For my latest read, I chose something that a member of Goodreads group was mentioning being on sale. The idea seemed interesting and so I went for it, even though it was not something in the center of my attention when it comes to (sub)genres. The book is a mixture of post-apocalyptic, folklore, urban fantasy and maybe more.
It might be quite strange jumble as my blog is partly about reading books, partly about hiking and partly about writing. It might seem that this trio does not come together that much. Yet, for me, it does. In this post, I will share how.
So, my first self-published sci-fi read, and seems that my luck for choosing books that will take my attention is not running out, yet. This one is harder to review without spoilers, but I’ll try my best.
The book starts in what seems to be PoV of a robot or cyborg, which was new experience for me. It sets up the story well, describing the situation on Earth nearing its last stand. Humanity tried to find new homes with space travel but in the process hastened Sun’s lifecycle and sent it towards the rad dwarf phase faster than it would be naturally. As result, the life is now limited to a few cities in domes that block the deadly radiation from much stronger sun and one underground city, Subterra.
It also shows that cyborg-like ARs are remotely directed (not directly controlled, only being given instructions over radio) law enforcement units, which includes the PoV character. Things starts to get weird as it seems said cyborg is getting memories and gaining some degree of free will, leading to this line:
Could it be that someone had compromised my programming? But then how would that let me internally debate the issue?
Then the story gets to reveal that there’s much more going on and that the ARs are more than just cyborgs (not saying the details to avoid spoilers). It is revealed that the Subterran rebels are trying to reveal what is behind their missing people, the ARs and in a chain of events, they lead to even worse revelations. Which is probably all I can say without spoilers.
There are some things I feel like I should mention. First is that despite the quite nasty things that are found in labs by the end don’t go into too nasty details yet show well enough the depravities done by leaders that want to stay in high places at any cost.
Second is that I found this book by quite some chance – I rarely looked at Goodreads giveaways as (by that time) they were limited to paperback only outside of USA (for which kindle giveaways were still in beta). I found out this one and after a quick look, I eventually added it to my potential TBR list, where it waited for just 6 months, which is not that much considering the list’s size.
Third is that I wondered if the name is, in any way, inspired by the movie Total Recall (though I only saw the 2012 version). In conclusion, it is well possible, there is the theme of getting memories back slowly while being thrown into action (again, can’t say much more without spoilers).
In conclusion, the story has potential and I’ll be waiting for the sequel(s).
Significant part of my blog presence is writing reviews of books I read and at the end of the post, rating them as well. As someone who looks at reviews and to some point ratings when choosing my next read (more about that process some next time), I decided to share a bit how I do that.
First, I understand that the process is subjective for every individual reader and different people will look for different things in books, which will affect the rating and that is discounting the fact that one might choose a books that’s outside of one’s preferences or even out of comfort zone – which will most likely impact the reading experience.
I also have to say that I am quite easily pleased reader. Make me interested in the story and the ending, avoid obvious plot holes and “WTF?!” moments and it’s quite likely I’ll give 4+ of 5 when using Amazon/Goodreads scale. Now, on to some details. Long post incoming.
A question I pondered a few times is: what is a good ending? Eventually, I realized that there are several factors, and that is even for the outcome. “…and they lived happily ever after” might sound like a good ending, but it will help none if it’s reached in a way that makes it feel out of place.
One of the factors is surely satisfaction. I believe that many people stick with a story to see the bad guy defeated and the problems that arose solved. How the story is told is great part and I would say that the more you can hate the antagonist, the more satisfaction you get from finally seeing him meet the deserved end.
Satisfaction is good, but the bad guy’s defeat is just a part of it. How the story ends is about more than just that. What went on through the story should be reflected by the ending – it would be weird if a land decimated by wars would suddenly turn into “everything is all nice” with his death, forgetting the destruction. Rebuilding takes time and the outcome should probably reflect that if the damage done was massive.
This goes with what I mentioned above. It’s pretty much inevitable that characters will die on their way to defeating the antagonist, but even those need to have some sense. I believe that death of each characters should have some point to drive the story forward – to make or break someone. The cost of victory should be related to the power of enemy being fought. Too easy victory will make it look like the problem was inflated, but too high cost could be problem as well.
This also opens opportunities for selfless acts of heroes, going as far as the ultimate sacrifice. In a post I made in 11/2017, I mentioned Kyle Reese from Terminator movie as my favorite example. I might even get back to this topic at some point and make a post more about what I think in this regard.
Balance of power
During a struggle, let alone war, factions with different aims will appear and influence those around. When a faction meets its end, they leave an empty spot that someone will, sooner or later, try to fill. Struggles to take hold of this power vacuum can be base for sequels, but leaving obvious loose ends unresolved will only result in disappointment, more so if the end hints that there will be no sequel but leaves unanswered questions.
So, in conclusion, what matters for the ending (and affects my review and rating) is how much sense the ending makes. If the ending is sad but makes complete sense and the story was done really well, the rating will be high.
If the story leaves several loose ends, more so if they are left to be unresolved, even the happiest ending in the world will not save me from taking % off, no matter how much I might wish for the main characters to live happily forever.
I followed reading the final book in the trilogy the day after reading the second book. Compared to the second one, the PoV shifts are not that numerous or sudden, but that is great part due to the story converging in two places: around Wulfric and around Rodulf.
Rodulf keeps his scheming and takes it to the next level, resulting to multitude of atrocious acts. Adalhaid is finishing her studies with plan to leave the city as soon as she finishes what Aethelman could not, knowing that she’d not be safe remaining around if she succeeded (and would probably not live long if she failed). She has some obstacles in the way, partially due to the headmistress having some aversion to Northlanders.
In the meantime, Wulfric returns from his journey overseas only to end up tangled in a messy webs of politics and traitors. And as it tends to be, he just can’t kill those, no matter how reasonable his suspicions are, without a proof his enemies are not willing to give.
He is lured away from the city on a quest to find a blade worthy of a hero, realizing it’s a trap but having no choice. He gets some insight and understanding on the way and just as he returns, the story seems to be getting to the finale… which it would be, if not for the narrative, as I mentioned in my review of the second book. It is here when it shows as trouble. When you know that some characters will survive, it kills the surprise.
I also though some characters maybe deserved a bit better end (no spoiler to who) and that the ending, shifted several years later, is quite anticlimactic. One would expect that after dealing with an uprising led by traitor, a monarch aiming for peace would do all in his power to have all the schemers, and especially the head, searched and dealt with at any cost, yet it is not the case here.
The good part was in the head Intelligencier (that’s how the inquisitor-like sect is called) who shows compassion for the sake of his family, realizing that despite what many would think not all magic is bad.
My final verdict for the book, and the whole series, is that it was great read that sucked me in, but could be much better if not for the spoiler-ish narration.
Also, I guess this will lead to me writing blog posts about some topics I wanted to cover: my thoughts about PoV/narration and my thoughts about what is (or not) good or satisfactory ending.
As I mentioned at the end of my review of “Wolf of the North“, I was tempted to get into the sequel right away, but for reasons delayed that. The story was captivating, so I blazed through the second book in two days, but it had its issues.
Given how the first book ended, with Wulfric at the run (both away from Leondorf and towards his revenge), Aethelman with is own goal, Rodulf scheming more and Adalhaid with her own choices to make, there were many sub-stories to follow.
That itself would not be an issue, but how the PoV shifts were handled was troublesome, often changing several times in a single chapter, something that might confuse some readers. Worst, these plot parts were happening at different places, detached enough that just following one character for a while would be enough – there was no hint that they happened at the same time to require these abrupt shifts (except when they converged, of course). Personally I’d guess they were supposed to build suspense but I did not feel it that way.
The book also showed why I don’t like books told in this kind of retrospective with shifts to the narrator retelling the story much later, for one reason: it is easy way to spoilers, which was the case in this book. As enjoyable as it was, since maybe half of the second book, it turned from “how it will end?” to “how it’ll get there”, which is quite a pity.