Emily 's Reviews > Karen Memory

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
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it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, sci-fi

Once again I feel like I didn't read the same book as everyone else. Look - giving this 2 stars is me being generous here. I thought this book was ridiculous and unbelievable. I thought the plot was absurd and thin. Also, this book commits one of my largest book pet peeves - Love at first sight. We are basically told that Karen loves Priya - we never see it. I still have no idea what they saw in each other. This was just another book where I spent the entire time rolling my eyes and being super irritated. I only kept going with it because I needed a book for the "weird western" category of Reddit's fantasy bingo.

The Marshall is basically impotent, like a cat without his claws (that might be funny when you read the end of this) and he never really seems to do anything useful, only the bad guys had beneficial steampunk gadgets (well, they have more than gadgets - they have extreme advantages which again, were unbelievable and ridiculous). Karen sustains very serious injuries and then goes on fighting as if she was never injured. She acts like she's the only capable person in the entire time, and she screws up pretty much every time she tries to do something

I couldn't stand the way the main character talked. It was the most annoying dialect I've ever put up with in a book (probably made worse because it was an audio book and I had to hear it - I couldn't just gloss over it). Not only her dialect, but the phrasing she constantly used got on my last nerve. "I don't mind saying so", "If you take my meaning", "If you knowed what I mean"

YES I FREAKING GET IT!! I KNOWED WHAT SEWING WERE A EUPHEMISM FOR - YOU AINT GOT TO KEEP TELLING ME - IF YOU DON'T MIND ME SAYING SO - And I swear to god if she said "I thought I might up-my-chuck" one more time I was going to hurl my phone across the room just to get her to shut up.

Finally - the thing that I just couldn't get past - the goddamn similes every other sentence. It got so ridiculous and distracting I started writing them down - and these are just the ones I could remember or write down fast enough...and just the ones starting with "like" - there's an equal number that start with "as". So here you go - Just a fraction of the occurrences.

Like a sleeping kitten
Like a trash doll as big as her chest
Like a person looking into the horizon of my soul
Like a prairie dog watching a coyote (pronounced kai-oat)
Like a skin
Like a shrieking tea kettle
Like a strangled cat
Like a stray cat heads headfirst into a splinter tree (WTF?)
Like a squashed kitten (she loves her cat similes)
Like a strangled calf
Like he had springs for sinews
Like they want to shatter
Like a marriage license in a young man's hand
Like a mouse in a loose box hoping not to get stomped
Like a dying fish thumping its tail
Like dead flowers from my wrist
Like two warm, wet bladders
Like a mouse in front of a cathole
Like an unhinged gyroscope with pieces of me flying off
Like god's own bread knife
Like a couple of cats who bumped heads over a blue jay
Like eagle's battered wings
Like range bandannas
Like a clapboard cliff
Like I swallowed a pint of live worms
Like the conductor in an orchestra pit
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Reading Progress

May 26, 2016 – Shelved
May 26, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
May 26, 2016 – Shelved as: sci-fi
Started Reading
May 27, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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Eon ♒Windrunner♒  :( I have been meaning to read this one for a while.


Emily I have the opposite opinion of almost everyone else that has read it. You liked it before the review posted so you might not like it anymore :)


Eon ♒Windrunner♒  Oh man. The book does not sound like something I will like.


Emily it might be less annoying to read than it was to listen to. I don't read a lot of steampunk, but I like the genre - I also like westerns, but just hated this - but I'm clearly in the minority. I'd say get it at the library (like I did) if you wanted to try it. Don't waste money on it!


message 5: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Oh man, this was one that didn't even make it onto my abandoned list because I couldn't make it past the first chapter... For very similar reasons.


Eon ♒Windrunner♒  Emily (BellaGrace) wrote: "it might be less annoying to read than it was to listen to. I don't read a lot of steampunk, but I like the genre - I also like westerns, but just hated this - but I'm clearly in the minority. I'd ..."

Great advice thanks Emily


Arkadeb This is funny. I have heard only good things about this book. Hmm should make my own read interesting though, since given our reading history we generally agree with each other.

Also I am trying to picture an unhinged gyroscope and I can't


Cheryl I've read several of Elizabeth Bear's other books and the writing was good. I enjoyed them. But I'm with you on Karen Memory. I kept thinking, "who wrote this, surely not Elizabeth Bear??!" Bad writing! It felt a lot like a Gunsmoke weekend tv marathon. I even gave the hard bound book away.

I'm working the same Bingo you are and I'm about 1/2 through Wake of Vultures for that square - much better writing!


Cheryl I guess that was BellaGrace working Reddit Fantasy Bingo. But still, what I said still goes. Try Wake of Vultures if you enjoy the subgenre


message 10: by Emily (last edited May 27, 2016 04:29PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Emily Hannah - I seriously don't know why I didn't quit after the first chapter. Because it was annoying right from the start. I just kept thinking, "everyone loves this book, it must get better".

Arkadeb - if you read this book, you have to email me so I can get a laugh while you're reading. Extra points for you if you listen to it - then you can feel the same pain I had.

Cheryl - This was my first Elizabeth Bear book, but I'm willing to give her another shot. I've heard good things about some of her other series. I did see that Wake of Vultures was one of the poll options for next month's fantasy book. I added it to my reading list. Hopefully I'll like that one better if I get around to reading it.

To all - I'm so glad there were other people that didn't like this book. I feel some validation!


message 11: by Bart (new)

Bart yeah give her another shot, I enjoyed Range of Ghosts & Shattered Pillars a lot. Maybe have to skip on Karen Memory based on what you write...


Emily Bart - Range of Ghosts is on my to read list. I'm sure I will give her another try. Some authors just have some total bombs out there - like Robin Hobb - the Farseer books are my favorite series, but she also wrote the Soldier Son series that was so terrible I couldn't even finish it. No idea how someone can write both the most incredible series I've ever read, and also one of the worst ones!


message 13: by Bart (new)

Bart Very true, I have the same conflicting feelings on Alastair Reynolds: the Revelation Space trilogy is brilliant, but most of his other work... Have still yet to read something of Hobb, will bump Farceur a bit up the TBR-list.


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