Wednesday Recommendations!

Hey, I’ve started doing these again!

Here, have a clever and succinct review of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2!

http://zanyzacreviews.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/the-twilight-saga-breaking-dawn-part-two/

Also, Halfway Decent Fanfiction has updated!  If any of you are reading my Gone Series fanfiction, Part 2 is up!

I’m reading The Mark of Athena right now, so I might try to write a review this weekend!

Plague: Why, Exactly, Does This Exist?

It's totally not related to race at all

Why is Astrid on the cover? Why is Dekka NOT on the cover? And who’s the other guy?

What happened to Edilio’s crush on Lana? What happened to Sam’s post-traumatic stress? What exactly is Astrid’s mutant power and why is it not making any appearances? Does the town council ever actually do anything? Does Astrid have a job? If she does, what is it? And most importantly, why exactly is this series so long? These questions and many others bounced across my mind several times as I read Plague by Michael Grant. Needless to say, I am very disappointed.

In Plague, the FAYZ is running low on water, so Albert sends Sam, Dekka, Computer Jack, and Taylor to try to find another lake. But while Sam and some of the town’s most powerful mutants are gone, all hell breaks loose as Drake escapes, a deadly plague breaks out, and flesh-eating bugs attack the town.

One thing I really liked in this book was the strength of the supporting characters. Grant has shown quite an aptitude for character development. Dahra, Dekka, Lana, Sanjit, and Orc were especial standouts in this book. He even managed to make Astrid somewhat interesting. In fact, the supporting characters are so strong, I would argue that the series is not Sam, Astrid, Caine, and Diana’s story anymore (although the covers are still trying to tell us it is). It is the story of the people in the FAYZ, specifically the dozen or so who narrate or figure prominently in the books. And that makes the story stronger, because we see everything through so many different perspectives and get to know so many great people along the way.

The book also brings up some very interesting themes. There’s been a lot of religious symbolism and discussion in these books (although it’s sometimes incorrect. For example, the Catholic church no longer considers suicide a mortal sin). I feel like this is the first book that actually did something with it. Astrid’s struggles to apply her faith to the desperate circumstances in which she lives are very compelling. Catholic moral philosophy states that the result of a wrong action never justifies that action, but the choices Astrid is forced to make show the flaws in that philosophy. Grant effectively makes the point that there are no true moral absolutes.

Britney’s transformation also makes a point about religion. Britney has a tendency to completely devote herself to certain people or causes. We saw this in her unwavering loyalty to Edilio in Hunger, and her belief that she is God’s messenger in Lies. In some ways, this complete loyalty was a very good thing. For example, in Hunger, she stayed and tried to defend the power plant when no one else would. But this book shows the reader how dangerous that fanaticism can be. Britney believes the gaiaphage is God, and this leads her to attack Astrid, Orc, Jack, and Little Pete with an army of flesh-eating bugs. Britney’s transformation points out the fine line between faith and fanaticism.

Grant also tries to make a point about fear and prejudice. In previous reviews, I mentioned how much I liked the Human Crew as villains. In this book, they return, but now, they aren’t only targeting the mutants. They’ve noticed that many of the people on the town council are people of color, and they feel that it is unfair that the “normal people” are not represented. In the FAYZ, there are no socioeconomic inequalities stopping people of certain races from succeeding, so it is possible to become successful simply by working hard. The people who are working hard happen to be people of color in this universe. However, racial biases are still present. The members of the (mostly white) Human Crew literally cannot accept a world in which white people are not dominant. This is a startling parallel to certain reactionary movements that are developing today as a response to feminist, anti-racist, and gay rights activism.

On that note, as has been the case for the entire series, the racial representation is very good (even though the publisher seems to be deliberately avoiding putting any characters of color on the covers). Yes, Howard, who is black, is a drug dealer. However, people of color are also portrayed as leaders, fire chiefs, doctors, sassy teleporters, happy-go-lucky helicopter pilots, nurses, bitter healers, pessimistic little brothers, and powerful, stoic mutants, which balances out the problematic portrayal of Howard. The female characters are also getting better. Astrid, Lana, Dahra, Dekka, Brianna, Diana, and Taylor all have agency in their stories. They use their particular talents to get what they want, make their own decisions and are generally not defined by their love interests. The only exception here is Lana, whose story in this book focuses more on her relationship with Sanjit than her personal healing process. Unfortunately, while Diana taking advantage of her sexuality to try to stop Caine from hurting people was interesting, she is now pregnant with what will probably be an evil mutant baby. Like most other Mystical Pregnancies, I’m sure this will reduce her to a be-wombed plot device.

Now, those are the parts of the book I enjoyed. But there were definitely parts that I did not enjoy. And the one that bothered me most was that Caine is now an important part of the plot again.

I hate Caine. He is probably one of my least favorite villains ever. The other characters I disliked in the first book have since grown on me because Grant developed them and gave them more depth. Sam’s responsibilities as a leader forced him to grow, Astrid’s struggle with her faith has been compelling, and Drake’s egregious evilness is justified now that he’s been possessed by the gaiaphage. Caine has no depth. His emotions are not realistic. We are told that he desperately wants power, but why? Why is this teenaged boy so obsessed with world domination? He is unrealistically creepy and analytical about his relationship with Diana. Whenever he makes a speech, he sounds corny, pompous, and cartoonish, and yet he somehow is able to win everyone in the FAYZ over. Caine is a terrible villain and he brings the quality of the series down.

Also, the continuity is becoming a bit weird. I mentioned some plot holes at the beginning of the review, but I’d like to focus on one which particularly bothered me. In the last book, Sam was struggling with post-traumatic stress from his encounter with Drake. I liked where Grant was going with that, and enjoyed reading about Sam’s healing process. But in this book, it was completely gone. I’m no expert, but I don’t think post-traumatic stress just goes away like that. This and other plot holes really threw me off.

I attribute the series’ plot holes to the length of the series, which brings me to my next point. This series is unnecessarily long. This book, in particular, seemed unnecessary. The overarching plot of the series is the characters finding out how to defeat the gaiaphage and escape the FAYZ. There was no forward motion in this plot at all. I still have no idea what the gaiaphage is or what its motivation is. I still have no idea what’s behind the FAYZ wall. I still have no idea how they’re going to escape. Sure, there was a battle with the gaiaphage, and Perdido Beach split into two separate towns, but neither of those things are going to make that much of a difference in the long run.

So, although I did enjoy reading this book, I found it completely unnecessary. I’m not happy about Caine’s return as a villain, and I’m not happy about Sam’s character regression. I’m ranking this Good, and I turn, with a heart heavy with dread, towards Fear.

Other Opinions:

http://cuddlebuggery.com/blog/2013/04/04/review-plague-by-michael-grant/

http://charlotteunsworth.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/review-hunger-lies-and-plague-by-michael-grant/

http://overflowingheartreviews.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/book-review-plague-michael-gran/

Hello, any readers I still have! Sorry for the looong hiatus!  There’s a brief lull in the homework right now, so I’ve managed to post my review of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, as you may have seen (if you haven’t, just scroll down!).  Here is some information about what I’ll be doing on here for the next couple of weeks.

1. I started a new blog!  This one is for fan fiction.  My first post will be fan fiction of the Gone series (everyone reading this blog should at least know what that is by now).  You can access it here)

2. I finished reading Plague!  Depending on how busy I am, I’m going to try to write the review this weekend.

3. My posts over the next couple of weeks will be rather sporadic.  Finals for me start on Wednesday and end next Tuesday.  I’ll be very busy studying, but I will try to make time to write my Plague and Beka Cooper reviews.

Announcements!

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven: A Brief Look at Some Poemish Prose

Image

I still don’t understand this cover

 The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a book of short stories by Sherman Alexie. The stories detail life on a Spokane Indian reservation, and the quiet struggles of those who live there.

It took a long time for me to write my review of this book, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how I felt, or what it meant. The stories explored many complicated themes, and expressed the author’s great understanding of the human condition. But there were certain stories where I couldn’t connect to the characters, or had no clue what point the author was trying to make.

The writing was beautiful, of course. Alexie is a lovely and poetic author. His metaphors and similes are intelligent and relatable. It is easy for the reader to see that he had only previously published a book of poems. Many of the stories were very good. Each one was a brief snapshot of someone on the reservation’s life.  Some of them, though, were hard to comprehend, or were not very interesting.

I especially liked “The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore.” This story was about two friends discussing a talented young basketball player named Julian. They express their hope that he will escape the reservation’s cycle of poverty. The story then jumps forward to a year later. The two men are discussing Julian again, but now, he is an alcoholic and has lost most of his talent. The story captured the vicious cycle of alcoholism and how dispiriting it is to the people on the reservation.

This is a much shorter review than normal, because I have far less to say. I rank this book somewhere between a Good and Very Good. It was beautiful, but not consistently.

Still Alive, I Promise!

Hey people!

I’m in the last couple of weeks of school, and I have about five papers due next week, then finals.  So I am abstaining from the Internet.  Don’t worry!  Soon, it will be summer, and I will review things again!  Please don’t unfollow me or forget I exist!  

Thanks,

The Chosen One

Lies: A Review

I apologize for not having this up a week ago!  I was swamped with homework.  Please enjoy this hastily cobbled-together review!

Can we just take a second to appreciate how much this series has improved?  Lies is, so far, the best book in the Gone series.  The story follows Sam trying to overcome the trauma caused by being tortured by Drake.  Meanwhile, Zil and the Human Crew are running loose, Caine is developing a plan to escape to a legendary island, and Orsay, a mutant who can infiltrate peoples’ dreams, is claiming to be able to contact the outside world.

I am really impressed by how much the characters have grown over the course of these three books, especially Astrid, Howard, and Sam.  As you may recall from my last two reviews, I did not, until very recently, care much for Astrid.  She is still not my favorite character, but in this book, she had an Astrid version of a Crowning Moment of Awesome.

(Spoilers)

When she was reading her list of rules, I just felt so proud of her.  Then, of course, she quit the Council, which I’m hoping was a clever reelection strategy and not Michael Grant telling us that ladies can’t handle responsibility.

(End Spoilers)

Howard has improved as well, changing from a cardboard bully to a clever, fast-talking politician.  The scenes involving him were some of my favorites in this book.  I could never tell what side he would be on next.

As you may recall, in the first book, I found Sam a bit bland.  I realize now that Grant began the series with an average Everykid so that he could show how the FAYZ was changing people.  He succeeded.  Sam’s trauma from being whipped by Drake felt very real and upsetting, and the scenes showing Sam’s healing process were great character moments for him.  As an added bonus, his fear of Drake made Drake seem more like a credible villain.

I also liked how Grant is no longer trying to convince us that Caine is a credible threat.  In this book, Caine and the others are merely terrified, starving kids trying to survive, instead of the demonic junior criminal mastermind we were presented with in the first book.  He managed to wreak havoc on Perdido Beach, but for reasons of survival, and not just because he could.

The plot was exciting as well.  I won’t go into details because of spoilers, but it definitely kept me reading.  Orsay’s subplot was fascinating because we came so close to finding out more about the FAYZ.  The island plot, with the introduction of Sanjit and Virtue, was fun (Sanjit is a fantastic character of color, which is good, because some of the others are becoming less interesting).  And of course, Sam and Astrid’s struggles with their inner demons were fantastically written.

The only problem with the plot was the climax.  I literally have no idea what happened in the final battle.  How on earth did Dekka make it to the scene in time?  How did Sam manage to hurt Drake?  And what is going on with Little Pete?  The end was confusing and unsatisfying, and I didn’t like it.

Finally, the Darkness still has absolutely no motivation.  I’m getting a bit annoyed, actually.

(Spoilers)

The Darkness’s evil plan in this book was to manipulate Mary into convincing all the kids in the day care to kill themselves.  But why?  What did it have to gain by killing a bunch of children?

(End Spoilers)

I understand that the Darkness’s motivation is part of the central mystery.  However, I feel like that was a very bad decision made by Grant.  The longer we go without knowing the villain’s motivation, the less I can bring myself to care about it.

Despite this, I give Lies a solid Very Good.  My school library doesn’t have Plague at the moment, but I will be reviewing it as soon as I can find a copy.  Until then, I’ll be reviewing Beka Cooper: Terrier and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.  Thanks for reading and please comment!  (Note: I apologize for the low quality of this review.  The amount of homework I have has forced me to compromise my standards of quality.  I didn’t even have time to think of a clever title).