**spoiler alert** This book was so well done in many ways, I am, now, not surprised at all the awards it won. Few other books have turned my brain ins**spoiler alert** This book was so well done in many ways, I am, now, not surprised at all the awards it won. Few other books have turned my brain inside out and exposed my assumptions about gender the way this one has. In the story, One Esk/Breq speaks of her difficulty determining gender, since physical characteristics, mannerisms, dress, and behavior can vary widely between planets and cultures. Using the wrong pronoun when speaking to someone of another culture can lead to great insult. The Radchaai, Breq's people (or owners), solve this dilemma by simply assigning one gender for all people. What makes this book interesting is that the chosen gender is "she". I think that, had the gender been "he" or "it", I would have read the story quite differently. Until recently, "he" was considered the proper pronoun to use within the English language when gender was unknown. In fact, I often use "he" to describe animals...or when I'm personifying objects to my kid. I tend to assume a masculine gender for a lot of things, which is something I don't consciously realize - or at least, I didn't until I started reading this book. So - reading a book where everyone is "he" might have been slightly odd at times, but I'm already used to the ideas of a primary "he", a patriarchal society, and a male dominated military (part of the story is told during One Esk/Breq's service within a military command). The pronoun "it", on the other hand, strips something (someone) of sexuality. To me, it denotes a thing or an object, and the people in this book are not androgynous or asexual. It would have been a different story entirely to read about the lives of Its, as though everyone were subhuman or automatons.
Using the pronoun "she" - was brilliant. I found myself constantly reevaluating my thoughts on a character depending on what attributes they displayed. Were they strong, aggressive...laconic? In my head I visualized a male character. Then someone would refer to the character as "she", I'd scramble to re-visualize her, and I'd become aware of the fact that I was making assumptions - and being sexist. This happened again and again. Sometimes, even when I knew a character was male, I'd start visualizing him as a her - in part because this was the way the character was mentioned, but also because he would display passive behavior and...well basically my sexist assumptions again. And then several times I found myself actively looking for clues to try to figure out if someone was male or female. At one point I had to ask myself, "why does it matter to me so much that I know this person's gender?" I felt like I should show some sort of enlightenment by not caring anymore and just reading about the people. But in reality, I never actually stopped trying to figure it out. Gender is really more important to me than I realized. It helps me visualize what they might look look and generalize their behavior and even motives...again, exposing my assumptions on behavior and gender.
And...why not five stars.
While I found the pronoun usage to be a simple yet brilliant way to shine the light on readers' presumptions, I had a few issues with some characters whose existence didn't make a lot of sense to me. I was confused by Seivarden, whose appearance in the story shouldn't have been mere coincidence. One thousand years prior, Seivarden was the captain of the ship Sword of Nathtas. Its destruction was a turning point in Radchaai history, and played a significant role in One Esk/Breq's present-day mission. The fact that Seivarden was discovered alive, one thousand years later, in a suspension pod, would have made him an instant celebrity in our time. A curiosity at the least. Imagine discovering Julius Caesar - or actually anyone from a thousand years ago - trapped in ice and defrosted to a perfect talking state. Even if no one knew the person, there must be some fascination with a link from the past. Certainly there would be a few people trying to use this person to their own ends...for political gain or whatnot. Instead it seems that Seivarden was briefly thrown into the Radchaai system, which promptly ignored him, letting him wander off to do drugs and kill himself for real. This was so mundane to me that I was sure that Seivarden was going to play a more complicated role. I thought he would be revealed to be a pawn...I even thought he might be one of Anaander Miaanai's bodies. Which leads me to my second bit of dissatisfaction: How does everyone recognize Anaander? She is composed of a thousand bodies, with innumerable in reserve should any one fail or die. Yet it seems somehow that the Anaanders are immediately recognized. Once I realized that people recognize Anaander no matter what bodies she's controlling, I let go of the thought that Seivarden might be one. It would have made the plot more complicated to have that twist, but I think it could have been potentially very interesting too. As it was, I appreciated Seivarden's personal growth, but I didn't have any strong feelings over her contribution to the story.
Though to be honest, my issues aren't major ones even for me. Some days I give this book five stars in my head. Other days I think it's solidly four. I guess that's the silliness of me giving anything a rating. ...more
While the first book was a nice enough read, its follow up was much slower to get through and rather unexciting. The writing was mostly fine, but, theWhile the first book was a nice enough read, its follow up was much slower to get through and rather unexciting. The writing was mostly fine, but, there was a lot of plot explanation happening within conversations, which is something I don't personally like. Finally, the story itself contains some very subtle and disturbing social biases that I found very difficult to get past and which perhaps colored my viewed of the rest of the book.
"Here is wisdom, if you will hear it." His hand squeezed hers gently. "The greatest power over a man is his desire to please a particular woman. It is this inherent desire which gives that woman power to make or destroy him"
Lia's world is just one of many that have parallels to our own world. Apparently, her world has no gay people. There's no particular reason why a woman has so much more power over a man than say his preferred father, brother, friend, or male lover. It's unclear whether women can be manipulated in the same way. The quote above is part of a longer passage in which Maderos goes on about how men are made weak because of the power their "particular woman" can wield over them. He further reveals the existence of an evil sect bent on corrupting the natural order of things...composed entirely of women. The author doesn't provide any additional background to explain why this sorority exists, so it creates a real cliche of a villain - fallen, ambitious Eve - hailing from the 18th century. A very uninspiring sequel. ...more
It was a quick, pleasant read. Nothing ground breaking in the world of fantasy, and somewhat predictable being that it follows the familiar orphan fanIt was a quick, pleasant read. Nothing ground breaking in the world of fantasy, and somewhat predictable being that it follows the familiar orphan fantasy trope. Reading the next book....more
I laughed several times while reading this retelling of Cinderella. It stays fairly true to the basic elements of the Grimm story, but given a CindereI laughed several times while reading this retelling of Cinderella. It stays fairly true to the basic elements of the Grimm story, but given a Cinderella who is pragmatic, ruthless, and canny. Also within the story are the 'true' stories of Hansel and Gretel and Sleeping Beauty, both of which pulled a few more snorts out of me during this reading....more
Once I realized, very belatedly, that this was of a retelling of Slavic fairytales, I began to enjoy the story more (reading about priests, saints, anOnce I realized, very belatedly, that this was of a retelling of Slavic fairytales, I began to enjoy the story more (reading about priests, saints, and relics really threw me off for a bit). I thought the best part of this book was the Wood, whose descriptions and influence bordered just this side of horror. The Wood's history and eventual resolution were also well told, I felt. The most inconsequential part of this book was the romantic element, which could have been excised without affecting the story at all. ...more
A very well written, well told story, and I only regret that it's part of a series of books that has yet to be written. The story is something of a juA very well written, well told story, and I only regret that it's part of a series of books that has yet to be written. The story is something of a jumble that may turn some readers off at first. It is non linear, told from three different viewpoints and using all three narrative voices. It takes a little getting used to (particularly the rarely used second person mode). But, the whole is a weaving of rich, vivid storytelling that will draw you in....more
This book juggles many more characters, narrators, and parallel plot lines than the first. I thought each individual's plot line was interesting, butThis book juggles many more characters, narrators, and parallel plot lines than the first. I thought each individual's plot line was interesting, but the chapters seem too short, giving the story frenetic leaps between perspectives. Just as I'd become invested in Raul's story, the chapter would end. The following chapter: Freddy the journalist. Then three pages later: Janet. Two pages after that: the high schoolers. But, even though I put the book down after every few chapters, I kept at it and remained interested in the overall story. I think his characters are interesting (though they do silly out of character things for plot's sake), and he seems good at horror.
Several annoyances (aside from that mentioned above). The book has quite a few overpowered superheroes. Because of this, silly plot devices have to be manufactured to create tension and conflict.
Jennifer: Perhaps her unhinted-at insecurities lead her to use her new powers in selfish ways (like Mark) - but, a Las Vegas trip really seems a stretch. At least, it is for the logical, caring person she's generally been portrayed to be up until this point. Also, taking two headbands instead of just her one? Doesn't make any sense at all for her character. She couldn't use it so what was she going to do with it? I think we're supposed to believe it's a spontaneous decision motivated in part by selfishness. But really you know it's only there as a convenient setup for future events.
Las Vegas security: I believe super powered characters like Jennifer/Heather/Mark could identify Jennifer's tampering of video feeds. Their abilities to analyze and process information is off the charts. However I don't believe your run-of-the-mill programmer, smart as he is, could do so without specifically being told to look for it. But let's just say it's luck and coincidence that security is on to Jennifer's hacking. What was the point of this part of the story line? Was security somehow involved with Don Espenoza's capture of her? Their cameo in the story really wasn't clear to me, and they're never referenced again after Jennifer leaves Vegas. Again, just seems thrown in to provide some tension.
Don Espenoza: I don't understand how he and his henchmen caught onto Jennifer's money laundering so quickly. I also don't quite get how they discovered that she was behind it and where she was working from. She's supposed to be a savant at hacking and covering her trail. The Don Espenoza kidnapping seems too manufactured.
Heather's psychiatrist: I don't understand why the high schoolers (including Heather herself) weren't more concerned that she's seeing a psychiatrist. All three seem to understand that her visions are a product of the 2nd ship and not schizophrenia. Yet, instead of putting their combined efforts into finding a way to control or resolve the visions, they let her take meds. And, they're also risking exposure to a third party by letting her uncontrolled visions take over during a therapy session. To me, it really didn't make sense that they ignored Heather's visions, psych sessions, and med side effects until very late in the story.
Also, the passing of time - I was never really clear on how much time was passing from chapter to chapter. (view spoiler)[ In one chapter, Janet is newly pregnant, but in another she must be at least four-six months along to be showing. (hide spoiler)] Mainly, I guess/infer the passage of time from events that seem to not make sense without it...but otherwise, it's hard to tell whether a day/week/month has passed from chapter to chapter, or if events are unfolding simultaneously.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The premise behind this book really sparked my curiosity so I picked it up. I was afraid that I would be less than wow'ed by what the author would comThe premise behind this book really sparked my curiosity so I picked it up. I was afraid that I would be less than wow'ed by what the author would come up with, as far as how split second time travel could be used. I was guessing that some major hand waving would happen, which would turn something potentially interesting into just another old time travel novel. But as it turned out, for me, the use for time travel was unexpected, and I found the neatness with which the universe resolved paradox to be very appealing and new to me.
Ideas-wise, I thought this book really shined. As an overall story, I think it suffered a lack of well rounded characters and believable dialog. Conversations tended to be turn based, for current lack of a better description, along the lines of a class Q&A session (yet with less liveliness). The dialog really just served to explain the plot, or, in many cases, to explain some theory to the reader. The main characters themselves were cardboard cutouts of people, despite some application of background info.
However, the plot was interesting and fast paced enough to keep me reading. I initially thought it was going to be one of those books where the heroes always stayed a step ahead of everyone, but thankfully the author didn't baby his characters and threw enough wrenches in their way to keep the interest going. My only complaint about the plot is that I think the author introduced a little to much complexity, which led to a little bit of discrepancy:
They go hog wild with the idea of duplication in this book (can't really blame them - what if you could duplicate anything/anyone you want without oversight?), but then it's revealed the evil agency actually had a bunch of Nathans and Jennas hanging around all these months. I find it hard to believe that in all this time they didn't know that the Nathans liked backing up their work and discoveries. Even if the agency didn't monitor their scientists, even if the Nathans broke from habit and didn't back up their work at the Las Vegas facility because it was useless or whatever, it seems that during one of the eight torture-to-death sessions, one of the Nathans (or one of the Jennas) would have let slip that they always backed up their work to a flash drive.
I mean, even if you think up reasons why no one knows a flash drive exists until Original Jenna goes for it, just the idea of already having multiple Nathans working for the evil agency kind of muddies up the plot for me. It does wrap things up in a tidy happy way, though.
I liked it. Very entertaining, though still a lot of situations (the ending in particular) glossed over or left open ended. I believe this third bookI liked it. Very entertaining, though still a lot of situations (the ending in particular) glossed over or left open ended. I believe this third book is Belial's story....more
Someone else described it better than I could: There's a lot of exposition masquerading as dialog here. It was like reading a documentary or lecture aSomeone else described it better than I could: There's a lot of exposition masquerading as dialog here. It was like reading a documentary or lecture about an alien ship, six astronauts, and the improbable, unprofessional way in which they approach the events that arise onboard.
There was some attempt to give heroine Jane Holloway a backstory, but it was sparse and somewhat colorless...just as she and the rest of the crew are. Reading this novel wasn't exactly a chore, but it certainly came close. ...more
The main character is a fairly like able character - tough, honest with herself, and amusing. Although the wittiness seems forced at times. You can seThe main character is a fairly like able character - tough, honest with herself, and amusing. Although the wittiness seems forced at times. You can see the setup and punchline a mile away in some scenes.
There are some surprisingly poignant moments. This is an easy, entertaining read. I liked this book better than several of my 3's, though not a much as my 4's. What can I say...read if you're looking for something light and fun....more
I was told this would be great on a galactic level. By friends, amazon, and goodreads all. By the time I reached the end and closed the book, I felt bI was told this would be great on a galactic level. By friends, amazon, and goodreads all. By the time I reached the end and closed the book, I felt betrayed. The story was just okay.
It begins in present day with a world weary Kvothe who, I suppose, has the "cut flower sound of a man waiting to die" air about him. Something along those lines. Then the story goes back in time to tell the tale of his youth, with the specter of a huge tragedy-to-come looming over everything. It was actually very entertaining to read until I reached the love interest portion, and then it all went south from there. Something that started dark and potentially lyrical took on a strange teeny bopper tone. It was so weird, I don't know what happened. Anyway, it threw me out of the story, and after that I could help but finish the rest of the book with an eyeroll.
Plot wise, some things happen off screen with the main character even though we're supposedly following him throughout the story. For example, I'm not sure where the sewer girl at the college popped out from, but I'm pretty sure she could have been edited out. Whatever....more
It's difficult for me to give a proper review for this story. I had to attempt one (and also update my rating), because I realized that it has many goIt's difficult for me to give a proper review for this story. I had to attempt one (and also update my rating), because I realized that it has many good things going for it, and the things that really, really bothered me about it at the time still would not keep me from recommending to others.
It was published on the internet as a weekly web serial that went on for a little over two years...the author says that the total output of his work in that time could be bound into 20 books, more or less. Twenty books in two, almost three, years is nothing short of amazing. Not only is the author a prolific writer, but his storytelling is quite good. I couldn't tear myself away from the story and would often read well into the night when I was able. I read this incredible, sprawlingly long tale "cover to cover"...not in one sitting, as that would have been impossible, but maybe within the span of one or two weeks. By the end, I could say that it was definitely a thrilling ride, but I also strongly felt that it needed a lot (a LOT) of editing before it could be turned into actual books. What I say is nothing new - it's the author's own admission - and is probably obvious if you consider that 20+ books in only two or three years is going to need a quite a bit of quality control to pare it down to the really good bits. So, as a weekly (or twice weekly) serial, it's an amazing set of stories with many good ideas within. As a book, there are issues with consistent flow of storytelling as well as with characterization that a good editor (or, team of editors) could work out.
Ticking off my pros: 1. Genre: Urban sci-fi horror? Horror sci-fi? I have a hard time pinpointing genres, but Worm definitely cants more toward horror than straight sci fi, and I like it. One thing the author does very well is to create monsters that make you uneasy, fearful, and well, grossed out. With his army of Ted Bundys and Frankensteins in hand, Wildbow builds up a feeling of tension and dread in his story that is quite gripping, which is just a credit to his storytelling abilities.
2. Very interesting superpowers and very creative uses of them - to me, anyway. I'm quite limited in my knowledge of superpowers beyond Superfriends and the animated X-Men of the 90's. I attempted to explain some of the powers to a friend who is more familiar with the world of superheroes than I am, and he kept saying, "That's been done." So maybe if you're in the know, you'll see parallels to what's already out there. Even so, I think the way people (Taylor, specifically) use their superpowers is inventive and shows that, in the hands of a smart person, a mediocre-seeming ability can be quite effective. The ability to control insects seems more suited to creeping people and seems limited in offensive scope (because I imagine killing with a swarm of even poisonous insects still takes time...compared to squishing enemies with your mind or your eye lasers). With some imagination, though, main character Taylor is able to stretch her powers to give herself a measure of telekinesis, clairvoyance, and illusion, all of which she uses to great effect in reconnaisance and in fights.
3. Origin story - where the powers come from and why certain folks have them. This was a side-mystery throughout the story, and I thought it was fairly original and interesting, though to explain more would probably go into spoilers.
My cons: 1. Started reading like an rpg - this could be a plus to those who enjoy rpgs, particularly mmorpgs like World of Warcraft where you assemble a group to go wail on a boss. In Worm each story arc builds up to an inevitable confrontation with some opponent whose abilities are off the charts. Inevitably, the Undersiders (anti-heroes and story's MCs) have to group up with others to fight the newest threat. Each endgame opponent has a set of abilities that express themselves at various stages in the fight depending on how low their, ah, life bar is...it's not to say that the encounters were boring to read, but, they did follow a of pattern. I'll bet it wouldn't be hard to create a Worm the Boardgame out of this as the author has really thought through the mechanics of class and powers.
2. Overpowered heroes/villains. I think this is a common problem with superpowers, actually. I'm not really sure how you can really beat someone like Superman except perhaps by trickery, luck, a lot of kryptonite, and luck...but then, isn't that almost deus ex machina? In Worm, heroes and villains are given powers that make them virtually indestructible. They include regeneration or immunity that increases over time with the more damage that is sustained. Or, they have predictive capabilities, like the ability to see outcomes as probabilities...and at least one person can flat out see the path to victory every time. How is it possible to win over that sort of power? By luck, smarts, and deus ex machina.
3. One dimensional white hats. The Brockton Bay heroes are self righteous do-gooders for whom there is only black and white, yet they often accomplish very little toward helping their own community. The real work is done by the Undersiders who are the Robin Hoods of their city (and the main characters of the story). No matter the good they accomplish or how instrumental they are in saving the day, the heroes continue to view the Undersiders and all villains with the same suspicion and disdain. Even after the two sides are allied together against a common threat to the city, the heroes revert back to their old world views. It's hard to imagine that two people can interact with each other for a length of time without changing each other in some way, particularly if that interaction involves depending on each other for survival. In this sense it makes the heroes seem unrealistic and one dimensional.
4. Devoting chapters to developing side characters, and then killing them off several chapters later off screen. I don't mind that major characters die. I mind that their death is mentioned as a side note. The author would devote several chapters to telling a side character's story, and then, a few arcs later, they'd only get one last mention in a Hunger Games-like announcement of who had died in the latest fight. I think it was more related to the author churning out huge chapters on his off time rather than being indifferent to them. You could see him doing a lot of experimenting and trying out various types of story lines and characters, even trying out writing techniques. So again, as a web serial it might not have been so noticeable or such a big deal. As a book, things like this stand out.
I like it though, aside from all the editing/chopping it could use. There are a lot of interesting characters and superpowers in here, and (when it's not reading like an rpg fight) it's a fast paced and intense read....more