The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Most of the books I have come to review so far have fallen in to my hands in one of two ways: either I see the book on the shelf and because it looks interesting I pick it up, or the book is recommended to me either by a friend, family member or by the library itself. A recommendation by my local library led me to this latest novel, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Publishers Weekly probably summarized the book best when they wrote:

Starred Review. Noted short story writer Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) proves equally adept at novel length in this grim but beautifully written tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation. Capt. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai of the Thai Environment Ministry fights desperately to protect his beloved nation from foreign influences. Factory manager Anderson Lake covertly searches for new and useful mutations for a hated Western agribusiness. Aging Chinese immigrant Tan Hock Seng lives by his wits while looking for one last score. Emiko, the titular despised but impossibly seductive product of Japanese genetic engineering, works in a brothel until she accidentally triggers a civil war. This complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best, will garner Bacigalupi significant critical attention and is clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year.

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Personally, I found this book very difficult to read; I really had to struggle to get through it. I am not a fan of these kind of political type stories so I was very disappointed when I realized that’s what this was.

Now I am not saying this book is badly written – far from it in fact. The book is excellently written. The characters all inhabit a kind of gray morality, none of them being either truly a hero or a villain. They are all looking to survive in a cruel world and things like morals and rules can get in the way. There is no real winner or loser.

The plot seemed a bit erratic a first but as the book progressed you begin to realize how everything threads together. It it truly a well written book even if this kind of thing isn’t my cup of tea.

Fans of William Gibson and other authors who write of a future dystopia will enjoy this book. Also recommended for those who like a good political tale.

Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber

Today is a first here at Never Enough Books, in which I will be reviewing the sequel to a book I reviewed earlier this year. I am hoping it will be the first of many!

Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber is the second book in the Lady Darby mystery series. It takes place just two months after the first book and in it we find Lady Kiera Darby travelling to Edinburgh with her family so her pregnant sister can be closer to the medical care she needs. Along the way though, they make a much needed stop at Dalmay House and Kiera finds herself drawn once more in to a mystery.

One of Kiera’s friends from childhood, Michael Dalmay, is set to be married. The new found knowledge of Michael’s older brother’s – Lord William Dalmay –  mysterious arrival however has thrown everything in to chaos. For ten years William has been missing and presumed dead but in truth had been committed to an insane asylum by his father, the previous Lord Dalmay. Kiera is sympathetic to both men’s plight but with the news of a missing village girl and William’s mysterious ‘spells’, she cannot help but wonder if she knows the truth.

I really enjoyed this second book by Huber because while we visit characters we are familiar with, such as Lady Darby and Mr. Sebastian Gage, we are also introduced to new characters, such as the Dalmay brothers. The mystery part of the novel is not only a “Who did it?” but also a “Could he have done it?”. When the village girl goes missing, numerous clues point to the elder Dalmay brother, William. At first Kiera staunchly believes William to be innocent but circumstances cause her to wonder if perhaps she could be wrong. Another thing she must consider is that if William is indeed innocent, is someone framing him and for what purpose?

Woven within the mystery is also the continuing romance between Kiera and Sebastian Gage. Once more emotions run high and for every step forward they seem to take they also take two steps back. Once again these two do not get their happy ending and for that I am glad. All too often characters are just thrust together with little to no conflict. To see a real kind of relationship play out on the page is, at least to me, very refreshing.

The amount of detail given, not to just the characters, but to the surroundings really add to the story. Color plays a large part and it is easy to picture the vibrant colors of the fall foliage as well as the stormy gray waves of the nearby sea. Character interaction also plays a large part and has a very real feeling to it. The distinction between classes as well as genders is obvious by how individuals are treated and spoken to.

The overall tone of the book was rather melancholy, especially towards the end. It was a bittersweet kind of ending which had a very authentic vibe. Despite it all, not every story can have a happy ending.

I look forward to the next novel in the Lady Darby series with enthusiasm.

Heraclix and Pomp: A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey by Forrest Aguirre

As an avid reader I am always on the lookout for new authors. While I definitely have my favorite authors and genres I am always looking to expand my repertoire. I always browse the newest titles at my library looking for new titles and that is how I came across Heraclix and Pomp.

Heraclix was dead and Pomp was immortal. The emphasis is on was, because now, neither is as they were. Heraclix is now alive, a reanimated man sewn together from numerous other parts, but with no memory of his former life he finds himself wondering what kind of person he could have been. And Pomp who believed herself immortal, finds herself questioning that status after being nearly killed by a rather nasty necromancer.

Quite literally thrown together by the necromancer, the two set off to find new meaning in their lives. Heraclix wants to know how and why this was done to him and what kind of man he was before. With her new found mortality, Pomp tries to wrestle with the language and the meaning behind that word. As they travel across Europe, with a side trip to Hell, the two discover the necromancer they thought dead is very much alive and has plans to ensure his own immortality.

Though the premise was interesting and the summary on the flap of the book drew me in; it pains me to say, dear reader, that I did not enjoy this book. It has glowing reviews on Amazon as well as other sites, but alas it does not have one from me. Perhaps it is because this is a very dense book, it became quite complex at times. Or perhaps it was because several of the characters had similar or near identical names which made it difficult to keep track of who was who.

Whatever it was, I found myself slogging through this book and not liking it. Several times I wanted to put it down and not finish it, yet I persevered. I only finished the book because I wanted to know if I was correct in guessing how certain plot points would be resolved – I was correct in my thoughts and what I surmised would happen did happen.

I never enjoy giving a negative review on anything, whether it be a book, music, etc. You, dear reader, might enjoy it despite my words. I however, will not be returning to this particular fictional world.