I was so disappointed in this debate. I've been working my way through this series and mostly enjoying it (despite fear and bigotry too often beating out reason and science), but this one was just a huge let-down. It was as if the premise were so absurd that only one of the speakers even thought it necessary to take it very seriously. Except for the last speaker in favor of the proposition, all the speeches could have been drafted with a couple of mouse-clicks, a phone call or two, and a longish cab ride to the debate.
I don't know if this is because we all simply live in a society where monogamy is so ingrained that any challenge of it must come across as baseless or ridiculous. It's sad though, because there are actually really interesting points on both sides of this debate. I have thoughtful friends who have thouroughly researched and reasoned through this debate and have fallen on both sides. Their insights are more thoughtful, more insightful, and more engaging than any of the speakers here.
Jokes are fine and dandy and the topic is sensational, but it is just disappointing when that's all there is. The first speaker, when not getting in his one-liners, did make some interesting evolutionary points, but he failed to tie them to anything. He was uncomfortable with the idea of a soul, let alone what might be good or bad for it. The first speaker opposing the proposition said that we needed to just throw reason out the window and feel and believe in the one and only kind of love she appears to find acceptable. There is true once in a lifetime romance and then there is cheap sex. Period.
I just felt that so much was left undiscussed that I actually walked away with less knowledge than when I started. I've come to expect more from this company.
Ordinarily, I dislike reviewers who don't finish the book but feel O.K. about writing reviews. This time, I have to make an exception in the hopes of sparing others. I simply could not finish this book. The graphic descriptions of the sexual molestation of a small child, the physical abuse, the deeply disturbing recounting of the child's masturbation were all too horrifying. The narration was fine, but the story itself left me feeling sick to my stomach. I did not get the sense of this book from the publisher's summary or the sample, and I think I am much too squeamish (hopefully read human) to get through this feeling even a little O.K. Maybe it gets better later, and the girl grows up to overcome her childhood trauma and there's some kind of good and positive ending that would make this less monsterous, but I couldn't get there to find it over the overwhelming awful of the first half.
The things that are wrong with this book include:
1. the narrator- There is simply nothing remotely redeemable about the main character of this book. She is shallow, vain, conceited, narcissistic, ignorant, prejudiced, and lacking in basic human compassion. I thought from the sample (which was reasonably funny) that it would be the low point, and she would improve, but no- she remains a horribly unredeemable person throughout without more than the teensiest bit of personal growth;
2. The narrator- the reader of the audio book is not carrying off a Texas accent, but the fact that the book is set in Texas is kind of a big deal throughout. I wouldn't mind if she simply didn't use an accent (many of us Texas girls don't have them and are only identifyible as Texans because we say y'all), but she does use a passable, but also fake sounding, southern accent. Also, though this is probably a problem with the character more than the reader, she is constantly saying "me, Freddie Ware!" and "moi" in a too-loud, obnoxious, irrationally indignant way that grows to be like finger nails on a chalkboard;
3. The writing- If someone is supposed to know French, she should probably have more than 3 words of it repeated ad nauseam. The plot doesn't exactly make a lot of sense either. I won't give spoilers for those who might buy this book despite everything, so I will only say that the money resolution doesn't make sense and the ending scenes were pulled out of nowhere with nothing leading us to think this might conceivably be some kind of solution;
4. The support staff- The only remotely likeable character in this entire book is the bumbling, crude, bizarrely ignorant seeming lawyer, and he is likeable only in comparison. Everyone else is either as shallow and horrible as the main character or a flat stereotype (devoted maid constantly breaking out into Spanish tirades who would stick around when she was not being paid, please).
I did like the use of lists though. It is a good tool. There were some funny parts, but you kind of have to enjoy mean humor to think so, and that gets very old very fast.
I don't exactly understand how I ended up with this book either. I got here from a Joshilyn Jackson book. That book was so amazing that I wanted to try one that came on the "people who bought this also bought...". I sincerely hope that the fact that I bought this book will not encourage it to stay in that list. As far as I can tell , the only thing the books have in common is what people not from either Texas or the South would think of as a common setting which plays an important role in the story. Beware if you are coming from Ms. Jackson's excellent writing and complex characters.
I actually enjoy books with some intellectual basis (because I am a total geek), but want trash that doesn;t make me think too hard after a hard day of sorting through Estate tax statutes or Medicaid rules. This seemed perfect- murder mystery set in a backdrop of exotic locales and archeological discussion. I could not have been more wrong. There is absolutely nothing which would make this book even remotely readable.
First, I lost the body count and so can give only a rough estimate of the non humann casualties which include (but are not limited to): several helecoptors, 1 motorcycle, 3 trains (1 of which is highjacked), innumerable cars, a high tech bio lab, 3 ancient cities, 1 entirely innocent villiage with all inhabitants, a private plane, at least one bridge, 2 submarines- need I go on? There is also both racism and the belief even by the nonn racists that race=predestination and that cnspiracies can survive for mellinium without anyone being the wiser despite an apppparantly vast number of people involved and willing to do anything including unnecessary murders to continue it.
Also, there is apparantly a love story in this which seems to be brought on by glimpses of something like basic humanity masked by crudeness, lack of intelligence, and farting and belching to ensure emotional distance (or perhaps because of gas).
I actually purchased this book was so disgusted that I returned it, discovered that I could not warn anyone who had not, in fact, kicked my cat and therefore deserved this book as a form of torture, not to read it under any circumstances. I felt so strongly about this that I bought it again to say: unless you need penance for flinging flaming kittens into an orphanage on Christmas in a former life, do not read this book. Just don't. Even the violence doesn't make sense.
I am no prude. I don't mind sex in my books. I don't have some need for monogamy or care if sex is casual so long as the participants are consenting and safe. I applaud people who treat sex as a celebration. The thing is, this book says that the sex is a celebration (while repeatedly belittling anyone who treats the werewolf way as not for him), but this book is not in any way a celebration of sex. The basic premise behind the sex bit (one of about 4 unresolved and frustrating plot lines) is that for a week leading up to the full moon, werewolves must have sex nearly constantly or they will become blood hungry beasts who will savagely rape/murder indiscriminately. It is degrading, disturbing and unnecessary.
Aside from the sex happening every chapter or so, the heroine frequently has sex with 1. men she hardly knows with no intention of getting to know them 2. men she does not trust/like 3. men with whom she is having sex in exchange for information and 4. men who make absolutely clear their lack of respect for her as a person/species. Apart from all this, there are several rape scenes treated like they are no big deal, sex in the middle of breakins and rescue attempts, and a total lack of anything that might make the non-stop orgy remotely more than mere porn.
Which brings me to the "plot". If you could cut the sex down to something approaching sensible (well then the book would be about 2 hours long) you would have three seperate dastardly plots at world domination which somehow are related and somehow appear to focus on a girl who is relatively unimportant except for a secret that the people masterminding the plots would be delighted to know about, except that they are unaware of it, despite having- apparantly- been planning to use her for at least a year. Confused yet? There are plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, and almost nothing gets resolved. The kidnapping of her brother, which gets her involved, is left largely unresolved. One whole plot line that is never quite explained is left open with its wildly unlikely involvement in the other unexplained. Everything about this book is terrible. Bad sex, bad plot, bad writing.
I am now going to do something I have only ever done with one other book, and return it.
This was an extremely well written book. First, the story itself is excellent. The characters are complex and funny. They manage to be both totally messed up and entirely relatable. The book is actually pretty dark, with some truely disturbing scenes, but still a laugh out loud funny romp through the perspective of a troubled, likable, wicked, redeemable heroine. They are all- especially the protagonist- deeply flawed, and all the more likable for it. In the end, they are redeemable, despite the insanely messed up things they have done. Even the worst among them- the villan, as it were- is not so straightforwardly bad as all that, though he is plenty bad enough.
I am pretty solidly agnostic and a true apostate. I don't usually like books with heavy religious themes or characters (they tend to be preachy and have 'messages' you are supposed to learn from). For these characters, religion is woven into the fabric of who they are. I didn't find it in any way intrusive. It just is part of the characters. It's important to the story but it's not Christian fiction by any means, and, for me, I really found myself appriciating the approach to religion by flawed characters who do care about their religion, but except for "the Baptist Ladies Auxiliary for plaguing your children to death in the name of the Lord", they mostly approach it with genuine caring without sounding too terribly righteous or hypocritical- a heavy task for the kind of truely fantastic sinners most everybody in the book is.
The writing is great. The author has a beautiful way with words. You can see Alabama. You can see the development of each person, the flashbacks drawn carefully to move you perfectly through this story. All throughout, you see everyone complexly and richly woven, the people and the places.
The narration was also fabulous. I usually dislike southern accents narrated. Too often they sound horribly fake or wildly overblown. This narrator sounded like she was from Alabama (I say without any idea where she might actually be from). She caught the dry tones of the humor and the truely deep sadness and the moments of frozen emptiness. She was great.
So my major criticism of this book was the audio production. The thing is this: if I want music to cue me that this moment is supposed to be suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic, I will watch T.V. If my books need the music to cue me into the mood of a scene, they are too badly written to read. This book was not badly written. We all get when it's suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic. That is what a good author does. So all the random cuts of frankly inexplicable music did was distract me from an otherwise excellent audio book.
I don't know what was wrong with this book. In theory, it had all kinds of good stuff. There was plenty of action and suspense. There were smart characters and a scientific (wildly implausible, of course) environment. But none of it worked. Somehow, I think the appropriate response to scalping and bodies pinned to walls and massacres is not falling asleep, but I just could hardly keep my eyes open for it. I don't know if it was the narration or what, but I have never seen so much gore result in so little interest. I kept slogging through thinking that at some point I would find something to like, but I was mistaken.
The narration had good range for the accents, although I found the southern accent grating (I usually do when it's faked). Somehow though, the narration could in no way inject excitement into the action.
When reading a book like this, I want my heart pounding and to be thinking, "O.K., I'll go to work, go to sleep, make dinner- whatever activity- as soon as she makes it safely out of the dark and terrifying room full of scuttling noises and things that go bump in the night." Here though all I thought was, "how can this book possibly have another part to it? Could I stop at the end of this part and pretend the novel cut off suddenly with the death of all of these terrible, unlikable, two-demensional, dull as dirt characters? No? Fine. Whatever. I'll just keep going so it will be over." That is not a happy way to move through a book.
I always try to say something good about any book I review so here it is... Relic is helping me break my bad habit of listening to the next book in any series I start (and then maybe just one more...) in thhe hopes that it will get better. Also, there was one likable, eccentric character who made me laugh. He wasn't in the book terribly long though.
I think the key with this series is to remember the Falcon. IF you dug that hard boiled, no non-sense, sarcastic detective story, then you'll probably like this. It's that and magic.
If you're not into the 1940's stereotype private dick, then you, like me, will probably have a hard time keeping a straight face. I just kept expecting him to tell me that the neighborhood was tough as a $3 steak or about the knock-out's killer gams.
The narration was perfect for the story. There are some imperfections in it- you can hear him turning pages and the breaks between places are too obvious- and he is something of a loud sigher, but it suits the character. If I were casting the role of gritty wizard detective, constantly wrongly accused and perpetually on the edge of bankrupcy, I'd have picked this guy.
The story is good too, for the style. Yes, it was somewhat obvious, and you might feel the need to grab Harry by the lapels of his stupid duster and shout whodunnit, but that may just be me. It may not actually be that obvious for everybody, but the clues are there if you're looking. I'm willing to blame the character's sleep deprivation in this one.
So, the writing was fine, the story was good, the narration was fine. It just isn't what I was looking for. If you like this sort of 40's era detective novel, you'll love these. If not, don't waste your time.
I'll start with the good... The narration is excellent, as many of us have come to expect from this narrator. The writing is funny. The main storyline is interesting.
Now for the rest... Look, I'm not exactly a bra-burning feminist. I like the heroes of my trash to be a little He-man- me Tarzan, you Janeish. But there's a pretty solid line between liking a hero who's a little dominant and having a heroine who's obsessed with a man with whom her only interaction was his threatening to rape her and then sneaking into her dreams and- in fact for him, while in dreams for her- having sex with her. That is over the line. It's creepy and disturbing and frankly a little gross. No. Bad.
Also, the funny writing gets old after a while. Yes, it's clever, but cleverness in every line gets boring and old and in the way of progress in the plot and any kind of actual character development. Maybe there could be something that would justify Charlie's obsession, but we never really find out because she's more interested in zinging one liners at us to in any way be self-aware enough to look into her own emotions. She acts and she talks, but she doesn't appear to think. Charlie would make an excellent secondary character, but I need more from a main character. I need to care if she lives or dies at least, and I don't get that from Charlie.
In the broad strokes, this series is a lot like the Harry Potter series. It has:
1 A band of friends including the smartie pants, the reluctant chosen one, and comedic sidekicks
2. A truely nasty bad guy
3 Big themes about fate v. free will, the struggle of good and evil, and the recognition that no one is entirely all of one or the other.
Once you get past that, it is clear that J. K. Rowling deserves to be richer than the Queen and that P.C. and Kristen Cast deserve to be selling lattes at Starbucks. What Harry Potter has that this series lacks is:
1 good writing
2 characters you care about
3 Death scenes with meaning that make the reader cry
4 An overarching storyline leading somewhere while providing for complete stories in each book
5 A compelling story that is fresh in each book.
The thing is, I rather like YA fantasy. It's fun and exciting and a good escape, but the fact that it is YA doesn't make it O.K. to talk down to the reader, and the fact that it's fantasy doesn't make it O.K. to have ridiculous, convuluded, recycled, inane plotlines. I always try to say something positive though, so I'm saying this- this reader is acceptably good (not so much the later books), and that is the nicest thing I can say. Way to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
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