Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Read: August 7 – August 11, 2013
Personal read.

Goodreads Book Blurb: Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

My Opinion: In the beginning, and for most of this book, I had a really hard time engaging. The prose is written in a convoluted mess of grammar and spelling, in an effort to convey how little Todd knows about reading and writing. For me, this took me out of the story as I was constantly irked by the errors. I think this is very polarizing, and readers will either not care, or care very much.

Todd is a very naive character, and it varied between being an endearing quality and an annoying one. I found that his interactions with other characters, Manchee especially, made this feel like it was driven more towards young boys as an audience than anything. I got really tired of reading about how much Manchee had to poop, personally.

I can’t comment on Ness’ writing from a technical standpoint, because it was stylistically made to be full of grammatical and spelling errors. In the sense of storytelling, Ness knows how to hit you where it hurts, let me tell you. And then he kicks you while you are down, just for good measure.

I spent a lot of this book really hating the characters, in a broad sense. I just wanted them to not be so… stupid? I wanted them to fight for themselves, to not make the obvious mistakes that they did anyways. There were so many times I heard myself screaming “NO” in my head, but of course the characters didn’t listen to little old me. Later in the book, we are told why they behave the way they do to some extent, but it was still one of the most aggravating things, and plot-wise it didn’t entirely make sense to me.

If I was going to colonize a new planet, I would send a mixture of people, not all of one certain type. But that, again, is just me.

The ending is what bumped it up from an OK book to a book I really enjoyed. I actually got a book hangover, almost entirely due to that ending.

Bottom Line: A dark dystopian science fiction that has a questionable young adult label on it. Written in a very specific style that will take some getting used to, but you will be rewarded for your efforts. I definitely recommend this book, and I will be continuing with the series.

Review: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of GreyShades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Read: March 18 – 30, 2013
Book club selection – dystopia genre

Book Blurb: Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie’s world wasn’t always like this. There’s evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.

Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey.

My Opinion: NO. Not THAT Shades of Grey. That is what I found myself saying the most when I told people I was reading this book. This shares nothing with the Twilight fanfic spinoff other than a similar name. So don’t worry.

Shades of Grey is a fantastic book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it for book club, and I think I would have enjoyed reading it a bit more if it hadn’t been broken into chunks.

The beginning is very slow and plodding. Fforde takes his sweet time with worldbuilding, but it very much pays off in the end. The narrative is amazing. There is humor, there is wit, and the book dumps you on your butt and kicks you along. No leisurely strolls through the park, here.

The plot twists are sensational. Just when you think you know what is going to happen, it twists. And then it twists again. And once more just for good measure.

I found that Jasper Fforde did an exceptional job with characters as well as world-building. I felt connected to the characters, once the worldbuilding was out of the way. I cared what happened to them.

I really don’t know what else to say that won’t spoil the book.

Bottom Line: I loved this book, and you should totally read it. But not now. Wait until the rest of the series is out. Book two has been pushed back to 2015 as of right now. I think I might die a little inside waiting that long.

Review: Infected by Scott Sigler

InfectedInfected by Scott Sigler (Infected #1)
Read: January 26 – January 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover (library book), 342 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-40610-1

Publisher: Random House, Inc., 2008

Book Blurb: Across America a mysterious disease is turning ordinary people into raving, paranoid murderers who inflict brutal horrors on strangers, themselves, and even their own families.

Working under the government’s shroud of secrecy, CIA operative Dew Phillips crisscrosses the country trying in vain to capture a live victim. With only decomposing corpses for clues, CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya races to analyze the science behind this deadly contagion. She discovers that these killers all have one thing in common – they’ve been contaminated by a bioengineered parasite, shaped by a complexity far beyond the limits of known science.

Meanwhile Perry Dawsey – a hulking former football star now resigned to life as a cubicle-bound desk jockey – awakens one morning to find several mysterious welts growing on his body. Soon Perry finds himself acting and thinking strangely, hearing voices . . . he is infected.

The fate of the human race may well depend on the bloody war Perry must wage with his own body, because the parasites want something from him, something that goes beyond mere murder.

My Opinion: Oh boy, where do I start. We will start with the good, because unfortunately there isn’t much good to cover.

I loved the premise of Infected. This fusion of science and horror was thrilling. As I read, I immediately thought of the movie “The Crazies”, though aside from the apparent unprovoked homicidal tendencies, there really is no connection.

I was impressed with the level of science in Infected. I am not an authority, and I don’t know if any of it was actually accurate, but it made me feel like the author really cared about his book. He did the research. He put in the fancy words. They read a little dry at times, and there was at least one point where they used CDC as an abbreviation, assuming people know the organization (which most people do). And then they backtrack and explain it. In grisly detail.

Because Infected was released first via podcast, it has a very conversational narrative which read really easily. Hence the fact it only took me two days to read it, despite the fact that I wasn’t the biggest fan of it.

And finally, the gore. Some of the gore was kind of “meh”, but for the most part it was grisly and horrific… exactly what you want from a horror story. Fair warning, there is a lot of it.

With the good covered, we move on to the bad. And the bad was very bad.

There were far too many viewpoints, and I hated them all. I didn’t like the racist ‘Nam survivor CIA agent, and I didn’t like the rage-aholic almost-football-star who at 26, still refers to his abusive father as “daddy”. There were more minor viewpoints, that of the epidemiologist from the CDC, various other infecteds, etc. I can see this being effective in a podcast, but in print, it was just too scattered. I didn’t feel connected at all.

While we are on the subject of characters, let us stop at Perry for a moment. He is our main character in all this, and I just didn’t like him or believe what he was going through for five seconds. Over the course of the book he lost so much blood, and yet aside from a few blackouts, he doesn’t bat an eye. He should have been weak as a kitten by the end, if not dead. But no… he just got up and kept on going.

Perry also has an issue with female characters. I was really disgusted with the way he treats the woman he meets near the end of the book. I actually took it really personally, because the author describes this woman almost exactly to my proportions (height and weight) and then proceeds to comment on how fat she is. I know I am not the skinniest person around, but I am far from “fat”. Furthermore, women don’t have to conform to some set of measurements to be beautiful. This attitude that women are fat after a certain point is so harmful. I am so thankful that this isn’t a young adult novel.

Infected suffered from repeat-shit-itis, especially where Perry was concerned. And it was very tell-don’t-show, which is somewhat understandable considering the book’s original medium. But I would have liked to have read less about what a monster Perry was when he played football, and how immortal College students thought they were, and more about the parasites.

The ending of Infected wasn’t particularly effective. In my humble opinion, they could have cut a few chapters and it would have done much more to draw me in to the rest of the series.

Bottom Line: A science-horror crossover that delivers on both fronts. But watch out for the rapidly shifting viewpoints and the characters that you just can’t like. I will very likely not be continuing with this series.

(Cover image and book blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

Review: Partials by Dan Wells (Spoiler Free)

Partials by Dan Wells
Read: October 21 – October 25, 2012
Format: Ebook (library book), 335 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-207106-4

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2012

Personal read.

Book Blurb: The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what’s left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

My Opinion: Partials by Dan Wells was hands down the best YA I have read in a long time. The plot is original, the writing is engaging, and the characters are likeable. That said, the book is definitely not without its flaws. But let me gush a little bit first.

The plot. OK, so we have biological robots, a super virus, and a corrupt government all wrapped into one shiny package. These things definitely all belong in the same sand box. I haven’t encountered a plot like this before. Dystopian fiction is usually a dime a dozen, but Wells has injected a fresh twist.

Tied into the plot are the characters. Partials is one of very few YA books where the main female character is not a snivelling twit. Thank you Dan Wells for writing a character that I not only don’t want to smack upside the head, but that I actually like. Kira is a gun-toting, medical genius badass. I love it. However, a lot of the secondary characters failed to stand out in the same way. I didn’t really feel connected to any of the cast other than Kira and Samm. Marcus, Jayden, Madison… they were all fine, but they weren’t awesome in the same way I found Kira to be. Also, the characters really didn’t read like 16-17 year olds. The plot relies on the forced pregnancy, and the main characters not remembering much of the Partial War… but a lot of the time I had to remind myself that I was reading about teenagers and not twenty-somethings.

The writing in Partials is great. There is some comedic relief, the action and story move at a good pace, and I got all the information I needed without ever feeling like the victim of an infodump. And the author really keeps you guessing.

On the flip-side, there were some pretty glaring inconsistencies that irked me a lot. When Kira is planning her great plan to go get a Partial, she talks to Marcus about leaving tomorrow, when they all agreed that it would take a while to set up, and the next section is called “Three months later”.

Bottom Line: Not without flaws, but a great read, especially if you are a fan of science fiction, dystopian fiction, stories with medical themes, or young adult reads.

(Image and book blurb courtesy of http://www.goodreads.com)

Currently Reading: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

So, book club selections this month were three sci-fi books. This is the first of them. It was nominated before, but I didn’t vote for it because it had a huge waiting list at the library, and I hate buying brand new books. Actually, my wallet hates it. But that is the price you pay for being on almost-disability, I guess.

This book took a while for me to get into. When I saw footnotes in the prologue, I almost ran screaming in the other direction. It was Jonathan Strange all over again. But I kept at it, because unlike Jonathan Strange, this is a short book. I can do this. Right? Right!

Somewhere, I got hooked. I will guess it was around the 30-50 page mark. Because by the time I had to put it down at page 160 for the stopping point to discuss, I was not a happy camper. This week, I might need to get my darling husband to hide the book from me. Just so I don’t read ahead. And, you know, finish the book.

One thing that I am finding to be a bit of a double edged sword is all of the 80’s references. I am firmly a child of the 90’s. So I don’t get many of the references. And there are TONS of them. At first it was cool to hear about it, but every so often it gets to be a bit much for me. It would probably be a total nerd-gasm for anyone who knows the era, though.

I have no predictions, really. But I am LOVING the book!