Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Afterworlds


My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know what happened. I really don't.

This book had everything going for it. Scott Westerfeld, Inception-style dual perspectives, and meta fiction on the publishing industry? What could go wrong?

Apparently, the answer is pretty much everything. I'm so disappointed that this wasn't a better read for me. I mean, I bought this book in Paris! It's got a Shakespeare & Company stamp inside!

Sigh. Maybe this style isn't Scott's style. Maybe it's been too long since I've read his work to know where I stand on it. Maybe I wasn't the intended audience. I'm not published--hell, I haven't even ever completed a draft--but I know a lot of publishing trivia, just because I've been involved in the community for so long, so a lot of the info had less punch. But I don't think it's that either. I just think that the killer concept was simply killed in execution; it was executed (forgive my punny ways).

I will say that there are moments I enjoyed. The first and last chapters, respectively. After all, the first chapter of Darcy's book is what's gotten everybody hooked, as it did me. It was intense, clear, detailed. And then we have Darcy herself, who's about to live the dream of every aspiring young writer: to be BFFS with the Manhattan Writer's crowd, to sit in an artistically mainstream/hipster apartment, wearing oversized sweatshirts and crafting prose.

But Darcy quickly got on my nerves. She's eighteen, literally just out of high school, and she was very much not ready for the amount of growing up that is involved with living on one's own. She positively blows through her budget, claiming that "the story" took all her focus and so she couldn't be bothered with things like leases and realizing that she wasn't going to receive another dime for at least five months. I understood that her naiveté was part of her character development, but as someone who's lived on their own (somewhat) for the past four years and knows that there are times when sentimentality has to take a backseat for reality, I couldn't forgive her immaturity. And she was whiny, too. Her insecurities took her to thinking some downright ridiculous things, things that not even Impostor Syndrome could justify.

And then there was Afterworlds the novel. Personally, I couldn't tell if the stereotypical nature of the story was a self-aware nod from Westerfeld, or if I was just genuinely uninterested in the story. Lizzie was about as interesting as a glass of water, and Yama wasn't much better. The descriptions of "his heat" and the life-giving powers she felt through "his lips" made me cringe every time. The prose was really awkward, a lot of "as if"'s and "kinda sort of maybe"'s. Any profanity always seemed random and out of character. I'm all for profanity in YA (have you read Holly Black?) but whenever it popped up, it seemed so out of place, like a parent from a sitcom walking in and trying to talk to their kids in outdated slang. 

That showed in characterization as well, and across the board. Carla and Sagan, and Imogen as well, spoke like they were spitting out catchphrases. And Nisha constantly called her sister "Patel" made me literally write "STOP" into the book.

I realize I'm ranting, but I will just say one final, slightly coherent thing that I disliked. The fact that this was not dual POV, but dual story, really frustrated me. Unlike some books, where the nature of dual perspective keeps you on your toes and makes you ravenous for each coming chapter, this felt like I was actually holding two books and alternating between chapters. I never felt like either story picked up any momentum in terms of plot. We'd just move on to the next event. It dragged to the point that I almost just stopped altogether.

I'm sorry this post is so negative, but I've always been a big believer in making a record of the bad as well as the good. Life's not perfect, and neither should the Internet. In the meantime, I need to pick up Leviathan and Uglies again to recuperate.

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