Artemis, Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s Artemis was pretty much on a roll before I picked it up. People raved about The Martian and Artemis seemed to be getting similar attention. It won Goodreads’ 2017 Sci-Fi Choice. Several of my friends said they were reading it. I was excited! I am finished reading it now. I am…. Disappointed? I think? Artemis takes the reader on a rollicking adventure, following moon-resident Jazz Bashara as she accidentally becomes involved in a crime syndicate plot to take over the moon’s only city, Artemis– and its barely-traceable “currency”. But there are undoubted issues that hold Weir’s work back.

The first thing I want to address is something that I had heard people talking of before I even picked up Artemis: this book has a problem with gender. It’s not that Weir is painfully offensive, it’s just that… there’s definitely times where you can tell a dude is writing the book, and he really must believe Jazz belongs on the moon because it seems like he thinks girls are aliens. To be truthful, once I read it I decided for myself that it wasn’t as bad as some had made it sound in reviews, but it’s definitely noticeable. Like…. There’s this scene where Jazz has an exchange with a guy who likes her and calls him buddy, he says “don’t call me buddy,” and she asks why not (!?!?) and he says he will have to give her “man lessons” because she apparently doesn’t understand… AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM GIRLS EVERYWHERE TO ANDY WEIR: WE DO THAT ON PURPOSE DUDE!!! The idea that literally any girl ever wouldn’t understand that men don’t like to be put in the “buddy zone” is laughable at best and terrifying at worst because it means that something we regularly use as a defense to keep creepazoids at an arms’ length is something men think actually just needs to be explained to us so then we’ll let them have sex with us?? I guess?? Ugh. Again, it’s not like it ruins the book, but it’s obvious that there’s some things men like Weir just don’t grasp, and it definitely took me out of the zone as I was reading.

The characterization in general was pretty weak to be honest. The main personality traits that made other characters stand apart from one another were shallow. This guy sucks with women. That guy’s gay. They’re all jerks. There aren’t really many characters to like in this book, you know? And while I liked Jazz because I, too, am a crude-spoken woman who nobody likes, I can definitely sense that many people will not enjoy being in this main character’s headspace.

On the other hand, I did really like the sci-fi aspects of this book. Weir is really great at writing technical, science-y sounding stuff. Is any of it legit? I don’t know, but it seemed pretty believable to me when I was in the midst of it. I also really appreciated the simplicity of the plot. The book is kind of overburdened with like… science, so the fact that Weir kept the story itself fairly easy to follow definitely helped to make it a lighter read. I also want to give kudos to Weir for being one of the few authors whose intermittent letters/plot-breakers were actually interesting. I read them instead of skipping them and was equally interested to follow the storyline of the past that was revealed through the letters as I was to read the stuff happening in present.

The strengths of Artemis are its simplistic and technology focused plot. But it’s not the book for readers who really care about there being any depth of characterization whatsoever. Ultimately it’s still worth the read, but it’s not memorable. I rate this book: hairless cat. I’ll still pet him, but I’d rather be petting another cat.

La Belle Sauvage, Phillip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage the first book in a new series by Philip Pullman and a prequel to his super popular and awesome His Dark Materials trilogy. I understand that The Book of Dust will also be a trilogy. The first book follows a boy who gets drawn into some shadowy underworld stuff because a sweet little infant, Lyra, is living at the priory near his parent’s pub/inn, and he gets caught up in the adventure or whatever.

Disclaimer: I found this book super boring and the characters uninteresting. And following that, confession: I don’t remember the main character’s name . LOL. Martin maybe? John? I dunno, he had a boring little boy name because he was a boring little boy. This book isn’t ultimately awful, it just doesn’t intrigue the way the first series does. Perhaps my hopes were set too high. The most exciting parts of this book are parts when characters we recognize make small appearances, such as Lord Asriel (aka love of 12 year old Heather’s life). Otherwise, none of the new characters really inspired me to care about them much, except maybe the old nuns who were so sweet. There’s an interesting villain dude, who’s super insane and beats his own daemon (!?!?!), but because this is a YA book, Pullman doesn’t really go full-dark on us. Instead we get merely a glimpse of this dude’s true depravity. It’s like, go hard or go home, you know? And it kinda feels as though Mr. Pullman just wanted to go home.

Plot-wise, this book suffers from being split into two distinct plots, but not really being clear on that front. We spend an ETERNITY slumming it around whatever little podunk English suburb our main character lives in, and then by the time we are finally like, adventuring, the adventure takes TOO goddamn long and is SO boring. Like, are we going to London or not? Why have we stopped at every small island along the way and had inane and stupid adventures? You really spend a LOT of time in a boat with these characters, which might be bearable if the characters were likable or interesting, but as I’ve previously established, they aren’t.

What this book does WELL is the sort of political maneuvering that was awesome in His Dark Materials. There are little children-led spy organizations wherein children rat out their friend’s parents for certain behaviours, beliefs, etc, which is a super sinister way of monitoring the citizenship. I mean… they’re kids. They’re everywhere.

Ultimately I give this book a cat-sleeping-all-day: pretty much what the cat was gonna do anyway. Not good, not bad.

Moroda, L.L. McNeil book review

 

Moroda is L.L. McNeil’s self-published debut. In Moroda we have a high fantasy novel that essentially follows a ragtag band of travellers who’ve come together by accident, swept into a war that pits races and nations against one another. While McNeil has all the most basic elements of an excellent fantasy here—vivid world-building, a strong cast of characters, and a decent story to tell—it is obvious from the start what this novel is missing: a good editor. I think 90% of the complaints I have for this book could be solved if McNeil found herself a professional editor.

The strengths of this novel lie in the foundation McNeil has laid down. The world she’s built is expansive, and she’s accounted for culture and history that influences the current climate our characters exist in. There’s some incredibly interesting lore especially DRAGON GODS (well… kind of…). Anyone who has read my reviews know I appreciate a good dragon tale, and Moroda does not disappoint in that regard. There’s an extremely interesting cast of characters. It’s an ensemble cast, with one main character and several “supporting mains.” I have a tendency to gravitate toward characters who are persecuted, so I immediately took to Kohl and Sapora as my favourites.

Another thing I really want to draw positive attention to about this novel is that it was unpredictable. There’s an obvious enemy set up, but the solutions the characters used to fight him weren’t ones that I would have guessed, which can be hard to find in a fantasy novel nowadays. Additionally, the different political styles and cultural norms of the different races made for a lot of seemingly “wildcard” events, because we are looking at very different groups of people interacting with one another.

The big issues I have with this book are almost all technical, and most of it, I feel, would be solved if the author invested in an editor with a good grasp on characters/characterization. The pacing needs tightening up; in particular, there are times where there’s excessive exposition done through dialogue, and I think it would be better if the author were to let the characters discover some things on their own rather than having other characters explain it to them. Because of the ensemble cast, it sometimes is hard to really determine who’s narrating, i.e. it switches very suddenly from one character’s POV to another to the point where it feels like the author didn’t want to do the work of having character A guess/develop insight regarding character B’s motives, so she simply switched POVs and described what’s going through character B’s head. Character motives also aren’t always clear, or the author hints at them but doesn’t actually convince me that the character’s actions make sense given the explained motive, especially with Moroda and Eryn’s initial involvement in the whole thing. The motive is there– there’s nothing left for them in their hometown, they’re desperate and alone– but instead of further developing this meaningful, deeper motive (which would be far more convincing), the author kind of falls back on having them chase after a few coins. Some characters are also just under-developed, but this I think is because McNeil is grappling with a large cast of central characters. I’m excited to see that one of the characters I consider under-developed is the lead of the next novel, so hopefully we will get to know him better then.

Ultimately this book was definitely worth the read, despite the technical issues.  I think McNeil is a very creative and promising author and I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series, though I’d like to see her grow as an author and put forward a more polished product next time. Verdict: one cautiously optimistic kitten waiting on the next book.

 

Interested? Moroda is available on Amazon.

Another win for dragons: The Sky is Yours, Chandler Klang Smith review

Chandler Klang Smith’s The Sky is Yours (see on Amazon \\ see on GoodReadsis a bizarre, almost genre-bending novel set in a abandoned city set perpetually ablaze by the two dragons overhead who never leave and never sleep. We follow three young people thrown together by a series of machinations, tragedies, and coincidence as they journey deeper into the city. I am not entirely sure what genre I would call this book. I’m also unsure what the message is supposed to be. I’m also not sure whether I liked it.

There are undoubted strengths to this book:  I really enjoy Chandler Klang Smith’s writing style, so much so that I was reading this book on my phone on the elliptical at the gym, which no doubt made me look like a crazy person. Her style is at once insightful and full of beautiful imagery, which is great for things like setting up novels or chapters, but not so great for like… scenes of every day life. Unfortunately, because of this, the pacing of this book for the first half is almost unbearably slow. This is my biggest complaint about this book, hands down. If you are someone who really likes action, this is probably not the book for you, because it feels as though we spend way too much time getting to know the setting and the characters. I like that she immerses us in the world and culture, but sometimes it’s like… I just wanna know what happens next, ok? I don’t really care about this boring history crap that doesn’t really affect my understanding of the characters’ situation, like… at all. It does pick up toward the end once our protagonists make it into the city but it’s a long haul getting there.

On that note, the world-building is vivid and unique, at least insofar as the combination of previously seen ideas is new. The dragons appeared out of the sea and perpetually terrorize/burninate the city, in particular the ghetto where criminals are segregated to, creating a very strange urban landscape and culture shaped by fire.

the sky is yours

The context is somewhat futuristic and I think that the author is attempting to make some sort of commentary on technology and society, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what that commentary is.

The other major issue I have with this book is that almost none of the characters are likeable. In fact I would classify our main character, Duncan, as being downright abhorrent. I get that it’s intentional and part of the novel is supposed to be him learning not to be a misogynist piece of garbage. But unfortunately, it kind of feels like… he doesn’t? At least not enough that I would ever be able to relate to him or like him. Of the other characters, the one I found the most interesting is Katya Ripple, Duncan’s mother who doesn’t really get enough screen time for me to form any opinions on her other than I wish I had seen more.

I feel like Chandler Klang Smith has a lot of really great ideas with The Sky is Yours, but fails to execute them in a way that does them justice. The storyline that develops around Abby in the latter half of the book should have been introduced far sooner, as it’s the most interesting portion of the plot and is that bit that’s most relevant to the world, in my opinion. Instead the reader is kind of dragged along for pages focusing on things like Duncan’s TV show or interminably boring family politics. Ultimately I’d call this book good, but certainly not great and certainly not as good as it could have been. Final rating: dollar store cat toy you spent 3 bucks on and your cat did play with it, but like… not for a very long time, and only half-heartedly.

 

I received a copy of this book through Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

A God in the Shed, J. F. Dubeau

When I read the description of God in the Shed by J. F. Dubeau, (see on Amazon || see on Goodreads) – ” The village of Saint-Ferdinand has all the trappings of a quiet life: farmhouses stretching from one main street, a small police precinct, a few diners and cafés, and a grocery store. Though if an out-of-towner stopped in, they would notice one unusual thing―a cemetery far too large and much too full for such a small town, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand Killer, who has eluded police for nearly two decades. It’s not until after Inspector Stephen Crowley finally catches the killer that the town discovers even darker forces are at play.” –  I was like, HOLY CRAP, this is going to be awesome. Rural Quebec setting? A God trapped in a shed? Decades of crazy serial killings?? Sign me up! The premise seemed amazing but I was just let down after reading this book. I felt like I was reading one of the shitty serials on /r/nosleep that are like “I found a god in my shed… Part 18!” Where they keep obviously making it up as they go and incorporating whatever the highest upvoted idiot in the comments suggests they should do. I don’t really recommend you read this book, so, spoilers ahead.

First thing that turned me off was it was just gory for no reason and people start to be okay with it??? Like the evil “god” at the center of the book is making a big disgusting mural ~made out of people~ which apparently attracts/traps souls which is his ultimate goal. Like he makes it out of birds, part of someone’s cat, the main character’s DAD, and theyre like “It’s so beautiful…” Umm no it’s just made out of intestines and shit. It’s gross. Don’t play with that. The main character is like thiiiiiis close to making deals with the god through most of this and you’re like NO??? I thought you’re supposed to be smart???

The other thing is that EVERYONE dies. Like seriously do not get attached to ANYONE. I’m not even sure how enough people keep populating this town, the death count is so high. So you become a bit blasé to people dying after a bit, because nobody is safe. I got bored of people dying in horrible ways, that’s how bad it was.

One of the main characters is established as like a straight laced hard nosed cop or something but then he just goes nuts for no reason as “it all falls apart around him” (Thanks to some teenagers? Come on…)

All in all it was a pretty disappointing read and I felt could have been a lot better. I did enjoy the writing but didn’t think it was too remarkable. I did want to keep reading and find out what happened but I felt like it went towards an inevitable and obvious conclusion. I don’t even have much to say about the main character, Venus, as she was also pretty unremarkable, an average kid who rebels against her parents and is “destined” to save the town….

Yawwwnnnn.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black.

Sigh. What to say about Coldtown… This book had a lot of promise. Our initial main three characters are interesting and have a fun dynamic. Our protagonist Tana is just your regular girl with a sad past trying to make it in a world where vampires are real and live in military-policed quarantine zones called Coldtowns. Her charismatic ex-boyfriend Aiden and mysterious and insane vampire Gavriel join her on a mission to the nearest Coldtown that ends in her discovering quite the plot. This is where things start to fall apart.

Continue reading “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black.”