Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Thoughts- Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In by John Scalzi
published 8/26/14
320 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....

My thoughts -

Well. I know I've said before I'm a bit of a John Scalzi fangirl - I've pretty much loved everything of his I've read, I follow his blog, I think he's a smart guy AND an entertaining writer. So I'm pretty well predisposed to like this book.

That said, this was NOT my favorite of his work. I found his idea quite interesting - the subject of Lock In Syndrome is close to my heart, as my uncle has been suffering from ALS for 30 years, and has been locked in for at least half that time. I thought that creating a world in which this was almost the norm - where society has had to develop to accommodate people suffering from this syndrome - was a fascinating idea. As usual, his world building is fantastic, and his main characters nuanced and realistic.

So why did this one not hit a home run? The ending. I felt like there was so much forward momentum, and then the novel just ended. It felt rushed and abrupt, like there were chapters missing from the final pages. I can see this being the two-hour premier of a new series, where the point is to get people hooked on the characters and not necessarily care about the way the episode ends. I can only hope there are more books coming, because this felt really unsatisfying.

There is one thing Scalzi does in the novel that is REALLY cool - and I can't talk about it, because if you haven't read it I want you to go in without knowing like I did. I figured out what was going on about 1/3 of the way in, and it was a cool experience watching it play out until the end. My husband and I both had the same experience with it - and I want to know who else has read this book so I can talk to you about it!!

Anyway, not my favorite Scalzi, but let's be honest - even not my favorite Scalzi is more entertaining than a lot of other stuff. I wouldn't start here if you are new to the author, but it's worth reading for the ideas and cool thought-experiement stuff he has going on.

Finished - 9/21/14
Source - Audible.com
MPAA rating - R for language and violence
My rating - 3/4

This counts as my first book toward

LOTS of peril involved in this one!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book Thoughts - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
published 1970
291 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local "powhitetrash." At eight years old and back at her mother's side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man any times her age-and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself, and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors ("I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare") will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

My thoughts -

I have to admit that I'm not QUITE done reading this.....but Diversiverse ends tonight, and I really want to get this in before it's over, and I'll finish it before I go to bed, so......

And then, of course, there is the finding of the right words to say to describe this book. It has been a hard read, not because of it's execution but because of it's content. It makes my heart ache to think of the things that happened to this little girl - of the things that are happening today to little girls around the world. Angelou writes these events with honestly, but never gratuitously - she's not writing tragedy porn, but rather a record of the events that led to her becoming the person she finally was. It's hard reading, but so worthwhile.

Her writing is beautiful, generous, funny, and smart. She paints pictures with her words, and that leads to the difficulty in reading at times - I can see what she sees, feel what she feels, and it's often painful. But ultimately, it doesn't feel hopeless, and that's why I can keep reading.

I don't know how the story ends, but I know I will keep reading to the end. This is a powerful book. I can understand why parents would be concerned about their high school aged kids reading this, but I think it could potentially foster so many wonderful conversations that it would probably be worth it. I'm glad I finally took the chance and plunged in. I know this is a book I will not soon forget.

Finished - 9/27/14 (I AM gonna finish this tonight!
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - definitely R, for lots of places
My rating -     (TBD)

I read this book for

#Diversiverse (it's over today, so go and look at the amazing number of books I haven't read yet, but.....

And Banned Books Week, because I'm a rebel! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Thoughts - The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
published 2010
427 pages

Synopsis -

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

My thoughts -

My first book for Diversiverse this year, and it was a great one. 

I should start by saying that I am predisposed to enjoy fantasy. I've seen several reviews of this novel that explore various problems readers have with the story, and while in retrospect I understand and can even agree with many of the problems - the weird, somewhat uncomfortable relationships; the abrupt transitions in time and place; the "telling" rather than "showing"; and even some issues with Yeine herself. But I have to tell you, as I was reading the novel, I was completely swept away. 

Something about fantasy just allows me to roll with elements that would normally by problematic for me. Something about fantasy lets me open up my mind in a way that completely immerses in the story - I can allow for things that don't make sense, really, because the rules of the world are already different. If the story is engaging, the critical parts of my brain just shut off, and I read for pure enjoyment. I think that's why fantasy is almost always what I choose for a "guilty pleasure" read - because I can so fully escape into this type of novel.

So after saying all that, I have to admit I loved the reading of this novel. I did not find anything in the story itself that was extremely groundbreaking, but Jemisin uses traditional fantasy tropes very well. It is quite refreshing to read a heroine in a fantasy novel that is not clearly designed to be European, and I would enjoy exploring more of Yeine's background in future novels. And I am generally a sucker for a good antihero, and Nahadoth is that in some really interesting ways. 

Sooooo.....not a particularly insightful review (but then, let's be honest - I don't have time to write those much anymore. I'm just happy to be reading!) But boy, did I enjoy reading this novel, and I will definitely read more by this talented author.

Finished - 9/19/14
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - R for fantasy violence & adult situations
My rating - 4/5

If you are interested in reading more reviews of books read for Diversiverse 2014, make sure to check them out here!!