This quick and diverting novel is best enjoyed after the reader suspends all logic and decides not to ask questions. The protagonist is a self-unaware 16-year-old in a world that is an unlikely combination of callous brutality, strict order, and SAT words.
Written in an urgent present tense, we follow Beatrice, renamed a naughty "Trix" to symbolize her rebirth from confused, repressed Abnegate to confused, oppressed Dauntless. As she frets whether the hot guy likes her and is maybe too old for her at a ripe 18, she successfully navigates a deadly, take-no-prisoners initiation process because she has some weird brain wiring that she has to hide because, um, well let the author fumble around for awhile to justify why it's so extremely important and life-and-death that she can't really be herself.
As far as young adult fantasy goes, this is a decent, but not great, example; complete with self-doubt, quick moving and sometimes contradictory events (if the new faction doesn't accept all of its recruits, and it only recruits a couple dozen per year, and they like to do stupid things where a lot of them die, how can its halls be filled with hundreds of people?), the romantic teaming up with the guy who secretly liked her all along, and a new parallel universe to provide distracting morsels of interesting scenes, the book is interesting enough to pass time with, but for me not compelling enough to necessitate buying the sequels evident from the ending.
It seems like all young adult novelists nowadays are aiming for that cash cow: a popular series that can lead to riches and Kristen Stewart playing your gawky lead. Some storylines just aren't strong enough to sustain across more than one novel, and this is one of the weaker ones.
At first, I was startled by how deep the narrator's voice is. But since most of the characters are men, this is actually fine and lends the right air to this military action drama.
It must have been much easier for writers during the Cold War. There was one enemy: Communists (Russia or China would do, though in the 80s hermetic China seemed like a flyspeck in the world scene). So pick a villain, paint him red, and watch our American heroes save the day.
This book bridges from the Cold War to the modern day by making the Russian villain a traitor to his own democratic government, and the Russian president a weak, pro-West, and good-hearted figure. It then careens about the planet, jumping from subs to military bases to the NYSE and all around again. Each short scene is packed with action and plot development.
You won't be bored reading this book. The submarine scenes seem well researched (indeed, the first author is a retired sub captain). I'm not sure I believe all of the political moves, and no one in the book has apparently heard of Wikileaks or the internet. I like it when things tie up neatly, as the scenes in this book do, so it's hard to complain that some characters seem motivated by advancing an exciting storyline or that all the military dudes have unerring gut instinct.
I've never read Eggers before. In this novel, he puts together a story that delivers his message cleverly, if occasionally ham-handedly (we get the animal metaphor long before he has a character explain it).
The internet and modern culture's exhibitionism means that the universal death of privacy is imminent and possibly unstoppable. You will be assimilated. In this case, in the near yet unspecified future, this is by a company called The Circle, whose Bay Area campus sounds like a 20-year-old tech CEO's dream. The protagonist, Mae, represents us the sheeple who thoughtlessly overshare online. She drinks the Kool-Aid, quickly learning that the yawning, desperate loneliness of her life can be papered over with artificial metrics, such as the number of "smiles" followers send in or job ratings that seem to only range from 96 to 100. The book traces the evolution of Mae and her family, who don't want to live online, as The Circle relentlessly removes all other options.
This book is mostly 1984 with a touch of Animal Farm thrown in. There are a lot of unbelievable portions, but then, it's not believable that pigs will walk on their hind legs and strike a deal with farmers. It's all for metaphor. This book is a good read for people who think about the rapid change the internet has already brought to society. It's probably a better read for people who don't think about that at all.
This novel is a lightweight but fun entry into the surging genre of supernatural chick lit. There is a little explanation of how magic works, and a very relatable heroine falls in with some very nice people with some super cute kids. The novel itself is a sweet, fizzy diversion that could be a nice break for a busy gal.
However, this audiobook really grated on me. The narrator had the syncopated delivery of someone telling you an inside joke - imagine the voice over for a commercial for International Delight instant coffee, or a commercial for some household product that features a busy mom managing to get her house clean despite the antics of her cute, rambunctious kids. That kind of delivery is fine for a 30 second ad (or maybe not fine, depending on your point of view), but it is nails on chalkboard to listen to for almost ten hours. Not to mention that there are some scenes in the book that call for a sweet but serious touch that feel disrespected by the narrator.
In short, if you feel like a nice little novel, get the dead tree version.
This book can't decide whether it wants to be a romance novel or a crime mystery. It veers between the two, at times interspersing them to irritating effect (while interrogating a possible witness, our heroine keeps wondering if her ex boyfriend is attracted to her). The romance portion of the novel was more hilarious than arousing - the first sex scene referred to the man as a warrior several times, and of course the woman can have multiple orgasms per paragraph. The crime portion is more interesting, but unfortunately suffers from some lack of focus and consistency. For example, one victim says to the investigator how she needs to tell him something, then he gets distracted by his attractive ex and just lets the situation go for more than half the book. Meanwhile, the characters keep going on about what a good security expert he is.
The characters are interesting, and the narrator makes a valiant effort to differentiate their voices. It's not a bad diversion for a few hours. It's not really a great one, either.
I started listening to this and just found it a little boring in the way that someone does when she picks up a book in the middle of the series, doesn't know the sprawling cast of characters, and the author hasn't taken the time to properly bring a reader up to speed. She assumes you care already, which I did not since I had a hard time following the glimpses of the dozens of characters in the first few chapters without knowing the back story.
Then, about three hours in, comes the rape scene.
Marital rape, oh so fun. Where the wife asks her husband first with silent body language, then explicitly with her words, then with an agitated combination of both, to stop touching her. Then he throws her on her back anyway, and her thought was actually, "ah, might as well lie back and enjoy it." *As she is being raped by someone she trusts.* This man is supposed to be one of the heroes of the story. And, worse, she claims to enjoy it even as she does whatever it takes to get him to finish quickly. The story goes on to her just getting on with things and not thinking less of her husband.
I was so disgusted. I listened for another hour or two to see if there were any repercussions or, you know, acknowledgement that rape is wrong. But I didn't hear anything. I couldn't listen any longer, and I can't understand how this was okayed by any modern editors.
I think the author of this book is going for an award of the pretentious literary persuasion. That's the only real explanation - besides true pretentiousness - for the overdose of metaphors, similes, and unnecessary wordiness of this book.
Noa is a hyperarticulate prisoner on death row. As she looks back to the crime for which she was convicted, doling out details a little at a time, she inserts flowery commentary on almost every detail. And why stop at one metaphor when you can do three. First, a short one somewhat related to the subject, like the children of two step cousins. Second, another short one, but striving to be different like a goth kid at prep school who thinks a third ear piercing is daring. Then, last, a long metaphor or simile during which the listener forgets what the actual subject was as thoroughly as a sixth year Alzheimer's patient forgets the names of her night nurses at the assisted living facility his son sold his house to pay for.
Tiresome, right? Wait to you get to the lists.
When she isn't pelting us with ridiculous comparisons or saying the same thing multiple times in different ways, she is preening for literary praise with phrases like "that indignant evening" that seem to be made up entirely of words she likes without much regard for clarity or meaning. I don't know if the distraction from the plot is accidental or on purpose, her trying to hide that the minor characters who drive the story really don't make any sense; since relationships and character motivations are the key reason for a confessional novel such as this one, that means that the skeleton she hangs her book on doesn't make sense. I felt let down by this, and by the farfetched reveals and twists that were supposed to explain everything. The author spends a lot of time explaining Noa when she isn't doing anything, when she really should be explaining Noa when she is doing the things that got her convicted.
Maybe it's on purpose: maybe the author's goal is to show that we don't act in stressful moments the way we think we will when we have time to think. But somehow it feels like it was just a shot and a miss.
The first quarter of the book was a tiresome litany of child abuse as written by a sensitive teenager who hasn't yet discovered a thesaurus. The title character, Acheron, is cursed, and this introduction - narrated by a man, but from the POV of his sister -almost made me return this book. She is at first shocked when she sees how poorly her brother is treated, which is understandable. But decades later, she is still surprised at his treatment. She is either really stupid or a really transparent plot device. Every third sentence is a variation of "I just couldn't understand how people could be so mean!" said in a vaguely accusing, almost self-pitying, kinda hurt voice. This quarter of the book is graphic S&M porn.
The second quarter of this book ignores Greek mythology and completely disrespects one of my favorite goddesses. It turns her into, in the words of the author, a "raging b**tch." That's an example of the level of writing. I think if you took out all the phrasing along the lines of "it was more --- than he had ever seen before," the book would be two hours shorter. This quarter of the book, which is pretty much violence porn, drags on as the author wants to make it really clear to you that life is unfair.
The book then shifts to the present day, where the male narrator fits the male POV, raising his rating considerably. The book then becomes a moderately interesting action/adventure story with the requisite romance tacked on in a way that isn't natural, but isn't insulting. Most of the adventure was sort of the same - not really a natural sequence of events, but until the final scene not rising to the level of insultingly bad.
I read later that there is a whole Darkhunter series that this is the origin story of, so I presume there are a lot of inside references and skipped over explanations of backstories and worlds that true fans would know. I'm not really interested in pursuing it, though, simply because even when read aloud the sophomoric writing made me involuntarily roll my eyes so frequently I literally hurt myself because I happened to be walking around a tripping hazard during the fiftieth or sixtieth time "she made him feel something he had never felt before."
A wonderful, colorful glimpse into a life both exotic (16th century Persia) and familiar (the young protagonist makes universal-type mistakes). My only quibble is that the narrator, whose gravelly low voice sounds like years of smoking and sex, can't pull off narrating a girl of 14, especially since the narration is supposed to be coming from a reminiscing session less than ten years later. Some of the decisions, stemming from the naivete of an unsophisticated youth, sound more idiotic when described by a clearly older woman. That made it hard sometimes to lose myself in the story, which was otherwise great at evoking images and even smells of another time and place.
The style of writing and narration is supposed to be an homage to the old-time gumshoe noir novels of the 30s, with humor and modern references splashed in. However, I found most of the jokes and references much less clever than intended; never brilliant, they rarely rose even to cute, and mostly wallowed in the groan-area. The narrator didn't help: his volume changed from a quiet mumble during narration to a stronger, louder voice for dialogue, so I was constantly fiddling with the volume button to find a setting where I could understand him but not get blasted if a conversation started. The narrator also can't do women's voices. Not at all, and barely tried.
The premise holds promise, even as signals are confusing: there are cell phones, but $500 covers rent for almost two months in a Chicago office building. Harry Dresden is a warlock for hire, and apparently a pretty powerful one, and comes with a backstory that sounds like the first book of a series that was maybe more interesting than this one. But the execution is inconsistent, just like the characters. A villain who has no compunction about murder still inexplicably just sends warnings to Harry when he gets on the trail. Convenient, glaring clues are dropped in an almost linear fashion, while Harry races through an adventurous weekend on an artificial deadline and fends off cartoonish challenges (including a mix-up and an overzealous magical cop) in his journey to save the day. It's just too trite to be interesting for long, because the lame and predictable plot takes up more time than the more interesting shadow world that Harry inhabits.
In summary: mumbly, jumbled, and too much old, not enough new.
This story follows Lavinia, an Irish immigrant put into indentured servitude on a Virginia plantation just a decade or two after the Revolutionary War. She sees both sides of the plantation: she is white, so privileged, but a servant, so raised by slaves. As she grows up, she has a good heart, a rather weak mind, and an astounding amount of naïveté and (occasional, but pivotal) petulance.
On the North/South border of the slave states, the characters pass back and forth between free Pennsylvania and slave Virginia. Being the turn of the 19th century, medicine is primitive, communication poor, and deaths all too common. I had to stop listening several times when babies or children or kind characters came into tragedy, and the relentlessness was overwhelming. Some characters behave in ways incomprehensible to modern, post-Oprah society, but the story arc remains believable because the decisions are always well-framed by history.
The glimpse into the brutal, dehumanizing, and shameful American past is tempered by a host of sympathetic characters of both races, and the novel is stuffed with distinct and realistic individuals living out a compelling story brought to life by the excellent narration. A worthwhile listen.
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