Michelle’s Review: Jane by April Lindner


Michelle’s Review: Jane by April LindnerJane by April Lindner
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2010-10-11
Genres: Classics, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-stars
Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance. But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.

Bottom Line Up Front: I was missing the ghost story element of this that was present for Jane Eyre, and it felt like a hollow retelling to me.

That sounds really harsh, I know. But as with any time that I don’t particularly enjoy a book, I understand that in the end of the day it was just not my cup of tea. It might be yours.

I found that while I really enjoyed the original, there was just something missing from this retelling. I couldn’t get over the grossness of the relationship between Jane and Nico. He’s just so much older than she is and didn’t feel old for her age either. Perhaps the original benefits from the historical lens where perhaps the age difference matters less.

The twist of Nico being a rock star I think worked. It gave him certain liberties that were needed for the retelling.

But when asked about this book, I think the most I can say is: what if Mr. Rochester was a rock star? The book was missing important elements from the original and made few other changes to make it stand out as its own story.

If you want to read about rock stars, perhaps this is a fair choice for you. If you want to read a haunting story, perhaps the original is better.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: September Girls by Bennett Madison


Michelle’s Review: September Girls by Bennett MadisonSeptember Girls by Bennett Madison
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-05-21
Genres: Adaptations, Dating & Sex, Fairy Tales & Folklore, General, Legends, Myths, Fables, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-stars
In September Girls, Sam is spending the summer in a beach town filled with beautiful blond girls who all seem inexplicably attracted to him. But that’s not the only reason why he thinks the Girls are strange. They only wear flats because heels make their feet bleed. They never go swimming in the water. And they all want something from him. Sam finds himself in an unexpected summer romance when he falls for one of the Girls, DeeDee. But as they get closer, she pulls away without explanation. Sam knows that if he is going to win her back, he’ll have to learn the Girls’ secret. Bennett Madison, author of The Blonde of the Joke, brings a mix of lyrical writing, psychologically complex characters, and sardonic humor to this YA coming-of-age novel about first love…and mermaids.

How I came to own and read this book: I went to a local author event, where there was a panel of four authors. Bennett Madison was one of the authors. I was interested in all the authors’ works so I bought one copy of each of their books. I got them personally signed. They then sat on my shelf for almost two years for no good reason. I have finally started reading them, with varying levels of enjoyment.

What I thought before I started: I had thought the premise sounded interesting during the author event, but then when I went on Goodreads and saw some of the reviews of other friends and readers, I was shocked. Many did not enjoy the book at all, not finishing it, critiquing it harshly for being misogynistic, too crude, etc. I was dismayed that I had already bought the book and had it signed because after those reviews, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. However, I decided to go into with as much of an open mind as I could given that I had already read other reviews.

What I thought after I finished: It has been so cold that it was nice to escape to the beach. I could really picture the beach, the weather, the sense of summer. It was fantastic.

I was at first very shocked by the presence and sheer quantity of curse words in the book, but decided that it was authentic given the point of view. However, I would say that while authenticity creates an original voice in a book, perhaps the cursing could have been less dramatic. While it is completely common for others to curse as much as Sam, the main character did, it’s not really that fun to read.

While I understand people’s thoughts on the misogyny or the cursing in this book, neither bothered me. I didn’t quite agree with the former and the latter felt realistic to me. Now whether it was necessary or appropriate for a book that was pitched as young adult is another question, one I don’t have an answer to myself.

The main character is a young adult, but I don’t think it’s a young adult book in the way that others are. It is perhaps better suited for ‘new adult’ or whatever.

My main complaints are not related to either of the above points. I just wanted to understand what was going on. Who were The Girls? What was the curse? What happened to Kristle? What happened to DeeDee? I read it all, and perhaps there were explanations within some of the more poetic pieces, but I couldn’t grasp at it myself. Which is unfortunate because I did want to like it more.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund


Michelle’s Review: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundFor Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Published by Harper Collins on 2012-06-12
Genres: Family, General, Love & Romance, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Fans of Divergent will love Diana Peterfreund’s take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion set in a post-apocalyptic world. In the dystopian future of For Darkness Shows the Stars, a genetic experiment has devastated humanity. In the aftermath, a new class system placed anti-technology Luddites in absolute power over vast estates—and any survivors living there. Elliot North is a dutiful Luddite and a dutiful daughter who runs her father’s estate. When the boy she loved, Kai, a servant, asked her to run away with him four years ago, she refused, although it broke her heart. Now Kai is back. And while Elliot longs for a second chance with her first love, she knows it could mean betraying everything she’s been raised to believe is right. For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking YA romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

I have found my way back to reading by getting sucked into a series. But instead of just reading each book in the series back to back directly, I thought I would add a book or two in between, the lemon to refresh my palette so to speak. For the Darkness Shows the Stars was intended to be that fresh lemon and it ended up being more than that to me.

I understand now why everyone was loving this book and its companion. It’s a retelling that was very refreshing because while it kept a lot of the details that are important from the original (I presume, because I’ve never read Persuassion) it was enough removed to feel entirely original.

A disaster to human kind occurs after the majority of people began to recode their DNA and basically become bionic humans. It backfired, creating the Reduced, those humans who maintain a little of their humanity but are basically little evolved from livestock. The Luddites had resisted the appeal of science and were therefore spared from the Reduction. Now, in a post-apocalyptic world where the Luddites are the ruling class and the Reduced the serfs, there are a new group of people emerging from the Reduced, seemingly no different than the Luddites.

I could go on about this premise because it was so entirely fascinating to me. It was exciting to read and learn more about it. It wasn’t overly complicated and allowed the story to grow. The story itself is one of complicated love, but it is not too overwrought. The epistolary nature of the book really helped build the story and reveal enough to keep the suspension there. Without those parts, I doubt I would have enjoyed the book half as much.

I would definitely recommend this book to others. It was a nice escape and was the perfect refreshing sorbet.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon


Michelle’s Review: Voyager by Diana GabaldonVoyager by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Delta Trade Paperbacks on 2001-08-01
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Romance
Pages: 870
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
three-stars
In this rich, vibrant tale, Diana Gabaldon continues the story of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser that began with the now-classic novel Outlander and continued in Dragonfly in Amber. Sweeping us from the battlefields of eighteenth-century Scotland to the exotic West Indies, Diana Gabaldon weaves magic once again in an exhilarating and utterly unforgettable novel.... Their love affair happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her ... and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.When she discovers that Jamie may have survived, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face what awaits her ... the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland ... and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that lies beyond the standing stones.

*Because this is a review of a book in a series, there are some spoilers regarding the previous books in the series, not this one.*

At this point in the Outlander series, I’m becoming quite torn about them.

I was able to defend the series when I had already read the first one. Outlander was unlike anything else I had read at the time and I was definitely hooked. It was romance, it was adventure, historical fiction, and science fiction. It was basically everything without being too crazy.

Dragonfly in Amber was a struggle with France but I still enjoyed it and wanted to continue.

Now with Voyager it was back to being an adventure and it was still enjoyable, but now I have found myself having a hard time defending this book against those who call it drivel or far-fetched.

“Well, Jamie survived Culloden, and then he went and lived in a cave. But he kept living and then became a smuggler and now they’re dealing with pirates…”

There’s no way for it to not sound ridiculous. Which unfortunate because it’s still enjoyable book, it’s just no longer at the same level as the first book.

Another thing that detracted from my full enjoyment is the way the language seemed to skip to me. I know that I have the tendency to read paragraphs out of order, but I swear that too often I thought the characters were in one place only to learn that they were somewhere else. It was like certain details were missing.

All that said, I loved the return to high adventure and I went ahead and bought the next book in the series. Because I’m a sucker for Jamie (as he was manufactured to be irresistible).

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon


Michelle’s Review: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana GabaldonDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Delta Trade Paperbacks on 1992
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Romance, Time Travel
Pages: 743
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
three-half-stars
With her now-classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon introduced two unforgettable characters -- Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser--delighting readers with a story of adventure and love that spanned two centuries. Now Gabaldon returns to that extraordinary time and place in this vivid, powerful follow-up to Outlander.... For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland's majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones ... about a love that transcends the boundaries of time ... and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.... Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire's spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart ... in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising ... and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves....

After reading Outlander, I was so hooked on the story that I…

spoiled the series for myself.

There’s no good reason why, but I did. I read reviews with spoilers and different wikipedia articles, learning more about the events of each book. Why I didn’t just read the book, I don’t exactly know. But it’s safe to say that many of the reveal moments in this book was not exactly news to me.

However, I still enjoyed the book. It was lovely to go back to Jamie and Claire and see how their marriage evolves. They became very different people in France than they were in the Highlands, which unfortunately took away some of my enjoyment from the book. France became very tedious, dealing more with political intrigue and domesticity. Compared to the crazy adventures in the Highlands, this shift was almost too much and it was comforting to hear the same things echoed by fellow readers. (Including my mother who is reading it now. I have told her the same thing I was told: just get through France and it gets better.)

And that’s true. Without going too much in the details to spoil other potential readers (like I had done myself), the book does get better towards the end. Is it enough for me to give it a higher rating…likely no.

I am torn with my rating. Is it a three, where I liked it but didn’t love it thanks to France and the lack of novelty making it seem a little more ridiculous? Or is it a four, that I loved it enough to want to keep reading the series?

This series has become a little problematic to me. I’ll say more in my Voyager review, but it’s suffice to say that at a minimum I will likely see Jamie and Claire to the end, regardless.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby


Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah BarnabyWonder Show by Hannah Rodgers Barnaby
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: 20th Century, Action & Adventure, Circus, Family, General, Girls & Women, Historical, JUVENILE FICTION, Love & Romance, Orphans & Foster Homes, Performing Arts, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 274
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.

I was in the mood for a fantasical circus story when I picked up Wonder Show. I wasn’t disappointed.

Wonder Show has the kind of cover that definitely attracted me to it. Add to it the fun synopsis, and it is definitely a book that screams to be read when you’re looking for some quirky storytelling. I was feeling nostalgic over reading The Night Circus…it’s not terribly similar but I would recommend it for those looking for something at least a little related.

In short, it is a very artfully written story with the kind of aesthetic that would be matched well with some Edward Gorey drawings (my favorite!). It’s a story that you can easily read in one sitting. At the same time, I think it’s appropriate for all audiences, even perhaps some younger middle grade ones. It’s dark without being overwhelmingly dark. It’s a Tim Burton-esque story if that makes sense (and if I can be allowed to make yet another reference).

I’m not doing a very good job in writing this review (I haven’t been the best at putting my thoughts into written words lately, particularly in review-form). But I promise I loved it and this has earned its spot on my bookshelf.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay


Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob by William Landay
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2012-01-31
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-stars
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAndy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.How far would you go?Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment WeeklyBONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler and a Defending Jacob discussion guide.

Defending Jacob was a book club read for me. I’m not sure I would have ever heard of it or read it if it had not been nominated and then selected by my club. A legal thriller is how many people describe it and I cannot think of any better way to label it.

There were periods of dialogue, whether it was between the different mothers at the school or between Andy and Laurie that had me cringing. It felt forced or I simply didn’t agree with either party in the conversation so it grew frustrating. But I don’t think any character in this book was supposed to be exactly ‘likable’.

I particularly enjoyed the excerpts from the transcript of the grand jury hearing that is sprinkled throughout. I like when plots braid a little bit and it definitely helped build intrigue.

I barely read the description of this book before going into and certainly stayed away from reviews. There was something about it that I knew had lead up a twist at the end and I wanted to be surprised.

But even by knowing that a twist was coming made me more alert to different clues left scattered throughout the novel. Whether it was a strange past tense or reflection with some hindsight, I would highlight phrases that I thought were suspicious. I even texted a fellow club member that had already finished the book that I was pretty sure that Andy was an unreliable narrator and some of my other suspicions.

And yet, I didn’t quite guess the actual twist. I was close, but didn’t guess right. So that’s quite something, I think.

The ending just felt a little…squashed somehow. All of a sudden all the ends were being tied up but not in the right order and without a real final moment for me. I wanted just like one or two more sentences at the end with some reflection or emotional confirmation.

But I definitely look forward to discussing this with my book club! I think there are lots of layers to this story that are great for that format and it was a quick/easy enough read to make for a great club pick. No wonder that ‘book club’ is the top genre for this book on Goodreads!

Christina reviewed this too!

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Sensibility and the American Revolution by Sarah Knott


Christina’s Review: Sensibility and the American Revolution by Sarah KnottSensibility and the American Revolution by Sarah Knott
Published by Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia on 2009
Genres: Colonial Period (1600-1775), History, Revolutionary Period (1775-1800), United States
Pages: 338
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-half-stars
In the wake of American independence, it was clear that the new United States required novel political forms. Less obvious but no less revolutionary was the idea that the American people needed a new understanding of the self. Sensibility was a cultural movement that celebrated the human capacity for sympathy and sensitivity to the world. For individuals, it offered a means of self-transformation. For a nation lacking a monarch, state religion, or standing army, sensibility provided a means of cohesion. National independence and social interdependence facilitated one another. What Sarah Knott calls "the sentimental project" helped a new kind of citizen create a new kind of government.
Knott paints sensibility as a political project whose fortunes rose and fell with the broader tides of the Revolutionary Atlantic world. Moving beyond traditional accounts of social unrest, republican and liberal ideology, and the rise of the autonomous individual, she offers an original interpretation of the American Revolution as a transformation of self and society.

In Sarah Knott’s words, sensibility was perceived “as a distinctive mode of self” that takes into account feelings and sympathy to connect the self with society. (5) This definition helped to understand Knott’s use of the word in her cultural history, Sensibility and the American Revolution. According to Knott, sensibility was “the fundamental link to self and society.” (1) She followed the transformation of sensibility through the period surrounding the American Revolution and the writing of the Constitution in her “sentimental project.” This term consisted of the transformation of sensibility as the self and society were reconstructed together during this period. (2-3) Looking at this sentimental project, Knott argued the American Revolution was not just about the fight for independence from British tyranny; the Revolution was also part of a key period in the development of the American people, society and politics together. (4) The American colonists had the opportunity to transform society and their selves into a utopian form through social revolution as they fought to separate themselves from British control and write their own Constitution.

To support her argument, Knott focused primarily on the latter half of the eighteenth century in the cosmopolitan city of Philadelphia. While Knott had a number of strengths in her research through her unique use of sources and approach to the period not typically taken by other historians (particularly her research on booksellers and physicians) there were weaknesses that could have used further elaboration: She focused on nervous disease and mentioned the disease did not arrive in the colonies until the decades prior to the Revolution, and when it did arrive, “it flooded.” (92) The reader was left to presume there may have been an influx of British at this time and the monarch asserting control or perhaps the effects of the Seven Year’s War may have led to the arrival of nervous disease. Knott also touched on the use of cognomens. She focused on the private use of cognomens and their significance in journals, but she did not explain the difference in these private cognomens and public aliases found in the Federalist Papers or other political pieces published for mass audiences. These aliases were covered by historians more often than Knott’s journal cognomens. It would have been helpful to understand the difference of the more popular use of masking names over the private use and why these had a stronger effect and reflection on sensibility. Finally, at times Knott presented some cynical assumptions that read more like her opinion than supported her argument. For example, in her depiction of Peggy Arnold following the capture of Benedict Arnold as a traitor, Knott described the theatrical performance put on by Peggy as the officers visited her, noting “she needed to ensure” her innocence through a public display.(177) Perhaps it was theatrics that prompted Peggy to behave the way she did, however, Knott’s mentioning of this event read more cynical and assumptious and was more of a distraction than support for her argument and understanding of sensibility. (92, 110, 177)

Some personal notes: This was a dense book. Knott defined sensibility in Jane Austin’s terms… at times, I am not going to lie (and this is harsh), I felt like I was reading gibberish. My brain was mush and I had to go back and read, and re-read paragraphs and still could not grasp the full content. In addition, I recommend keeping a dictionary close by. This book was a unique turn from the usual Revolutionary histories typically published. I had to read this book for my Revolutionary era class and appreciated the discussion that followed with the group to help iron out the content in relation to the argument and this significance for the time period.

Overall, I felt Knott took a unique approach to the transformation of self and society and its contributions to the historical studies that further the understanding of the period around the American Revolution. However, I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a casual read or for a book to help further their understanding about the revolutionary period in America without further background and in-depth knowledge of the subject. This book was more for those who have a background in literature studies or for those interested in cultural histories and a deeper intellectual understanding of the Revolution. If you do decide to read, I recommend reading with another so you can talk it out and discuss the thesis.

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Captain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte


Michelle’s Review: Captain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-ReverteCaptain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Published by Penguin Group on 2005
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 284
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-stars
The novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte have captivated readers around the world and earned him a reputation as “the master of the intellectual thriller” (Chicago Tribune). His books have been published in fifty countries. Now, beginning with Captain Alatriste, comes Pérez-Reverte's most stunning creation to date: a riveting series featuring the adventures of an iconic hero. Captain Alatriste is the story of a fictional seventeenth-century Spanish soldier who lives as a swordsman-for-hire in Madrid. Needing gold to pay off his debts, Alatriste and another hired blade are paid to ambush two travelers, stage a robbery, and give the travelers a fright. “No blood,” they are told. Then a mysterious stranger enters to clarify the job: he increases the pay, and tells Alatriste that, instead, he must murder the two travelers. When the attack unfolds, Alatriste realizes that these aren't ordinary travelers, and what happens next is only the first in a riveting series of twists and turns, with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe.

Another from my days of browsing the shelves of a used bookstore, Captain Alatriste tells the story of an ex-soldier mercenary in seventeenth century Spain. Translated from its original form of Spanish, Captain Alatriste tells the story of its title character through the eyes of his protégé and of the state of Spain through snippets of action and pieces of literature.

I didn’t enjoy this book though. I was under the impression that I was in for some swashbuckling tale and high adventure. Or perhaps a story that serves as an allegory for the state of Spain then and now. Instead, I found my translation a bit rough at times (I had a hard time getting into the flow of the language) and too much introspection woven into what was just a ludicrous action plot.

I wanted to like it. I liked the idea of reading something that was popular in Spain. But I fear that I am part of that audience that it just didn’t translate into a hit for. If it had just stuck to the action parts, I would have liked it a lot more. Even if it had stuck to the introspection, the pessimism about the state of Spain and the national pride of its people, I would have at least known what I was reading. Instead I got pieces of both that ended up making the book not feel very cohesive or maintain enough enthusiasm for me.

It’s a real shame because I think there is promise here. But it just wasn’t realized for me.

pj - michelle

Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi


Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published by Night Shade Books on 2009
Genres: Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 359
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-stars
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

If I had to sum up the Windup Girl in one word it would be ‘disappointing.’ There is so much potential in the post-Contraction world that Bacigalupi created, but the story itself just falls so flat. The idea of a world destroyed by GMOs and mindless energy consumption having to fight for new strains of produce in order to feed itself, of genetically engineered plants, animals, and people becoming necessary for human survival but considered abominations is just so fascinating. I wanted to know more about how the end started, who thought to create seedbanks in the first place, what happened in the cryptically referenced incidents in other countries. I wanted to see Emiko, the genetically engineered New Person [derogatorily referred to as Windups and Heechy Keechy] become something: a revolutionary, a martyr, a messiah, an independent person. Instead I got 350+ pages of politics, wheeling and dealing, corporate machinations and greed, and rape.

Unfortunately, what promised great post-apocalyptic science fiction centered around a female POC instead delivered political fiction with slight fantasy flavoring focusing mainly on middle-aged white men [a feat given the setting of future closed bordered Thailand]. I am no stranger to slogging through politics heavy novels [I’m looking at you A Dance With Dragons], but I do like to know to expect that, and to have intervals of pretty much anything else to break the monotony. With the Windup Girl, not only did the titular character not appear until about a third of the way through, but she did not play a particularly important role either. In fact, the entire concept of the New People could have been removed from the novel with almost no effect.

I kept wanting the book to get more interesting. I wanted to love this book. But it just wasn’t what was promised, took too long to get any type of interesting [two thirds of the way through], and was simply all around disappointing. There are dozens of things I could pick apart and criticize, but I don’t want to write that and I’m sure you don’t want to read it.

pj - calvert