In the end, it wasn't as bad as I thought in the beginning. Hearne obviously did his research, not only into Irish mythology, but also into other, mor...moreIn the end, it wasn't as bad as I thought in the beginning. Hearne obviously did his research, not only into Irish mythology, but also into other, more esoteric, religions/myths. So for that, I give the guy some kudos.
But man, was it corny. Corny, hackneyed, sometimes annoying, and in the end, after all that build-up to a huge battle, epically disappointing. The ending I could shrug off. The rest of the stuff? It just kept getting in the way of me enjoying what I was reading.
I'm partially curious to see what else he comes up with in the other books of the series, but the question is, how curious? Will it be worth it? Ask me the next time the moon is full.(less)
I probably shouldn't start a letter to you with such a strong statement (or sentiment), but I just couldn't help it.
I do; I just do. Not just because of your outwardly cool, debonair demeanor when you're in full-on Confidence Man mode. Not because of your jaw-dropping irreverence or your sharply honed wit or your striking intelligence (you take "thinking outside the box" one step further...maybe thinking outside the box and tossing whatever's inside or outside over a cliff, perhaps?). Not because you've proven that you don't have to be a man's man, all grrr-argh-foooood!-wooomaaaaan!-football-chug-a-lug-a-lug!-urgh-agh and whatnot, to prove that you are all man.
No, I love you because of how much you love others: blindly and loyally and foolishly and completely and utterly and stupidly and...and...and darn it, I've run out of appropriate adjectives, good and bad.
Your relationship with Jean has always been the truest, the deepest, eclipsing any of your other relationships. How I wish I had what you two have. I don't even feel that way towards my BFF, much as I love her, and she's been my BFF for a quarter of a century. I'm glad you have Jean and he has you. You're the yin to his yang, or vice versa, depending on the day. You complete each other.
Your devotion to and respect for long-gone friends---Calo and Galdo and Chains and even Bug---is something one only hopes for, because in the end, most of us only wish to be remembered, and you do that splendidly. (I do miss the twins horribly!)
And Sabetha. I don't even know where to start with your utter devotion and constancy toward Sabetha. I wanted to wring her neck, the way how she treated you. How she keeps treating you. And despite all that...despite all that she's done and continues to do, you not only hold her in the highest esteem, but you listen to her and you know her, you know her heart and her needs and you give her space. You give her a reason to come back. Not many men are worth that.
Oh, Locke Lamora, if only you were real...
Dear Jean Tannen,
I love you.
Now, don't think me inconstant to Locke, because it's not like that. Not at all. I love you for all different reasons. Well...okay, maybe one reason is the same: Locke will always be your true north, your one and only, your soulmate, the lid to your pot, all this, in spite of how many other women come into your lives (or Sabetha, for him).
It's a friendship, just about as solid and real as it can get: rocky, loyal, tempestuous, faithful, cutting, caring. I don't know how many times you've suffered at Locke's hands, how many times you've nursed him back to health when he's given up time and again, how many times you've saved his life, both physically and emotionally (only someone who cares so much would try to knock that much sense back into someone as stubborn as him). I think if one of you dies, the other would be beyond bereft and would have no reason to go on. You'd be like an amputee, feeling ghost pains, hearing ghost voices. It's so sad. And I'm jealous.
But I love you for other reasons, too. For one thing, you are a study in opposites. You're a well-read, highly educated intelligent bruiser. Your brain is as sharp as your axes, and you're as likely to pulverize someone with your brains and your brawn. You are a gentle giant, built like a boulder but all soft and warm and fuzzy on the inside. I like to think of you as a buckyball with a warm custard center that oozes out every so often. Yummy!
Oh, Jean Tannen, if only you were real...
Dear Scott Lynch,
I love you. You are officially one of my favorite authors now. You've created a set of characters so richly drawn, so infinitely layered that with each book, it's like peeling away at an onion: we learn more about each of these people you've created, and sometimes it hurts and it stings, but sometimes it's pleasant and sweet, and always, always surprising.
And your writing. I have nothing to complain about. You were blessed by all thirteen gods, and if I were a betting person, I'd say you'd be an Eldren yourself. Who has that much talent? Why aren't you better known? You need a better publicist.
Now here's the thing. How you ended this book? Killer.
It got me right here (jabbing at my heart) and left me with palpitations, a few tears, and definitely, definitely, some sweaty palms and a feeling of abject dread.
I was not a happy camper. Oh, believe me, I loved the book. Loved it. Loved the play within the story (quite Shakespearean of you), loved the Carl Sandberg snippets, loved the back and forth in time. I have nothing to complain about, as far as all that goes.
But that ending? My God. That ending. Now, all I can think of is that you are going to kill off Locke and Jean in the most miserable, most despicable, most horrific way possible. And I can't wait until the fourth book comes out. (Word to the wise: do not leave us hanging for as long as you did with Republic of Thieves! That was brutal!) I want it to come out and I don't. I'm very torn. But I want it to come out more...because you made me need to know what's going to happen to Locke and Jean.
And your little prophecy? Aaaggghhh...why, Scott Lynch, why? You didn't have to be such a cruel man. Actually, you don't. You can still turn it around.
Now, I'm not saying you can't kill Locke or Jean or give either of them a worthy death (cf. -Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns: fantastic ending to the series, my only other 5-star book this year), if you are so inclined to kill him or Jean off. I get it; some characters need to die and die in such a glorious, jaw-dropping way (Good old Ned Stark comes to mind) to send a message. I was heartbroken when Jorg died because...well, because the lout grew on me. Couldn't stand the kid in the first half of Prince of Thorns but as the story progressed, I got to know him better and I understood why he was the way he was. And I respected the fact that he was so unapologetic about how and why he did things. (view spoiler)[And Mark Lawrence was unapologetic about killing Jorg too, but he did it for the right reasons. It made sense, it saved the world. (hide spoiler)]
If you decide to off with Jean's or Locke's head(s), I will understand. I just ask that you make it worthy. That you don't cheapen it and kill either (or both) off just for the heck of it (take that, Veronica Roth, for your silly ending to Allegiant). That if they have to suffer, let them suffer but also offer them succor, offer them something worthy and worthwhile (I know, I know, you can't bring Ezri back for Jean...but how about a Sabetha and Locke reunion...a bittersweet reunion?) so that the rest of us can breathe easier, maybe feel a bit better about the inevitable.
And please, can you pull back a bit on your crazed and maimed fiend? Man, I have never met such an antagonist that gave me the willies as much as this monstrosity you've created. I re-read your Epilogue thrice, not for pleasure certainly, but to convince myself that you've created a thoroughly bone-chillingly Evil, with a capital 'e'. Consider me convinced. And scared.
I so fear for Locke and Jean's future, and for that, I hate you Scott Lynch. Just a smidgeon. An infinitesimal smidgeon. You can barely even feel it, really, but I just wanted to let you know.
Okay, so towards the end of Insurgent, I sat there for a few moments and thought, "Gee...more
What. In. The. World. Was That?!?!
What just happened?
Okay, so towards the end of Insurgent, I sat there for a few moments and thought, "Gee, did Veronica Roth just write herself into a corner? That was probably one of the craziest endings, and not in a good way. Now how is she going to write herself out of it?"
Did she write her way out of her conundrum? Did she come up with a creative solution to the ending of Insurgent? Did she turn the tables on us? Make us sit up? Stand up? Raise our fists? Cheer?
Ummm, I'm pretty sure I didn't do any of the above. There were inklings, sure, scattered here and there. But did any of it truly get me excited, as excited as I was after Divergent? No, not really, which left me sad. Annoyed. And frustrated.
I had looked forward to this book, darn it! I looked forward to seeing what Four and Tris would do, where the story took them. What creative way Roth would come up with during this third act.
In reality, there were so many plot holes and head-scratching moments during Allegiant that I had to put it down multiple times and walk away. Sure, I liked parts of it: getting Tobias' POV, how Tris and Four finally understood what being in a relationship meant, Tris and Caleb playing Candor, the expansion of Cara's, Christina's and Uriah's characters, the transformation of O'Hare into a bureaucratic facility. There were some things that were worthwhile and made me want to continue reading.
But the parts that left me going "Huh?!?" were more numerous: - The GD vs. GP war (really, we're going to go there?) - How gullible everyone was, buying into genetic purity (made me think of Khan and his eugenics war) - How self-righteous and smug Tris could be - How Tobias could end up so wrong, so unsure of himself, so unlike the Four from the previous books - How one-dimensional Tobias' parents were - How stupid Tris' plan was...and how crazy it was that everyone went along with her - How biological warfare has been in existence for so long, especially in our time, that it boggles the mind that this novel, set centuries in the future, still hasn't gotten it right
I'm also not convinced that Tris' fate was really all that necessary. (view spoiler)[I've read two books this year where the main character sacrificed his or her life to save their loved ones/humanity: Mark Lawrence's uber-fantastic-still-gives-me-chills-and-brings-a-tear-to-my-eye-each-time-I-think-about-it Emperor of Thorns and this one. Jorg's death left me crying out "Nooooo!" It left me dumbfounded and for a long while, I sat there, stunned, knowing there was no other possible way he could have ended it. And that made it worthwhile.
I didn't feel that at all. If anything, I saw it a mile away, and it left me with some pretty tired eyes from all the eye rolling.
I felt that Tris' death was another way to get an extra fifty pages out of the novel. It was a way to extend a story that had gone on too long. And worse, it was a way to add drama where it wasn't needed. There was already so much going on, that when it came, it seemed so pointless. I'm not sure that her death actually pushed the story forward. Roth could have accomplished the same ending without killing Tris off. (hide spoiler)]
I thought what Roth did was self-indulgent. Could she have accomplished a similar ending without making Tris go through all that? Yes, absolutely, especially since Tobias still had to maneuver around what was happening in Chicago.
Was Roth trying to make a point about Tris' intrinsic selflessness, her comprehension of what it meant to be Abnegation? To be the person she felt her parents would approve of? Sure.
Was Roth trying to show how people's spirits hurt, grieve, move on, heal over time? That each person you love becomes a part of you, and can never be torn from you (except if you take memory serum)? Yes. The characters mirrored Chicago: broken, hurting, on their last legs. But is rebirth possible? Yes, to a degree.
I get all that.
But again, what she did didn't leave this reader convinced that what happened to Tris was the only rational way to end the story. That it was the only true course left to her, that there was no other possible way around it. And because I wasn't convinced of these things, I felt that it was a cheap ending.
A cheap ending that went on too long.
It wasn't a bad book, but it certainly wasn't what I was hoping it would be. Nevertheless, I don't regret reading it. I enjoyed the first two, and while this one left me wanting, maybe that's okay. Maybe it's enough. ["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A few things you need to know before reading Divergent:
1. While comparisons have been made between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy,...moreA few things you need to know before reading Divergent:
1. While comparisons have been made between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy, the only things they have common are that they take place in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic America (in this case, Chicago) and that the heroine is a similarly aged teenage girl. Beyond that, they really don’t have much in common.
2. Like other YA dystopian novels out there, you need to be aware of the following things:
a. Whatever disaster occurred to make this world the place that it is will not be addressed, only alluded to. Roth drops hints here and there (i.e., Lake Michigan and the Chicago River are marshes; only the south side of Chicago is inhabited; technology exists, but is used sparingly and is controlled by one faction). She does not provide explanations for why this is the case. Don’t hold your breath. You won’t get any.
b. This happens in the near future, but how far in the future is unclear. It can’t be too far off, as many things that are common to us are familiar to the characters in the novel. For example, people still wear jeans and t-shirts. They know what banjos and paintball are. Cars and computers are still used, though sparingly. Public transportation exists.
c. This society is a fairly restricted one, meant to be completely self-sustaining. And like in Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy, there is the suggestion that other people live outside of the gates of this society, but as of this book, no mention is made whether any other states or countries exist.
d. And if you do wonder if other societies exist (because you just can’t let it go…like me), and wonder if they follow the same structure of having five different factions, you will be sorely disappointed as this is not touched upon at all.
Having done with the warnings and disclaimers, I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. More than I wanted to. Certainly, more than I expected to. When I was about halfway through, I couldn’t believe I was actually leaning towards giving it a solid four stars. I do that sparingly. That this book made me feel that way that early on was a testament to how compelling the narrative was (for me), and how much I was drawn into Tris’ story. I had started off, ready to get my full-on cynical “Oh, this is another one of those books” snappishness in place, but…I was pleasantly surprised. That doesn’t happen often.
First thing I liked: right off the bat, this novel has introduced our young adult readers to at least six, count ’em six SAT words: abnegation, erudite, amity, candor, dauntless and divergent. And in a thoroughly creative way, too, so that the meanings of the words are retained long after the average teen has put down this book and forgotten where they placed it. (Sigh…I was hoping my cynicism wouldn’t pop up in this review…blame it on my now-current aversion to the word “glowering” and all its forms, because of Stephenie Meyer’s conspicuously high usage of the word in the Twilight series. Seriously, every other sentence had someone glowering. *shudders*)
But in all seriousness, I liked it for a variety of reasons. Most important to me was that Tris was not a Katniss clone. So much had been written about how these two series were similar, how the heroines were similar---even the movie has critics wondering if Divergent will be the new Hunger Games---that I was glad they weren’t. Everything I liked about Katniss---how independent she was, how she knew exactly who she was, how she was wise beyond her years and had equal amounts of selflessness and self-preservation---these were all lacking in Tris. And I was okay with that.
Divergent, at it’s heart, is really a story of a young sheltered girl discovering who she is and what she believes in. It’s a story of recognizing one’s limits, of accepting the good and the bad in yourself, and being okay with that. It’s about coming to accept a different lifestyle than the one you grew up with and knowing that your growth isn’t limited to what you were taught, or what you know, but on how you adapt to the constant shifts that occur in life.
Throughout the story, she discovers that strength isn’t all about the physical, that bravery isn’t about pushing ones’ self so much as being selfless, and that not fitting into any one category is actually okay. That you don’t need to be pigeonholed even though everyone else around you is.
And yes, there is a love story. These days, I don’t think you can get away with this kind of YA story and not have a love story. That’s part of the whole YA package, the experience. But Tris’ love interest was actually believable and sympathetic (ummm…how can you not fall for a guy who says “Fine. You’re not pretty. So?...I like how you look. You’re deadly smart. You’re brave.”). There weren’t as many eye-rolling moments in this romance. And unlike other stories where there are love triangles (and where, invariably, I will fall for the guy the heroine rarely ever ends up with), this one did not. Thank goodness.
Yes, she got annoying at times. Oh, she waffled and was immature, and she got oh-so-whiny more than once. But you know what? She’s a sixteen year old girl who’s only ever known one thing: abnegation. When one is taught, from childhood on, to eschew everything in favor of what is for the betterment of society, that really takes a toll on a kid, psychologically. Not many kids will be able to hold to that belief or will be able to follow it. For children---and teens, especially---are inherently selfish and self-absorbed. At least until they go out into the world and learn what it means to become a responsible adult. And even then, most people don’t choose true and absolute altruism as a way of life. Living a benevolent, munificent life isn’t easy. It’s easier to take care of one’s self, of one’s family first, and then give to others later, but only if you can.
Well, there goes my cynical streak. I was hoping it wouldn’t rear it’s ugly head again.
But I guess that is why for me, Tris’ journey was genuine. Everything is a new experience for her, even something as simple as eating hamburgers is new. And with all the new experiences will come experimentation, failure, a lot of self-recrimination, a lot of trying to convince herself of…stuff. Her immaturity was believable, as was seeing her grow from an insecure, hesitant young girl bent on proving herself to someone of conviction and resolve. Seeing her realize that sometimes, choosing to be selfish isn’t bad, especially when you learn what it means to be altruistic and selfless in the process. It was a great ride.
I highly recommend Divergent. And I’m really looking forward to the second book…I just hope it doesn’t disappoint, as most middle books in trilogies go. (Go away, cynic.) (less)
Overall rating: 3 stars (although I really had to round up since the average was 2.25).
Breakdown of my rating:
Narrative: 2 stars. For the life of me,...moreOverall rating: 3 stars (although I really had to round up since the average was 2.25).
Breakdown of my rating:
Narrative: 2 stars. For the life of me, I just don’t know where this story is going. Why, for example, did it take until page 817 for some fairly important bit of information about the Chandrian to pop up? Why were we meandering all over the place, going this way and that, often for hundreds of pages at a time, going absolutely nowhere?
I get that this is an epic. I love my epics. But one of the things that I look for in any novel, regardless of length, is forward momentum. Will this part of the story propel the narrative along? Will this action or sequence or (mis)adventure make the characters grow or learn something? Will something significant happen along the way and will it be clear later on, when we come back to this?
Some of the time, sure, this happened. Most of the story though were mere diversions. Diversions that could’ve been told more succinctly. For example, as interesting as the Felurian story was, could it have been shorter? Sure. Was it necessary? To a certain degree, yes. To the degree it was written? No. And that’s the problem. There is always a reason to write something. The hard part is knowing when something is too much.
When I stop every thirty or forty pages, asking myself “Where is this going? Is the name of this series really The Kingkiller Chronicles? If so, where is this king? When will Kvothe kill him? We’ve barely had any allusions to the king, other than there’s this big war out there. Where is the killing of the king? How will the Chandrian come in? When will he meet them again? How will he defeat them? Will he defeat them? What about Denna? How does she fit into all this? Will Kvothe ever tell Denna how he feels?
Right now, I feel like I’ve read close to 1900 pages, and we’ve spent 2 years with Kvothe in the university, and he’s gotten into and out of trouble (mostly of his own doing…more on that later), he’s had sex, he’s become a warrior, he’s becoming a legend, but other than dozens of amusing side quests/adventures, I still question where the story is going.
And if that is the point of this story, then Rothfuss has succeeded. And boo on me for not recognizing that. But I don’t think that’s the point of the story. The point is for us to see how Kvothe became the man he is now: Kote, and how Kote finds his way back to being Kvothe (if that is the goal).
Writing: 3 stars. Such a HUGE improvement over Name of the Wind. Enormous improvement. One of the things that made me cringe in the first book was the overuse of adjectives and adverbs in every sentence. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that adjectives and adverbs are useful tools and can strengthen your writing and provide flavor and flare. But excessive use is burdensome: it detracts from the story when what you’re reading becomes stilted and too descriptive. It becomes too distracting when you find yourself saying “Did he really have to use twenty words here when he could’ve made his point in six?”
So I was (beyond) relieved when the writing in Wise Man’s Fear was crisper, tighter. Stronger verbs made for leaner, stronger sentences. Adjectives and adverbs used sparingly, and more often than not, it wasn’t overdone. He still had a few places where he overdid it, but they were few and far between, and so it wasn’t as annoying as in the first book.
I think Rothfuss and his editor finally struck an ideal balance as far as the technical merits of his writing was concerned. I am hopeful that he becomes even stronger with the third book.
Characters: 2 star. Here’s the thing. I can’t stand Kvothe. He’s annoying. He’s an idiot. He’s conceited. He doesn’t learn (view spoiler)[(really, Kvothe, did you need to send Ambrose that letter while you were in Tarbean? Couldn’t you leave well enough alone? (hide spoiler)]. Part of me thinks that every single misadventure he has, every punishment that’s meted out to him, he deserves. He is impetuous, almost to a fault, and he never learns. He doesn’t think things through. He’s clever and extremely intelligent and creative, but for someone who grew up in the streets, he certainly lacks a lot of common sense. It doesn’t make sense.
I get that he’s a teenager. He’s young. And he means well. He’s got the heart of gold. He can be tender and caring, considerate and compassionate. Let’s face it: most boys aged fifteen through seventeen are stupid and reckless, hasty and impulsive. But for me, it becomes a problem when your protagonists’ bad decisions overshadow the good he does because he doesn’t learn from his mistakes, when he recognizes that he shouldn’t do something and does it anyway, just because he feels like it. Or because something (or someone) rankles him and gets under his skin. Personally, I like seeing growth in my main characters. Bildungsroman, baby.
Having said all that, let me list the characters that I do like: Bast. Simmon. Willem. Denna. Elodin. Kilvin. Auri and Fela. Amazingly well-drawn, complex characters. With the exception of Denna, I’m just disappointed that they are supporting characters.
Execution: 2 stars. I think I’ve said enough about the execution (see Narration and Characters). Suffice to say, I think it could’ve been handled better. It’s a compelling story, and you want to know what’s happening, but there’s much that could be improved. I hope the third book will be solid, a taut page turner, one that will not be disappointing to his fans.
And I never thought I’d have George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss in the same sentence, but I have the same fear for both the Song of Ice and Fire and Kingkiller Chronicle: how will they tie everything up? Martin has two more books left to tie things up after introducing another dozen or so characters to the already crowded world of the first five books.
Rothfuss, on the other hand, has only one novel left. And he’s said that it will definitely be the end of this part of the story. But if that’s the case, he has a LOT to tie up. In 450,000 words or less. And it terrifies me that he may not be able to tie most things up. We still need to know how Kvothe is kicked out of the University. We need to know how he finds the Chandrian, are they gone, did he defeat them, how he ends up part of this war that’s going on, who this king is (God, is it Ambrose?), what happens to Denna, how Kvothe meets Bast. Will he go back to Felurian? Did he send his sword back to the Adem (view spoiler)[(since it seems Folly isn’t Caesura) (hide spoiler)]? Lots of questions. Not a lot of story time left. I don’t want the third book to feel rushed, but am afraid it may be.
What was good about it: I have to give it to Patrick Rothfuss. Where world building is concerned, he’s got it down pat. Amazing world-builder, from the locales, the cultures, the religions, languages, currency, and everything else in between. He did an amazing job rounding out each of the different cultures and it’s very realistic. Having the Yllish have a knot-based language is amazing and is reminiscent of ancient cultures. The currency alone is intense, and when you add in the theology, the cultural differences, the foods, the laws…it’s all quite overwhelming. And as a chemist, I appreciate how Rothfuss has incorporated so many wonderful scientific themes (endothermic and exothermic reactions, using carbon as a chelating compound after ingesting toxins, reaction mechanisms) – it’s all fantastic stuff that I hope would get younger readers interested in the sciences.
And the Adem. Best. Culture. Ever. There were so many great things about the Adem, and about what Kvothe learned from them, that I can’t list them all. They’re all great. Best part of the book for me, hands down. Actually, best part of both books, if I were to be honest. (Although their concept of what amounts to asexual reproduction is a tad insular and hilarious, although that was the point, I suppose.) ["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was a great story...if only I didn't have to wait until getting to 80% of the way in to figure out where this story was going!
So here's the thin...moreThis was a great story...if only I didn't have to wait until getting to 80% of the way in to figure out where this story was going!
So here's the thing. I didn't hate the book. I actually liked it, especially the last 20% of the story. That part had my attention. That part was really good and hit all the right spots. But why did I have to slog through 80% (470+ pages) to get to the good stuff? And here's the thing: I don't mind a lot of set-up; I don't mind a ton of exposition. I don't mind if the author takes their time to really create their world and set the characters just so. In the right hands, this could've been a well-crafted, intelligent, poignant 4-star read. But it wasn't. It wasn't set-up properly. I think I'm being generous giving it 2-stars, since I was constantly barraged with inanities (toilet paper shortages in 2055 being one of them along with a variety of one-dimensional characters in both the 1320s and the future).
It was such a great concept: we now have the technology to time travel. We understand the physics behind it. Let's send a historian back to the 1300s! But oops, something goes wrong (we don't know what) and the historian is stuck in the middle of the plague. And back in the future, they're trying to get her back.
As a concept, it would've worked as either a character study or a sci/fi story. And on both levels, to a certain degree, it did. During the last 20% of the book. Which is much too late. There was so much else (ummm...80% worth) that made it tedious and...unreadable...that I was tempted at least half a dozen times to put it down and say "I give up." (Anyone who's read my reviews in the past will know that no, I don't do that sort of thing, much to the detriment of my own mental health...I will stick with it to the bitter end, especially if I've paid for the book.)
So what didn't I like about it?
Well, to start off with, why would anyone write a time travel story and then create a world where the most technologically advanced thing that's been invented (other than time travel, of course) is a video phone. A video phone that doesn't record messages (where, oh where, has voicemail gone? There were answering machines in the 90s!). There are no cell phones. There are no personal computers. The concept of e-mail is non-existent. So is internet research. Oh, and everything was on paper! People wrote things left and right, on paper!
Many things we take for granted these days seem to be unavailable in 2055. Which is bizarre. I grew up in the 80s. I was in college in the 90s. I had a computer in my teens; I saw my first cell phone in 1992. I was e-mailing in the late 80s. Surely it isn't a huge stretch of the imagination to extrapolate the tech that was available and say "65 years later, this is what we would have."
Well that was point one. Point two is sort of related. Say you're writing a novel in the 1990s about the future (e.g., 2055), why would England--Oxford, to be specific--in 2055 be very much like 1960s England? Either a) the author wasn't very technologically savvy about the tech available in the 1990s, b) the author wasn't very speculative about the tech that would be possible/available 60+ years in the future, or c) the author just lacked the requisite amount of imagination required to write sci/fi.
(c) doesn't suit me as the answer since Connie Willis is a six-time Nebula award winner. She's also won the Hugo awards. Two of the biggest sci/fi awards out there. So it has to be (a) or (b). Oh, and I thought it absolutely laughable that Oxford in 2055 was so puritanical that having a boy, in college, kissing a girl in the hallway, was enough to send the adults into apoplexy! Kissing! In 1320, sure. But 2055? In college? Just didn't make sense.
And point three. (view spoiler)[This is what was in 80% of the story: Character complaints in 2055: a) There's something wrong, Badri says before he falls sick. (5% of the story) b) We're going to have a toilet paper problem. c) They've quarantined Oxford! There's a flu virus! You must shut down the time travel device! d) What do you mean, Badri's got the flu? He said "There's something wrong!" Someone figure out what went wrong! (10% of the story) e) Where will I put these bell ringers? Oh, and we're running low on toilet paper. f) Ugh, why are they playing so much Christmas music? (Um, could it be because it's Christmas time?) g) Didn't anyone hear that Badri said there was something wrong?! I know he's in a coma, but wake him up! (20% of the story) h) The bell ringers won't shut up! They're going to sue Oxford! They need ring bells elsewhere! i) Have you heard we're running low on toilet paper?! j) The phones are on the fritz. I can't see who I'm talking to. Oh no! However will I know what's happening? (25% of the story) k) OMG, we're running low on eggs and bacon! But don't worry, we have tons of brussel sprouts! l) There's a plague! It's the flu! No, it's virus! It's the viral plague flu! Oh, no, no one's had a cold in decades! Ack! Achoo! m) Badri, I know you've just woken up and you're sick and delusional, but what went wrong? Tell me! What went wrong?!? (30% of the story) n) Brussel sprouts?! Really? That's all we've got? And biscuits? o) Oh dear, we're running low on butter! What are we to do?!?!? (40% of the story) p) Kissing?!? Off to your room with you young man! q) I don't know what to do. The bell ringers want a room to practice in, and I have to ration the toilet paper! (50% of the story) r) Excuse me, I know you're sick, but have you been around any ducks or geese lately? No? How about within the last 8 days? Yes, I know there's a flu virus epidemic. Yes, I know we're running low on toilet paper. s) The phones are down!! I can't even get a dial tone! Now I can't see or talk to people! (People today say "What's a dial tone???) t) Oh no, one of the bell ringers has collapsed during practice! The horror! We can't continue this song! What are we to do?!? u) Brussel sprouts. That's all we have, is brussel sprouts. BRUSSEL SPROUTS!!! v) I managed to save some squares of toilet paper... (60% of the story) w) We MUST get to the net! We can't close the time machine down! x) What do you mean, we've been digging up graves from the 1300s? (70% of the story) y) Wait, viruses can last a looooooooooooooooooooong time. In the grave. Oh, and btw, we're out of toilet paper. z) Why won't the crazy old lady stop reading me Bible verses about pestilence and plague? How is this helping me, when I'm sick with the flu? aa) We're out of toilet paper!!! Aaaagggghhhh!!! ab) Aaaagggghhhh, brussel sprouts! Again! On Christmas!! And New Years. And during the Slaughter of the Innocents! Noooooo!!
Character complaints in the 1300s: a) That priest is an idiot. He doesn't know what he's doing. b) That guy has a pock-marked face. He must be a cutthroat! (Ho, cutthroat island!) c) You are an idiot! The plague is your fault! d) Oof! Get away from me, cow. I can't milk you. e) Stupid rat. I can't let you go free. You will infect everyone with your fleas. f) Stop staring at me, rat. You're much too intelligent looking! g) Oh, the horror! The priest forgot the words in Mass! h) Oh no! What a scary looking man! He must be the cutthroat! i) The priest is an idiot. He put the candles in the wrong place! j) Wait, the priest is the scary, scarred man? k) Get away from me, cow. I said I can't milk you right now! Don't you see people are falling ill all around us?! l) Wait, I'm confused. The scary scarred man is a cutthroat? m) Why is the maid always sleeping or running away? Well, that's it! The plague is her fault! n) I'm very confused. The priest sounded so kind while I was delirious and trying to recover from a virus. How can he be a cutthroat? o) I've been mistaken. The priest is very kind. He's just got a scarred scary face. p) Whine, whine, whine...whine, whine, whine. q) Moooooooooo...someone milk me. Please. My udders are sooooo full! r) Ugh, stupid cow! Get away from me! There's plague all around! I need to take care of all these dying people! *sob* *sob* s) Now I've got all the kids calling the priest a cutthroat. t) The priest is so sweet. I think I'm kinda falling for him. Even though he does look like a cutthroat... u) The priest is an idiot! He pinched the candle flames. The plague has to be his fault! v) Dang it cow! Get. Out. Of. My. Way! I can't milk you right now!! w) Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! x) And it goes on and on, in much of the same vein... (hide spoiler)]
What I did like: the Middle English. It brought tears to my eyes. (This is good.)
Ummm...what else did I like?
The donkey. The cow. Blackie the puppy. The intelligent, innocent rat. Colin.
I am convinced that Colin is the hero of the story, despite what the author would have me believe.
So...reading this has been an experience. I can definitely say that this story was an interesting ride, one I am likely never to go on again. And sorry, Connie Willis, but I will not be reading the other four books in the series. I think I've had my fill. I don't think I can handle being on pins and needles, waiting and worrying over whether there will be another tp shortage in the 2060s. ["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"]>["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Interestingly enough, Quentin was much more likable the second time around! Huge surprise (since I couldn't stand him in the first book). I also liked...moreInterestingly enough, Quentin was much more likable the second time around! Huge surprise (since I couldn't stand him in the first book). I also liked Julia's story arc...what a tragic story.(less)