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)
Narrative: 3 stars. There were a number of good things that I liked about Reached (i.e., providing Xa...moreOverall rating: 2.5 stars.
Breakdown of my rating:
Narrative: 3 stars. There were a number of good things that I liked about Reached (i.e., providing Xander’s point of view, fleshing out minor characters like Indie and Hunter), but there were also some fairly big problems (e.g., the plague [where did that come from?; what kind of rebellion—one that is purportedly trying to free and/or save people—is willing to unleash a plague and use the cure as a means of getting people to come around to their side?).
Writing: 4 stars. Allie Condie is a very good writer. Her prose evokes pervasive imagery: beauty, desolation, isolation, happiness, loneliness, alienation…I can continue listing adjective here, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I have no complaints about her writing.
Characters: 1 star. Xander and Indie’s characters aside, I loathed the other main characters, namely Cassia and Ky. She has not really shown any kind of growth since Matched, which is highly unfortunate since she’s the heroine. We’re supposed to be rooting for her. But all I could think of was this: Cassia has a one track mind. Okay, I get it. She loves Ky and Ky is her world. But enough already. There is more to life than just Ky. People are dying left and right. She claims to love her family and not once in the entire book does she actually think about ensuring her family is safe from the plague. Xander is supposed to be her best friend, and could’ve been her match, but does she really care about him? I never once got that feeling that she was concerned. The only thing she was concerned about was ensuring that Xander let her go.
And Ky. Ugh. Talk about someone who’s just coasting. He only seems to come alive when he is with Cassia. What could have been a great plot point ((view spoiler)[his growing feelings for Indie; her sacrifices for Ky once she realized he was blindly following his heart back to Cassia (hide spoiler)]) was wasted. He joins the rebellion because of Cassia. It’s not like he believes in the Rising or the Pilot. He’s only in it because of her, because she wanted to be part of it. And while I can understand that, and while I can empathize with him to a certain point, again, his main goal was not what was happening around him, what was happening to his world. It was getting to Cassia.
And while I appreciated having Xander’s point of view, and having his story told, I was a bit disappointed in how his story ended. It seemed too neat, too tidy, an ending for him. So in that regard, I feel that Condie cheated Xander out of a potentially interesting finale, especially since she made mention of the Otherlands. And really…I don’t think that everyone has to have a happy ending. Sometimes, a good ending doesn’t ensure that everyone ends up matched. But since this is a YA novel/series, I guess I can understand why Condie ended it the way she did. I just feel she did her readers a disservice.
Execution: 2 stars. I think Condie had a great premise. In a post-apocalyptic world, the Society and all its rules and limitations was believable. The Rising was believable, too, and in a way, almost expected. But I think Condie got so bogged down in her romance – it’s not even fair to call it a love triangle, because Condie hammered it home in the first book: Xander never had a chance – that everything about the Society and the Rising was so sloppy. The plague came out of nowhere, the solution was pure happenstance, even her painstakingly drawn out ending felt contrived.
Here’s the thing: it was very uneven story-telling. While Condie writes well, and she can draw emotions and imagery like some of the finest writers out there, if the characters and their arcs are weak, if the execution is weak, then the story will be weak, too.
It had a lot of potential, and I was hoping that after the torpid slowness of Crossed, that Reached would have ended with a bang. That Cassia would’ve grown from her crossing a canyon, from leaving her home and family and finding Ky, from being exposed to the wide world, from finally finding the Rising. But all we got was Cassia in the same head space she was in, in Matched and Crossed. Where was the growth?
And while I appreciate that she wanted to create something new – and did, via the Gallery – her contribution to the Rising wasn’t as substantial as what we would’ve expected from our heroine. Even all her efforts in the stone village wasn't to find a cure for everyone. It was to find a cure for Ky. Very one-note. Is it believable? Sure. People fall in love and that person becomes their sole focus. But I guess, in my mind, a love like that isn't healthy. It isn't even normal, because at some point, life and the real world hone in and you're forced to live in both spaces. And that's what I felt was missing: Cassia lived in her world with Ky, whether he was there or not. Everything was Ky, Ky, Ky, even when the world was falling down around them. Cassia (and Ky) coasted through life, trying to get back to each other. They were immune to whatever was happening outside their sphere. And to me, that's just unrealistic.
Xander did more; Xander truly believed in the Rising, Xander believed in Cassia and even Ky, even though he understood that Cassia was never going to love him. Xander helped create the cure. Xander was broken emotionally, physically and mentally, and yet somehow, he continued living. He continued caring. He continued helping.
I think if I’d seen Cassia have a similar progression as Xander, I would’ve liked this book more. The only thing that stopped me from giving it a 1 star was that I really did like Xander’s and Indie’s arcs. And I thought that Ky’s point of view in the Plague chapters was a nice touch. ["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)
Narrative: 5-stars. Highly intelligent, compelling, wonderful world-building. It's a novel of grand ideas yet so...more First off, my breakdown of the basics:
Narrative: 5-stars. Highly intelligent, compelling, wonderful world-building. It's a novel of grand ideas yet somehow, it maintained a certain sense of intimacy. While this is, at heart, sci-fi, it deals with many things including science, religion, faith, love, loss (including loss of hope, loss of self, loss of faith), the deterioration of humanity and humanity's intrinsic need for survival, sometimes at all costs.
Writing: 5 stars. Utterly beautiful prose, very intelligent, unbelievable imagery (both sensory and emotionally). Robert Charles Wilson took the time to tell his story his way, even if it meandered here and there every now and again, and most importantly, he didn't pander to the lowest common denominator.
Characters: 4 stars. Wonderfully rich character development, realistic journeys and character arcs, sympathetic characters that the reader can easily relate to; very nuanced protagonists and antagonists, including antiheroes. Even the characters I didn't necessarily like were not truly unlikable - what drove them to be who they were was as much a part of them that you could understand why they were drawn that way.
Science: 4 stars. The science was actually quite sound. Mind you, this is still science fiction, so there is a lot of it that is speculative in nature. Having said that, what I liked about it was that it was accessible and true enough. There are a lot of novels out there that have grand ideas but fall short on the science (e.g., The Age of Miracles, which was overall well-written and a good story, but the science wasn't rigorous enough -- there were times when I felt slightly cheated because the author either skirted around the science or posited theories that were just unbelievable to me). I'm not going to say I bought 100% of what Robert Charles Wilson wrote for his explanation of why or how the Spin Barrier was erected (and there are still some parts where I'm a bit fuzzy), but I did appreciate all the thought and research he did. The science in Spin was fairly solid, and that's really all I'm asking for in sci-fi.
Overall: 4.5 stars, which, in Goodreads parlance equals 5 stars.
My thoughts in general:
Framework narratives can be tricky. There are some authors who frame a story and touch on the framework or secondary narrative only at the beginning and end of the story. What I liked about Spin was that the main (Tyler's story from childhood through the present) and secondary (the far future, which is 4x10^9 AD) narratives are equally important, and Wilson spends as much time exploring the past as the present/future. They're inextricably linked, and time, both from Tyler's perspective and as a result of the Spin barrier, flows very much like a mobius strip, clockwise and counterclockwise within a Euclidean space.
While this is a sci-fi novel, I would hazard a guess that this is probably closer to 40% sci-fi and 60% a character study, with the focus being on the relationship and interrelations among Tyler, Jason and Diane. This isn't like most sci-fi novels where the focus is mostly on us vs. aliens, or us vs. tech-gone-bad, or us vs. us-gone-bad-due-to-technological-advancements. Spin is more like one of those sprawling literary novels with a smattering of fantastical sci-fi peppered in every so often, just so that we don't forget that it's actually sci-fi. The speculative parts definitely color the decisions and life trajectories of the various characters, and while you can't ignore it when Wilson's focusing on it, it always fades to the background the rest of the time. What's focused on is a very human drama, dealing with unrequited love, friendships, loneliness, family and everything in between.
The main characters (Tyler Dupree, Jason and Diane Lawton) all stood for something: Jason was uncompromisingly a man of science: a child genius, he was created and molded by his father to be the man he eventually became. Jason knew how to play the game politically in order to fuel his single-minded obsession: funneling government and scientific resources into understanding the Spin, at any cost. Diane, Jason's twin sister, was equally as gifted and as intelligent, but unlike Jason, she was the ignored child. In a way, her parents' lack of concern for her propelled her into the tailspin she entered as a teen. Shunning science, she absorbed everything that was anathema to Jason and her father: new age beliefs, twisted fundamentalist Christianity, a new reading on biblical apocalyptic prophecies. As much as Jason loved the Spin, Diane hated it and was almost uncompromising in her beliefs to refute the meaning of the Spin. What's interesting is that while she wholeheartedly took on a cowl of religious fervor, there was always a part of her that instinctively knew religion wasn't the answer but that she was willing to hold on to it because it was the only thing that made sense to her after the Spin.
And then there's Tyler. Tyler was the twins' best friend from childhood, and the one constant in both Jason's and Diane's lives. Tyler stood for everything the twins never had: love, faith, loyalty, constancy. He was the poor kid looking in on the Big House (Tyler was the son of the twins' father's partner and friend; when his dad passed away, Tyler and his mother ended up living in a little cottage on the Lawtons' property. His mom became the Lawtons' housekeeper). He was the one who fell in love with Diane at age ten and who was enamored by Jason's intelligence. Growing up, the twins included Tyler in everything and he soaked up all that they offered -- lessons, toys, endless summer days, friendship, secrets. But in the same token, Tyler was the one who wanted and needed to get away from the Lawtons and the Big House. But in leaving the Lawtons behind, he became a shell, moving through life as if something were missing. Sure, he was successful; he became a doctor, had relationships, had a life. His later lovers inevitably always pointed out that Tyler was just coasting, was largely indifferent, that everything always came back to the Lawtons and that he couldn't give them up because he didn't want to.
But I think he wouldn't give them up because they were as integral to him as he was to them. Both Jason and Diane relied on Tyler for various kinds of support. Tyler was Jason's lifeline to the outside world - sure, he shared things with Tyler that would have gotten both of them thrown into prison - but more than that, Tyler was Jason's link to humanity. Jason was too logical, too scientific, out of touch with the world and with people, but with Tyler, Jason was able to go back to a simpler time and just be Jason. Diane held on to Tyler because he provided her with whatever her religion, her husband and her family couldn't give her: namely unconditional, uncompromising love. Tyler almost functioned as the twins' soul. Similarly, both Jason and Diane was Tyler's brain and heart, respectively, and he couldn't function without having them in his life either. Whenever Tyler cut himself off from them, his life was empty, as empty as the Earth seemed once the Spin barrier occluded it from the galaxy and the universe. It was a very weird -- and some would say unhealthy -- symbiotic relationship the three of them shared. And despite their imperfect and utterly trying relationship, Tyler loved both of them.
One of my favorite parts of the book explains their convoluted relationship (in this excerpt, Tyler is being tended to by Ibu Ina, a Minang physician in the future):
Tyler said "Not half as beautifully as Jason did. It was like he was in love with the world, or at least the patterns in it. The music in it."
"And Diane was in love with Jason?"
"In love with being his sister. Proud of him."
"And were you in love with being his friend?"
"I suppose I was."
"And in love with Diane."
"And she with you."
"Maybe. I hoped so."
"Then, if I may ask, what went wrong?"
"What makes you think anything went wrong?"
"You're obviously still in love. The two of you, I mean. But not like a man and a woman who have been together for many years. Something must have kept you apart. Excuse me, this is terribly impertinent."
Yes, something had kept us apart. Many things. Most obviously, I supposed, it was the Spin. She had been especially, particularly frightened by it, for reasons I had never completely understood; as if the Spin were a challenge and a rebuke to everything that made her feel safe. What made feel safe? The orderly progression of life; friends, family, work -- a kind of fundamental sensibility of things, which in E.D. and Carol Lawton's Big House must already have seemed fragile, more wished-for than real.
The Big House had betrayed her, and eventually even Jason had betrayed her: the scientific ideas he presented to her like peculiar gifts, which had once seemed reassuring -- the cozy major chords of Newton and Euclid -- became stranger and more alienating...a universe not only expanding but accelerating towards its own decay.
...The Spin, when it came, must have seemed like a monstrous vindication of Jason's worldview--more so because of his obsession with it.... It was immensely powerful, terrifyingly patient, and blankly indifferent to the terror it had inflicted on the world. Imagining Hypotheticals, one might picture hyperintelligent robots or inscrutable energy beings; but never the touch of a hand, a kiss, a warm bed, or a consoling word.
So she hated the Spin in a deeply personal way, and I think it was that hatred that ultimately led her to Simon Townsend and the NK movement. In NK theology, the Spin became a sacred event but also a subordinate one: large but not as large as the God of Abraham; shocking but less shocking than a crucified Savior, an empty tomb.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that this is only the first book in a trilogy. I already downloaded the second and third books. While the subsequent books won't have the Lawtons and Tyler in it, I'm still looking forward to seeing where Robert Charles Wilson will take me. I definitely think he's become one of my favorite authors now.(less)
The Age of Miracles was both beautiful and extremely frustrating. Beautiful because the writing was exquisite; Karen Thompson Walker writes simply but...moreThe Age of Miracles was both beautiful and extremely frustrating. Beautiful because the writing was exquisite; Karen Thompson Walker writes simply but succinctly. She's very expressive and knows her way around the written word. While I don't think it was as beautifully written as The Art of Fielding, her writing was sophisticated, evocative and nuanced; without trying too hard, her words successfully evoked the images and emotions needed to further her narrative, something which many other writers try and fail to do. It almost reminded me of the beauty behind Colson Whitehead's Zone One, another book that I thought was both beautifully written but extremely frustrating.
So here are my reasons for loving this book: - this was a true coming-of-age novel - Thompson Walker did not shy away from themes of loneliness and ostracization that oftentimes comes with growing up - the death of the human race mimicked the death of the earth, which was also an analogy for that tumultuous period between the end of childhood and the start of adulthood
It was a good story...if it had focused on the coming-of-age portion of the story, it probably would've been more successful. However, when taken in with the sci-fi aspects of the story (the earth's rotation is slowing down, causing longer days and longer nights, which leads to the eventual dying of the earth), it fails miserably.
The science is weak. I had to stop nearly a dozen times in disbelief. While Thompson Walker does not go into details, specifically so that she wouldn't have to deal with the science, what did end up in the book irked me to the point of distraction. I finally had to tell myself to really suspend disbelief...to the point where I found myself glossing over some of the "earth dying" parts.
It's a good thing -- a really good thing -- that I enjoyed Julia's story. The heartbreaking end of her friendship with Hanna evoked painful memories of lost friendships in grade school; similarly, her growing friendship and initial romance with Seth reminded me of early crushes and never quite knowing how to behave around boys. Her reaction to the decline of her parents' relationship was real, as were her feelings of not belonging anywhere or to anyone (I, too, remember lunchtimes in the library, in grade school!).
I think this book is worth reading, but I must warn other science geeks out there: don't concentrate on the science! Don't try to think too much or too deeply. Just enjoy the story for what it is: a story of a young girl getting ready to leave her childhood behind.(less)
I wanted to wait until I'd read both Incarceron and Sapphique before I wrote my review. While each book stands on its own, I had to see where the stor...moreI wanted to wait until I'd read both Incarceron and Sapphique before I wrote my review. While each book stands on its own, I had to see where the story went (after finishing Incarceron) and how I felt about it.
Let me preface this by saying I didn't not like the book. If Goodreads allowed half stars for rating, I would've rated both as 2.5s. Personally, I thought Catherine Fisher was quite innovative in creating a Matrix-steam-punk-YA mash-up: in some future time, because of all the wars and rebellions (and maybe the destruction of the moon??), the leader of The Realm decides that the only way to stop dissension and chaos is to stop time. He gathers up all his enemies and creates a prison for them. Incarceron is meant to house the rebels and dissidents but it's also designed to be a paradise, where the prisoners won't want for anything and will eventually create a culture/civilization of their own separate from those in outside world.
For himself and his people, he decrees that they should live in a world of Protocol, set in Regency Era times. When living within the confines of Protocol, people live their lives without the benefits of technology and modern day science or medicine. Nothing new can be created and no tech can be used. Records of technological advances are sparse and are available only to a select few, such as the ruling class and the Sapienti, who have partial access to some old records. But the records aren't complete, so they can't reconstruct any technology. In this manner, time stops. Still, while the poor live in misery and suffer the same fate as people in the 18th and 19th centuries did, the rich are allowed to have tech, as long as they hide it and act "in Era" when around others (i.e., they can have actual bathrooms and washing machines, scanners, computers and communication devices, provided they remain hidden at all times).
Near the beginning of Sapphique, I actually started to wonder if The Realm was actually the prison, and the prison was reality. When Incarceron starts creating a human form for itself, draining power reserves both in the prison and out in the realm, it seems that Incarceron and the realm are nothing more than one gigantic holodeck. The question of what was real and what wasn't, of whether there was a way out of Incarceron, of the growing sentience of a prison -- these were fascinating concepts and really made me enjoy both works.
...and here's my list of howevers:
• There was a lot of hostility in both books. Most of Fisher’s main characters (with the exception of Jared) were almost always annoyed, raging, fuming, seething, untrusting, wary and/or cross. Almost no one trusted any other character; there was always someone who was willing to question another person’s motives or was quick to antagonize someone else. Her characters were quick to judge and provoke others and no one ever apologized or tried to understand where anyone was coming from. But I get it: if I were imprisoned (whether literally, in Incarceron, or metaphorically, “Outside” in The Realm) I wouldn’t be in a good mood, either. At some point however, you need to learn to trust someone. While everyone’s definitely in “survival of the fittest” mode, I found it odd that even when characters had the same goals and were “helping” each other out, they were still bitter, insolent and untrusting.
• This general aggression and animosity made it very difficult for me to like any of the characters. For me, this took away from the experience. While the creation of a sentient prison and the exploration of reality vs. illusion was great, I felt that the characterization – and character building in particular – was two-dimensional. I wish the characters had grown. I wish they’d learned from their mistakes and from their interactions with others.
• The writing. I always come back to this because there is something to be said about a beautifully written narrative. It can take you away; it can make you not want to put your book down; it can make you fall in love with the characters and make worlds and people come alive. Fisher isn’t a very sophisticated writer. The fact that she came up with a fantastic concept shows that she’s got real promise. However, there’s a difference between the creativity and the mechanics. For me, she succeeded in coming up with an engrossing premise, but the mechanics needed work. She tries. She really does and every now and then, she comes up with something really well-written. Her pacing was surprisingly good (I cannot stress how important pacing is!) -- there really weren't any dead spots. I felt that she handled switching the characters' POVs quite well. But she’s not subtle. There were no sublime moments. There were rarely any passages that just whisked me away or drew me in. I wondered if this was why the characters felt a little stiff and two-dimensional to me.
Nevertheless, this series is worth a read, if only for the speculative aspects of both novels. A lot of people love this series and I have heard that some fans have even created Claudia-and-Jared fanfic. I wish it struck the same chord in me, but it sort of fell short.
Kids are tough,that much is true. Last year, when I read The Hunger Games, I kept thinking that only a twisted individual would create a world, somewh...moreKids are tough,that much is true. Last year, when I read The Hunger Games, I kept thinking that only a twisted individual would create a world, somewhere in our distant future, wherein kids would battle to the death in order to garner their colony and family a year's worth of supplies, supplies which the government withheld in order to control its people.
Flashback, then, to two decades before Hunger Games was even created, and you have Ender's Game, another dystopian world wherein each kid is tested to see if they have what it takes to become xenocidal maniacs. Where kids are tested at age three, and if they're lucky enough to pass muster as a potential soldier, they're taken away from their parents and families and sent to a hopped up military school in space, where they live and breathe The Game. Where they learn tactics and command. Where they learn to kill.
In both books, kids are put through a sort of mental, physical and psychological torture, but because of the resilient nature of children, the adults don't seem to think about the lasting damage these exercises have on the kids. While the kids were expected to kill each other in The Hunger Games, kids killing kids were considered collateral damage and for the good of all, in Ender's Game.
I guess at the center of both narratives, it was Katniss' urge to survive and Ender's struggles to maintain his humanity that made both these books so compelling to millions of readers. This is what struck a chord for most: Katniss' and Ender's sense of isolation, that only they could do what was asked of them and they had no one else really, that they could turn to, and certainly not any adults. It was their feelings of desolation, that they had to do this to save the ones they loved (for Katniss, it was to save her sister Prim, and for Ender, it was to save his sister Valentine). It was the emptiness of loss, as the realities of the price and consequences of their successes weighed on them. Too much blood, all at the hands of kids. Heavy stuff; most adults wouldn't be able to handle dealing with such things. And what about kids? They're resilient. They have the rest of their lives to recover from whatever damage this has done to their psyche.