All in all, a pleasing sci-fi romp. I had a few quibbles with some elements of the story (mainly hints that seem like they might lead somewhere, but don’t – but then I learned that this is planned as a series, so I am hoping they get worked into later installments) but it was a good vacation read, with lots of action and adventure. The basic premise: When they are children, Hannah and Amanda Given are rescued from certain death when a trio of odd beings freezes time to pull them and their parents from a car accident. Many years later, these same beings return to save Hannah and Amanda again when the world (our world, anyway) ends. Hannah and Amanda, along with an assortment of others (dubbed the Silvers, because of the silver bracelets their saviors marked them with), are brought to an alternate timeline where earth wasn’t destroyed – one whose history diverged from ours in…I forget what year exactly and I turned the book back in already, so I can’t check. 1912? 1913? Somewhere in there. Anyway, in their new timeline, things are different – America suffered a cataclysmic event sometime in the early 1900s, and became more isolationist and insular. This affected the country in subtle ways, as did several scientific discoveries about the nature of time that resulted from the event. The Silvers have to learn about these differences in a hurry so that they can cope with their new environment.
Can their saviors be trusted? It doesn’t look like it – but can the man they have chosen to trust instead be trusted? Who are the mysterious physicists who are studying them? Are there others like them in different cities? Why have they all developed such incredible powers? Can they trust the messages they receive periodically from their future selves? Can they trust each other? And why do random people keep trying to kill them? Read on, dear reader, and…well, some of your questions will be answered. I’m counting on the sequels to answer the rest.
Read-alikes: Hmmm, what reads like this? It’s kind of like an X-Men movie more than anything else. Throw in some Smallville meteor freaks, maybe, and add a dash of any Star Trek episode involving alternate timelines and that “OH MY GOD WHAT IF WE PICK THE WRONG ONE OR CHANGE SOMETHING?!?” vibe. I guess it reads most like a Robert Heinlein novel, where the people are recognizable as pretty much like us but the world they live in has altered. If you like books where random people are thrown together and forge bonds as they struggle against a common foe, you’ll probably enjoy it.
I read this for my book club, fully expecting it to be a ho-hum read about The Law and Big Important Political People. Not my bag, baby, you know? But it turns out Sonia Sotomayor is a ridiculously interesting person who has led a remarkable life, totally aside from being a Supreme Court Justice. Instead of focusing on her career in the memoir, which was what I expected, she instead chose to tell the story of her life with her family, from early childhood up through college and law school.
The fact that Sotomayor made it to law school in the first place is amazing. Have you read the book ATreeGrowsinBrooklyn? Well, make Francie Puerto Rican and swap the Bronx for Brooklyn and you pretty much have this story down. Hardworking mother holding the family together while the alcoholic father drinks all the money, determined daughter seeing education as her ticket out of the projects, never enough money to feel safe…yup, it’s all there. Oh, and make Francie a diabetic, in the days when type 1 diabetes was practically a death sentence. The odds against Sonia Sotomayor becoming a Supreme Court Justice – or even surviving childhood and graduating from high school – were pretty poor, yet she managed not only to succeed but to excel. In her book she never brags about her accomplishments, and even though she realizes that what she has done in her life is remarkable, she never seems to imply that she is any smarter than anyone else – just more stubborn.
To put it simply, I liked her. She’d be a great person to have coffee with and pick her brain.
I alternated between reading and listening to this – the audiobook is read by Rita Moreno and she puts so much feeling into it that you really feel like Sonia is telling you the story of her life in person, complete with a perfect Puerto Rican accent for all the Spanish words and names. If you want to read this, be sure you listen to at least part of it to really bring it to life.
I think the title of this book says it all – Raymond Gunt, our protagonist, is quite simply the worst person ever. But for some reason, I read the book anyway, mostly just to see what ludicrous situation Raymond would wind up in next, and whether or not he’d learn anything from it. He never did, but the book is entertaining anyway. The basic premise: Raymond is an unemployed B Camera operator in London. His ex-wife gets him a job filming an American reality TV show in the South Pacific. He recruits a homeless man out of a cardboard box on his block to be his assistant, then makes his way to LA, then on to the South Pacific, offending nearly everyone he encounters along the way. He kills a show executive with insults, gets stopped by Homeland Security, and manages to instigate a nuclear incident before he even gets to the film site, and just when you think Ray can’t sink any lower, he does. Blah blah, the end. (And though you’d like karma to work and Ray to suffer, the ending is vaguely happy.)
You have to like a book where the character who gets fished out of a cardboard box turns out to be the most morally upstanding of the lot. The homeless but cultured Neal is basically a good man, but not naive – he knows better than to take any crap from Ray. I think Neal is the real reason I read this. Everyone else is not as bad as Ray, but certainly none of the characters surrounding him are going to win any humanitarian awards – they’re all jerks.
Best for fans of Douglas Coupland – i.e., people who loved GenerationX and actually get the Smiths reference in GirlfriendinaComa. Also good for anyone who has every worked in the entertainment industry. Not good for anyone offended by Very Poor Behavior, sexist pigs, insult comedy and/or crass descriptions of people, places, and things.
Readalike: AConfederacyofDunces by John Kennedy Toole