In case anyone isn't sure, since the length is not available on GR, this is a short story and not a novel (or novella). It is a 15-20 minute read topsIn case anyone isn't sure, since the length is not available on GR, this is a short story and not a novel (or novella). It is a 15-20 minute read tops. Still very entertaining....more
I can almost see the author's attempt at writing a feminist novel in the last few pages of the book. Almost. But the rest of it - every single charactI can almost see the author's attempt at writing a feminist novel in the last few pages of the book. Almost. But the rest of it - every single character is awful. Even Birana and Arvil sometimes. The men are awful, the women are awful, and literally no one who can do anything about it sees that until the very end, and at that point there's nothing that will be done except for the main character to write a damn book. Which I just read. And everyone is awful.
I can't call this feminist science fiction, and I am hard-pressed to figure out why that is such a huge label on this book. The men are all living in squalor, in nomad camps and bands that are constantly fighting with each other. They have no idea they're being used for their genetic material by the women, who are shut up inside "enclaves," or large cities, acting like goddesses to make the men subservient. And none of them want to change this! They keep men ignorant and wild, keeping civilization for themselves, and they think that it's the perfect way to live. Well, obviously it's not. And yes, the author makes that point at the end. But it took an entire book, almost 500 pages, for her to blatantly make that point! Now if someone had been actively working to alter the way the world works all along, or at least earlier on, I could maybe call this feminist. But you can't throw in a character's change of heart at the very last second and call a 500 page book "feminist." Especially when demonizing gay/lesbian relationships and holding up straight relationships as the only right way....more
This is a book I've been dying to read ever since it came out, which is strange because it's non-fiction and I'm primarily a fiction reader. But I reaThis is a book I've been dying to read ever since it came out, which is strange because it's non-fiction and I'm primarily a fiction reader. But I read about it in a CNN article one day, and thought it sounded interesting, and since then I've been thinking about it and wanting to get it, but never actually doing so.
Well, now I have a copy and I'm so glad I do. Rebecca Skloot tells the tragic story of this family so well that I almost forget it has a lot to do with science. The humor in the characters despite the horrible things that have happened to them makes the book a great read. I love the timeline and how she doesn't tell it in a linear fashion or all about one side. Going between the researchers, the family, Henrietta, and other people's stories, you get a real feel for what Henrietta helped achieve, despite her non-consent, as well as the ethical struggles her family and the researchers faced.
The discussion in the afterword about the ethics of tissue research was very thought-provoking and it led me to question my own beliefs that I had previously held. I liked that Skloot did not inject her own opinion into any of this book - she wrote the afterword by presenting both sides, and her narrative throughout the rest of the book, while colorful and full of emotion, was no more clouded by judgment of what the family was, is, and will be. She never offered her own commentary on the state of the family, nor did she suggest that what the researchers did was necessarily wrong. But you get the feeling that she became very attached to the Lacks family, and did what she could to put the family at ease and help them achieve the closure they were so desperate for.
I am so glad I read this book, and now know a lot more about tissue research as well as the woman whose cells achieved so much after her death....more
**spoiler alert** [Disclaimer: I was provided a free e-copy of this book by NetGalley for review purposes.]
There are a lot of spoilers in this review.**spoiler alert** [Disclaimer: I was provided a free e-copy of this book by NetGalley for review purposes.]
There are a lot of spoilers in this review.
I really did not like this book at all. There was a lot of emphasis on how awful it was on the ship, how everyone was going to die, how it was terrible, just terrible to be happy. Frankly, in a world like the one these people are living in, I'd rather be on the damn ship.
Lalla was insufferable. She becomes obsessed with a boy she sees on the ship, starts following him around, decides she loves him (she's 16, by the way), has sex with him on the top of the ship, and then they basically start screwing like rabbits. Remember, she's 16. We never hear how old Tom is. And she's so ignorant, because she didn't feel like learning anything while they were still in London, that when her period stops it takes her FOUR MONTHS to figure out she's pregnant. FOUR MONTHS. AT THE END OF THE BOOK. And then she decides "Oh I can't have this baby on the ship with medicine and all that bullshit, I have to get into a boat and take my chances looking for land, give birth in squalor, and probably both of us will die. BUT I CAN'T STAY HERE BECAUSE WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! IN LIKE 100 YEARS! BUT WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!"
The book was completely predictable. Lalla's mother gets shot in the first part of the book (standing at the window in her upper story apartment looking down on the street, she gets shot from street level... in the bowel? Really? And the "infection" is so bad in like 20 minutes that there's no way she's going to make it? Obviously the doctor was just trying to get her out of the way, there was no attempt to save her life). She dies on the ship. They throw her in the sea. Michael, Lalla's father, who planned this entire ship for years and years, couldn't take the two seconds it would have taken to think to put rocks or something heavy in her dress so she'd sink? Nope, she just floats away and everyone watches... Of course we later (at the very end) find out that Michael orchestrated the shooting, but that he meant for it to be just the window and not his wife, and the doctor (Roger) is the one who convinced the poor kid who was supposed to be on the boat but killed himself out of guilt instead to shoot her somewhere else. And if you couldn't see this foreshadowing through the entire book, well...
Next up, Lalla's pregnancy. Her monthly scourge stops. She thinks it's because she's starving herself, because it happened once before in London. So she keeps starving herself. She doesn't seem to think that she could be pregnant, even though she and Tom are obviously not using any protection, humping like aforementioned bunnies, and literally EVERYONE on the ship is telling her to go see the doctor because they all know they're humping everywhere and want her to get checked out, but she can't figure out why because she thinks Tom is some biiiiiiig secret and she's being "subversive." FOUR MONTHS.
And one more - the ship is going around in circles. It took Lalla weeks to work this out. And how did she work it out? HER FATHER TOLD HER. I figured it out as soon as she mentioned that the sun sets and then rises on the same side of the ship. Obviously they are not going in a straight line, but in a freaking circle. Obviously they are not going anywhere. And if she had listened, actually listened, to a damn thing anyone else said, all of the "We've already arrived!" and "We're already where we're going!" comments should have tipped her off to the fact that literally everyone on this damn ship knows what's going on but her. Now, why no one would just come out and tell her is beyond me. These people are pure sheep. There turns out to be zero subversion, not a single person is willing to turn the boat around and go help all the starving people in London. And you know what? That's cool with me. They've been chosen to live on this modern day Noah's Ark, and they're damn well going to live there, dammit. Who does Lalla think she is to try to convince them that they're wrong? And she keeps telling herself and her father, "I never asked to be here!" Well yes you did, darlin' - it's right there in the same part where your poor old mama got shot. You said you wanted to go, and she got mad but was going to go, and then she got shot. And then you went. And then you made it possible for everyone to sail by throwing your ID card out into the angry mob and getting everyone else to do the same. You never asked to be there? You are very forgetful...
Finally she makes the decision she should have made FOUR MONTHS AGO before she started humping Tom all over the ship, and gets in a boat (on her wedding night, just after cutting the cake and then demanding revelations from her father in front of every person on the ship, still in her wedding dress, pregnant and alone and with just a little food and some clothes in her bag, a map and her father's compass) and steers herself toward the land she's sure is out there.
Frankly, everyone on the boat bends over backwards to make her feel welcome and she just keeps harping on their old wounds, like "Oh how did your family die?" and "What tragedy did you overcome?" when all they want to do is move on and be happy. She refuses to be happy. If I'd been on that boat I would have thrown her overboard.
And then we have Michael. Michael who helped create the laws that got people deregistered and then murdered, poor guy was just trying to save the world because he had all the answers. Then he found these 500 people, threw them in a holding center for years, and waited and waited for his wife to say "OK let's get on this boat to nowhere!" Michael has a god complex. He thinks he is the savior of all of these people. His wife mocks him at one point about bags he wants her to make for everyone that match. She says she should embroider them with something like "We owe our lives to Michael Paul." Considering what we know about him, yes, that's exactly what he wanted them to say.
Michael makes speeches every day. All day. As they get on the boat. As they eat their dinner. As they go to bed. As they wake up. As they gather to talk. He's constantly making a speech. He raises his hands and talks like one of those prosperity gospel preachers, and these sheeple just eat it up. I can't really blame them. Their entire lives before this ship were hell. They lost family, homes, country, everything. They had nothing left to them. And then Michael came along, determined they were "worthy," and let them on a ship where they could sail around in circles in the middle of the ocean and never have to worry about food or safety again. Hell, sign me up! Yeah he's a little controlling, and everyone's pretty brainwashed, but I can't consider the context and say that going back to hell would be better for them.
I'm sure there will be plenty of people who enjoy this book. I believe I saw a few five-star reviews at least on Goodreads. I am not one of those people. I would not recommend this as dystopia. Frankly, it feels like a utopia amidst a dystopian future, and one self-absorbed and spoiled brat character who wants to ruin it all. I skimmed the commentary at the back with the Q&A with the author and the book discussion questions, and I really couldn't understand how the author thought she was writing one book, when what I took away from it was so completely opposite. She said that a lot of people have written to her and said it connected with them because Lalla's rebellion was like coming out to their families, or not wanting to take over a family business. I'm glad if this book helped you, really sincerely glad. But I do not see that aspect of it at all....more
[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
This was another snoozefest. Next to nothing seemed to happen u[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
This was another snoozefest. Next to nothing seemed to happen until very late in the book, when Matthew, the main character's brother and the title witchfinder, finally got to the meat of his searching. At that point he took Alice with him, and abused and degraded her, treating her like a prisoner, like one of the witches. She obviously should have left months before (or not returned at all). By this point there was no escape.
But for all of Alice's suffering at the hands of her brother, it came after too much apathy. "He couldn't possibly believe these women are witches." "They couldn't possibly be found guilty." "The courts would never hang them for this. They're always just sent home after some jail time." "I'm watching him do these terrible things, but he couldn't possibly really be like this." She made so many excuses that by the time shit got real, it was too late. And that is my main problem. Not one person, not even Alice, did a damn thing to stop Matthew. Bridget wanted Alice to do something, but Alice just couldn't believe that her precious little brother was capable of murdering 106 women by accusing them of being witches. (Obviously he was, or he wouldn't have been riding around the countryside collecting them for the jail.)
I was super bored until I got to about 78%. By then it was too late to back out, I might as well finish. The end wasn't even satisfying, even though it was what I was hoping would happen. Probably because despite what happened to Matthew at the end, he still killed 106 women and everyone in the freaking country helped him along gleefully.
I guess this wasn't a bad book. It was written well, but the character of Alice was *snore* and Mary Phillips was just pure evil, and everyone else around them was too afraid to say or do anything, or they were so happy to see those whore witches hang. I couldn't really feel much of anything for anyone. The story moved too slowly, and for some reason, the sense of place didn't feel right....more
[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
I really wanted to love this book. I expected to be sucked righ[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
I really wanted to love this book. I expected to be sucked right in. It has almost everything I love about alternate history - lots of technology, action and adventure, danger, breaking gender stereotypes, and even a little romance while still being rooted at least somewhat in reality. But while it was very well-written, and should have been a great book, I found that I couldn't connect to a single character. By about 70%, I realized I was actually bored.
My main problem which tainted my reading of the entire story is that the industrial revolution Toru starts is so insanely compressed that it was absolutely implausible. And yes, I realize this is fiction, and an author can do whatever s/he wants with the story, but if there's not one ounce of believability in it then I'm not going to be able to connect with it. The fact that Toru was even able to learn enough English in two years as to not even have a Japanese accent (but instead picked up a "slight New England accent") just did not make sense to me. On top of that, he returned to Japan with apparently knowledge of every single technological advancement ever ever ever, understood every bit of it (except the French) enough to explain it to others, and spark an inventing bug in a woman who had never heard of any of this but for some reason suddenly understood it all immediately with zero study or thought - how ridiculous. It's like every single person in the book was incredibly gifted with genius brains, knew exactly what to do and how to do it, and somehow managed to not only create dirigibles and submarines within a year but also get entire fleets of them made. Everything about this book is impossible.
I'll break away here to say that I am an avid F/SF reader. Steampunk isn't exactly my thing, but I have enjoyed the random steampunk novel here and there. Some were good, some not so much. I read the author's note at the back of the book and agree with her that it's not exactly steampunk. The genre is there in the dirigibles at least. However, every bit of steampunk I've ever read has had some measure of believability to it. It's at least somewhat grounded in reality. Even the F/SF I read, despite my need for "suspension of disbelief," has some grounding for me. I can imagine magic existing, but if it's just used to create a deus ex machina where a character can do whatever they want with no limits or reason to it, then it's not plausible. If there's an actual system with rules and functional magic, then yes, it's believable. The same with SF. You can't just create technology that would never actually function and claim that it does. That doesn't work for me.
With this book, none of it was plausible. None of it made sense. The accelerated timeline made such a suspension of disbelief necessary that I couldn't focus on anything else. Some of the characters were great, the story was very well-written, and the action was moderately thrilling. Jiro's genius revealing itself in the personage of a foul-mouthed blacksmith was entertaining and uplifting. Masuyo's ability to become an engineer and inventor in a still-traditional Japan was an awesome challenge. But I didn't really care about any of them. When Toru, Aya, Tomatsu and Takamori were sentenced to death, it didn't wrench my heart. When they were all fleeing the capital city to escape their sentences, I wasn't riding hard with them. When the death sentences were ultimately (and obviously) set aside, I wasn't giddy with excitement. For me, this was a completely unemotional read tainted by the accelerated timeline. I feel like maybe, just maybe, if we'd had years instead of a single year to get to know these people, and let them make discoveries at a more normal pace, I may have had more of a connection. But that's hard to say really.
Overall, this was a good book. It wasn't badly written - it was actually very well told. The author clearly has talent. But I feel like it could have been so much more than it was, and all thanks to that damnable timeline. I recommend it for people with great ability to suspend their disbelief and overlook obvious genius-plants. Otherwise, I would find something with a bit more of an emotional connection....more
[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW, although when you get to my[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW, although when you get to my point about predictability you'll understand they aren't that much of a revelation.
Ignoring the fact that this is book three in a series of undetermined length, and the description on NetGalley didn't *really* give an indication there were other books before it (although I suppose you could interpret the last line of the description as that indication, but it didn't include any solid information about how many books came before), I gave this one a fair shot. I did not feel that I needed to read any of the previous books to understand what was happening in this one, because the author gave *so much* backstory throughout that reading them now would be a let-down.
In giving the book a fair shot, I also realized I had no interest in the other two books, especially if they were written the same way as this one. The story had good possibilities, but the writing fell flat and in the end I was left completely unsatisfied. I felt it was completely predictable from start to finish, and a good chunk of it didn't make much sense.
I'll go in list form:
* The author refers to most characters by titles instead of names, and constantly. For example, "the potentate," "the curator," "the monsignor," "the beast," etc. And it wasn't just an occasional thing to switch up between the title and their name. Rarely is the monsignor referred to by Albert. Once we hear the curator's real name, he's never referred to by it again. We are told that the pope is Pope Francis, but once that's out he's just simply the pope. And I don't remember ever hearing the potentate's real name, but that didn't stop the author from saying the word "potentate" five times in the first two paragraphs.
* Cloe says "Oh my God!" a LOT, and especially in front of clergy. I know when I'm in church or around clergy, I do my best to stay away from the OMG phrasing. Wouldn't someone who's supposedly as super-Catholic as Cloe do the same? There are other clergy-friendly ways to express shock and dismay.
* What is the time frame of this book? Days? Weeks? Months? It feels like it takes only a couple of weeks, but in that time already we have widespread famine and plague that have killed millions. How long has this unrest been going on? There is no clear indication of any lengths of time, except at the end of the book when we get a wrap-up one week after the final battle. The framing of time makes zero sense.
* Why does every random building they have to escape from have a convenient secret passage or back way out that no one knows about? One time, maybe two is OK, but three or more and we're talking laziness.
* How old is the monsignor supposed to be? He talks like an old man but fights/acts like a young soldier.
* Like I said before, it was 100% predictable. Cloe is wondering who the 7 are? Well duh, it's the seven random people who show up in New Orleans. When she puts that information together, it's like we're supposed to be having a lightbulb moment with her. But I'm not, because I figured that out from the second I was told there were cards being handed out to random people by a purported angel. The spy? That was obvious from the moment the character was introduced. She made an off-handed comment, Cloe wonders at it, we hear possible distrust once more... of course she's the spy. How could she not be?
* Icar falls victim to trope - he's a classic villain who puts too much of the important work into the hands of his minions. Michael is tasked with killing Cloe and Robby but doesn't, when Icar could have easily done it himself. Cloe was right in front of him. We see later that he has no qualms about snapping someone's neck. If he really wanted them both dead, why not do it himself? If he's so powerful, he wouldn't have been so easy to escape from, or so easily defeated (and really, that ending? He went down easy). And when Michael is chasing the group on the river in his own boat, the spy was on the "good" boat, so why not just have her do away with everyone? She had military training and a gun. I'm sure she could have handled it. Killing them was the goal at that point. The fact they were able to escape when one of Icar's team was right there with them is a big plot hole.
* The end was completely unsatisfying. The last sentence made the entire book feel like it was cut off mid-thought. I pushed the page trying to get to the next one (because in my copy the last sentence was the very end of the page) several times until I realized no, that's the end. Of the book. That's how this book ends.
There was a lot of potential here. The author clearly has some talent. But there was too much stereotype, too much revealed early and then acting like it was an ah-ha moment later, too much too much. I am not a fan, won't be picking up the others, and really don't recommend this to much of anyone....more
[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
This is another book I was supposed to review a couple of years[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]
This is another book I was supposed to review a couple of years ago, but couldn't get the hang of NetGalley. I was actually sent both books 1 and 2, but after reading this one I just don't think I have it in me to read the second book as well. So my review for books 1 and 2 only really reviews book 1.
I thought the writing was a bit juvenile. The narrator (who I am assuming is the author because of how often he breaks the fourth wall) spends too much time trying to sound clever and I had a hard time with that. There was a lot of, "Perhaps now is a good time for back story," and "Of course he would come to regret that later, but it didn't occur to him now" type of writing. I've commented on other books before about this kind of thing. It bothers the heck out of me. It's not witty. It's not funny. It doesn't make for good storytelling, unless you're actually telling that kind of story. IIRC, Terry Pratchett was a master at this kind of thing. But unfortunately, Eoin Colfer is not. This type of story is full of backstabbing and violence, people wanting to get in for themselves and damn everyone else around them. It happens on both sides of the story. There certainly could have been some wit to the story, but I just didn't find it.
The story itself - not bad. The idea that a human can gain knowledge about an entire culture that no one else on the planet really knows about is interesting. The interaction between the races - also interesting. The characters though were just one-dimensional. I liked Holly, to a point. She was one of the central characters, but ended up barely a character. The same with Artemis himself. He was a "criminal mastermind" who was only 12 years old. He spoke like an adult. He was always two steps ahead of everyone around him. He had Butler and Juliet doing everything he told them to do, even though they were very much older than him. I know it is their training, but come on. And yet he barely figures as a character. Most of the story involves a centaur named Foaley (come on) and the LEP Commander Root. A lot of it is their insane banter. There were a lot of pages in this book, but honestly not much happened.
Admittedly, I was disappointed. For a book that had some pretty adult ideas in it, it reads like it's written for a pre-teen. And that's fine. Maybe pre-teens love this book (I don't know, I haven't read their reviews). But as an adult I did not find it engaging or entertaining. Sorry, but it was just wah wah for me....more