November 07, 2010
People, I love to be surprised. (Really, I don't, but that was a good first line for a post, no?) Let me specify: I love to be surprised by book plots. I like unusual science fiction and fantasy, as speculative fiction is supposed to be all about the speculation. I like writers who think from new angles, and bring out more than one shade of "what if?"
Occasionally, I'm startled by some of the angles, though. This week, it was STORKS. Storks. As in, teh birds what brings teh 'lil beebees. Yeah. those storks.
And Demons. Aliens. Freaky Friday, redux. It's speculative fiction, Cybil's style.
The Demon's Covenant, by Sarah Rees Brennan: this is actually a book I looked forward to with a great deal of ...well, trepidation. I adored The Demon's Lexicon last year, despite Nicky's soulful lips (!) on the cover, but sequels are tricky things. If you've had the least bit of concern, you'll be pleased to note that Brennan's done it again. I'll only offer a brief recap on this because there is just too much to give away. Some things haven't changed: Jamie and his sister, Mae, are still annoying Nicky's, er, soul. Jamie's lame weak cringe-y-ness and Mae's crush bugs him like a burr under a saddle, but he's trying to be better. Mostly. When he's not calling down lightning by losing his temper and stuff. I mean, after all, Nick's not human. He knows it now. Why even bother trying?
Mae's finally got it figured out: Nick is unable to totally throw off doing what his brother wants, even though something has happened between them which has totally and completely changed the way the brothers relate. No matter how much she's into her new boyfriend, Mae's still all over Nick like a bad rash. As it turns out, that might be a good thing. Alex, for once, might not actually be looking out for Nick. He might finally see him as the demon he is, and be totally ready to betray him...
It took a moment or two for me to get into this novel, but then I wanted to throw things and weep because I didn't have the sequel right on hand when I finished. Cliff. Hang. Er. Be warned. Also: new cover artists. Normal lips! Yay.
Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, by Brian Yansky: Between one breath and the next, Earth is ...lost. Jesse looks around his history class, and he's the only one awake -- and alive. Running through the hallways, the neighborhoods and the town show the same chilling fact: he's only one of millions left alive. Even the squirrels are dead.
What. The. Heck. Happened?
Invasion's what's happened, and Jesse's now an able-bodied piece of "product," set to working for the overlords. He's not particularly uncomfortable physically, but he's scared, grieving, and lonely. Despite a tentative friendship with a NFL hopeful - no more NFL, so Mr. Hopeful's pretty bitter -- he's facing a life sentence as a worker for essentially the little green men. There's got to be more to life than this. But, there isn't. For anyone.
With his father's imaginary voice echoing in his head, and real voices starting to inhabit his hours waking and sleeping, Jesse realizes something has to change. Is it worth it to save your life and live carefully? Or is the human spirit all about risk?
A short, quick-paced novel with an almost cinematic conclusion (you'll hear the theme to Big Valley, I swear).
Also, I can't say enough good things about the COVER of this one. Clean and straightforward with the little iconic alien vessel: it just works.
Stork, by Wendy Delsol: A snarky teen moves from California to Minnesota. Cracking-wise about the cheeseheads ensues, right? Unfortunately, yeah, there's a lot of snark and attitude from Katla, and a stereotypical blonde-brainless-Cali-girl attitude (the author grew up in Detroit, and as a Californian, I take serious exception to her stereotyping), but she's got her reasons, she thinks. For one thing, moving from Southern California to Minnesota means subtract beaches, add snow. Katla hates being cold. For another thing, there's something plain weird about, well, everyone. Forget Minnesota nice - her whole high school seems to hate her. A cadre of old ladies seem to be the only people interested in making friends with Kat at all -- and to be honest, they're not all that friendly. They're some ancient sorority and they swear Katla is part of them. It's a bit of a ...head-scratcher, for sure.
Soon the former California fashionista is layering on the parkas and trying to make sense of crazy dreams about crying babies, the gorgeous Jack's total antipathy toward her, and the creepy advances of Wade, a guy she should never have messed around with in the first place. It's starting to look like Minnesota is more of an interesting place than Katla could have ever dreamed...
Despite the fact that we only ever see eagles or ravens, this bird-centric title is fast-paced enough to catch and hold a reader's interest. A sequel is already in the works for September 2011.
Girl Parts, by John Cusick: David Sun considers himself a typical "one of the guys" kind of guys. He has his crew, his girl(s), and his computer. He's just one of thousands of guys who watch a girl from his school commit suicide online. Of course, he's running two other monitors while he watches, but you've got to admit -- even death is not that interesting.
David's parents are shocked, and adults in the entire community are equally horrified. How could their teens be so callous? They have dissociative disorder, is the official school psychologist diagnosis. They need to learn how to have balanced human interactions again. They need Companions.
Companions are realistic, flesh-covered... androids. Programmed to relate solely to their boys, they want to do nothing more than please them, and help them relate... to a certain extend. Relating a little too much too soon will give said boy a nasty electric shock.
Self-centered David loves relating to Rose. Just holding her hand and staring at her isn't enough, though. David wants it all. He's willing to wait, though. Isn't that what having a Companion is all about? Waiting until the elusive "right time?"
This book had a lot of dark, subtle humor, which I appreciated, but there are myriad subplots which I wish could have been explored. First, the Companions were only female. Why? Especially since the person who committed suicide was female, wouldn't it also stand to reason that the girls in this community were disassociated? Second, Rose "patiently" waits through David's partying - and while she's fully equipped with a nasty electrical component, doesn't shock him for underage drinking or being an annoying lush; instead the writer characterizes her as waiting for him. Wouldn't she simply shut down when not in use? I found it hard to believe that an android would become emotional sans programming. How did that happen? That a major company was involved with psychologists had interesting ethical applications which weren't discussed. There's a lot yet to tease out of this novel, and a close reading may result in some interesting discussion.
So many books, so little time...
DARKLIGHT (Wondrous Strange, Bk 2), by Lesley Livingston was ably reviewed at the Sarah Laurence Blog. The breathless Brit novel SWAPPED BY A KISS is reviewed at Bookalicious. YA Books Central has SHADOW HILLS covered.
You can also find THE DEMON'S COVENANT, ALIEN INVASIONS AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES, STORK, and GIRL PARTS at an independent bookstore near you!
The final three books reviewed in this post received and reviewed courtesy of their respective publishers.