I only gave this book 2.5 stars but rounded it up to 3 stars on Goodreads due to Goodreads not having half stars available.
So I always hate it when I notice friends who I follow and trust for book recs loved a book and I ended up disliking it. I feel badly about it and then I feel guilty because I write a review talking about things that they really enjoyed.
I read this book as part of Dead Writers Society Genre Challenge for the month of March. I can say I loved the other book I read and thought this one was...problematic.
Taking place in 2025, we follow the character of Lauren Olamina and her family that are living in what remains of areas around Los Angeles. Told in the first person, we get Lauren's "insights" into her family, friends, community, and what the world is turning into.
Let's get it out of the way. Lauren bugged the crap out of me.
Being stuck in her head from beginning to the end of this book sucked. She is emotionless which doesn't make any sense at all because of her hyper empathy ability. I get she had to train herself to not show anyone besides her family about her ability (which still makes no damn sense...at all) but wouldn't you be feeling more than everyone else, or at least not come across as robotic when we read her diary entries and we get actually dialogue between her and other characters? Don't get me started at how sometimes it seemed to be "on" and other times "not."
I can't even get into the problems I found with anyone sitting around and following a character her age while she decides to go forth and spread her religion she has made up that she calls Earthseed.
The whole Earthseed thing didn't even fit since at one point Lauren's character was focused on being self reliant because she fears the walled neighborhoods she has lived in with her family is eventually going to be overrun. I have no idea why all of a sudden this turned to a whole Earthseed is the way thing and other religions have failed because they are not practicing what they are preaching and she has found flaws in other religions.
The other characters in this book are not developed enough beyond Lauren's father. Everyone else is just a cliche or there to move the plot forward. For example, the character of Keith I thought would have a huge role to potentially play maybe in the latter part of the book. We focus on him for a minute and then events happen, yadda yadda yadda we don't need to follow Keith anymore. Same thing when I thought we would get some friction and maybe some honesty between Lauren and her stepmother Cory. That was a nope again.
There is another character introduced in this book named Bankhole and his relationship with Lauren. Nope. There scenes together gave me the shivers. Not in the good way. Once again he's not developed enough for me to care about and is only used to shove the plot forward in the case of Lauren's ultimate goal of spreading the word about Earthseed.
My other problem is that the main plot just shifted too many times for me to care. First, it seemed to be about surviving in this post apocalyptic world. Than it was about Lauren deciding to escape up north where things are better. Then it became about establishing Earthseed. I mean what the hell?
The writing wasn't great. I think my issue was that each chapter started off with some writing from Lauren regarding Earthseed.
"The Self must create
Its own reasons for being.
To shape God,
“The essentials," I answered, "are to learn to shape God with forethought, care, and work; to educate and benefit their community, their families, and themselves; and to contribute to the fulfillment of the Destiny.”
“God is Change."
Did I maybe have some wine yesterday after finishing up this book. Yes. Yes I did.
We also skip over time a lot for most of the book which I wish we had not. It didn't make any sense. Frankly the book could have been split pre-community breakdown and then after the community breakdown. I was honestly ever really interested in the community that lived there and wish that we had focused more on them, their lives, what they were dealing with, and how they were getting by. I thought the story became more unfocused when we had Lauren going outside the walls.
The flow was a mess too. At one point we had a diary entry that read as one really long day (which I know wasn't possible) so it didn't work for me at all.
The setting of Los Angeles in 2025 is a mess. I already went through this in my status updates. Both for those who skipped my rage updates as I started calling them to myself yesterday, there didn't seem to be much thought behind the world is in a bad state and that was it.
We have discussions and asides thrown out about how people are still paying there property taxes on homes. That people still possess life insurance. That the National Guard does still exist. Um excuse you? Why the hell are people than going around willy nilly and slaughtering neighborhoods? Where the hell are the police in this? It doesn't make sense you have to pay them to investigate crimes! You either have a totally destabilized federal, state, and local government or you don't. You can't sorta have things still exist and handwave it away that only the rich are able to protect themselves.
Also what the hell caused all of this? There is an allusion made about climate. But that doesn't even begin to explain how society broke down enough to just get walled neighborhoods up and people having to grow their own food, purchase it for extremely high prices, and buy water. Or why there are still drug pushers developing drugs that apparently make people want to start fires.
The ending was a total non-starter for me. I didn't care about Earthseed, and Lauren's supposed wisdom was bullshit. It's the kind of crap I used to spout when I was a teenager after thinking I was the shit after reading Anyn Rand. I was in a word, an asshole. I would never follow teen me any damn where so yeah as a 36 year old I would have scoffed at Lauren's ass and went my own way.