Wednesday, February 25, 2015

This Shattered World - Review

Well, I finally got to read the highly anticipated sequel to These Broken Stars, written by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. I absolutely loved the first book and I'm pleased to say that while it's not quite as good as the first, This Shattered World is a sequel worthy of its predecessor's striking beauty.

The first thing you should know is this story is not a direct sequel. It is instead, and I much prefer it this way, a connected sequel. Basically you get the same universe, a new story related to the first and new main characters. (For other series that do this really well check out Red Wall and the Chronicles of Narnia for Middle Grade readers. I'm not aware of any other good ones so if you know one let me know in the comments below). For this fact alone I must applaud these two talented authors. In a world filled with three and seven book "cycles" all featuring the same characters, and in most cases the same story over and over again (*cough* Hunger Games *cough*) simply going against the norm and the formula of "success" is worthy of praise.

It works nicely for the story too.

Now for those who haven't read the first book (and you should. It is sooooo good.), don't be thrown off by the rather silly cover. There is very little gazing to a point and angstilly reaching as clothing spontaneously falls from the characters god-like bodies. In fact, there is none of that. It's an adventure/science fiction story with elements of military fiction and romance sprinkled in there. It follows the hardened soldier Jubilee and a rebel leader Flynn as they try to solve the problems of the swamp world of Avon (mentioned several times in the first book).

This leads to one of the three shortcomings--if you can call them that. First, the character relationship theme is the same as These Broken Stars. Two people from different social worlds who initially don't like each other, but learn to work together and then fall in love. I understand why they wrote it this way. It makes for easy conflict but it's not the most creative.

<SPOILERS>

Second,  the final solution to Avon's problems is almost identical to the end game of These Broken Stars. Combined with the repeated character theme this shows a flagging in creativity that is often seen in sequels. I can only hope that the third novel improves rather than following the same formulas

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Third, the language doesn't have the same beauty of the first book until the latter half of the novel. Perhaps it was done purposely to show the grimness of the situation, or perhaps it was the writers simply getting their literary stride so to speak. Compared to other books, it's hardly a shortcoming but I thought I'd point it out.


What to know: There is a healthy dose of violence and some gore. A few curse words are scattered in there but nothing a PG movie would shy away from. There is an implication of sex but consists of little more than mentions of someone once being a lover. There are also several minor characters with same-sex relationships that extremely conservative readers might find off putting. I was quite pleased that the main characters don't jump into bed in the middle of all the danger and drama they're caught up in. It's so much more realistic than shoehorning sex in between life-or-death situations.

Over all it's a great book. The characters are interesting, realistic and compelling. The plot grabs you and the writing is just beautiful in some places. I'm really looking forward to reading the next. If you're a fan of Firefly, Star Wars or the new Battle Star Galactica consider giving this series a read and you won't be disappointed.

~SJA

LAST GUARDIAN STANDING

This work is inspired by my current favorite video game, Destiny. Go buy it right now and we'll save the Earth from the Darkness together. Image courtesy of Bungie.




I've died so, so many times. I try to count but I simply cannot recall them all. They blend into an endless montage of pain, of dark passages and lonely wastes. Then, there is light and warmth and I return.

There was a time before, long ago, that I truly died. At least I think I did. I can't remember. No. That's not quite right. I remember bits... pieces. A cool breeze. A flavor. The sound of rain falling. But I remember them in the wrong places. On Mars when dusk falls and Venus where the air is thick and damp, and the yellow clouds spill big heavy drops that drum on the crumbling roofs. But I know men did not walk those places when I lived before. In those moments I realized I should have stayed dead, stayed bones and dust and shriveled breath. I lived my life. I shouldn't be here.

But I am here.

I am alive.

I am the only one still alive. I am the last Guardian standing.

I look out over the last city on Earth, bereft of life, and I adjust the optic on my rifle. The city is pale and silent and dead. The air smells dry, cracked. I wish I had a drink but I don't drink anymore. I don't sleep or eat or grow like other living things. I am a construct of the Light, as unnatural as any horror spawned from the Darkness.

I close my burning eyes and try to remember something beyond this time, this place and the most recent battles of this endless war--but the memories slide away like oil atop water. It makes me feel empty. I am hollow and worn thin.

I resume my vigil atop the great spire, sparing a glance up at the huge cracked orb of the Traveler overhead. The white skin gleams dully in the noon sun, a harsh contrast to its exposed black flesh that faces the city. It hangs silent and unmoving as it's hung for centuries. I used to scream up at it when I first found myself alone. I begged for help, for allies, for answers. It never answers though. It's dead. Like I should be. Like I will be. Like the others are.

Motion in the corner of my eye. I swing my massive rifle around and focus through the scope. My finger caresses the hair trigger. A flock of birds alights, their black feathers iridescent in the sunlight.

I relax.

I'm safe for now. But not forever.

Any day now, any hour, any minute, the Darkness will test the city's defenses and find them lacking. Then there will be one last battle--brief and brilliant--and the Light will finally vanish from the Universe. I do not know why the test has not come yet. Part of me hopes the Darkness was finally destroyed in that last battle at the Reef but I can't imagine it was. There were so many enemies. So many.

Yet here I still am, inexplicably alone in a city of dead ghosts.

I've thought of running out into the void, fleeing from destruction the way the Traveler did. But I stay, partly because I recognize the futility, partly because I don't like the idea of running, partly because this planet, this city is where I died before. It's where I'll die again. Maybe this time, I'll stay bone and dust.

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~SJA