leedock’s CBR-III Review #41-“The Declaration” – Gemma Malley

The YA version of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Longevity drugs now allow everyone to live forever. With a finite number of resources, your immortality comes at a cost. Sign the declaration, forgo having children, and you can live forever.  Illegal children become “Surplus” and are institutionalized in vocational orphanages that are geared to making them “useful” in some way to society, generally as servants to the Legals. The parents are imprisoned.

Anna Surplus is eager to begin working  to “pay back” the world for her existence. As she is reaching the age of a “Valuable Asset”, her world is shattered by a new boy, Peter, who knows her real name and her parents.

The premise here is interesting, but the execution..not so much. It picks up a little at the end, as those books belonging to a series generally do, but not enough to warrant me getting another one. Conceiving of a world with very few children in it is the meaty part of the story, but is only touched on peripherally.  A world trudging along with what will eventually amount to a single generation is frightening. With no new blood, no new perspectives what sort of stagnant planet would earth become?

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leedock’s CBR-III Review #40-“The Death Cure” – James Dashner

The end of CBR-III seems to also be the wrap up for the bazillion trilogies (Well, 7, not counting the series without a determined number of installments. I am prone to hyperbole.) that I have read this year. Inevitably I am sucked in by the first, bored a little by the second and generally pacified, if not wholly satisfied, by the third.

Impossible not to be a little bit spoilery here, so proceed with caution.  (See Maze Runner & Scorch Trials)

WICKED finally comes clean that the maze, scorch trials and general sadistic rigmarole that the kids were subjected to was a way to SAVE THE EARTH. All of the “participants” were already infected with the Flare disease that the earth succumbed to after the sun flares hit, but somehow, they remain immune. By studying the brain waves of “munies” while they are subjected to off the chart stress, they think they can come up with some kind of serum to stop the Flare and its progression. In the last phases of development, WICKED claims, they offer to return everyone’s memories to them which involves some sort of invasive brain procedure. Thomas isn’t buying it.

Most of the book consists of Thomas, once again, unsure who to trust. Characters with ambiguous loyalties return again and he must decide which of them can help him lead the Gladers to safety.

The most interesting question that weaves through all three books is Thomas’s past association with WICKED and the fact that it was his idea to have them erase his memories and insert him in the test group. I was hoping that would be a little more fleshed out here, but it is still a murky he said/she said/they said situation without any real resolution. Hopefully Dashner has a prequel in the works because Thomas’s struggle with who he was and who he has become rises above the group trials dynamic. Did he once have complete faith in the cure enough to sacrifice himself to the trials? I’m not sure I’m buying it.

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leedock’s CBR-III Review #39-“Twisted” – Gena Showalter

Sweet Lord. I read another one.(See previous shame here)

Guilty pleasure does not begin to describe these books and my subsequent shame at reading them. Damn you, Showalter and Border’s going out of business sale!  Her kitchen sink approach to YA paranormal romance is filling up the disposal very quickly but I cannot seem to flip the switch to rid myself of it. Yet.

Like its predecessors, “Twisted” is a hodge podge of everything. Was it enough for poor Aden to have a head full of lost souls each with their own supernatural abilities? NO. Was it sufficient for him to fall in love with a vampire and befriend a werewolf and a life force drainer? Clearly not. We shall make him a vampire/possessed human hybrid and we shall do so in an extremely convoluted fashion that completely disregards continuity.  A plot line that makes “Lost” seem completely cohesive and satisfying.  This one almost broke me, so I have maybe one more in me before I can crawl to the clinic for whatever placebo will get me off this junk.

I think it is the campiness, that I am still not sure is intentional, that brings me back to the wellspring of these cracky tomes. It is the same reason that I watch “Pretty Little Liars.” There is no hope for me.

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leedock’s CBR-III Review #38-“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” – Brian Selznick

An embittered old toy maker and an orphaned boy both hiding themselves from the world.

When Hugo’s guardian never fails to return home from a typical drunken evening, he is left alone in the bowels of the Paris train station clockwork. Keeping the clocks running as his uncle did, in order to evade the Station Master and the promise of a certain institutionalization, Hugo is left to fend for himself. His only solace is his dead father’s notebook and the mechanical man he saved from ashes of a burning museum. Desperate to know what the machine will write with its mechanized hand, he gradually rebuilds the machine with gears pilfered from the toy shop owner in the train station. His quest to uncover what he thinks is a message from his lost father incurs the wrath of the toy maker and the friendship of the strange girl who is the old man’s ward.

Selznick’s ethereal tale is perfectly rendered as much through words as illustration. Told nearly half through written word and half through beautiful pencil drawings, the world of Hugo and the toy maker unravels gradually as each begrudgingly comes to terms with their own situations. A brief little melancholy story well worth the read.

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leedock’s CBR-III Review #37-“Goliath” – Scott Westerfeld

In a world where a perspicacious loris has it all figured out and the bowler hat is seemingly the international accessory for scientists, the Leviathan trilogy reigns. The conclusion to Westerfeld’s trilogy (see Leviathan and Behemoth), is an inventive spin on the First World War and a Shakespearean love story looking through the rose-colored goggles of steam punk.

That kooky Tesla is back wielding an even bigger weapon, the Goliath, that supposedly draws its energy from the earth’s core. Its destructive force may be enough to end the war if you can put your faith in a madman. Huzzah, the greater good!

Alex, Deryn/Dylan and the crew of the Leviathan are back and busy rescuing Tesla from starving Russian bears, averting a potentially fatal misunderstanding with Pancho Villa and unwittingly becoming stars of print and screen. While there is a lot of gun play and aeronautic acrobatics, this story is more about the underlying love story of Alex and Deryn.  When a nosy American reporter discovers that Dylan is really Deryn posing as a boy in order to serve with the British Air Service, she must face the possibility that she will be seen as a humiliation to the men she serves with and nothing but a lovesick commoner to the boy she loves.

These stories are flat-out fun.  The more serious themes of gender bias, class and war are  always tempered by an impossible machine or outrageous fabricated beast around every corner. Westerfeld has truly created an unforgettable world.

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leedock’s CBR-III Review #36-“The Curse of the Wendigo” – Rick Yancey

The second in a series and the first is reviewed here. The stuff of nightmares, to be sure, but beautifully written. Yancey describes these books as a “love story disguised as a monster story”. Very dysfunctional love. Very horrifying monsters.

When Dr. Warthrop’s mentor intends to address the Monstrumology conference with a call to embrace so-called “mythical” creatures in the arms of their scientific study, he begins to pen a rebuttal denying the existence of such creatures (vampires, zombies, werewolves). In his attempt to save his beloved science from illegitimizing itself with folklore, Warthrop’s defense takes him from his laboratory to the Canadian wilderness to the filth and corruption of 1888 New York. Always in tow is his young assistant, Will Henry, whose journals tell the story of “The Curse of the Wendigo.”

The professional becomes personal when the doctor is asked to find a missing fellow scientist and friend in Canada after he disappears while investigating the ravenous man devouring “Wendigo”, one of the mythical creatures in question. The race to save his friend becomes a struggle to define what is monster and what is man. Is the Wendigo a product of a man possessed by something monstrous and evil or is it really just the manifestation of his own darkness taking over?

As with the first book, the gore is aplenty here, but this time I was more prepared for it. With that shock value removed, this second installment was a purer read. The characters more heart breaking, the language even richer and the struggle more poignant. Great, great book and I look forward to reading the next one.

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leedock’s CBR-III Review #35-“The Eyre Affair” – Jasper Fforde

Another gem panned from the CBR-III goldmine. I probably never would have found this one, so thanks to those of you who reviewed it before me. The past reviews of this one were mostly positive with a few mixed emotions thrown in. I completely understand both. “The Eyre Affair” creates a complex and quirky world that is both entertaining and a bit daunting. I think I did best by ceasing to wrestle with it and just enjoy the ride.

The mid-1980’s  find the Crimean War still going strong and England policed by numerous special operatives investigating everything from werewolves to forged classics. Thursday Next, a literary detective, is assigned to hunt down a former professor who has begun to kidnap characters from classical literature thereby altering the novels. When Jane Eyre is held hostage, Thursday Next must find a way to retrieve her before Bronte’s story is re-written.

Literary references abound here and I can’t help but think half of them eluded me despite my 100-year-old degree in English. Had to blow off the dust from that shelf in my brain in order to bring something to the party, but once I decided to go with it instead of over analyze it I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I will never again experience “Jane Eyre” in the same way.  Thanks goes to Thursday Next for whipping up a better ending.

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