When I was researching this book, I found some professional reviewers complaining about the heavy political content. I kept this in mind as I read won...moreWhen I was researching this book, I found some professional reviewers complaining about the heavy political content. I kept this in mind as I read wondering why "political content" or themes would be a bad thing for a novel. Recently, I watched a video of Neal Stephenson (http://bit.ly/tzoh8L) in which he noted that art ceased to be so when it became political. Whether or not this is true, Doctorow does a fantastic job in Little Brother telling a real story in a heavily politicized environment. Stories do not cease to be stories once they enter the political (is anything ever not political?), and Doctorow shows the complexities of the world very well.
The technological discussions were by far the novel's greatest strength. Sometimes, especially in the first section of the book, Doctorow explained different technological issues at the cost of the plot, but I suppose this was necessary to educate some readers. The Xnet was brilliant, as was his look at school surveillance trends. Nothing in Little Brother was too far off from reality and those things that are already in existence, he incorporated believably and interestingly into his narrative.
Doctorow's social analysis was incredibly interesting. I was engaged and convinced by his portrayals of youth, of homelessness, and of school dynamics. All of my favorite parts of the book--with the exception of the vampmob--came at the complex intersections of different types of people. The character development was mostly excellent, but an editing slip up when Ange was referred to as Van was, I believe, telling. I did find myself wanting more emotion from Marcus regarding the apparent death of his best friend, but most of the time emotions and dialogue balanced with action to keep the story's themes interesting and engaging. I think the best character was the city of San Francisco. Doctorow's SF is alive and dynamic and I felt as though he took me there.
At the end of the book, after the story has concluded, we are treated to two afterwords and a bibliographic essay, all of which are fascinating, well written, and very applicable. I very much like the idea of containing a bibliographic essay in a work of fiction since, as anyone who has attempted creative writing knows intimately, fiction requires as much research as many nonfiction projects.
Overall, it was an enjoyable, profound read, and I look forward to reading more from Cory Doctorow.(less)
**spoiler alert** Are we inherently violent? What is the relationship between the Other and the Self, particularly when the Other is radically other?...more**spoiler alert** Are we inherently violent? What is the relationship between the Other and the Self, particularly when the Other is radically other? In what ways are men different from women or, put another way, are masculine cultures different from feminine cultures? What meanings do children have for individuals and communities? In Lilith's Brood, Butler tells us stories that force us to reflect deeply on all of these questions. The best kind of speculative fiction, in my opinion, is the kind that forces us to think. Lilith's Brood definitely does that.
Lilith is my favorite part of Dawn. She is logical, stubborn, and strong. Her life is depressing and not rewarding. I find myself continually hoping that history will be kind to Lilith and recognize her as the salvation of humanity that she was. At least she gets good mind sex. The other characters, particularly in Dawn, are well developed and intriguing. I didn't like who I was intended to not like and I cozied up to characters such as Joseph and Tate and young Nikanj.
The story in Dawn continually kept my attention, the environments were dynamic, and each section had a nice hanging conclusion. The opening was one of the most intense I have read. I actually cracked open the book in bed, but I forced myself to put it down because I knew it was the kind of book that would get me super excited rather than sleepy. Anything but sleepy did it make me. And it wasn't just the action. So many of her descriptions were tantalizingly accurate that I couldn't help but reread and imagine. For example, "That sounded like a horrible existence--not to be able to close one's eyes, sink into the private darkness behind one's own eyelids." Throughout the story, I found the characters dynamic, the environment surprising, and the plot enticing. I absolutely loved that it wasn't until the end of Dawn, the very last sentence even, that we were certain it actually was a training facility and not Earth.
Adulthood Rites was super intense, but I found it had pacing problems the first book didn't have. I still thoroughly enjoyed the plot however. Seeing the Resister villages from the inside was enlightening and sad. Very sad. I wouldn't go so far as to call Butler misanthropic, but her picture of the potential of humanity is quite dull. But negative doesn't equal bad. Her stories seem so internally logical; I hate that I cannot argue with her. When the Resisters fashioned guns, I wanted to believe it wasn't inevitable. When Akin was cruelly kidnapped or when women were seen as good only for rape, I wanted to think we had inevitably progressed beyond such barbarity. Have we? Are the stories of Adulthood Rites a picture of what we are, of what we would become under such circumstances?
These questions are why I so urgently wanted to follow the Mars colony in the third book. Desperately, I needed to know if there was hope for a different story for humanity. Butler, nevertheless, kept us on Earth and told us a story we didn't so urgently desire and which didn't solve any questions we had before beginning Imago. Sure, Imago ends up being a tale of humans and in a way completing the story by showing the last or strongest bastion of humans giving in to the Oankali. But that's what I feel it was--giving in and not accomplishing or fighting or doing anything that required much agency. The humans, particularly the men, finally gave in to the Oankali because of their need for them, because they realized they weren't really all that bad and why not go with them. Humanity finally came to peace with the Other. Yet because it was a peace not freely chosen, it is ultimately unsatisfying and disappointing.
The other, not nearly as important, contention I have with the final book is that Jodahs is too similar, in my opinion, to Akin. They both were great new threats to Lo, they both constantly desired to heal and to fuck, they both were children of Lilith and, other than Jodahs' bland relationship with Nikanj, they didn't really have any interesting tensions within the Lo community. Further, I assumed that we would get an update, any little tidbit of info, regarding Akin, yet we did not.
The series was amazing. I wish the final book was different than I had hoped, but it was still enjoyable. I would recommend this series to anyone with an interest in thinking critically about the state and potential of humanity. 4 out of 5 stars from me.(less)
I'd like to think there are more problems in the world than the disparity caused by appearance. That said, I know that as a teen or tween this story w...moreI'd like to think there are more problems in the world than the disparity caused by appearance. That said, I know that as a teen or tween this story would have rang all too true to me. And it certainly is true that we base many of our actions on the appearance of others. As adults, it can be confidently said for the majority of the population that we give space to those who look homeless, we are more likely to help someone who is beautiful, we are most likely to marry someone from a similar ethic background to ourselves. In general, we stick to those from similar socioeconomic backgrounds--often those who look similar to us. Can it be at all confidently stated that appearance judgment dominates adulthood just as much as childhood, yet adults are more afraid to admit it or genuinely believe they have grown out of it? I really don't know. But still, is it dominant enough for the world system to collude towards a unified populace? I don't think so. Hence why this story remans a solid YA book and not one of those epic stories impacting children and adults alike.
I guess one way Westerfeld could have answered my concern about the prevalence or impact of appearance-based discrimination would be to analyze adult cultures a little more. Perhaps he does in the rest of the series, but I wouldn't know. I feel very strongly that a book should contain itself; even a series book should have a beginning, middle, and end. Uglies has no end. Nothing is resolved in the conclusion. To me, that feels cheap and revealing of a lack of talent. It is very difficult to end a book and authors (or publishers) who refuse to conclude in order to hook you in for the next book, just feel lazy and inept to me. I did enjoy the book and perhaps I will continue the series, but only if someone lends me the next book.(less)
While I enjoyed Graceling and thought the world was very interesting, I found myself constantly caught up by little things that taken alone would be n...moreWhile I enjoyed Graceling and thought the world was very interesting, I found myself constantly caught up by little things that taken alone would be no big deal, but taken as a whole significantly diminished my enjoyment of the book.
The first is grammatical. Incomplete sentences dominated the structure of the book, giving the story an unfinished feel. I constantly had to reread sentences because the point was not contained in that particular sentence, but in the larger paragraph or in the previous sentence added to the sentence at hand. Just because it is YA doesn't mean the writing/editing should be simplistic.
The second issue for me was that I felt like there were often moments where I wanted Cashore to say more, to go further, to expound, to enjoy her world and her characters. Instead the book often felt rushed to me.
My third disappointment was with the finale. I was very engaged with the world and the characters were believable and dynamic, but the end was unsatisfying and it felt a little contrived. I realize that sometimes the best books finish all too quickly not because of poor writing or story construction, but because the read has been so enjoyable. I would not attribute that here.
All of that said, I felt like the story and the writing had incredible potential. While it is unlikely I will pick up another of her books any time soon, I do think she will eventually write excellent stories.(less)