November 10, 2013

Robin Wasserman: "Torn" ("Wired")

Title: Torn (previously: Wired) [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Cold Awakening (3rd of 3 books)
Author: Robin Wasserman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2010
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Again: not overly original premise brought to excellence. Strong, imaginative world-building. Well crafted, emotion-conveying prose. As with the second book, you also get more action than in the first one.
Cons: You have to buy the premise, of course (parents willing to shove their kid's brain into a machine and all that). And you have to like the main character despite her past - which, apparently, proved tough to some readers (but not to me). Also, in this last installment there are a couple of not completely convincing character attitudes (more like unexpected revelations and/or changes). But I can't bring myself to take even half a star away from my rating...
Will appeal to: Those who aren't afraid to think and speculate. Those who can appreciate a gutsy ending.

Blurb: Lia has become the public face of the mechs, BioMax’s poster girl for the up-and-coming technology, devoting her life to convincing the world that she - and the others like her - deserve to exist. Then Jude resurfaces, and brings some scandalous information with him. Is BioMax really an ally to the mechs? Or are they using the technology for a great evil...and if so, can Auden really be a part of the plan? Meanwhile, Lia also learns a shocking truth about the accident that resulted in her download...a truth that forces her to make a decision she can never reverse. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: I think you got the point by now: this is my favourite series so far. I'm not the fangirling type (also because *cough* wrong age for that *cough*), but I need to strongly assert it...this is a darn good trilogy. Which doesn't mean it's perfect, and of course doesn't mean it can be palatable for everyone. Still, if only one person, after reading my reviews, is going to give it a chance because of them, I will be a happier old girl ;).
As in the first two books - especially the second - we get the right blend of philosophy (don't let the word scare you!) and action. Right from the start, when we follow Lia during the highlights of an advanced reality show...an idea sponsored by BioMax, in order to persuade the masses to accept mechs as your average people. Again, I love it how Wasserman manages to incorporate bits of our nowadays life and/or technology into her narration, taking them a step further (hey, it's the future!), but at the same time avoiding to overdo them. From here, the story unravels among friends and foes - friends turned into foes, foes unexpectedly becoming friends - allies who betray and former haters who repent, or at least cling to their own humanity enough to make amends. There are a couple of huge surprises along the way...even not counting Zo's disclosed ability as a hacker extraordinaire (after all, we already got a taste of that in the second installment). Let's just say, no one in Lia's family is who they appear to be, and a huge secret will tear her life (and Zo's) apart. To be honest, I had a couple (???) of issues with this part, as far as likelihood goes. On the other hand, it works well for the novel, though I wouldn't say it has any chance to happen IRL. (Sorry for being so cryptic - but you don't want to be spoiled, right? *grins*). [...]

November 01, 2013

Robin Wasserman: "Shattered" ("Crashed")

Title: Shattered (previously: Crashed) [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Cold Awakening (2st of 3 books)
Author: Robin Wasserman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2009
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Again: not overly original premise brought to excellence. Strong, imaginative world-building. Well crafted, emotion-conveying prose. Also, you get more action than in the first installment.
Cons: You have to buy the premise, of course (parents willing to shove their kid's brain into a machine and all that). And you have to like the main character despite her past - which, apparently, proved tough to some readers (but not to me).
Will appeal to: Those who aren't afraid to think and speculate.

Blurb: Six months after the crash that killed her, six months after being reborn, Lia has finally accepted her new reality. She is a machine, a mech, and she belongs with her own kind. It's a wild, carefree life, without rules and without fear. Because there's nothing to fear when you have nothing left to lose. But when a voice from her past cries out for revenge, everything changes. Lia is forced to choose between her old life and her new one. Between humans and mechs. Between sacrificing the girl she used to be and saving the boy she used to love. Even if it means he'll hate her forever. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off, like most blurbs, the above one is a bit deceiving - and even a bit senseless. If "the boy she used to love" is the one who got hurt at the end of book 1, it's not like Lia loved him. Not the way the blurb seems to imply. Now, you might think he's Walker instead, but I will spoil this much...neither Walker nor the rest of Lia's old crew are going to make a reappearance in this sequel. (And anyway, they would mean nothing to her at this point). The boy can't be Lia's mech boyfriend from book 1 either, because of the "used to love" part. And whoever he's supposed to be, Lia's choice between "sacrificing the girl she used to be" and "saving the boy she used to love" doesn't make sense at all - it's not like she either does this or that.
The cover progression (pertaining to the first edition) has little sense as well, though I have to admit it can look nice and alluring to those who crave for romance and love triangles. First we have Lia alone...then Lia with, um, Jude I suppose...then, in the third installment, Lia with Jude and Riley. People, this series is not about that. Though there's indeed a love-hate relationship between Lia and one of the boys who is not her partner. And well, yes, the triangle is there...but it's not the kind of triangle you would expect. It's more like Lia is the disturbing force who threatens to tear the two male friends apart. One of them trusts her, the other does not - and there are further dynamics at work there.
At the end of book 1, after an unexpected tragedy, Lia has finally embraced her life as a mech, though she still feels a connection with her org past her new friends seem to have dismissed - especially those for whom being a mech means a better existence than the one they used to have. The first chapters of Shattered deal with Lia and said friends trying to test their own boundaries and to trick their computer brains into feeling things like pain or fear. Which, to me, is the most fascinating part of this installment. (BTW - some reviewers on Goodreads were repulsed by the "dangerous activities in order to feel alive". But I don't see how this book can send a bad message, since we are talking about characters who basically can't get hurt. Does anyone blame superheroes for being a dangerous role model because of their flying and fighting?). Anyway, for those who'd rather have some action, here it is as well. Lia and fellow mech Riley find themselves in the middle of a bioterrorist attack to a corporate town, of which Lia will end up being the prime suspect. From here, all hell breaks loose - though I wouldn't say there's non-stop action. Guilt and lies come into play a lot, from almost every part, Lia included. There is heartbreak - of the mech kind, but this doesn't make it less real - and betrayal; there are enemies and unexpected allies; and Lia's dysfunctional family is not forgotten (particularly her sister Zo, who will make for some surprising chapters). The dystopian-post apocalyptic angle is furtherly explored, and again, it doesn't leave anything to be desired. [...]