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review 2017-10-29 10:26
Grip
Grip: A SciFi Dystopian Thriller (The Slip Trilogy Book 2) - David Estes

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

Keeping on catching up with my NetGalley readings. I finished the first book earlier this week, now on to book 2, which was also a good one in its own way, and not the dread ‘second book syndrome sufferer’ I usually fear in such cases.

It does pave up the way to the ‘grand finale’ of book 3, of course, among other things by introducing new developments and therefore a third way, so to speak. It’s not about the hunt for Slips only, not anymore; the Lifers are also involved, and no party is all black or all white. The action is not only about running away/reacting this time, although the book does have its share of such scenes since they’re part of its premise, however the characters also start making moves of their own, instead of only the villains setting plans in motion. And even if said moves are a little on the clunky side, the characters are clearly proactive and taking on their enemies now.

The story has its share of twists. Like in the first book, they are partly predictable (e.g. the one where only the audio part is played), yet at the same time some of them are of the gritty kind, that I wouldn’t necessarily have expected in a YA story (this is not YA for 12-year-old, for sure). And as far as I can tell, there’s one major twist that is a definitive one, there’s not going to be any ‘surprise, I’m back’ scene (I hope there won’t be because it was a sad moment, and retconning it would cheapen it).

The ads and propaganda inserts are interesting, too. At first I didn’t care much for them, but little by little they’re helping draw a more comprehensive picture of the world (the technology people have at hand, the comments—both published and deleted—on newspaper articles

The characters keep evolving, Harrison especially is going on a path I like: at first he felt to me like he was ‘just there’, some kind of afterthought patched onto Benson’s story, yet here he takes action, initiates moves that have their own ethical backlashes, gets to go through ordeals as well, discovers betrayal... At the same time, while he does resent his father and seems to unconsciously prevent himself from properly grieving, he’s also accepted his brother like, well, a brother. He’s an interesting counterpoint to Domino: both children had very similar backgrounds (a Slip sibling, one parent being constantly away to take care of the Slip), but Harrison is going a completely different path. On the other hand, I don’t care that much for the Destroyer, perhaps because at this point he’s so broken that even his fighting against his leash doesn’t look like there’ll be much development her, apart from ‘yay I get to be a psychopath 100% of the time now’.

A few new characters get introduced, like Destiny (another Slip, who goes through her own dark moments because of the mistakes she made, and has to learn to outgrow this—all the while showing her inner strength and resourcefulness in terms of survival techniques, -she- didn’t have a Michael Kelly to craft a false ID for her after all!). Or the Agriculturists, more in the background for now but with an agenda of their own.

Conclusion: A solid second book that furthers the overarching plot.

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review 2017-10-26 19:34
Slip
Slip (The Slip Trilogy Book 1) - David Estes

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I hadn’t read anything by David Estes in quite a while, and when I saw this series on NetGalley, I thought, well, time to address this state of affairs. I shall also confess that nowadays, I do have a bit of a love-hate relationship with YA dystopias in general, for various reasons, and I was glad that this book, while it is a bit predictable and uses expected tropes, avoids what are the usual pitfalls of the genre for me.

The main characters in general were likeable. Benson is a good mix of resourcefulness, emotions and inner strength. Luce is the obvious ‘love interest’, but without falling in his arms, and with a past that makes it possible (while awful for her) to develop this relationship more slowly and believably than what usually happens in YA novels; she’s also resourceful, daring, and doesn’t hesitate to stand by her friends (well, OK, I guess her decision to face danger with Benson who lied to her was kind of stupid, but...). Michael Kelly as well is an interesting man, torn between his job and his mission of killing unauthorised babies and children, and his desire to protect his son. I didn’t care much for Harrison, though, perhaps because of his ‘perfect athlete and student’ record, and I thought that his mid-book decision came a little out of nowhere, considering he wasn’t seen pondering much about it (and his feelings) before. And I’m on the fence about the Destroyer, in his case I believe I -would- have want to see more of him before he became a Hunter, for his evolution into a psychopath to be better pitched against him as a child (in a way, I love to hate him for his appalling personality, but he’s too one-sided as a villain).

The world in which these characters evolve was also better rounded up than usual in dystopian YA novels (where I often get the feeling of a ‘pocket world’, totally isolated from the rest of Earth, which always makes me wonder where are the other countries and why they’re not poking their noses in). The population control method in those new USA is harsh, however the situation that led to it makes sense: climatic change, rising water levels, drowned coasts, less resources left to feed all the people, and it is logical to expect that the rest of the world has met a similar fate, hence if everybody stays in their corner and develop their own policies, it’s not unbelievable. This world is all the more creepy because it’s not such an impossible future, all in all.

Minor pet peeve: I really have a hard time with the name ‘Pop Con’, that just looks so much like ‘pop corn’ to me. XD (But I do see the naming convention roots à la 1984.)

I found the beginning a little slow, possibly because it devoted quite a few chapters to a part of Benson’s life that I felt I didn’t need so many details about—the story becomes more interesting after the boy grows up and we meet his friends. After that were more action scenes, especially once ‘the chase’ gets into motion (that’s no spoiler, of course at some point people would realise who the Slip is!). There was a bit of a plot hole/flimsy explanation, though, regarding the Wire/Jumpers/Lifers connection; it would’ve demanded some more preparation to be more logical, I think.

Conclusion: 3.5, not perfect but definitely enjoyable, especially its second half.

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review 2017-10-25 14:08
Nineteen Eighty-Bore
Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell

1984 is probably THE book when it comes to dystopian fiction, it is a canonical or if you like „classic“ novel, but now I wonder if it really deserves this status.
My dystopian October readings included Evgenij Zamjatins We, which was actually the blueprint for 1984 (believe it or not, but since Orwell knew Russian very well, he was quite familiar with Zamjatins writing), so I was quite eager to read both novels and now I just don’t understand how Orwell didn’t come up with something better.

 

I was honestly bored throughout most of the time and this has nothing to do with a lack of action in a traditional sense or the average plot, but first and foremost with the characters (1), the structure (2) and the length (3).

 

1. Good characters make good texts in my opinion. To really engage while reading, I have to feel something for at least one of the characters. This can be a liking for someone, love, dislike or even hate – but in 1984 I did not really like nor dislike anyone – I am simply completely indifferent to all of them. Where is the charisma, the uniqueness, the personality? One might argue that in the 1984-kind of future these traits are not allowed to exist, therefore no one possesses them, but then I say that this is what makes us human. I understand, that the average citizen of Oceania doesn’t have any personality, but what about Winston and Julia? I cannot remember ever having a protagonist who was such a flat, non-developing character.

 

2. If the characters are bad, sometimes the writing style or the structure of a novel can help to counterbalance the deficit. But not in this case. One cannot even see the plot for all the repetitions. So many unnecessary repetitions. The past is constantly altered and people killed by the Party have never even exited. Point made. It is a good point. But point understood the first time. There is no need to come back to this in every other chapter.


Also, Orwell obviously went through a great deal inventing Newspeak. Then why isn’t Newspeak incorporated more? I mean, seriously, compared to Burgess’s Nadsat, which is quite unintelligible at first, Newspeak is not hard to grasp.

 

3. The sheer length of 1984! This ties in with point 2 about the repetitions – You could cut out so much and it wouldn’t affect the story at all. When I was probably half through I started thinking, that maybe 1984 would work really well as a short story. And I don’t say this in regard to the shortened attention span of us modern people, but because our social, cultural and literary Erwartungshorizont has been pushed forward so much since 1949 that a modern reader is no longer challenged by this.

 

All in all, I had high expectations for 1984 and maybe that was the problem.

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review 2017-10-25 09:43
Prinzessin Davy sucht heißen Bodyguard mit Zusatzleistungen
Unleashed - Sophie Jordan

„Uninvited“ von Sophie Jordan brauchte ziemlich lange, um den deutschen Markt zu erreichen. Ich habe das Buch im Juli 2015 gelesen; die deutsche Version wurde erst im Februar 2016 unter dem Titel „Infernale“ bei Loewe veröffentlicht. Auf seiner Website bietet der Verlag einen Test an, durch den Leser_innen herausfinden können, welcher Figur der Geschichte sie ähnlich sind. Ich habe den Test aus Jux und Tollerei durchgeführt: angeblich bin ich wie die Protagonistin Davy. Na danke. In meiner Rezension zu „Uninvited“ beschrieb ich Davy als hilflose Mary Sue. Ich konnte nur hoffen, dass sie in der Fortsetzung „Unleashed“ etwas mehr Feuer erhält.

 

An der Grenze zu Mexiko warten Davy, Sean, Gil und Sabine auf ihre Gelegenheit. Als Träger_innen des HTS, des Homicidal Tendency Syndrome, sind sie in den USA Freiwild, erst recht, seit sie aus Mount Haven flohen. Nun müssen sie sich auf die Hilfe des Widerstands verlassen, um als Flüchtlinge ein neues Leben zu beginnen. Doch verdient Davy überhaupt eine zweite Chance? Das Gesicht des Mannes, den sie auf Befehl im Camp erschoss, verfolgt sie. Ihre Schuld frisst sie auf und entfernt sie weiter und weiter von ihren Freunden. Trotzdem geht sie mit ihnen, als der Zeitpunkt ihrer Grenzüberquerung gekommen ist. Der Plan scheitert. Davy wird von den anderen getrennt und angeschossen, entkommt nur knapp und ist schwer verletzt auf sich allein gestellt. Zu ihrem Glück findet sie der charismatische Caden, Leiter eines unterirdischen Stützpunktes des Widerstands. Er bringt sie in Sicherheit und stellt ihre Gefühle, ihr Selbstverständnis und ihre Loyalität auf eine harte Probe. Hat sie als Trägerin ein Recht auf eine glückliche Zukunft oder sollte sie als die Mörderin behandelt werden, die sie ist?

 

Ich hatte von Anfang an niedrige Erwartungen an „Unleashed“. Ich ging nicht davon aus, dass sich die Kritikpunkte des ersten Bandes in der Fortsetzung auflösen würden. Sophie Jordan brachte trotz dessen das Kunststück fertig, meine bescheidene Erwartungshaltung noch zu untertreffen. Dieses Buch ist weit schlechter, als ich angenommen hatte. Es ist banal und beschränkt. Meiner Meinung nach hätte sie sich den zweiten Band definitiv sparen können, weil er den Leser_innen überhaupt kein neues Wissen verschafft und sich die Geschichte permanent im Kreis dreht. Es gibt darin keine Fortschritte, sondern nur ermüdende, enervierende Wiederholungen. Der theoretische Kern der Handlung, das HTS, wird vollständig von den Liebeseskapaden der Protagonistin Davy verdrängt und dient maximal als Rahmen. Es geht kaum noch um die Diskriminierung von Träger_innen in den USA, sondern nur um Davys persönliches Schicksal. Ich durfte eine zimperliche, naive Heulsuse begleiten, die ununterbrochen im Selbstmitleid badet. In Ich-Perspektive. Großartig. Hätte ich mich noch ein bisschen mehr über sie aufgeregt, hätte ich vermutlich ins Buch gegriffen, um ihr alle Zähne auszuschlagen. Ich hasse ihre psychische, mentale Schwäche und Hilflosigkeit. Ich verabscheue ihren grenzenlosen Egoismus, der sie ihre Freunde vergessen, Caden ausnutzen und sich selbst als Mittelpunkt des Universums verstehen lässt. Sie hat ihre Vorurteile über HTS-Träger_innen noch immer nicht überwunden und Sophie Jordan bemüht sich weiterhin nach Kräften, ihr verzerrtes Weltbild zu bestätigen. In einer Szene wird Davy beinahe von einem Träger vergewaltigt – ein überflüssiger und abstoßender Moment, der lediglich verdeutlichen soll, wie furchtbar die Welt ist, in der Davy lebt. Selbst im Lager des Widerstands, über dessen Organisation Jordan so gut wie nichts offenbart, nimmt Davy eine Sonderposition ein, weil sie dort als Bedrohung aufgefasst wird. Bullshit. Sie bleibt in „Unleashed“ eine hilflose Mary Sue, ein Mädchen, das sich, obwohl sie sich für ach so gefährlich hält, dem ersten hübschen Kerl an den Hals wirft, der ihr begegnet, weil sie in Wahrheit nicht in der Lage ist, irgendetwas allein zu regeln. Sie hat keinerlei Gewissensbisse, mit Caden anzubandeln, obwohl sie meinem Verständnis nach mit Sean zusammen ist. Sie haben zwar nie Schluss gemacht, aber für sie ist die Beziehung beendet. Seans Gefühle spielen keine Rolle. Davy ist weder stark, noch mutig oder ein besonders wertvoller Mensch, sie ist eine egozentrische Dramaqueen, die sich ständig selbst belügt und nicht ein einziges Mal darüber nachdenkt, wie ihr Verhalten ihre Mitmenschen beeinflusst. Ich fand es ätzend, wie hemmungslos Sophie Jordan unglaubwürdige Klischees bedient, die die emotionalen Knöpfe der Leser_innen drücken sollen und darüber die grundlegende Handlung ihrer Geschichte sträflich vernachlässigt. Jegliche Chancen, inhaltliche Wendungen für ein Mindestmaß an Bedeutsamkeit zu verwenden, blieben ungenutzt. Das Ende von „Unleashed“ war eine Zumutung, irrationales, unrealistisches Gefasel, das ich ihr nicht einmal unter Einfluss schwerer Sedativa abgekauft hätte. Es war eine Beleidigung meiner Intelligenz.

 

Ich bin so wütend auf Sophie Jordan, dass mir beinahe Rauch aus den Ohren quillt. Ich habe ja keine großen Sprünge von „Unleashed“ erwartet, aber das… Das ist einfach unverfroren. Dreist. Billig. Kitsch und Drama werden es schon richten, wen interessieren da inhaltliche Substanz und Plausibilität? Mich interessiert es, verflixt und zugenäht noch mal! Wie konnte die Autorin wagen, solchen Schund zu veröffentlichen? Was fällt ihr ein? Ich habe das Buch überhaupt nur deshalb gelesen, weil ich hoffte, dass sie sich intensiver mit dem HTS auseinandersetzen würde! Ich wollte keine Neuauflage von „Prinzessin Davy sucht heißen Bodyguard mit Zusatzleistungen“! Mir hat diese Fortsetzung nicht das Geringste gebracht. Die Dystopie ist nicht mehr als ein leeres Versprechen, die Figuren sind in Klischees gefangene, unechte, starre Schaufensterpuppen und die Geschichte… Ja, welche Geschichte eigentlich? Die Lektüre war Zeitverschwendung. Schämen Sie sich, Sophie Jordan, schämen Sie sich.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/25/sophie-jordan-unleashed
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review 2017-10-17 09:57
That rare thing. A strong second-book in a trilogy.
Lindisfarne (Project Renova Book 2) - Terry Tyler

When I read (and reviewed) Tipping Point, the first novel in the Project Renova series, I guessed that setting the next story in Lindisfarne would bring things to the boil. If the first book introduced us to the main characters and set up the background of the story (how the population of the world had been decimated by a virus, the conspiracy that was behind what had happened, and a group of survivors set on creating a new life for themselves), the second one moves on from there and places a number of characters, with their personal crises, their problems, and their different origins and values, together in a very restricted environment. Lindisfarne is a wonderful place, but as I had observed before, is it not easy to hide there, and emotions are bound to ride high when people who would not normally have chosen to live together are thrown in close proximity to each other with no easy way out.

The author does a great job, again, of creating and developing characters that are real, with complex motivations (not all black or white), and whom we get to care about (well, some we get to truly dislike). The story is told the points of view of several characters. Some of the accounts are in the first person. Vicky, the woman who was the main character of the first book is still the central character here, but she shares her first-person narration with her daughter Lottie (who just becomes more and more fabulous as she grows, and she talks and thinks like a girl her age, even if a very strong and determined one) and Heath, the man she loves (but whom she has difficulty committing to). Some are in the third person. We are given a privileged insight into Wedge’s twisted mind (he is a biker who escaped prison in the first book and he reaches the island looking for revenge, and well, yes, he finds it), and the story of Doyle (a guy who was a data analyst and was involved in the running of the Renova project at a worker-bee level) who wanders alone most of the time until he stumbles across the next stage of project Renova is also included, although he is not part of the community. The stories of those two, Wedge and Doyle, are told in the third person, perhaps because they are the characters that are more closed-off and we are less likely to identify with (although we still see things from their points of view, not always pleasant, I might add). Doyle’s character also allows us to get a glimpse into what is going on in the world at large and what the forces pulling the strings are planning next. There is a chapter, a particularly dramatic one, where several points of view are used, for very good reason, but in the rest, it is clear who is talking, and there is no head hopping. The different points of view help give readers a better sense of the characters thanks to the varied perspectives and also provide us with some privileged information that makes us be less surprised by what happens than some of the characters are.

Vicky, who matured during the first book, continues to get stronger, but she goes through quite a few harrowing experiences in this book, she still finds it difficult to make decisions (she always thinks about everybody else’s needs first) and is sometimes two steps forward and one step back. When she comes face to face with the man she thought she could not live without again, she makes an understandable choice, but not one we’ll like. Later on, things take a turn for the better, but… The rest of the characters… I’ve mentioned Lottie. She’s great and I loved the chapters from her point of view. And we have an official psychopath baddie, but, well, let’s say he’s not the worst one of the lot. (To be truthful, I prefer an all-out ‘honest’ baddie to somebody who pretends to be good and do everything for others when he’s a lying, good-for-nothing… Well, you catch my drift).

I don’t want to give you too many details about the plot, but let’s say that we discover quite a few secrets, we come to meet characters we’d only heard about before and see them in all their glory (or not), there are strange alliances, issues of law and order, cheating, fights, and even murders. And we get a scary peep into what the future holds.

As I had said in my review for the first one, due to the care and attention given to the characters, and to the way the small community is configured (we get to know everybody and it is a bit like soap opera but in a post-apocalyptic environment), this book will be enjoyed also by people who don’t usually read this genre of novels. There is a fabulous sense of place and the author manages to use the island (its history, its landscape, and its location) to its utmost advantage. The books need to be read in order to truly understand the story, the development of the characters, and their motivation. If you haven’t read Tipping Point, I recommend you start with that one and keep reading.

I know there is a book of short-stories being published later in the year and the third novel next year. I can’t wait to see what will happen next after the epilogue (and what Dex will be up to next). A great series and one that makes us question what makes us human, what do we really need to survive, and what makes us civilised (if we are).

I was provided an ARC copy of the novel that I freely chose to review.

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