Feb 26, 2010

Candor

Candor_cover_FINAL Candor is a book that is similar to The Stepford Wives. Instead of telling what happens on the outside of the town, it delves deepstepford into the inner workings of a town based on control. Part of what makes Ira Levine’s Stepford Wives so horrifying is that you never really know what is happening to the women of Stepford, you just know that they are changing. Candor by Pam Bachorz uses the exact opposite approach. From the beginning Oscar tells you all the lies and deception that comprise the city of Candor.

People, very rich people, sign up to live in a town where they are covertly fed messages 24/7. The concept was created by Oscar’s father. He is a very meticulous and controlling man. He uses the messages to create the kind of life he wants for himself. He thinks that Oscar is oblivious to it all and just going along with the ride. But Oscar is trying to subvert his father every step of the way. Part of the effectiveness of his willing to appear that he is under the influence of the messages.

“I’m the model Candor boy—a son to brag about. Proof that the Messages work. That’s what everyone thinks. Even my dad.”

There is a lot to love about this book. The concept is verging on genius, but it is lacking some of the details that would make this a truly functioning world. Oscar is a great character but the reader can feel him giving into the messages more than we would like to, and that is part of the beauty of the storytelling as well. We feel the frustration between ourselves and the world between the choices Oscar makes and doesn’t make.

When rebel trouble maker Nia moves to Candor there is a chance for a great dynamic between her and Oscar, but the narrative quickly spirals into some mock teen soap opera with overwrought emotions flung all over the place. True, overwrought emotions are normal for teens, but when there is an easy solution to prevent a problem it annoys me when an author doesn’t patch over it with more back story and world building.

The middle emotional roller coaster felt so contrived that I had a hard time investing into the later half of the book even though it still had some nice elements in it. I was there with the characters, buying what they were selling, but then the author just kicked me right out onto the curb. I felt a little betrayed by the character’s stupidity and I didn’t want to care about them anymore.

Would I recommend this book? Probably, but also tentatively.
Is this a great example of dystopia? Not exactly.
Is this a unique example of dystopia? Yes. This story is very different from ones that I have read before yet connects well with some of the defining themes of dystopia of control and deception. I would have liked to see more depth in the world building and more strength in the characters and a major conflict that makes more sense.

Feb 23, 2010

The Silver Child by Cliff McNish

the_silver_child_us The Silver Child is the first book in a fantastical dystopian trilogy. The series is called The Silver Sequence and tells the story of a group of children with unique powers. This aspect of powers is what drew me into the book when I saw it at the library. I read the jacket flap and I was really pulled into the potential of the book.

“Six children are changing, and no one knows why….All six are drawn to Coldharbour, a wasteland of garbage dumps. The children sense the approach of a sinister enemy. What is it? How will they face their strange shared destiny?”

The book starts off slow and then crosses into creepy. One boy is peeling off his own skin and another is caressing strangers with his “beauty”. This beauty expands into some weird, almost orgiastic situations leaving me weirded out and confused. As i reached the conclusion of the book I actually started to enjoy it more, and then it occurred to me, the whole narrative structure of the book is completely backwards. The way these strange children meet and understand each other is relatively boring. There is some ominous thing, a roar, an evil force driving them to band together. But if we started there, with them facing the roar and telling the story of their powers and how they met through flashback and back story it could be a much stronger book. As it is the whole first book is basically pointless, it is written to drive to the action of the second book. It tells the back story and actions of the characters in this really boring and over detailed way.

This book is a middle grade novel intended for a 9-12 aged audience, but the writing and emotions are just all over the place. The images are graphic and emotions overbearing. And let me repeat again, one character is peeling off his own skin. It was nauseating to read! Cliff McNish is a British author so there might be some issues of misunderstanding between the two dialects of English, but the boy who his caressing people with beauty and huddling down with little girls just overwhelmed me with inappropriateness. McNish started writing to make up stories for his daughter, and part of me can’t help wishing these stories stayed for his daughter!

The writing and story of The Silver Child is completely overwhelming with too many characters and too many points of view. The story races along and goes at a snail’s pace at the same time. I never could get a firm sense of what was going on.  The wasteland of Coldharbour is a fascinating background to tell a story, but this story was not one particularly worth reading. The curious thing is that this book set up the second book so clearly I am very curious to see if THAT one is worth reading or if it is filled with the same confusing drivel.

The characters have compelling aspects, especially their powers, but they themselves are boring and hard to connect with emotionally. The book ends with a sort of false climax and the emergence of “the silver child” who is somehow relevant to combating the roar, which by the end of the book we still haven’t faced. The pinnacle of the book seems to forget about the roar for a good 30 pages to have this side climax that doesn’t seem relevant to anything except for some importance in the next book. I am curious to see where the next book starts and how all the information of the first book will inform the events of that story. Will the actions of the first book become more relevant through the reading of the second?

As of now, I would generally suggest avoiding this book at all costs. It is yet to be determined how much of a waste of time The Silver Child actually was, but since those thoughts are crossing my mind avoidance seems like the best advice. I am curious to know if someone out there has read and enjoyed this book. I am also wondering how and why it ended up on the dystopian list. Isn’t that list supposed to be a selection of the best YA dystopians? Or is it more of just a list of the history of YA dystopians, good or bad?

But curiosity has gotten the best of me and I will be reading the next book. So, stay tuned.

Feb 21, 2010

The Sunday Salon – Failing Goals As Progress

Do you ever set your goals too high knowing that you won’t achieve them but also knowing that you will do better than if you set the bar lower? I try to do this for myself and it is a fine line between disappointing myself and achieving more than I would have been able to do otherwise. Yesterday I set a goal of reading four books. I actually think this was an achievable goal because they were all short books. But just because you can read 4 books in a day doesn’t mean that you feel like finishing 4 books! But, I did finish two books! And considering how slowly I have been reading, that has been a great accomplishment!

I have been having a hard time recovering from both my cold and my sprained ankle. And even though I am feeling much better I am definitely not up to full strength.  Yesterday I decided to go work in the library. I packed up all my stuff and got there and started coughing. I posted a quick post, looked at the stack of work I intended to work on and headed back home. I thought I was feeling okay but when I got there the wind really got knocked out of my sails. I guess I should have stayed home because after I got back I had a hard time getting back into my reading momentum. When you lose your reading momentum do you try to spur yourself back on or do you just do something else?

My goal at the beginning of February was to read 20 books. This is more books than I have ever read in a single month. So far I have read 7 books and I have a full week of reading before more. I may not make it to my 20, I may be having a slow reading month but I challenged myself in new ways this month. I usually read about one adult title a month and this month I have already read 3 adult titles with hopefully one more title next week. It is interesting when we decide to read in a new way and how it changes how we read and when we read.

The other challenge I have really been focusing on is my PoC challenge. I have a lot of diversity in the titles that I own, but I don’t read many of the books that I own. I do not make an intentional effort to read multicultural titles because I am now more focused on finding books in the genre I like. I am not by any means avoiding multicultural titles, I’m just not actively seeking them out, or I wasn’t. It has been nice to make this effort now and read both within and outside of my genre of interest.  This month I have read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Parable of the Sower.  I think reading these adult titles also has impacted the number of books I have been able to read this month.

Last year I was really focused on reading as many books as possible and as a result I would shy away from longer and more intensive books so that I could read more books. I told myself I would not let myself do that this year.  I want more variety in my reading experience in both content and age levels. It is only two months in and i am happy with the variety of books I have found myself reading.

What books have you been reading and why?

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