I didn't like this book at all. Generally, when I rate books, I try to balance my personal enjoyment of the book with the book's actual quality. SomeI didn't like this book at all. Generally, when I rate books, I try to balance my personal enjoyment of the book with the book's actual quality. Some well-written books just aren't my cup of tea; some lesser-quality books are very entertaining. Sadly, I found this book to be neither enjoyable nor well-written.
If you've read the Goodreads description of this book, which appears verbatim on the book's jacket, this sounds like an interesting novel. People must learn to adapt when metal-eating bugs require them to live without any kind of metal whatsoever. According to the book description,
People still live here, but they do it without metal. Log cabins, ceramics, what plastic they can get that will survive the sun and heat. Technology has adapted, and so have the people.
Kimble Monroe has chosen to live in the territory. He was born here, and he is extraordinarily well adapted to it. He’s one in a million. Maybe one in a billion.
In 7th Sigma, Gould builds an extraordinary SF novel of survival and personal triumph against all the odds.
Don't be fooled by the description -- 7th Sigma tells a very different story. It turns out that life with the bugs isn't much different at all than life without, since just about everything that can be done with metal is done with plastic. The characters use knives that can (when they're used carefully) cut as nicely as metal ones, and some characters even have plastic guns. Seriously. The characters' lives are not that different, and they've already been using the adaptive, metal-free tools. The survival bit is mostly wrapped up within the first few pages. Without spoiling the ending, I can say that the bugs are connected with the main obstacle in the novel, but for the most part, the book just seems to have dropped a simple story into the sci-fi genre by holding it up against a backdrop of metal-eating bugs. This story could have been set anywhere, against a number of different backdrops. In fact, I almost wish it had been; if this story had not had to sell the fantastical idea of metal-eating bugs (which don't really drive the plot) there would have been much less to detract from the main characters and their interactions (which is what really provides the story's main thrust). The bugs are almost a hindrance, a distraction.
The main focus of the book is on a young teenager called Kimble who studies martial arts, and for much of the book, each chapter works as a short vignette about a different aspect of his life. One, for example, tells of a burglar who robs his home; another chapter deals with an annoying house-guest. Unfortunately, Kimble isn't the most likable character in literature. When I was reading about Kimble, I was painfully reminded of Bella Swan, from the Twilight saga. Kimble, like Bella, is one of those annoyingly flat, perfect characters that can do no wrong and whom everyone adores. When he suffers, he is just that much nobler. When he tries anything, he always triumphs.
In addition to the disappointing writing, this book was unenjoyable in other ways. In the first place, I have never had much interest in martial arts, and it was difficult to read chapter after chapter of the student/sensei relationship, and what they studied, and what weapons they used, and who the other students were, and who was better at what (and why), etc. If you're not already interested in the martial arts, reading this book might be tedious.
Moreover, much of this book was offensive. Although I myself have never studied martial arts, I had always been taught to regard it as a time-honored tradition of self-defense. It was something I'd been taught to respect. On this story's very first page, however, the book's hero uses his martial arts skills to bully other children, to hassle them because he disagrees with their religion. I found it sick. In addition, Kimble feels no remorse for his actions. This is not a troubled man seeking to redeem himself: on the contrary, his unjust actions are actually condoned. (He's the hero, remember? He can do no wrong.) I am troubled that this novel uses something as revered as martial arts and turns it into just a means for one character to hurt others.
Finally, I was bugged (no pun intended) by this book's religious content. I suspect the author has an axe to grind, but every few chapters, there would be some other reference to how terrible Christians are, or how hypocritical or how judgmental, or how they lie to suit themselves. Even the main villains are Christian lunatics who twist the Bible to their purpose. And I understand that stories need villains, but why did every Christian character (even the non-evil non-villains) need to be bad? Was it really necessary to pepper the book with Kimble's anti-Christian moralizing? Did he really need to be described, on the very first page, as "an avowed apostate and frequent blasphemer"? I know that most martial artists are not anti-tolerant bullies, so why was it necessary to portray the hero (the poor, sweet, stoic, LOVABLE hero who can do no wrong, bless his heart) as such?
My advice? Don't waste your money. If you're interested in this book, get it from the library. But I think you're better off not being interested.
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.
I respect that this book is well-written, and I like that Chiaverini really made me care about her characters. That said, it was a huge disappoinment.I respect that this book is well-written, and I like that Chiaverini really made me care about her characters. That said, it was a huge disappoinment. The plot is almost non-existent, which is generally fine for character-driven texts, but I'm not really sure what Chiaverini was trying to accomplish with this. It starts strongly enough, but it sort of train wrecks into nowhere. The main character is an old lady who, at Christmas, remembers the joys of her past and the now-dead family members that she has lost. Some deaths were inescapable tragedies (WWII, for example), but in other cases, she has caused the problems. She has made the decision to avoid her family for fifty years of self-imposed estrangement. The protagonist has remained bitter because of a decades-old grievance (albeit a significant one) and has chosen not to speak to her family. Of course, now that everyone that she has loved is dead, she deeply regrets her decisions. It's too little, too late.
The whole book is a remembrance of one sorrow after another, and Sylvia is powerless to change anything now. That doesn't stop Chiaverini from trying to make this a story about redemption. She tacks on a thin ending that seems like an attempt to be uplifting. It isn't. This book is depressing as all get-out, nothing happens at all, and in the end, the main character's epiphany and newfound peace (because she has come to terms with her past) is sloppy and forced. I don't know why she wrote it this way. Was she trying for an epic tragedy and then lost her nerve? Was she trying for something uplifting, but ran out time to put effort into the end? Was she trying to cater to certain expectations? I'll never know. I'll also never re-read this.
This book is for you if you like reveling in someone else's suffering. Or if you happen to prefer stories where 97% of the text shows, with remarkable clarity, how devastating someone's life can be, only for the last few pages to throw out a casual remark about how she's managed to find peace. In any writing class, students learn to show, not tell. Chiaverini's unbalanced text "shows" pain very well - and the first three-quarters of the book are remarkably well written - but features one of the poorest excuses for an ending that I've ever seen. A cheap, tacked-on cop-out that not only fails to be literary on its own terms, the ending of this book is an insult to its readers' intelligence.
I hate to blast this book completely - particularly since so much of it is remarkably well-done - but as whole, it was a crushing disappointment. Seriously, people are depressed enough during the holidays. You don't have to endure the Christmas season AND read this book....more