Another book for the Hugo reading list, in this case one which crops up on the new Best YA novel list, so I'm probably not the target audience for this one... I feel a bit miserly giving In Other Lands 3 stars rather than 4, since it's not the worst thing I've ever read and it kept me turning the pages to the end, but there were also some things that annoyed me. Those made my decision for me, as another book that was enjoyable enough but I know I'll never read it again.
Our main protagonist (Elliot) gets taken on a school trip supposedly to a field in Devon, with said school trip actually being a sneaky recruitment tool to weed out those children who can see the existence of another land beyond England. Elliot is one of those and, since he doesn't really have much to keep him with his distant and borderline alcoholic father and lack of friends due to his acerbic personality, he decides to take up the offer to cross over.
Once there, Elliot makes friends with someone who is a similar outsider - in this case, a female elf warrior called Serene - and also reluctantly forms a bit of a relationship with the camp's goldenour boy, Luke Sunborn. Jokes about the elf way of doing things, which basically takes Victorian gender roles and turns them on their head, get significantly over-used while Elliot discovers all about the world he's now living in and his friends do stuff he's not interested in.
Anyway, despite promising all sorts of interesting stuff about harpies and mermaids and trolls, what In Other Lands is really about is teenage relationships of all kinds and its attendant angst. Which was a real shame, in my opinion, because there was so much here that all got subsumed to serve those relationships and, at the end of it all, Elliot is just a little self-absorbed arse whose behaviour gets rewarded anyway, whether good or bad. There are no consequences for him and he gets the prize at the end of the book anyway, even though he hasn't really changed (and more annoyingly, while he also thinks he has). Could have been so much better.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision!!! Cool concept, right?
I agree that it's a cool concept, but I can't say that I found Space Opera quite as amazeballs as some of the other reviews I've seen here at BookLikes. Like most Saturday Night Live skits, I felt like Space Opera had one good joke that it tried to milk for just too long,
Perhaps the trouble is partly that I read Space Opera as an audiobook, and as such found the asides on the asides on the asides just a bit hard to follow. Or perhaps it's just that Catherynne M. Valente put a lot of energy into a writing style that I don't enjoy much (I'd previously looked at The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making but it didn't grab my interest and Six-Gun Snow White didn't quite work for me either).
I decided to start using my lunch breaks to try to get through some of these DRitC stories I've had sitting on my Kindle for the past two+ years. This was the first one. And might be the last one.
It had it's cute moments, don't get me wrong. The few short scenes that Oscar and Jamie actually spend on page together, it was easy to see why they're such good friends, and why they would be great as something more. They just don't get to spend a lot of time together - even though they're best friends and work in the same record store four days out of the week. *shrug*
But in the end it didn't really hold my interest. If you've read even a handful of friends-to-lovers or GFY stories (though this isn't GFY but teases at it for most of the story) then you can predict every single step the plot takes from beginning to end. It has ALL the tropes, including but not limited to:
~Dudes who don't talk about feelings.
~Dudes who angst about not being able to talk about feelings.
~Dudes who are so terrible with feelings that they're not even sure what feelings they're feeling and they don't know how to feel about that. :(
~The female bestie who likes to meddle. Because someone's gotta move this plot forward.
~The ex-girlfriend who conveniently shows up to throw a wrench in the clockwork, though really the guys not talking to each other does that just fine on its own.
If you like those tropes, then you'll enjoy this story a lot more than I did.
On top of that, there are several dropped plot lines that really didn't need to be crammed into this novella. There are inconsistencies as well. Jamie and Oscar seem to have been besties since forever, but Oscar never met Jamie's mom even though she only died a year before, and Jamie only met Oscar's dad once. At one point, it's mentioned that Jamie opens the shop - but then later on, he doesn't have the keys to close it. Huh?
And then it just ends in the middle of a scene. What?!