This book was provided for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My Reaction: This book started out as a fascinating and emotional read. The development of the dystopia was (mostly) believable and resulted in a well-crafted totalitarian regime. The book started to lose its punch, however, when plot got mired down in unanswered questions and “this thing happens just because” type plot points. I was also very disappointed in the portrayal of the autistic main character, Clover. The ending left much to be desired. Since I read it as an ebook and didn’t pay attention to the progress bar, it snuck up on me due to the utter lack of a climax. The book simply…ended.
Highlights: • The world-building, for the most part, was great. There were a few places that could have been tightened up (seriously, the casinos? What was the point of having tricks and gimmicks specifically designed to pull in more money when there’s no money involved?), but overall it was excellent. • The HUGE notable exception to the good worldbuilding was Foster City. In this world of a decimated population, where there’s places that are literally in danger of being wiped off the map due to low population numbers, you’d think that taking care of orphans would be a big deal. They’re the future of the species, and every bit of genetic material counts. Not in this world, where all the orphans are taken care of by abusers, rapists, and murderers and no one cares. For no reason. There is abuse in the foster care system right now, but then again, it’s not “most" of the foster parents doing it, and right now we’re not scrambling to rebuild our population and in need of everyone we can get. • The other exception: what happened to the rest of the world? We know what happened to America, but nothing outside of that. Even the only war we hear about it is a civil war. Did we nuke every other country off the map before the virus started? • The time travel was not used to its full potential. Though it was something of a dynamic system, a lot of the times it was discussed, the characters treated it like a stable time loop. • The kids didn’t spend much time finding out anything; they just stumbled around until people told them stuff, or until their future selves told them stuff. And even then, people would stop talking halfway through a conversation just…because. Then the plot would drag on a little longer and take them to the next half conversation. • Clover’s autism was great at the start. I was excited to see an autistic character on the high-functioning end of the scale, one who could say “look, I have this condition, but I’m not a pity-party; just let me work.” I was all kinds of on board. And then…it started to fall apart. Mostly because it didn’t feel like the author had the guts to really do it honestly. There were many mentions of her not liking to be touched, but then “for some reason this time it was okay.” Only that line popped up every time someone wanted to hug her. We never really got to see her deal with the social problems of having autism outside of a few “clean” quirks, and any symptoms or problems of autism were either ignored or only mentioned right before we find out they don’t apply this time. • You can’t use the old stand-by trope of “for some reason she got a bad feeling from the bad guy” when your main character has a disorder that makes reading people all but impossible. You just can’t. It’s a terrible trope anyway, but it’s terrible squared here. • And the final nail in the coffin was the reveal that autism gives people special time-travel powers. We have all sorts of tropes where people with disabilities will be given some “power” or ability or Daredevil-senses to make up for it, they’re all insulting, they all need to stop. (less)
This book doesn't have a plot; it has a series of actions that pop up any time the romance needs to be cockblocked. There's no sense in this book that anyone is working towards anything or that we're supposed to be curious and discover stuff along with them. We're just supposed to wait for the next bit of exposition to tell us something, which by the way, will have absolutely no lead-in at all. New characters, concepts, and events are introduced late in the book with no hint that we should have expected something to come, so it always feels more like a blindsided slap than a reveal.
I hesitate to say that the writing is atrocious, because it was done on purpose, so I'll say instead that it was ineffective. If we presume that it was done to show Juliette as "off balance" or not quite connected to reality, it doesn't. It makes her feel like an emo-teenager writing poetry while hopped up on Red Bull. She never has an trouble distinguishing what's going on from fantasy, and her actions and thoughts are never disordered or false. As a means of showing her mental state, the writing does nothing, because her mental state is fine. Her narration is a mess, but she's perfectly sane.
And as to the worldbuilding, characters, and concepts in this novel? Well...the scientists and doctors in this world discovered a girl who can kill people by touching them and decided to try and cure that with "pills," then put her in a mental institution when they couldn't. They thought that murder-hands wasn't worth alerting the media and studying; they just called her crazy and tried to fix it, even though they knew the magic touch thing wasn't in her imagination. Thinking about how many plot holes and complete lapses in logic are in that single paragraph.
Ship Breaker is one of those books that suffers a lot from how close it came to being something spectacular. I started reading, encountered all these...moreShip Breaker is one of those books that suffers a lot from how close it came to being something spectacular. I started reading, encountered all these marvelous characters and concepts, and I got my hopes up. I got my hopes way up. And my hopes crashed and burned. My hopes are a stripper in LA still claiming “I’ll be an actress someday!”
THE GOOD The first 50 pages, and everything therein, were really good. And I mean really, really good. The idea of the world, as kind of a half-pocalypse, where things go to shit but we’ve still got the same bureaucracy, it was at once very believable and very fresh. The idea of the titular ship breakers, people tearing apart pre-apocalypse tankers and (we assume) various other structures, the shanty-town that built up around these ships and the jobs they provided, all of it was excellent.
Even the harshness of it was so marvelous. This was a very hard book to read just in how stark and desperate the people in it are on a daily basis. There were points in this first 50 pages where I hurt, and I was supposed to, because I felt the loss and frustration of the characters so clearly. This book was so good at putting the reader in the mind and situation of its desperately poor main characters.
The details were excellent. It felt like a fully-realized new world. It wasn’t one half-baked concept that got a plot attached to it somehow; no, this author really put in the time to think about how everything would have changed, and how things should work now, and then he brought that new world to light for us.
THE BAD And then Nita showed up. And everything went to shit. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying Nita is a bad character. She’s not a good one, either, but overall she’s just sort of…bland. The reason I hate her is not for her character as written, but for what she does to the plot. She’s basically a Disney Princess, with her utter perfection and her incessant pleasantness and her…just…Disney Princess-ness. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s like the book wanted so hard to make her perfect for the sake of justifying how people are literally dying left and right for her. Oh, and also for why the main character falls in love with her, I guess. There was nothing particularly objectionable about Nita, but she always felt more like a MacGuffin than an actual character.
Another thing is the lost potential with Nita. A person as a MacGuffin? Totally doable if you play it right. But this book didn’t; this book played like it had no idea it was even doing that. And having one person be uber important for the sake of leverage/machinations? Yes, possible, and can even be really fun. But don’t on top of that also make her a Princess and then have everyone go on about how they’ll die for her because she’s awesome/for the sake of heavy-handed “loyalty.”
There’s a number of inconsistencies. Like…what happened to Captain Sung? Nita hid a bunch of gold rings early on; why didn’t they come back when they needed money halfway through the novel? (view spoiler)[And Nailer’s dad at the end, why didn’t the gears turn him into salsa chunks, when it was stated that even smaller gears would have done that trick? (hide spoiler)]
The plot was so…straightforward once they got off the beach. For something that promised such complexity at the start, it boiled down to your basic “Save the Princess” kind of story.
Want to know what the messages are, but can’t quite figure them out? Don’t worry, the characters will straight-up tell you what you’re supposed to learn. Not even kidding. These uneducated teenagers will sit down for six straight pages and deliver very eloquent philosophical banter, just in case you missed what the book was trying to teach you. And then they’ll do it again, and again, and again. I guess they don’t want you to strain your brain figuring things out on your own.
THE UGLY “Even bruised and dead, she was pretty[…]” -pg 90. No, book. No. Just a million times no. Nita is described as pretty far too often in this book, no matter the situation, no matter if she’s crushed, presumed dead, starved, half drowned, doesn’t matter NITA IS ALWAYS PRETTY BECAUSE THE PERFECT PRINCESS MUST ALWAYS BE PRETTY. SHE CAN’T BE A LOVE INTEREST OR HAVE PEOPLE DIE TO RESCUE HER IF SHE’S NOT PRETTY, ALRIGHT?
No, not alright, and it pissed me off.
And, really, in isolation the book’s not that bad on this front, but when I compare it to what I thought the book was going to be at the start…I’m really pissed off at the poor/rich comparisons in this book. It could have been such a wonderful look at the disparity between the poor and rich, at the way those at the top view those at the bottom, at the desperate decisions that some people have to make which seem so incongruous to those of us living in comfort. But it dropped all of that like a hot potato as soon as one rich girl showed up, so that she could be the center of whole fucking universe. Suddenly it wasn’t about “hard decisions” or “poverty vs wealth,” no, it was “the rich girl is now the most important person by virtue of being virtuous, therefore Nailer is going to give us some half-assed excuse that will be dropped soon and risk his life repeatedly to save hers. Because I guess rich people really are more important in the end.”
Seriously, I bear Nita no ill will as a character, but I wanted her to die, just so that this book would at least do something new and harsh.
In the end, this was just your basic YA adventure story. Everything that made it a challenging read got abandoned so that the plucky poor farm boy could go save the pretty-pretty princess.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was an odd book. For a story about a supervolcano erupting, it was...well, rather dull. Sure, lots of really powerful stuff was going on, lots of...moreThis was an odd book. For a story about a supervolcano erupting, it was...well, rather dull. Sure, lots of really powerful stuff was going on, lots of horrible stuff, but it was conveyed to us sort of like a travelogue. "I went here. I did this. Then I went here. Then this happened. Then I went to a third place. Something else happened." It really felt less like a narrative story and more like Alex was just...traveling around, reporting what he saw in various places, with very little to connect the various events. Even when he met up with other characters, it didn't get much better. Then it was just two people wandering around, doing various things. And while there were some very powerful visuals and situations presented...I just didn't feel an emotional connection to any of them.
Also, there was a bit near the end, where they ended up in a refugee camp, and it just... Hm, how to put this... I can believe a lot of bad things about my government. I can believe they would mismanage a disaster through oversight, ignorance, poor planning, or hubris. I can believe in corruption running rampant on an individual scale, nurtured along by a lack of official controls. What I can't believe is the unmitigated, sanctioned greed and cruelty displayed in this book. It slides a bit too far off in tin-hat territory for my tastes. Also, the bit at the camp is where he started talking about "oh, woe, for we have forsaken our own humanity by choice," even though before this he'd seen cannibalism, rape, and murder. Makes it pretty heavy-handed that this is a pet issue of the author's.
But still, the book appealed to my logistics-loving, survivalist side. It's always fun (for me) to read about the nuts and bolts of what to do in a disaster and how to manage and all the nifty, creative tricks that people will imagine and invent. I eat that stuff up, and this book is good for it. Plus, it's obvious that the author did a lot of research. So that part was fun, and there weren't many bad messages or horrifying (on a literary level) parts. Overall, if it's something that appeals to you, it's worth checking out.(less)
I can see why this book got popular. It has some very quotable lines that address some very thought-provoking issues. Unfortunately, this book can't give a good home to those lines. It's just random lines that get tossed out before the actual story and characters move on to doing even more stupidity. No one lives up to their pretty words and platitudes.
This book also makes some stabs at being good. There's no love triangle, and there's more female characters (although by no means are things actually equal). There's points at this book where I can see good writing shining through. But again, the quality is not maintained. When it gets bad, it gets really bad.
The world is just a hot mess of crazy that never gets properly explained. Supposedly this is a self-contained version of Chicago set in a dystopic future...but they have the same level of technology and comfort as we do? Where are they getting their gas, their glass, their metals, their plastics, all those things that are required for a technological society? Never explained, along with a million other things.
The concept of Divergent isn't explained nearly well enough. It comes across as being "normal" in a society of people who are partially lobotomized. (That's the only thing I can think of for why everyone can't be both smart and brave, or kind and selfless, or really ANY two qualities at once.) It's also not explained why Divergent is so dangerous. They say it's because people who think in more than one way can't be controlled, but there's no word on why the leaders want their people controlled when everyone seems happy to go along with the status quo. Even Tris doesn't think about any sort of rebelling until people start shooting at her.
The writing is simplistic and the main character is just painfully stupid. There's a weird anti-intellectual streak to this book as they demonize the 'smart' faction for doing stuff like 'fair and balanced news reporting.' This whole book is really just a hot, hot mess of confusion and bad logic.(less)
My Reaction: A solidly enjoyable read, but in the end, too disjointed to be really great. This book had a lot of potent...moreThis review is also on my blog.
My Reaction: A solidly enjoyable read, but in the end, too disjointed to be really great. This book had a lot of potential and I did really enjoy many of the things in it. The plot between Jude and Day was predictable but still a lot of fun, and just the kind of story I enjoy reading. Predictability never bothers me as long as I enjoy the formula. Spies who change sides and prison break outs will never disappoint me. However, I never got a good enough read on the worldbuilding to warm to it, and that really hurt the book’s attempts to include some “uncovering the evil government” plot points. The narrative was too narrow in focus for us to really appreciate the society-wide issues that were thrown at us, and in the end, too many questions were left unasked. (Unanswered is one thing when there are sequels, but they should at least be asked so we know they’ll be addressed later.)
Highlights: • Jude and Day’s romance was, given the genre, quite subdued. I enjoyed the fact that it was there, but not overpowering, and their motives were usually rooted in something stronger than a day-old crush. • The dystopia left a lot to be desired, but it was at least more solid than most of the recent offerings to the genre. • June and Day were both enjoyable characters, despite being “perfect” in the child-prodigy sense. The book managed to walk that line and treat them as characters instead of authorial darlings, although that is a fine line and some readers won’t agree with me. • June and Day might as well have been the same character. Their voices were identical. • The government’s grasp of science was…lacking. Even with the book’s vague excuse of “we lost a lot of tech,” I still don’t buy it. There’s a difference between “lost tech” and “lost the ability to use the scientific method.” • Day’s motives and methods are never examined. • There’s a completely gratuitous torture scene near the start of the book, which had absolutely no mental or emotional impact on our “heroine.” That bothered me greatly.
Rants and Raves:
I’m getting rather sick of despotic governments who’s actions are handwaved with “well, they’re evil!” There’s quite a difference between evil and self-destructive, and the two don’t have to go hand in hand. In fact, it’s quite possible to have an effective, efficient, smart, well-run government that is evil. There’s no need to display their evil by having them shoot themselves in the foot.
And that’s basically what the Republic does in this book. Though there’s no hard figures on the world, we can extrapolate the knowledge that they have low population numbers from the following facts: they’re in a decades-long war, natural disasters are common, and a plague routinely runs through the country and wipes people out. AND YET the government puts every 10 year-old to a standardized test and then kills those that don’t pass.
Why? That’s something you do when your population numbers are high and need to be brought down, but all the evidence suggests exactly the opposite. The public fiction is that those kids go to a “labor camp,” which just begs the question why are there no actual labor camps? Surely with so much of your population tied up in war and infrastructure rebuilding, there’s no reason not to use every body you can get your hands on. The fact that they failed their test, and thus are presumably unintelligent or weak, doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse. You don’t need a lot of brains to break rocks, or be a meatsheild at the warfront. And, in fact, wouldn’t it be better to put your near-useless people to that kind of work and save the smarter ones for more skilled jobs?
And then we find out that not only do they kill perfectly good children, but they also (view spoiler)[ engineer the plagues that pass through, too (hide spoiler)]. That’s even more of your population dead, and for no good reason! And no, the reason they give isn’t a good reason. The reason they give falls under the “do you even know how science works?” header.
So, yes, both those things are evil, but they don’t make sense. They’re just there to show off evilness. I always have and always will prefer my fictional evil governments to make sense. I think that’s why I liked Thomas as a character best in this book. He was bad, yes, but he felt so real. His reasons for the way he thought, though flawed, at least a kind of sense to them, and he was multifaceted and, therefore, fascinating. Much more than the commander, who was just evil for the LOLZ of it.
Also, add this book to the growing pile of “women in command tend to be evil bitches” examples. Although it does better on female characters in general, there’s only one that’s in a position of power, and she follows the trope.
And then there’s the torture.
Look, books, torture is a dicey subject. You can’t just toss it in there for the sake of showing off evil. That’s up there with using rape to show that a character is a bad guy. It’s cheap shorthand and you’re not treating the subject with the weight and gravitas that it needs.
In this book, torture seems to be used as a matter of course, like they just use it as a standard practice on everyone they come across. While I can see a despotic, war-time government using torture, it shouldn’t be used so cavalierly. First of all because it’s shit. There’s not enough return on torture for the price of it, because you simply get way too many false positives. So you’ve got to find and train the people who have a stomach for it, deal with the burnout from those people after they just can’t keep doing that for long, deal with the medical costs of keeping your prisoners alive after you’ve cut body parts off, and all for what? For some information that’s probably wrong anyway, and which you have no way to verify. Torture is inefficient. We have questioning tactics that work much better and don’t involve the emotional and monetary costs of torture.
But this book goes one step further and also has the government torturing captives just for the LOLZ. Not individuals, which I could understand if they have particular hatred for a prisoner, but official standard practices of torture even when there’s no attempt to get information. That is absolutely ridiculous and serves no point. When something is used only to show off evil, it shouldn’t be used. Period. Stuff should have a point and a purpose and then also be evil, because that’s totally a thing and not even very hard!
And the complete lack of a reaction to the torture scenes by our main character didn’t help matters. Even people who believe that torture works and are willing to use it will often feel uncomfortable, upset, or at least just feel something when faced with an actual screaming injured person.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book was about as subtle as getting hit in the face with a brick. Nothing was handled with tact or skill or any amount of nuance. Badass characte...moreThis book was about as subtle as getting hit in the face with a brick. Nothing was handled with tact or skill or any amount of nuance. Badass character is an orphan? Well she's not JUST an orphan, oh no, she's got a history of child abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug abuse, really just every kind of abuse you can imagine. Because being an orphan isn't sad ENOUGH, nope, we've got to make sure that there's not one single, solitary piece of comfort anywhere in her life. Balls-to-the-wall angst, people. Religion replaced by a so-called secular Church? Well, that's not obvious enough, we've got to make it absolutely, unequivocally clear that this new Church is hypocritical. Like, full-on Inquisition era insanity and total control over the government and everything. And totally not secular and completely missing the definition of 'faith.' "You don't need faith because there are no gods! Now, believe us when he declare acts to be moral or immoral, or else you'll go to hell. Proof? Psh. We say it's the truth, you believe, but don't worry that doesn't count as 'faith!'" Not painful enough? Don't worry, here's a few pseudo bible verses to hammer it home.
So much of this world just wasn't handled well. We're told that ghosts suddenly popped up 23 years ago because...hey, they just popped up, and so did magic. Reasons be damned. Chess is a drug addict who never gets affected by her drugs. Seriously, this chick will pop pills and snort lines at least once a chapter, usually two or three times, and she'll go days without sleeping or eating, and absolutely none of this has any effect on her thoughts, decisions, actions, or feelings. She runs around just like any sober character, with very little variance between coked-out-of-her-skill and near-sober. It's like the book couldn't actually make her ACT high, so it substituted in lots of snorting scenes to remind us that she's an addict. Since it's so easy to forget otherwise.
I really wanted to like this. I really did. There's some good stuff buried in the mess. But it was just a chore to slog through, and the good parts couldn't carry me through the rest of the annoyance. (less)
I'm not giving any stars because I didn't read enough of the book to honestly rate it. I couldn't even get through the first chapter. The writing was...moreI'm not giving any stars because I didn't read enough of the book to honestly rate it. I couldn't even get through the first chapter. The writing was trying way too hard, but in all the wrong ways. It was sloppy, sloppy prose that tried to hide that fact by dressing things up with symbolism and angst and flowery clauses. I still saw all the awkward tense shifting, the poor word choice, the fragments, and the comma splices. Having overwrought imagery shoved down my throat didn't make the rest any more palatable.
As if that wasn't bad enough, there was just too much I was asked to believe in the first chapter and couldn't. Apparently this is a world where biology is completely fucked and infections don't exist. This is a world where a man can have an open hole leading down to his lungs, and even with ash thick in the air, he's still alive five years later. This is a world where there's no record of addresses, where people move at the drop of a hat, where no one is making even an attempt to build a community, and yet the overbearing militia can still find your house. This is a world where a 'blast of heat' can melt one rubber doll head, but not anything else in the vicinity. And so, so much more.
I might have been able to see past all that, if there had been anything to see past all that, but the book didn't dish out. All it gave me was world-building problems and cloying writing, holding back everything else, including any hint of any sort of any plot. Some people will like this, but I'm not one of them.(less)
This whole book is just a hot mess that I can barely make sense of. I was highly uncomfortable while reading it, due to the overt misogyny and patriar...moreThis whole book is just a hot mess that I can barely make sense of. I was highly uncomfortable while reading it, due to the overt misogyny and patriarchy. The book was, of course, intentionally creating a patriarchal society, so a lot of the things that made me uncomfortable were supposed to do so. On the other hand, it's really hard to tell the divide between on-purpose and accidental misogyny in this book. There's so many little things that I read in this book, so many lines and comments, that made me pause and think "did she really mean to write that?" Plus, there's the non-worldbuilding/meta aspects, like how every woman who has any amount of ambition is literally described as 'evil,' while only those who are shoved haplessly into power are deserving of it. Or how every female character (save for three, but two are gay and one is old) is described as vapid, shallow, vain, greedy, or stupid. Basically, if you're not Adalice but you are viable sexual competition, then you're evil. And that had nothing to do with the worldbuilding, that was all the book's own anti-feminism.
On top of that, the book didn't really do anything with that misogyny. It was just...there. Adalice rarely chaffed under it, and there wasn't any attempt to criticize it. It wasn't even relevant to the story. It was just...there. Perhaps it will be utilized more in later novels, but it left a bad taste in my mouth for this one.
There are two gay characters in this novel, which I was happy to see at first...until they both died. It's hard enough to find positive homosexual role-models in teenage literature, and harder still to see them actually survive and be happy. For all the book tried to make them 'good' (and instead made them genuflecting set pieces revolving around the main character), the 'kill off all the gays' trope has been long established, is very insulting, and really has no business getting perpetuated. Plus, the discussion about gays and gay marriage just seemed...off. They bring it up, and the bad guy goes on about how it would destroy family values and all that, and Adalice just sort of says 'nu-uh,' but without any valid counter-arguments. (Of which there are plenty.) It feels like the author knows this is the right thing to say, but she doesn't know why, so she glossed over the whole issue.
The plot didn't exist. Just straight-up didn't exist. Adalice didn't do anything the whole book. She didn't want to do anything the whole book. She had no goal. She had no agency. She was torn from her home and her family and put in the Coventry and then...just sort of went along with it. There was some tepid talk of escape, and the men around her acted like there was some sort of urgency, but there wasn't. It was practically a slice-of-life novel. There was talk of a rebellion...once. And then nothing was done with it. Adalice doesn't even try and escape or give any serious thought to until the last 50 pages, when she's threatened with rape. Really, the whole thing is just stuff happening around her, until finally it was time for a climax so one got shoved in.
And, while parts of the world were very interesting, others were just confusing. Like, Adalice's parents don't want her to be a Spinster, but we're never told why. They seem to know that it's a terrible fate because...??? Because she can't get married? Because...I don't know, that's all I got. Girls don't have any more agency outside the Coventry than inside is, as they're assigned to menial jobs and have no control over their own lives, so supposedly there's something terrible about being a Spinster, but I never quite caught on to what it was. 'Ripping,' maybe, that does sound bad, but that's a minor part of the job that only a few people do. And in that case, how did her parents find out about it? We don't find out in this book. And that's fine, if we're to have it addressed in a later installment, but why didn't Adalice ever wonder how they knew? Why did she never stop to question why everyone else thinks Spinsterhood is awesome, but her parents didn't?
And there's just a downright weird amount of make-up-hate in this novel.(less)
Dear sweet baby Jesus, that’s how long it took me to crawl through this book. I…I almost don’t even know what happened, because so much of it was just...moreDear sweet baby Jesus, that’s how long it took me to crawl through this book. I…I almost don’t even know what happened, because so much of it was just bullshit. Just…pages and pages of words, words that sort of came together to make sentences, but the sentences didn’t come together to make a scene. It was like reading stream-of-consciousness fanfiction written by someone going through pon farr. Nothing can beat the racism in this book for sheer disgust, but the rampant sexualization sure gives it the old college try.
The plot of the book is relatively simple. Eden is a research assistant, working for her dad, who is about to do some big experiment to make man/beast hybrids. She’s worried about getting married, because stupid. (A lot of things are “because stupid” and I’ll cover them later.) She’s got a boyfriend that she hopes will propose, and he asks her to some dance thingy, so that gets her excited. Once there, she gets harassed by some creeps, her boss rescues her, and then they go back to the lab where the human test subjects have gone missing. So her boss, Bramford, volunteers himself, instead. Halfway through, some militia group that Eden’s boyfriend belongs to shows up, and they fuck shit up. Eden decides that the best course of action is SET THE PLACE ON FIRE because…stupid. Bramford turns a little more animal than planned, but he and Eden and Eden’s father all escape in a plane. They fly off to the Amazon and hide in the jungle with a tribe called the Huaorani.
And then there’s literally 200 pages of bullshit where Eden just flails around like a moron, gets lost in the jungle, pouts, and goes on at length about how she’s now sexually attracted to Bramford. Also, there’s a mild mystery about some woman named Rebecca, and after far too long we find out that she was Bramford’s first wife, and she betrayed him to the militia once and then also died. Also, they have a son who’s an albino, which is a big deal because of stupid.
Seriously. 200 pages. In the last 50 pages, Eden tries to contact someone back in civilization to come get her, but it turns out to be her old fake-boyfriend and the militia instead, and they try to shoot everyone up, but some Aztecs (???) come out of nowhere and blowdart them to death. Then Eden and the albino kid get set to become half-beast like Bramford and go off living in the jungle. Because if you do an experiment on yourself to become immune to the #1 thing that kills everyone in your society…that makes you an outcast and you have to go live in the jungle?
Good god, where do I even begin? I guess the racism is a pretty good spot. The author claims to have tried to “turn racism on its head” and flip the roles around. First of all, the very concept is insulting. Want to portray racism? WRITE ABOUT A POC CHARACTER. This is basically saying that white people won’t care about injustice unless it’s applied to other white people. Which, yeah, that’s a big problem in our society. It won’t be solved by perpetuating it with more “poor whitey” stories. Second, this book fails pretty hard at what it set out to do. This isn’t racism “turned on its head,” it’s just regular racism. Eden hates the black people and characterizes them extremely poorly. It only gets worse when Bramford turns into a “beast” and they run into the “primitive” Huaorani. In short, this is our own, modern, white-superiority racism, just with the “unnatural” turn of having blacks be in charge of shit. It really does read as if the pure and good whites suddenly got “taken over” by the nasty, mean, bitchy black people, and oh, woe, isn’t that so terrible!!! Gasp, what a frightening turn of events! It’s wrong because it goes against nature and all that. *gag* I think part of this impression is because the book can’t help but give in to stereotypes about its black characters, and in part because it doesn’t realize what actually goes into institutionalized racism. It hits all the high points, but none of the subtleties.
And that’s not even getting into the few lines that make it completely obvious that Eden still thinks of herself as superior, regardless of what the book tries to tell us. Like:
Eden flinched. One of them was touching her. White-hot light exploded in her head. Before she knew it, she blurted out an incendiary racial slur. “Get your hands off me, you damn Coal!”
Yup. Really. Eden thinks it’s an insult to be touched by a black person. She even flinches at it. Because black people are apparently just that nasty.
And of course, then there’s all the science fails. Supposedly this world comes about when “the Great Meltdown” happened, but we have no idea what that is. Now light-skinned people keep dying from “the Heat,” but we don’t know what that is, either. Heatstroke? Radiation from the sun is mentioned several times, but the few examples we have of “the Heat” make it seem like the victims are actually overheating, not dying from cancer or something. And if that’s the case (heck, even if “cancer” is the case) then it’s utterly ridiculous to say that darker people survive it better. Skin tone is not a body heat regulator. In fact, we’re not entirely sure why people developed different skin tones, but we do know it doesn’t have to do with temperature. There’s a few theories bouncing around; I like this one but there’s others as well. If the author had done even a modicum of research, even just to confirm what she thought she knew about ‘radiation’ and skin color, she would have found this out pretty quick.
Plus, everyone lives underground. Really. Underground, in a completely climate-controlled environment, with air-conditioning, never exposed to direct sunlight. And yet somehow white people get heatstroke but black people don’t, all because of this radiation that absolutely no one is exposed to.
And then there’s this whole “mating” bullshit. Girls have to have sex by the time they hit 18 or they get cut off from…um, free stuff? We later see one of these non-mated white women being forced into prostitution to make ends-meat, so is it that no one will hire her? Is everyone in the society living off government handouts? But…Eden has a job, so…is she banned from working if she doesn’t mate?
Eden’s “mate-rate” is 15%, but we have NO FUCKING CLUE what that means. Really, none. A lot of drama is places on this number 15, but we don’t know what that number represents or how it was decided upon. There’s some hint that high or low ratings are an indication of your genetic fitness, but…later in the book Jamal goes on about how his rate went down because he was burned in a fire. Burns which do not affect his genetics at all. It affects his job performance and general fitness, I guess, since he had a very physical profession as a security worker before the fire. Is that what a “mate-rate” is? Your ability to be self-sufficient? Or… fuck, why am I still thinking about this?
Bigger problem with the mating issue: it makes no sense. Supposedly this is some ultra-unemotional society, where extreme reactions are dulled with a drug called “oxy” (we’re told this, never shown it) and resources are scarce. Yeah: resources are scarce. But if you don’t mate and make kids, you don’t get resources. Basically, if you don’t pop out children which will put even more of a drain on the limited resources, then you’ll be punished for it because resources are limited and can’t be wasted on your sorry, useless ass. What?
Note, by the way, that it’s only women who have a time limit. And that limit is 18. As soon as you become an adult, girls, your only job is to make babies. Men can do things like stay single and run corporations, but all your good for is making babies. If you don’t make babies, you either die or become a whore.
Once we get out of the underground part, 2/3rds of the book takes place in the jungle, around a race of real-life indigenous people. The book parallels real life in an almost creepy manner: the book says that they somehow survived in spite of “the Heat” and were only recently discovered to be still living on the surface; in reality, the Huaorani were “discovered” in the 1940s, along with the rich oil reserves on their land. In the book, the size of the Huaorani settlement isn’t made clear. We only see two families, and no indication is made of whether that’s all there is or if Eden just didn’t care about/notice anyone else. The main Huaorani character we interact with is Maria, who literally does nothing in the book except take care of her two small children and wait on Eden and her father. She’s servile and unassuming and, to all appearances, perfectly happy to play maid to these white visitors. She and her sister-in-law live in huts and keep small gardens and believe in fables and… Basically, it’s what a white person would imagine when thinking about a “simple, native” existence through fake-nostalgia-colored glasses. There’s not a hint of the Huaorani’s culture outside of a few nods to mythology, there’s no history for these two families or how their village came to be, there’s no sense that they are part of a larger nation made up of intelligent and independent people.
The Huaorani, by the way, are pretty god damn smart and have set up their own rights/activist group, fought for the right to live on their own land, been in legal battles with oil companies, and they’ve had a recent history fraught with conflict and controversy. They’re also made up of multiple tribes, and they aren’t a homogenous society of people who all agree, because you get varying levels of cooperation with both each other and outsiders. They are a complex nation of intelligent people with a rich culture and history, and with some extremely delicate issues that are currently still being fought over, but this author sweeps all of that aside and turns them into bland, grinning servants.
There's not much to say about this book. It was just so utterly dull. For a book that had that amount of action, I feel like nothing happened. What we...moreThere's not much to say about this book. It was just so utterly dull. For a book that had that amount of action, I feel like nothing happened. What we know at the end of the book isn't much more than what we know at the beginning. So many questions are brought up, and only a couple of them are answered. People keep secrets just for the sake of keeping secrets, and out of spite that other people are keeping secrets, which doesn't really make for an enjoyable read. I'm not wondering "why aren't they telling" because I know the reason will be "because the author said so." And there's really nothing else going on to hold my interest. The characters are all dull, what we see of the world isn't interesting (because all the interesting bits are withheld), and the few bits of mystery frustrated me instead of interested me. I really didn't care, because I knew it would all be solved once the right people got over themselves and had a simple conversation. Really, that's all it would take. And that's boring. (less)
The technical writing was decent, and the first 20 or so pages were enticing. Mia stopped the narrative for huge chunks of paragraphs in order to give...moreThe technical writing was decent, and the first 20 or so pages were enticing. Mia stopped the narrative for huge chunks of paragraphs in order to give us backstory, which made everything flow...well, which made everything NOT flow. But still, it was unique, and I was hooked.
And then the love interest showed up and everything went to hell. Mia is supremely boring, and only more of a let-down after being self-described as a "lightning addict." Some addict, she doesn't even get struck until the end. One would think she'd be something of an adrenaline junkie, but nope, she's just dull and ignorant and blindly stumbling through the plot, willing to be tugged hither and yon by everyone else but never doing anything herself. Honestly, she spends about 95% of the book trying to AVOID the plot. Author, I picked up this book to read about doomsday cults and lightning magic, not to read about a girl trying her damndest to AVOID those things. I want to run full-bore into them and have a rollicking good time saving the world. Why do you think I would be more interested in a chick who HIDES from all the interesting stuff, rather than a chick who gets down and dirty and actually FUCKING DOES SOMETHING.
Seriously. It's amazing how a "lightning addict" can be just so damn boring.
And of course, there's all the little things subtext things that needle at me. Like the way Mia's powers are only "good" if she's healing, and once she tries to use them for self-defense from a guy trying to throw her off a bridge, well, for that she needs to find "redemption." No one except the bad guy bothers to tell her that she's not to blame for DEFENDING HERSELF from a violent attack. Seriously. Just the bad guy. And we're conditioned to disbelieve things the villain says, so...is this book trying to tell me she SHOULD feel guilty about that? Because she spends like half a page reassuring the male love interest that falling asleep wasn't his fault, but no one can be arsed to tell her that it's okay to try and not be brutally murdered? Fucking creepy. I mean, really minor thing and I'm pretty sure the author didn't consciously mean to include it, but...somehow that makes it fucking creepier. And there's tons of little messages like that, just little lines here and there that sink into your subconscious and made my skin crawl.
Oh, and I almost forgot the worst scene of all: when the love interest forces a kiss on Mia -- FORCES -- in order to break the mind control, even though just touching her with a finger would have done as well. Yes, folks, the main character is sexually assaulted "for her own good."(less)
There's a lot you can say about this novel, from the terrible worldbuilding to the pervasive misogyny, but I think that the most damning thing is: it's just so boring. For a book that includes multiple wars and rebel attacks, it's amazing how little any of that conflict matters, since we're stuck on a futuristic rehash of The Bachelor the entire time. The only thing that could possibly save it from it's own plot is some interesting world-building, but this book decided to replace 'interesting' with 'Mad Libs.'(less)
This is a book about three girls being kidnapped for the sole purpose of being raped, one thirteen year old is raped (and don't you dare tell me she w...moreThis is a book about three girls being kidnapped for the sole purpose of being raped, one thirteen year old is raped (and don't you dare tell me she wanted it; the poor child was THIRTEEN YEARS OLD and had just been kidnapped), and yet not once in the whole book is the word 'rape' used.
That just about sums up this book. It takes what should be a horrific subject and paints it in 'teehee, teenagers talking about sex' vocabulary.
Rhine is not a bride, she's a kidnap victim who avoids being raped by authorial contrivance. Her 'sister wives' are rape victims. Her 'husband' is a rapist who didn't flinch when a dozen women he rejected were all shot.
Making a YA book that deals with craptastic worlds where kidnapping, rape, and forced impregnation exist is not inherently bad. BUT FUCKING ADMIT THAT YOU'VE DONE IT AND DON'T TREAT IT LIKE SOME HIGH-SCHOOL-DRAMA-LOVE-TRIANGLE BULLSHIT.
Oh, yeah, and the world makes no sense, too. I just couldn't find the wherewithal to give a fuck because I was still reeling from all the RAMPANT CHILD RAPE.(less)
This book took a serious nose dive in quality from the first one. All the problems in The Hunger Games -- the world-building fails, the anti-feminism, the poor logic, the protagonist centered morality -- all of it shows up again here and gets magnified. A lot of the problem comes from the larger scale that this book deals with. In The Hunger Games, it was mostly acceptable that the story focused on Katniss and made her the star. It was okay that she was hyper-focused on her own survival. In a story about a whole country rebelling? That's when it becomes unacceptable to make everything revolve around Katniss. She can be a player, a major player if you want, but she should not eclipse the fact that, well, the entire country is starting to rebel. And yet, in this book, she did.
The pacing suffers a lot from this fact. Despite spending the first act setting up a rebellion story, that gets dropped in favor of having the entire country focus on Katniss again as she goes into the arena for a rehash of the last book. And that rebellion plot? It gets dropped hard. While the overall narrative still carries on the rebellion, this doesn't really make a reappearance until the very end. Katniss doesn't have anything to do with the rebellion. While this makes sense for her as a character, it's terrible for the story structure, because the plot we just dedicated 33% of the book to becomes extraneous fluff. It has no significance or influence over the rest of the book. If it had been cut out and we'd just opened with the Quarter Quell, our understanding of the rest of things would not have changed. The lack of carry-over from one scene to the next is a big problem throughout the series, but it's especially evident in this.