EDIT: I think I'm officially lowering the rating to 2 stars, because the more I think about this book, the angrier I get lol. I originally said the lgbt rep was good, but a month later what stuck with me was the fact that the rep was presented so awkwardly/lowkey forced (as much as I hate this word), and that the asexual rep was.... not good. Which I noticed while I was reading but just let it slide because "everyone gets asexual rep wrong anyway" (yay for low standards), but now that I've read other asexual rep books that get it RIGHT, I'm not letting it slide anymore.
I received an advance copy of 27 Hours in exchange for an honest review.
For the TL;DR folk: plot - quite messy and cliche. worldbuilding - VERY messy. emotional and character development - very good. writing - good but could be better. diversity - good on the lgbt front, ABYSMAL ON THE COLONIZATION ALLEGORY FRONT.
Now for the full-on rant:
I'm having a hard time rating this book or even deciding how I feel about it, because while I did have fun reading it, there were a lot of things that really bothered me. The number one thing that bothered me and really took me out of the story was the whole "space racism as allegory for colonization" plotline, but for my complaints to make sense, first we need to get into the messy world building:
So in this book, a group of humans leave Earth for a new planet. This group is compromised of people from all over Earth, but with time, they stop seeing each other as different races/cultures and become just Humans In Space, We're All The Same. And at first: ok, that's a science fiction cliche, nothing out of the ordinary-- until you realize this "assimilation" happens in like, ~200 years? Racism/misogyny/lgbtphobia/etc disappear in 200 years, everyone starts speaking one common language in 200 years, all these cultures become just one (one who is 100% western based, btw) in 200 years????? Uhhh.
But still, authors fuck up timelines all the time, nothing unusual. The real problem is: for a nation so "totally new" and "completely separate from Earth", the people sure act like they're still living in 2017. They sure do pay a lot of attention to which ethnicity each character is, from which Earth country their "ancestors" come from, the latina character calls her grandma "abuela", another character makes references to Ninja Turtles, another one says "cool story bro".... WHY ARE THESE SPACE TEENS USING MEMES FROM 2017 LMAO. This is a futuristic society but it reads just like our normal society, except set in a shiny magical planet with 2 suns. It feels like the author wanted to include as much diversity as possible in the book without having to go through the "hassle" of addressing the difficulties all these minorities face daily. And like, whatever, you can write a "world without any -isms" if you want to, that's not a problem per se, but then
1) your world building needs to MAKE SENSE and SUPPORT YOUR STATEMENT of "people forgot pretty much everything from Earth customs haha!". Don't say that and then show your characters doing... the exact opposite....
2) don't go and add a allegory for irl colonization at the SAME TIME???
seriously, what the hell.
This is my biggest problem with 27 hours: the humans are fighting against a space race called gargoyles/chimera for control of the planet, basically. And this war is constructed as a /direct analogy/ to colonization as we see on our Earth. Most of the time I try to refrain from creating direct paralels between irl racism and magical/space racism because it never works, it almost always ends up becoming problematic (because 90% of authors can't resist doing the "both sides are wrong!" ~plot twist~, among other stuff), and sometimes authors just want to write about fictional societies fighting each other right, not everything has to have a link with reality.
Except this time the author goes out of her way to confirm the link with reality.
She straight up uses the words "colonization" and "indigenous people" when referring to the chimeras. She creates a slur for the colonizers to use (gargoyle) vs an accepted term (chimera). The arguments used by the humans and the chimeras are very familiar ("hey we wanna live here too :c" vs "YOU LITERALLY KILLED A BUNCH OF OUR PEOPLE AND TOOK OUR LANDS"), aaaand there's this:
"'It's... preconceptions. You hear gargoyle, and you think monster. What if...' Jude floundered for a comparison that was just as horrible and unconscionable. 'Okay, what if we labeled certain people as monsters based on their skin color or hair color or gender or whatever? No matter what they did or had done or acted like. You'd have an issue with that, right?'"
The fiction racism is an allegory for real racism, and the author puts it right on the page to make sure no one misses the comparison. The author is writing about fictional-but-actually-real colonization. The author is also an white american. Of course this wouldn't end well, because she somehow makes all the usual mistakes when colonizers try to write about colonization: the entire story is from the point of view of the colonizers. Not one character from the colonized race gets a pov. The colonized race is described as monstrous, not human, physically stronger than the humans, and a real threat to their livelihood. The entire book is about these characters unpacking their racism and learning that "colonization is bad, actually!", it's about them conciliating their hatred for the monsters that killed their parents/loved ones/etc while realizing there's also bad humans out there. The people who make these humans realize the error of their ways are another humans, the good humans fighting for the chimeras, the leaders in this revolution and the saviours of the poor oppressed monsters. There's still a big bad monster the protagonist needs to kill, though.
No pov for the chimera. Their side of the story is told by other humans. No focus on what their entire race went through since the humans arrived. It's allll about the poor humans' hurt feelings. "weh my parents were killed by gargoyles" YEAH AND YOU KILLED A FUCKTON OF PARENTS, BUDDY.
Hey, did the author think about how, if she writes an allegory where the colonized race are monsters, the real life readers who come from colonized countries will end up empathizing with the monsters, not the protagonists? (#StopGringos2k17)
At the end of the day this mess isn't even anything new, really. We see this kind of well-intentioned-but-ultimately-insulting-and-patronizing narrative all the time in fantasy and fiction. The thing is, though, that 27 Hours is being marketed as a book For Diversity. The dedication even has those "for every teen who didn't see themselves in the heroes" lines in it. AND I'm pretty sure Tristina was one of the authors who were RTing all those posts about how problematic The Black Witch is (book about magic racism from the pov of a magic racist), etc etc.... just to turn around and to the exact same thing in her book, lmao??? Rookie mistake!
Especially when it's clear she didn't consider the unfortunate implications of having a nigerian/indian pov character and a latinx pov character being the ones most hateful towards the chimera, while the most "colonization is bad!" pov characters of the book are.... the white ones. With british ancestry. I'm just facepalming at this point.
Why create a society where (human) racism doesn't exist anymore, but somehow are still aware of each person's different ancestry.... and then include the colonization allegory? It will ALMOST ALWAYS end up in unfortunate implications like latinx characters being pro-colonization.
But then you can say "well maybe that's the point the author is trying to make, that you can be from an opressed group and still oppress others!" which: yes, very true. But not a story I'm interest in reading when it isn't own voices, sorry. I don't want to hear about the shortcomings of latinos from a gringo, thanks. I'd think this would be common sense by now, but apparently not.
"But that's just the beginning of the the trilogy!" "The characters stop being pro-colonization by the end!" "The other race will most likely get povs later on!" All arguments already debunked during the The Black Witch discourse gate - which again, I'm pretty sure were RTed by the author and/or her friends, lol?
But I'm tired of talking about gringos gringando once again, let's go to the other facets of the book. Because like I said, I did have fun reading it... when I wasn't paying attention to the worlbuilding/plot. The author is really good at writing emotions and physicality. The scenes where Rumor has panic attacks were amazing. This is a story more focused on the charatcers and their relationships to each other than on plot - thankfully, because again, the plot is messy and quite cliche. The romance also has its fair share of cliches, but at least on this front the author knows how to develop it in a way that makes you buy it. For example: the romance between Jude and Rumor is another classic case of instalove, which I normally hate, but in here I didn't mind because their romantic/sexual tension was really well developed. I'm a sucker for UST, what can I say. Again, the physicality is really well done, by which I mean, the way the characters touch each other (or not) is always infused with tension, and the author writes a lot of forehead touching, hands on arms, hands on backs, all that good stuff.
The writing is ok for a debut - sometimes confusing when it comes to world descriptions and action scenes, but the emotional parts were really well done, and worked well with the purple prose/flowery style.
And of course, she may have fucked up on the colonization front, but the lgbt front was well done - to no one's surprise, that's the own voices part. I did think the character introductions were a bit forced, a bit "hello my name is x, i'm gay/bi/etc and this is my life story", but after that it smoothed out. And the characters themselves, while I woudn't call them super memorable just yet, were quite charming. They were the reason I liked the book and even plan to read the sequels, gringos gringando notwithstanding. Jude and Rumor were especially likeable, and I really want to see how their story will develop.
So overall I'd maybe give it 2.5 stars? It'd probably be a 3.5 star read if it wasn't for the colonization allegory.