I love to read, I love to write, and I love to talk about all things that are the written word.
WARNING: This review will contain spoilers. Mild ones, epic ones, tiny ones, big ones, and even gigantic ones. This is your one warning. Okay, I might give you another warning before the biggest one, maybe.
This book was quite an endeavor for an author to take on, the concept of it is intimidating. So I have to give the author a lot of credit in trying to tackle such an immense idea. A lot of it worked. The last 150 pages didn’t.
I have never read Blake Crouch before and didn’t make the connection between this and the Wayward Pines books/show until after I got the book. This was an impulse buy. I was drawn in by the interesting cover, read the blurb and thought “Hmm, this is an intriguing idea.” I really enjoyed the way Crouch writes. It is engaging and informative without dragging the story down in extraneous details. This is a difficult balance to maintain. Especially if you are trying to explain (and probably failing to explain, because who actually could understand this stuff except a super genius) complex things in a way that makes sense to the masses, while knowing that you will have to alter any basis in science that it has in order to keep your narrative intact.
I recognize that the “science” in the book is overly simplistic, but for a novel it needs to be. I was not looking for a scholarly paper on the theory of reactivating memories in Alzheimer’s patients. So yes, I totally understand the complaints that “curing” Alzheimer’s isn’t as simple as just memory. The brain degradation goes much beyond just memory. But for the purpose of the story, this is what Helena was trying to do. Trying to find a way to recover the memories that these patients lost and then reactivating them to fight the disease. Simplistic notion? Of course. But it’s enough to get our story going.
I really enjoyed the cat and mouse game between Helena and Slade, and then later between Barry and Slade. Basically, Slade discovers that’s Helena’s memory reactivation program actually sends the consciousness of the person back to the memory they were re-living. It was interesting because it takes place over several timelines. And the idea is that if you get shuffled back into a memory of the past anything that you’ve already lived becomes a “dead” memory and on the date you originally made the jump all those dead memories come flooding back. Not just for you, but everyone involved in those other memories. Naturally this leads to chaos as people suddenly find their brain filled with memories of a life they didn’t live. I was rooting for Helena and Barry to succeed and I was excited to see how they might accomplish this monumental task. How do you stop a man who can jump back into time to get another chance at stopping you?
Things took a turn for the worse when it becomes like something out of the movie Inception. Multiple people making multiple jumps back in time, over and over and over. And expansive descriptions of memories that no longer exist and new ones that do, until the next page when those “new” ones are now dead and overwritten. I had a really hard time following any of it. Then we come to the end game. Helena and Barry hide out, working on solving the problem of the returning “dead” memories so that world doesn’t end, and then Helena going back to her teen years to try again when they fail. This portion got incredibly repetitive. The two of them having the same conversations, doing the same things, as they realized they failed and had to try again.
Here’s where my biggest problem came in. and here’s your SECOND WARNING: This is the big spoiler. It literally spoils the entire ending.
The logical way to end this is to go back to the event that precipitated the first timeline shift and change it, right? Apparently, no one in the book has figured out how to do that. Because that timeline is now a dead memory and they can’t figure out how to send people back to dead memories. Barry confronts Slade about it, because he heard that Slade might have a solution, and Slade basically says “Go back to the original memory. The day I killed Helena to steal her invention.” Barry says he can’t, that’s a dead memory. And all Slade says is “I did.” Barry runs to tell Helena and finds she’s already made the jump and he’ll have to wait until this memory returns to his mind the next time to tell her so they can try. Problem if, the next time Helena has died. So by the time Barry remembers, she is already gone and he’s on his own. Then he just figures it out apparently. No seriously, that’s what happens.
Barry is lying next to Helena’s grave, taken a bunch of pills to end his life, and then decides that he has to try to reactivate a dead memory and fix things once and for all. So, with dwindling time until those pills kick in, he runs to the lab and tries to map a dead memory. It succeeds, he goes back in time and stops the original event and everything is set right again. All in about 5 pages. And it made me mad.
We just spent an entire book with you telling me it’s impossible to go back to a dead memory. Then you find out that, maybe, it’s not impossible after all but you have no idea how to do it. And then figure it out in five minutes? But Helena who had literally been working out a solution to this for over a hundred years couldn’t figure that out? It reminded me a Stephen King ending. Blake Crouch got tired of this book, wanted it to be over and was just like “And so, there was a giant spider, the end.” I felt pretty ripped off and it lowered the rating of the entire book for me. It didn’t pay off. So even though I largely enjoyed the book, the ending tainted it for me.
I will probably read other books by Blake Crouch, I find his ideas and execution interesting. Hopefully his other books have a decent ending.
This book is suddenly confusing the hell out of me. I feel like I've been thrown into the movie Inception. So many things going on at once and as many things as are happening, they also aren't happening. I am really hoping he can pull this tugboat into port but right now I am at WTF.
I think it says a lot about this book that I started it yesterday and am already 144 pages in. It's very compelling and the idea is fascinating.
Wanted to give this another chance to be picked up by others. We had a lot of comments and it was great to see so many active posters!
I thought this would be a good way for us to comment and then share the post to see who is still here to make sure we are all following each other. I only bring this up because I see some people posting and I appear to be the only one following their reviews.
I have gotten some comments from bots though which is another reason why I wanted us all to take this Friday to comment and share this post so we can all find each other.
Feel free to drop your name in the comments and share!
I must say it has been a long time since I was as disappointed in a book as I am in this one. My expectations for this book were sky high. I had seen a lot of good buzz about it and the premise sounded amazing. A high fantasy with orcs and elves, mages and assassins? And brought to me by Tor Books? Sign me up! Here just have my money!! Then, in the end, it was just a giant feeling of “whomp whomp”. That makes me sad. Especially because this book had a ton of potential.
Csorwe had the potential to be an amazing character. She was raised her entire life to know that she will be sacrificed to her god on a specific day and that is her only purpose. And then, at the last moment, she is offered an alternate destiny. A chance to become an assassin, a sword hand for a wronged wizard who wants his power back. And she just so happens to be an orc priestess too. Unfortunately, she was also incredibly boring. I had no emotional connection to her at all. Probably because we only see her in action packed moments. We only see her in the moments preceding battle, the midst of battle and the immediate aftermath of battle. Characters are created in the little moments. The moments that the character spends training, planning, preparing, and theorizing about what is to come. There was absolutely none of that in this book. We go from Csorwe leaving behind her destiny to several years later when she’s already largely trained. We are told that she really enjoyed training with a mercenary group, but we never actually see that happen. We are told that she is a remarkable fighter and assassin. Except she only does this actual task one or two times, neither of which could be considered wildly successful. Mostly she gets her ass kicked. To the brink of death. Seemingly every day.
Tal’s character was slightly more fleshed out but I got the feeling that he was there purely as an adversary for Csorwe and occasional comic relief. That was a shame because I felt like there was untapped potential there. Shuthmili was a good character and I found myself connecting with her at times, but since she isn’t a major factor in a lot of the book it was hard to develop any lasting feelings about her. And her romance with Csorwe was very sweet.
The most memorable character was Oranna. I had some deep feelings about her and thought she was the best character as a whole. She actually felt like a real person instead of a cardboard stand-in for a real person. She was wonderful although I don’t think that I ever completely grasped her motivation behind everything that she did. I know what she told us her motivation was but it seemed hollow and shallow. I suspect it wasn’t entirely the truth.
The writing was technically solid and I found myself reading large swathes of pages at a time without realizing the time was going by. That was the good part. The problem was the disjointed nature of the narrative. We start with Csorwe at 14, then we jumped a few years to about 17 or 18, then jump again to her at around 22. Every time we arrive in a new time period, things are already figured out and a plan is already well underway for what needs to happen. It was confusing. I never got a chance to get invested in a particular narrative before it was over and we moved on to the next thing. There was also absolutely no showing in this book, just telling. We are told that people felt a certain way. We are told that things work a certain way. We are told that this is the answer to the entire thing. We are told that this is what will happen next. It made things very boring and without a connection to the story.
I am not sure why the author tried to make different races of beings. I forgot that Csorwe was an orc for most of the book because it is never mentioned and it doesn’t influence how she behaves, speaks or her interactions with others. Similarly, I completely forgot that Tal was an elf until I was writing this review and remembered some tidbit about his ears and skin color. I don’t need Tolkien levels of race building here. Frankly I am glad it wasn’t because Tolkien’s 4 page narratives about a tree bore the bejesus out of me (I know, I pronounced myself a heretic on that one, haha!). But you need to give me something because these characters were painfully human.
Because of all this showing and not telling, I also have no idea how this world looks or how it works. I got some vague stuff about gates that remind me of Stargate and some kind of ship. It is alternately described as a wooden ship or a barge, and has an “alchemical engine” which gives me steampunk airship vibes. But I have no idea if any of these interpretations are correct. The world itself was not fleshed out well. So as interesting as a Maze that eats dead worlds is, unless you can describe it for me then it’s just an interesting idea and nothing else.
One aspect that I loved was the pantheon of gods, how they are worshipped and the magic system of this world. That was all completely stellar. I am always on board with some good ole fashioned god worship, complete with sacrifices. I also really enjoyed the rules for using magic in this world. Magic comes with a price, exacting a physical toll on the user. So there is a delicate balance that must be struck and maintained. That was all fabulous and one of the big things that kept me going on this book.
My final issue is that I have no idea why this book was called The Unspoken Name. We have the Unspoken One, Csorwe’s patron god. But they are only referred to as the Unspoken One. Never as anything else. The term unspoken name weren’t actually in the book until page 435 and it seemed to be mostly used as an exasperated expletive. “We need to think. We need to – Oh, by the twelve hundred Unspeakable names, what in hell is that?” This probably shouldn’t get on my nerves but it did.
In the end, this book was okay. It shows some signs of brilliance and I can see that the author is very talented. But that brilliance was not curated properly and so the final result ends up being messy and disappointing.
***I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books!***
Up until the last 30 pages or so, I would have rated this book as a solid four star. I struggled really hard to decide if I could keep it at a four star but I just can’t. That ending was bad. Really bad. The kind of bad that gets worse the longer I think about it. Almost Stephen King, giant spider bad. Okay, I’m being facetious now, it wasn’t giant spider bad.
his was a very compelling book. It starts with an introduction on how the author stumbled onto Reddit threads about installing remote access onto someone’s computer so that you can cyber stalk them without them knowing about it. That’s super creepy. And so this gave the author an idea and away we go. The complexities and problems presented by social media are interesting fodder for the fiction world. It’s unknown enough that you can really delve into the dark part of the human psyche and prey on the terror that lurks there. But it’s commonplace enough that millions of people seem to be okay with sharing every moment of their existence to an online audience that feels like a group of friends, but is in reality a bunch of strangers. It’s an interesting dilemma and this book told it well.
I did not particularly like Audrey, it is my one big complaint apart from the ending. She wasn’t very likeable. She is narcissistic, naive, self absorbed and more than a little bit stupid. The entire book is about her almost never doing her actual job and occasionally posting on Instagram. But most of the time she complains to her friends about her endless list of woes and vehemently denies that she has a stalker problem. She doesn’t come around to the idea that someone is stalking her until she literally catches someone peeping in her window. And even then she dismisses it rather quickly as just a creep, doesn’t bother to call the police, and goes about her day. She was a moron and I hoped (a little bit) that her stalker might end up killing her because she was too stupid to continue living. She proved this to me in the ending, which I will get to in a minute.
The stalker’s narrative is okay. It’s creepy at times but mostly just really pathetic. This guy comes across as so socially awkward that he might vomit on a woman’s shoes if she spoke to him. Once things started ramping up, however, I enjoyed his narrative quite a bit.
Cat, Audrey’s best friend, is quite possibly the most interesting character. She seems like an intelligent woman who doesn’t easily dismiss that Audrey might have a stalker and urges her to protect herself. None of her suggestions are listened to, but she tried. She is horrified when Audrey begins dating a childhood acquaintance of hers, Max, who knows a secret about Cat that she desperately doesn’t want Audrey to know. I got the sense throughout the book that Cat was in love with Audrey. Although that was never confirmed, I still think there’s some validity to the theory. Why else would you put up with someone so woefully stupid and self absorbed? And not just put up with her but idolize her too.
Now we come to the ending. So I am going to make this plain. This is a huge SPOILER. A giant SPOILER. If you do not wish to be SPOILED!!!! then please read no further.
Seriously, really big SPOILER ahead, last warning to jump ship!
So, the ending. They teased me a bit with who the stalker was, but I figured that Max HAD to be a red herring. The author was hitting me over the head with him being a suspect way too hard. And it just simply makes no sense. The idea that he ramped up the stalking to scare Audrey into coming to live with him for protection makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that you then continue to escalate the stalking behavior until she is frightened of you. WTF? You wanted her to be with you, check. You wanted her to live with you, check. You wanted her to be afraid enough to turn to you, check. And then you continue? Why?
Then we have a whole scenario where Audrey gets hurt in a confrontation with Max and Cat comes into the room and believes Audrey is dead. She has a conversation with Max about how he can’t help her and needs to leave, he says that at least he isn’t like Cat. And we get a whole long story about how Cat tried to kill someone at summer camp, and he’ll tell everyone about it if she doesn’t help Audrey. That part wasn’t surprising, the author had been leading us to that for most of the book. But then Cat decides that she needs to kill Max to prevent this. In the process she discovers that Audrey is still alive, and then proceeds to think “Oh no, did she hear us talking about camp? Well, I guess I better kill her.”
Wait, hold on, what? None of this makes sense. All of a sudden two rational people are acting like psychotic killers? Where on earth did any of this come from? And isn’t it a bit too coincidental that the person stalking Audrey for eight years just so happens to know her college best friend, and just so happens to know said best friend’s deep dark secret? Nope. There were so many better options available and this one was terribly executed.
Then we get to my favorite part. Audrey recovers and we flash forward to her moving into a new apartment and having a conversation with the old college boyfriend, Nick. Cat is apparently in prison, rightfully so. Max isn’t in prison, just a restraining order. Despite the fact that he was stalking you for eight years, broke into your friend’s house, got into an angry confrontation with you in which you proceeded to almost die. I don’t know that sounds like an arrest-able offense to me. And here is where Audrey proved to me that she is, in fact, too stupid to live. Behold this exchange with Nick:
“Be fair,” I said softly, “Max isn’t a psychopath. He’s…well, he’s not wired right, that’s for sure, but he’s not a psychopath. It’s not like he was going to hurt me.”
“You don’t know that. Just because he didn’t hurt you doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have.”
“He never would have hurt me.” I said with certainty, “He’s not violent. And he loved me too much.” (Page 284 of the ebook version)
Well, isn’t that just so romantic!! He loves her so much that he almost got you killed. But he’s not violent. Isn’t that so sweet! This is worse than all the romanticizing of domestic violence that was prevalent in Young Adult fiction for a while. He literally stalked you for eight years. He took thousands of pictures of you without your knowledge. He broke into your apartment and watched you sleep (Hey Edward! We see you!). He watched you in your apartment for weeks at a time. He intentionally terrified you so that you would move in with him. He demanded that you continue being with him and terrified you so much that you tried to run out of the house and fell down a flight of stairs. But no, you’re right Audrey, he loves you too much to be violent. She’s one of those people who writes love letters to Charlie Manson because “well he never killed anyone”.
So that’s it. A great book, with so much potential to be amazing and the ending completely ruined it for me.
This book was almost a four star book for me, the final few chapters were what changed my mind in the end. The premise of this book is nothing new. A rather ordinary female lead character who dreams of doing bigger things who crosses paths with the daring bad boy. Together they run off on an adventure and fall for each other along the way. It’s a tried and true formula in young adult. When done properly it makes for a very good read. But sometimes authors fall into a trap of feeling like they MUST make their story different and so they do things that don’t make sense. That is what happened with the end of this book I believe.
Shadow is a pretty good character. She has a more finely honed sense of self preservation than most female leads in fantasy novels, so I appreciated that. She was strong and looking for adventure, not afraid to leave her entire world behind to do it. The love story between her and Cal seemed very organic, which can be unusual in the genre. But she was also too stubborn for her own good and it made no sense. She defied Cal or opposed his opinion just because she could. There was no logical reason behind her belief that her idea was better than his, she just decided that her idea was better. Even though this whole adventure was Cal’s job, literally, and he was very good at it. It might have been better to defer to his expertise from time to time. It might have saved both of them some trouble along the way.
Cal was a fairly typical young adult love interest. At times he was dashing, brave, and witty. And at other he seemed like a set piece. I had no real objections to him, but I did not find him particularly compelling in his own right either. And I have no idea how this magical Blood Vow actually works either. Supposedly it binds Cal to the Queen, to do her bidding until he fulfills the vow. And if he tries to defy the vow he will be in horrendous, increasingly awful, pain the longer he tries to resist. But, he does resist the Queen’s orders, for most of the book and doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort. Because Shadow told him this was the Queen’s plan, so I guess his belief is a loophole? If he believes he is following the vow then he is? That makes no sense if it’s a magical thing. The story would have been just a good without this piece that wasn’t actually explained.
As for the plot and the plot twists, I expected most of them. Especially the big one, I knew it from very early on in the book. But I also didn’t really mind, the fact that I had figured it out was largely inconsequential to the other pieces of the puzzle. I may have discovered one piece, but the rest of the puzzle didn’t hinge on that one piece so it was still a surprise to me later. A few of the “twists” I didn’t really find that shocking or distressing. Cal seemed distressed over them and frankly I didn’t know why. Maybe it was because there was so little world building in this book that I didn’t have enough information to be as disturbed as other characters were. The only world building is an occasional chapter of an excerpt from some historical text. So, a few info dumps. And honestly, as a reader, I never remember information given to me in an info dump. They are boring and my mind skims them automatically. As a consequence, I know very little of the history of the world or how its magic works. That didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story, but it might have impacted how I felt about certain plot reveals.
Now, my one and only SPOILER WARNING for this review:
I figured out very early on that Shadow was really the Princess. All I needed was to know that the Princess was secreted away somewhere as a commoner, and that Shadow’s mother worked in the palace and I knew. It wasn’t difficult. But, Shadow’s chapters are narrated in the first person. So the reader is quite literally inside her head. She never actually revealed that she knew she was the Princess in her narrative. So, as a result, I figured that she did not know. That everyone had kept it a secret for her own protection or something,
But then in the last few chapters she literally thinks, “My mother is the Queen of Renovia. I have known this for my entire life. And I have been in denial about this truth my entire life. For my own safety, I do not speak of it, let along think about it.” (Chapter 49, page 350). So, wait, you don’t even think about it? I recognize that this is an attempt at giving the author a good “out” for why Shadow was narrating in first person but didn’t let on that she was the Princess. But, our brains are messy things. Human thinking is a messy thing. Thoughts come in and out of our minds like clouds, entirely without our bidding. It doesn’t make any sense that at no point she didn’t randomly think “Cal would be so horrified if he knew who I was.” or “I feel so bad for deceiving him about my identity.” I was very confused about that. Our brains are tricky things that often think things that we don’t intend to think. This was the most annoying factor in the entire book. Why not just narrate Shadow in the third person? Cal is narrated in third person, it wouldn’t have been out of place.
So that’s the book. I liked it a lot. I think I will tune in to the 2nd book in the series to see where it goes. Some bits were a little frustrating, it certainly isn’t perfect but it was a fun use of my time.
This book left me with a rather large challenge on whether I enjoyed it or not. For the first 300 or so pages, I was enthralled with this book. I loved it. I found the narrating character a bit bland but there was enough of other stuff going on that it didn’t bother me. However, the ending soured me on the rest of the book. It was an awful ending. Period. There was nothing redeeming about the conclusion of this book and it made the rest of the experience feel like a waste of time. So ultimately I can say that I liked it, but I can’t recommend it.
That was the short version that is free of spoilers. From here on out, consider yourself warned because this is a SPOILER ZONE:
Like I mentioned the husband was a bit bland, we’ll call him Tobias for the sake of the review but that isn’t actually his name. He’s a really big idiot. Similar to the level of idiot the husband in Gone Girl is. He should have known these things. He’s assisting his wife in kidnapping and murdering women, then he hears about all about her stories of her abusive sister, he finds out she kept one of the women alive for a year torturing her, she suggests making their crimes similar to a known serial killer, she just so happens to visit somewhere that she has no reason to be and then a witness comes forward to put doubt in the police’s mind about who is committing the crimes. Yet, through all of these things, he doesn’t realize for a moment that his wife is setting him up. I knew it. Every other reader knew it. The only person who didn’t was Tobias. Because he’s an idiot. Like his wife told him, “You always focus on the wrong things.” She was right.
I also don’t know how a guy like Tobias gets involved in something like this to begin with. I was promised Dexter meets Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Tobias was neither. He could barely stomach to hear a retelling of the murder on television, let alone actually commit one that wasn’t a complete accident. He can barely handle stalking a woman without having a panic attack. A psycho he is not. A killer he is not. An idiot, he definitely is.
Throughout most of this book I was really excited to find out what happened. I knew that Tobias was being set up, but I loved theorizing about how deep the deception went. Why was she setting him up? Was she involved with the prior serial killer too? Was she trying to frame him for not just these murders but those ones too? Her sister wasn’t really the abusive psycho one right? All these questions. All these theories. And yet, the ending didn’t surprise me or satisfy me. Every single one of those theories I thought up is exactly what happened. I don’t pretend to be any sort of genius. I don’t find myself particularly more intelligent than the average reader. But how exactly did none of this manage to surprise me and yet surprises others? I really don’t understand it.
Then, in the end, Tobias just walks away with his kids. The police listen to his whole story and think “well, he says he’s innocent and since the DNA at the crime scene is weird then I guess he is really completely innocent”. No, he wasn’t. While he might not have murdered any of the women that the police knew about, he did stalk and abduct several of them. At the very least he was an accessory to his wife’s murders. But it’s all wrapped up and he just walks away in about two pages. It was crap. Then we end with him using the same Tobias ruse on a woman that he used in the murder scheme with his wife. Why? Am I supposed to believe that this timid, beta male has decided to keep killing? He wasn’t the type before, why would be be now? It made no sense.
So while the writing was delightful, Millicent was spectacular, the resolution and narrator were just awful.
This book was quite a conundrum for me to read. There were some major good points and some major bad points. Ultimately, I can’t say that I liked the book because it felt like a really big missed opportunity that failed to deliver on much of what it promised.
This book is told in two points of view and multiple timelines. Each chapter is titled with the narrator and the years it covers to make it easier to follow along, until the last chapter which was very confusing. It covers a span from the 70s to the 90s and discusses a lot of serious topics. It talks about the AIDS crisis in the gay community. It covers school shootings. It covers the new freak show of our era, trash TV. It covers public reaction to all of the above. It was a very ambitious novel and didn’t quite pull it off.
**Mild Spoilers Alert**
Our first narrator is Semi, which I thought was an innuendo until the author piped in that it’s pronounced like semi-truck and then I wasn’t really sure what it was supposed to be because I have always heard that pronounced with a hard I sound. But I’m getting off point. Semi was a great narrator. He was the former lover of Mattie M, back when he was a local politician and lawyer with his eyes on the mayorship of New York. I loved hearing about his love story with Mattie and I loved hearing about his perspective on the AIDS crisis. My only complaint is that I didn’t actually learn anything about Semi as a person. He told his story through the stories of his friends, So while I enjoyed his narration, I didn’t feel like I got to know him at all since he was hiding his truth behind his friends.
Cel is the narrator for much of the portion of the book that covers the school shooting and ensuing chaos, She is the publicist for the Mattie M Show. To be quite frank, I have no idea what she was doing in this novel. She didn’t have a single ounce of personality and rarely spoke more than a fragment of a sentence at a time. Her back story was confusing so I couldn’t even get emotionally involved in that aspect of her story. I also have no idea how or why the show hired her as a publicist. She doesn’t like the job and she doesn’t even seem to know how to do the job. Most of her story is making snarky one liners at other staff of the show, complaining about her job to her friends, and watching TV in bars. She doesn’t do anything. Then at the end of the book she decides to quit her job and become a stand up comedienne? Where the fuck did that come from? She went to a comedy club one time with a reporter and implied she had been there before, but she is not funny and we are given no indication that she ever wanted to do anything like that.
The first 125 pages of the book are largely useless. If I was the editor, I’d have scrapped them entirely. It is mostly Semi talking about his friends and Cel trying to avoid doing work. We only get into the meat of what the novel is supposed to be about about at page 130 and then it started to get awesome. After that point, I was completely invested and thought the novel was making some very profound points.
What I got from the novel is that television and news events are the new blood sport of our day. Whether we’re watching a trashy reality TV show, watching a play about some emotionally charged event, or watching news coverage on a tragedy. We are not actually watching the thing. We are not actually interested in the thing itself. It doesn’t matter how it begins. It doesn’t matter how it ends. The truth doesn’t matter either. The point is that we’re watching it. As the book says toward the end, we’re an audience, watching an audience, watching an audience. I was a little stunned at how profound I found this book based on how badly it began.
Then we got to the ending and it disappointed me again. In the end, the author decides to give us the truth. Give us the truth about what’s in the letters. Give us the truth of what the play was about. Give us the truth about Mattie M and Semi. I was so disappointed that I wanted to stop reading. We just spent approximately 200 pages telling the reader that the truth of these things was irrelevant. I was just another audience, watching an audience, watching an audience. So then if these things don’t matter, why are you insisting on telling me?
Maybe, in the end, I read too much into the book. Maybe the author didn’t actually intend to make any profound and philosophical points. Maybe she didn’t think she could resist giving me the final pieces of the puzzle. But, regardless, it damaged the book for me.
I know, I am kind of OD'ing on the Sigler stuff lately. What can I say? I always come back to my favorites. In this case I wanted something quick and fun. As it turns out a short story collection was just the ticket. Overall, this was a very good collection. Some of the stories were amazing and others were a bit meh. Now, for my own story notes and individual story ratings.
Complex God - 5 stars. This story is set is at a dubious point in the Siglerverse. It is after Pandemic and follows the origin of one Petra Prawatt. Anyone who is a Sigler Junkie will recognize the Prawatt name. This was such a fascinating little story and so much more terrifying by what it represents. It represents the idea that once human beings create a being that can begin to improve itself by making little decisions based on its mistakes then it is going to surpass its creator. A very scary concept and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
Hippo - 4 stars. This story had a lot of hype behind it. I had been told that it had the most horrifying and gruesome thing that Scott Sigler has every written. Worse than his infamous chicken scissors moment. Admittedly, the scene made me gag, but maybe I am just too jaded because other than being gross it wasn't particularly horrifying. I'll pronounce the two moments a tie. But I loved the world this was set in, and I loved the "twist" at the end.
Dale & Mabel - 5 stars. This story was so out of the norm for a Scott Sigler novel. Two people trapped in a situation that could be the end of the world but with no way out. They are not the heroes of an apocalypse novel. They are elderly, married for many years, and not really able to get around so well anymore. How do they ride out the apocalypse? I cried like a baby through the entire second half.
Fifth Girl - 5 stars. This was creepy. And not in a blood and guts kind of way. Just creepy and a good take on the generations that seem to feel an insurmountable need to post their entire lives on the internet. Be cautious who else is following along.
Mister Double-M: 3 stars. This one was pretty funny. I laughed aloud at a few points. But other than a few laughs I didn't feel there was too much substance to the story.
Pink Torpedo - 3 stars. Again, this was funny but otherwise unremarkable.
Puppet Master - 3 stars. This one rather confused me in the end. I found it to be very thoughtful and profound, but it also really confused me. I had a very hard time following the narrative so apart from a few profound thoughts it didn't leave a lasting impression.
Reunion - 5 stars. Holy crap I was not prepared for this story. I thought I was but the longer it went on the more I realized that I was not prepared. It made me think, it made me cringe and then it made me cry.
Splashing Contest - 2 stars. I didn't really like it. I understand what Sigler is going for with it and wanting to create a relatable situation but it just seemed very convenient and not too lasting of a story. I forgot it almost as soon as it was over.
The Laundry Demon - 2 stars. Again, some laughs and an amusing concept but there wasn't much else to it.
So, in the end, it was a good collection and there wasn't really anything that I can say I disliked. Another worthy edition to my ebook collection.
The book is finally starting to get interesting, those first 125 pages were an absolute slog! The story is finally getting somewhere and I am finding the reading is going quicker.
I am still tired of the author insisting on using archaic language for pedantic reasons. I get it, you have a degree. But people don't talk like this, it's weird.
***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!***
This book is proving to be a difficult one to review and decide on an appropriate rating. I finished it over 24 hours ago and am still trying to put my thoughts together. On the whole, it was an alright story. There was absolutely nothing revolutionary about it, but it’s a solid story.
Let’s start with Liza. I did not really like her as a character. I found her to be annoying for the most part. She starts off fine, a bit histrionic but who wouldn’t be freaked out by the things she is discovering about the world? After awhile she seemed far stupider than I felt she should be. The pieces were there but she just refused to put them together and instead continued with her internal narrative that “there’s no way that any of this involves me”. Literally everyone in the book is telling you that it does. Hell, your dreams are telling you that it does! The strange happenings are telling you that it does! EVERYTHING IS SCREAMING AT YOU THAT YOU ARE INVOLVED!! So while there was nothing actually wrong with the character, she grew to be infuriating. And then when we got to the end of the book, it turned out she was pretty useless and unnecessary to the plot. More on that in a minute.
The characterization of the fae was fabulous. I enjoyed seeing a more horrifying aspect of the land of fae instead of the pretty, sparkling faeries that are so common in literature. I can’t say that the book was overly scary, but the horror aspects of it were very well written and interesting. I can’t say that I can conjure up too much emotion about the other characters since I did not feel that I got to know them at all. They were a flat and lacked qualities that would have made them more relatable and realistic characters. They were fine, but one dimensional. They also seemed to be a bit stupid at times, similar to Liza’s stupid. They acknowledge that everything happening is telling them that the old rules don’t apply. But then they run around screaming, “Oh My God! Why are the old rules not working!?” Well, duh, you just said why just a few pages ago.
A lot of this book was difficult to read. I found myself reading the same page a few times in order to understand what was going on. I am not entirely sure what made it difficult but I had a very hard time.
On to my last point for this: The ending. Warning!!!! Spoilers:
So, the whole point of the book is that Liza is a fae princess and has to choose between two princes. One prince wants the fae to rule the world and exterminate humans. One prince wants the fae to live in a dimension completely separate from humans and allow the peaceful existence of both. In the end, Liza will choose her prince and that will decide the fate of the world. But then we get to the end and she doesn’t choose! She chooses to stab herself instead in order to not have to make a choice. And somehow this meant that her choice was for peaceful co-existence of humans and fae? I have no idea where that ending came from but I didn’t like it. Making a choice by not making a choice and then somehow that means that everything is fine. So dumb and kind of made me feel the book was pointless in the end.
At the end of the day this book was decently written with passable characters and the fae are good enough to make this book a decent read.
In this book there are two narrators, telling two different stories.
Semi is the former lover of the subject of the book, and tells the story of New York from the eyes of a gay man in the 70s and 80s as the AIDS epidemic ravaged the LGBT world. He is a fantastic narrator and I love his portions. He is funny, engaging, sardonic and paints a vivid picture.
When we come to Cel, the present day publicist of the subject of the book. She lacks any personality whatsoever. I find myself getting very bored when she starts telling the story.
I have my mother-in-law to blame for my fascination with Fred and Rose West. Years back when I was dating my husband she heard that I am a fan of reading and a big fan of true crime. So she passed along a book about Fred West that she had just finished. Since then I’ve read several more. And on her last visit to us, as the wonderful enabler that she is, she brought me this. I was not quite sure what to expect since I know the children’s reactions to the discovery of the crimes and subsequent trial/imprisonment is varied. Some were supportive of their parents and others were vehemently against them.
I was not expecting to be as profoundly moved by this book as I was. I found myself empathizing and identifying with Mae West in a way that I didn’t foresee. While her parents might have been more than your typical brand of evil, the mark of an abusive childhood is unchanged. It was quite interesting to me to hear about the view of the crimes and their parents from one of the children. And I identified with her when she said that people didn’t understand how she could love her parents even when they abused her horrifically. That is the cycle of abuse. And my heart broke at this young woman who couldn’t find someone to understand. As a child in abuse, you can’t escape. You can’t just decide to not love your parents. You can understand that what they are doing isn’t right on one hand and also be desperately fearful that they’ll abandon you on the other. It’s incomprehensible to people who haven’t experienced years of emotional manipulation to accompany abuse.
What really struck me the most about this book was the growth that I saw in Mae over the course of it. She started out firmly convinced that while her father was a monster and her mother was innocent. A terrible mother, but surely not an accessory to her husband’s crimes. I understood her stance. She couldn’t deny that her father was involved, the bodies were under the concrete that he laid, but she couldn’t lose both her parents too. So she decided that her mother was innocent. And my heart broke for her. I found myself having a mental conversation with her on more than one occasion in this book. Desperately trying to tell this confused young woman that there is light at the end of this long dark tunnel, she just needs to break away from the darkness of her mother.
Slowly, she did just that. My heart rejoiced for her and the feeling of the narrative changed to accompany her new discoveries too. What started as a depressing and heavy book was slowly transformed into a survival story that ends with a woman who has made a happy, thriving life for herself. Even though the entire deck was stacked against her.
This was a fantastic perspective on this case that I was very happy to read.
I feel so much sympathy for Mae and her siblings. She talks a lot about always having to explain to people why she stayed in contact with her abusive mother. I understand. Any child of abuse understands. And it makes me profoundly sad that she spent years feeling that she had to explain to people.