An entertaining dystopian/superhero novel that never reaches its full potential. I was intrigued by the description and the first few pages, but in reAn entertaining dystopian/superhero novel that never reaches its full potential. I was intrigued by the description and the first few pages, but in retrospect the story itself is a bit of a letdown.
Santa Olivia is set along the U.S.-Mexico border in what's implied to be the not-so-distant future. The book starts strong, the first 40 pages following a young woman named Carmen living in a militarized outpost, before moving on to the real protagonist, her daughter Loup. Loup has superhero powers that she tries to hide, including the inability to feel fear, and from the beginning of the tale it's clear she's on a collision course with the town's military rulers.
This book is fun and easy to read, propelled by lots of dialogue and a setting full of inherent danger. However, particularly in the second half of the book, the plot becomes increasingly predictable and seems to be treading water on its way to the climax. The dystopian elements are underutilized--we never learn what's going on in the wider world--and, more importantly, so is Loup, who never comes into her own. It seems as if Carey has missed the point of superhero stories, which are all about wish-fulfillment: we're supposed to revel in the crazy challenges thrown at the heroine, vicariously enjoying her ability to overcome with ease obstacles that would be insurmountable in real life. But Loup spends the book holding back, not doing much; she pulls off some pranks with help from friends, and then spends the whole second half of the book training for the climactic fight: a boxing match scheduled for her convenience, with quite surmountable odds, from which she has nothing to gain if she wins and nothing to lose if she quits.
Some of you would respond that this isn't meant to be a traditional superhero story: it's meant to be a commentary on the superhero story, and in particular how that story changes when the superhero is female. I'm of two minds on that one. Certainly the book plays with and comments on gender tropes. But sometimes it's a bit muddled, leaving me uncertain just what it's trying to say. For instance, Loup's love interest is a girl, one much girlier than herself, and at some points Carey implies that someone as physically tough as Loup has to have a girlfriend rather than a boyfriend. But then, Loup's father also has a hard time finding someone who's attracted rather than repelled by his overly-powerful mutant body, so it's not clear that Loup's unsuccessful physical relationships with men have much to do with gender expectations. Meanwhile her physiological lack of fear sort of works as a commentary on the way women are controlled by fear, but it's also pretty weird--Loup does feel pain, after all--and there's no reason she couldn't fight the system while experiencing fear if she were put in a situation that compelled her to do so. This aspect of the story also seems less successful because there are other female superheroes in fiction, whose stories don't require such contortions: for instance, Katsa of Graceling, published a year before this one (hardly the best-written fantasy novel ever, but a far more satisfying superhero story).
Plot aside, the book is adequate without being exceptional. It's mostly populated by stock characters: the kindhearted older brother, the embittered old coach, the band of orphans with one personality trait apiece. Loup feels somewhat hollow. Her love interest, though, is well-characterized and their romance is cute--if heterosexual it would likely have been too generic, but as is it kept my interest. The setting is well-drawn, though I wanted to see more of Carey's world beyond the single town. The writing is adequate and the dialogue has flavor and does a good job of contributing to the characterization.
In the end, this is a worthwhile piece of entertainment if you're looking for something fairly light, but that emphasizes relationships more than action. As a dystopian fantasy story it works well enough, though it doesn't have the sort of fun and excitement I expected when I read the word "superhero."...more
This one's going to be more personal response than review. There will be rambling, and spoilers. If you like, skip to the end and tell me what you thiThis one's going to be more personal response than review. There will be rambling, and spoilers. If you like, skip to the end and tell me what you think about villain protagonists!
What I really like about this book is the language. Mostly because so much of the slang comes from Russian, and my year of college Russian pretty much never comes in handy (I learned tons of grammar, but not enough vocabulary to actually, say, have a conversation or read a newspaper, so of course I've lost most of it). Burgess is actually a really careful writer and so everything you need to know, you can figure out from context, and pretty soon you'll be reading along as if you'd been using these words all your life. It's pretty cool. It makes me wonder if maybe I should give Sea of Poppies another try, but then that book has a 40-page glossary. A Clockwork Orange does not have any glossary and if you look one up online you're doing it wrong.
Also, it is pretty engaging. It helps that it's less than 200 pages long. Doing a 100-book challenge this year means I'm all about the novellas.
And Burgess does do a good job with the dystopia. It doesn't feel outlandish the way some dystopias do. The dystopian elements are much more understated--out-of-control crime, to which the government responds by hiring ex-cons as police officers, and so on.
Overall though, I can't say I particularly liked this book. For one, the rather heavy-handed thematic elements felt completely irrelevant. A large chunk of the book deals with the protagonist, Alex, who's convicted of murder early on in the book, being conditioned to be non-violent, and the moral implications of being good because you're forced to rather than because you choose it. Frankly, I didn't care about Alex's free will. He gave up the right to make choices for himself went he went around murdering, raping, assaulting and robbing people. As far as I was concerned, getting out of prison at all was far better than he deserved.
So, I hated Alex. I've given this some thought and realized that my feelings about villain protagonists break down strictly along gender lines. And Alex is, essentially, a bundle of all the worst elements of the stereotypical alpha-male psyche, with none of the good mixed in. He feels the need to dominate every group he's a part of. He's careless and leaps into things without considering the consequences. He takes his family (in this case, his parents) for granted, making demands of them without ever considering them as anything other than people there to provide for him. For that matter, he's utterly lacking in empathy or concern for others in any respect. (Okay, that's not so much a stereotypically male trait as just plain sociopathy, and I'm not sure if sociopaths are predominantly male or not. But I'm also not sure if Burgess intended Alex to be a sociopath, given the final chapter's conclusion that this was all some teenage phase he went through.) And most importantly, he revels in aggression, which is his response to everything from boredom to annoyance to being short on cash.
What's scary about this character is that Burgess apparently found some wish-fulfillment aspects in writing him--really, this is a male fantasy I didn't want to know about. Although, in all fairness, enjoying a fantasy and wanting to live it are two entirely different things. I'll admit to reading Gone With the Wind with great enjoyment, and that Scarlett O'Hara appealed to something in me, which doesn't at all mean that I want to go out and seduce men for kicks or make money through exploitation and deceptive business practices. Nor does it mean that a fear of not being able to get away with it is the only thing stopping me from doing those things. So, okay, guys, I don't hold Alex against you. But I still hate him.
And then that 21st chapter.... I can see why the initial American publisher excised it. Alex suddenly decides, at the ripe old age of 18, that he's aged out of criminal behavior and he wants to go have a baby. Um, right. Because that's totally when the urge to settle down kicks in. The story is that the publisher felt that chapter was too optimistic, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of that.... Alex still feels no regret, no empathy, he's just gotten bored by spending every night committing random acts of violence. He's no less selfish than before. Will he really not turn aggressive again the next time things don't go his way? Can he possibly have a healthy relationship? I doubt it. At least Burgess didn't award him a girl at the end.
Maybe I'll clean this up into a real review later. In the meanwhile....
What's your experience with villain protagonists? Are there examples of the opposite gender that you've liked/sympathized with? Does it depend on whether or not the character is sexually aggressive? Would anyone like to recommend me a well-written book with a non-sexually-aggressive male villain protagonist that I might like?...more
I should have known better, since Stormdancer’s own cover blurb praises the idea of the book rather than its actual quality. But I was offered an ARC,I should have known better, since Stormdancer’s own cover blurb praises the idea of the book rather than its actual quality. But I was offered an ARC, and what with the hype and the intriguing description, I fell for it. (Also, I didn’t realize it’s YA, which would have changed that calculus. The author says it’s not but it’s written like it is.)
To start with something positive: the dystopian/steampunk elements of this book are pretty cool, and I like that it deals with environmental and social issues. And I didn’t hate reading it (possibly because I took three weeks, with several other books and plenty of detox time in between, but anyway). It does get a little bit better as it goes, and finishes strong (relatively speaking--I was never moved, but the end is the best part). And, in fairness, I am not a teenager and have never been very interested in anime; I don’t melt at the phrase “chainsaw katana”; and so I’m not in the target demographic for this book. It isn’t the worst book I’ve read this year, but that’s not quite enough for a second star, not when 2 stars on Goodreads is supposed to mean “it was okay.”
Now the plot. Teenage Yukiko accompanies her father on a supposedly impossible mission to capture a "thunder-tiger" (part eagle, part tiger, essentially a griffin) for the evil Shogun, but winds up teaming up with the thunder-tiger to fight the Shogun instead. Here's where my problems with Stormdancer begin. The plot drags, especially but not exclusively in the first third of the book, weighed down by a ponderous style. Rather than building great imagery through well-chosen details, Kristoff dumps enormous amounts of detail on the reader in a pedestrian writing style, such that almost nothing happens for the first 50 pages. Here's a sample:
“She wore an outfit of sturdy gray cloth, unadorned save for a small fox embroidered on the breast, cut simply for the sake of utility. An uwagi tunic covered her from neck to mid-thigh, open at the throat, long, loose sleeves with folded cuffs rippling in the feeble breeze. An obi sash of black silk was wrapped tight around her waist, six inches wide, tied in a simple bow at the small of her back. A billowing pair of hakama trousers trailed down to her feet, which were covered by a pair of split-toed tabi socks. Long hair flowed around her shoulders, midnight black against pale, smooth skin. A gray kerchief was tied over her mouth, polarized glass lenses trimmed with thin brass and black rubber covering her eyes.”
Aside from the fact that that’s what the entire first 50 pages look like.... people, writing is not “beautiful” just because it is descriptive. Sorry, but if you think the above is beautiful writing, you should probably read more widely.
As for the characters.... where to start? These characters and their interactions have all the depth and verisimilitude of a video game. Here is a typically clunky interaction:
“ ‘Are you . . . kami? A spirit?’ [. . .] ‘Not at all,’ he shook his head. ‘I am no spirit, Yukiko-chan.’ ‘Then what are you?’ ‘Alone.’ He shrugged again. ‘Like you.’ The boy gave a deep bow, lowering his eyes to the varnished floor. He straightened with a frail smile, nodded his head, then turned and wandered away. [. . .] Yukiko watched him disappear down the stairs, loose strands of hair caught in the wind and flailing at her eyes. Well, that was odd. . . .”
Meanwhile, characters’ thoughts and emotional reactions in this book are as hackneyed and predictable as if they’d been handed flashcards with their personality, backstory and motivations right before walking on for their scenes. In fact, even with Yukiko, not only do we get no reason for her inclusion in the mission, we don’t learn what her life was beforehand or where it was going: was she in school, working, keeping house? Planning for a career, for marriage? Or just running constant errands for her father? We hear about all the traumatic parts of her Tragic Past, but nothing about her actual life. Works in a role-playing game, not so much in a novel.
The book is told from a limited third-person perspective, mostly from Yukiko’s POV, but being in her head actually confuses her personality further, especially since the male gaze is so pervasive. On meeting another woman, Yukiko describes her as follows: “possessed of the kind of beauty that inspired poets; the kind a man might happily murder his own brother to taste for a single heartbeat. Porcelain skin, high cheekbones, full lips, waves of blue-black velvet falling past her chin....” and so on.
Because that’s totally how a heterosexual 16-year-old girl reacts to a beautiful woman. Not “ergh, I feel so plain beside her” or even a less self-conscious “huh, the guys probably fall at her feet” but “a man would happily murder his brother to taste her beauty for a single heartbeat.” Riiiight. The guy Yukiko’s actually lusting after isn’t described in nearly so much loving detail; she just keeps mentioning his “beautiful sea-green eyes.” (On an Asian man. 'Cause clearly, it's Caucasian characteristics that make people beautiful, amirite?)
For that matter, the book seemed to suffer from a lack of attention to detail throughout, from the half-tiger character alternatively displaying the mannerisms of a dog and of a housecat, to characters taking off the goggles they need to protect their eyes from the sun in order to raise their eyebrows at someone (wouldn't this society have developed a way to express skepticism that's less awkward and doesn't expose one to environmental hazards?), to the use of the phrase "one-percenters"--straight from our current political discourse--to describe the elite. All minor in themselves, but these sorts of things kept throwing me out of the story.
Finally, there’s the setting. Kristoff’s lack of effort has been well-documented, as he’s candidly stated in interviews that his “research” was primarily Wikipedia and anime. And it shows, even to someone with little knowledge of Japan, because the details never add up to a strong sense of place, and the misuse of Japanese words is rampant. Even I know that “sama” is a suffix, not the equivalent of “sir.” Since it’s fantasy, Kristoff had the option of inventing his own culture and using made-up words, but instead he chose to market it as “Japanese steampunk,” using Japanese names, clothing, weapons, titles, concepts (samurai, geisha, etc.), even a familiar-looking map. He just didn’t have enough respect for the culture to make sure he got any of it right or made it more than window-dressing. Disappointing. (Others have discussed this in more detail, and are more qualified to do so, so I’ll leave it at that.)
On its own terms, the culture also isn’t that well-developed, although the dystopian elements are decent. For instance, one character states that women are oppressed and can’t even own property, but you’d never know it from the way Yukiko is actually treated throughout the book.
So, in the end I have to say Stormdancer has little to recommend it. And now I hope you will all go read Fudoki, a truly beautiful historical fantasy set in 12th century Japan, and one that deserves all the hype this book is mistakenly getting....more
One of the great things this book has to offer is the experience of slowly discovering what's really going on in the characters' world. Even though thOne of the great things this book has to offer is the experience of slowly discovering what's really going on in the characters' world. Even though there's no big revelation; when the facts come out, you'll realize you knew all along--like the characters, the reader is "told and not told." But the book is near-impossible to review without making explicit those elements that are best discovered while reading it. So, be warned: there be spoilers ahead! (Here and in virtually every other review.)
Most of this book consists of the narrator, Kathy, ruminating on her life. She grew up at Hailsham, an institution similar to a boarding school--except that the children never leave the grounds, never have visitors, and have meaningful connections only with one another. She recounts the details of her life and her relationships with her friends, with the smallest incidents taking on profound significance in her mind. It's both reminiscient of the enormous importance most of us put on relationships with peers as children and teenagers, and rather obsessive, since the students have no one else in their lives. After some thought, though, I think Ishiguro does a fantastic job with this portrayal of childhood: the group's cliques and its mythology and private vocabulary and in-jokes and its intense pressure to conform. But there's also something eerie and unusual about these kids' instinctive self-censorship, which is probably intentional.
At any rate, I found it to be a compelling and disquieting book. The contrast between Kathy's chatty, matter-of-fact narration about the mundane events of her life and the ugly truths in the background drives much of that eerieness. It's a very well-written, believable story that just sucked me in (or should I say, it would not let me go). And it's likely to leave you a bit depressed and thoughtful for awhile afterwards.
I do have some issues with it, though. It's true that every dystopian book is, to some extent, unrealistic and manipulative--that's practically the point--and I do like dystopian fiction. So my biggest problem isn't with the little issues around how the premise is developed, although there are some of those. Like, how does Kathy manage to spend 13 years of her adult life out in the world driving all over and yet fail to learn basic facts that are common knowledge? And there's that frequently asked question, why no one tries to rebel or run away. (I can see both sides of that one. Because most people do submit to authority, tyrannical as it may be--but then, not everyone, and certainly not when there are no control mechanisms in place like the threat of punishment to enforce conformity.)
No, my real issue is with the premise itself: just what is the author trying to say? Because organ transplants have been around for awhile now, without governments running amok and breeding kids just to murder them for their organs. Perhaps it could happen, but on my worry list it's ranked somewhere down there with Canada invading the U.S., a terrorist flying a plane into my house, and the government forcing kids to fight to the death on national TV--which is to say, while theoretically possible, this book isn't playing on what I'd consider credible fears. (Contrast, for instance, Hillary Jordan's When She Woke, a dystopia premised on the religious right wing taking over American politics--something I find both scary and plausible.) Is it meant to be a polemic against stem cell research (which makes sense only if you view human adults as a sensible metaphor for human embryos)? Or perhaps against cloning? But there's no reason people would treat people as less than human because they'd been cloned, any more than you'd treat someone badly because they're an identical twin or because they were conceived through artificial insemination. (Or at least, as that's my view, I just can't get worked up about cloning. Your mileage may vary. It's starting to sound like I may just not be conservative enough to identify with this premise.)
So in the end, the way I understand this book is by viewing the premise more broadly--as a polemic against exploitation of others for our own gain--and there it works well. We as a society don't much care about the lives of third-world workers who produce our cheap stuff, for instance, and we're more than willing to have animals bred to be slaughtered for food and raised in terrible conditions. And the book raises the question of whether our half-measures--trying to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in various ways, without addressing the underlying problems--are meaningful, or just ways of making us feel better about ourselves. So I do think it raises worthwhile and interesting issues--but more so when it's taken as an extended metaphor than when it's taken at its word....more
This book has so many reviews, I didn’t intend to write one. As it is, I’ll skip the plot introduction and setup and go straight to my thoughts.
WithouThis book has so many reviews, I didn’t intend to write one. As it is, I’ll skip the plot introduction and setup and go straight to my thoughts.
Without a doubt, this book is a page-turner. Indeed, the same is true of the whole trilogy; I blew through all three books in a weekend. And it was a great ride. I liked Katniss well enough, and while I was reading I was certainly invested in the tale.
In retrospect, though, this trilogy was compelling to me mostly because it's so fast-paced and action-driven. Not that that's the only thing it has going for it: Collins does a good job of developing the society, there are some intriguing plot elements and I liked the angle the book takes with the romance (in the first book, at least). And I liked that the book doesn't make out-of-place references to our current society or give infodumps on what happened between the modern day and its futuristic setting. But already, looking back on the trilogy I'm underwhelmed. So, a few of the problems:
- The characterization is a bit iffy. I liked Katniss, but she didn’t ever feel like a real teenager (except maybe in the third book). Peeta is sometimes sweet, but way too perfect. Gale seemed interesting, but we never saw much of him. The secondary characters aren’t awful, but there just isn’t much here that’s memorable.
- The premise seems specially created to give the characters serious moral dilemmas. Only, the book neatly avoids those dilemmas. The setup seems to require Katniss to kill basically nice people in order to survive.... the actual plot sidesteps that.
- Speaking of the plot: a bit too gimmicky for my taste. I’d like less reliance on monsters and magical obstacle courses and such, and more conflict arising from the characters themselves. Your mileage may vary. The first book isn’t too bad about this, but there’s more and more of it as the trilogy continues.
- And speaking of the setup. I simply never bought that forcing a couple dozen randomly-selected teenage (and younger) boys and girls to kill each other on national TV would be a good PR move for any government. Especially with all the efforts to humanize them--the pre-Games TV interviews, having viewers witness every moment of their struggles, strength and suffering, interviewing their families and friends, and so on. I bought that the Districts had to accept this because they were oppressed. I didn’t buy the people in the Capitol thinking this was all good fun.
- Finally, I could never figure out why, when there are so few people left in the world, they’d confine themselves to such small areas. District 12 only has 8000 people (the size of a small town) and seems to be the only settlement in all of Appalachia. So, why does everyone live within a fenced-in area as if this was a zombie book? Wild animals (the reason given in the book) didn’t necessitate such a drastic response from either the Native Americans or the original European settlers, so I assumed it was a political ploy to keep the people under control.... but that didn't make a lot of sense either. With such abundant land and natural resources, why would the government want to keep the population small, starving and with little to lose when it could instead take credit for a growing population and improved standards of living as they made use of the surrounding area? And would controlling a wider area really be a problem for a government that already exercises such tight control over such vast distances? Presumably they're already capable of controlling it, or dissenters would just run off into the wilderness and create their own societies? This is simply never addressed.
Anyway, this trilogy is entertaining enough, but if somebody asked me to recommend an exciting series about teenagers fighting a bad government, I’d recommend Marsden’s Tomorrow series before I’d recommend this. It has its flaws too, but the characters at least feel like realistic teenagers, and the author doesn't get overly enamored of the advanced technology he's invented (since he doesn't bother inventing any). I admit, I love speculative fiction but prefer the speculative elements kept to a minimum. But this series is a good example of why I prefer it that way--at times the author's ideas take the spotlight away from the characters, and mindless monsters are rather dull....more
There are very few books that inspire this kind of reaction in me. I wasn’t even intending to read When She Woke, but I picked it up at the bookstoreThere are very few books that inspire this kind of reaction in me. I wasn’t even intending to read When She Woke, but I picked it up at the bookstore and was totally hooked (and disturbed) and I wound up finishing it in one day and did not get to bed until 4 a.m. I felt for the characters, I laughed at the funny bits, I was genuinely worried when things were not looking good. I’ve hardly stopped thinking about it in the days since finishing it. This is exactly how books are supposed to make the reader feel and I so rarely get that these days--the more I read, the more books are.... interesting, enjoyable, but not emotionally involving. And this one worked so perfectly for me in every way that it’s absolutely earned its five stars.
So: to get a bit more specific. The book is set in a near-future America. There’s apparently been a nuclear war with Iran, and an STD epidemic a la The Handmaid’s Tale. But the biggest change is the ascendency of evangelicals to political power--there’s a Minister of Faith, and abortion is criminalized as murder in almost every state. (Yeah, this book is probably going to appeal more to people on the left side of the political spectrum.) It’s still recognizably America though, not one of those dystopias that could as easily be another planet. Anyway, it’s a vision that feels very relevant to our time.
Enter Hannah, who grew up in an evangelical family but has always been a bit dissatisfied and just a little bit rebellious. She has an affair with her megachurch’s famous pastor, has an abortion, and finds herself convicted to 16 years as a “Chrome”--because this society has replaced prisons with dyeing people’s skin colors in accordance with their crimes. (More on that later.) I won’t describe the plot too much, but Hannah soon finds herself in danger and cut off from everyone she knows. It’s a fast-paced book but I hesitate to call it a “thriller”--the word has bad connotations with me; I take it to refer to books with lots of action and poor character development, books that are fun to read but eminently forgettable. This is not a gunfights-and-car-chases kind of book, although it’s often suspenseful. (There is one shootout but, sadly, we miss it.) As much as anything, it’s a book about a woman who’s had a very narrow upbringing, trying to figure out who she really is and what she believes in a world that’s far more complicated than her community is willing to admit.
And Hannah makes a great heroine. She’s human enough to identify with and a believable product of her upbringing, but tough enough to cheer for. She grows and changes, but not so much that you couldn’t see all along that she had that potential. She takes responsibility for herself and refuses to be a victim. When she wins other characters’ respect, their reactions seem genuine, not the author’s contrived way of telling us how we should feel about a character who isn’t all that special (as happens in some books). And she even has pretty good judgment.
And the other characters are also excellent. Hannah’s family members are very well-done, as they’re caught between caring about her and their inability (or unwillingness) to help her out of the circumstances she’s in. Kayla might look at first like she’s going to be the stereotypical black best friend providing comic relief, but is actually much more than that. Simone is pure awesome.
Otherwise, the author does a good job of weaving past events and information about the world into the story, and while not the most literary book I’ve ever read, it is well-written. Jordan does a good job with dialogue--you can tell from their speech patterns, for instance, that Kayla’s African-American and that Simone is a native French-speaker. Oh, and that one scene toward the end that so many people disliked? I thought it was awesome, and adequately foreshadowed. So there. (view spoiler)[There were indications that Hannah was bisexual but refused to admit it to herself--for instance, her immediate reaction to Kayla is "Oh WOW she's gorgeous".... which she then rationalizes to herself by thinking about how she's always appreciated all kinds of beauty. Sounds pretty closeted to me. (hide spoiler)]
Only two things about this book left me a little less than thrilled. One is the way it deals with the idea of “chroming” criminals as punishment. There’s the Scarlet Letter parallel, obviously, but I’m not sure the book quite gives the idea the consideration it’s due--either because the comparisons the book draws between chromes and escaped slaves/African Americans (there are KKK and underground railroad equivalents) don’t allow for much moral ambiguity, or because, as at least one character seems to believe, the government forcibly coloring your skin is an invasion of personal autonomy analogous to the government’s making decisions about whether you can have an abortion, and therefore unacceptable. My problem with all this is that criminal justice is different. First, committing a crime isn’t the same as being a minority. Second, prison, too, means a loss of personal autonomy and dignity, means being subject to violence, means a degree of dehumanization.
To be fair, and contrary to what the bookjacket might lead you to believe, this isn’t a book that romanticizes prison at all, or even necessarily prefers it to chroming. But I wonder why an author would bother to invent such a future form of punishment, only to condemn it and without offering any workable alternatives. When the subject of chroming comes up, the book gets sidetracked with questions like: Do we so selectively condemn and absolve people based on our perceptions of what types of people are important that the criminal justice system is worthless? Do the significant disparities in sentencing based on race and class render the criminal justice system worthless? Do we overpunish, or is the problem that we’re punishing the wrong people? (view spoiler)[Human traffickers are running around with enhanced date rape drugs, but who cares about that when women are out there aborting innocent babies! And if you're occasionally violent toward anti-abortion activists, you're totally a terrorist on the FBI's most wanted list, but if you consistently go around beating up and killing chromes for fun, that's just fine, because who cares about criminals anyway? And so on. (hide spoiler)] Does the use of any dehumanizing type of punishment effectively mean that we’re condemning those individuals as worthless human beings, not just providing consequences for their crimes? These are thought-provoking questions and I think better of the book for raising them--but I also think that by raising them when the acceptability of chroming comes up, the book might give the impression that it’s really dealt with the idea of chroming when it hasn’t. But maybe that’s the point: that there are no easy answers. I'd love to discuss it with anybody else who's trying to figure out just what the book is saying about all this.
The other thing I wasn’t thrilled about was that the book ENDED. Dammit! Books like this don’t generally have sequels, but I for one really want to know what comes next in these characters’ lives.
So, this isn’t a book for everybody. All I can say is that I loved it, and I hope you do too....more
Benighted is a hard book to review: for starters, it's almost impossible to explain without spoilers. It includes lycanthropes (werewolves), but no maBenighted is a hard book to review: for starters, it's almost impossible to explain without spoilers. It includes lycanthropes (werewolves), but no magic and few action scenes, and delves deeper into moral and psychological issues than any urban fantasy I've ever read. It portrays a dystopia of sorts, but the point still seems to be the story, not some political message. There's a murder mystery or two involved, before the plot veers off in a direction you've probably never seen in a simple mystery novel. And then there's a bit of romance and family drama... naturally, they go in unexpected directions too. In short... in the UK, this book is simply classified as "literary," and I can see why.
I found this to be an incredible book, and not at all what I was expecting. Many people dislike the protagonist, so for the record, I really liked her... she struck me as a basically nice person with some issues (PTSD, maybe?), and a more realistic and well-developed character than I'd seen in quite awhile. Other reviewers have called it "dark," and in a way it is, but not in the way you'd expect for a book that includes crime and werewolves. This isn't a book about gruesome murders or intense humans-vs-werewolves fights... it's about people ("werewolf" seems like an inappropriate word to describe most of the lyco characters, and we see very few of them actually in their animal form). How far people will go when given impunity. To what extent a minority group will close ranks when faced with a hostile world--but wait--just how hostile is that world, really? Along with an original writing style, the lingering questions are probably what makes this book so intelligent and so worthwhile. And of course, it's also a good, entertaining story. ...more