Review: Alive by Scott Sigler

aliveAlive (Generations Trilogy #1) by Scott Sigler

Published July 14, 2015 by Del Rey

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: I open my eyes to darkness. Total darkness. I hear my own breathing, but nothing else. I lift my head…it thumps against something solid and unmoving. There is a board right in front of my face. No, not a board…a lid.

A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief—she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people…and no answers.

She knows only one thing about herself—her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin—yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust one another.

Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.

 

Rating: 2 star out of 5 stars

 

Review: I cannot begin to tell you how dismayed I am to be giving a book by Scott Sigler just two stars. I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever given one of his books less than four stars. For me, Scott Sigler is an auto-buy, auto-read author. If he puts it into print, I will read it. And every single time, I have loved it. Until this time. When I first heard this book was being published I was a little surprised. Young Adult is not really the Sigler wheelhouse. Dick jokes and very colorful language is part of the writing style, none of which can be in a young adult book. But he’s an extraordinary writer so I didn’t worry about it too much. Surprised but not worried. In hindsight, I should have been worried.

Now, in order for me to be intellectually honest, I also have to mildly rebuke the author a little. On the podcast for Alive, and apparently on the book (at least the advance copies), he felt it necessary to add a little notation that said if you’re going to review this book, please don’t post spoilers and ruin it for other people. This shocked me. My jaw literally dropped. Scott Sigler has never been someone that didn’t understand the reader/author line and always been very respectful of any and all feedback. But this was not okay. Once that book is out into the world, you no longer control it as an author and you certainly don’t control the way it is read or reviewed. If someone doesn’t wish to be spoiled, they should probably not read reviews. Or look for ones that specifically state no spoilers. Let’s not repeat this pattern Scott Sigler, it’s not a good look.

Alright, all that finished. Consider yourself warned, there be spoilers ahead.

***SPOILERS***

Let’s talk about the redeeming qualities about this book first, that’s the shorter of my two lists. The premise of this book is very good, it’s intriguing and mysterious and horrifying at time. It was executed badly but the premise was great.

Em was a character with a lot of potential. A scared little girl who is thrust into a position of authority when she doesn’t know anything more about the situation than anyone else. Where Em fell short was that she ended up being largely boring. Most of her verbal dialogue and inner dialogue alike are “I’m the leader, I think that person wants to challenge me to be leader but I’M THE LEADER!!” Seriously, she repeats this so many times I was praying someone would actually challenge her leadership so she could stop stressing about it.

All of the other characters really don’t matter. Bello is very important to Em for some reason that I never figured out, she didn’t do anything except sit around, look pretty and be boring. O’Malley has some potential to be interesting because I got the sense that he is a secret trouble maker, he always seems like he’s supportive of Em but I think he’s undermining her behind her back. Bishop is scary and violent but, oh, those dreamy eyes and muscles of his. We hear a lot about liquid eyes and taunt muscles and flat stomachs too. Which brings me to my biggest problem with this book:

These kids are supposed to be 12 year olds stuck in adult bodies. Why are they all so sexually interested? Kids at 12 have crushes based on who looked at them across the playground, not because they are enthralled with their muscles and boobs. 12 year olds haven’t figured out what boobs are yet. So on one hand you have prepubescent kids acting like 16-17 year old kids, but then also calling these mysterious people who locked them away “grown ups”. I am pretty certain that most kids stop referring to adults as grown ups much earlier than 12 years old. It was very strange.

The kids, Em in particular, at times struck me as both a much younger and much older child and it did not make sense. She also seemed very disingenuous as a female character, often times she read like a boy. This could be explained by something I heard the author say in his podcast when he was asked how difficult it was to narrate a 12 year old girl. (Note: while in quotations, this is not a direct quote, but it’s close), “It really wasn’t that hard because the world of Alive is post-gender, post-race, post-everything except the caste system that they don’t even understand yet.”

This leads me to a question, if your world is post-gender, why differentiate between girls and boys at all? Presumably the “grown ups” that are cultivating their bodies for their own use don’t need to breed because they can live for millennia, so…why was this important anyway? And why exactly is everyone so obsessed with how attractive the opposite gender is, if it is really irrelevant? It was the strangest remark I’ve ever heard, I listened twice just to be sure I heard it correctly. And I am not sure what this caste system is because we were too busy obsessing over leadership and muscles to explore it at all.

While we’re on the subject of gender in characters, what the fuck was with dressing 12 year olds in too-small, too-tight, busting-at-the-seams Catholic schoolkids outfits? And everyone was so completely hot? Are we really sexualizing 12 year old children? I found that to be one of the more disturbing aspects of the whole book. My brain just kept screaming “Stop it! These are children! Literally prepubescent children!”

I will walk away from that for awhile and move on to tropes. This book has all of them. Smoldering eyes, liquid eyes, scintillating muscles, flat firm stomachs, boobs popping out of shirts, wistful glances across fields of flowers. There was so much purple prose I was inspired to quote from Willy Wonka. Sigler, you’re turning violet Sigler!

Lastly, the plot. It was boring. 70% of the book was walking, arguing about leadership, gazing longingly at each other, and occasionally doing something they think is a bad idea (I shouldn’t look in that room, oh I did anyway, OMG that’s awful I shouldn’t have looked!) Then when we finally started getting answers I was presented with Brewer the Cheshire Cat who I thought was supposed to be the bad guy, but apparently isn’t. But if he is a good guy, then why the hell was he talking in so many circles. I also lost my mind when Brewer gave them a lecture about “why tell you when I can show you, that’s so much better”….and then proceed to TELL them for about 6 pages everything that was going on. That was followed with 10 more pages of the actual bad guy, Matilda, once again telling them everything they need to know about what’s going on. I thought showing was better? I could almost hear the author over my shoulder whispering in my ear, “Are you so super surprised? You never saw it coming did you?” Honestly, no I didn’t see it coming but it also wasn’t that great either. My final feelings once I turned the last page were a big, whomp whomp.

Unfortunately, this trilogy will tie directly into the larger Siglerverse very heavily, I can see that, so I have to read the next two. I really don’t want to, but I will. Maybe it gets better, if not, I’ll let you know.

Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Published by 48Fourteen on April 1st, 2012

Synopsis and cover image from the Goodreads book page

Buy this ebook at: B&N / Amazon

Synopsis:

Ten large ships race toward Earth, broadcasting in every language: “Brothers and sisters, we come in peace and in need. We have found our way home.” The fear of a coming invasion begins the worldwide riots of 3062.

Yet, not all Earthlings fear attack. The newcomers, long lost descendants of Earth, speak of a paradise ninety-four light years away. Kipos is a land of plenty where there has never been hunger, murder, or war. However, they need more healthy young immigrants for the colony to thrive.

Many accept their offer to be tested. After assessment, Abby Boyd Lei is among the chosen. She leaves the protection of her family with dreams of higher education, a good job, and a kind-hearted spouse.

Will Kipos be everything she imagined? Abby is about to discover the cost of utopia.

Rating (out of 5):

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest, thoughtful review.  No other compensation or promise of a positive review was given.

Review: Don’t let a three star rating fool you, I enjoyed this book a lot.  The story was good, the characters were solid, the structuring was all good.  Unfortunately, the book had some issues that I couldn’t quite get past and this effected the overall rating that I gave it.  So let’s go through this point by point.

When I look back on the synopsis of this book in hindsight, it confuses me a little.  Yes, this book was about Abby and her journey to Kipos and a new life in this “utopia” she was presented.  The synopsis would have you believe that this was the whole of the story.  But in reality this discovery and journey was really only about 1/3 of the book.  The rest hardly touched on this at all and so the synopsis didn’t apply that much to the majority of the book.  The story I got was good, but it was far different than the story I expected.  What I got was a story of perseverance, daring, courage, and having the strength to make something better out of your circumstances.  This was a great story and I wish it was closer to what I had been pitched!

Now, the rest of this may be a bit spoiler heavy, so consider yourself warned. There was an event that takes place on Kipos that was supposed to be heavily emotional and increase my empathy for Abby.  Mostly it horrified me, but then confused me.  So basically Abby is raped in order to have her conceive a child.  Now, this is awful and horrifying.  But Abby’s reaction to this event really puzzled me.  She displayed no knowledge or understanding of her body or sex at all.  When her hymen is perforated, she thinks they are performing surgery on her.  She seems to have no idea what’s going on with her body or how sex functions.  But then later she starts having sexual fantasies about her guards and masturbating.  Um, that doesn’t really make sense to me.  Yes, I realize some girls become sexually promiscuous after a rape to take their power back, but she had never masturbated before and didn’t seem to understand sex at all so this move was confusing.  She also shows extreme naivety about her pregnancy, such as thinking that she is going to be raising this baby and allowed to be a mother to it.  Also, she doesn’t seem to have any ambivalence about the baby which is very common for babies conceived through rape.
Alright, enough about that, let’s move on to the next part.  I really loved Abby’s interaction with the crew of the Revelation.  I loved that she found her place and discovered something that she really enjoyed doing.  The characters were excellent and their interactions made me really interested to see what would happen.  The only thing that bothered me about this whole section was Abby.  She never thought to talk to anyone about anything before she came to a conclusion about their behavior and instead just decided that her conclusion was right and acted accordingly.  This alienated her from her companions and served to alienate me from them as well.

My last tiny little gripes, I promise.  Some of the more scientific aspects of this book confused the hell out of me.  I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, but 2 relative weeks, 3 relative months, tachyon engine this, it just made my eyes cross.  The only way I knew how much time had passed is by looking at the dates at the beginning of the chapters.  Otherwise, I was clueless.  Also the ending of the book was rather anti-climactic.  The author built up some amazing tension in the plot for many chapters, and then when we got to that moment it was just…..over.  There was minimal drama and it was resolved within a few pages.  That was a bit disappointing.  But the ending after that was excellent and well planned out.  Abby may not have found her utopia on Kipos, but she did find it by the end of the book.  Overall I enjoyed this book a lot but there were a handful of things that prevented me from truly loving it as much as I could have.  But it is a fun read and I would encourage anyone who’s a fan of the sci-fi genre to read it, and new fans to the genre should give it a try.