Liked it a lot. A sophomore effort that isn't noticeably weaker than the original. The pace of this one seemed just a notch below that of "The White M...moreLiked it a lot. A sophomore effort that isn't noticeably weaker than the original. The pace of this one seemed just a notch below that of "The White Mountains," but the characters and issues were stronger. Compared to contemporary books targeted to the same age-group - I'm thinking of you, Anthony Horowitz and Rick Riordan - Christopher is more challenging in his vocabulary and style, if a bit less frenetic in pace. Well worth reading for middle-grades on up.(less)
I read this around fifth or sixth grade and just finished re-reading it aloud to my fourth grader. I enjoyed it and so did the kid; it is a good story...moreI read this around fifth or sixth grade and just finished re-reading it aloud to my fourth grader. I enjoyed it and so did the kid; it is a good story and an enjoyable bed-time book. The plot moves a little slower than contemporary titles, probably owing to the fashions of an earlier era, but the characters and problems were vital and interesting. By the end, we were excited to dive into The City of Gold and Lead.
Christopher's writing is peppered with elevated vocabulary (quick: murrain?) along with the usual differences British authors present American audiences, and thematic discussions of freedom and free-will make this a good choice for stronger readers. (less)
While reading "Ashfall," I was transported back to my teenaged enthusiasm for Larry Niven's Lucifer's Hammer. What's not to love about a hero who defi...moreWhile reading "Ashfall," I was transported back to my teenaged enthusiasm for Larry Niven's Lucifer's Hammer. What's not to love about a hero who defies the END of the WORLD? There are so many things to like about "Ashfall" that it is hard to know where to start. The premise is simple and believable: a super volcano eruption suddenly and completely transforms the Iowa life Alex has known into an ashen wasteland. The natural upheaval is devastating, but it is the way people change suddenly and completely that is most disturbing. It isn't quite The Road. Yet. As the events of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy show (and tsunamis and earthquakes and on and on), mother nature is unforgiving, but it is people who make tragedy into obscenity. "Ashfall" raises the stakes beyond simple disaster survival stories, such that the devastation is believable and the lack of coordinated response is equally understandable. Mullin has done a fine job of weaving speculation in with elements of historical fact, of how food shortages and refugee camps work, of how people are both good and evil.
Alex is completely engaging as our sixteen year old protagonist and narrator. He is confused, determined, naive, altruistic, and adaptable. Alex eventually stumbles upon a companion, Darla, who is perhaps more engaging, a no-nonsense raised-on-a-farm practical gal. It is hard for me to think of a romantic relationship between teen characters that displays such respect for the real strengths and weaknesses people bring to relationships.
The realistic depiction of violence, sexual and otherwise, might give pause for some younger readers. Fans of "Survivorman" will feel right at home. And I hear that darker things are to come in the sequel. I'm glad I have Ashen Winter sitting on my shelf, as it would be a rough wait to see how this turns out. (less)
Although the cover didn't appeal to me at all, I saw some strong reviews of "Blood Red Road" comparing it to The Hunger Games and The Road that made m...moreAlthough the cover didn't appeal to me at all, I saw some strong reviews of "Blood Red Road" comparing it to The Hunger Games and The Road that made me want to chance it. Sorry to say that it didn't come close to either of these books for me. Without a doubt, the voice is strong; Saba is a narrator I can hear, and the prose is a notch or two above par. The plot moves very quickly, with characters fighting and changing locations, if only to provide motion.
However, I didn't find enough meat here. All of the characters are thin to the point of transparency. The aforementioned plot rushed past crucial moments that deserved more attention. Life-and-death situations arrive abruptly and then pass just as quickly. Storms, car(sail boat?) crashes, gladiatorial games all come and go far too quickly, leaving me wondering why Young bothered with them to begin with.
Good dystopias construct a future that is at once distant and dangerously close, balancing the far-fetched with all-to-real. The best - this list incl...moreGood dystopias construct a future that is at once distant and dangerously close, balancing the far-fetched with all-to-real. The best - this list includes The Hunger Games,1984, Feed - also establish characters who matter. They may not be lovable, but you want them to succeed. "Empty" falters on both counts.
Weyn's vision of a world without petroleum isn't adequately developed; it is told through the particular experience of some teens in Spring Valley and via news items from around the world. For such a profound crisis, the particulars feel false and under developed. And there's a global-warming caused storm. And there's some problem with genetically modified food. And even with all of this, things never seem to be more than inconvenient. I guess I was expecting something post-apocalyptic.
But the bigger problem, as other reviewers have noted, is that the characters are completely blah. They spout convenient bits of information about bio-diesel and growing your own food, but no one seems to be a real person. Their love lives and friendships just don't hold up.
This is an interesting premise in wait of a better telling.(less)
The book could have been entitled, "Simplistic": if complexity is your game, or you hunger for something original, keep looking. Perhaps because "Dive...moreThe book could have been entitled, "Simplistic": if complexity is your game, or you hunger for something original, keep looking. Perhaps because "Divergent" came billed as the next The Hunger Games I am especially disappointed. "Divergent" isn't bad, just average. It is an easy read, with 487 pages taking surprisingly little effort to get through. The characters never vary from stock types, and our protagonist's journey to figure out what box she fits has been done before. I found the world-building thin and insubstantial. All of this might suffice for a developing reader who disdains detailed description or use of words like 'suffice' and 'disdain.'
Readers who are done with Margaret Peterson Haddix's "Shadow Children" series or The Roar would probably enjoy this, as would fans of paranormal romance who are willing to branch out. In fact, I found that the love story overwhelmed other interesting dystopian elements. Which might not be a problem if what I had been expecting was a love story. So while there's a niche for this, I don't think it will have broad appeal, especially among older readers. (less)
Having just finished "Ship Breaker," I can see why it has received so many accolades. Bacigalupi constructed a fully-realized world, at once fresh and...moreHaving just finished "Ship Breaker," I can see why it has received so many accolades. Bacigalupi constructed a fully-realized world, at once fresh and understandable. And who doesn't like genetically-engineered crosses between dogs and men, environmental catastrophe, murderous thugs, intrigue, and a kid with a tattoo on his face? The action starts quickly and rarely lets up, the characters are memorable. Comparisons to The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Uglies all fit, although I think Bacigalupi's action is as well-paced as Patrick Ness's, and the whole book reminded me most of the Mortal Engines series. I'll be reading the sequel.(less)