I’ll be posting more. Don’t know how many followers I have left, but that’s okay.
My rating: 1 of 5 stars (D+)
It’s not that this book was awful. It wasn’t. It was just lackluster and disappointing. I’m not much of a reviewer these days, but here are the biggest issues I had with it.
1) World building. Where was it? From what a friend has said, Roth gives readers some idea of what happened to the world outside Chicago in the second book…but that’d require me to care enough to pick it up. I found the idea of the factions kind of weak, too. What is the origin here? Why those five? Why only five? Why is the population so low in Chicago?
2) Predictability. Four’s identity? REALLY predictable. Tris’s interaction with the other initiates during initiation? Also kind of predictable, in that it gave me strong flashbacks to Ender’s Game and made me want to have the audiobook for that on my phone instead of this. The ~womance~? Good grief.
3) This one’s a personal thing, but the sudden focus on the villain’s weight when we finally got to meet that individual. Until that point, physical descriptions had been to give an impression of a character’s size. Dwelling on the stretch marks on the knees of a villain? Is not the same thing.
4) The plot doesn’t start until the end the book. The audiobook is roughly 11 hours long, and the plot didn’t show up until the final 3 hours or so. That is a LOT of time to invest in going nowhere, and I have better nowheres to go if I want to do that.
On the bright side, Roth’s writing isn’t bad. It’s definitely a first book, and she’s got a long way to go, but it’s a start. I just hope that she’ll actually work on improving rather than letting her riding-on-the-coattails-of-the-hunger-games success go to her head.
Also on the bright side is Emma Galvin’s narration. Her voice is perfect for this book, and I may actually see what else she has narrated. She doesn’t do many voices in the way that some actor-narrators do, but she still manages to make each character distinct and give Tris some humanity that isn’t there in the text alone.
I first heard of this book via The Galaxy Express, an awesomely titled blog that focuses on the subgenre of science fiction romance or SFR. It’s not the first time I’ve used the site to see what’s out there, and The Empire was the subject of an interesting series of posts about cover art. The cover blurb sounded interesting and the Kindle copy was only $2.99? Why not.
Why not, indeed. What Lang has presented here is a study in derivation. A quarter of the way into the book and there’s nothing here to hook me. The world is bland and brings absolutely nothing new to space opera. I realize this is SFR primarily, but SFR and space opera go hand in hand. It lives firmly within the standard scifi setting and doesn’t bother to do anything to spice things up. Sadistic totalitarian state? Yep. Alien menace from beyond the galaxy? Yep. Aliens who are just like humans for no good reason? Yep.
Not to mention errors throughout the text. Things that an editor should have caught, like a your/you’re problem early on and places where verb tense is wrong.
Then there’s the characters.
The hero, Adrian, is boring. Lang gets bonus points taken off for using rape as a plot device and making me actually read through the sexual abuse. This is not a way to get me to empathize with a hero whose primary personality trait–coldness–is something she constantly has to pepper throughout the text. It’s a way to get me to mark the author down as someone I never want to read again. Adrian’s coldness isn’t due to said torture, incidentally. Before Adrian’s torture and abuse (I should’ve stopped there, let’s be honest) his chilly personality is mentioned. More than once. In particular–look. I get it. He has cold eyes. I was less than 20% of the way through the book and had already grown tired of being informed of this.
Kali, our heroine, isn’t much better. She has more of a personality, to be sure, but she’s more an archetype than a person. She’s the brave/sacrificing/spunky/caring sort. Oh, and she’s also a telepathic near-human alien, which is something else that makes me facepalm. I get it when a television show has near-human aliens. That makes sense. Your actors are going to be human and you work with what you have. This isn’t television, and there’s no explanation given as to why there are near-human aliens. I’m not using the term humanoid because she doesn’t even have the decency to have a funny forehead or be randomly blue. (This is actually a problem I have with SFR in general. Too many near-human aliens, too little explanation.)
The brightest point by far is Bryce, the secondary male lead who was a con-man given the choice of enlisting in the military or going to prison. He and Kali are friends, and while he and Adrian don’t get along, he’s surprisingly loyal to the man. He’s not an impediment to whatever boring romance is going on between the boring heroes, either…he’s got this cute semi-antagonistic flirtation going with the junior officer whose quarters are next door to his. If this book were about Bryce and the obnoxious pretty girl next door who presses all the wrong buttons, this would be an ENTIRELY different review.
But it’s not. Perhaps I’m being too harsh here and an engaging plot sets in and Lang will stop telling me how Adrian is cold and actually make him more than just a cardboard cut-out. Maybe she’ll explain why Kali’s people are so close to human. I think the biggest disappointment here is how I can see the ghost of something I’d honestly love in this book. Thing is, I’m a student. I have to read textbooks and notes and if the stuff I’m reading in my leisure time takes more than a quarter of the way through without presenting me anything I haven’t seen done better somewhere else? I’m not going to read the rest. My time is more valuable than that.
The Empire is by Elizabeth Lang and is published by IFWG Publishing.
I even have a fresh review sitting in the queue.
Not to get into too much detail, I’ve spent most of 2011 struggling with some personal issues that have left me feeling more drained and scatterbrained than usual. (My personal blog spells it out if you’re really that nosy. It’s nothing that interesting.) Feeling better now, though, and my lack of extracurriculars this semester leaves me open to start reading and reviewing again.
So! Hi there!
I still plan on the Tuesday/Friday schedule, but clearly I didn’t manage to get started this Tuesday.
I’ll be ready by Friday. So the grand re-opening shall be this Friday, June 10th!
It’s been over a year, I know. I’m sorry. Life got complicated, then inertia took over.
Starting on Tuesday, however, I will yet again be posting reviews to this blog. I’m looking at a Tuesday/Friday publishing schedule, and will be branching out into novels as well.
See you Tuesday!
Well, the every week thing doesn’t seem to be working, does it? I’ll do these as I can.
These are my Manga Recon reviews from January 7, 2010 – March 9, 2010
St. Dragon Girl, Vol. 5, by Natsumi Matsumoto: B
Deka Kyoshi, Vol. 1, by Tamio Baba: B+
Only One Wish, by Mia Ikumi: C+
Mikansei No. 1, Vol. 1, by Majiko!: D
Sugarholic, Vol. 3, by Gong GooGoo: B+
Time and Again, Vol. 1 by JiUn Yun: B