Sunday, August 4, 2013

LeviathanWoke Me Up

James S.A. Corey
Reviewed by Carol
Recommended for: fans of light sci-fi

Read from August 02 to 03, 2013 
Four out of five stars 

Leviathan Wakes broke my reading slump! Listlessly slogging my way through various reads--a couple of which came highly recommended--I was starting to wonder if it I had lost my book love. Then I picked this up for a Book o' the Month read. Expecting a detail dense sci-fi, within the first few pages I found myself hooked, and by page 100, thoroughly reeled in by this hefty genre mash-up. Space opera? Perhaps. Horror? Maybe. Military? Sort of. Mystery in space? Yes, definitely. And if by the end it reminded me a little of The Rook and The Gone-Away World, that's not a negative comparison. All of them have some interesting philosophical underpinnings combined with genre mash-up, a light mystery-driven plot and a nice side of humor.

"Mariner Valley had been settled by East Indians, Chinese and a small contingent of Texans. Apparently the drawl was viral. They all had it now."

Oddly, I seem to be on an unintentional run of books created by collaborators, and in some cases it works well (Ilona Andrews), and in some, not so much. Although there's a few rough spots here--and I'd have to agree with a number of reviewers that pinpoint the ending as displeasing--it generally works very well. I went looking for some background on the collaboration, and the duo offered up a few thoughts on Scalzi's blog and in an appealing three-part Youtube video interview with author Carrie Vaughn:

Initially, a fragmented viewpoint had trouble luring me in, but once the authors settled down for an exchange of viewpoints between Holden, an "executive officer" on an ice hauling deep-space freighter of outcasts, and Detective Miller, a world-weary member of an asteroid peace-keeping force, it was suddenly became completely absorbing. The culture felt at once familiar with generational differences between deep spacers who grow up on various asteroids and moons, and those that grow up on the more developed Earth and Martian colonies. The writers add a twist by including some physical differences that occur between Earth-gravity and deep-space gravity peoples, and further enlarge upon it by including economic and political angles that make the culture-building feel real. If the lead characters seem a bit stereotypical, it is because the authors intended them to be more archetypical. The genius is in their interactions, with the world-weary detective and his 'realistic' problem-solving contrasting with the outsider hero and his optimistic one. Suddenly 'right' and 'wrong' aren't so clear.

"The circle of life on Ceres was so small you could see the curve. He liked it that way."

I admire the writers' goal of a composition that addresses the emotion of the story, and for wanting to write an engaging style that doesn't depend on artificial cliffhangers (Psst! Modern UF and YA--we're talking about you). One reason I don't spend much time in deep-space sci-fi is the tendency to focus on world and tech-building at the expense of character and plot. Either that, or it all becomes a set-up for a giant philosophical thought experiment. Had I known from the beginning about the authors' intentions, I might have went into it with higher expectations of enjoyment.

"We’re sentimentalists. We care whether the soul-crushed cop finds redemption. We care whether the quixotic holy fool of a captain overcomes his own failings in time to get the girl. And we expect you to care too. The risk we take is that you might not, and if you don’t, there’s no defense against the failure on our part. But you know what? We think it’s worth it anyway."

It was worth it.

Four deep-space stars.

Crash Into Me

Crash Into Me
by Albert Borris

Review by Sesana
Three out of five stars

Publisher Summary:

Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides...and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living--or if there's no turning back. "Crash Into Me puts readers in the driver's seat with four teens teetering on the edge of suicide. But will their cross country odyssey push them all the way over? Only the final page turn will tell, in Albert Borris's finely-crafted tale of friendship forged from a desperate need of connection.

My Review:

Four suicidal teens decide to go on a road trip. They'll tour the graves of famous people who killed themselves, then commit suicide as a group in Death Valley. Sound tense? It certainly can be.

But the pacing is so very slow. Considering how important the suicide grave tour seems to be in the blurb, and at the beginning of the story, most of the book takes place in between. This is not necessarily bad, because some of the best moments in the book happen in those in between places. But it does mean that the hook gets lost, and that's a shame.

This is one book where I do wish that the author had gone with multiple POVs. I would have loved to have seen into the heads of the other characters, and I think it would have kept the story from dragging. Because for me, I think the POV character, Owen, was one of the less interesting ones in the book. I especially would have loved to have seen what exactly was going on in Audrey's head, since she baffled me as a character throughout. I'm left, at the end of the book, wondering what exactly she wanted and expected to happen going into this. But that's just one of the many open questions left at the end of the book.

It certainly isn't a bad book, though. I think a lot of the conversations and reactions the characters had were genuine, even if the situation as a whole isn't exactly the most believable. The ending probably won't surprise anyone, at least not once they get there, and there are plenty of loose ends for these characters. Satisfying enough of an ending, though.

Also reviewed on Goodreads.