June 2015 Book Club Picks | Reviews and Thoughts
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Reckoners (Book #1)
Length: 384 Pages
My Rating: ★★★★½
Steelheart is told from the perspective of David, an orphan living in Newcago (formerly Chicago). This futuristic city is controlled entirely by Epics, who are humans who have gained superpowers because of a cosmic event called the Calamity. In particular, the man in charge is called Steelheart. He has the power of invincibility and also can transform any inanimate objects into steel. He also happens to be the reason that David is an orphan. As you might guess, David has spent his whole life researching and cataloging information about as many epics as possible and hopes one day to join the Reckoners (a group dedicated to bringing about the demise of all epics).
As usual with Brandon Sanderson, I really enjoyed his writing style. This is his only YA novel (though David is technically an adult throughout most of the book) and for the most part, he did. I found the teenage boy perspective to be a little annoying, which is really my only critique of the book. David is sort of obsessed with a certain female character (and frequently gets caught looking at her boobs), and there are a few slang words used in lieu of swearing. This is something that bugged me with The Maze Runner and this is not quite that bad, but still worth mentioning. It is also the reason I took the rating down by half of a star.
Despite some minor annoyances, I still loved Steelheart. It could be that I just have a weakness for people with superpowers, but yea, I just thought it was a really fun read. Even though I didn't relate well to David as a character, I enjoyed several others, such as Abraham and Prof. I particularly loved Prof and his outlook on life. He was analytical, a great leader, and had an interesting background.
I also loved the standoffs and fight scenes with the epics. Sanderson is great at writing action and when you add superpowers, it just makes it that much cooler. Throughout most of the book, there is a solid sense of good vs. evil, which makes you believe in the cause that the Reckoners are fighting for. Towards the end, this line between good and evil became little blurry, which is something I was hoping would happen. Things are rarely black and white, and I can see that this idea will come up much more heavily in Firefight (book 2 in the series).
Overall, I thought this was a very solid foundation for the series. Sanderson created a massive catalog of different superpowers and characters to play with throughout the series. I can't wait to see where he goes with this next.
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Length: 263 Pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: ★★★★½
And now for something COMPLETELY different. Never Let Me Go is a novel unlike one I've ever read before. The story begins with the main protagonist Kathy looking back on her life, beginning at a boarding school she attended called Hailsham. At Hailsham, she became lifelong friends with Ruth and Tommy. Throughout the stories she tells, we find out clues that indicate there is something a little bit off with the school and its students.
We continually hear Kathy mention something about them being donors and that this is their role in society (after they finish school). Along with this, it is part of their duty to be carers until they are called to start their donation processes. This idea is so ingrained in Kathy that she doesn't ever question it (overtly) or even take the time to explain/write about it. This is just something that is a part of their lives and there's nothing they can do about it.
This is one of the first novels that I've read where the focus is almost solely on the characters and their development. The plot is just a means to show how Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy evolve as people and how something so dark can become so commonplace that the characters don't even realize the injustice of it all. Eventually we find out exactly why everything seems to be so odd with Hailsham and the kids there. While to us it seems horrific and tragic, we barely get a sense of that from Kathy because it is so normal to her.
One thing that I really appreciated was that Kazuo Ishiguro created incredibly realistic and frustrating characters in Never Let Me Go. Throughout most of the book, Kathy is constantly treated badly by her best friend Ruth. Kathy shows incredible patience and allows her friend to walk all over her time after time. While this is a frustrating thing to read, the truth is, Ruth is her family, one of her only friends, and basically her only source of validation. The fact that Kathy would continue to love her friend and stick by her side for decades seems very real to me considering the circumstance. This is one of the things I found so tragic about this book, the idea that someone wouldn't ever truly know what it's like to have the love of a parent or someone that truly cared about them. That was how all of these kids were raised and that just broke my heart.
Never Let Me Go is an incredible novel that I will likely be thinking about for a long time to come. I highly recommend you give it a shot and I will definitely be reading everything Kazuo Ishiguro has written.
Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them?