me say that yes, there are a lack of characters with a decent moral compass. However, the primary literary device used in Gone Girl is not used here.
There is not much more I can say of any substance without spoilers. I liked the idea and I liked the framework of the narrative. But I have some problems with the content in that it felt like blithe shallowness presenting itself as depth.(less)
This had a lot of potential. It's set in a not-too-distant future U.S. where the middle class has largely disappeared (as have banks) and the kidnappi...moreThis had a lot of potential. It's set in a not-too-distant future U.S. where the middle class has largely disappeared (as have banks) and the kidnapping industry is thriving. Charity is a pretty decently-written 13 year-old, the plot is nicely paced, and it does make a sincere attempt to discuss issues of race and class. Unfortunately those discussions, while probably well-meaning, largely result in the privileged seeing nobility in the marginalized. I realize these are complex issues that may need simplification for younger readers, but this was not so much simplified as it was immature. For instance, I would have preferred more pushback on Charity's idea that she would be perfectly happy working in domestic service or any "honest work". There was some good content about a series of children's books that reinforced the values the lower class were expected to emulate, but in the end it was an awfully pretty picture of being a poor minority.(less)
I'm not sure how this first showed up on my radar, but a mention that it won an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Book caught my attention, especially as...moreI'm not sure how this first showed up on my radar, but a mention that it won an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Book caught my attention, especially as it doesn't come across as a classic mystery. The horror fan in me probably perked up at a "cut off from the rest of the world" scenario, though I also have to admit that during an unusually warm summer up here in Anchorage, the thought of literally being iced in for the winter sounded kind of appealing. (Yes, I know it's odd to complain about nice weather, but I do not have the factory specifications for this much sunlight.)
When we first meet our protagonist Solveig and her siblings the dynamic does seem a little tiredly familiar: Solveig is the unvalued plain daughter who is neither the king's heir nor a beauty that will make an advantageous marriage. But sometimes when no one is looking at you it makes it easier to truly see other people, and Solveig has clear eyes and a sharp mind. When we first meet her she doesn't fully understand how valuable these qualities are, but eventually she comes into contact with others with clear eyes, including a storyteller who shows her how much power stories can have.
Along with Solveig's personal journey there is a nice bit of suspense to be found in the book as well. They are indeed trapped for the winter, and it soon becomes apparent not only that someone means them harm but that it is almost certainly someone close to them. The reader is given enough clues to not be completely shocked at the final revelations, at least in the narrative sense; there are some unpleasant surprises for the characters.
I really, really enjoyed this. I liked the characters, I liked the use of storytelling, and I liked the way the setting was used (mmm, glaciers). I can't speak at all on the historical accuracy, but I'm also one of those people who tends to de-emphasize such things. I may end up wavering between four and five stars, but that's just my nature and mostly I'm very glad I got to meet this story.(less)
A fairly solid freshman effort, nothing to win too many accolades but enough to make me interested in the author's future efforts. Also, it's just suc...moreA fairly solid freshman effort, nothing to win too many accolades but enough to make me interested in the author's future efforts. Also, it's just such a relief to read something somewhat apocalyptic that has nothing to do with zombies!
The use of photography turned out to be an interesting device. The narrator is an aspiring photographer, and not only is the subject a strong part of the narrative, chapters are frequently interspersed with textual descriptions of photographs. Apparently the author is trusting the readers to visualize an image that has the power of a good photograph. They do end up being the strongest part of the book, but it's unfortunate that the rest of the narrative is so much weaker in relation.
The Lost and House of Leaves comparisons seem kind of weak. Maybe those are just the most accessible examples of "weird shit happening in a realistic setting in a non-magical realism fashion" that people could come up with. In the interests of full disclosure I am very much not a fan of Lost or House of Leaves.(less)
I liked the way this was a different kind of ghost story, but I had some difficulty connecting with the characters. Still, my appreciation for the cor...moreI liked the way this was a different kind of ghost story, but I had some difficulty connecting with the characters. Still, my appreciation for the core idea makes me curious as to what Ms. Langan might accomplish in the future.(less)
I'm a sucker for a trapped-with-a-killer story, whether it be And Then There Were None or the movie Alien. 1222 gives us a premise that embraces this...moreI'm a sucker for a trapped-with-a-killer story, whether it be And Then There Were None or the movie Alien. 1222 gives us a premise that embraces this idea wholeheartedly: a train derails in an already isolated area of the country and the survivors, though they have found a nice hotel to gather in, are further isolated by a storm of increasing and incredible ferocity. There are a few people traveling in groups and a few people with a certain amount of notoriety, but mostly they are all strangers to one another. Then the first night there someone is murdered.
As this is a more realistic type of murder mystery we understand that the victim's death was likely due to a motive specific to that individual and that it is highly unlikely that the rest of the people there are in danger of being picked off by the murderer. Unless, of course, it is in order to avoid discovery. You get a sense that the greater danger in this situation might come from the other survivors' panic, especially as some of them were already prone to hyperbole and a short step away from hysteria.
I really enjoyed the characters in this novel, especially the prickly protagonist who, as antisocial as she prefers to be, is not incapable of sympathy for even some intensely unlikeable people. I also quite liked Dr. Streng, a dwarf that I could not help but mentally cast as Peter Dinklage (with probably more than a little Tyrion Lannister thrown in), but there were many well-drawn characters to be found in the book.
There was a subplot that, while it provided some interesting fodder, veered dangerously close to the silly at times, and might provoke anger in some readers. I however found it a reminder that while the world may be growing smaller it is not completely homogenized, which I consider to be a good thing.(less)