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review 2015-05-28 01:39
You find yourself in Area X...
Acceptance (The Southern Reach Trilogy) - Jeff VanderMeer

When you're dealing with a series as freaky wig-out as the Southern Reach, it's difficult to wrap things up satisfactorily. You could go the way of the X-Files, and just get stupider and stupider until you die, having destroyed the mystery with a drearily linear explanation that insults everyone's intelligence. Some just never wrap, eventually howling out into the the void with less and less coherence, until it's just eidolon arms writhing in a no space. I think both have their problems, but I do have a preference for the screaming void. I felt like Acceptance cut the difference, which works better than it should, compromises being what they are. That said, I think there could have been maybe 15 more pages of coda. Shrug emoticon. 

 

Acceptance is the third in the Southern Reach series, which heretofore has been tight little Gothic mindjobs. The first follows a biologist on an excursion into Area X, an uncanny bit of landscape on the "forgotten coast". (I'd put it mid-Atlantic: above DC, below Maine.) The second follows the newly appointed director of Southern Reach, the clandestine organization which monitors Area X. Both books are suffocatingly personal books, written in a tight third person, and both occur in short time frames: maybe a week, a month. Both are regretful, in a way, both their characters on the wrong side of meaningful lives. Both creeped me the fuck right out.

 

Acceptance instead has four or five point of view characters (all of whom we've met in the previous books). There's even a point of view character written in the second person, which seemed just bizarre and unneccesary. Honest to glob, I spent way more time than I should trying to work out why this one character was second person, and I have no answers, especially given who the character it is. I mean, I can see how she's a pivot in a way, a bridge, but I'm not sure this translates into you. Or me. Whichever, second person is a pain in the ass. If any of y'all do have an answer, drop me a line. The time frame also cuts between a then and a now, sometimes confusingly, which is either a bug or a feature, not sure.

 

So, I liked the answers I got, and I liked that I didn't get all the answers.VanderMeer's been building some metaphorical systems through the series, and in many places, he just laid the final card on the tower, and then gave it room. Honestly, that kind of restraint is commendable in an author, especially in science fiction which tends to the monologue at the end, letting you know how clever everything is. I have some reservations, but mostly they are personal weirdnesses, and not something the average reader is going to get fussed about. I bolted this trilogy down in a way I haven't in a long time, and that is really saying something. Good show. 

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review 2014-09-22 16:17
Blackbird by Anna Carey
Blackbird - Anna Carey

Series: Blackbird Duology #1

Publication: September 16, 2014 by HarperTeen

Goodreads

 

Goodreads Summary:

"This twisty, breathless cat-and-mouse thrill ride, told in the second person, follows a girl with amnesia in present-day Los Angeles who is being pursued by mysterious and terrifying assailants.

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her. 

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined."

 

This book definitely grabbed my attention and entertained me. The amnesia aspect made for a fun and mysterious read. I enjoyed trying to figure everything out along with the main character. 

This book is also unique because it is told in second person. I can't decide how I feel about this. At first it was off-putting and took some getting used to. Once I did get used to it, it didn't really make that much of a difference to me. I'm not sure if it is really necessary. I think I would have enjoyed the book the same amount if it was told in first or third person. 

I think the second person writing is a good way to grab the reader in the beginning and it makes the book a bit more thrilling in the first part. However, in the rest of the book, it didn't make that big of a difference. I don't think it was done poorly, but the novelty of it wore off throughout the story.

 

There is a lot of action and the mystery keeps the reader on edge. I was always wondering what was going to happen next. The plot gets pretty crazy with a few twists thrown in. 

There are some flashbacks and changing of perspectives to help develop everything. I think these elements worked at points, but some disrupted the flow of the story. I also felt some were unnecessary. A few even left me more confused.

I don't think the book had enough answers in it. After finishing, I am still confused on certain parts that I think should have been resolved. I think the book could have been a little longer.

However, I am anxiously awaiting the sequel/conclusion and I will definitely read it in hopes of getting more closure and answers.

 

If you're looking for a quick read that has a lot of mystery and action, I would recommend this. Also, if you are willing to read something with a unique writing style.

This isn't one I would suggest rushing out to buy, but if you have the opportunity to read it, I would recommend.

 

* I received an eARC of this book for free from Edelweiss and HarperTeen in return for an honest review. *

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review 2014-03-21 22:22
"Not for Nothing" or "How to make second-person narrative interesting" by Stephen Graham Jones
Not for Nothing - Stephen Graham Jones

Disclaimer: I received an advance reader's copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.

 

This was my first Stephen Graham Jones novel and it won’t be my last.

 

I’ve always had a pet peeve against the second-person narrative.  Using the second person the writer is constantly confronting the reader assuming that he/she’ll react positively, thinking that he/she’ll be drawn into the story, but requiring increased suspension of disbelief for him/her to actually enjoy the story. For me “suspension of disbelief” has to be avoided at all costs. In this case the approach worked almost pitch perfect.

 

Also in some places, because of the second-person narrative, the usual barrier set between the writer and the reader was quite obvious.  The "you" was the killer here. It did not allow full-rounded characterization. The "you" was not supported by an identifiable and recognizable narrator. I usually found myself becoming dependent mostly on narrative description since internalization, action, and dialogue were connected to the fuzzy (and hazy) “you”:

 

Because you were still a hero, and because he’d probably done all twelve grades in one classroom and never had a Mrs. Rankin to test him on the quadratic formula, you’d asked him where algebra fit in? In answer he’d rubbed his nose in the shameless way of old men, shrugged, and said that that kind of fancy arithmetic was what you might call a murder investigation  - the kind of problem where you already have the answer, a dead person, then all this evidence bunched up on the other side of the equals-sign. Your job as a detective, then, is to arrange the evidence in such a way that only one variable will work with them to produce a dead body. And that variable, that x, that’s your killer.”

(NB: This not first-person narrative voice; it’s second-person in full splendour)

 

Writing second-person novels is not for roller-coaster readers. As a reader I don’t like roller-coasters. That said, this book was really up my alley.

 

Technically Graham Jones had some trouble avoiding the dreaded ‘You’ with every sentence, but on the whole I think he quite succeeded.

 

Another thing that impressed me a lot was the fact that Graham Jones’ second-person narrative didn’t strike me as a mere device. This story had to be told this way. It allowed playing with POV in order to transform the story.

 

  1. I was completely drawn into the action. Using the “you” and describing action as it happened, it propelled the story and me, the reader, forward;
  2. Using the second-person, because it’s not often successfully done, it’s always refreshing. It allows me to have a different perspective about the story being told.

Jones is not a prose stylist, but boy, he sure knows how to tell a story. At times he is quite brilliant. He can write his ass off.

 

It suffices to say that second-person narrative is not everyone’s cup of tea.

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review 2013-10-25 00:00
Second Person, Possessive
Second Person, Possessive - William Henderson William Henderson’s Second Person, Possessive is a story of addiction. It is the true story of a husband and a father who finally found the courage to come to terms with his sexuality only to trade one form of denial for another.


See the entire 5 star review at The Novel Approach: http://thenovelapproachreviews.com/2013/10/21/a-first-person-story-in-the-second-person-possessive/
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review 2013-08-04 00:00
Second Person Singular - Sayed Kashua Kashua presents a compelling, compassionate yet sometimes chilling, look at identity -- how we see ourselves, how others see us, what others see in us. His is a universal tale, but also unique in its specifics (people & locale). Things are not always as they seem, whether we deceive ourselves or deceive others (or both or neither). Kashua aptly delineates the divides between wanting to stay true to self, yet to change/have what someone else has/grow. His timely commentaries are so fitting in a locale where identity is a huge part of daily existence.

Of partial importance to the storyline is Tolstoy's novella [b:The Kreutzer Sonata|141077|The Kreutzer Sonata |Leo Tolstoy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320503925s/141077.jpg|2266654] (which I read immediately after finishing Second Person Singular). Kashua masterfully worked in many of Tolstoy's themes & ideas (jealousy, relationships between the sexes, the influence of art in life & passion, etc...), paralleling these ideas in his story -- similar themes, just set in a more modern time & with differing religious beliefs from Tolstoy's.

Overall, a beautifully done work that muses on the nature of identity, our ability or inability to change identity, & the impact of emotion/art/beauty/self to impact our lives.
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