Having really enjoyed Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist, I became interested in checking out the author’s other works and decided to pick up his new young adult book The 5th Wave.
The book tells the story of an alien invasion, happening over a period of time in a series of planned attacks called “waves”. The 1st wave was an electromagnetic pulse-like burst that knocked out electricity and almost everything that runs on power. The 2nd wave wiped out all cities on the world’s coastlines. The 3rd wave was a plague that decimated the human population. The 4th wave made those still alive mistrust and turn on each other. Cassie is one of the few lucky (unlucky?) survivors, believing that striking out alone is the only way to stay alive. Those that are left now prepare for the worst; they know “the Others” aren’t done with humanity yet, and a 5th wave is on the horizon.
I was really excited when I found out the premise behind the book, hoping to see a new take and fresh ideas on the alien invasion concept. Going on a tangent here, but I think most of us today take movies like Alien for granted; the image of the chestburster exploding out of a human chest cavity is a familiar one to us now that it’s been propagated in pop culture, but can you imagine actually sitting in that theater seat watching that scene play out for the very first time on the big screen back in 1979? It was before my time, but I can’t help but think it must have been one crazy, horrifyingly mind-blowing experience, simply because no one then could have expected it.
You could say I’m trying to I’m chase that feeling, I guess. I live for those moments when I’m surprised by my science fiction, those OMG-I-can’t-believe-that-just-friggin’-happened moments. Anyway, I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it didn’t quite get me there. Even so, it was great read. Never mind that some of the waves were based on familiar ideas, and there were themes reminiscent of stories like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing (TRUST NO ONE!), the horror of their relentless assaults was very well done, making the characters’ fears seem very real.
In fact, I only have a very few minor gripes, and they mostly stem from the things the author threw in to make this book feel more mainstream YA, almost like he was deliberately trying for a Hunger Games vibe. There’s that aspect of the young girl struggling in a survivalist situation, complete with a sappy romance with a cute boy with a lop-sided grin. Arrgh, seriously, why do they always always ALWAYS have to have the lop-sided grin?! Spare me!
I know it’s a stereotype, and as usual there are going to be exceptions, but some male authors just can’t seem to pull off writing convincingly and realistically from the point-of-view of a teenage girl. Some of Cassie’s thoughts about crushes and boys are either giggle-worthy or cringe-inducing, and I get the feeling Rick Yancey simply used general ideas found in mainstream movies and books when it came to writing Cassie. She definitely didn’t come across as naturally compared to his characterization of Will Henry in The Monstrumologist.
I only mention this because YA romances that feel corny or awkward have a tendency to drive me absolutely bonkers, but thankfully it was only mildly distracting here. Ultimately, there really wasn’t much in this book that took away from my overall enjoyment. Despite incorporating a lot of elements I feel like I’ve seen
before, I really have no complaints in terms of the story. It was
entertaining, full of action and suspense and all I could ask for.
Kushiel’s Curse continues the adventures of Moirin mac Fainche, now on a quest to find her lover, Bao, who has run off to determine his own fate after their Master Lo sacrificed himself to help Moirin unwittingly bring Bao back to life. Half of Moirin’s soul spark, or diadh-anam, now resides with Bao, guiding her towards him, but making him uncertain of whether or not his feelings for her are genuine.
Leaving Chin behind, Moirin travels through many of the lands of Carey’s world, all of which are based on the real world. Carey seems to be making a point of covering the entire world in her books, with this one crossing Mongolia and India and the next book completing the world tour with the west.
This is, first and foremost, a love story that speaks to the lengths Moirin will go to for those she loves. To be clear, Moirin loves just about everyone. She remains committed to Bao, but Moirin falls in love with the inner beauty and positive traits of many of the people she meets on her journey. As a child of Namaah, Moirin is heavily influenced by desire and believes in the D’Angeline consensual tenet of “Love as thou wilt.”
Through the Alban side of her heritage, Moirin is also a child of the bear goddess, the Maghuin Dhonn. The gifts from these goddesses are manifest in Moirin and this brings her to the attention of a particular Yeshuan Rebbe intent on cleansing her of all those sins and lead her and other sinners to salvation. When this occurs about a quarter of the way into the book, it got my back up. In the second book of Carey’s adventures in Terre D’Ange, readers are introduced to the Habiru, worshippers of Yeshua and the One God. Due to my Christian upbringing, I tend to balk when I have to deal with the religious beliefs I rebelled against in my youth (unexpectedly) showing up in my entertainment and taking a very prominent role. It’s clear that the cultures and religions in this series are all based on actual cultures and religions and it is very easy to identify them all, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to me to find the Christian god’s involvement – especially since the gods of Terre D’Ange are birthed from that very faith. My prejudice usually isn’t enough to make me turn away, and I appreciated the way Kushiel’s Chosen presented it as something more for its main character, Phèdre, to learn and comprehend in order to achieve her goals. In fact, as the books progress and more cultures and religions earn some focus, Carey does so with great care and respect through her characters. But, unlike the previous adventures with Yeshua where I could get over my religious prejudice because the telling was never delivered with preachiness or condemnation, Moirin’s introduction to the Habiru, it is nothing but preachy and condemning.
As Moirin tries to justify her religious beliefs and subsequent actions to her captors, it felt a lot like it was Carey herself trying to unapologetically validate the “love as though wilt” principle and the licentious behaviour of her D’Angeline people. As if Carey had suffered criticism from some right wing Christian group and needed to vent her frustrations within the story. Later, when Moirin travels to Bhodistan, Carey’s disguised opinion piece moves to the condemnation of the caste system and the Untouchables of India.
I would have liked to avoid comparing Moirin to her predecessor, Phèdre no Delauney, but Moirin does it often enough herself. Moirin also spent a lot of time reiterating events from past books. In her travels, she frequently is asked to tell her story from Namaah’s Kiss, so if you haven’t read that one, you almost don’t need to. But she also goes into a lot of detail about certain events that took place with Imriel de la Courcel, who had his own trilogy in Carey’s Terre D’Ange series. Everything is raised within context, but I found the repetition tedious.
There is a heavy reliance on magic. Originally, the gods’ involvement in the world was clear, but not as heavy handed as it has been with Moirin. All of her decisions are based on the commands of her diadh-anam and plans rely on her ability to “summon the twilight” or make use of her many other abilities. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that has struck me since the Imriel Trilogy, becoming almost the entire focus in Moirin’s Trilogy. The theme is that the gods use their chosen hard, as established with Phèdre but Phèdre made choices that in some cases, meant defying the gods. I don’t expect Moirin to be Phèdre but I grew disappointed in the way Moirin seemed to be the sum of her god-chosen status, without actually making decisions herself or really even questioning her destiny.
I was disappointed that we really don’t get to spend enough time with Bao and Moirin being together, though I know that was a necessary part of the story of Moirin’s love traversing all obstacles to be with him. I guess that just means I’ll have to read the third book in Moirin’s Trilogy to get my satisfaction!
My final complaint goes to the narrator, Anne Flosnik. I was not fond of her slow speech and the voices she affects for the characters other than Moirin, who tells the story. I particularly did not enjoy the drawn out, hoarsely whispered voice she uses for Bao. It did not match my image of Bao (as portrayed by Godfrey Gao in my head) at all. Not to mention that Flosnik pronounced all the words I’ve been reading for the past seven books entirely *wrong*, of course. Otherwise, the narration was tolerable, but I will definitely be reading the next book myself.
Huge fan of Brandon Sanderson here, which is why I was all over this book even though I knew it would take place outside of his Cosmere universe and be a little different from his usual epics. I admit I was mostly curious as to what reading a young adult fantasy novel by him would feel like, since I’ve never read any of his Alcatraz series books for teens.
On the surface, it didn’t feel too different, thanks to Sanderson’s unique brand of world-building and magic system creation. The Rithmatist is about 16-year-old Joel Saxon who goes to school at the prestigious Armedius Academy, one of just a handful of Rithmatist schools in the United Isles of America. He is somewhat of an outsider at the school; unlike a lot of his fellow students who are the sons and daughters of politicians, the rich, or other people of influence, his mother is a cleaning lady at the academy, and his father, who died
eight years ago in a springrail accident, was its resident chalkmaker. Neither is Joel a Rithmatist, though he desperately wishes to be one.
Rithmatists are a chosen group of magic users who can make chalk-drawn lines, circles and figures called Chalklings come to life and take on unique properties. They are trained at schools like Armedius, then sent on to the wilds of Nebrask where they defend humanity against hordes of dangerous and blood thirsty Wild Chalklings that threaten to overrun the territory. When several Rithmatists students go missing, Joel is assigned to be an assistant to Professor Fitch, the Rithmatist expert tasked to investigate the disappearances.
My first thought while reading this was that the writing is less subtle than I’m used to when reading Sanderson’s adult books. Instead of the letting details of the magic system trickle through as you make your way through the plot, there were a couple of pretty big info dumps near the beginning where one character explains Rithmatics to another.
Even then, I didn’t find the magic system or the world building to be as robust as it could be, though of course I’m not expecting Sanderson to go on in detail about such things in a young adult novel compared to the the way he does it in a 1000+ page fantasy epic. Still, I found myself asking a lot of questions about Rithmatics; it just felt like a magic system I could poke a lot of holes in without thinking too hard about it.
Rithmatics by itself sounds like a lot of fun, though. Is there something wrong with me that when I think about Rithmatist battles with their defense strategies and Chalklings, my mind immediately went to Pokemon? Or, okay, let’s say Magic: The Gathering, or Starcraft, or really any kind of game which involves a fundamental set of rules, strategic gameplay, a combination of chance and skill, and limits that force a player to think quickly and creatively when trying to defeat their opponent.
For Rithmatists, the decision comes down to whether to spend the time drawing a strong defense, or mounting a fast and powerful offense. Despite my skepticism, it really is quite cool. The technical aspects like circles, lines, and ratios didn’t interest me so much, but the idea of Chalklings attracted me more speaking from an artist’s point of view, since I suspect passion and talent for drawing Chalkings will end up playing into their effectiveness. Obviously, I’m looking forward to seeing more on Chalking theory. Also, I have to mention I really liked the art and diagrams which preceded each new chapter in this book.
Basically, as YA fiction goes, this was amazing. It’s like Brandon Sanderson took the crash course on how to write a good YA novel and threw in the works, complete with the teenage protagonist attending a school of magic in an alternate-reality-steampunky kind of world (with a whacked-out archipelago version of the United States and a Europe that has been taken over by invaders from Asia called the JoSeun).
There are even wonky things happening in this book like the lead investigator of a murder case simply taking a 16-year-old at his word, and of course the requisite potential for a romance along with the feel-good Karate Kid-like ending. Still, I loved it all. The last chapter and final scene was just so great, and I’m glad to see there will be future books in this series. Sanderson’s flair for fantasy and writing about magic is as usual unparalleled and something you absolutely won’t find anywhere else.
This was actually my favourite book of 2012, but after reading the ebook, I had to have it (and all of N.K. Jemisin’s books) on my bookshelf. When it arrived early in 2013, I intended only to skim through to dog ear and highlight all the moments and quotes that had kept me up at nights during my initial read. Instead, I got sucked in all over again. It was even better the second time through, knowing what I did from my first read through. All the little things suddenly had that much more meaning.
Aside from the images and thoughts spilling across Tumblr, one of the things that really attracted me to the book was the author herself who is a woman of colour. It is rare to find people like yourself creating the things that you love so, while I try not to dwell on the paleness of science fiction and fantasy, it increases my enjoyment to be entertained by something that far better reflects life as it could and should be, rather than the reality that sometimes is. It disturbs me that science fiction and fantasy of all things remain bound to our prejudices when the worlds and creatures you can create within these realms should be limitless. It turns out, Ms. Jemisin has much to say on this subject herself:
This genre is rooted in the epic — and the truth is that there are plenty of epics out there which feature people like me. […] So given all these myths, all these examinations of the possible…how can I not imagine more? How can I not envision an epic set somewhere other than medieval England, about someone other than an awkward white boy? How can I not use every building-block of my history and heritage and imagination when I make shit up?
This is the third book of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles series and unfortunately also my least favorite installment so far. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, but I’m also sensing a definite slowdown compared to the first couple of novels (see my review of Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven).
The book picks up from where we last left our group of dragons, their keepers and their crew. After overcoming the dangers of the Rain Wild River, the expedition has finally found the legendary Elderling city of Kelsingra. And yet, due to the eruptions and bad flooding, the city can only be reached by flying — a problem, as despite growing bigger and stronger since the start of their journey, many of the dragons’ wings are still stunted, deformed and non-functioning. So close and yet so far!
And so, we watch as the characters spend much of their time in the book doing…not much of anything. About a quarter of the book blows by before I felt the story picking up, like something interesting was actually happening. It was definitely a slow start, lots of setting up and reintroductions to characters and past events to get the reader up to speed.
I’m notoriously forgetful of things that happened in previous books in a series (especially if it’s been a while) so normally I would appreciate it when the author throws in the casual reminder here or there. But that left the remainder three-quarters of this book to blow me away, and honestly, it just didn’t. I still enjoyed it, nonetheless…but the truth is I would have enjoyed it even more if it didn’t feel so much like a “transition book”, i.e. filler.
There were some high points, of course. I liked that we finally got to see more of Hest and his perspective, despite the fact that he’s a scumbag of a human being, but it was a nice change from our constant focus on the river and the dragons. And let’s face it, sometimes it’s the scumbags’ perspectives that are the most interesting to read about! There were also large sections featuring Reyn and Malta who are starting to get more attention in this series, though I think I would have been more excited about that if I’d read some of the previous books in Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings universe in which they also appear.
There continues to be interesting and dynamic developments in the relationships between the characters. Couples are pairing off, people are sleeping around, jealousy abounds, etc. etc. etc. More secrets are uncovered about Elderlings and Kelsingra. The dragons and their keepers are all growing and moving forward as characters go. All that’s great, because it means there’s still a point to this novel. But still, I can’t help but feel that the book lacks a certain direction.
And the ending! I’m not sure what to make of that. Let me go on the record to say that I think Robin Hobb is a great writer and that I love her style, but there really doesn’t seem to be much logic when it comes to where and how she ends her books. This one was abrupt, but not not exactly a cliffhanger. It makes me wonder if this book and the fourth and final book in the series were meant to be read as one, but then split into two for whatever reason. That could also explain its relatively short length. In any case, I did not expect the book to end this way, limply dangling in the breeze like that.
Regardless, I have one more book to go in this Rain Wild Chronicles series and I’m looking forward to see how it all ends.
This book could have been a story arc in a comic book, and I mean that in a good way. In fact, I’m thinking that could be why I liked this book so much. You have British warlocks versus Nazi Germany’s engineered super soldiers in an alternate history of World War II.
At this point in the story, the U.S. is still out of the picture and the Soviet Union only gets involved later in the book. The British have discovered that Nazi scientists have been developed a technology to create a group of “supermen” — there’s a guy who can manipulate fire, a woman who can turn invisible, another dude who can walk through solid matter, etc. The British know they’re screwed unless they come up with something fast, so they end up recruiting a bunch of their warlocks to counter the enemy.
But the story is a lot darker than it sounds, or at least that’s how I felt. There are parts that were really emotionally disturbing and/or upsetting to me; the whole book just has this heavy, gloomy vibe surrounding it, which isn’t uncommon for books that explore the theme of whether the ends justify the means — because there’s a catch to the warlocks’ power. Apparently, it comes only from a group of omnipotent extra-planar beings called the Eidolons, demon-like creatures who demand a “blood price” for their services.
Not to mention that the book’s main antagonist, the Nazi’s super-soldier pre-cog named Gretel is one crazy scary bitch. She’s even crazier and scarier than the Nazi’s mad scientist. The people on her own side are afraid of her. Heck, her own brother thinks she’s nutters. And yet, her personality is handled just subtly enough so the reader doesn’t simply brush her off as just another cookie-cutter psycho supervillain. Personally, I found her fascinating in a creepy, discomforting sort of way, because you’re left wondering what could anyone with the perfect ability to see the future and manipulate events possibly have planned for the world? It hurts my head just to work out the paradoxes, and quite frankly I don’t really want to think about it at all.
Like I said, there were parts of this book that really disturbed and upset me, but not in the way that would make me want to put it down. Most of the time, it was the penetrating feeling of dread that hit me as I was reading, the anticipation of impending disaster or of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s a good, suspenseful fear, and I suppose it speaks well of the author that he was able to make me feel this way, because it doesn’t normally happen unless I get emotionally invested in the story or the characters.
I don’t want to make this book sound all doom and gloom, though. It’s beautifully written and Ian Tregillis has clearly done his homework on the historical period. Despite the occult paranormal and science fiction elements, you get a highly realistic sense of the war setting. The main characters are also very well done; we see the story play out through three main narratives — Marsh the British agent, Will the warlock, and Klaus the Nazi super soldier — and between them I got a pretty clear picture of what’s happening on all sides.
It’s probably true that the ideas in this novel aren’t completely original; you can probably recognize elements of them from other works, but the way Tregillis has mashed them together and the context he uses made this a really intriguing read. I’m really looking forward to picking up the rest of the series if it means I’ll be getting more of that good stuff.
Science fiction fans with an inclination towards alternate history should definitely check this out, especially if you have an interest in the WWII era.
|Laura Vandervoort as Elena Michaesl|
Bitten was my first real introduction to urban fantasy and supernatural books. I fell in love with Kelley Armstrong‘s Women of the Otherworld series. Part of my love comes from national pride: both Armstrong and her main character Elena Michaels are Canadian and it’s always nice to find the familiar in something you’re reading or watching.
The story goes: Elena is the only female to survive a werewolf bite, but she’s not too keen on pack life. A product of the more negative aspects of the foster care system, family doesn’t quite mean the same thing to her as it does to her pack. Since wolves tend to mate for life, her ex, Clay Danvers, is a little upset by this concept. Circumstances draw Elena back to the pack’s home at Stonehaven and murder and mystery ensue.
|Greyston Holt as Clay Danvers|
Since I learned last year about plans already underway for a TV series, I’ve been patiently excited. After Lost Girl, I’m quite happy to see more Canadian-made supernatural shows getting some attention. This month, SPACE released first looks from the set and fans are, unsurprisingly, already up in arms by what we’re seeing (video). We’ve been waiting for Clay’s blond curls and southern drawl, but we won’t be getting either. Elena’s casting is acceptable, but personally, I would have liked to see a more Asian Jeremy Danvers. That might just be because I have a thing for quietly powerful, broody darkangels with long black hair.
Still, I’m not upset by what I’ve seen so far. I’m far more interested in actors that understand and can bring to life the internal workings of a character than just having someone who looks (and sounds) the part. There have been enough excellent examples of actors (e.g. 50% of the Game of Thrones cast) doing this that I am willing to be cautiously optimistic. More so because Armstrong seemed to feel the same way when I asked her about it. When I visited Fan Expo last summer and learned about the show, I got to chat briefly with her. I was curious about her involvement. I always worry that great stories will be swept away from their creators, like Ursula K. Leguin’s issues with EarthSea, if the creator isn’t involved enough. Armstrong noted that she had seen the some of the pre-production concepts (and didn’t seem bothered by any of it), but she specifically did not want to be part of the casting because she felt her idea of how her characters should look would cause too much bias. I was glad to hear that she was able to let that go, so hopefully, fandom will find it in our hearts to forgive as well, once we see what the show actually has to offer us.
Ignoring Laura Vandervoort’s references to 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight, the on set video snippets and interviews seem to confirm to me that the creative team and the actors have grasped the essence of the story and characters (and are aware of what the fans will be upset about, with actor Greyston Holt already apologizing for Clay’s lack of a southern drawl), which is far more important to me as a fan of the books. I particularly love that the pack’s home, Stonehaven, has been recognized as a character unto itself and given the love and attention it deserves with details including first and foremost, Jeremy Danver’s paintings on the wall.
For now, Bitten is focusing, it seems, on Armstrong’s first book, but I definitely plan to stick around to see if the world of the werewolves will expand to include the other Women of the Otherworld and the respective supernatural races they belong to.
Wow, never have I snapped up and read all the currently available books in a series so quickly. With my enthusiasm waning for Harry Dresden in light of the new direction the Dresden Files series has taken in the last few books, someone else has recently dethroned him as my favorite leading man in urban fantasy fiction. Peter Grant is my master now!
I’m really enjoying this series. I probably didn’t like this book as much as the two preceding it, but then again, Rivers of London (review here) was excellent and the sequel Moon Over Soho (review here) was even better, so I knew that was going to be hard to top.
The story begins with a strange murder in the London Underground, and as usual, strange murders always lead to a call to The Folly, home of the Metropolitan Police’s two-man paranormal investigative unit. And thus Peter is dragged into a messy case involving a dead American exchange student who is also the son of a rich and powerful U.S. Senator. Added to that is The Folly’s ongoing manhunt for “The Faceless Man”, the rogue wizard who wreaked havoc and almost got Peter killed in the last book.
Actually, I’d thought this book would take up that thread directly, following through on the mystery behind who The Faceless Man is and ending that story arc, but apparently not. It seems the author has plans instead to expand that particular plot line over the course of future books, an indication that the scope of this series will be getting bigger and bigger. I’m not sure how I feel about that; on the one hand, I’m glad there are ambitious plans for these novels, but on the other, a part of me still prefers the one-contained-mystery-per-book-at-a-time kind of format.
Already, this book feels like there’s a lot more happening in it than the others. With the exception of a couple scenes, the story didn’t feel as suspenseful because the mystery was “diluted” amidst all that was going on. Maybe that’s also why its chapters were organized into what happened by days of the week this time, to help keep track of all the events over time. There seems to be a lot more exposition as well, and sadly — at least it feels this way to me — less history about London and less of Peter experimenting with magic using science, which were the two things I’d loved best about the first two books. Actually, there’s just not as much magic, period.
Despite that, there were some things I really liked about this book, not the least of all Lesley’s bigger role in this series. I wasn’t happy at all about what happened to her in the first book, and good to know she wasn’t just some shallow, throwaway plot device never to have a more important purpose again. There are also a few scenes which I felt were done extremely well, especially a particular one near the end in the eerie confines of the underground tunnels. Very imaginative and atmospheric.
Anyway, I’m glad that I’m all caught up now, but unfortunately that also means it’s going to be a long and difficult wait for the end of July, which is when the next book comes out.