Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “survival”

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 38: Partials by Dan Wells

Amazon: “The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what’s left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.”

I’m just going to keep on rolling with the dystopian/survival thing. Partials was a lot of fun: there is a varied cast of characters, personality-wise and racial/ethnically (fistbump for diversity in YA literature,) a great fast pace that had me finishing this one in about a day, and a nice twist in the middle of the book. The protagonist, Kira Walker, is an interesting character. She’s kind of a smartass, and she’s intelligent, moral, and brave. I also really enjoyed the aspect that within the community of surviving humans, it’s not as if there is complete peace and concord. The government has enacted some desperate measures that divide the survivors and has caused some of them to live in the open, beyond the protection of the Defense Grid and therefore more immediately vulnerable to attack from the Partials. The particular law at the center of the ideological chasm is the Hope Act, which states that women 18 and older are required to try and get pregnant as often as possible, in order to potentially have even a single child that is born immune to the RM virus. It’s drastic in the way that government laws often are in dystopian literature, but still, it eerily reflects a political climate today in the US that seems rather focused on legislating women’s bodies. Partials was published early in 2012; I’m not sure, given the timing of writing and publication, if Wells was “inspired” by current events, or that the similarities are coincidental. In any case, the parallels did amp up my reading experience.

Overall, this one is recommended. It’s a quick read, with a story that draws you in, and IMO likeable characters. I’m looking forward to the sequel next year (are there any YA novels coming out right now that don’t have intended sequels?)

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 35: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Amazon says: “An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival,The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.”

That’s… a pretty condensed description, given that this book is ~800 pages long and Amy is in about 60% of it (not because she dies! Not a spoiler.) In fact, that’s really more of a set-up than it is in the description. The majority of the novel concerns human refugees trying to survive following a viral pandemic that killed most humans, and turned the rest into a vampiric species that has decimated most remaining human enclaves.

Immediately after I finished this a few weeks ago, I had a lot of thoughts about it, positive and negative. After those few weeks of reflection, the aspects of the book that stick with me the most are, unfortunately, the ones that left a negative impression. To start with the positive before I get too critique-y: I always love a good pandemic/survival plot, and Cronin keeps good pacing and suspense throughout the lengthy expanse of the novel. I didn’t get bored of reading and was overall invested in the story. But.
The novel is as long as it is mainly because Cronin insists on having, like, 20 main characters, and giving each of them a few narrative pages, and then giving some supporting characters narrative first-person pages too, just for shits and giggs. As a result, there are so many characters, and very few of them are really developed. Or, a character will become fully fleshed out, and we’ll start caring about him/her, and then we won’t hear from him/hear again for the next 200 pages. It’s quite frustrating. The Passage is still essentially linear, and the shifts between character POVs don’t break up the time continuum much, but character continuity is often completely destroyed. I got so tired of having to jump to another character just when one got interesting.

Given all of that, it shouldn’t have been surprising how disappointing, nay, infuriating, the ending was. There are “open” endings, and there are cliffhanger endings, and this was worse. Whatever precious little emotional goodwill invested in the characters is absolutely shat on, as precisely zero of the characters are granted any kind of resolution whatsoever. The ending read like one of the abrupt transitions between character POVs, except it was the end of the whole book. It’s almost like Cronin was like, “Well, I’m tired of writing, and after 800 pages, they’re probably tired of reading, so this should be good enough!” I don’t know. In true Pajiban spirit, I’m a bit drunk at the moment, so this review is more candid than it is balanced, but the whole affair was supremely frustrating. I had major emotional blue balls.

So — would I recommend this book? Well, no, honestly. And I feel bad, saying so, because it didn’t really feel like a bad or sub-par book as I was reading it. I was engaged. It was well-written. But it was a bit jumpy and abrupt, and for it to end as such just seemed lazy. I understand, and often enjoy, open endings, because they are thought provoking, and on top of collecting my own thoughts, I often want to go out into the fandom and connect with other people and read their thoughts. But this wasn’t like that. It just pissed me off, to be honest. It’s like the last 50 pages of the book just got lost in between the editor’s desk and the printing press. It’s as if I were to end this review without actually

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