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review 2019-05-22 09:48
Schönheit als Allheilmittel
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Ich habe einen interessanten Zeitpunkt gewählt, um „Uglies“ von Scott Westerfeld zu lesen. Das Buch ist mittlerweile 14 Jahre alt und Auftakt der gleichnamigen „Uglies“-Tetralogie. Es lag recht lange auf meinem SuB, etwa dreieinhalb Jahre, weil meine Begeisterung für Young Adult – Dystopien seit dem Kauf deutlich abflaute. Als ich es im Februar 2019 aus dem Regal holte, folgte ich einer spontanen Eingebung meines Bauches. Das Timing hätte nicht besser sein können, denn während meiner Recherchen zum Autor fand ich heraus, dass Westerfeld im September 2018 begann, eine neue Tetralogie namens „Impostors“ im „Uglies“-Universum zu veröffentlichen, die bis 2021 vollständig erscheinen soll. Wir werden sehen, ob er mich so lange bei der Stange halten kann. Mit „Uglies“ erlebte ich auf jeden Fall einen vielversprechenden Start.

 

Alle Menschen wollen schön sein. Die beinahe 16-jährige Tally ist da keine Ausnahme. Nur noch ein paar Wochen trennen sie von ihrem neuen Gesicht und ihrem neuen Ich. Schluss mit ihrem Dasein als Ugly! Sie wird eine Pretty sein, in New Pretty Town leben und nur noch Spaß haben. Es ist so großzügig von der Regierung, allen Einwohner_innen zu ihrem 16. Geburtstag eine umfangreiche Schönheitsoperation zu schenken! Ist es doch – oder nicht? Tallys Freundin Shay hat Bedenken, denn der Eingriff ist keineswegs freiwillig. Kurz vor ihrer OP läuft sie davon, um in der Wildnis zu leben und bringt Tally damit in ernste Schwierigkeiten. Die Regierung stellt sie vor die Wahl: entweder, sie findet Shay und verrät ihre Freundin oder sie wird niemals operiert werden. Tally muss sich entscheiden. Wird sie Shay opfern, um pretty zu sein?

 

Ich hatte vor der Lektüre zurückhaltende Erwartungen an „Uglies“. Nur eine weitere Young Adult – Dystopie, nichts Besonderes, glaubte ich. Ich rechnete nicht damit, das Buch zu genießen und war darauf vorbereitet, häufig die Augen zu verdrehen. Deshalb freue ich mich, berichten zu können, dass mich „Uglies“ überraschend gut unterhielt und ich die Botschaft, die Scott Westerfeld vermittelt, sehr wichtig finde. Wie ihr euch sicher anhand der Inhaltsangabe denken könnt, behandelt die Tetralogie das Konzept von Schönheit. Die Geschichte spielt in einer undefinierten Zukunft, vermutlich mehrere Jahrhunderte nach unserer Gegenwart, nachdem eine fatale Katastrophe die Menschheit beinahe auslöschte. Was genau geschehen ist, lässt Westerfeld offen, er deutet allerdings an, dass umweltschädliches, ressourcenverschwendendes Verhalten verantwortlich war, wodurch „Uglies“ gerade jetzt hochaktuell ist. Einige Vertreter_innen der menschlichen Spezies überlebten und gründeten eine Gesellschaft, die die Fehler der Vergangenheit zu vermeiden versucht und nach Regeln funktioniert, die auf mich skurril und repressiv wirkten. Alle Menschen müssen sich anlässlich ihres 16. Geburtstags einer drastischen Operation unterziehen, die ihr Äußeres perfektioniert. Wir sprechen hier nicht über eine kleine Nasenkorrektur, nein, es handelt sich um weitreichende Anpassungen, die den kompletten Körper betreffen. Alle Makel werden beseitigt – was als Makel gilt, obliegt der Regierung. Die Operation dient nicht nur als physische Optimierung, sie ist ebenso ein Initiationsritus, der den Übergang vom Kind zum Erwachsenen markiert. Aus heranwachsenden, durchschnittlichen Uglies werden bildschöne Pretties, die als vollwertige Mitglieder der Gesellschaft nach New Pretty Town umziehen. Der gesamte Prozess wird als erstrebenswert propagiert und auch die Protagonistin Tally sehnt sich danach, eine Pretty zu werden. Wozu das Ganze? Offiziell liegt die Annahme zugrunde, dass staatlich verordnete äußerliche Perfektion ein friedliches Zusammenleben garantiert, weil Intoleranz, Diskriminierung und Neid beseitigt werden, wenn alle gleich schön sind. Ein bisschen wie der Effekt, den man Schuluniformen zurechnet. Somit gilt Schönheit als Allheilmittel gegen die Konflikte der Menschheit. Ich sehe darin eine sehr interessante Theorie, die sich zu diskutieren lohnt. Könnte da etwas dran sein? In der Realität von „Uglies“ ist dieses Gedankenspiel natürlich nicht mehr als eine Illusion, die die wahren, perfiden Absichten der Regierung verschleiern soll, was die burschikose, unkomplizierte und sympathische Hauptfigur Tally im Verlauf der Handlung unsanft herausfindet. Obwohl diese einige Logiklöcher aufweist, fühlte ich mich in meinem Lesespaß nicht gestört. Das Buch las sich leicht und angenehm; ich stolperte nicht über Aspekte, die nicht völlig plausibel waren, weil ich die Aussagen, die Scott Westerfeld über Schönheit, Oberflächlichkeit und Individualität trifft, als wesentlich relevanter empfand als die inhaltlichen Entwicklungen. Er geht dabei nicht subtil vor. Im Grunde könnte seine Intention auch in roten Leuchtlettern auf dem Cover stehen, so offensichtlich ist sie. Da wir jedoch über einen Roman für Jugendliche sprechen, finde ich seine Direktheit nicht zu aufdringlich und sogar angemessen. Geht es um Body Positivity, kann man gar nicht explizit genug werden.

 

„Uglies“ treibt unsere gesellschaftliche Obsession bezüglich Schönheit auf die Spitze und überraschte mich mit der äußerst konkreten, eindeutigen Botschaft, die der Autor Scott Westerfeld präsentiert. Der Tetralogieauftakt lässt wenig Interpretationsspielraum, den es in diesem Kontext meiner Ansicht nach allerdings auch nicht braucht, weil Westerfeld die Handlung und das Design seiner Dystopie seinem thematischen Schwerpunkt unterordnet. Jede Facette der Geschichte dient dazu, Kritik an übertriebenem Schönheitskult zu üben und dessen Gefahren zu betonen. Das Buch ist aufgrund seiner Unzweideutigkeit lesenswert. Die zielgerichtete Gradlinigkeit von Westerfelds Herangehensweise imponierte mir und überzeugte mich, den Folgebänden eine Chance zu geben. Manchmal ist die Absicht einer Geschichte eben doch essenzieller als ihr Inhalt.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/scott-westerfeld-uglies
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review 2019-05-16 05:16
Brief Thoughts: Goliath
Goliath - Scott Westerfeld,Keith Thompson,Alan Cumming

Goliath

by Scott Westerfeld
audio book narrated by Alan Cumming
Book 3 (final) of Leviathan

 

 

Alek and Deryn are abroad the Leviathan when the ship is ordered to pick up an unusual passenger.  This brilliant/maniacal inventor claims to have a weapon called Goliath that can end the war.  But whose side is he really on?

While on their top-secret mission, Alek finally discovers Deryn's deeply kept secret.  Two, actually.  Not only is Deryn a girl disguised as a guy... she has feelings for Alek.

The crown, true love with a commoner, and the destruction of a great city all hang on Alek's next--and final--move.



I found this last book of the trilogy immensely more riveting than the previous book, as the story kind of comes to a head.  From the very beginning of the book, I got caught up in all the events, from the rescuing of Tesla to the revelation of Deryn's true identity to Alek and others.

But I can't help noticing that after some thought, I had a few quibbles with a lot of the latter part of the book.  I suppose I felt like Deryn's actions and behavior after her disguise was revealed to Alek felt a bit out of character.  I don't mean the part where they're fighting and angry at each other--Alek because Deryn kept such a big secret from him; Deryn because she feels like Alek should be more understanding of her circumstances.  But after the two sort of reconcile, their relationship was just so stunted and awkward, and Deryn's behavior felt kind of contradictory to how her character had been since the first book.

I get that they probably can't carry on the same way afterwards, but it still felt more awkward than I think it needed to.

Meanwhile, I DID continue to find Alek's "provenance" declaration extremely exhausting, much like Deryn did.  But I suppose that was the best way to continue propelling the story forward.

However, in the end, I really just kind of kicked back and enjoyed the rest of the book, though I confess, I'm a bit conflicted about how everything ended.

Leviathan was a really entertaining and enjoyable story, with a well-crafted alternate universe with loads of potential.  I don't know if I can truly determine whether or not that potential was reached, as I DID have my complaints.  But in the end, the adventure that took place following Deryn and Alek kept me hooked.

And what made my day was the awesome narration by Alan Cumming throughout!

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/05/brief-thoughts-goliath.html
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review 2019-05-09 01:47
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld

Audience: Young Adult

Format: Hardcover/Owned

 

 

 

The most important email that Darcy Patel ever wrote was three paragraphs long.

- first sentence

 

Darcy Patel's parents think she is going to college, but she has other plans. The young adult book she wrote during her senior year is going to be published and she is planning to live in New York on her own for a year and see if she has what it takes to be a "real" author. The advance Darcy received for her book is substantial and her sister helps her create a budget. But this is only half the story. In between Darcy's story, we find her novel, the story of Lizzie who escapes a terrorist attack by pretending to be dead. But while "pretending" Lizzie travels to the Afterworld and meets some very interesting people.

 

So, we see Darcy trying to survive in New York, manage her relationships and money, and going through the doubts and struggles of a young writer. The story is very real and touching. We grow to love Darcy and root for her success. We see her through all the ups and downs a young girl first on her own might experience.

 

We also see Lizzie in a story filled with danger, supernatural beings, and the power to travel to the world people go to after death. We watch Lizzie struggle to figure out what her life is now and how she can survive in it and try to figure out her new powers and what they mean.

 

This book is fabulous and I really enjoyed it - not what I expected at all from looking at the cover. It was fun to watch Darcy grow up and hear her doubts about her novel. Then we get to read her book in between Darcy's story. It's like two amazing and completely different stories in one book.

 

I read this for Snakes & Ladders space #55. Is more than 500 pages long. I was worried it would take me too long, but I had a hard time putting it down.

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review 2019-05-07 05:34
Thoughts: Behemoth
Behemoth (Leviathan #2) - Scott Westerfeld,Alan Cumming

Behemoth

by Scott Westerfeld
audio book narrated by Alan Cumming
Book 2 of Leviathan

 

 

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy.  It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite.  The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner.  Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.



If I wanted to be honest with myself, I both don't remember much about this book, but also very much enjoyed listening to it.  I can see that Behemoth sort of suffers from that second book syndrome--at least in my case, it didn't do much for me--and yet, at the same time, there were a lot of new character developments that helped propel the book forward.

I won't reiterate the concept behind the Leviathan series--the whole Darwinists versus Clankers of World War I.  But I DID find the introduction of the Perspicacious loris quite fun.  It DID take some time before I could picture the creature in my head... and probably would have benefited from going out and doing a search for an artist's rendering.  After all, for the longest time, I thought it was some sort of reptilian creature until the narrative started mentioning its fur.  Of course, that was my own stupid imagination considering a loris is, indeed, a cute little primate thing... duh.

And in the book, it is a cute little primate thing, and it tends toward repeating words, alerting useful noises, giving our main characters insights and clues; and having it in the background softened a lot of the darkness of the impending war.

Meanwhile, character and story-wise, the plot was interesting to an extent, but I found that it felt like there was entirely too much going on.  And a lot of the actions of our characters didn't really make a whole lot of sense.  I would almost agree with Count Volgar that Alek's actions were a bit foolish, as he so readily reveals his identity as the runaway prince from Austria-Hungary to everyone.  And all because he's got this notion that he was the one who needed to end the war somehow.  I'm not entirely sure that Alek remembers he's just a kid, and a prince who's being hunted.

And while I had mentioned that there was a lot of new character developments, I'm not entirely sure that those developments really lasted.  Alek and Deryn learn more about each other, and their friendship seems to get that much tighter.  The introduction of Lilit to create a bit of romantic tension was interesting, but I'm not sure quite necessary for the romantic tension.

This story, after all, still reads a bit juvenile in voice, and I have a hard time picturing any kind of romance developing at all.  As far as I'm concerned, Deryn and Alek are just best friends even as there is constant mention of how Deryn has developed feelings for Alek.

In spite of all of my complaints and quibbles of this particular installment of Leviathan, however, I found myself immensely enjoying the forward progress starting from the last half of the book.  As I'd mentioned in my review of Leviathan, I found the narration that follows Deryn the most interesting.  In contrast, I found Alek's parts of the story a bit lacking, and I'm not sure what it is about Alek I don't really like--maybe too much of his "Woe is me, but I'm the chosen one" attitude?

When Deryn and Alek reunite towards the middle half of the book, things felt like they were finally going somewhere.  But while there was a lot of action, the whole course of the series plot still felt a bit stagnant.  Thus is the fate of being the second book in a trilogy, I suppose.

Meanwhile, even as I write this review, I'm almost done with the last book and probably ready to write its review.  This pretty much tells anyone, myself mainly, how much I'm enjoying this trilogy even in spite of all my complaints.  Blinders... they're always good for something, right?  =D

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/05/thoughts-behemoth.html
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review 2019-03-17 05:03
Thoughts: Leviathan
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld,Alan Cumming

Leviathan

by Scott Westerfeld
audio book narrated by Alan Cumming
Book 1 of Leviathan

 

 

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run.  His own people have turned on him.  His title is worthless.  All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service.  She's a brilliant airman.  But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way… taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.



I wish I could say that this book was a wonderfully amazing read... but the truth is, it didn't really quite pick up until about midway through.  It's an intriguing world that Westerfeld has introduced us to, this alternate reality in Europe at the cusp of World War I.  In this alternate reality, rather than the Central Powers and the Allied Powers, we have the Clankers and the Darwinists, respectively.  The same countries make up these two fictional groups as the real life ones they are based on.  Westerfeld's new twist in this steampunk fantasy, however, is to give the new technologies an interesting spin.

The Darwinists are so called because of their advanced sciences in DNA experimentation with animals, somehow being able to fabricate beasts into fighting machines during wartime.  The Clankers, in contrast, have built "diesel-driven iron machines" as their weapons of war--mechanized walkers that kept giving me images of a less sleek, more clanky version of Gundam fighters of anime fame.  Obviously they are not the same thing, as the one walker we get introduced to is a gigantic mechanism housing pilots, engineers, guns... much like a walking battleship or something.

Meanwhile, the truth is, it certainly took me a bit of progression into the story before I realized that the British side of the war were using fabricated animals as weapons and transport... and were called Darwinists.  After the introduction of the Leviathan airship, I should have figured that out, but for some strange reason, it didn't click.

The Leviathan's body was made from the life threads of a whale, but a hundred other species were tangled into its design, countless creatures fitting together like the gears of a stopwatch.  Flocks of fabricated birds swarmed around it--scouts, fighters, and predators to gather food.  Deryn saw message lizards and other beasties scampering across its skin.


It certainly made more sense as to why Deryn continuously referred to the flying machine she was piloting as "Beastie."  And also why she spoke to the Huxley (which I later learned was some sort of jellyfish-like flying contraption) the way that she did.  On the other hand, the Clanker side of technology made a bit more sense, even if the story line following Prince Aleksander was a bit lackluster in comparison to Deryn's side of the narrative.

I'm guessing either it was my lack of imagination, or the fact that I only really passively paid attention as the book was narrated to me.  Then I discovered that the print book itself actually has illustrations, and the Leviathan airship does, indeed, have the likeness of a whale.  It's pretty cool, and now I'm contemplating at least getting the rest of the Kindle books to go with my audio book experience so I can at least look at pictures...

But nevertheless, once everything started making sense, I started enjoying myself a little bit more.

I'm also guessing that I had found it easy for my mind to wander because aside from Deryn and Aleksander (and maybe Count Volgar and Dr. Barlow), none of the other characters particularly stood out as significant.  In which case, I cared little for the other midshipmen who traveled in the Leviathan with Deryn, so while her interactions seemed fun, none of it really struck a cord with me until Dr. Barlow started getting more book time.  Meanwhile, Alek's interactions with Klopp and Volgar were somewhat lackluster as well, even though you kind of get more book time with the three of them together, which should have increased their significance greatly.  I just wanted to get back to Deryn's story whenever Alek's narration swung around.

Upon the ultimate meeting between Deryn and Alek that we'd been expecting since the beginning, the story finally started picking up.  I'm almost sure that this had a lot to do with the fact that a lot of the side characters were delegated to the background and didn't really come to life for me.  I can count on one hand the number of characters I recall that really meant anything to me at all as a contribution to this book's story.

Nonetheless, Leviathan slowly grew to be a rather creative world.  I'm not as familiar with the timeline and events of World War I as I probably should be outside of a lot of superficial tidbit information.  I'm considering re-educating myself just to see if I can pinpoint where fact and fiction in these books connect and diverge...  That's just a thought though.

On a side note, at the end of the book, Scott Westerfeld himself gives an afterward about some of the differences between his fictional fantasy version versus the real events in history.  It was an interesting bit of knowledge that continues to spark my interest.

I'm also not as familiar with steampunk fantasy novels, as they've never been the type of books I've picked up in the past.  So this is a rather new experience for me as well.

On a final note, this book, I think was made a bit more enjoyable via Alan Cumming's narration, though I'm not opposed to admitting that it would have been less confusing had I maybe read it as a print book, illustrations and all.  This will teach me to pay more attention to the narrator in the next two books, I guess.  Though, for future reference for anyone else, maybe this book was meant to be read as a print novel instead of listened to as an audio book.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/03/thoughts-leviathan.html
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