Wednesday, 30 December 2015

#29 Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I love me some Canadian authors. This wasn't half bad. The story begins with the death of our protagonist Arthur Leander. He dies whilst on stage performing King Lear. Jeevan a trainee paramedic who happened to be in the audience rushes to Arthurs aid but sadly could not save him. On Jeevans way home from the theater a flu breaks out that has the potential to kill many people. The Georgian Flu as it is later known killed many people and the story focuses on those before, during and after this time period.

The story is presented in multiple perspectives and doesn't get told chronologically which can be confusing but by a large it makes sense in the end, it spans decades that covers before and after the pandemic. The perspectives are from people that knew Arthur or had influenced him in some kind of way. The story follows the people that knew him and isn't really about Arthur at all but he is still undeniably the protagonist.

The book is post apocalyptic but there is not too much focus on the world itself but more the people and how they are coping with the new world. What is mentioned about the world and setting is that there are no cities or infrastructure after the great collapse but there are settlements in which people live. The story is woven together so intricately that as the reader you dont even notice until it becomes apparent and you can see the spider web for yourself, a good indication of well planned and clever writing.

The atmosphere of this book was similar to what you would expect from a contemporary romance novel, it was light and easy to get through but the story did not disappoint and the characters were so well thought out that it was impossible to get bored.  The symbolism used throughout this novel was very interesting, the significance of the tattoos as a theme was very interesting (i wont say too much in order to keep this spoiler free)

This is the type of book that would make a superb movie if done correctly that is. I was pleased that it was a stand alone and that it was wrapped up in 300 odd pages. What is wholly apparent is how hollow Arthurs life was, this is clear to the reader through the stories of how others saw him not just his son and ex wife. This was such an interesting and unique twist to the typical dystopian novels.

The negatives for me were the length and the pacing. At times the pacing was all wrong and it went through a few dryer chapters and the length was a little too long and could have been wrapped up much faster than it was. There were a few chapters dedicated to irrelevant characters that seemed unnecessary to the overall plot.

Overall, the writing was beautiful but it felt somewhat incomplete and certain things went unexplained. Still well worth a read.

'Because survival is insufficient' 

Friday, 25 December 2015

#28 Armada

Armada By Ernest Cline (God, basically)

Everyone who knows me well, knows that Ready Player One is my life. I have put it on a pedestal above all other literature. To me, it is untouchable in so many ways, a work of art almost. When i heard that Cline was working on a second novel i was filled with a mixture of dread and excitement. I knew that it would be a triumph or an epic fail.

Armada follows the story of 18 year old Zack Lightman. He is a talented gamer ranked 6th in the world at the war fighting flight simulation game Armada. When he learns that the game was released in order to fight off a real life attack from alien invasion he has to make a decision to stand back whilst millions die or to take action and join the Earth Defence Alliance. The game he has been engaging in for so long was created as a combat training simulation and from the 9 million users the EDA hand picks only the best of the best to sign up. Zack chooses to sign up and help try to win the war. 

For the first 16% it felt like i was reading a few Wikipedia articles about old video games and pop culture references from the 80's, it felt disjointed and nonsensical. At about 20% the story truly kick started and the genius that is Cline finally shown through.

The war against the alien race comes in 3 waves that are separated by 2 hour intervals, the new recruits must prepare themselves to save not only themselves but civilization. There was a few plot twists that i didnt see coming throughout and the ending was not predictable at all! 

This is a very fast paced and action packed plot that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. The characters are believable and realistic. If you love video games and/or sci fi then you will love this. It is so imaginative and immersive. Cline is easily becoming one of my favourite writers and i hope he continues to write on top form. 

Friday, 18 December 2015

#27 You Against Me

You Against Me By Jenny Downham

I picked this book up having read Before I Die by the same author, i thought it would be a lighthearted YA romance. Imagine my shock at the darker YA themes i encountered. 

You Against Me follows the story of Karyn McKenzie and Tom Parker. When  Karyn claims that Tom sexually assaulted her the plot begins after the aftermath and the sought after truth. When Karyns brother Mikey meets Ellie who is Toms sister and they begin to get closer their conflicts of interest become apparent. With Ellie trying to defend her brother and Mikey seeking justice for his sister will we ever discover the truth of what happened?

The story is dark and is not for the younger YA reader, the themes are mature and it was much closer to a NA read for me and it had sexual content, violence and strong language. The book handled the issue of rape very well it delved in head first into how its one persons story against another which was abundantly clear from the title of the book. Karyn struggles to leave the house after the alleged attack and isolates herself from her family, her mother doesnt deal well with the trauma and turns to alcohol as a coping mechanism leaving Mikey solely responsible for the care of the younger 8 year old sister and ensuring that Karyn is ok. Ellie on the other hand is her brothers sole witness as she was present in the house the night of the alleged attack. She feels an enormous amount of pressure from her parents to defend her brothers honor and to say what she needs to to ensure that he will not go to prison for a crime she is convinced he did not commit. 

As Mikey and Ellie grow closer she realizes that she needs to do the right thing and tell the truth regardless of the consequences. 

This is a heartwarming story about love and family. I really enjoyed how believable the characters were and that it wasnt glorifying or unrealistic. I think the YA genre needs more books like this to make teens more aware of the risks of under age drinking and sexual assault, it also touches on the issue of consent. 

A few things i didnt like was there was no resolution in the end, i would of much preferred to hear the outcome for Tom following the court case. The ending was a little premature and felt all of a sudden. It doesnt leave the reader with a sense of closure especially after 400 pages! 

All in all, this is a 4 star book for me.