14 January 2013

Divergent (Veronica Roth)

Note: This is an audiobook, narrated by Emma Galvin (www.audible.com)

Holy moly. Veronica Roth is only 22. Divergent’s her first book. Wow.

I’ll admit that the timing is superb. Just as 2010/2011 were the years of vampire fiction, 2011/2012 were dedicated largely to dystopian fiction – where people live in a totalitarian or environmentally degraded environment.

Against the backdrop of global hysteria about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy, young adult author Veronica Roth wrote Divergent: a story about a young girl living in a society saved from the brink of apocalypse.

In short, humanity has organised itself into five factions, each of which lives by a single core value: Abnegation (the Selfless); Erudite (the Intelligent); Candor (the Honest); Amity (the Peaceful); and Dauntless (the Brave).

Born into a staunchly Abnegation family, Beatrice Prior has tried to uphold the ideals of her parents – which go against her natural inclinations. Then, on her 16th birthday, she takes an aptitude test to determine which faction she is most suited for. And it is revealed to her, in secret, that she is one of a very rare and dangerous subset of the population – Divergent – because she possesses the traits of not one but three factions. (You’ll see which ones.)

For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is, so she makes a choice that surprises everyone. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, she struggles to determine who her friends really are and discovers a conflict that threatens to unravel her society.
This magnificently written book is also superbly narrated by Emma Galvin, who is able to sound youthful, old, female, male, happy and sad – depending on the relevant point of view. I am loving every minute of listening to it.

Disclaimer: I'm known for my default skepticism when it comes to fantasy/sci-fi. But... This book is that good. Promise.

08 January 2013

I'll Catch You (Jesse Kellerman)

This novel is, in a word, dreadful. In fact, the entire time I was reading it, I wondered if it was the writer's idea of a joke. 

And then, in preparation for my review, I looked up some of the author's inspiration for I'll Catch You
"This book started as a joke. I was at work on something much longer and darker, and to relieve some of the mental pressure I started noodling around with an idea that had occurred to me late one night while on tour for The Executor: to write a book that functions simultaneously as a thriller and a parody of a thriller."
Makes sense. But may I suggest that the next time Jesse Kellerman feels the urge to make a joke, he not burden the reading public with it in print form. That's what blogs are for. 

This book is, seriously, a waste of good trees. Simple as that. If you don't believe me, make your decision based on the blurb (which should warn you):
"We want to tell you more about this novel. We wish we could explain how spectacular and absolutely unexpected it is; how it will burn itself onto your brain for ever. But we could never do it justice. The only way you'll understand it is to read it."
Whatever. The bottom line is that if I'd known what it was about, I'd not have read it. Especially not after Kellerman's execrable The Executor. Don't believe me? Well, here's the actual plot:
When the world's bestselling writer of spy thrillers, William de Vallée, vanishes from his yacht while sailing, his estranged best friend and (unsuccessful) fellow writer Arthur Pfefferkorn decides to pick up where de Vallée left off - with an unfinished final manuscript and a beautiful widow. But this impulsive decision is about to change his life for ever, as he becomes embroiled in the political intrigues of East and West Zlabia - and learns to speak, think and eat Zlabian.

This book is dire. Sorry.