Review: The Body Electric – Beth Ravis

the body electricElla Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift—the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother—to help others relive their happy memories.

But not all is at it seems.

Ella starts seeing impossible things—images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience—and influence—the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love—even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing…

Someone’s altered her memory.

Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.

Rating: 3/5

This book and I just didn’t have the chemistry I was hoping for. I found there was far too much telling, and not enough showing in the first quarter of the book. Furthermore, I think it could have been edited down quite a lot.

But nevertheless, the book does deal with a rather twisty and interesting concept: altering people’s memories. What happens if something’s been erased, but you’re not sure what? And consider the multiple possibilities, for both healing and nefarious purposes.

I’d find myself stopping at some parts, and wondering whether what our narrator was experiencing was real, or just inside her head, or something she wasn’t even recalling correctly. Certainly kept me on my toes.

Ultimately though, this book just wasn’t as good as I was hoping for. I’ll be interested to see how other people review it.

Review: Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

station elevenAn audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them. 

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave. 

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleventells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it. 

Rating: 4/5

Bleak but so worth the hype. This is how you write an end of the world story. Indeed, this is probably one of the most horrifyingly realistic tales of how humanity as we know it comes to an end.

If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it? Perhaps soon humanity would simply flicker out, but Kristen found this thought more peaceful than sad. So many species had appeared and later vanished from this earth; what was one more? 

In terms of the virus that wipes out majority of the population, Mandel gives us enough information to make it plausible without going into so much scientific detail that it can be picked apart.

And things fall apart – swiftly and ominously. When people stop going about their business, the cogs of everyday life collapse.

Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. No one comes to work at the power plants or the substations, no one removes fallen trees from electrical lines. Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out.

Perhaps the most chilling passages for me were those describing the collapse of the newstations and media – in times of disasters, or indeed, at all times, the media is a constant, keeping us updated and connected. When these pillars of communication fall, we’re left truly stranded, isolated from what remains of the rest of the world.

The book consists of several interconnected stories and characters that weave back and forth in time, but it is easy enough to keep track.

Mandel incorporates the most believable of human behaviour in response to the near-apocalyptic conditions – some people pull together and create a semblance of normalcy and community, some turn to violence and pillaging – survival of the fittest, some hide in isolation on the outskirts and avoid the chaos that comes with other humans, and some turn to religious fanaticism.

We stand it because we were younger than you were when everything ended, Kristen thought, but not young enough to remember nothing at all. Because there isn’t much time left, because all the roofs are collapsing now and soon none of the old buildings will be safe. Because we are always looking for the former world, before all the traces of the former world are gone. 

I adored the tale of the Travelling Symphony, whose Star Trek motto, “Because survival is insufficient”, really forms the crux of this novel. Chilling, at times sad, and utterly terrifying in its realism, there are also sparks of hope for a new world that can be built on the graveyard of the former.

Review: This Shattered World (Starbound #2) – Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

this shattered worldJubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Rating: 4/5

I enjoyed this installment way more than the first book – I really liked the grittier plot and atmosphere of Avon in This Shattered World, as opposed to the poor-little-rich-girl saga of These Broken Stars.

This Shattered World was action packed from the get go, with soldier Jubilee Chase and rebel Flynn Cormac as our MCs, who find themselves on the opposite sides of a planet-wide conspiracy with simmering tensions amongst the local populace and the military presence.

The romance was a slow build, which I could appreciate – while there were sparks of attraction, both are well aware that the other has done potentially terrible things in this war, against their friends and family, and they both bear scars of trauma from their past.

I also enjoyed the cameos from Tarver and Lilac, who are battling their own demons, so to speak, as well as the appearance of the creepy invisible ~whisper~ things.

I think the novel could have been edited down somewhat – there was a lot of back and forth between swamp and military base, like some epically muddy road trip but with bullets thrown in – but nevertheless, I’m excited to see how the series concludes.