The Chrysalids – John Wyndham

I love, sci-fi, it is one of my favourite genres over all media, and therefore, classic sci-fi reads are high up on my “Must get to at some point in my life” list, so when I was looking for something a bit more classic to read after finishing a teen dystopia (I enjoyed it, but it didn’t add anything new to the genre), I thought this would be the perfect choice.

I read the sample I had downloaded (I have about 20 on the go at any time), was sucked in pretty rapidly and purchased the rest. I was hooked on this book from the world go.

Briefly, this is a world where there has been a crisis, and as a result there is a high level of mutation in people, crops, animals, everything, and they are trying to return the world to its original state. It has strong religious overtones, frequently referencing the fact that humans are created in God’s own image, and therefore anything deviating from that, is well, a deviant. In addition any crops and animals that deviate must be burned and/or slaughtered and humans who deviate are sent away out, into parts of the world where the mutation rate is higher and life quality is far far lower.

The story is explored and delivered through a small boy and his experiences of growing up in this world, in his strict household, his reactions to this world around him and the knowledge that he has of his own form of deviancy which is unknown to the outside world at large.

It is wonderfully written and I loved the concept. From the moment I started reading I just couldn’t put it down, however, I felt as though there was more to be explored in this world and where the book ended seem to be where the story should have begun. It was also quite a sinister world in many ways, which could have been explored further. This should be a book with a sequel, so that the themes, characters and stories could have been explored and learned. It was fantastic and I would definitely recommend it, but prepare for what I felt was a lacklustre ending.

Slated – Teri Terry

I like to delve into the world of teen dystopian fiction, it is an easy read, enjoyable, compulsive and always a good way to pass some time on the bus to work. (A two hour commute each way gives you lots of reading, podcast and too much thinking time). So I downloaded a sample – which is easily one of my favourite things about e-readers, and decided that I probably would enjoy it.

The premise is that teens who commit crimes are ‘Slated’, that is they have their minds wiped, are placed into a new family and given a second chance.  So, of course, the immediate question which springs to mind is “What have they done?” “Where have they come from?” and finally “Did they deserve that?”, as always, the protagonist in this situation is a bit special, a bit different (boy, did I get sick of reading the phrase “Kyla, you’re different”), and then they set out to bring down the whole corrupt system with the help of some friends along the way in a three book series.

Sorry, that sounds snarky, it isn’t my intention, it is just these things always follow the same path and generally, Book 1: sets the scene, gives you some background to the world, the party line on how it was set up, what it was meant to achieve, how things work there. Book 2: The protagonist gets pissed off, all the bad things of the world fall on their heads, they are betrayed, they end up trusting someone they thought wasn’t trustworthy, things move on with the love triangle. They start to find out how corrupt the world really is. Third Book: All out war, people die, things get messy and finally you discover just how rotten the whole system is. Ultimately, the protagonist is irrevocably changed, takes the safe choice of partner from the love triangle and saves the world.

So why did I keep reading?  I genuinely wanted to know Kyla’s story, where she came from, how she got where she was.  I guessed probably about 50% of the plot, which is impressive for me – apart from the one murder mystery I read, where I had it worked out in the first chapter – and in some ways Kyla was someone you could relate to. Mostly, however, she was a too precocious/unusual, a bit too special.  The first book overall was great, loved it and I couldn’t wait to read the second one.  I thought the writing was OK, character development good on the main character, but a bit patchy on everyone else – they were all either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  It didn’t really give complexity of character to any more than three characters.

The second book was weird, Kyla flip flops about in her opinions so much, she suddenly changes allegiances without much explanation of why, she is inconsistent – although that is probably a truer reflection of a real person – but it just didn’t sit quite right with me, and I had to force myself to the end so that I could find out what was happening.  There just weren’t enough answers, it was just verbalisation of things you had already worked in the first book.

The third book had a lot of action, but in a really good way and finally questions are being answered! This helped me to get a a better sense of the key characters motivations and got me back into reading it for pleasure.  However, a fair proportion was quite predictable, like the traitor in their midst.

Sometimes in these third books I get a sense that the author isn’t quite sure how to finish and throws in loads of action to give them thinking time – (no judgement! I really can’t write, you should read the dire first half of the book I am semi working on), whereas in this it seemed to all be necessary and leading to something. It was probably one of the stronger third books that I have read.

The ending was nice – as they always are, but I didn’t quite feel satisfied by the books at all.  I think I need to learn that I am allowed to stop reading when I get bored, or that I am allowed to skip to the end to find out what is happening if I want to just finish the book. (There are so many books I wish I had just done this with).  After all, there are only so many great, life changing books in the world and I want to have time to read those and not just force myself to finish reading something for the sake of it.  In terms of rating overall… I am between 2 and 3 stars, so let us say 2.5.  A good addition to the teen dystopian lexicon, but a bit too predictable and tedious for me at times.

In the Garden of Iden – Kage Baker

Historical, sci-fi fiction. My favourite. I was so so excited about reading this and from the first page I was hooked. It was just after Henry the 8th and this was a perfect tie in for me, as I had just finished reading ‘Bess of Hardwick’ – which was wonderful – so I had a lot of context for the book. The main protagonist was female, another plus, plus we had the tie in religious debate to an extent, so it ticked a lot of boxes for me. So why 3 stars I hear you ask? Well, I felt as though the story overall did not fulfil its promise.

I felt as though a lot of the book was about a love story, which I can enjoy, but I wanted to know more about the characters, their backgrounds, ‘The Company’, and while it did partially deliver it felt lacking and it really dragged in places. The last third to a quarter I was basically skim reading just to get to the end. Having read a couple of other sites about the book, I established that you do get a lot more background to the formation of ‘The Company’, how it came to be, what it is, what the mystery is, and I will definitely be reading the next one in the series – sample already downloaded to my kindle – I just felt that more could have been done with the premise in this book.

What I did really enjoy, however, was that the main protagonist was very real and very relatable. She is set up as this immortal being, stuffed with knowledge, yet she was still flawed, still unknowing, and making all the mistakes we all make. She was learning life lessons, rather than simply full of rational, objective knowledge. I was rooting for her the whole way through, and wanting to slap some sense into her – because clearly, I am so wonderfully wise myself *ahem*.

There were a couple of bits I thought didn’t make sense. For example, the protagonist and her colleagues were able to talk psychically and could link into each others thoughts in times of high tension, but there was one particular part where a colleague from outside their project came to visit and drop off a radio disguised as a relic. Instead of simply transmitting their thought into their minds that there was a radio embedded in, they instead had a convoluted conversation and then switched the radio on – set at a frequency that mortals can’t hear – to resolve the issue. That quite annoyed me, I like consistency! Why make something more complicated than it needs to be, simply as a dramatic device?

Overall, I did really enjoy this book, and as I said I will be reading the next one, so fingers crossed it gets better from here on out and that it answers more of my questions and adds a bit more intrigue!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I had been waiting to read this book for a while, and I am glad I waited as I managed to get the book at a much cheaper price. This was great as it wasn’t a long book and I really would have grudged paying anything more for it. It was good, as Neil Gaiman’s books always are, but I felt this one lacked the ‘oomph’, that others deliver.

It was a lovely read, a fairy story for adults and children, and as always it takes you to another world – I sometimes wonder if this man’s imagination has any bounds – but it felt a little lacking for me. The protagonist is someone that everyone can relate to, we all remember the odd, specific thoughts we had as a child and how fully we inhabit our space, with little regard to others. In some ways it was a wonderful book, made for reminiscing, however, I felt that there was a bit of a disconnect between the character and the plot. The events seemed to be something that were happening to the character, it didn’t really feel as though he had any active part or bearing on it, other than simply being there when it occurred. He just didn’t seem to have any particular traits that pushed the action, in fact, he just reacted how I probably would have to the events! Although, that statement probably says more about me than the book.

What really saved the book for me, and made me give it 4 stars rather than 3 (and I have changed the rating at least 4 times while sitting here writing this), was the ending, where the grown up character comes back from his exploration into his past and reflects on the memory.

I am finding it hard to capture how the ending made me feel, it made me feel older, it made me miss my childhood, it prompted so many memories of my own and reminded me how fallible my memory really is. In the course of the story the point is made that if you take any two people or more, at any one event, none will remember it in exactly the same way. Memories are powered by emotion, and how you felt at the time, rather than the event – some people won’t even remember the event. I guess it just gave me that feeling, that only I know where I have come from and where I am going and all the points in between. I think maybe, the ending, just gave value to my perspective and made the author and character, that little bit more vulnerable and real and that was something I could relate to. Perhaps it was just that sense of loss that I understood and how those moments can never be regained.

tl:dr Story was pretty good, but the ending was what made it for me.(less)