Book Review: Surrender by Ray Loriga

Surrender by Ray Loriga

Rating:  ★★★

Surrender is a dystopian novel reminiscent of many a book that came before: 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  I don’t know when I’m going to learn my lesson.  I really didn’t like any of those books.  They are depressing and dark, and ultimately rather hopeless.

I’d like to tell you this is different…

I’d like to tell you that.

And I can’t.

We have our two unnamed (how original) protagonists.  The wife and the husband.  Their sons, whom they are very proud of, are away at war.  They adopted a boy they go on to name Julio, who appeared out of nowhere one day and lives in their basement since the protagonists don’t want the zoning agent to find out.  Eventually, the war creeps too close to home, and the zoning agent forces them to evacuate.

*cue doomsday music*

Anyway.  This new city seems pretty great at first.  It’s made of this cool new substance extracted from urine.  You get to shower next to your neighbor in the morning because the walls are transparent.  Intimate time with your significant other is spent that way too.  Left or right, up or down, you can see everyone doing everything all the time because somehow the tyrannical government found a way to shut off the night.  Surrender takes privacy loss to a whole new level.

This book is on the shorter side, but it didn’t take me any less time to read it.  It was very slow and I had to push myself to read more pages knowing I just wanted to be done with it.  It picked up for a little while at the end, then there was mass confuddledom and then it ended.

The moral of this story is: Life’s a bitch and then you die.

Shrugs.

I sort of wish I hadn’t wasted time on it.  It wasn’t badly written, but the tone of the book doesn’t seem to fit the occasional swear word that’s thrown in for seemingly no reason.  (Coming from someone who has no filter on her own mouth, that’s a problem.)  You’ll want to shake the MC at some point. Then you’ll want to shake his wife.  And others.

There are some interesting notes here considering perspectives- things aren’t always what they seem, and yes, we wear blinders, and yes, government is full of propaganda meant to bend those perceptions.  I liked those parts.  The characters felt real enough, I just wished we hadn’t been so distanced from them given their lack of names and the wife’s weird personality shift in part three.

Anyway- I’d recommend this to people who liked those three books I named at the beginning.  For my part I can say I actually did enjoy this more than those, just not enough to love this book.

Surrender released on February 25, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher who provided an ARC for review.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last 10 Books Added to my TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is the last 10 books added to my TBR, which is pretty self explanatory so I’ll just jump in.

Into the Wild Warriors by Erin Hunter

Into the Wild (Warriors #1) by Erin Hunter – This was recommended by a friend at work to read with my daughter.  She’s not quite into books without pictures yet, so I’m saving it for later.

Hella by David Gerrold

Hella by David Gerrold – Brought to my attention just last week by Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy in one of her Future Fiction posts.  To be honest, I’d have added this for the cover alone, but the blurb mentions oversize flora and fauna, dinosaur herd, and neurodiversity.  I need this in my life like – yesterday.

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall (Founders #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett – I haven’t read the first one yet- but this one was added by default when I entered the GoodReads Giveaway for it.  Figured if I’d won it would give me the incentive to prioritize it.

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings #1) by Kevin Hearne – Hearne is another one of those authors that has multiple books on my TBR.  I’ve heard mixed things which is why I’ve put him off for awhile.  This particular book was added to my TBR, again, by a GoodReads Giveaway.

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang – I originally spotted this on NetGalley.  I didn’t end up requesting it, because I’m trying to refrain from doing so this year, but I was intrigued enough to add it.  It’s set in the future and is about an old conflict between Earth and Mars that both planets are now trying to resolve.  It sounds really unique and I’m super excited for it!

Agency by William Gibson

Agency by William Gibson – Another author that has multiple books on my shelf.  The blurb on this one is pretty sparse, but I was willing to take a chance because the author is fairly well known.  Again- this was brought to my attention through a GoodReads Giveaway.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Historical Fiction is a genre I love and don’t read enough of.  I went through a brief love affair with all things Shakespeare a couple years ago when that show Will was on air.  A fellow reader and reviewer brought it up in one of my GoodReads groups and mentioned it was really well done, so of course it was an immediate add.

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall – I think I originally spotted this on Edelweiss.  I added it strictly because the title caught my attention, but the blurb sounds really good.  A woman is murdered and her two best friends are let behind to unravel her secrets after her death.

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay – Because there is no such thing as too much zombie fiction.

A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass

A Conjuring of Assassins (Chimera #2) by Cate Glass – The sequel to last year’s An Illusion of Thieves- I’m super excited for this!

And that’s it!  Which books have you added to your TBR recently?

Book Review: QualityLand by Marc-Uwe Kling

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling

Rating:  ★★★★

If you took the humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and mashed it up with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, I think QualityLand is what you would get.

From the moment I started reading I found this almost impossible to put down. I am always a little nervous when reading a translation, because some books I don’t think translate as well no matter how talented the translator. I needn’t have worried with this one. The translator (Jamie Searle Romanelli) did an excellent job. At times I was even surprised that the book was originally written in German, since the setting felt very much like the US.

It takes us a little while to get to the heart of the plot, and I didn’t always feel like all the viewpoints we were given were necessary, but all the view points were so entertaining that I didn’t mind so much. The plot is this, TheShop – The World’s Most Popular Online Retailer – has sent a product to Peter Jobless. Peter Jobless (his surname comes from his father’s occupation at the time of his conception) believes the product was sent in error. He is now on a mission to return it. But TheShop, won’t let him. After all, TheShop does not make mistakes. It’s in his profile. Of course he wants the item.

It sounds ludicrous, but it’s entertaining, and clever to boot. There are so many topics the author managed to comment on, everything from privacy, to evolving technology, to consumerism and politics. And he managed to do it without sounding preachy. That didn’t make the result any less terrifying though.

The characters were a lot of fun. Peter is an average Joe kind of guy with a soft spot for defective machinery. Kiki, a character we meet later in the book, absolutely stole the show once she entered. I adored her. She’s a pull no punches, tell it like it is, kind of girl, with many shades of gray.

The chapters are short and the pace moves pretty quickly. It does a fantastic job of world building without lengthy info dumps. Humor is a subjective thing, so I would recommend checking out Amazon’s Look Inside or Sample feature before purchasing. If you aren’t laughing at the first chapter (maybe even the first page) this might not be the book for you.

Otherwise, a relevant and entertaining satire that I highly recommend!

QualityLand releases in the US on January 7, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Three Mini DNF Book Reviews

As a follow up to yesterday’s discussion post, it only seems fitting that I follow it up with my three DNF reviews.  I’ve decided not to rate these, because although I know why I’m not finishing, I don’t want to say I’d recommend or not recommend them, not knowing how they end.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain

I was so excited for this book when I first heard about it.  It seemed like a dystopian novel with some fantastical elements (ESP) and a bunch of dreamers for characters.

What it actually is, is contemporary literature.  This is not my thing.  If I had realized that’s what it was I would have NOPED it right away.  

I made it to page 140 before I decided I didn’t want to continue.  In that time, we read three chapters, so that was strike number one.  Chapter one is 72 pages long.  That’s not a chapter.  It’s a novelette.

In that time I actually did grow to like Leif and Matthew, who I originally thought were the two main characters in the book.  If the book had continued to keep Matthew as the POV character, I actually might have continued.  Unfortunately, it jumped POVs to a character named Chris, who at that point, was one of the least interesting characters.  Chapter three switched POVs again to a character named Elspeth.  Chapter four, the point at which I decided I had no desire to continue, saw yet another shift in POV, to Julia.  Whose presence in the novel at all is questionable, nevermind the utter lack of necessity to give her a POV.  The POV shifts were strike number two.

And the final nail in the coffin was the world building, or lack thereof.  These characters seem to be protesting something, belonging to a wider movement called Occupy.

I have no idea what the hell they were protesting.

Their smaller group within the larger group, whose name I can’t recall (but whose initials are something ridiculous like RFTGFP) believes that people should strive to perceive other people’s feelings.  Leif is really good at it.  He can sense your email password. Chris cannot do it, but believes in it and believes that it’s the most important thing ever.  Or something.

I just didn’t get it.  I mean- yeah I get the larger message, we’d all be better people if we stopped to put ourselves in other people’s shoes once in awhile, but I don’t know why or how the government fits into it.  There’s some talk of Homeland Security, and tapping phones and monitoring computers… but no indication that any of it was done prior to the group hacking someone’s email.  The whole premise is bizarre, and seems overly complicated while also being too simple, and ultimately just not what I wanted.

Just a note on the writing- the author appears to be some kind of literary journalist, so he uses a lot of obscure words and fancy language that feels superficial at best because he didn’t give us a lot of insight into what the characters were actually feeling.  I consistently felt like I was missing some of the context.

Anyway- this is probably going to be a wonderful book for someone, just not me.

I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway on GoodReads.  Links if you want to check it out for yourself: GoodReads and Amazon.

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This book has the misfortune of being one more science fiction horror novel in a long list of science fiction horror novels I’ve read this year.  I’ve read at least two other books (and one novella) this year that, simply put, did it better.

This was a buddy read, which is usually sufficient reason for me to push through (no person left behind!), but my two fabulous buddies finished it in a couple of days while I was still hanging out on page 94.  At which point they advised me it did not get better and they’d forgive me for DNFing.

I happily took their advice.

I don’t have any specific complaints except that this felt more like a set up to a bad romance than there was any actual horror being included and I was extremely bored.

The setting was cool.  But I saw almost this exact setting done in The Last Astronaut by David Wellington and Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, both of which were far more atmospheric than The Luminous Dead (not to mention less time consuming).

It’s a shame because I think it could have been good if it had been a novella, or if it had booted the romance and pitted our two MCs against each other as hero and villain.

I am not finishing and I have no regrets.  Links: GoodReads and Amazon.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong

This is the one I feel guiltiest about, because I don’t even think there is anything particularly wrong with it, except that we are just not jiving right now.

I attempted to read the introduction three times before I decided it was way too dry and skipped to the beginning.  In the beginning, we meet two heroes, Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang, that feel earnest in their desire to be heroes, but also a little like SpongeBob and Patrick in their competence.

SpongeBob and Patrick Gif

I hate saying that- because I know this is a cherished piece of literature in China, but the whole thing just felt a little cartoonish.

The part that I read was technically all backstory for the hero: what happened in the months leading up to his birth.  I might have continued if the introduction were dropped and the back story was reduced to 10-15 pages.  (If we’re looking at the blurb: “Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot” this is as far as I got in the book, the murdered Song patriot.)  If the pacing is this slow, 15% of the book is back story, I just don’t want to continue.

The action scenes weren’t very exciting to me.  I read once, that the difference between a good action scene and a bad one, is that a bad one will only describe what is happening.  Good action scenes will describe how a character feels when they are in the action.  This is a case where the movements are described adequately, but entirely without feeling.

I had a hard time envisioning the setting and the characters.  The villains, from what I read, seemed like they weren’t going to be very fleshed out at any point in time.  Just hooded figures, evil magistrates, maybe a shadowy emperor or something.  It’s a dated method of story telling.  Understandable, since it was originally written in 1957, but also something I don’t want to read right now.

I might come back to this at some point, knowing what I know and skipping the back story because the premise does sound very exciting (Genghis Khan!) but it’s not going to be any time soon and I don’t want to leave the book unreviewed on NetGalley.  I attempted it.  I made it through 70 dense pages or so.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who provided a copy in exchange for review.  A Hero Born can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?

Book Review: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Rating:  ★★★★

I have no idea how to even begin describing this.  The publisher’s described as Orwellian and I suppose it is very Orwellian in tone, but the plot and world building are very different than 1984.

The premise is this: on an unnamed island, things sometimes “disappear”.  If the islanders don’t rid themselves of the things that disappear, the Memory Police may raid their house to take the items away.  Eventually the people forget all about the disappeared-thing (for example, if flowers disappear people stop remembering that flowers ever existed and don’t even know the meaning of the word).  But some people don’t forget.  Those people are eventually discovered by the Memory Police and taken away, never to be seen or heard again.

So we follow an unnamed protagonist as she navigates this surreal landscape and things and people disappear around her.  It’s a meandering sort of story that ultimately feels largely allegorical, but no matter how hard I think about what the story might mean I keep coming up empty handed (aside from the obvious message about memories).

The writing and the translation (done, I believe, by Stephen Snyder) are beautifully done.  It doesn’t seem like anything special at first, and I don’t recall any passages that made me think: ‘I need to save this for my review!’.  But at the same time it kept me consistently engaged despite the slow pacing and plot.  It whisked me away and offered me an escape.  Albeit, to a rather depressing sort of place, but I often had a hard time putting it down and found myself eager to keep going.

The characters will also stick with me for quite awhile.  This is fairly impressive considering the amount of distance placed between them and the reader.  None of them have names.  One is Old Man.  The other is simply R.  Other characters are identified by their professions.  The hatmaker.  The neighbors.  Mother or Father.

The main character is a novelist, and we are given glimpses of her WIP through out.  To be honest, I didn’t feel these parts added much to the overall novel.  The story itself largely mirrors what our protagonist is going through and didn’t reveal much else about the story.

I also will say I wasn’t a fan of the ending.  I can’t really expand on this without spoilers so I’ll avoid discussing it too much, but as I approached the end I remember thinking there weren’t enough pages to wrap up the story and while there is definite closure it was a disappointing sort of closure without much explanation.

The entire novel is ambiguous which is why I think I’m taking less issue with it than the last few ambiguously ended books I’ve read.  Everything is sort of surreal and dreamlike and the reader is just expected to take it at face value.  *shrugs*

For the most part I really enjoyed this and will likely check out other works by this author in the future.  I don’t think it will be a book for everyone and I don’t foresee myself recommending it often – but I think for some readers it could be an enjoyable literary diversion.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC for review.  The Memory Police can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR 2019

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

TTT-NEW

Since I jumped the gun on this week’s post for childhood favorites, (which can be found here, in case you want to compare and contrast) I figured I’d play catch up a little and talk about my summer TBR.  I don’t know how many of these I’ll get to-  I’m way over committed and feeling totally overwhelmed, but I’m going to give it the good old college try.

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington – I’ve already started this, and am actually mostly enjoying it even though my progress is slow.  Hoping to have a review up before it releases toward the end of the month!

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass – I’ve already started this one too (because when you get hung up on The Queens of Innis Lear, you just read everything else until you beat the slog) and it is such a breath of fresh air!  It feels like the first fantasy I’ve enjoyed all year.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig – I’ve had this on hold at the library for three months (at least).  I wasn’t lucky enough to snag an ARC but it’s okay.  It releases tomorrow and I’m fully expecting it to take precedence over everything else.  I just hope I enjoy it more than I enjoyed its comp title, The Stand, which I read earlier this year and wasn’t a big fan of.  I’m reasonably confident that Wanderers pulls the things I liked about The Stand and leaves out what I didn’t love about it, so my excitement level remains high.

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Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis – I forget why I added it, but it’s a buddy read for my virtual book club right now so I’m reading a story before bed every night.  The stories themselves are super inventive but also depressing.  Not sure how I feel about it yet.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville – Buddy read scheduled for July 9th.  I have one week to read 4 books.  This is going well.  (Send. Help.)  I’m finally ready for another Mieville.  The only book of his I’ve read so far is Kraken, and it was really weird (weird is good, I like weird), but I’m hoping this will be easier to digest at 200 something pages.  I think it’s also one of his higher rated books.

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova – This is an odd one for me.  It has a lot of buzz words that usually make me pass: dragons, clockwork, magic, organ market… (what can I say, I guess I prefer low fantasy) but it also has a lot of buzz words that make me scream yes: thief, assassin, lowest rungs of society… It was 99 cents not too long ago on Kindle, the reviews are pretty good, and a buddy read was proposed, so I guess only time will tell.

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – I’ve read the first chapter of this.  It looks and sounds like a straightforward fantasy, but it’s actually more like science-fantasy, and I sort of love it.  I’m looking forward to reading more.

Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess

Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess – This book has probably one of the most intriguing blurbs I’ve ever read.  One world is destroyed and a lucky few are invited to hop into an alternate reality created from a schism circa 1924.  The MC has trouble adjusting to this new New York, where a science fiction author died young and never wrote his masterpiece.  I’m worried that there isn’t enough plot here to keep the book going, but I read the first chapter and it sucked me in right away so I’m hoping that’s a good sign.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa – A translated Japanese classic reminiscent of 1984, I’m really looking forward to this. I just hope the translator is up to snuff.

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden – Another Big Brother-esque novel about the dangers of Social Media.  I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book FOREVER.  Since the advent of the selfie and Facebook, I’ve been wondering when someone would get around to writing this.  I absolutely can’t wait to read it.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – A book for book lovers about the magic of books.  Plus the cover is really pretty.

Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence

Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence – This is the sequel to One Word Kill.  I won it in a GoodReads giveaway but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I’m curious to see where the mystery goes (and also hope the ending is better than the ending I inferred from One Word Kill).

The Institute by Stephen King

The Institute by Stephen King – Happy birthday to me!  I had to end it here.  The Institute comes out on my birthday and is the book I’m most excited about.

This is way more than 10, and still only a fraction of what I’m hoping to get read, but that covers most of the major ones.  Are any of these on your summer TBR?