• Dan

#Bookreview Time


storm picture


Howdy,


It’s November––wow! Time for NaNoWriMo for the brave. Personally, I’ve never been able to knock out 50,000 words in a month. My record is 35,000, I think. Anyway, good luck to those writers who are intrepid enough to take on the challenge.


The reviews for this month are both speculative fiction, one that falls into the cli-fi subgenre of science fiction and a YA fantasy.

New York: 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson


Synopsis

Follow a motley group of characters attempting to survive and prosper in a New York City ravaged by climate change.


My Thoughts

I started this book suspicious that I wouldn’t like it. I recently tried reading Red Mars by Robinson, and I couldn’t plow through the first dozen pages or so. I don’t often DNF a book, but I did that one. All this to say, I was pleasantly surprised by New York: 2140.

The world-building is top-notch. The New York Robinson creates is very believable, eerily reminiscent of the present-day city, and absolutely frightening. Through the characters, Robinson shows us how climate catastrophe can become the new normal that we accept and adapt to.

What can the aspiring author learn?

Bottom line: world-building. New York is the most compelling character in the story. How Robinson characterizes the city is worth studying for any aspiring author, especially those interested in creating compelling science fiction or fantasy worlds.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik


Synopsis

Can El and Orion save all the young magicians from being eaten by malevolent baddies?


My Thoughts

Like its predecessor, A Deadly Education, The Last Graduate has many imperfections, but is ultimately entertaining. My biggest issue with A Deadly Education is El is an utterly unlikeable protagonist for much of the novel. However, this isn’t an issue in The Last Graduate. She is still prickly and snarky, but her abrasiveness is offset by her desire to help others, namely, protect them from the innumerable monsters inhabiting their magical school. In fact, her desire to be a savior almost goes too far.


Other issues include info dumps, secondary characters that blend together, and the monsters inhabiting the school, although described in excruciating detail, all seem more or less the same. The author is trying really hard to make this series an edgier version of Harry Potter and is falling well short.


My last issue is that the ending, while nicely setting up the third installment of the series, is predictable and left me somewhat unsatisfied. Having said all that, the novel is fast-paced, action-packed, and entertaining enough to keep me reading.


What can the aspiring author learn?

World-building is a strong point of this novel. The Scholomance, the magical school where the story takes place, is a character in and of itself. While not as magical as Hogwarts, The Scholomance possesses a twisted personality all its own.


Also, in El Novik creates a character with her own distinct voice. El is often not very likable, but she possesses a voice that is 100% her, which makes her hard to ignore.

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