A far cry form Discworld, this is supposedly a book for children and I guess the success of it is that it can be read on different levels – each reade...moreA far cry form Discworld, this is supposedly a book for children and I guess the success of it is that it can be read on different levels – each reader taking away what they want or expect from it. On the surface it’s a story about two young people, Mau and Daphne, thrown together on a desert island after a tsunami washes away his people and wrecks her boat, leaving her as the only survivor. The setting is ‘somewhere in an alternative South Pacific’ and ‘somewhen roughly in the (probably) early nineteenth century. The storyline is simple and centres on rebuilding the Nation (the island) after the devastation, taking in drifting survivors to make a new community.
Underneath this it’s the story of the rebuilding of both Mau and Daphne, and through them a re-examination of ideas about spirituality, philosophy and tradition. It’s also a book about practical culture-clash – or rather culture-bump as Daphne discovers that Mau is not a savage and Mau tries to understand Daphne’s strange ‘trouserman’ ideas. There are some wry misunderstandings and some misconceptions, but in the end Mau and Daphne and the rest of their growing Nation reach an amicable understanding, but then the real savages arrive and most savage of all is a dangerous mutineer set adrift from Daphne’s own ship before the tsunami hit.
It’s a gentle book, almost restrained, but it doesn’t hold back from darkness, especially for Mau’s character, deeply damaged by the loss of his people and railing at both the gods who let them die and the dead ancestors who won’t leave his thoughts alone. In the end Mau and Daphne together find a way to protect the emerging Nation from the biggest threat, the well-intentioned trousermen who come looking for Daphne. (less)
I was biterly disappointed when I read this, I had so wanted to love it. I'm a huge fan of the Tam Lin story, but I bounced of this so hard that I'm s...moreI was biterly disappointed when I read this, I had so wanted to love it. I'm a huge fan of the Tam Lin story, but I bounced of this so hard that I'm still in motion. Being a Brit I found the American campus setting totally alien (and not in a good way) and I just couldn't work up any sympathy for the characters. Sorry. I know it has a great following out there, but this is really not for me. I much prefer Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock or Anne Rundle's Tamlane or the Fairport Convention song or just reading the original ballad as printed in FJ Child's ballad book.(less)
Everyone was talking about this book at Eastercon this April (2011), so, of course, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
In a land that used to b...moreEveryone was talking about this book at Eastercon this April (2011), so, of course, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
In a land that used to be North America but is now Panam after some apocalyptic time we don't know about, there are 12 Districts which once tried to rebel against Capitol. As a result each district must send two teenage tributes, a boy and a girl, to the Hunger Games each year. It's a last-man-standing fight to the death, watched by everyone live-as-it-happens. Reality TV taken to extremes. Contestants between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by lottery.
When Katniss' little sister is selected in the Hunger Games lottery Katniss immediately volunteers to go in her place, believing it to be a death sentence. The chosen boy from District 12 is Peeta, the baker's son, who was once kind to Katniss when she was starving, but she can't afford to think of him as a friend. One of them may have to kill the other if the other contestants don't oblige.
Katniss is a fascinating character, self-sufficient both physically and mentally, but the stress of being the family's provider is considerable and at 16 she shoulders all the responsibility herself. Oh how she wants someone to rely on, but she's too afraid to abdicate responsibility in case she reaches out for a rock and finds an avalanche.
I really enjoyed this and can see why people are talking about it. It's breathlessly fast paced and stretches the dramatic tension as tight as a bowstring. It's written in present tense which in this case works very well. It gives reality TV a kick in the teeth (good!). OK, the world-building is a little thin but there are some chilling ideas, all carried to their logical conclusions. It's not all dark and depressing, though it has its gritty sections (and bloody ones) and it's certainly not a laugh a minute. I will be looking out for the next book in the trilogy. (less)
Warning – extreme spoilers ahead. Stop reading now if you intend to read this for yourself. I personally would have given this book no stars at all bu...moreWarning – extreme spoilers ahead. Stop reading now if you intend to read this for yourself. I personally would have given this book no stars at all but it gets one star because if nothing else it has been the cause of some young people actually picking up and reading a book voluntarily.
I admit that I only read this to see what all the fuss was about. I went to see the movie first and stood next to a sixteen year old boy in the queue who was so full of Twilight that it was his second time to see the movie, this time with his sister after buying her the book. It was not only his favourite book, but on further enquiry he didn’t really read fiction at all. The queue started to move before I could ask him: why Twilight?
So what is all the fuss about? I tried to come to this book with an open mind, but I’d already read a pretty damning article in the Guardian about the author’s attitude to the heroine in particular and women’s roles in general. I don’t know that misogynistic is quite the right word. Meyer clearly doesn’t hate women, though she might distrust them to do anything sensible outside the kitchen. Clearly her heroine in Twilight is a wimp. The girl can’t take two steps without being so clumsy she falls over her own feet – and this worries her sufficiently that she wimps out of sports and dancing and even worries about tripping up over tree roots when taking a walk in the forest. And when she goes to the beach with friends she worries about falling in the tidal pools since her super vampire boyfriend isn’t there to fish her out. Sheesh!
OK, deep breath. Start at the beginning.
Bella Swan moves to her dad’s place in Forks WA to give Mom and her new man some quality together-time. Just as she’s starting to make normal friends in school she’s thrown together with oh-he’s-so-handsome-I-could-die Edward Cullen who at first treats her like she’s a bad smell under his nose and then does a yes/no on/off act until he finally admits he’s deeply attracted to her, but warns her he’s bad news. Playing the gorgeous bad-boy of course hooks Bella completely. She’s also pretty impressed when he rescues her from being crushed under a skidding car by doing a superhero act and then trying to get her to believe she didn’t really see what she saw. A bit later he rescues her from some thugs out to mug her (or worse). Eventually she works out that he’s a vampire but – hey – he’s pretty, so that’s OK. When she’s accepted by his vampire family (they’re all sworn off human blood which makes it nice and cosy) everything is rosy until some old-fashioned vamps walk in on a happy family game of baseball and one of them decides he’s going to have Bella for lunch. Hijinks ensue and Bella is manhandled back to Phoenix by Ed’s vamp siblings where they more or less keep her sedated until she acts really stupid, puts herself in mortal danger and is then rescued by Ed, but not before getting some pretty serious injuries that land her in hospital (explained away by a fall – tsk, tsk, clumsy Bella, falling over again, silly girl).
So all the way through Bella is completely ruled by Edward (or even by Ed’s family), she has to restrict her actions to she doesn’t sexually excite Edward in case he goes for the jugular (literally). Because, of course, if he does it will be her fault, right? They can be together but only on his terms. He’s suffocatingly overprotective, but she actually likes this about him. He follows her on a girly shopping trip (which is why he’s around to rescue her from the thugs) and she’s nothing but grateful. He comes into her room at night (without permission at first) and watches her sleeping and listens to her sleep-talking and she actually likes this too. He makes her tell him every little thing she’s feeling or thinking (because she’s the one person whose thoughts he can’t read) and he even listens in to her friends’ thoughts when she’s having a private conversation with them – and she thinks this is normal. How loud can you say ‘stalker’?
At the end of the book Bella’s almost begging Edward to turn her into a vamp and the teaser chapter for the next book shows Bella’s worried about getting older than Ed who is perpetually seventeen.
And the writing? The style is mostly OK, but we can barely get through a page without being told how beautiful Edward and his vamp siblings and ‘parents’ are. This is all from Bella’s point of view, so every time she’s telling us how beautiful they are she’s telling us by implication how she feel very un-beautiful in comparison. By about a third of the way through the book I was beginning to think that if I heard how beautiful the vamps were one more time I’d start eating the pages. And then it came again. Chomp chomp! Until the very last section, when the bloodsucking vamp is hot on Bella’s heels, it’s all s-l-o-w build up. And at 138,000 words (rough count) that’s a hell of a lot of build up. Edward is always telling Bella that he loves her because she’s special and he’s never met anyone like her before, but we never see that. All we see it a clutzy seventeen year old lacking in self-confidence and basic motor skills.
Bella has a little burst of bravery right at the end when she thinks the bad vamp has her mom, but it’s overshadowed by an extreme dose of stupidity when she leaves the good vamps to face the bad vamps alone. Of course Edward comes to the rescue and even saves her from being turned into a vamp by sucking the vamp-poison out of a wound (and stopping before he drains her dry). Coitus interruptus or what!
Bella never gets the opportunity to grow and you get the impression that with Edward Cullen as a boyfriend, she never will. I may be wrong, but I’m not going to read the rest of the books to find out. One was enough. For me it’s a book about repression and subjugation. Is that what’s turning on teens these days? (less)
I've left it way too long to write up this book and in the six or seven weeks since I finished it, I've all but forgotten the major plot points, which...moreI've left it way too long to write up this book and in the six or seven weeks since I finished it, I've all but forgotten the major plot points, which is an indication of the impression it left on me. Luce is a fallen angel, locked into a 17 year destructive cycle of forbidden love, untimely death the instant she understands what she is and subsequent resurrection. Reborn into the present age, knowing nothing of her past human lives, she's a oddball who ends up at reform school after her boyfriend spontaneously combusts. (I had some questions about the American reform school system - it seemed pretty weird to me with it's voluntary prison kind of vibe, but what do I know?) Despite the fact that he's trying to avoid her she finds Daniel - the love of all her lives, also an angel - and the cycle begins again against a background of southern-swamp, sultry heat, crumbling buildings, inadequate teachers and teen misfits. It turns out that Luce and Daniel's eternal love affair is tied into a good/evil battle involving any number of fallen angels (on both sides) and at least one secret sect. There's an ending, but no real resolution. A sequel is due in September 2010. Not sure I'll be rushing out to buy it.(less)