For over a year now I’ve managed to review every single speculative fiction book I’ve read. I was hoping to continue this trend but have been behind ever since the holiday season. Then I was close to getting caught up last month before I got sick for a couple of weeks. I’ve finally given up hope on getting all those reviews in so I’m going to compromise by writing condensed, more casual (but hopefully still somewhat informative) reviews of the two books from last month that I still haven’t discussed here.
The first of these is last month’s Blogger Book Club selection, Parable of the Sower. Unfortunately, the week of the Book Club occurred on the first of the two weeks I was sick, so I didn’t write it while it was going on. The second book is one that John wanted me to read, an alternative history called The Two Georges.
Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Sower is a near-future dystopian novel by well-known science fiction writer Octavia Butler. It has one sequel Parable of the Talents but no cliff-hanger ending.
The future Butler describes is very grim. Resources are scarce, including water. Teenager Lauren lives in a gated community that she rarely leaves since most people would just as soon rob and kill you as look at you. Although many choose to believe they are safe within their walls, Lauren believes it is inevitable that one day the gates will be forced down and those who survive will be forced to leave.
Parable of the Sower is a slower paced book that touches on issues of social inequality and human nature. The entire story is told through Lauren’s journal, which is a pleasure to read. I very much liked Lauren, a young woman who embodies the word survivor. Instead of refusing to live in ignorance about the state of society, she attempts to educate others and keeps a survival kit for the day she is forced out of her safety net. Although she struggles with her hyperempathy syndrome that causes her physical pain when she injures another, she learns to defend herself and is willing to take any measure necessary to keep herself alive in this dreary world. She’s also very reflective and develops her own religious worldview in which God is not the god of her Baptist minister father but is change – a very realistic view for a girl who can only have hope if the world she knows does not remain stagnant. Throughout her journal, Lauren develops her religion, called Earthseed, and decides their destiny is to take root among the stars.
At times it was a little slow, but overall, I enjoyed Parable of the Sower very much for its thoughtfulness and strong main character.
The Two Georges by Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfuss explores a world in which the United States never gained its independence from England and the numerous groups dedicated to freedom from Great Britain are unpatriotic and treasonous. This is not the only difference between reality and the projected reality – it also exists in a steampunk setting complete with airships. The main story is the mystery of a stolen national symbol, a painting called The Two Georges that depicts the unity of George Washington and King George.
The first 100 pages were fairly interesting, the next 300 pages gave me a hard time, and the last 200 pages were much easier to read again. I ended up taking a break once or twice during that 300-page middle section because it was just so bloated. There was a lot of traveling and a lot of eating. Seriously, the author described almost every single meal the main characters ate during that section – where they were eating, what they were eating and drinking, whether or not what they were eating was good, and on a couple of occasions, whether or not anyone was offended by what someone else ordered because it was disrespectual to his/her ethnic group. One page I read had them eating at the top of the page and then eating again at the bottom of the page. Needless to say, I often ended up very hungry while reading this novel.
John told me that this book was very wordy and he had to skim a lot of the details to enjoy it. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at skimming and read every word because I’m afraid I’ll miss something important amidst all the descriptions of breakfast.
The characters were somewhat standard – the detective, his sidekick, and a token spunky woman who insisted on investigating the matter after being told not to. You know the type – the type who causes trouble with her recklessness and disobedience to orders. However, she was not an unintelligent ditz and did actually end up having quite a few valuable insights that earned her respect. Of course, the lead character fell in love with her. Shocking turn of events, I know.
The Two Georges could have been about half as long and the characters were rather generic, but I did enjoy the crime in the beginning, the resolution, and the setting.
Editor John’s Note: Yeah, I liked this book quite a bit, but it was after I had read a lot of Turtledove and developed a resistance to his wandering around in detail. I still maintain that it’s an enjoyable read if you allow yourself to skim over some parts and read for concept rather than specific detail…I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to finish the book if I had read every word of it. All of his work is like that, I think…but I also think that about Tolkien, so, what do I know.]
[Kristen’s Note: Odd, I never had that problem with either Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit – never had any desire at all to skim it. Maybe I was more patient in my younger years.]
Next will be a return to regular review format with the last book I have up for review, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. My plan is to work on that tomorrow because I am sure it will not be long before I finish The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro because I am absolutely loving it.