Friday, July 18, 2014

Not an Easy Ride (or an Easy Read!) for me!

Resist (Breathe, #2)Resist by Sarah Crossan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

     At the end of Sarah Crossan's first novel in this duo I was left breathless, excited and looking forward to finding out how the tale concluded. The destruction of the 'The Grove' — another domed area where trees were now flourishing, and people were at last living away from the tyrannous Air Tax — had left me feeling shattered and sad. I was looking forward with great expectation, to reading about the Resistance as it built slowly and steadily.

I was also gripped by the fact that the novel read from first person perspectives. But unfortunately those perspectives which held me in the first novel had begun to lose their grip: Bea, Jude, Quinn, Ronan, Alina — oh dear, the trouble was there were too many ‘I’-s, and I ended up becoming thoroughly confused. I thought that by this volume I would have settled down as to which   ‘I’ was which, but sadly no. The ‘I’-s were too much of a muchness whereas interesting characters such as Maude, Jazz and Vanya and even the thug Maks did not get the chance to tell their own story.

Added to the profusion of ‘I’-s, we have the position of all the various masks and air tanks in the story. All characters need them, even if some have been trained to breathe thinner air, but if this is the situation you’ve set up, you do need to remember which air cylinder is where, and how much oxygen is left in each. It can be done, but it makes hard work for the author and even harder work for the reader to remember where all these devices are, and how much oxygen —full  half or empty—  each one has.

     A fragile setup was created with the set-up in the first volume and it takes a lot of skill and finessing to hold this together, and hopefully strengthen it more. I was prepared to stick with it, looking forward to seeing it all gelling together, but the addition of the ticking time bomb towards the end added to the already hackneyed flavour of the narrative. Yet it was anything but exciting.  And the solar respirator stinking? Dear, they stunk from the very beginning, and that would have been a good time to bring in a device to deal with it.

In a word, the story didn’t work out well for this reader although I held out high hopes for it. The concept of the clunky solar respirators ease the problem a little. Still, the inquiring mind is bound to wonder how these contraptions work. They couldn't possibly of course, yet the tale might have been redeemed a bit if the author had at least gone through the motions of an explanation!

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Perfect City. Where I Melted.

I went to see a separate drama
I went to see another show
The drama lost its otherness and
It was at that point I began to know
That 'I' and 'you' aren't different — No Way!
There is no line 'twixt 'you' and 'me'
If 'I' and 'you' have meaning — Do we?
It's not for you or me to say.
So it was for me, as these lines circled round that I had trouble focusing on the difference between a watcher and watched as the debut performance of 'The Perfect City' unfolded before me in the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge. Although truly speaking they came in from the side, gesticulating in conversation one with another, singing and bewailing about what might happen next in they were found to be holding an illegal Meeting. From all sides they came, backward and forward and round about ↻. I was greeted by the beautiful face of Timothy Benjamin, a Peter Pan of an actor. Together with Jamie Noar, who plays William Penn singing their heartfelt dreams of the inner spirit reflected in the beauty of this seeming external world in front of us. Their dreams resonated with my own youthful aspirations, their love was my love and when Máirín Miller came on, the dewy moisture in her eyes caused mine to well up too and holding back the tears wasn't an easy matter.
The actors sang in stereo, the actors' voices were quadraphonic, playing and dancing behind you, in front of you, sitting beside you and falling on the ground at your feet. And in true Greek tragedic manner, the beatings, whippings and hanging of Quakers were performed off-stage, in this case in the room adjoining the main Meeting Hall upstairs. Vocal indeed were the sounds of the wailings and sufferings, and many a head was turned.
When I slept that night, the story and lyrics were floating in my dreams and as this week progresses the story is seldom far from my mind and it has roosted to take up place in my heart. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Heaven's Shadow left me in the Doldrums

Heaven's Shadow (Heaven's Shadow, #1)Heaven's Shadow by David S. Goyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It makes a wonderful and frightening tale to think that if aliens wanted to attack and cripple us it wouldn't be that hard: all you'd have to do was put a few rocks 50 km or so on a trajectory for our major cities, then sit back and watch the fun begin. The idea certainly has a lot going for it. That's a pretty 'primitive' way of achieving your goal, but at least it should work. Still when you think about it these aliens can't be expected to possess this aim of : "If it moves, shoot it! If it's stationary, keep it in your sights!" Extraterrestrial life would surely have far more subtle ways of going about this. Still, even this chucking missiles idea does have a lot going for it, and it can make an engrossing read, especially if their real intentions are far more subtle, and far more disturbing than a gang warfare in space.

    And yet engrossment was the last thing I found with this book. In fact I struggled like anything to get through it. To start with, the cast of characters is huge. Most of them are quite unmemorable in fact, and I found I had to keep referring to the dramatis personae to remind myself who was who. Already I was sighing and giving it the nick name of Heaven’s Flaming Shadow before picking it up and wading through another chunk. I really struggled with it and had to push myself to finish it because the sight of it lying around was just too irritating.

As I said, a wonderful idea but such a shame it was executed this way. It muddled and it lumbered, and really I felt this collaboration just wasn't really thought out. For one example, take Harley, the ex-astronaut. Around page 45 we learn that Harley uses a wheelchair, which is fine. But the Wheelchair is an important prop in a story, and the reader, who can only work on words - not visuals- does need the occasional reminder of this important logistic. Yet  we're not reminded about this until we're into the final 100 pages, and the last lap is in sight. Add to this the fact that the book could do with a good proofread - I kept on having to decode ‛wed’ as ‛we'd’ and ‛shed’ as ‛she'd’ - and I found I had a cluttered tale that I'm now really glad to see the back of.

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