Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dark Tales Review: Railsea

RAILSEA by China Mieville
Ahoy!Not only have I come across a YA novel that doesn't write down to the teen level, it challenges them with a post-modern awareness of all the grand sea adventures that preceded it. Here oceans are desert wastelands littered with twisted railroad ties and rusted salvage, the ships that sail them, trains. At first glance Railsea is a steampunk reimagining of Melville's Moby Dick. You wouldn't be entirely wrong if you replace the white whale with a massive mole. Replace Ahab with a female sea captain named Miss Naphi and you're even closer. Her arm has been replaced with robotics, the arm rumored to be taken by the great pale, sound familiar? But as the first line declares (and reverberates throughout) this is really about something else altogether.
Mieville has been awarded so many accolades in the realm of science fiction he needed to build an alternate world just to fit them all. His master craft is etched on each page. His reverence for storytelling and his respect for the power of word guides his hand throughout. His splendid asides weave the multiple story lines together. There is even a chapter that explains his use of an ampersand (&) to replace any use of the word and in the novel relating it to the twisted rails and the twisted world his characters navigate) Throughout the narrator reminds you that you are being told a tale and he is at the helm.
The main character is Sham Yes ap Soorap, a boy fated to be a doctor's assistant on a moler's ship. His melancholy comes from his knowing that he was meant for more than what he had been instructed to accept. The malaise sparks curiosity and finally courage as he comes to the aid of the Shroake twins who are also searching for meaning in their lives. Where they are destined to search will lead them to the far reaches of the Railsea towards treasure, Heaven or possibly their ruination.
Mieville fleshes out a most impossible world.What starts as a laundry list of set pieces; mechanisms, life forms, and terrain seems neverending until all the details congeal into a fleshed out post apocalyptic hellscape.
Sham as our innocent guide leads us towards redemption. In a world where a captain's obsession is considered a philosophy it is a thrill to what this unabashed boy become a man developing a philosophy of his own, an ideal more human than iconic in its focus. Did I mention the are pirates? Yes! A great read for anyone who wants a swashbuckler  they can chew on, a tale that reads like at any moment it could bite back. P.S.- This book will make you to befriend a pet bat. The daybat may be the true hero here.
THINK: Moby Dick as written by, well, Mieville directed by Ridley Scott.
1st LINE – “This is the story of a blood-stained boy.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dark Tales Review: Perception

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It is a collection of novels that I recommend for IR and YA readers and for all of our inner children. Since I write young adult fiction of a macabre nature, I gravitate towards authors who cover similar terrain. I have included the first lines of each book for I fervently believe that there is nothing more important in a novel, save fulfilling the promise of those carefully honed first words. May they enrich you in their storytelling, inspire you in their battles between right and wrong and most importantly, keep you up nights. -S.E.
PERCEPTION by Kim Harringon
Want to talk about something spooky? How about the infamous sophomore effort, be it a novel for writers or an album for musicians, it haunts the artist. If you come out of the gate making a wicked awesome red velvet cupcake how can you be expected to wow your fan base with green velvet.
Perception is the second novel in YA paranormal romance author Kim Harrington’s Clarity series. The first book (reviewed here) has Clarity Fern, a psychic who can see a person’s past through touched objects, and her equally gifted Mom and brother search out a killer with the backdrop of a bustling coastal town on Cape Cod. It also has Clare deal with being ostracized by teen society and juggle an emerging romantic triangle.
In her second outing Claire is playing super sleuth again but things have changed in her life. The hounds of her affections, his cheatin' heart Justin and hunkalicious Gabriel, are still there but she has new found fame to deal with and a potential stalker. Kim, having a successful first novel and adoring fans, can relate to Claire’s predicament and Claire’s voice with its barrage of sympathetic questioning proves it out.
From the boardwalk salt water taffy of summer to the caramel apple of Fall in New England this breezy read does miss the sunny tourist season of the debut. Also, you don’t have to be psychic to foresee some of the plot reveals. My tastes would have preferred a little more "para" in with the "normal" but the author admirably aims for something different this time out.
In truth, to compare the two books is like comparing caramel apples to orange taffy. Here Clare relies on her humanity far more than her powers, the paranormal taking a back seat in her emotional roller coaster Autumn. The strength she has to conjure is powers we all possess. She takes chances in her social life to various degrees of success and dismal failure. Here is where the real fear lives. Even scarier is the real monster, the boogieman in the dark, the fine art of bullying in all of its guises. The novel is a study of the cause and effect, how the bullied can become bulliers, how the process brings people to perform desperate acts, and how elusive true friendship is. Now that’s scary!
THINK: TV's Dangerous Minds meets Film's Mean Girls.
1st LINE – “I stepped forward with forced confidence.”