I. bloggish rambling,
II. book acquisition details for the penniless,
III. the actual work as a stand-alone creation,
IV. notes on the book's reception/place in the totality
I. shibuya blue
some people don't mind the bloggish notes on what the reviewer is up to; others prefer to skip ahead to actual "Literature Discussion." for whatever posterity's sake or curiosity's sake, I rode a bike into Shibuya for the first time in my life, making it roughly 15 years since I first wandered down Center-Gai, wide-eyed and almost disbelieving. what can you say. it's Disneyland on speed. it's Fashion Capital. it's that unique entity called Japan and one of its most unique 300 meters. all the tourists standing around with cameras out point to something going on, although what exactly it is might not be absolutely simple to characterize. knowing anyway, that bloggish notes are downplayed on our beloved GR site, I guess I'll have to summarize this section just as, is it better to be making $3 thou/month at some desk job in the States or *literally watching every yen* at 900 USD/month but biking into Shibuya? what a mystery!
in any case, contrary to the situation this summer when I had a library and infinite time, it's now work 30 hours/week, and a mind a bit too tired to do anything but strum through children's literature. hmmm... wanna get my hands on the final third book of the Ramona Quimby "dark period". such mindless fun, what a delight!
II. book acquisition
the book was acquired accidentally, at the Shibuya Center-Gai BOOKOFF. hmm. the previous day I had noted Jonathan Lethem's AMNESIA MOON for 200 yen. the city moves quick! the very next day AMNESIA MOON was gone, and the next best opportunities at the 200 or 300 yen level were a variety of vaguely literary titles. as it were, though, I think one was a LeCarre I had already read, another a mere airport paperback thriller. Scott Westerfield UGLIES, although 300 full yen, at least had the endorsement of some untold six figures on GR (as I remembered it; I have to type this out on Bluetooth keyboard and then copy-paste; the actual number is fairly easily accessible on the GR entry. in any case, it was one of those 'huge' numbers. hundreds of thousands of teenagers can't be wrong).
III. the book!
probably immediately after uploading this text, I'll be able to check out what all the GR crew has said. if you're new to the website, look up Penketron, look up Dr. M, look up Ceridwen and *the professional*. haha, names altered for fun's sake. anyway between the newbies on the site and the long timers over by the fireplace, everyone seems to be having fun with Facebook for booknerds. hahahaha. is there some crisis going on with reviewer censorship? you should see Red China. neighborhood watch officers on every street corner and a thug-like paramilitary force that beats up market stall owners. internet auto-purge and auto-block that operates on a "warning system;" i.e., lookup Tiannanmen Square two or three times, fine, no page delivered; look for it the fourth time and the internet for you goes down for a couple minutes. this isn't a joke!
anyway the book is good. 4/5. I resisted looking up Wiki-details on the work until completion, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that no, Westerfield did not plagarize HUNGER GAMES. this book came out in 2005, and HUNGER GAMES is 2009. but there were some similarities, as there were also to SHIPBREAKER by Bacigalupa (YA dystopian work by winner of Hugo/Nebula for WINDUP GIRL, a 5/5 masterpiece). is it just the genre? or are quick-thinking teenagers always in imminent peril, fighting against a corrupt government that doesn't simply eradicate them. hmm. had I been running District 1 in the Hunger Games, I would simply have gassed Katniss at any opportunity I had of sending rose-floral essence her way. *PLOT HOLE* hahahah. but although this genre must always been composed of various flights, chases, moral conundrums, and sheer "world showing" (=as in, your imagination creates an entire corrupt world, and then plot seems to be bent in order to take the heroes/protagonists on a guided tour of that universe), the flaws that can be pointed out (slightly weak plot sequence at one point in the Smokies setting, character noticeably less complex than 2009 Katniss Everdean), at the same time, "crowd-pleasing work" I guess has to appeal to a certain lower common denominator. an attempt at adult literary fiction calls for both acid and absolute precise delineation of emotion and political commentary; this YA stuff has to paint in broad-strokes, this I think, we just have to forgive the artist.
compared to Leviathan, a somewhat more believable fictional universe (Leviathan gets some technology stuff just wrong), comprising, as mentioned, the hero teenagers struggling against near-future dystopia. a possible parable-reading has been noted by at least one eminent critic (= novel as metaphor for maturation? acceptance of conventional values?), but otherwise a degree of cotton candy teeny bop "teen anxst" combined with HG action, MTV-generation societal understanding, and dialogue- and action-strong crafting. forced to choose between this book and Hunger Games in the "burning library scenario," I'd take Hunger Games, but clearly this 4/5 is worth a read and flows.
as far the much-beaten-to-death subgenre of teenage dystopian action YA goes, this is definitely still worthy of adult interest, and if it times it seems just a BBC made-for-TV movie with its rapid plot, at the same time, it has some usage for work-tired minds on a lazy sunday. I think I will not be putting down the $9 for the remaining three volumes, which leaves BOOKOFF with volumes 2, 3, and 4 of the series, but hey, capitalism goes both ways.
finally, for those remaining precisely on the fence on whether to get this book or not, suffice to say, "it's YA chase sequences and action taking place across a possibly-oppressive high tech city and then the wilderness that shelters the Smokie resistance. quick-moving without huge amounts of intellectual commitment, along with some crowd-pleaser social commentary on physical beauty"