Monthly Archives: March 2012

Review #26 Climate of Change

Climate of Change by Piers Anthony

I’ve read most of the books that Piers Anthony has written, having devoured the first three books of the Xanth series early in my teens.  Climate of Change is the latest in his Geodyssey series that began with Isle of Woman in 1993.  The Geodyssey series is historical and anthropological fiction as each book takes on a series of characters that recur in various permutations and incarnations across the span of human history.  Each section features a different time period and geological age, but a common theme runs through the book along with the characters.  These links have grown more complex along the way from Isle of Woman, which featured two main characters, to Climate of Change, which features two separate families and seven characters that intermingle in various combinations as the tales unfold across the ages.

This series has always been very graphic and sexual in nature, partly due to the anthropological elements of studying how humans formed relationships, tribes and ultimately civilizations.  Climate of Change is no different from the other 4 books that came before it, except for one thematic undercurrent which runs throughout the entire novel, whether it actually occurs or is merely a risk in each different story.  While Rape is indeed a part of our human history, the graphic way in which it is portrayed over and over again, or implied as something about to happen to one of the teenage characters “right on the verge of womanhood” was intensely disturbing to me as a female reader. Descriptions of how the young women showed their flesh to entice a man, distract them or inadvertently cause their discomfort and arousal reminded me all to sadly of the “she was asking for it” argument one often hears.

Most of Piers Anthony’s novels are sensitive and empathetic… but this one just left me feeling slightly sick at heart. Perhaps I am more sensitive to this as I try to raise two grounded daughters in this era of overt sexuality.  The questions raised about how our planet needs to adapt to survive and the intriguing glimpses into other cultures and other eras are both valid and captivating.  Unfortunately, Climate of Change made me feel as if I was reading someone’s forbidden pornographic fantasies instead of watching history come alive through the words of the talented writer I know Piers Anthony to be.

Hardcover format, 446 pages, published in 2010 by Tor

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Review #25 Delirium by Lauren Oliver

The Hunger Games trilogy’s success has spawned a whole slew of dystopian society novels trying to grab a piece of this trendy readership pie.  I am far more critical of this phenomenon having lived through it already for both Harry Potter and Twilight.  Every time a writer creates something unique that catches on, writers and publishers alike seem to flood the market with similar offerings.

I found Delirium, by Lauren Oliver, on a table at Chapters with a buffet of other dystopian novels and a sign that read “If you loved Hunger Games… try these!” The photoshop montage cover that has become so affordable for publishers to produce (instead of the older tradition of hiring an illustrator) did little to make the book stand out from its companions, but the first part of the back jacket copy caught my attention.

“They say that the cure for LOVE will make me happy and safe forever.  And I’ve always believed them. Until now.”

Intrigued, I picked up the book and began to skim through the first chapter.  The first person narrative and writing style was gripping enough that I decided to add it to my basket.

Delirium is an easy read.  The writing style is simple yet highly descriptive.  The premise around which the novel is based, that love is a disease that must be cured and eradicated, is griping enough for most of us that it lures the reader on.  The awakening of a sense of individuality in the main characters, so threatening to any strictly governed society, is both poignant and captivating.  There were a few moments that felt a bit too overblown to me, too Romeo and Juliet or Edward and Bellaish… until I  remembered the emotional highs and lows of my own teen years.

Lauren Oliver does a great job of creating a rich and detailed background against which her story can take place.  Her limited range of characters are developed enough that you come to care about them as the tale unfolds.  The plot twists are clever and well planned.  As Delirium raced towards its conclusion, I found myself checking ahead to see how many pages were left with a touch of dread.  Sure enough, the ending felt abrupt and dissatisfying.  Like Matched, one of the other dystopian YA novels I’ve already reviewed, the story seemed to rely a bit too much on setting up the next book and leaving loose ends rather than creating a world and a tale that left the reader wanting more because of how well it was crafted.  The preview for Pandemonium, the next book in the trilogy (really? It’s a trilogy?) was OK… and I will probably pick it up if I see it on sale… but if this first paperback format is released to sell me two HARDCOVER books afterwards… I think I will pass.

Paperback format, 441 pages, published in 2011 by Harper

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Review #24 A Madness of Angels

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin was one of the strangest books that I’ve read lately… and yet incredibly captivating. The hardest thing for me to adjust to, after a lifetime of being the reader that begged to “just finish this chapter”, was the way the book was broken into huge sections rather than chapters. The narrative also took some getting used to because it unfolds as you read it. Like the movie “Memento” where the character has short-term memory loss and is trying to reclaim his life, Matthew Swift knows very little about what has happened to him. He remembers being hurt and dying, yet now he is back, his eyes have changed to a brilliant blue colour… and he is not alone in his own body. This would be a lot for one man to take in and process under any circumstance… but Matthew is also an urban sorcerer in the heart of London and someone has sent a terrible shadow named Hunger to hunt him down.

My husband is more of an informational reader, but every so often a book comes along that grabs his attention. He found this hardcover book in a bargain bin and the book store over the holidays and was completely drawn in by both the tale and the unique narrative style. It was also a fun read for him since we’d been to London a few years ago and he could picture some of the places quite vividly. As soon as he finished the book, I added it to my pile while he hunted down Kate Griffin’s two sequels to this tale.

Despite the odd absence of chapters, A Madness of Angels sweeps the reader along as they try to figure out who and what has been behind the attacks on Matthew Swift. Griffin’s way of describing how urban magic works is novel, engaging and even plausible… which I appreciated as a detail oriented reader. The numerous plot twists and possible outcomes kept me guessing until the bitter end and the story’s conclusion wrapped things up nicely. If you like your tales of magic and mystery urban, edgy and slightly unconventional, then you will thoroughly enjoy A Madness of Angels. Let’s see how  Griffin does with the next two tales in the series…

Hardcover format, 458 pages, published in 2009 by Orbit Books

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Review #23 Sunburst by Phyllis Gotlieb

My favourite book of all time was written the year before I was even born. My copy of Sunburst is yellow with age and bears the astonishing price of 40 cents on the cover.  Some of the pages are starting to rip, so I read it each time with the utmost reverence and the shiver of apprehension that someday the book will fall completely apart.

Perhaps the  lines from the first page drew me in… “She was still a very tall cranelike girl, rather sallow, with narrow torso in a navy sweatshirt and long bluejean legs like articulated stovepipes.”  It is Shandy Johnson’s thirteenth birthday at the beginning of the book.  I was the same age when I first opened the pages of Sunburst and 6’2” in my bare feet. I  fell head over heels into this adventure about a community outside Chicago that had been closed off from the rest of the world after a nuclear accident at their plant.  Years later, just as the danger seemed to be fading came the terrible and violent night that revealed the radiation had caused a deeper mutation in children of the plant workers.  Some of them had developed psi powers that allowed them to read minds, teleport, twist metal and more.  Their rage sweept through Sorrel Park, forming them into a pack of frustrated, delinquent teens who were stopped and ultimately placed in the only prison that will hold them… a place that became known as The Dump.

Sunburst opens 8 years later on the day of Shandy’s birthday when Jason Hemmer, the Dumper’s Peeper who patrols Sorrel Park looking for people with rogue psi powers, whistles at her because she has something even rarer… she is an Imper… impervious to having her mind read or even sometimes being noticed.  Shandy is brought in for observation unwillingly yet soon becomes embroiled in the lives of those trying to protect Sorrel Park.  She is swept along as she tries to figure out who she is becoming and how her own unique abilities will be able to help those she is beginning to care about.

Phyllis Gotlieb, Canadian science-fiction novelist and poet, passed away in 2009 at the age of 83.  Sunburst was her second novel and her Sunburst Award continues to recognize and honour one speculative fiction novel or book-length collection every year.

Sunburst is short by today’s book standards and yet it contains all of the key ingredients for a true classic: strong characters, a unique setting, captivating plot twists and a rich, satisfying ending that allows a reader to wander off imagining other possibilities.  Every time I read this book, I am ensnared by the tale. I remember the sensation of feeling different , like you don’t quite belong, that Shandy wrestles with and which Phyllis Gotlieb does such a wonderful job of expressing. That alone makes this story timeless and powerful for any teenager.

Paperback format, 160 pages, published in 1964 by Fawcett Publications

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