It's hard not to fall in love with any book that begins with the heroine expressing some disappointment that her opening fight with a vampire has dest...moreIt's hard not to fall in love with any book that begins with the heroine expressing some disappointment that her opening fight with a vampire has destroyed the treacle tart that she'd had her eye on. Our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, is a spinster (at the ripe old age of 26) of mixed parentage – her father was Italian. Her parentage is repeatedly referred to as an embarrassing negative (being half-Italian is just so uncouth, the fact that he's dead just makes it worse), as is her slightly larger than ideal nose and her slightly less than alabaster skin. At times this joke lives up to it's expectation of humour, but sadly not always. As if Alexia didn't have enough to put up with, she's also a preternatural – she has no soul and this somehow cancels out the supernatural abilities of any vampires or werewolves that she comes into contact with (which seems to come in handy during the opening fight scene).
Vampires, werewolves, preternaturals, presumably ghosts and possibly other supernatural forms, all living in a Victorian London. It's a steampunk, paranormal, romance, comedy-of-manners, mystery story. That's a lot of genre (a number of which I'm generally not that fussed about, or would even actively avoid) to fit into a single novel and it could have so easily been a twee YA mess, but Carriger manages to steer her course, mostly safely, along the path of witty tongue-in-cheek. Yes, some of the prose gets a little clumsy and repetitive in places; yes, the weird style of changing the way characters are referenced from first name to surname and back again is off-putting (even annoying); yes, the blossoming romance between our heroine and Lord Maccon, the head of the supernatural special branch, was so obviously foreshadowed it should have been on the cover; yes, some of the 'hot' scenes were so awkwardly written that I doubted that Carriger had any real idea what it would be like to make out with a werewolf. But, for all of its faults, some of my awkwardness and annoyance aside, at no point did I ever consider putting the book down. It wormed its way into my affections as the witty prose and the interesting ideas won me over almost immediately. Also, treacle tart!(less)
I nearly didn't read this book. The sample failed to interest me. In fact it seemed so over-written and dense that I wasn't sure what the book was abo...moreI nearly didn't read this book. The sample failed to interest me. In fact it seemed so over-written and dense that I wasn't sure what the book was about after the better part of the first chapter. However, in-part because the book was Hugo nominated and in-part because it was the io9.com book club read for the month I persevered and bought the book.
Rereading the first chapter made a lot more sense the second time around, and almost the very next page after the sample had ended the book came alive. Suddenly it isn't some weird prose about a stork it's a tense week in the lives of a number of characters who all live or work in one small square in Istanbul. Their lives are all changed suddenly when a suicide bomber kills themselves at the end of their street. The book is divided into five days - Monday to Friday - with two chapters for each. However, the story itself jumps between characters with almost total abandon (and certainly no warning) and the characters themselves frequently jump (also without warning) between present day and flash-backs. Basically, you have to pay attention. It's not for reading when you're tired.
Having almost given up on it in the first chapter (it's a little over-written in the final few pages as well I thought), I'm glad I persevered as the book was an excellent read for the other 99%. Maybe Ian McDonald just isn't good at beginnings and endings.(less)
I didn't think I was a fan of zombie fiction, however this one seems a little different. Set forty years after the zombie outbreak (a viral accident w...moreI didn't think I was a fan of zombie fiction, however this one seems a little different. Set forty years after the zombie outbreak (a viral accident when a cold cure and a cancer cure merge) it follows the news team led by orphaned brother and sister - him an adrenalin seeking 'Irwin' (after Steve Irwin) and her a more sedate factual reporter - as they report on zombie activity. Having grown up post zombie apocalypse they've never known anything else which avoids the usual cliches of shock and fear. Suddenly their lives change for the complicated when they win the opportunity to report on the presidential campaign of the probable next president of the USA.(less)