I still take the wide range of the cast as the best part of this.
If you take the "scientists car-jack a self-sustaining space base and go exploring" plot thing away. Because you can't say that isn't all-around BAMF and likely the main reason why one would land in this series. (Oddly enough, it was not my case, but the fact that it was listed in a Tor article about books with older women in a central part of the plot).
And that's a maybe... I still like the fact that is scientists, mostly older, and mostly women characters, that compose the cast on a freaking space heist. For science!
Anyway, that comes late in the book. Mostly, we build on the political climate and the personal motivations that lead to that situation, and if you want action packed and get bothered by very flawed characters the book will loose you before then. I felt like shaking most of the people inside those pages more than once, and enjoyed myself immensely.
I though there was a lot of unbelievable political naivete in the alien contact expert (wouldn't you have to be good at politics, social studies and what-not for that?) and some stereotyping is going on that makes the whole feel a bit pulpy. But it's good pulp and I'm still wavering between four and five stars.
I was not expecting to find such a flawed, three-dimensional cast and a sad grim tone in a short, children's book. I don't know why, really, since I've come across both of those separately often enough in them (Dark Materials, Little Princess) paired with the big questions too. Specially given the fact that I've been a heavy reader since my tweens, and a firm believer in that Cabal's quote "when I want to write something that I think adults will have trouble understanding, I write children books" (I'm paraphrasing, I don't have that good a memory, and she likely borrowed too).
Here is the deal: this was way dramatic than I expected. And when I say dramatic, I mean angst, grief, homesickness, the loneliness of being an outsider. Really sad. Also maddening.
It is maddening because human nature is maddening. And because everyone, MC included, are flawed people with some good qualities and reasonable ideals and opinions and stances, and some appallingly wrong mixed in, so even with the best intentions they rub the wrong way and clash, misunderstand, work at cross-purpose. And there is always a little bitch witch shit ready to hate.
It was an interesting read even before the context of publishing-time kicks in (though I suspect there were some interesting witch-hunt related things coming out then... wasn't The Crucible a contemporary of McCarthyism too?)
At any rate, it was a really good book (totally deserves those awards), and it ended all sweet, happy and neat.
Hey! I keep missing my read for making another bingo. At this point, I'm not even pretending to curve my mood-reading. (There is also the bit where there is no magic here, but I'll let the title excuse my being misled)
When I was around two thirds in, I started idly concocting a review in my brain, about how the almost surreal elements and characters was what gave this narrative such a verisimilitude. Cue me over the 80% mark, just going to search for a detail, and finding out this is nonfiction. Sure, there are artistic licenses, but in essence?
I love it when knowing absolutely nothing about a book pays up in such ways.
As I mentioned previously in an update, the general tone reminded me a lot of latinoamerican writing. This has a lot to do with the conservative (and quirky) societies that brew in relatively small, isolated towns. You have the sedate and beautiful surface, and the decades/generations long ugly undercurrents. Everyone "behaves" in public out of a certain need for society and peace, and whomever "pops" may as well go the whole nine-yards and wear it like a flag.
So, that's basically the aim: to illustrate Savannah. The plot as it were serves the theme. We go into the deep ugly undercurrents. Almost every ugly you can imagine. Sometimes you are enraged and amused at the same time from the sheer hypocrisy rampant. I spent most of the book in some queer state of entertained stupefaction because it is so grotesque you almost can't believe it. But you do. You recognize it. It is your hometown.
For such a short thing, it certainly packed a punch.
Between the unreliable but scathing narrator and the creepy chorus, I found myself running the whole gamut of reactions, from laughter to shudders.
It was an interesting way of taking a stab at all the bits of the Odyssey that make you look askance and wonder.