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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Awaken (Awaken, #1) - Katie Kacvinsky Conceptually, I liked this book. The subject matter is topical, and I feel that the arguments presented are valid and worth discussion. The issues Kacvinsky conflates to build her future world will resonate with anyone who has even half a finger on the current technological pulse, or an interest in social anthropology in general. In execution, however, this novel left me with fairly lukewarm feelings. Fast forward to 2060, when escalating violence and rapid advancements in technology have caused the lives of US citizens to invert. Education and social interaction take place largely online. Private transport is uncommon. Writing longhand and paper books are practically obsolete (*gasp!*) And almost everybody is “plugged in”, armed to the teeth with phones, “flipscreens”, even “MindReaders”. There’s no longer just “an app for that”, there’s a device that will do it for you. We meet Maddie, daughter of the founder of Digital School, suffering the consequences of a past rebellion and living her life mostly within the confines of her home. Enter Justin, a mysterious online study group contact, who extends the unusual invitation to meet in person, and offers Maddie a glimpse of another kind of life.This is not a subtle book. You do not have to read between the lines, because the lines essentially leap off the page and hit you in the face. Whether through the internal musings of Maddie herself, or via Justin’s eloquent speeches – he occasionally sounds more like a travelling sage than a 20 year old guy – the evils of technology gone too far are expounded loud and clear. I’d go so far as to say there isn’t really subtext here. Just text. To wit: as life becomes increasingly tied to technology and thus devoid of physical and emotional connection, it tears away at the foundation of what it is be human, and the intrinsic value of relationships. I don’t disagree with many of the sentiments that the characters / the story express. And Kacvinsky’s writing is clear with some nice, expressive turns and genuinely profound lines. Maddie is not an entirely unsympathetic protagonist and it’s pleasing to see that she takes some of her choices into her own hands. So perhaps I should simply chalk this one up to not being to my particular taste. While my interest was piqued by the beginning, I felt that the mid section of the narrative was somewhat flaccid. It paints an accurate picture of the boredom of Maddie’s restricted, virtual life – but my attention waned considerably. The pacing increases throughout the latter chapters, but I felt here that the story relied heavily on the reader’s investment in the Maddie/Justin will they/won’t they relationship to pull them through the plot, as opposed to Maddie’s actual predicament. I’ll admit that for me, the chemistry between the characters fell flat. There are "swoony" moments between them – but the constant expository, didactic dialogue was a little frustrating. In terms of the climax, it was well-paced, but relied heavily on convenient twists and pulled together rather too neatly for me to completely buy into. And while the ending leaves threads loose to be picked up in the sequel, I can’t help but feel that maybe it would be a stronger book if it stood alone. The hopeful, yet slightly melancholic note of the final pages might have reinforced the impact of the story, lingered more, had I not know that they would be picked back up and extended later. I may be alone in this opinion – I’m sure that there are plenty of readers who are eager to get reacquainted with these characters and follow their story. Awaken is well-written although what was up the sea-going car? I had to re-read that section because I thought I might have imagined it. I’m afraid that part just felt silly and unnecessary to me and poses some interesting, albeit very blunt, questions. I can see that the speculative nature of the story and the character’s relationships will be appealing to some – however the style in which the themes were delivered made this not really my kind of book.