Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

wheretherockWhere the Rock Splits the Sky is the story of Megan, a girl who has lost both her father and mother and who lives on the edge of a strange, haunted area called “The Zone.” In this part of the world, people are driven mad by unknown forces and the world doesn’t follow the normal rules of physics.

The Earth itself has stopped spinning because it was invaded by an alien species that the surviving humans call “Visitors.” One day, Megan is told that her father is still alive and that he is in the Zone.

She has no choice but to go find him. And the adventure begins.

This story was a surreal, heart-pounding adventure from start to finish.

I loved the dystopian aspect of it- the aliens are truly terrifying because the reader isn’t sure what they can or can’t do. It’s not even clear from the start who is or isn’t an alien.

The guessing game makes for some exciting tension. That same unknown quality is extended to the “Zone” itself so that the story at any moment could pass from normal to totally bonkers.

That uncertainty makes this a great read, in my mind.

I did have some complaints- I wanted more to happen during the final, climatic scene. It felt like after such a great build up that things ended too quickly and neatly. But I suppose one can’t have it all.

Also, this book required a great deal of suspension of belief. I mean, for goodness sake, the world has stopped spinning. That’s some fairly serious physics law breaking. And that is assumed from the start.

This novel reminded me of The Gunslinger in that both have western themes and some horror elements to it. This is definitely a more young adult version while Stephen King’s novel was written for adults. It’s also a lot shorter

With those caveats in mind, fans of that series may enjoy this one.

Also, anyone who likes to read young adult, dystopian books might enjoy Where the Rock Splits the Sky. It’s an interesting addition to the genre.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

Thanks for reading!

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What would it take for women to run the world?

What would it take for women to run the world?

thepowerA book review of The Power by Naomi Alderman.

In The Power, young women have developed the ability to control electricity. It shifts the balance of power between the sexes and the world begins to come apart at the seams.

It is told from the point of view of a few women and a man. They each have different stories and experiences that Naomi Alderman blends together to create a powerful statement about how we live.

This is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read, but also, most brilliant. It made me think about all of the internal biases I have when it comes to gender, cultural expectations and roles.

Who was it who said: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This book is an examination of power and how it has shaped the world, not always for the better.

The monumental societal shift starts out small enough. A man named Tunde captures a moment between a young woman and a man who was hitting on her at the grocery store: “Tunde is recording when she turns around. … There she is, bringing her hand to his arm when he smiles and thinks she is performing mock-fury for his amusement. If you pause the video for a moment at this point, you can see the charge jump.” loc 261, ebook.

Those who have been abused are more likely to become abusers. And there are many, many abused women in the world.

“A strange new kind of fighting which leaves boys- mostly boys, sometimes girls- breathless and twitching, with scars like unfurling leaves winding up their arms or legs or across the soft flesh of their middles. Their first thought after disease is a new weapon, something these kids are bringing into school, but as the first week trickles into the second they know that’s not it.” loc 316, ebook.

Entire governments crumble to powerful women. Women who have been locked up their entire lives roam the streets, free. Soon enough, they’re locking up and abusing the men, because they can.

Religions change. Sexual predilections change. New politicians are elected. New soldiers are trained.

“Allie thinks, God is telling the world that there is to be a new order. That the old way is overturned. The old centuries are done.”loc 681, ebook.

The new scourge of third world countries are powerful, uncontrolled women.

“He wounds three of the women in the leg or arm and the others are on him like a tide. There is a sound like eggs frying. When Tunde gets close enough to show what has been done, he is perfectly still, the twisted-vine marks across his face and neck so thick that his features are barely discernible.” loc 884, ebook.

I think book clubs may find plenty to talk about in this book- if they can make it through. There are some very disturbing scenes.

“Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there.” loc 4780, ebook.

In a time when so many women may feel powerless or voiceless, The Power may speak directly to them. It is, as I’ve said, a disturbing book, but also a conversation starter.

To quote Victor Hugo: Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. And, in my mind, it was the perfect time for this book to be written.

Thank you to NetGalley for a free digital copy of this book and thanks for reading.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

darkmatterDark Matter is a fantastic, sci-fi read about regret, love and quantum mechanics.

My book club picked this wild ride of a book and everybody took something different out of it.

We all enjoyed it, which is weird for us. Usually, we have opinions across the spectrum. This one, though, was universally loved. That’s saying something.

“In the shadow of this moment, my life is achingly beautiful. “I have an amazing family. A fulfilling job. We’re comfortable. Nobody’s sick.” pg 28. And then, something truly surprising happens. No spoilers!

I think that, as time passes, we grow comfortable in our lives, our marriages and relationships. Part of this book is about appreciating what you may take for granted. “He says, “It’s like we get so set in our ways, so entrenched in those grooves, we stop seeing our loved ones for who they are. But tonight, right now, I see you again, like the first time we met, when the sound of your voice and your smell was this new country.” pg 67.

The leader of my book club picked quotations that had to do about self-knowing and quantum mechanics. It was no surprise that mine were all about love. I’m one of the hopeless romantics of the group.

And one of the most open-minded: “We all live day to day completely oblivious to the fact that we’re a part of a much larger and stranger reality that we can possibly imagine.” pg 96. I truly believe that.

A local physics professor joined our circle and gave a short lecture on basic quantum mechanics and wave theory. But, you don’t have to be an expert on the subject to enjoy this story. It’s approachable science, like The Martian.

Recommended for book clubs, especially, but also anyone who wants an unbelievable story will probably love this too.

I heard that this is going to be made into a film- read the book anyway. It’s always better.

Thanks for reading!

Authority (Southern Reach #2) by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority (Southern Reach #2) by Jeff VanderMeer

authorityThe mystery of Area X continues with an FBI agent’s entry into the Southern Reach. What’s going on? Why can’t anybody remember anything? Why is everyone so antagonistic? And why does everything smell bad?

Rarely have I been so disappointed with a book as I was with Authority. The first entry in this series is a gripping, psychedelic adventure that reads like a nature-gone-wild acid trip. This book, on the other hand, is like going to work with a punishing hangover. You don’t know what’s going on and everybody is pushing piles of paper at you.

“A shadow had passed over the director’s desk then. He’d been here before, or somewhere close, making these kinds of decisions before, and it had almost broken him, or broken through him. But he had no choice.” pg 18. On and on it goes. No answers, only confusion and bewilderment. I honestly thought, up until the very end, that something mega-cool was going to happen to make up for all of the so-so stuff that had happened so far. Unfortunately…

I also got super excited anytime Area X was mentioned, sort of like passing an old fling on your way to a funeral. Take this passage: “But the truth did have a simple quality to it: About thirty-two years ago, along a remote southern stretch known by some as the “forgotten coast,” an Event had occurred that began to transform the landscape and simultaneously caused an invisible border or wall to appear.” pg 35. Yes! And then we were immediately back into the boring office work/politics stuff.

“You’ve heard of the Southern Reach?” He had, mostly through a couple of colleagues who had worked there at one time. Vague allusions, keeping to the cover story about environmental catastrophe. Rumors of a chain of command that was eccentric at best. Rumors of a significant variation, of there being more to the story. But, then, there always was. He didn’t know, on hearing his mother say those words, whether he was excited or not.” pg 71. And that, my friends, is pretty much the whole book. Let me save you another 250 or so pages.

I exaggerate. A bit. It’s just that I’m incredibly disappointed in the turn this story took. I suppose I’ll read the last one in this series because I’m a completionist, but that is the only reason.

Thanks for reading!

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

thelaststarThe Last Star is the final entry in The 5th Wave, a trilogy about aliens, teenagers and the end of the world. It is also a morality play about what matters. Why do cars, jobs and stuff matter so much when, in the end, it is all about our relationships and love.

I’m sorry to say that I found the ending to be unsatisfying. Yancey wove such a puzzling yarn that I felt like he didn’t completely untangle all the knots. To be fair, there was a lot going on. But, I read the last pages and I felt a big, internal: “huh?”

This book also reminded me of The Road. “From piles of blackened bones to corpses wrapped head to toe in tattered sheets and old blankets, just lying there in the open like they’d dropped from the sky, alone or in groups of ten or more. So many bodies that they faded into the background, just another part of the mess, another piece of the urban vomit.”pg 70.

The Last Star also raised big questions about civilization and its durability. How thin is the veneer on civilization? What would it take for humanity to turn on itself? Most dystopian writers say, not much.

I don’t know. I’m of two minds on the issue. One part of me says, civilization is a flimsy set of agreements that could easily crumble with enough fear, famine and plague.

The other part of me, the eternal optimist side, says that there is something within each of us that even the worst calamity couldn’t touch.

Kill the body, yes. Kill hope, yes. But kill the soul and its purpose? No. I feel like that part would find a way. And part of that soul’s purpose, I think, is connection to others. That means, civilization. So, there’s something more permanent to it, something fated.

Anyway, The 5th Wave as a three-part story is intense, gritty and could lead to some excellent discussions because it leaves a lot of open-ended questions and ambiguous answers. Rather like life.

Thanks for reading!

Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

annihilationA group of female scientists and professionals are sent to explore a region that is not like the world they know. Annihilation is a hypnotic science fiction/thriller that weaves its spell slowly. Then, all at once, it has your complete attention and you find yourself hanging on every word. I loved it.

Isolation from the modern world and technology places this tale in an anachronistic bubble: “One rule for an expedition into Area X was that we were to attempt no outside contact, for fear of some irrevocable contamination.” pg 7, ebook. It harkens back to the idea that, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

They’re far from home in a surprisingly deadly world. It has already claimed eleven groups of explorers. But, we don’t know what killed most of them: “We were scientists, trained to observe natural phenomena and the results of human activity. We had not been trained to encounter what appeared to be the uncanny.” pg 46, ebook. Extraordinary things begin to happen, almost from the moment the team sets foot in Area X.

“When Area X first appeared, there was vagueness and confusion, and it is still true that out in the world not many people know that is exists. The government’s version of events emphasized a localized environmental catastrophe stemming from experimental military research.” pg 61, ebook. The government has reasons to cover this place up. But why? What is it really and what does it contain?

Creepy and enthralling, Annihilation is a treat. It is easy to see why this won the Nebula Award for Best Novel. I highly recommend it for science fiction lovers and those who enjoy experiencing a world that doesn’t behave by the usual rules.

Thanks for reading!

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

theshininggirlsA killer travels through time picking his victims and leaving mementos behind.

I thought I’d venture outside of my comfort zone with The Shining Girls and I certainly managed that. It was far too gory and violent for me.

The trouble is that almost half of the story is told from the killer’s point of view. The reader gets a front row seat at the crimes, usually immediately after a series of passages describing the girl so that an emotional connection is formed with the victim.

I was on a run listening to the audiobook… now, let me be honest. I was on a mildly taxing walk listening to the audiobook and I had to turn it off when he attacked Kirby. It was simply too much with all of the horror, violence and the bit with the animal too.

Perhaps if I had been reading a physical book, I could have skimmed the awful bits. But even then, I think it would be safe to say that this was not the book for me.

I was really excited when Beukes introduced the reader to the newsroom of the Chicago newspaper. Her description of the reporter’s cubes all stacked up on one another with the sports and feature writers off to the side was eerily accurate to where I work.

I also enjoyed the interactions between Dan and Kirby- those two were snappy and fun.

Overall though, the gore of the story was too much for me. Only recommended for readers who can handle that type of thing.

Thanks for reading!