"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Children's/YA: Pathfinder

Card, Orson Scott. Pathfinder. New York: Simon Pulse, 2010. 657 pages.

"Rigg is well trained at keeping secrets. Only his father knows the truth about Rigg's strange talent for seeing the paths of people's pasts. But when his father dies, Rigg is stunned to learn just how many secrets Father had kept from him -- secrets about Rigg's own past, his identity, his destiny. And when Rigg discovers that he has the power not only to see the past, but also to change it, his future suddenly becomes anything but certain.
Rigg's birthright set him on a path that leaves him caught between two factions, one that wants him crowned, and one that wants him dead. He will be forced to question everything he thinks he knows, choose who to trust, and push the limits of his talent...or forfeit control of his destiny." (description from back cover of book)

Overall Rating: **** (out of five)

  • Richness of Plot. It takes a great deal of talent to successfully combine to seemingly disparate stories in one novel, and reveal just enough about each that by the end of the book, the reader can see clearly how they are connected.  Not only that, but each plot is fully essential to the understanding of the other.
  • Writing. It can be difficult to find novels that combine excellent writing that can appeal to, or even challenge, advanced readers with a plot that will still appeal to a young adult audience.  Think of it as the general theme of the first Harry Potter book, a young person learning about an unknown heritage and exploring a new, but with the complexity of storytelling and general writing style present in the later Harry Potter books.

  • Characters.  While the characters are fascinating and fun to read about, readers might find Rigg, the main character, difficult to relate to.  Though his father has died and sent him off into an increasingly hostile world, he is something of a know-it-all who is in control of almost every situation.  Given the way the book ends, I can only assume that will change in the next book. It is a minor flaw, but one that might bother some readers.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Grant, Mira. Feed. New York: Orbit, 2010. 608 pages
(I read it as an e-book)

Set about 26 years after the Rising, the book takes place in a world where zombies are certainly still dangerous, but they are also a fact of life.  Bloggers, such as Georgia and Shaun Mason, are serious journalists, and journalism requires weapons testing and licensing.  It's a recognizable yet irretrievably different world.  Blood test are as common as washing your hands, and Alaska has been lost to the undead. The entire world population is infected with Kellis-Amberlee, the unintentional hybrid of the cure for cancer and the cure for the common cold that raises the dead.  While covering presidential candidate Peter Ryman, Georgia, Shaun and their blogging team discover a political conspiracy involving people who are not afraid to use Kellis-Amberlee as a weapon.

Overall Rating: **** (out of five)

  • Rich Woldbuilding.  The world of the U.S. in 2040 is not only a believable projection of what our world would be like if we combined modern technology and society with a world where zombies are the norm, but it is described with a richness that makes it real.  Comments from the characters about life "pre-Rising" helps the reader understand just how drastically the zombies have changed many aspects of life that we would take for granted.
  • Plot.  In exploring a world that has reached a sense of equilibrium with zombies, rather than one suddenly hit by a zombie apocalypse, Grant has the freedom to write a book where zombies are integral to the plot without actually being the plot. For anyone who likes meaty political conspiracy thrillers, this is definitely a book for you.
  • Scientific Grounding.  Kellis-Amberlee, the hybrid virus that causes zombies, is extremely well created.  The basis of this book in virology, how viruses behave and spread, and how society might deal with worldwide epidemic, are excellently portrayed.
  • Characterizations.  At points during the book, some of the characters are just a bit flat and static.  This is not frequent, and is usually compensated for by the quality of the plot and the other characters.  This is mostly related to Senator Ryman, as he frankly seems too good to be true at times.  As this is a fact recognized by the other characters as well, it is clearly an intentional choice, and is easy enough to overlook.
Warnings: Extreme violence and profanity, both of which are understandable when confronting zombies, but an FYI that there's a lot of both.