one of the oddest repeating themes in the current trend of YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic lit is for the heroine to be an ordinary teenager, wandering...moreone of the oddest repeating themes in the current trend of YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic lit is for the heroine to be an ordinary teenager, wandering through this brave new world of awful with only a vague sense of "huh." horrors pass before her eyes with barely a shrugged shoulder, because "that's the way it's always been," making her inevitable participation in rebellion later in the book that much more inexplicable.
so mad bonus points to Griffin for writing a tale where most all of the characters have been actually impacted by the world being destroyed. Araby Worth, an inventor's daughter, has lived with a population-slaughtering plague since earliest childhood. she's lost both family and way of life, and she's rather shell-shocked, drugging herself into oblivion and wishing for something to change. the apocalypse here is real and visceral and immediate, not some distant "before times" memory, with touches of actual horror instead of gratuitous gore. there are occasional brilliant tiny "what if?" moments ("we'd been wearing masks for so long that i read a smile by looking at someone's eyes") that add wonderful depth to this slim story. if all that weren't enough, Griffin should be teaching a master class in how to do the de rigueur angsty love triangle properly: both male characters are interesting, well-developed, and differ by a lot more than just the color of their hair.
so why only 3 stars? the end, my dears, is a trainwreck. after clipping along as a solid 4-star read throughout, the last 10% or so just thoroughly derails. (view spoiler)[we're subjected to several chapters of aimless running for our lives, in which Araby's innate passivity (the world acts on her far more often than she charts her own course) finally crosses over into annoying. both boys feel the need to display their "rightness" so that we're left with back-to-back moments of true love with the other guy. and worst of all, the book ends so abruptly that if i'd been reading it as an e-book, i would have assumed the file was incomplete. the story would have been nicely self-contained, yet i can only assume it's being stretched out into a sequel/series. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
starts off really, really strong, sets up an interesting backstory with hints of deeper secrets...then stalls out a bit when the pace settles down. so...morestarts off really, really strong, sets up an interesting backstory with hints of deeper secrets...then stalls out a bit when the pace settles down. something about the main character's voice just didn't click with me (too self-assured for a teen? written too choppy into little sentence bits?), and I missed the big bad terrifying ghost when we started to know and sympathize with her. (less)
I picked this up years ago at a used bookstore, probably due to its exuberant back-cover blurb: "perhaps the finest novel about werewolves ever publis...moreI picked this up years ago at a used bookstore, probably due to its exuberant back-cover blurb: "perhaps the finest novel about werewolves ever published!" this year's "read 12 grandmasters in 2012" challenge has finally brought it bubbling up to the top of the TBR pile, and while I don't know if it's the best, it certainly is a refreshingly unique take on lycanthropy.
will barbee is an alcoholic newspaper writer, reporting on the return of an expedition from the far east. they arrive with a mysteriously heavy locked box and a discovery that will change the world, if only one of them can stay alive long enough to tell it. a more complete summary would be overly spoilery, and a large part of the fun (and horror) of this story is the unexpected angles in the plot turns.
like plenty of 50+ year old novels, this comes off a little dated. people generally don't dess up for dinner anymore, and the idea of keeping your secretary-mistress in a swank apartment-hotel seems like the seedier side of a b&w donna reed era. the prose is often a little too restrained and mannered: in a way, is is about spiraling into madness, and I think the horror would have been more immediately visceral if it was written a bit messier. that being said, the plot itself and the science (science! in a werewolf novel!) were utterly fresh and accessible. (view spoiler)[huge bonus points for the bleak ending that avoids the reluctant hero's triumphant cliche. cool!! (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
once upon a time in 1845, 129 men set sail in two aging but well-proven exploration ships to try and discover the northwest passage up & over the...moreonce upon a time in 1845, 129 men set sail in two aging but well-proven exploration ships to try and discover the northwest passage up & over the top of canada, thereby connecting the sea route from europe to asia. they spent 3 years locked in the ice of the arctic seas with dwindling supplies and morale, and then...
Simmons spends a leisurely 900+ pages ruminating on the what-might-have-been of that expedition. the monotony of months spent on the unmoving ship trapped by an endless, sterile, frozen forest of razor-edged ice peaks; the primal afraid-of-the-dark fear of seasons without the sun; the depths to which men will sink, trapped like overcrowded rats - make no mistake, this is a horror tale, not a salty Patrick O'Brian sea adventure. the voyage conditions themselves are certainly bad enough, and then the polar bears, scurvy, Esquimaux magic, and food poisoning show up.
'the terror' is wonderfully atmospheric - i felt actually physically guilty when i had enough to eat and a place to read warmer than -75F - at times approaching too much description of the seracs and ice ridges. sprinkled very occasionally throughout are some spectacularly bravura WTF action sequences, utterly memorable whether or not you'd like those particular images lingering in your dreams. yes, it's long, but it's definitely not a slog.