Apr. 4th, 2017

juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Title: What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles Book 1)
Author: Kat Zhang
Published: HarperCollins, 2012
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 390
Total Page Count: 211,310
Text Number: 643
Read Because: recommended by Jen Campbell, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Everyone is born with two souls in one body, and usually one soul recesses and dies. But Addie and Eva are both still alive, and this is a dangerous secret to keep. This is yet another high-concept YA dystopia, and an approximately convincing one: the premise isn't too tortured, the use of pronouns justifies the first-person narrator and sells the concept, and the result is a quick hook and swift readability without too many suspension of disbelief-violating moments. It helps that the romance is relatively minor, and has human complications without being a love triangle/star-crossed/another genre cliché; it helps more that the core relationship between the sisters is intimate and complex. The readability stumbles a bit when Eva makes stupid mistakes--they're understandable given her life experiences and age, but they're also overbroadcasted and frustrating. It stumbles again in the middle section, which has outright unpleasant themes (that said, I'm particularly sensitive to narratives about institutionalization/denial of autonomy and identity/forced medical procedures) and a slow plot, mostly due to under-characterized and predictable villains. I find it difficult to be objective about this book: It's an above-average take on the genre, acceptably convincing, supported by sufficient emotional investment; it doesn't go above and beyond, but also refuses to succumb to obvious pitfalls. And I found it intensely, offputtingly stressful. This last I think is a personal quirk, and won't carry into the sequels; but I don't think the overall quality compels me to continue the series.

I do wish that any consideration were given to the existence of real-world Dissociative Identity Disorder/related experiences.


Title: A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps Book 2)
Author: Kai Ashante Wilson
Published: Tor, 2016
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 160
Total Page Count: 211,470
Text Number: 644
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Snapshots of a life of a young lover and his first love. Once again, Wilson's writing is a pleasure. It's vibrant and playful, with an engaging use of language; oversized relationships and characters coexist with unusual genre-bending worldbuilding and issues of race, culture, and class. It's profoundly original, and manages to be both challenging and engaging. I didn't love A Taste of Honey as much as The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps--it's a smaller story; there's a similar combination of interpersonal and worldbuilding, but the worldbuilding has a more restricted effect on the plot. That said, it's interesting to see a wider view of the same setting, and this gave me the style and core elements that I came looking for.


Title: Planetfall (Planetfall Book 1)
Author and narrator: Emma Newman
Published: Blackstone Audiobooks, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 330
Total Page Count: 211,800
Text Number: 645
Read Because: multiple recommendations, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A small colony on a distant planet is threatened by a human outsider whose arrival uncovers secrets about the colony's origin. The book's speculative elements—the colony's 3D printing and communication network, the nearby alien structure and its effect on humans—are compelling, and inform everything from daily minutiae to the mystery plot to the colony's religious origin. The protagonist, Ren, has a distinct and precise voice, focused equally on engineering and the human condition; her comorbid mental illnesses are central to her experience as well as the plot's mystery. The depiction of these illnesses is complicated—it's unflinching, compassionate, but also exploited to build drama; upsetting to read at the best of times, but sometimes unjustifiably so. The ending abandons the local, colony-level scale for something more transcendental; I think it works, but it also compromises the pacing and tone. This is one of the more absorbing reading experiences I've encountered in a while: it has a great voice and protagonist, it's astute and wrenching and intriguing, and Newman has a phenomenal eye for detail; but too much is dictated by the murder-mystery plot—and those contrivances sometimes override the more successful, subtle elements.

I had an incredibly difficult time assessing my reaction to how Planetfall handles mental illness; thoughts on that below the cut, & beware spoilers. Originally posted on Tumblr.

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