Calamity: A Review

This review is spoiler-free.

Good news: This book wasn’t as bad as some books I’ve read recently!

Bad news: It also wasn’t very good.

As the third book of a trilogy, this book had some living up to do. The first book was wildly creative and excellent. The second was a bit lacking, but still twisty and enjoyable. The third needed a bit more time in the incubator and some serious me-time with the author.

The characters were excellent, but… only in ways that carried over from previous books. Phase 1 characters— introduced back in Steelheart— were for the most part excellent and just as fun as ever. Phase 2 characters— from Firefight— continued being themselves (but didn’t grow in any way). Phase 3 characters— completely new to this book— had almost no bearing on the book’s emotional impact. In writerly terms, Phase 1 were dynamic. Almost everyone from Phase 1 had some sort of development or fleshing out to do. Phase 2 were static. They didn’t change, but they still felt alive. Phase 3 were cardboard. With one exception (based on spoilery things, one character could have been considered Phase 2 or even Phase 1), these characters just didn’t add anything of meaning.

But how can I say that? Surely they added something. Why else would they have been introduced? Well, they changed the plot, aiding or opposing the main characters in some way. But no Phase 3 character (with the aforementioned exception) had any bearing on any Phase 1 character arc. No Phase 2 or Phase 3 character had any arc to speak of.

Let’s keep examining the book, though. Perhaps these books are t0o short for dynamic characters to emerge in the third act of a trilogy. Perhaps there are redeeming factors in the other aspects of the book. (more…)

BZRK: A Review and Giveaway

This is a spoiler-free review for BZRK, by Michael Grant.  At the bottom of the post, I’m giving away the entire trilogy, consisting of BZRK, Reloaded, and Apocalypse (which comes out on the 13th).  You can do what you like, but I’d appreciate if you read the review before entering the giveaway.  (It makes it easier to enter, in fact.)  Thanks to Egmont USA for the opportunity.

Set in the near future, BZRK is the story of a war for control of the human mind.  Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, conjoined twins and owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a goal:  to turn the world into their vision of utopia.  No wars, no conflict, no hunger.  And no free will.  Opposing them is a guerrilla group of teens, code name BZRK, who are fighting to protect the right to be messed up, to be human.  This is no ordinary war, though.  Weapons are deployed on the nano-level. The battleground is the human brain.  And there are no stalemates here:  It’s victory . . . or madness.

BZRK unfolds with hurricane force around core themes of conspiracy and mystery, insanity and changing realities, engagement and empowerment, and the larger impact of personal choice. Which side would you choose?  How far would you go to win?

BZRK was an interesting read.  It moves quickly, creates some enormous stakes, and reveals an intriguing piece of technology that’s fun to read about.  The characters are immediately engaging, from both sides of the conflict, and moral ambiguity abounds.  There were elements I didn’t like, but the story was good enough that I could ignore them and still have a good time. (more…)

Why Christopher Paolini Succeeded, Sort Of

Christopher Paolini, after publishing the final book in the Inheritance Cycle last November, has dropped severely on the top-ten author lists of YA readers.  Though authors such as Rick Riordan and Veronica Roth have had books published in October or even May of 2011 high on bestselling lists until now, Inheritance is nowhere to be found in Google results for “best young adult books of 2011”.  A lot of people were disappointed with that book and the way the series turned out.  The beginning of one Amazon review reads, “Like a delicate soufflé, rises to an epic climax before collapsing into a tasteless pile of goop”.  And the sad thing is, that synopsis is spot-on.  I apologize to those reading this who haven’t read Inheritance, but I think it’s well-known by now that Inheritance just wasn’t what anyone expected, or what the series needed to finish off.

It’s a whole lot of fun to bash authors that people think are good.  I know I’ve done this on a couple of occasions, with the Hunger Games and Inheritance– but it isn’t really the right thing to do.  If a book is popular, you need to realize why.  You obviously aren’t any better than this author, or you’d be the one with all that fame– so you need to sit down and study the reasons why this author got to the place he did. (more…)