24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: sci-fi

Abby Reads: Monster by Michael Grant

Monster by Michael Grant
Katherine Tegen Books, 2017, 432 pages
Young Adult Science Fiction

I received this eBook from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Monster is available for purchase as of the writing of this review.

Years after the FAYZ has been eliminated, many of those who lived through the harrowing events of the original Gone series are struggling to live normal, healthy lives in Michael Grant’s Monster. But to make matters worse, the alien virus which kicked off those events has returned and with greater strength in the form of projectiles from space. As they land all over the world, kids and teens are exposed to the virus — both purposefully with the intent of gaining superpowers and by mistake — and the United States government wants to intervene. With both familiar26082351 and new characters, Monster brings a new level of thrill to fans of the Gone series.

Grant has a history of being called out for being problematic. He and Debbie Reese have come up against each other multiple times, particularly over his depiction of Native American characters. I have an opinion about the whole situation, but it’s not useful or valid to hear more white people talk about it, so I’ll just inform you that it’s a thing that’s been going on and you can decide whether or not you want to engage with Grant’s work from there. I’ll take one more beat to note that Monster features characters who are absolutely transphobic and homophobic, so be aware of that if you choose to read Monster. The remainder of my review will assess the book as separate from the author and these issues.

As in the original series, Monster has an excellent cast of characters, all of whom have strong, well-defined motivations, interesting and complete backstories, and personalities that are varied and play well against and with each other. Given the number of books Grant has written, I am always astounded by how thoroughly the characters are developed, both as characters, period, and how they actively develop on the page throughout the narrative. Without being heavy-handed, Grant manages to clearly trace back inciting events and circumstances to explain the actions of his characters and this helps bring a level of realism that is necessary for his high-intensity science fiction world.

Along with the intangible realism Grant provides in his novel is the visceral gore he continues to excel at writing. This signature style was one that really elevated the Gone series for me, and its presence in Monster is just as appreciated. Grant’s skill in depicting the grotesque and horrific lies in his ability to do so without cliche and with a great deal of specificity without becoming overly clinical or repetitive. The tedium isn’t held quite as well during fight scenes — of which there are many in Monster — but by the end of the book, it’s clear these moments of physical conflict are leading to something much bigger in a book yet to be published. Monster is, essentially, the first few chapters of the spinoff series, so it’s logical that it sometimes must play the part of exposition.

Grant includes interesting pieces of what I’ll call “mixed media writing,” particularly toward the end. These passages include a speech from the President of the United States and tweets. Like the characterizations and gore, Grant somehow finds a way to make these sections heighten the realism rather than cheapening the book, which, from many other attempts I’ve read, is a real challenge to do.

For all I’ve mentioned Gone, it’s possible to read Monster (and, presumably, its follow-ups) without reading the original six novels. It’s not entirely clear whether Monster is, in fact, part of the original series (Amazon and Wikipedia would have you believe it’s Gone #7) or truly a spinoff (the narrative and characters seem to suggest this — and I feel like Grant himself has indicated this status as well), but Monster includes enough detail about the events of Gone and its sequels that readers new to the world could easily hop on board without reading Gone (though, why you wouldn’t want to read the incredible first six books is beyond me).

Monster holds up to Grant’s previous work. It’s just as well crafted as an exciting story with originality, excellent characters, and striking realism within a fascinating science fiction world. The novel is a tough one to put down most of the time, even as a piece that is introducing a new storyline and requires a lot of explanation and exposition which sometimes means sections that feel a little slower. If you enjoyed Gone, Monster is absolutely worth the time and the space on your bookshelf.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Kathy Dawson Books, 2017, 464 pages
YA Science Fiction

After her Aunt Magnolia makes her promise to accept any invitation to a house known as Tu Reviens, Jane of Kirstin Cashore’s Jane, Unlimited finds herself the recipient of just such an invitation from her former tutor, Kiran. With her umbrella-making supplies in tow and her heart still broken by the 32991569death of her Aunt Magnolia, Jane heads to Tu Reviens where a strange cast of characters, from the owner of the house to Kiran’s twin brother to the housekeepers, all seem to have something to hide. While odd things happen around Jane, she’s not sure who to trust and where to go. It all comes down to making the right decision — but what is it?

The feeling I got from Jane, Unlimited was, in short, this: (perhaps inspired by E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars), Cashore had a gimmicky idea and placed the importance of that concept over the actual quality of the book as a whole. Like We Were Liars, it’s difficult to talk about the shortcomings of Jane, Unlimited without giving away the bulk of the book. The book is not realistic fiction, but instead mixes fantasy and science fiction in pursuit of the concept in a way that doesn’t feel entirely natural. And, due to the construction of the idea, the idea itself is never fully developed in a meaningful way.

So, the gimmick wasn’t executed well and the prose Cashore seats it in doesn’t help. Cashore employs third person, present tense in the novel, combined with a style that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around. Something about the sentence structure is incredibly deliberate and, consequently, distracting. Much of it made the narrative drag even more. While present tense often serves to amp up the tension (ha) and immediacy of a plot, here, though it was necessary for the concept, it seemed only to slow things down. The development of the concept, meanwhile, requires a significant amount of exposition, which further slowed down an already-sizable book at 464 pages.

Another aspect bogging down Jane, Unlimited was the sheer number of characters. Although many individuals live and work at Tu Reviens (and, indeed, a party is one of the central plot points of the story), the house always seemed to have an empty feeling. I suspect this was partially by design, but further emphasized by a challenge of character development — again, the victim of the concept of the novel. Too many characters inhabit the story and, without getting to know many of them, the narrative falls short. This, however, has another side — Jane knows as much about the characters as does the reader. Her confusion and such, then, is more palpable and easier to invest in, in some ways.

Cashore’s ending — again, a complicated term, given the concept of the book — felt insufficient. Without a better development of the concept, the concept is unable to be resolved and the ending provided by the narrator and all of the frustration built up over the course of the book doesn’t pay off in a way that matters.

Jane, Unlimited might do interesting things with allusions (especially Jane Eyre, from my perspective), but the gimmick of the book ultimately provides an excuse for all the flaws in the novel without making up for the flaws. With all the excitement over the book, I was pretty severely disappointed in this one. As one Goodreads reviewer, Sarah, wrote, “I’ve been walking around for days thinking that I don’t like reading anymore.” And, truly, that was my experience with Jane, Unlimited, too. Don’t buy the buzz on this one.

❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2013, 384 pages
YA Science Fiction

Boy lives and works in a New York City theater with his parents, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride and a cast of creatures and creations alike. Hungry for a more human experience, Boy heads out on his own, gets an apartment, a job, and is soon joined by his crush. But after unleashing a computer virus he’s been obsessing over for ages, everything starts to fall apart at the seams.16756864091_8e12d1bc94_o

Man Made Boy features a set of well-developed and, for the most part, interesting characters. Skovron uses modern and not-so-modern myths to help populate his Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel, largely by drawing from and retelling pieces of some classics, Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  The complexity of the characters led me to believe that various problematic behaviors different characters exhibited (particularly Boy, who was often misogynistic among other things) would eventually be eradicated (or at least dulled) from the characters as they learned and grew. This was not the case. I was disappointed to see, instead, Boy speaking as a sort of mouth piece for the men in the world who subscribe to “meninism” and who believe in the “friendzone.” Several times one character or another (again, mainly Boy, as the narrator of Man Made Boy) said something which so reflected such an anti-women philosophy that I almost put the book down or, at the very least, rolled my eyes. I felt that it was important to continue, however, with the hope that these characters would change (as characters do) and the general belief that a political or social disagreement does not warrant my censorship in my own reading. Besides, what if there was some other really great thing about the novel I would miss out on if I gave up?

That all said, I’m not convinced the rest of the book was worth it for me. I became frustrated with the pacing and the proportions of action (getting a bit into theory here, referring to rising/falling action and the like) felt awkward. I never felt like I was reading just one solid plot line, but rather a mix of small plot lines with one vague one that sort of stood out sometimes.  I should point out that this is also how I’ve felt about Frankenstein the few times I’ve read it. So make of that what you will. As a Sci-Fi plot, Skovron did well with the details overall, and I enjoyed the off-the-wall theater setting for the earlier bits. I did find I asked myself frequently, “Where did Boy get his consciousness, his self?” because Boy was, like his father, assembled from pieces of other (dead) individuals. Assuming the same was done for his brain, (and remember we’re working in a universe where this is possible) he’d start off with the consciousness (and personality, language, memories, etc.) of someone else. So is this really “Boy” at all? Skovron dodges this issue entirely, though deals with other oddities and enigmas in better detail.

There was nothing in Skovron’s writing style that stood out to me, other than a few awkward phrase here or there and my general disbelief that a teenage “boy” would say many of the things Boy did. Skovron divided the book into parts, heading each with a philosophical and foreboding quote from one source or another. I didn’t feel these quotes added anything special, though they did help guide the theme for readers who may struggle with identifying themes (hint: if you need a book for a book report/paper, this might be a good option). In the “grand finale” of the book, I was generally confused about what was going on. Here, the writing seemed to go from “okay, but nothing special” to “ehhh, not so great.”

I was unimpressed with this one and reading it with a feminist lens really sealed the didn’t-like-it feeling for me.

❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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