First, I must admit that I didn’t look into this book before reading it. I was simply drawn in by the GORGEOUS cover and the fact that it was about drFirst, I must admit that I didn’t look into this book before reading it. I was simply drawn in by the GORGEOUS cover and the fact that it was about dragons. I also knew it was written as a fictional memoir, but that’s about it.
Therefore, while I hoped for a sweeping tale riddled with all manner of dragons throughout, complete with grand action and epic romance, it turns out that such a book is precisely what the narrator, Lady Trent, does NOT read herself—she prefers natural history to “sensational novels,” and her own story reads much more like the former.
Even the bit of romance we get in the book between Lady Trent and her husband is viewed through a practical lens, with emotions surfacing infrequently (and such emotions surprise Lady Trent when they appear). Had I done my homework before jumping into this book, I likely would have given it four stars instead of three, but I can’t help being disappointed that there weren’t dragons on every page or a sweeping narrative propelling me forward.
Where the book really succeeds is in the unapologetically scientific character of Lady Trent, as well as in the crisp, clean language that would occasionally include a poetic phrase of such beauty that it made me stop reading—“The dragon within my heart stirred, shifting her wings, as if remembering they could be used to fly.”
I may have wanted more dragons (and I still do), but this book is lovely despite their intermittent presence....more
When one considers the origin of this book, that it began its life as a serial novel, it's hard not to be impressed by it. Hugh Howey crafted an intriWhen one considers the origin of this book, that it began its life as a serial novel, it's hard not to be impressed by it. Hugh Howey crafted an intriguing world that has the potential to span over numerous books (and it does). As a post-apocalyptic fan, I was incredibly curious about its secret origins and the wild setup of silos as mankind's supposed last refuge.
Howey's ability to keep me turning pages was similarly impressive, like when (view spoiler)[Juliette is desperately trying to wade through dozens of corpses to get into a neighboring silo before she dies herself (hide spoiler)], and I had to finish the scene before setting the book down. For the world and the forward movement of the plot, this book deserves some stars.
I did find myself questioning some aspects of this world, however. For example, how is there not a simple pulley system to move goods up and down the center of the silo? Those poor, miserable porters traversing 144 floors! I understand not having an elevator in order to maintain control over the inhabitants and to keep them from communicating too easily, and I realize that later in the series, the stairs serve an even more nefarious purpose. I just didn't find it believable that a simple rope and pulley system stretching down through the center of the stairs for the single, approved purpose to move goods wouldn't have been implemented. But I went with it.
Another aspect I struggled with was the romance (if one can call it that) between (view spoiler)[Juliette and Lukas. Yes, they're both lonely (isn't everyone in an oppressive, underground world?). And perhaps they're both attractive. But "lonely" and "attractive" does not a sweeping love story make, much less over the length of just one book. Love stories have to be earned over time through repeated interactions between the two participants to be believable for me, and this one just wasn't (please tell me it gets better over subsequent books). The reader doesn't even get to see the majority of their conversations, which they had over the phone between their two silos over a period of time (hide spoiler)]. Damn, because who doesn't want to be enveloped in a passionate affair between star-crossed lovers in a post-apocalyptic dystopia? I know I do.
Wool was a fun read, the strongest feature of which for me was the world itself/the mystery of how it ended years prior. I'll likely continue with the series....more
Malorie is pregnant and finds herself suddenly alone in a world where people are dying just by looking at mysterious creatures who have taken up residMalorie is pregnant and finds herself suddenly alone in a world where people are dying just by looking at mysterious creatures who have taken up residence on Earth. We see her in the present as she flees toward a sanctuary via a dangerous, blind trek down a river with two young children, as well as in the past during her pregnancy, which she went through in a house full of survivors like her.
The premise of Bird Box is elegant, and in its beautiful simplicity, it finds its center. The idea that creatures so beyond our understanding that to see them drives us mad is compelling unto itself. That combined with the writer's ability not only to write suspensefully, but to also appeal to the senses other than sight as the book's premise demands, kept me reading until the end.
But there are missed opportunities in this page-turner, such as the freedom, or rather, the necessity, to dive deeply into the characters, especially when the majority of the time they're trapped in a house together. The potential for psychological examination and character-building that this premise screamed for was squandered. Instead, we're left with housemates who are barely distinguishable from one another, and a leading lady whose flat personality is rivaled only by her inconsistencies. Which is the other sticking point in this book--inconsistencies and illogical plot points that made me shout, "Wait, what?" a number of times.
(view spoiler)[For example, people in the U.S. are terrified of the news stories about people dying at the sight of some unknown things in Russia. This terror drives them to paranoia, resulting in them blocking the windows of their houses with blankets and walking around town wearing blindfolds before the creatures ever arrive. This begs the question, why did so many die when they were prepared for the arrival of the creatures? Especially when the creatures don't seem to physically attack? Another aspect that I found less than believable was the author's treatment of the dogs. Gary claims the creatures roam their street constantly, and yet, neither of the huskies with Tom and Jules ever see one and go mad in the week they were out and about in the neighborhood. But the border collie Victor goes mad when he sees a creature in the bar where Malorie stops to have several drinks alone among rotten bar food and the dangerous shadows beyond her reckoning (when she's been terrified of her own shadow for more or less the entirety of the book, but I digress). I found myself attempting to make excuses for the writer with issues such as these; his skillful use of suspense made me root for him to use logic, as well. (hide spoiler)]
The narrator of this edition, Cassandra Campbell, was fantastic. She even had the challenge of voicing two four-year-old kiddos, which she did extremely well.
In the end, I enjoyed this horror ride. But for me, the movie was more believable and its characters more compelling (gasp). I'll check out the next book coming this July. Fingers crossed we actually get to learn something of substance about Malorie, for whom the sequel is named....more
It’s the end of the world as we know it, all thanks to a new strand of swine flu that takes people out in a number of hours. Now, fifteen years later,It’s the end of the world as we know it, all thanks to a new strand of swine flu that takes people out in a number of hours. Now, fifteen years later, we explore the fallen world through the lives of numerous survivors.
There’s no denying that Emily St. John Mandel is a talented writer. In particular, I loved her idea of the traveling symphony—a group of people whose mission is to keep the arts alive by traveling from town to town and sharing music/plays with those left on Earth. Additionally, the author's style is distinct, which so many writers strive for in their own work. Unfortunately, her style just wasn’t for me. That combined with her use of a couple of post-apocalyptic tropes that I’m tired of made for a somewhat frustrating reading experience.
The style of this book is, in a word, fragmented. It’s fragmented both in the story itself and the language with which it’s told. There are dozens of characters, and about a dozen of those are “major” characters. Many of the characters in the symphony aren’t ever named, instead referred to simply as the instruments they play and their position in the orchestra (e.g., the first flute and the second cello). We see bits and pieces of the characters’ stories, some from the past, some in the present, all delivered via an omniscient narrator. Due to the number of characters, the nonlinear storytelling that often felt random rather than intentional, and the use of an omniscient narrator, I wasn’t able to care about anybody in this post-apocalyptic world. And that’s a shame, because to me, a story without relatable characters is just talking about stuff that happened, which I don’t find appealing.
One of the defining aspects of the writing style is the use of lists. Lists and more lists (delivered via fragments) of things are found throughout the book, things like, “No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities…” These lists have the potential to be impactful, but they're used over and over, and as a result, they lost much of their power. I ended up skimming through many of them. These lists fed into one of my big beefs with lots of post-apocalyptic writing, which is how it tends to beat a dead horse by telling the reader repeatedly that “the world is terrible.” This book did the same thing with the idea of “the way things used to be,” and this mournful sentiment was often delivered via the aforementioned lists.
The basic premise of a virulent flu that kills in a day, with an incubation period of just three hours, left me with major questions. As a post-apocalyptic writer myself, I’ve explored all manner of world-ending catastrophes in my free time, and sicknesses are truly terrifying. But the way this particular virus operates, while scary on the surface, would likely have resulted in a quick burnout and the ability to quarantine the sick relatively effectively. The science behind the epidemic in Station Eleven is sparse, its cause and “patient zero” left unidentified, so perhaps the author put real thought behind it, but if that’s the case, we readers aren’t privy to it.
Finally, the “crazy messiah/prophet/chosen one taking Bible verses out of context” trope is utilized, and it's one I tired of long ago. I’m just over it.
This book is well-regarded by many and has garnered such accolades as New York Times Bestseller and 2014 National Book Award Finalist. It simply wasn’t for me....more