- Twilight Saga–Stephanie Meyer
I know a lot of people enjoyed this book series and I understand the appeal. The book series explores a lot of insecurities teenagers’ experience: loneliness, depression, feeling left out, lacking acceptance, feeling adrift, and lacking a sense of direction. These are all valid emotional plot drivers and the narrative handles the issues pretty well. My problem is with the vampire, werewolf, and depressed teenager love triangle. Bella has very few redeeming characteristics and spends most of the time moping after Edward. She is a horrible heroine and I could not connect with her. And apparently her only love interests are a vampire and a werewolf. My biggest question is: why would a hundred something year old vampire fall for a depressed teenage girl? When did vampires become romantic leads anyways? I much preferred it when vampires were the villains and stalked everyone. Not light up like a Christmas tree in the middle of the afternoon. Also, who wants Edward and Jacob when Emmett is hanging around? I was just a little too old, cynical, and over moony vampires to fully appreciate this book in all its teenage melodramatic glory. Meyer actually has some writing ability; The Host was actually pretty good. However, I did not think the Twilight Saga was an adequate representation of Meyer’s writing talent.
Twilight, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011, ISBN 9780316015844
- Next–Michael Crichton
Next is a techno-thriller novel and the last to be published during Crichton’s lifetime. The narrative is set in the present day where the government and private corporations spend billions of dollars on genetic research. Unlike most of Crichton’s previous novels, this one follows multiple points-of-views and character storylines. Most of the development follows transgenic animals and the quest to survive in a world ruled by genetic research. Crichton wrote some iconic novels: Jurassic Park, Prey, State of Prey, The Andromeda Strain, and Congo. Unfortunately, Next does not fall into this category. The narrative is all over the place and full of unnecessary curse words. There is no main character, instead it just a collection of semi-related vignettes. The narrative arc lacks the cohesiveness of Crichton’s other novels, which is a shame because the plot is an intriguing idea. Next would have been a superb book if Crichton had picked one character/scenario and fully developed the story. Instead, Next is a bizarre mishmash of narrative arcs and I found it to be unreadable.
Next, Harper, reprint, 2008, ISBN 9780060873165
- The Last Mortal Man–Syne Mitchell
I picked this book up after finding it wedged between some other novels at the library. The back cover blurb seemed intriguing, so I decided to give it a try. While the plot sounded good, the execution is extremely flat. This book was supposed the first in a proposed trilogy, but sluggish sales nixed that plan. Sometime in the twenty-fourth century, nano- biology has radically changed the face of humanity. Entrepreneur Lucius Sterling created a trillion-dollar empire that has overcome the world’s greatest problems: poverty, disease, war, and death. But someone has developed a new technology that unravels the foundation of nano-biology; the survival of manipulated humanity is at stake. Only Sterling’s estranged grandson, Jack, can stop the destruction. The story had a lot of potential, but Mitchell focuses almost exclusively on fast-paced action. There are a lot of cliffhangers and some hard science-fiction speculation about future worlds. But the characterization if horrific, there is not a single likable character. I barely finished the book, the story really drags. Mitchell excels at writing action sequences, they are quite superb. However, her story lacks in emotional connection and dramatic timing. The book could have been a lot better.
The Last Mortal Man, Roc, 2006, ISBN 9780451460943
- Madame Bovary– Gustave Flaubert
I had to read this book for a humanities class I took in College. If I had not been forced to read it, I never would have. I am still not sure what the point of the book is, other than to hopelessly confuse and depress the reader. The story focuses on a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who conducts adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means. She does all this in order to escape from the banalities and self-imposed emptiness of her country village life. The plot is quite simple and the characters are all unlikable. According to my professor, the art of the narrative lies in the description and detailed patterns hidden within the narrative. I still have no idea what patterns he was talking about. This is one of those books everyone says is revolutionary and a masterpiece of realism. I found the narrative overly tedious and incredibly boring. Emma spends the entire novel feeling sorry for herself and wallowing in self-pity. The critics and I must have read very different books, or I just lack the cynical literary perspective needed to appreciate overly wrought pieces of banality. In other words, I really dislike this novel.
Madame Bovary, Penguin Classics, reprint, 2011, ISBN 9780143106494
- Snow– Orhan Pamuk
This was also another assigned reading from my freshman English literature appreciation class. My professor was passionate about postmodernism and depressing literature. I am still confused about the plot of this book; I just remember that everyone seems to be dead by the end. Originally published in Turkish in 2002, Snow was translated into English by Maureen Freely and published in 2004. The story discusses the political and cultural tensions of modern Turkey and uses humor, social commentary, and mysticism to explain the motivation of the characters. I think some important nuance was lost in translation. My four biggest problems with the story is: 1)the writer made himself a character, 2) the main character falls in love with every woman he encounters, 3) the story lacks cohesion, things just happen with no setup or explanation, and 4) the author never explains the driving motivation behind the protagonists and antagonists actions. Maybe I did not grasp these motivations because I do not know the societal drivers in Turkey. Also, I am not overly fond of books where the author sacrifices characterization in order to philosophize.
Snow, Vintage, 2005, ISBN 9780375706868