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Green by Jay Lake
Publisher: TOR, 2009
Sub-genre: Swords and sorcery
If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be "uneven." The writing, the pacing, Green's relationships with other characters... all have their strong moments and much weaker moments. At its best, the book is gripping, but it can't seem to hold to that best continuously.
Aptly titled, Green is primarily a character study of its protagonist, a character-driven rather than a plot-driven novel. She is wonderful and complex, perhaps not always likeable but always someone you can understand, and very very flawed. Green doesn't necessarily take steps to grow past her flaws, although she does start to learn how to use them to her advantage rather than to let them dictate things for her. She's always competent and while she makes mistakes, she's never stupid.
I absolutely loved the first part of the book. At the end of this section, however, the story takes an unexpected turn and instead of continuing with the political life she'd been raised to live, Green ends up headed in an entirely different direction, and after this point the story begins to meander all over the place. Actually, Green spends a while after this point literally wandering around aimlessly, and since her travels during this time are still documented faithfully, the story begins to drag at this point. It does pick up again, but never fully recovers to live up to the promising beginning.
Green is an ambitious novel, and Lake starts out with some truly interesting ideas. The first segment of the book, had it drawn out the plot twist a bit more instead of creating an anti-climax, would have earned a mountain of praise as its own novel. The way it continues, though, it isn't quite able to hold up its own weight, and some of the best parts end up falling to the wayside rather than staying at the forefront where they belong.
Publisher: Novel Concept, 2012
Novel Concept Publishing is a small e-publisher, which does nothing to change my expectations of quality in a book. In this case, that expectation was too highly placed, as the e-mail offering me an ARC was the most professional thing about the book. The Progeny was full of basic grammatical errors, awkward dialogue, and important things popping up suddenly instead of having any foreshadowing whatsoever. I've never hoped so fervently for differences between the ARC and the finished copy, but judging from the sample I downloaded of the final product, all these very basic issues are still there. I've never seen so many unnecessary commas in a book. After awhile I started thinking of them as tears on the page, crying for crimes against grammar. Sentences like this were disturbingly common: "She spent tons of money buying concealer to cover the, two or three, scars she'd gotten, in adolescence, when her face waged a holy war against her." Seriously, why you gotta make the book cry? My brain is reading this like William Shatner is narrating, since all the, pauses, are unnecessary.
The dialogue wasn't much better. In what is supposed to be a sexy scene, Ascher stops Shawna before they go too far, knowing she's a virgin. "I want you more than you know. We still shouldn't. Your first time is a big deal. I want you to be sure. You are so precious to me and your virginity is just as precious. When it's gone, you can't get it back." Honestly, what man talks like this? The sentiment itself is fine, but unless he's a stereotypically camp gay man, "you are so precious" is not something I can see coming out of a man's mouth. (And, uh, if he's the gay best friend, that whole scene has even more problems.)
Most problematic is the relationship between Shawna and Ascher itself. During their slow courtship, he's basically a giant tool about everything. He plays hot and cold with her a lot in his efforts to try to resist her. Without any explanations for his behaviour, from Shawna's perspective this should be a big red flag that he's just not that into her, but she doesn't require more than a half-hearted apology after he avoids her for a week. He not only doesn't tell her about his fiancé, but actively lies about her. When Shawna inevitably finds out the truth and is enraged, the book treats her behaviour as unreasonable, going so far as to have her apologize for her reaction.
There are some ideas worth exploring in here, the glimmer of promise, but The Progeny needs some heavy editing and rewriting before I could encourage anyone to spend money on it.