Showing posts with label Lois Lowry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lois Lowry. Show all posts

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Messenger by Lois Lowry

Rating: WARTY!

This is the third in Lois Lowry's "The Giver" quadrilogy. I negatively reviewed the first, The Giver back in April 2016, and now I'm certainly not planning on reading the other two in the group: Gathering Blue, and Son. This one can at least be read as a standalone, but like in The Giver, the world-building here sucks! And monumentally so.

Main character Matty was far too much of a Mary Sue in this novel, and while it started out decently well, it went on too long (despite being a short novel!), and it dwelt so long in the horrific gore of the forest that it was sickening. The end was so predictable that it was even more sickening. Even the puppy lived!

Matty is the adopted son of 'Seer'. Every adult in the village has a really dumb-ass "true name" given to them by "Leader" who is head of the village. Let me just interject at this point that I'm not a fan of this "names have power" bullshit or of the "true name" fallacy. I laugh at stories that follow those tropes. Names do have meaning but that's not the same as saying they have, much less give, power.

Matty wants to be named Messenger, but doesn't get his wish. Instead he gets a predictable and different name. Read pretty decently by actor David Morse, the story's material and plot let it down badly. They were drab and lifeless, and ultimately boring. The village was sad-ass, but we're told - not shown - that it was a happy and comfortable place. As the story takes off, we're being hit over the head with the regularity of a metronome by how much it is changing for the worse. It's as if Donald Trump got elected and the entire country began rejecting huddled masses and becoming very insular and closed-off. Oh wait, that really happened!

Despite all these people having gifts, they're hobbled in a trope way by not really being able to use the gifts to any great advantage. Some of the gifts make no sense. One guy is called Trademaster and is in charge of the villagers trading their personal goods with each other. I'm sorry, but what? What the hell that's all about is a mystery, and I found it laughable. So anyway, Seer doesn't see a whole heck of a lot especially since he's predictably blind. Leader, who is also a seer, can't see very far into the future. Why the author called one of them Seer but gave the power of seeing to a different character is a great mystery!

The village, which is called Village, is surrounded by a dense and increasingly hostile forest which is called Forest. Seriously? Donald Trump clearly took his manifesto from this novel because the villagers have decided to build a wall around the village and not let anyone else in. Why anyone would even want to try and get in, given the nightmarish and brutal forest and the asinine way village life goes on is an unexplained mystery as is everything else in this story. It suggests that the rest of the world is in even more dire straits than is the village, yet when we see another part of this world, there is no problem with it! It's just like Village minus the psychoses and psycho forest.

The villagers have tools and fire. There's no reason they couldn't burn down the whole forest and sow salt on it, but they never think of it. They simply accept it. No explanation is given for this, either.

Maybe some of these things are explained in the previous two volumes, but they sure aren't here. The only thing of any interest at all in this story is Matty's last minute desperate dash through the forest to bring Kira, Seer's daughter, back from outside into the village so he can see her again. How selfish is that? She left the village and though she said she would return, in several years she's made no effort to do so, and now Seer essentially wants her dragged back through a dangerous forest with no warning, for his own selfish ends? What a jerk!

Matty, who has always been able to pass through the forest unharmed, now finds that it's attacking him. Why there is this change is unexplained, Why the forest is alive and hostile is unexplained. This portion of the novel just went on and on with increasingly obnoxious descriptions of pain and torn flesh, and suffering that I could barely stand to listen to it. It contributed nothing to the story, and it was all washed away and undone by Matty's magical power which we'd been told about right from the start, so no surprises there.

If this novel had been a first-time novel by a new writer, it would never have got published. I'm just sorry it ever did.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Rating: WARTY!

I should have known I would not like this book, but when I requested the audio book from the library, I didn't know it was a Newbery winner or I wouldn't have bothered. Medal-winning novels have been very nearly a consistent waste of time for me. I deliberately put them back on the shelf if they have some medal listed on the cover. This one turned out to be no different from nearly all of my previous experiences!

The biggest problem with dystopian novels is the utter lack of rational explanation as to how the world actually became dystopian in the first place. Most dystopian novels simply take it as a given - this is how the world is, and vaguely wave their hand at some tragic past, such as nuclear war, or disease pandemic, but this fails for me because while it explains that the world changed dramatically, it fails to explain why it changed in the way the author depicts it did. The author of the Divergent disaster, for example (who evidently borrowed heavily from this novel), simply took the brain-dead position that "Hey, it's perfectly natural that people would automatically migrate, like sheep, into one of five ridiculous factions, and we're expected to accept that all humans are alike, all conform readily, there's only one rebel, and no one else ever questions anything. That's major BS right there. Humans are not like that and it's an insult to the human race to suggest that everyone is.

In this novel, which is part of a connected series I'm sorry to say, everyone lives in supposed communist conformity, and children are assigned at age twelve into one of a limited number of assignments which last a lifetime. No one complains, no one rebels, and those who feel they don't fit will request to be forced into "release" - which is that they're murdered. Sorry but this won't work. It doesn't even make any sense.

In this world, all pain and hunger and suffering are taken away, but the "price" for this is the loss of music, art, and other human expressions of joy, such as love? Nonsense! They can't even see - or at least don't even know - what colors are? Seriously? It doesn't work in such a literal black and white manner, and it's not so much naïve to believe it would, as it's profoundly ignorant on the part of an author to even think that it does and that we as readers, would swallow this crap.

Perhaps a better writer might have made this work, but this author fails because the writing is utterly boring. It's so boring in fact that the audio book creators felt the dire need to inject irritating, jarring, monotonous musical interludes randomly into the text. Where those in the original novel? Did you open page 55 and suddenly a piano trilled forth? I seriously doubt it. So what is on the unimaginative brains of these imbeciles that - in a story where music is banned - a mind-numbingly mediocre musical measure or two are injected over the narration? You can't get that dumb naturally. You actually have to really want it and fight for it, to get it as chronic as these guys had it.

But even without that pain in the eardrum, even had I been reading it, I would have found myself skipping over paragraph after paragraph because it wasn't remotely interesting. Did I really want to listen to, in the space of four short paragraphs:

And today, now that the new Elevens had been advanced this morning, there were two Eleven-nineteens...Very soon he would not be an Eleven but a Twelve...Asher was a four, and sat now in the row ahead of Jonas. He would receive his Assignment fourth....Fiona, Eighteen, was on his left; on his other side sat Twenty...

I'd rather listen to paint drying. It's much more restful. I'm sorry but I can't get into a novel that plods the way this one does, with nothing happening save for one long info-dump of a set-up which occupied over half the story. Yes the novel - novella, whatever - is short, but it's still way too long for my taste. Any hopeful young writer who came out with this garbage as a first effort today would rightly have it rejected, yet it won a medal? For what?! The music?! It just goes to show how utterly worthless a Newbery is. I can't recommend it based on what I listened to, which was far too much. A real dystopian society would make you listen to books like this.