Back with another book review, looking at the second book in the series by Luke Chmilenko, Ascend Online. Now, you can see that this is kind of the second book because it isn’t #2, but is instead #1.5. The reason for this is that this […]
Tag: Book review
I’m going to try and not go on too much of a rant against this book. I’ll just start by saying, that this is not a good book. I was not expecting this to be a good book. This is not an entertaining book. I was expecting it to at least be entertaining. I think the best way to look at this book is through the lens of the Netflix series that this is based in the same universe and talk about the differences between what works well in the series and what doesn’t work well here.
In this book, a bit of a spoiler coming up here, we get the story of Brenner and his experiments in 1969 to 1970. What we know about those from the show is that Eleven’s mother was part of those experiments back in the day. So we kind of guess that we are going to get that story and find out about the horrors of Brenner’s experiment, at least that is what the tagline tells us for the book. The tagline, if you are wonder, is “Before the demogorgon… before the mind player… terror wore a human face.”
The kids are the biggest draw to Stranger Things, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Eleven, and Will are all fun and flawed characters. They bicker, they fight, and then they make up because in the end, they are all friends. In Stranger Things: Suspicious Mind, we have four people, cool, same number as the main group, who meet at the experiment, okay, so not good friends, who them become friends, that sounds good, and never fight or disagree, wait, that’s not realistic, and are all some level of a Mary-Sue or Marty-Stu. By that, I mean these characters don’t make mistakes. They only make mistakes when it comes in how the show has actually dictated things will have to go. The heart of the characters has been ripped out in this book. There are two interesting characters who actually seem to have some development, and even with those characters, they are at times treated in ways that removes the character work that has been done to them.
We also lose the adventure feel that we get from Stranger Things, the show. Instead of getting characters trying to solve a mystery, we have our main Mary-Sue immediately be suspicious, I guess that makes sense given the title. They immediately figure out what they need, their plans keep on being thwarted, kind of, and I feel like that’s only because the Netflix series dictates that they are. If we go back to the tagline and the last part, “Terror has a human face”, this book doesn’t have suspense, let alone terror. This is a YA book, kind of, in that it really doesn’t know how to treat itself, so maybe it’s set-up as a book where it’s supposed to be suspenseful or have terror for a younger reader, but if they have seen Stranger Things, which I don’t know why they would be reading this book otherwise, this will seem like nothing. There is not a sense of satisfaction, like you get in the show, when the boys, or the teens, or the adults, eventually unravel something. Here, it just progresses as you’d expect.
Finally, the writer seems to think the most important thing in this book to make it feel like Stranger Things is Hawkins, Indiana. Or at least that is how it feels to me. That’s where the lab is, that is where Brenner is, that is where they go for the experiments. But we only really see the lab, and it could have been suspenseful if they had only been there and crazy things were happening to them, but instead, we get them going back and forth. The location is one of the least important things for making it feel Stranger Things like. The mystery, the adventure, and the friendships are what make Stranger Things, and this has the location and the bad guy and we’re expected to accept it as an entertaining book, like the show is entertaining.
One rant from me, I know I promised not to rant too much, but this one gets me. Stranger Things, the show, does a good job of sampling from a whole lot of 80’s movies, books, and TV series. You get the John Carpenter film feel, you get the Stephen King film and book nods, and so much more. But in the end, Stranger Things is it’s own show that does some of it’s own things and respectfully handles it’s nods to the materials it samples from. Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds feels like a straight up ripoff of Firestarter by Stephen King. This, of course is minus any of the suspense that King puts in, a good bad guy, like King has, and flawed characters, which King writes so well. If Stephen King wanted, I’m pretty sure that he could sue them for plagiarism with how closely this parallels what he’s written. Okay, it might not be that bad, but this feels like a sanitized version of Stephen King. If someone were to have gone through and picked out every part that could be slightly troubling or stressful in Firestarter, you’d probably still have a better book than Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds, but they would be close. And just with how it’s written, I’m not 100% sure the author knew they were ripping off Stephen King as much as they were. If they had known, it feels like they would have given a nod to it, instead of just writing something so straight forward. It feels like they knew what the show had wanted to create as a backstory for Eleven, and just went with it, not realizing that it referenced Firestarter.
Anyways, enough ranting. It’s fairly therapeutic to get that out, but I don’t want to be a website that rips on things all that often. However, I do want to give a fair view of when something is bad, that it is in fact bad so you know to avoid it. I don’t know who to blame for this book, because I really want to give the author the benefit of the doubt and put it on whatever publishing company got the license for Stranger Things novels. But, in all fairness I think there is plenty of blame to go around, and even I can probably be held to fault for thinking this might actually be an entertaining book. Books about shows tend to be pretty bad, and I should have known this. This book for me, and my recommendation for you, is a hard pass. It isn’t worth a buy, even cheap as an ebook, and it isn’t even worth checking out from a library. If you want something with the same feel, go with Firestarter, a book that I find entertaining, but isn’t even one of Stephen King’s best books.
Let me know what your thoughts are on the book if you’ve read it. Did you like it better than I did, did you know that it was ripping of Stephen King?
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It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review, that’s mainly because I’ve been reading a ton of Dresden Files recently. However, at work, I’ve been listening to the Arcane Ascension series which thus far has two books Sufficiently Advanced Magic and On the […]
So today’s book review is a little different than my usual — that’s right, folks, we’re venturing into non-fiction land! I’m notoriously bad about reading non-fiction. Give me a couple of YA books and I’ll happily read them within the space of a week, but […]
It’s getting close to Halloween time (many of you are probably of the opinion that it’s been Halloween time for a while now), and it’s feeling like the perfect time to talk about something scary. The book I have in mind is scary in kind of a non-traditional sense, but I think you’ll soon see why I picked it for a Halloween-y book review.
Across the Universe (unrelated to the Beatles song and the movie musical by the same name), is the first of a trilogy by YA author by Beth Revis. It’s one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for an embarrassingly long time. When I bought it, I picked it up because it looked intriguing, and because I was (and still am) all about dystopian stories. I knew next to nothing about it, until last month, when it became the latest victim in my quest to finally conquer all my unread books. And holy crap, you guys…I didn’t have a clue what I was in for.
When Across the Universe was published, the young adult genre was full to bursting with dystopian novels, love triangles, and vampires (oh my!). But while ATU is most certainly a dystopian novel, it’s unlike any I’ve ever read. If you know me at all, you’ll know that’s saying a lot…I’ve read just about enough dystopian novels to be able to plot my own peaceful revolution by now. And despite the fact that ATU never reached the level of popularity that a lot of its counterparts have, it definitely stands out from the crowd.
As the story begins, we meet Amy Martin, a seventeen-year-old girl who seems pretty normal, by all accounts. That is, until we find out that she and her parents are about to be cryogenically frozen so that they can be packed onto Godspeed, the most massive, longest-traveling spaceship ever built. We learn that Earth is doomed to an unnamed fate, and that Godspeed has been sent forth in hopes that it will find a new home for humanity. The ship’s destination is Centauri-Earth, a habitable, Earth-like planet in the Alpha Centauri system, lightyears upon lightyears away. And so, Amy goes under, knowing that, three hundred years in the future, she and her parents will be awoken on Centauri-Earth, which they and the other frozen travelers will help to terraform.
Or at least, that’s what was supposed to happen. Instead, Amy is awoken fifty years too soon by an unknown person who, by all appearances, was trying to kill her, but instead succeeded only in violently awakening her from cryo.
Completely disoriented, Amy soon meets Elder, the leader-in-training of the ship. The two form an instant bond, and Elder attempts to calm Amy’s fears and help her become acquainted with the ship that will be her home for the next fifty-odd years. As Amy struggles to accept the fact that she will be older than her parents the next time she sees them, she learns more about the ship she’s stuck on — and soon realizes that the ship is full of drone-like workers living under the totalitarian rule of Eldest, the ship’s leader and Elder’s tutor. She learns that the inhabitants of the ship have been living this way for generations, with only the faint hope of the unknown home they travel toward to keep them (mostly) contentedly working.
As Amy and Elder’s friendship grows, the questions Amy asks and her “odd” ways of thinking act as a catalyst. Soon, Elder begins to question everything he’s ever been taught about what’s right, what’s true, and what the best way to lead really is. Amid this confusion, Amy and Elder must work fast to discover who pulled Amy out of cryo. Will Amy and Elder find out in time, or will the mysterious murderer go on to succeed where they failed with Amy?
Across the Universe is pretty up there in terms of the best sci-fi and dystopian novels I’ve had the good fortune to read. I totally love the concept — what’s better than a giant spaceship headed off to explore an entirely new planet, I ask you? And though some of the old tropes that tend to pepper these kinds of books do show up from time to time in ATU, it had a pretty original feel to me. In addition, the protagonists, while improbably attractive, generally steer clear of the Mary Sue pitfall. They manage to be pretty believable teenagers in the midst of an outlandish scenario, and they make lots of real, foolish mistakes that have real, far-reaching consequences.
So what’s the scary part, you ask? Well, this book may be great, but it is DARK, you guys. The book starts with an excruciatingly detailed description of exactly what it feels like to be cryogenically frozen and to experience cryosleep, and…let’s just say even the prospect of an amazing new planet and incredible adventures wouldn’t be enough temptation for me to be willing to go through what Amy did. Beyond that, I invite you to contemplate the prospect of living and dying inside the confines of cold metal walls, knowing that generations upon generations before you have done the same, and that even though you may live to see a new world, you’ll be near the end of your life by the time you do. Imagine knowing that your claustrophobic existence is at odds with the impossible vastness of space that lies outside; that you are hundreds of years away from any sentient beings other than those who are as utterly trapped as you are. If you can think about that without wanting to curl up in the fetal position for a while, well…you’re a stronger person than me, that’s for sure.
I would recommend Across the Universe to any die-hard sci-fi, dystopian, and/or young adult fan. It’s the perfect book to get you thinking while simultaneously scaring the ever-loving daylights out of you and making you want to run around outside and go hug a tree or five. It’s not for the faint of heart, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading it at the onset of Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder time (like I did…when will I ever learn, you guys??); however, it’ll take you down to the depths of what it means to be human, and will pull you right back up to the heights of what we’re capable of.
I’ve now read both ATU and the second book of the trilogy, A Million Suns — I absolutely cannot wait to read the conclusion, Shades of Earth, to find out what happens next! Have you read Across the Universe? Would you choose it for your next bone-chilling read? Sound off in the comments!
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