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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Eden (Eden, #1) - Keary Taylor 2.5 starsFrom Variety.com: ‘a dystopian thriller described as a cross between "The Hunger Games" and "The Terminator."’O RLY?I expect a little hyperbole in these blurbs, so I did read that with a grain of salt. However, I do feel that this book was a case of a good idea that was ultimately let down by its execution. While the opening piqued (more on this word later) my interest, I found it steadily waned as the plot progressed. I’ll be intentionally vague in this review in the interests of keeping it spoiler free – though some of the twists are not all that difficult to predict – but if I had to boil it down I’d say that this book is attempting to say something about what it means to be human, to survive and to love. Emphasis on the love. The story is ostensibly related from the viewpoint of Eve, an eighteen-year-old survivor of the Fall – in which cybernetic technology has spread like an infection and turned 98% of the population into killer robots. I phrase it that way because for a first person narrative, there are some weird jerks in the flow of the story, descriptions of things Eve can’t possibly see (the expression in her own eyes) and things she can’t possibly know (what’s running through someone else’s mind). Eve is living with a small enclave of humans named “Eden”, perpetually on the lookout and on the move from Hunters and their insatiable hunger to convert human flesh into wires and metallic parts via nanobots. (While this process is briefly explained near the beginning of the novel, I can’t say I ever fully grasped the logistics of it). The human race as we know it has all but fallen, cities emptied of people and overrun with single-minded robots. Eve, who remembers nothing of her life before her arrival at Eden at around age thirteen, is dedicated to the protection of her community – an archetypal kick-ass heroine who can out-fight, out-run, out-work just about everyone. Resident twenty-five year old ‘doctor’ Avian may or may not be drawing closer to Eve. Enter mysterious stranger West. Cue love triangle. Roll drama. I’m not opposed to love triangles when they’re well developed and interesting. And while this one worked to an extent, in that Taylor keeps her cards close to her chest and Eve’s ultimate decision is not blatantly obvious, it takes up a large part of this story and is, in a word, laboured. If you find love-triangle related angst unenjoyable to read – I can’t recommend this book to you as it will probably irritate you no end. Eve pinballs from Avian to West, kissing one, wanting to kiss the other, wishing she hadn’t kissed the first, fighting with the other, attempting to ignore them both, more kissing, lamenting the difficulty of her decision, angsting over kissing someone she doesn’t trust and so on and so on, rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, a by-product of all this back and forth and indecision is that the plot feels relegated to second place. As the focus zeroes in on Eve’s emotional growth (I use that term loosely) the book seems to get bogged down, and there’s a flaccid mid section that seems to serve only to create situations for Eve to alternatively kiss and fight with her love interests. Additionally, Eve herself becomes more and more frustrating a character. While there’s some explanation for this I find it hard to believe that Eve’s years of staunch loyalty, protectiveness and distrust of outsiders would evaporate so quickly, that she would knowingly put her community in danger, regardless of how attractive the guy is and how apparently overwhelming the desire to be near him. Besides this, there were some flaws that were distracting – from typos (peaked instead of peeked, pealed instead of peeled), to larger inconsistencies in Eve’s knowledge and grasp of pre-Fall life, and questions around the device used by humans to check for the infection. (I can’t say much more on that point without spoiling, suffice to say that I don’t feel they were addressed adequately). I'll also bring up here the issue of the science, which I simply never bought. Sure, I'm no expert, but it felt flimsy to read. For example, the excepts from the notebook were incredibly dumbed down and difficult to take seriously as the record of highly complex experimentation. The climax regains some of the lost momentum and becomes more action-oriented. It is a little jarringly out-of-nowhere and convenient (Oh, look! Here’s the answer we’ve been looking for!), but those less persnickety than me about that may find it sufficiently gripping. Taylor throws in the mother of all frustrating tropes – note: here lies a MAJOR SPOILER Gasp! We might be brother and sister! Fortunately, that turns out to be a red herring, or else I would have been massively annoyed by the whole deus ex machina nature of the love triangle resolution. I have been a little tough on this book – after all, for all my grievances with the overworked romance element – it’s an interesting, fun premise and I can see how it would lend itself to a Michael Bay type action movie, if you like that sort of thing. However, I can’t help but feel let down by this book and the amount of potential that went unrealised. Less focus on the Eve’s romantic entanglements and a more convincing explanation of the world and human survival against the odds would have been welcome. For those who don’t mind a heavily romantic storyline, it does make for an entertaining way to pass a couple of hours.