This book has an interesting premise: in an alternate history where sometime in the late 80s a series of environmental and nuclear disasters renders white people in the USA almost infertile, society devolves into patriarchal religious fascism where state-sanctioned - even mandated - sexual slavery goes on. Women known to be fertile are coerced into becoming handmaidens for the childless powerful. A rigid society with restrictions on everyone is imposed; life is simultaneously revered and discarded when personality is inconvenient.
We learn bits and pieces of this story through the stream-of-consciousness narrative of a nameless handmaiden, whose slave name is "of Fred," indicating that she is trying to conceive a child for Fred. It could have been a powerful reflection on the power of mass hysteria to remake history, if it weren't so excruciatingly maudlin. It sounds like a high school sophomore's diary, like a fourteen year old girl fat with amorphous resentment, an unconscious undermining of greater tragedy. Did you like that sentence? Because then you might like this book. Atwood doesn't limit herself to one simile when she could use three or four, and loves nonsensical metaphors such as "geometric roundness of the words." These could have been delightful if sprinkled judiciously throughout the book, but instead this type of sentence makes up 80% of the narrative portion, which in turn makes up 80% of the novel.
I am biased against stream-of-consciousness writing, as it can be hard to follow without actually slipping into the delights of magical realism. Here it was at times very difficult to understand. It's possible that in the book, reminisces are italicized, but Claire Danes, as talented and decorated an actress as she is, cannot italicize her voice. She brings an urgency to every sentence that conflicts with the self-described lassitude of the character, and she often infuses a laugh into her voice that turns bitterness into sardonicism and tragedy into irony. I felt like the narrator was untouched by the story, instead of recounting something that has happened to her. Plus, I've watched too much Homeland recently and I kept picturing Carrie Mathison in every scene. I found it distracting, hence the relatively low rating for the performance.
The end, which recounts faux future historians examining the narrative and trying to explain away some of the many flaws in the story, attempts to drive home America's fall from grace and gives some British characters the chance to ridicule the treatment of women during "The Gilead Period." It lets them pretend that they never treated women similarly, much as they pretend that slavery was only an American institution. I did find this summing up somewhat interesting, since it gave the author an excuse to probe the various aspects of such a society, but it mostly served to make the story feel outdated. I wasn't surprised to hear at the end that the copyright was 1986.
The description of this book is quite misleading. It's actually the story of two young drama queens mistaking violent possessiveness for romance, enabled by their equally young and drama loving friends. The best thing that can be said of this book is how it accurately captures the tunnel vision of people so self-involved that a lethal tragedy merely serves as backstory to what they think is a great romance. The author acknowledges this, throwing in a few comments from minor characters, but seems to buy into the horse pucky. She lets her protagonists escape any repercussions - and certainly any remorse - from their distasteful and occasionally criminal actions. She filled the story with improbable situations, such as a Vegas made of broken kneecaps and 1970s cliches, self-made obstacles, and bad behavior.
I listened in vain to the end hoping for some growth. It was torturous to spend so much time with two characters so pathetic, so incapable of learning. I advise all potential buyers to spend their precious time elsewhere.
This is a neo-con Hollywood fantasy where all the heroes are manly white soldiers (except for one cunning Asian American soldier, needed because of the location of the story), the heroic but unpopular president makes all the hard choices while allowing pages-long lectures about fantastical, egregious crimes of "the previous administration" (code for Obama), women are underwear models who are admired but absent from anything important, and the bad guys accept a spanking from the Good Ole U S of A when we demonstrate our larger.. uh, stick.
Whatever. The action wasn't believable enough to be compelling, and I couldn't immerse myself in the absurdity of the rest. Of you lean to the view that America just needs to flex her military might and the rest of the world will fall meekly at our feet, then thus could be a fun flight of indulgent fantasy. If you don't, it might be a groaner.
I'm not big on the zombie genre, but I do like sci fi/fantasy, so I gave this book a chance. There are weaknesses - virus levels are measured in microns (a unit of length, not of number or concentration), internal inconsistencies, the villain at the end acts out a cliche that makes no sense in context (despite the speech he gives to indicate murderous insanity) - but despite all these flaws, I just wanted to keep listening. The author paints vivid pictures in an America just a few decades from now where (suspend disbelief) technology has progressed stunningly in response to a virus that creates "night of the living dead"-like zombies through a (suspend disbelief) lab-engineered mutation of the common cold. The fact that zombie-ism is contagious, and that transformation isn't immediate, is central to the plot, but the contradictions between the virus origin story and the way it behaves made me think that an origin story actually subtracts from the plot. So just power through the parts where the book's version of virology is discussed, and power through ridiculous scenes like the narrator taking the time to explain her brother's dating history during a zombie mob attack, and immerse yourself in an interesting thriller where the journalists are targeted because they tell the truth, and the harshness of a zombie-filled world forces people to horrible, soul-dimming acts of mercy and love and self-protection. "Sophie's Choice" with a virus instead of Nazis.
I know that a lot of young adult (especially supernatural young adult - is there any other kind these days?) has questionable logic and behavior, presumably because teens don't think all that much of the motivations and reasoning of grown ups, but this book is extra absurd. Not only the behavior of the protagonist's mother, who irresponsibly endangers the girl, and the lack of sympathy for the poor cousin, who (as it is mentioned before she is mocked) is a real victim of the situation, but the inexplicable actions at the end of the Really Hot Guy. It's like the author didn't want to end the book without checking all the boxes. Disappointing, because this could have been an interesting blend of historical fiction and sci fi/fantasy.
I'm a mother of a beautiful toddler girl. I should really have been an emotional mess listening to a story about the aftermath of a toddler girl snatched at age 3 and not returned to her family for 2 years.
Somehow, the author manages to avoid forging a connection between the reader and any of the characters. The mother character, Megan, is so unpleasant and makes so little sense that even her kids in the story don't want to be around her and her friends walk on eggshells because anything can set her off, and she doesn't feel like she has to be fair to anyone at all, even as she whines "that's not FAIR" to pretty much every other character more than once. Maybe that's true to life, but it doesn't make a compelling protagonist. The father shows inexplicably boundless compassion to one of the kidnappers and, although more sympathetic, is too one-dimensional to truly engage the listener.
I read a little about this book because it is confusing just to jump in. Turns out it is a sequel in a self-published set of four novels that was a hit in book clubs, clubs which I can only surmise had at least one member without any critical reading skills and an overabundance of forgiveness for bad writing choosing the book. I would die of alcohol poisoning if I had to take a shot every time "it broke his/her heart," but I would stay sober if I didn't have to drink during "it broke her heart...it hurt." As in, "it broke her heart to hear him say that. It hurt to know that is what he thought." Then, "it wasn't FAIR."
Oh, Lord, such a boring and actually irritating book. Irritating for what it should have been, with such a naturally compelling story. But it is plotted too poorly to enable the listener to sustain disbelief. One of the most glaring holes, which I couldn't believe until it was explicitly laid out, is that the surviving kidnapper, an elderly man married to the demented, now-deceased woman who had done the actual snatching, seemed to genuinely believe that his Alzheimer's-riddled wife just showed up one day with a 3 year old, with no clothes or papers, and that child was his granddaughter. "Hey honey, I'm home! Look what I got! It's a grandchild for us! Nevermind that she keeps crying for mommy and is absolutely terrified!" And all the times her journal was quoted where she says "this time, I'll do it right. This girl is my second chance." The guy is criminally stupid if he really believed it, and just plain criminal if he didn't. Either way, he belongs in jail, no matter how bad he feels now.
Reading this review, I guess that the book did arouse passion in me after listening to it. Passionate dislike and annoyance that I wasted hours of my life, though, probably aren't the reactions the author was looking for. Save your money.
It's got what you expect from a Patterson novel: action, fast pace, a tortured (former military) hero named Jack, titillating mysteries/side stories, and murder. It's really not special, really not terrible. Well, not terrible in a bad way.
The author re-imagines the Book of Ester as a love story. It is fun listening, even if the characters all feel sort of one-dimensional. It's not like the Bible is full of subtlety. (I've read a lot of the old testament. Jews good, others bad!) The author makes a credible stab at giving a human back story to the characters of the Bible, but she admits that it isn't faithful to the Bible's book, so don't listen to this instead of doing your theology homework.
The story is one of family relationships, specifically mother-daughter relationships. But she is too heavy-handed in her focus, using a sweeper brush instead of a fine point. She also writes NorCal culture in the 1990s as if no Indian people or subculture exists - this Indian adoptee has never eaten Indian food? Really? Or been to Fremont? Or heard of waxing? My uncle lived in Menlo Park from 1985 - 2003, and I can tell you this reeks of invention.
The author then pretends you can see through the air of Bangalore all the way to the sea. In 2004. And that you can take taxis there and not hit bad traffic.
These patent fabrications reinforce the feeling of artificiality that pervades the women's relationships with one another as well. It was a nice try, but really suffered from the forced details she made up trying to make the story more dramatic. It did not feel like it could be true, and the people didn't feel like they could be true, so when the latest emotional tragedy struck I found it hard to be moved.
This book starts out really promisingly, with vivid characters that are well fleshed out - even the tangental ones. I also like that an Asian man is a sexy love interest. The crew of the Damocles is forced to make premature First Contact with the occupants of the planet Didet when something goes wrong with their ship. They make the most of it, developing relationships and sharing technologies while the setup enables the author to explore a culture strikingly similar to our own. The setup then becomes using aliens as a device to explore intercultural relations and the fragile balance inherent in such.
Then the last two chapters come, and they clash stunningly with the chapters before. Not really the main characters, but the side characters who are suddenly used to maneuver the book into a sequel. Basically, the end has an unnecessary confession of a personal tragedy (as stated in the blurb, this isn't a spoiler) to pull at our emotions, then a manufactured crisis whose ending makes no sense and is inconsistent with the facts as presented, but does serve to launch the crew into another book and another adventure. As a listener, I was insulted. It's hard to give details without spoiling it, but you know how some sci fi conveniently forgets inherent human logic and even its own back story when it wants to advance some drama? That's what happens. Brought the story down from four to three stars in my opinion. I'm still sort of mad, and it's been days since I listened.
Look at the cover. Pretty white girl. Listen to the book. Pretty dark Cherokee girl.
Listen to the narrator. She can't hide her Australian accent. Listen to the words of the book. Oklahoma accent.
These may seem to be nit-picky, but they are extremely distracting because the dissonance between what you hear and see and what you are being told pulls you out of the story. Not that the story is anything special. Latest in the supernatural young adult genre. I wonder if there is any YA that *isn't* supernatural nowadays?
This will probably be made into a movie.
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