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review 2014-09-01 18:14
Proxy Review
Proxy - Alex London

This book follows two lead characters, Syd and Knox.  Knox is a spoiled rich kid who grew up having everything a boy could want except for love.  Syd is a poor kid who, because he was an orphan and had to go through the foster care system, and then go to get his biofeed implanted, and then go to school, is in some serious debt.  In order to pay off his debts, he became Knox's proxy which means that when Knox gets in trouble Syd gets punished.  Knox often gets in trouble, but at the start of the book he does something really bad and Syd is sentenced to the usual torture as well as 16 years in prison.  Understandably, Syd is like "fuck this" and the book kicks off from there.

I thought that the book was entertaining, and though I accepted it for what it was, I thought that it could have been more.  As always, I appreciate when there's some diversity in a book.  Syd is both gay and, considering that he was described as having dark brown skin and kinky hair, I think he was also black.  One of the things that I like about this teen dystopia trend is that we end up getting some books that deal with class issues.

But I do think that the book fails in convincing me that this could happen.  I do not have to suspend disbelief at all to imagine a world where the justice system fucks over the poor and privileges the rich, but this proxy system makes no sense to me.  Maybe it would work better if this was an underground system rather than the official justice system?  And I didn't understand why all these rich parents would give their children proxys.  Knox's father hates how spoiled and undisciplined his son is, and if he wants his son to learn a lesson and if he doesn't want to coddle Knox, then why would he give him a proxy?  Why not just let him get punished?

And with teen dystopians, I think that you do have to suspend disbelief when the teenager(s) fight back and actually have a chance at beating this really powerful government.  This was no different.  In this world people have this data in their blood steam and that makes it very easy for the government to track them.  I don't believe in how the characters were able to hide themselves.  

If Syd is alone in a room and suddenly Syd uses the fake ID and becomes Tom Miller, wouldn't the authorities know that Syd used a fake ID?

(spoiler show)

Oh and the ending.  I liked the idea of how the book ended, though I thought that could be cleaned up a bit, but I did think "couldn't they do this other thing instead?"

Instead of sacrificing both Knox and Syd couldn't they both have contributed their blood and both could have survived?  I wish that that had at least been addressed in the book.

(spoiler show)

So, in conclusion, I did enjoy it and I didn't think that it was a bad book.  But I think that with more work it could have been a lot better and thought provoking rather than just entertaining.

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review 2013-12-13 15:06
Once We Were
Once We Were - Kat Zhang

The second book in the hybrid chronicles finds Addie and Eva hiding out in the aftermath of their escape from Nornand. Feeling cooped up and left in the dark Eva jumps at the chance to sneak out and discuss plans with fellow hybrids, but soon she's getting her and Addie deeper into the resistance and finding out things she may not be ready to hear. They are also experimenting with 'going under' leaving only one of their personalities awake at a time.

Rather than reacting to things happening to them, in this story Eva and Addie (esp. Eva) take action, planning a demonstration and eventually even more to give a voice to the hybrid population of the US. More is revealed about the world of the series as well. It seems that other countries do not ban hybridity, that in some places it's normal to be "two-souled." I hadn't quite realized in the other book, but in this world technology is also very limited and Addie/Eva had no idea that people had actually been to the moon.

Having read about many demonstrations and fights between citizens and their government in Cory Doctorow's books I found I couldn't really get into that aspect of the story, since it was nowhere near the quality and thought that Doctorow put into his, but the other aspects of the story, Addie and Eva facing some of the problems of having two people in one body, brought the novel together.

I hadn't thought of it while reading the first book, but here the strangeness of the (almost alien) idea was really brought to the forefront. What would it be like to share one's body with another? I couldn't really see how it would work, even in a large and accepting society. Everything would have to be very open, because who knows which soul would love which other soul, who would care for children that were born of one body, but four separate souls being involved in it's conception? So one two souled guy marries one two-souled girl, what about the other two? It would be convenient if they paired up, but of course, nothing is that simple, so then other people get involved suddenly it's the married couple, the other two souls of the guy the married girl's other personality is dating and the other other guy that the guys other soul is in love with...so confusing! In this society there wouldn't be love triangles, but love myriagons! 

So far the big questions, while at least brought up in this book, are far from being answered. Why do people have two separate personalities in one body? Why do some 'recessive' souls fade away while others do not? Why are some people only born with one to start out with?

While I didn't love this book, I probably will look for the next one in hopes it answers some of those questions.

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review 2013-12-12 16:25
Katya's War
Katya's War - Jonathan L. Howard

Katya's War is the follow up novel to Katya's World, picking up pretty close to where the action left off. Katya is now Captain of the Lukyan (formerly Pushkin's Baby) her uncle's submarine, though she has yet to face sitting in Lukyan's chair.

The war is on and times are tough, her pay usually takes the form of government scripts rather than usable money and Yagizban ships lurk and hunt the trade routes, making her job as captain of a shipping vessel both hard to make a living doing and dangerous. When her co-pilot Sergei finds a job delivering plumbing parts for real money Katja doesn't question it.

She's also noticing a strange hostility which escalates as she's getting ready to depart, a fellow captain is shot in front of her eyes for disobeying a new policy that hasn't even gone into effect yet. Is this a normal effect of war paranoia or is something else in the water? 

Of course the well paid plumbing job turns out to be a trick. Havilland Kane needs Katja's help yet again. But this time he's asking her to do something terrible. He's asking her to commit treason.

This was a good sequel to Katja's World, answering some of the questions I had left over about Russalka, which is a very interesting setting. However, I felt that the book went much more quickly than the first book and I missed the character development of the the first one, especially with Kane, who was very much on a back burner in this book.

What I didn't miss was the love triangle that seems endemic in YA lit right now, esp. in books with a heroine as the protagonist. It was nice having Katja focus on the really important things, not how do I look or is he interested in me, or do I like strong stoic guy or do I like rebel boy, instead Katja was in the present, she didn't worry about her hair or figure when she had the crushing weight of the Russalkin ocean to worry about, or getting shot, or being tortured or the future of her entire world.

There were a few things, such as the propensity for just the right guy to go nuts, that makes me wonder, is that part of a strange plot, or just convenience? 

When I first noticed Howard was writing a teen series, I was interested, but I had no idea I'd be so impressed. He really translates well, writing from a woman's pov for a teen audience, not easy, but he does it with ease. I can't wait for the next book in this wonderful and original teen series

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review 2013-06-29 19:25
Probably inspired by The Hunger Games, but maybe even better than the original
The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau
Cia's country needs new leaders and as a recent graduate she hopes to be one of them. To do so she has to be chosen for and then pass The Testing so she can attend university in the capital city of Tosu, but no one from her home has been selected for many years, including her very talented older brother. Cia and her family live in The Five Lakes Colony of the United Commonwealth--the area that used to be known as the Great Lakes region but is now slowly recovering from the world wide environmental disaster caused by the Seven Stages War. When Cia is chosen she thinks her father will be happy, after all he went through The Testing himself, but instead he talks of danger and warns her to trust no one.
If you've read The Hunger Games you'll notice that The Testing has many similarities, but Charbonneau seems to specialize in taking inspiration from others and writing a story that is at least as good as the original. Her skating rink series is a case in point--its characters and witty banter read like they have been influenced by Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, but the stories are fresh and better than the more recent, wearing thin offerings in the Plum series. As good as The Huger Games is, I enjoyed The Testing more. The premise makes more sense to me--instead of it being part of some purely sadistic surrender terms, the trials the young people go through in The Testing are to be selected for college and leadership positions. They are over the top trials, but there is some reasoning behind them, misguided as it is. And I love vividly written, the post-catastrophe Midwest setting. Cia is both capable and caring and makes a good main character, but though it's a five star book for me I might have liked the story even more if a budding romance hadn't dictated many of her actions.
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review 2013-04-20 00:00
Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy)
Sever - Lauren DeStefano

Sever, the conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy simmers slowly and then fizzles out to a completely unsatisfying ending to what could have been a much more interesting “dystopian” trilogy. I use dystopian in quotes here, because in general, for something to be considered dystopian, it has to deal with political systems, or at the very least, power structures in society. DeStefano ditches most of this in favor of exploring weepy, sleepy, indecisive Rhine’s thought process for constantly oscillating between running away from and going back to her opulent prison, where the evil Headmaster Vaughn reigns supreme.


For reasons that never really gel with his established character, Vaughn allows Rhine to be released from the hospital after she escaped his basement of horrors and cut a tracking device out of her thigh. The still oblivious Linden and child-wife/mother Cecily inexplicably go with her and help her out, sort of. Linden takes her to his heretofore unmentioned uncle, whom he has secretly been hanging out with since his uncle’s exile from the Mansion 10 years earlier. Apparently it’s no secret to Vaughn, who shows up not long after and tries to get everyone to come back home with him. I really can’t remember how many times everyone went home and then left and then went back. The motives and or reasons for this don’t really make much sense either, given what a terrible prison we’ve previously been told it is. I also can’t remember why anything about the characters is remotely important or worth the hours it took me to read this book.


Part of the reason there’s so much going back and forth is that there’s really nothing else going on in the novel. Rhine’s journey to find first Gabriel (who gets mentioned now and again solely so that the reader won’t forget him) is constantly delayed (because of all the back and forth), and partly because this is just a lazy and sloppy excuse for a novel. The term “chemical garden” first gets mentioned more than half way through the book, and we don’t really find out what it even means until the last 50 pages, and even then it’s dealt with in a rather off-handed manner. It’s not until the last 10 or 20 pages that anything even remotely interesting happens, and even so the novel just fizzles out and dies, like all the characters who pose a problem to the novel’s attempted neat but ultimately sloppy resolution. Major spoiler alert: no one leaves the mansion and they all live happily ever after.


Oh yeah, Vaughn really wasn’t such a bad guy; he really was only trying to help, in his demented way. Oh wait, he really is an evil bastard and deserves to die. End of the only character who gave this overly long, overly angsty novel any steam. By the end of it, I didn’t care about Rhine, her brother, either of her lovers, or anyone else really, except Reed, Linden’s uncle. But he was just a necessary foil to Vaughn and is only barely sketched in.


On the whole, this a shite excuse for a teen dystopian novel, and especially a trilogy ending one. Don’t bother with it and read Marie Lu’s newest, Prodigy, instead. It’s still got plenty of angst and a love triangle, but at least decisions are made and actions are taken (in other words, there’s a plot). Plus, explosions and government collapse. Now that’s what dystopian novels are all about.

Source: parnassusreads.com
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