Series: Reckoners #1
Published: September 24, 2013
There are no heroes.
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.
But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart has all the features of a great science fiction book: creative world-building, an enthralling plot, well-developed characters, and thoughtful discussions of morality. However, its most striking characteristic may be the writing itself. Steelheart is so intricately and solidly constructed, from the phrasing of individual sentences to arrangement of the plot, that my English major’s heart was swooning. It has been awhile since I have read a book just so well-written. Sanderson’s style will impress readers from the first chapter. But his skill will hit them again and again—particularly at the moment David concludes relating his life-story for to some new acquaintances. (Seriously, read the book and just wait for the line.)
As stated, however, all this beautiful writing encompasses an incredible story. Readers need not be superhero fans to be drawn into the stark world of Newcago, where all the buildings have been turned to steel and the common folk live beneath the ground in the metal corridors of the Understreets. The sheer visuality of Steelheart is astounding. One easily gets the impression this could have been a comic book or a movie, featuring the dark, sleek city run by superhumans.
Of course, the superhumans, the Epics, are villains in Steelheart, which immediately makes the story unusual and quickly raises the stakes for protagonist David and the band of rebels, the Reckoners, he hopes to join. Do humans have any hope of defeating supermen? This problem certainly makes for a tense plot, as readers never know what to expect or how much to hope for. However, the characters themselves struggle a lot with the question, weighing their options and their duties. Does it make more sense for them to take down minor villains, knowing they are likely to succeed, or should they try to subdue the gods, demonstrating to others that it can be done, that humans should continue fighting for their freedom?
Questions like these provide life to science fiction and superhero stories, and, despite the presence of tons of action and cool, flashy technology, they are the heart of Steelheart. David and his friends confront them every day, just as they must continually confront themselves, evaluating their desires, their strengths, and their fears. Every character in Steelheart has a complicated past, and all of them continue to change and grow, bringing readers their journeys of self-discovery, even as they bring them towards the final confrontation with the dictator Steelheart.
And, wow, is that confrontation intense. (No more on that, so I can avoid spoilers.)
Steelheart is a breathtaking book, fast-paced and unpredictable, and I could not put it down. Initially, I was wary of its starting a series, but the ending of the novel makes the idea of a sequel incredibly worthwhile. I would read anything by Sanderson after witnessing his mastery of storytelling in Steelheart (Elantris is conveniently sitting on my shelf), and I will certainly be reading Firefight when it is released.
Series: Pure #2
Published: February 1, 2013
We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.
To be a Pure is to be perfect, untouched by Detonations that scarred the earth and sheltered inside the paradise that is the Dome. But Partridge escaped to the outside world, where Wretches struggle to survive amid smoke and ash. Now, at the command of Partridge’s father, the Dome is unleashing nightmare after nightmare upon the Wretches in an effort to get him back.
At Partridge’s side is a small band of those united against the Dome: Lyda, the warrior; Bradwell, the revolutionary; El Capitan, the guard; and Pressia, the young woman whose mysterious past ties her to Partridge in way she never could have imagined. Long ago a plan was hatched that could mean the earth’s ultimate doom. Now only Partridge and Pressia can set things right.
To save millions of innocent lives, Partridge must risk his own by returning to the Dome and facing his most terrifying challenge. And Pressia, armed only with a mysterious Black Box, containing a set of cryptic clues, must travel to the very ends of the earth, to a place where no map can guide her. If they succeed, the world will be saved. But should they fail, humankind will pay a terrible price..
In the sequel to Pure, Julianna Baggott once again immerses readers into her richly imagined dystopian world, one that is equal parts beauty and darkness. As Pressia, Partridge, and their companions race to take down the Dome, they travel farther than anyone has before, taking readers with them beyond the Dustlands. The broad scope of the geography in Fuse and the glimpses of history before the Detonations give Baggott’s world astonishing range and depth and mark the author as a master creator. The setting alone makes this book work reading.
However, has also raised the stakes of the plot in Fuse. Typical of dystopian novels, the protagonists have discovered some awful secret about their government and are planning to rebel against the corrupt societal system. Yet the standard dystopian plot elements stop there. Baggott’s plot is wild, unique, and unpredictable. Just when the characters think they have everything figured out, new evidence comes to light and new factors into play. Because the characters are so well-rounded and are continually developing as their journeys change them, they even surprise themselves sometimes, with the actions they are willing to take.
Baggott continues her method of writing every chapter in a different character’s point of view, choosing the character who has the most investment in the scene. The lack of order of the multiple POVs can be initially disorienting, but ultimately the approach works and gives readers valuable insights into every character’s thought process and personality.
The unusual POV switches add to the overall memorability of Baggott’s writing. She has a gift for writing beautiful descriptions and phrases that prompt readers to think about the world in different ways. Her voice is confident yet pensive, and she always writes as if she believes her readers are bright and strong enough to handle anything she throws at them.
Essentially, Fuse is the perfect follow-up to Pure. It includes all the most brilliant elements of Pure and intensifies them. Fuse has complex world-building, a strong plot, and memorable characters. A recommended read for those who like their books both smart and exciting.
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Series: Annex #1
Published: October 16, 2012
Elysia is a Beta, one of the first clones created as a teenager. As a clone on the luxuriant island of Desmesne, a retreat created by the world’s richest families after the end of the Water Wars, Elysia’s only job is to serve her human masters. Soon, however, she realizes she is experiencing something she was never meant to—true emotions. If her new abilities are discovered, she will be executed as a Defect. But when she finds a boy she likes, she thinks exploring her emotions might be worth the risk.
Beta joins the growing line-up of young adult novels exploring the possibilities of genetic engineering and what it means to be human. This novel sets itself apart, however, by featuring a protagonist, a clone, who actually sounds inhuman. When Elysia is first created (or, as she would say, when she emerges), she is a model specimen: beautiful, pleasant, and eager to serve. She has no true feelings, but can use her programming to assess the emotional response her humans owners would wish her to have in any given situation; then she emulates it. As a result, Elysia sounds a little flat and naïve as the book opens. Mostly, she observes what her human owners do, then describes her process in determining what she should do. She also spends a lot of time asking “What is ____?” because apparently, even with all the advancements in clone technology, no one has thought to program colloquial words or idioms into clones’ chips. Sure, Elysia comes across as a bit bland to the reader, but she is supposed to; she is a machine.
Of course, the point of the plot is Elysia’s development of human-like emotions and thought-processes, and her voice changes appropriately as the novel progresses. She becomes more rounded, but I hesitate to say she becomes more likeable. Elysia would probably describe her new self as confident and rebellious, fighting against the injustice of clone servitude. Personally, I found her unpleasant and bordering on violent. Maybe it is due to all the teenage hormones all the characters are always talking about. Or perhaps it is her clone wiring acting up. At this point in the series, there is no way to tell. In future books, I hope Elysia finds ways to control her anger, or I will have difficulty accepting her as a leader and symbol of a righteous rebellion.
Elysia’s newfound emotions also lead her into a love affair. Unfortunately, she experiences instalove and appears drawn to her man based on a combination of lust and a feeling that they ought to be together because they are in integral ways alike. (She does throw in a line about how he has a number of great qualities, like kindness and honesty, which is true but does not seem to play a pivotal role in their relationship.) Later, a love triangle (square?) pops up, and the attraction there is similarly based on something other than true love or respect.
Despite the evident flaws of the book, I was pretty much on board with it until the climax. It has an original concept, an inhuman character that actually sounds inhuman (I am still impressed by this), and a luxurious setting that is part tropical paradise and part futuristic dream. All of this is undeniably cool. However, at the climax, things go seriously wonky. A sizable number of the main characters become psychotic with a smidgen of motivation/foreshadowing but not nearly enough to justify their actions. In a few pages, nearly the last pages, the pace goes from moderate to breakneck as things just go down. This is not exciting; it makes the book feel unbalanced. At just the place the book is supposed to be winding down, new characters, plots, and romances are revealed one after another. There is no time to explore them; they are obviously just set-up for book two, but it is all so overwhelming and seems very last-minute. The last fifty pages led me to stop debating between three or four stars on Goodreads and start debating between two and three.
Beta is sci-fi light with a contemporary feel that will appeal to fans of Eve and Adam and What’s Left of Me. It has a unique concept which is moderately well but not excellently executed. I recommend it to readers already invested in the science fiction genre or the cloning concept.
Content Note: This book features frequent drug use, nudity, rape, and pregnancy. In some cases, they are meant to serve as plot points, but they are not well-handled (i.e. they are not really discussed). They are passing moments that simply lead to other moments in the plot.
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Goodreads: Eve and Adam
Published: October 2, 2012
And girl created boy…
In the beginning, there was an apple—
And then there was a car crash, a horrible injury, and a hospital. But before Evening Spiker’s head clears a strange boy named Solo is rushing her to her mother’s research facility. There, under the best care available, Eve is left alone to heal.
Just when Eve thinks she will die—not from her injuries, but from boredom—her mother gives her a special project: Create the perfect boy.
Using an amazingly detailed simulation, Eve starts building a boy from the ground up. Eve is creating Adam. And he will be just perfect… won’t he?
Notes on the Audio Book: The audio book features two narrators, with Jenna Lamia narrating Eve’s POV and Holter Graham narrating Solo’s. Overall, I found both talented and enjoyed listening to them read. Each gave distinct voices to other characters’ dialogue. Lamia read nearly all of Eve’s part in a wondering voice, which was occasionally out of place (I would imagine lines like “My drawing still sucked” to be either deadpan or annoyed, not wondering), but overall the effect was a good one. In fact, listening to Lamia probably made this book more enjoyable than it would have been if I had read it myself, as Eve has a tendency to state the obvious, but Lamia made it sound as if she were actually observing something new and interesting. Lamia also gave Eve’s friend a shallow, annoying voice, which was also sometimes out of place (Does she really have to sneer innocuous lines like “Hello”?) but in most cases the voice fit the girl’s character. Graham generally reads Solo as if he is more macho than he is, which also sounds appropriate to Solo’s personality. You can listen to a sample here.
The story: Eve and Adam is billed as a sci-fi book about the building of the perfect boy. This has the potential to open all kinds of cans of worms: exploring what it means to be human, what it means to play God, how far science can really go, etc. Readers expecting such heavy-handed themes will be disappointed. Eve and Adam is really sci-fi light. Creating Adam is almost a side plot; the real story focuses on Eve’s relationships, with her mother, her best friend, and the mysterious new boy Solo. The main action plot is about Spiker Industries in general, hinting that the company may be engaging in illegal activities.
The problem is: The plot hints that the company may be breaking some laws. The authors more than hint that Eve’s mother, CEO of the company, is evil incarnate because of this. Now, readers would be right to be appalled by a corporation, and a woman, apparently okay with ignoring federal regulations and engaging in sketchy human testing practices (never specified what testing rules are skipped), but, in the end, Tara Spiker just lacks ethics. She never comes across as scary. (Although all the characters would tell you she is. Total villain in heels. Very scary. But this is telling the reader—it is never adequately shown. Even the “damning” photographic evidence Solo finds does not seem as horrific as he and Eve make it out to be.)
And, after all this, the ending takes away from much of the “evilness” the authors spend the entirety of the novel building up. Things tie up a little too neatly to be satisfactory.
The other plots, the ones involving Eve’s relationships, are somewhat more interesting than the science/mystery plot, but they also tend to the one-dimensional. Eve’s friend Aislin is a walking disaster—sex-obsessed, vulgar, a drunkard, and attached to a loser drug dealer boyfriend. Much of Eve’s and Aislin’s time is spend dealing with said boyfriends’ problems with gangs. Although one wants to admire Eve for attempting to save Aislin from her own self-destructive behavior, one also wonders what the two possibly have in common and what Eve sees in her. Her mother kind of has a point: Eve has terrible taste in friends. Eve’s romance plot fares a little better, as Solo is probably more likeable to the general public (He is smart, resourceful, and not a drunken drug dealer. Score!) However, Eve and Solo do not really build a relationship. Somehow, several chapters in, they acquire one. And…then they are in one. Although it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with them, they probably will not be winning major awards for being a “swoon-worthy couple.” They just lack chemistry.
On the style level, Eve and Adam is unique. The descriptions and analogies tend to the unusual—in fact, tend to be the type of strange descriptions one associates with amateur creative writers trying very, very hard to sound profound or artistic. When a nurse strips Eve to take a look at her injured leg and exclaims, “Oh my God!” at the sight, Eve reports to the reader, “She has laid my flesh bare, and her first thought is to call up a deity?” Later in the novel, Solo’s thoughts include the phrase, “as your brain spins inside its bone cradle.” A “bone cradle” sounds like a kenning the Anglo-Saxons could be proud of, but it is a little out of place in modern writing. Obviously, this style can take getting used to, but most readers should become accustomed to within a few chapters, at which point it may even be possible to start appreciating it. I, at least, am all in favor of kennings making a comeback.
Eve and Adam is entertaining, and it has a lot of great elements: dramatic run-ins with gangs, a crazy-cool super-lab compound, a romance, a computer program that allows anyone to build the perfect human. However, it often lacks. The characters and their relationships are a little flat, the science is not that hardcore, the major plotline does not seem as urgent or horrifying as the authors and characters want readers to believe. The book might be worth taking a few hours to read, but I do not recommend it as one of my top reads.
Rated 3 starts on Goodreads.
Content Note: Moderately heavy profanity. References to sex.
Discuss! If you were tasked with creating the perfect person, would you design a male or a female?
Denise, today’s guest reviewer, is a librarian and avid reader. This is one of several guest posts she has contributed to the blog.
Goodreads: The Doomsday Code
Series: Time Riders #3
Summary: Maddy, Liam and Sal are three unlikely friends – unlikely considering the fact that they all come from different times. And they all have one thing in common: they are supposed to be dead. Now they function as Time Riders, traveling through time and space to protect the world as we know it from those who would seek to change it – and in this adventure, they find themselves unraveling massive changes during the Middle Ages. During the reign of Richard the Lionheart, to be exact. In Nottingham. Yes, even in Sherwood Forest. With the Holy Grail at the center of all the chaos.
Review: This book is actually the third in the Time Riders series, and I have not read the other two. That being said, while I am sure going back to read the other two would produce many ‘aha, that makes sense now!’ moments, I felt able to follow the characters and the plot fairly well. I read it, of course, because I had read that Robin Hood was involved and it sounded different and interesting – most of which proved true enough.
Let me be quite frank in saying that I would not label this book a Robin Hood retelling exactly. Is there an outlaw band running around Sherwood Forest, with someone called Hood as their leader? Absolutely. How about a Sheriff of Nottingham, mistreating the good people he governs? Well, yes, for about five minutes, before one of our main characters elects to become the Sheriff in his stead and begins to do things very differently. And Richard is King and on the Crusades! With Prince John ineptly handling England in his absence. But you will not find any of the familiar scenes found in most Robin Hood retellings and you will find no Little John or Will Scarlet or even Maid Marian among the outlaw band. Hood himself is changed beyond all recognition as a character, but I will not say much more than that, so as not to ruin the story for you. This book is not trying to retell the legend of Robin Hood – it is playing with it, at best imagining an alternative explanation for who Hood was and why he did what he did. He becomes a much more sinister character, the author playing with the readers’ desire to see a Hood they can sympathize with, as they so often have in other retellings. It also reimagines both John and Richard as characters, turning their traditional characters on their heads and creating a John who is not quite wicked and a Richard who is not quite noble. On this level, I found the book very interesting, indeed, especially when I found myself confronted with a competent Sheriff of Nottingham with whom I was clearly meant to sympathize.
This book clearly integrates the legends of Robin Hood, but is bent on telling its own story, which is an interesting one. It was clear that much about the characters and the relationships among them had been developing over time, but their development is well done, in my opinion, and makes me more inclined to pick up the previous books to read about the other adventures that they had that put them where they are in this book. The time travel element was not something I focused too much on as I read, but there were times when I was a little confused with how it worked/did not work in the story. Considering I missed the initial explanation of time travel (I’m assuming, anyway) and its rules in an earlier book though, and considering that time travel is a complex plot device for authors to pick up in the first place, I did not have much of a problem suspending most of my confusion about it to enjoy the story and let it enhance the tale. I have even less experience reading books that incorporate clones, but Bob and Becks – the clone characters in this book – are well done and are a lot of fun to see in action as well.
Goodreads: What’s Left of Me
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles #1
Official Summary: Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . .
For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.
Review: What’s Left of Me is an imaginative story about what it means to be human. Here, it is to be a unique, living soul. Eva is completely trapped inside the body she shares with Addie, unable to move and unable to communicate with anyone besides her twin soul. As far as the rest of the world knows, she no longer even exists. But she does, and she, Addie, and the reader know it. Her courage, passion, determination, and kindness immediately woo this reader to her side, and there is no doubt she has the right to life as much as Addie, the “dominant” soul. The problem is in convincing Eva’s own society and government.
In their search for freedom, Eva and Addie take the reader through a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. The story is not built on life-or-death cliff hangers that will keep their audience reading through the night, but it is certainly interesting. The subtle commentary on the nature of humanity is encased in an exciting and action-packed tale and populated with a variety of characters, ranging from love interests to villains. (The love interest also raises more questions, such as how two souls in one body can ever maintain a romantic relationship. Part of an explanation is offered, but Zhang will have to delve further into the issue in the next book in order to make the success of such a situation sound practical.)
What’s Left of Me offers the things I truly love in science fiction: a unique vision, important questions, and humanity. However, the book may have been stronger if it had remained purely science fiction—a compact standalone that resolved its most important issues immediately. Instead, at the end it veers off into the typical dystopian mold with Eva and Addie seemingly poised to join a secret resistance fighting a corrupt government. The hybrid story is new, but this part is just old.
Published: September 18, 2012
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Goodreads: 0.4 (Human.4, US title)
Series: Point 4 #1
Summary: While Kyle Straker and three others are hypnotized during their village’s annual talent show, something strange happens. When they wake up, everyone else is behaving differently, and none of their technology will work. Then, Kyle overhears someone calling him a 0.4. He and the others are determined to find out what is going on, whether they are all still hallucinating from the hypnotism, or whether aliens have actually managed to take over the world.
Told as a transcription of audio tapes recorded by Kyle after the events.
Review: 0.4 is an interesting exploration of what humanity actually is, and what it would mean if we were not what we always believed. It presents readers with a crazy alternate history and a wild possible future, in which humans suddenly seem not very human at all. Kyle and the other 0.4 must decide what future they think is best—before the rest of the world decides for them.
I did not feel a great emotional connection with the 0.4. I was, of course, sympathetic and on their side, but my investment was not personal. I cared about them mainly because they are human and because they are the underdogs. How Lancaster might have fixed this is not immediately clear. The book is intended to be plot-based. Kyle’s narration begins on the day that everything changes, and things get intense fast. Lancaster does not have much time to give detailed back stories (though he does throw a few details in), and events happen so quickly once they get going that the character do not exactly have time to bond. Basically everything happens in a day.
Lancaster does take time to pull on emotions later, but he wants readers to connect with the human race—and not Kyle and his friends in particular. The best science fiction often addresses what it means to be human and why it is important to retain humanity, and 0.4 is no exception. Lancaster could have delved a little more deeply on the topic, but he does a good job of at least introducing topics readers can ponder on their own.
0.4 has a lot of great characteristics—a fascinating and mysterious set-up with an exciting plot and interesting questions. However, what it has the most of is potential. Lancaster should have exploited his ideas and plot a lot more if he wanted to make this a great book instead of a good one.
(Also, the “editor” of the transcripts inserts some notes explaining some of the contemporary references Kyle makes, such as “reality television.” These notes are supposed to be funny and at times clever, but I never really found them so.)
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Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth…
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
Review: Scarlet is a fast-paced and exciting read written with the same fresh writing and characterization as Cinder. Meyer expertly keeps the series new by blending Cinder’s story in with newcomers’ Scarlet and Wolf, and it will be interesting to see if she does the same with books three and four, gradually building from a base of one main character to four (and their love interests?).
Scarlet and Wolf are both as engaging to read about as Cinder and Kai. Scarlet has a fantastic survivalist attitude and is endearingly dedicated to her grandmother. Wolf is a bit rough around the edges, but is not a stereotyped bad boy. He is fantastically complex, and will repeatedly surprise readers with his actions and motivations.
The overarching plot, in contrast, is about as predictable as that of Cinder. Yet in the same way, this is not a big enough flaw to deter anyone from reading. The way Meyer tells her stories and the characters with which she populates them always manage to support them—and this is truly the mark of a skilled writer. Readers do learn new and surprising facts about Lunars, however.
Scarlet is a strong addition to the Lunar Chronicles series, blending the best aspects of Cinder with new characters and plot lines.
Published: February 2013
Summary: Victor Frankenstein has devoted his life to the study of science and the mystery of animating matter. When he achieves his goal, however, he finds himself living a nightmare instead of his dream. His creation looks horrifying, a monster, and, perceiving himself to be a social outcast, is determined to enact his revenge on the world and the man who created him by destroying everything Frankensten holds dear.
Review: Frankenstein is one of those classics that I find presents readers with some interesting themes to consider, but which is not necessarily a “good read.” The story opens slowly. Shelley employs letters and a narrative frame in order to introduce Frankenstein’s story of his creation. Because the frame is not particularly entertaining in itself and only emphasizes some of the themes raised in Frankenstein’s narrative instead of introducing its own themes, it seems to be mostly Shelley’s clumsy way of getting Frankenstein into a position where he can tell his story and where it will be recorded.
If this is her intention, the transition from the frame to Frankenstein’s tale is still awkward. Frankenstein’s story is in chapters, which are all presumably in a very long letter that someone else is writing. The jump from recognizable letters into narrative and back into letters is disconcerting, drawing readers out of Frankenstein’s story. I am, in general, not a fan of narrative frames, but this is one of the most attention-grabbing frames I have encountered.
Frankenstein’s story, once one can get into it, is intriguing, but certainly not the horror-filled version that has been put onto screen. Here, the monster is somewhat civilized, just looking for love. The scary part is not that the monster is going to come for you, the reader, or destroy the world at large. Indeed, only Frankenstein himself has much to fear, as the monster is primarily bent on destroying his life. What is scary for Shelley, then, is not violence or even the “unknown;” it is having to watch terrible things happen, being unable to prevent them, and even being in some way responsible for them. It is being in the shoes of Frankenstein himself, and not just an observer, that is horrifying.
So, in short, this is not a scary reading experience. Nor is it a particularly realistic one. Even ignoring the part where Frankenstein manages to create life, too much of the story is implausible and contrived. Everyone just happens to be in the right spot at the right moment for important plot issues to develop. For example, the monster learns to read by looking through a crack in a wall, where a family just happens to have taken in a foreigner who needs to learn to read. Really? Kudos to Shelley for realizing she ought to offer an explanation for things like this, such as how the monster learns (instead of creating him with the intelligence of a wise middle-aged man from the start), but I personally find too much of her explanations ridiculous.
The interest, then, for me, must be theme-wise because not much of it comes from the plot. Shelly essentially suggests that knowledge can be dangerous. How much knowledge, and what type of knowledge is open for interpretation, but I personally see the story as a warning about going “too far,” rather than one criticizing all searches for knowledge. Shelley did, after all, come from an intellectual family and was clearly interested in science and literature herself. The story also suggests that, as a balance to knowledge, one should build strong bonds with family and community in order to stay grounded and connected to things (people) that are truly important.
The book is worth reading for its exploration of what constitutes “science gone wrong” and how personally responsible each of us might be for that, as well as for its influence on later horror stories and science fiction. It is unlikely to do much for readers looking to be personally terrified or to experience a wild and surprising plot.
Summary: Before his death, Fi Kelly’s father warned her of an impending global food shortage and instructed her to lead her family to Eden, a top-secret facility built to help humans outlast the crisis. Now, safely arrived at Eden, Fi and her friends act as Seeders–trained warriors who travel across the earth to reconnect survivors and plant the seeds that will help them build a future. A new threat arises, however, in the form of violent gangs acting under the guidance of a mysterious radio broadcaster–a man who claims Eden’s seeds will bring down upon the earth the wrath of God. The sequel to Eden’s Root.
Review: Fans of Eden’s Root will eagerly devour Seeds of War, which possesses many of the qualities that made the first book so strong a debut. Sympathetic characters, a generous amount of action, a little bit of mystery, and a lot of romance all combine to form a story that will engross readers and leave them anxious for the final book. Science fiction and dystopians in particular have inundated the market, but Seeds of War stands out with its focus on the human elements and its underlying belief that good always shines out in the darkness.
Characterization proves one of Fisher’s strongest points. Even though many of the characters (Fi, especially) possess too many talents to seem real, their basic goodness makes them sympathetic to readers. Tragedy has brought them together and their dedication to working together to achieve a better future is truly touching when one considers that tragedy could have revealed more selfish instincts. A range of characters with varying ages, nationalities, races, skills, educations, and backgrounds demonstrate their willingness to learn from one another and to share their strengths and weaknesses. Even though a global crisis would seem the perfect time for society to practice survival of the fitness, many of the survivors in this world recognize the worth of each individual and the value of the different gifts they possess.
Furthermore, even the characters who seem the most unbelievable when it comes to skills in weaponry or science, prove relatable in their quite normal hopes and fears. They worry about school, dream of starting families, and try to deal with the sadness in their pasts. Their focus on the almost mundane while they face the impossible is understandable–the kinds of things they used to take for granted now seem precious. The most realistic part of the book may be when Fi and her friend Sara have to deal with the pain of their menstrual cycles in a world without easy access to medication.
Fisher’s fearlessness in addressing issues pertinent to young women really sets her book apart. It was nice to see someone acknowledge the agony women face each month and treat it as something normal, rather than as something taboo. Still, she goes further, addressing topics like sex and pregnancy. Fi decides to wait until she gets married, which is refreshing in young adult literature and probably wise, considering she spends most of her time in the wilderness fighting off violent gangs–difficult to do while carrying a child. When a married couple does become pregnant, Fisher provides a realistic portrait of the joy and anxiety that can come with such an unexpected discovery.
Despite the likeability of the characters and the realism in their relationships, however, some of them cross the line of believability. Fi, now seventeen, supposedly can not only best most men in a fight, act as a charismatic leader, and work as a diplomat, but also do graduate-level biology. Her teenage voice, which creeps into the narrative through her thoughts on events, comes as a shock; she seems too mature to be thinking such things in such terms. The least Fisher could do is show Fi in a lab. It might not prove as exciting as watching Fi fight for her life, but science lovers everywhere would get a kick out of it and it would make me believe that Fi can actually do biology. When Fi has so many other skills, I tend to dismiss the ones I have not seen demonstrated.
Sara, too, gains too many skills for me to believe. She begins as a quiet girl, apparently academically gifted. Soon, however, she, too, has turned into a fighting machine. Readers know that something in her past drives her, but the transformation still occurs too rapidly to seem plausible. She proves oddly bloodthirsty for someone hitherto known only for her brains. I really hope Fisher at least follows the implications of this change–can Sara really seek revenge forever? It is not a healthy approach to life and I would be disappointed if Sara never realizes this simply because it’s useful for the team to have a beserker defeat all their enemies for them.
Fans of Fisher and lovers of science fiction will, however, find it easy to overlook these flaws. The book has an interesting premise, provides a generous amount of action, and–for all the Fi/Asher shippers out there–really develops some key relationships. The fate of the world is hanging in the balance and I for one cannot wait for the final installment of this special trilogy.
Published: July 2012