Review: Books of 2014

2014Books

Thirty two books this year! That’s roughly half a book a week…some of them were monsters of 500 pages and some of them little snippets. Any that jump out at me now I look again?

Looking through them, I’m glad I managed to get so many good books out of my choices. Of all of them, I can see three stinkers I’ll never go near again: Solaris (Nothing but dull exposition), The Bunker Diary (No resolution) and The Giver (Passive hero doesn’t do much).

And I don’t remember anything about Resist, the second part of the Breathe series. I had to check back to see the names of the characters and my review on Goodreads. Two stars for that one, it seems.

I found some genuine emotional books this year, ones that moved me to tears – A Monster Calls, and the social anxiety felt by Lochlan in Forbidden really resonated with me. The simple heart-warming tale of A Street Cat name Bob was wonderful as well.

There are books this year that are really pushing the boundaries of young adult writing, and they’re invigorating to read. Every Day has a character without gender; The Chaos Walking trilogy has a stream-of-consciousness narrative.

Speaking of which, I’ve soaked up a lot of Patrick Ness this year with Knife, Ask, and Monsters and A Monster Calls. He’s definitely an author I’m on the lookout for now.

Another new author for me this year was Neil Gaiman and Coraline. This collection of short stories was variable, but I like his style enough to look for more in 2015.

Of the three Stephen Kings, I would read Carrie again over The Regulators. Brilliant story, streamlined and powerful. As was Doctor Sleep, a great sequel to The Shining.

Two classics this year, quite short ones: Emma, which clicked for me half way through, and The Great Gatsby, a sensual trip back to the 1920s.

Finally, a special shout out to my friend and antipodean author Anna Hub and her two books Beyond the Shadows and Shadow Hunters. Love those covers!

Happy reading for 2015!

Writing Whimsy: The Long Walk

The campfire was down to its last embers before Jonas turned to me and asked me to tell my tale. I smiled, but it didn’t reach my eyes.

“It’s not really a ghost story, Jonas,” I replied. Circled around me, the kids of class nine yawned and rubbed their eyes. Billy McAllister was the only one really still awake; the rest struggled and stared vacantly at the fire, eyelids drooping.

They were a little old for campfire ghost stories anyway. What would I tell them? The story of the hitchhikers and hook hand? They’d laugh that one out of the ballpark.

For an answer to my complaint, Jonas only shifted and tossed some more sticks on the fire, shrugging away my denial. “Give it a shot anyway,” he said.

I started at the fire, not seeing it.

“I was about the same age as you kids when it happened. But before we get to that, you need to know what happened before…if that makes sense.”

Billy nodded and the rest turned sleepy eyes towards me. I couldn’t have been much more than a shadow to them against the light of the fire, and that was fine by me. “Before…

 

…then. My brother had been killed in a car crash a few summers before, and my family was still picking up the pieces and wondering where we all went from here. We all had our ways of dealing with it.

Me? I went for long walks. Twenty five mile, six hour long walks. I was out from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon. Once a week I’d find a day and walk. Solitude was my silent partner, and a welcome one at that.

Through sleeping fields of corn and wheat, I looked for some answers, and tried to come to terms with what happened. It was good to get out of the house and away from it all for a while. On a long walk, I’d slip into a quiet Zen state, my feet moving automatically over what become well-known footpaths and fields. Long walks and silence. It was beautiful.

Except the countryside is rarely silent; there would always be a tractor or a car moving somewhere in earshot. Radios playing, or people moving in the dozing villages and hamlets I passed through without stopping. Always moving, always walking, that was me.

Something you should know about the car crash – there was another car involved. Yes, my brother was racing – new car, hot pair of wheels and a feeling of invulnerability. All it needed was a wet road and the laws of physics took over. Seatbelts don’t help when you roll a car that fast. The other driver – Andy, I think his name was – survived. Death by dangerous driving. Five years in jail.

Anyway, I walked and I walked, and I dropped into a Zen sleep. You walk a footpath often enough, even a twenty mile one, and you don’t even need to look at your feet anymore. Or think anymore.

Except this day was different.

 

I paused in my story, and the kids shifted and fidgeted. They were all listening now, more awake. Some of them had brothers, after all. I looked away from the fire and up at the night, endless and infinite before I told them…

 

…I was on my way home that day. A route I’d taken a dozen times before. A narrow road with high hedges, a gate, a farmer’s field. Five miles from home. Nothing I hadn’t seen or experienced before; nothing out of the ordinary in any way. A little quieter than usual, that was all.

I stopped to take a drink of water from my backpack when it started: That feeling on the back of your neck, the one that stretches its way up your spine and down your back. You turn, and there is no one there; but the feeling remains. The footpath and the field you stand beside are empty, the sky a deserted blue apart from the islands of floating clouds. Not a soul in sight.

You tell yourself it’s nothing, but the feeling stays there.

The feeling of being watched. The feeling of being followed.

And it’s a feeling that gets stronger the more you stay and the more times you look back. Whatever it is comes closer, and whatever it is, you don’t want to meet it. Even in broad daylight on a hot summer day, you do not. Want. To. Meet. It.

The silence behind me was thicker than usual, the bird song muted and the trees silent and watching.

So I picked up my pace a little…and the feeling faded again. Until I stopped, and there it was again. Still nothing behind me but emptiness and solitude. Only that solitude felt like a threat now, a danger I never recognised.

I turned my back on that feeling and walked on and on.

Then at about three miles from home, something odd happened. From nowhere the thought popped, complete and relating to nothing:

Maybe I’m needed at home.

But that’s not the extraordinary thing. The instant the thought about being at home came into my head, the feeling of being watched vanished instantly as though it had never existed.

I still didn’t look back though, or pause to rest. I must have made those three miles in record time.

It would be simple now to check something like that…a text message or a phone call, and you’d have such a random thought cleared up in a few minutes. But this was twenty years ago, kids. Nothing so advanced back then. I was alone and no one knew where I was. I was three miles out and an hour away from knowing.

 

I made it home, of course, with no one following me. There wasn’t anything out there but my imagination. Nothing at all.

Except:

When I got home, my mother told me that the other driver in the car crash – Andy – had received an early prison release that day.

 

Billy was the first to ask, the others turning to him as though they’d forgotten he was there.

“You think it was your brother, sir? Haunting you or something?”

I could have lied to them, I suppose. I could have told them something. “I don’t know, Billy. I really don’t. I only know it scared the life out of me.” I stretched. “I’d been walking twenty miles a week until then…but I didn’t go for a walk the week after.”

Billy nodded, seemingly satisfied. “What was your brother’s name, sir?”

I coughed and cut my eyes to the empty log to my left. “Jonas.”

 

(Excluding the framing story of the campfire, this did happen to me – all of it. What was following me that silent summer day? I really don’t have a clue…but it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.)

3636

Review: The Giver, Lois Lowry

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3636.The_Giver

3/5 – Spoilers throughout

When Jonas reaches the age of twelve, his career will be chosen for him, as it is for every twelve year old in the community where he lives. Some will become labourers, some mothers, some doctors.

Jonas is the reciever of memory – every memory in the history of the old world, passed on by his tutor, The Giver. The question is, what will he do with that knowledge?

This is a short book, only about two hundred pages, so it only took me a few hours to read. The premise, though an old one – Utopia with a dark heart – is unique in its width. The community (it’s never named) has pushed blandness to an art form. Even colour (somehow) and music are banned, for fear of the population going wild and rioting if they see a patch of green grass or hear some Mozart, or something. Sex is forbidden and love controlled with drugs. Procreation is moved to a rotating group of birthmothers (who are presumably inseminated artificially).

However, they have taken the smart move of delegating everything ever learned onto one person. Most Utopias seem determined to forget the past ever existed.

Early in the book, Jonas talks about elderly patients and miscreants being sent ‘Elsewhere’ and ‘being released’, and it was very obvious from the first references that this is a community that not so much enjoys euthanasia as revels in it; ‘sub-standard’ infants and the elderly all go through the procedure. So it’s no shock to witness it when it happens late in the book to a baby.

The technical aspects of this book – it’s all telling and no showing (“Jonas was angry”, not “Jonas clenched his fists”) – and the oddly stilted dialogue make this book feel like it was written in 1955, not 1993. The writing is at the level of a children’s book; this is not YA, people! Eleven year olds have moved on – you don’t need to spoon-feed them by telling and not showing.

On the other hand, that stilted approach works well in the community as presented – everyone is bland and two-dimensional as the colourless world where they live. But here’s the thing: For effect, that tell-not-show should have changed when Jonas began his lessons with The Giver. And it didn’t.

Because of that, I felt nothing for Jonas or anyone else. I didn’t connect to him because he remained so two-dimensional. He could have been given so much more depth, but he’s never given the chance before he’s running away from home.

Jonas is also very passive. His relationship with The Giver is there only for exposition. Instead of Jonas finding things out for himself, instead of him pushing the boundaries of his life, instead of him maturing into an adult, he asks and The Giver explains the world to him on a plate. Spoon-feeding again. So the hero in this book does nothing until the last twenty pages.

Let’s talk about those last twenty pages, which is when the book really starts to fall over. Jonas crests a hill, finds a sledge and slips through the snow. It’s the first memory The Giver passed on to him. I had the feeling that Lowry wanted some deep metaphorical ending, but it didn’t work for me; Jonas is obviously hallucinating, or already dead. So the passive hero who does nothing but flee dies at the end. Lovely.

I rated this three stars, but I hesitated between that and two. Lowry creates a solid world, and one that works, but the hero in it is bland, even when he has the chance to become much more. The only colour in the book comes from The Giver, and all he does is exposit.

For a better time with a Utopia with a dark heart, read Mel Cusick-Jones, “Hope’s Daughter” – teenagers who actually discover things for themselves.

Disappointing.

Writing Whimsy: The Walk

 

“Some walks you have to take alone.”

– Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay (Used with permission)

 

I remember the first time we came this way, the two of us. I didn’t know you then, didn’t know your middle name or where you lived. Didn’t know the name of your first pet or the dreams you had.

I didn’t know about the nightmares either back then, the ones with the blade slicing down. I knew you’d wake with a start, and I’d ask you about it. All you remembered, you said, was the knife coming down, the bright light from the edge that reflected into your eyes and dazzled you, the last thing you ever saw before you woke. Never his face. If you’d seen his face, maybe it would have helped. It would have been something, anyway. Something would have been better than nothing.

I stop where we always stopped, looking out over the village. There are new homes now, people who don’t know who you were. What became of you. Only a faded footnote in the newspaper, page four and then forgotten, a face on microfilm.

But I remember. How could I forget?

I remember the first day we walked out here. Right under there, that rich oak clothed in a green finery of summer, we kissed for the first time. I was so nervous you said you felt my heart tripping away under my clothes like a trapped sparrow.

Spring came green and summer came greener, winter on bare winds and skeleton trees, all through the walk we loved. How beautiful autumn became when I saw it through your eyes, the trees set on fire and burning with the last embers of summer. The anonymous plants you named for me, the birds that seemed to wheel and spin above, just for us, just for us.

It’s gone now, the warmth of autumn. Just dying leaves and the cold kiss of winter await me at home. An empty table and a silent night. There’s no laughter anymore, no lovers touch after midnight. No joy to come home to. Only the empty seat beside mine. My laughter is that of a lunatic, condemned to an asylum of pain.

I close my eyes, and still see you beside me, walking. Feel the easy warmth of your hand in mine. I inhale the scent of your hair and the taste of your skin. But then I open my eyes and you vanish, only atoms in the universe.

I leave the flower where I left the others, cleaning out the dead petals to make a space. For a while, there were others left flowers here, flowers and cards I didn’t read. For a while, others shared this walk we loved, coming here to stand and mourn. For a while, they came. Then it became ours again…mine again, alone again.

This walk that we loved.

 

——

I was working my way through Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of The Hunger Games, and had just started number three, Mockingjay, when a sentence leaped out at me. I had to jump out of the story to bookmark it and then keep reading – the book was too good to put down – but I came back to it later that day…and this was the result.

There’s a footpath that my wife and I enjoy walking along at the back of my home in the village where we live, and I imagined walking it alone…not out of choice, but because I had no one to share it with any more.

Some walks you have to take alone. Oh, yeah, ain’t that the truth.

18138917

Review: Trouble, Non Pratt

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18138917-trouble

4/5

Hannah is a wild fifteen year old, who loves nothing more than drinking parties, socialising with her friends and not caring too much about school. Then she gets pregnant.

I hadn’t heard much about this book before Becky’s enthusiastic and passionate review here (http://tinyurl.com/krzzevq). I follow every one of her reviews, and she very rarely rates a book five stars…and certainly never reads a book in two days. This was one I had to see for myself…and I’m glad I did.

I was expecting some social lecture about the perils of pregnancy, and some moral lessons about underage sex (age of consent in the UK is sixteen), but there was little of that. In fact, the book isn’t really about Hannah’s pregnancy as much as it about the social changes it causes around her.

I won’t reveal the spoiler of who the father is (I did work it out fairly quickly though), and why Hannah doesn’t go to him is revealed over the course of the book and makes a major plot point.

This brings in the other main character: Aaron. Aaron is the new boy in school, emerging from some trauma he can’t deal with. He views the eddies and streams of friendships and enemies with an indifferent eye, new to all and in some ways immune.

But when Hannah needs a father, he volunteers himself to be branded as the dad. Why he does it links back to his trauma…which is another spoiler I can’t reveal.

The short punchy chapters alternate between Hannah and Aaron, and since they have very different narrative voices, it works very well. Hannah’s sister receives a pet rabbit called Fiver for instance: Aaron would have recognised the Watership Down reference, but Hannah thinks it’s how much it cost. Their outlooks and expectations were very different. No doubt that we were dealing with two different people at any point.

Minor characters were given lots of room and backstory as well. Neville, a pensioner Aaron visits, is a great character full of wit and wisdom, as is Hannah’s gran.

There were points when the plot veered into kitchen-sink soap opera, but they were isolated. Pratt does a great job of pulling at your heart and then tickling it with her emotive writing within a paragraph or two.

This is a book about the strength of family and the power of good friends; a book about finding out who those friends are and who you can count on when you need them.

In the end, it’s a happy and uplifting book, a potent and positive spin on a subject usually given a more dour treatment.

15800595

Review: Doctor Sleep, Stephen King

 

4/5

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15800595-doctor-sleep

Dan Torrance, the child protagonist of King’s The Shining, is now an alcoholic drifter, chased by the ghosts of his childhood and trying to drown them in drink. When he gets off a bus to nowhere in New Hampshire, his life begins to change…

Including The Talisman – Black House books King wrote with Peter Straub and his Dark Tower series, King is actually an old hand at sequels. This one doesn’t disappoint: it’s full of warmth and humour and characteristic King touches and style.

About a quarter of the way through, I realised the plot is more of a Dean Koontz feel: Troubled man helps protect precocious tele-everything teen from very real psychic vampires, learning the redemptive power of family on the way. Not that’s a criticism at all, I just thought it was interesting.

Dan attends Alcoholics Anonymous, and one of the twelve steps is apologise to those you’ve hurt…and it seems like King wants to apologise to Dan Torrance for running him through the hell of The Shining. He wants to know that Dan’s life turned out all right in the end. It’s very much a story of redemption and returning sanity, a counterpoint to the damnation and slide into insanity that was The Shining.

And King’s own demons mirror the book: As a recovering alcoholic and substance abuser, he’s been at the bottom where Dan starts off. As a result Dan feels like a very intimate and personal portrait, a thin veil of King’s own fall and recovery.

As much as Dan realises he can’t escape the virtual demons in his head, so Abra – his teenage counterpart – can’t escape the real demons chasing after her: Wherever you go, there you are, they realise.

The climax felt a little rushed, but then as a book about redemption and healing, it was never really about who was going to win in the end. And, to be honest, it was pretty obvious from the start.

It’s been a while since King wrote anything as simple as splatter and gore, and the horror and the terror in this book are restrained and off-screen. No one loses a foot or does the Mashed Potato all over a giant eyeball for instance.

With such a strong young adult protagonist, it’s also a great young-adult book.

I haven’t read The Shining in a few years, and it didn’t feel as if I needed a refresher to read this. There would have been a few paragraphs that wouldn’t have made much sense, that was all.

If you haven’t read any King, this is a great place to start.

Double edges

On the street where I live, a solitary neighbour – let’s call him Paul – recently died. Paul was a nice guy, quiet, looked after his mother when she was terminally ill and looked after another old lady who lived across the road (We live on a street where most of our neighbours are retired and elderly. It’s one of the reasons I love it – no parties until 3am where we live).

Anyway, another neighbour told me that Paul was slowly drinking himself to death; and, as I said, he recently succeeded.

Being a writer is mostly a great time. You get to make up worlds and people who don’t exist and play with them, run them through the mill and see what they’re made of. But it’s a double-edged sword, like with our quiet neighbour Paul.

I can see him, sitting alone in his kitchen every night, staring at a bottle and the silent, silent walls and rooms around him. I can see him reaching for that bottle to try to drown out that silence, then having to do it more often. The absolute loneliness of his life, the spaces he couldn’t fill.

I could be wrong about Paul, of course; he could – and most likely did – have his own reasons for drinking until it killed him. But still the writer in me sees him sitting there, alone, every night and sees the empty tragedy of his life.

Here’s another example: My wife and I had a good friend who died in a light aircraft crash quite a few years ago. (Those things crash all the time, have you noticed?). As a writer, it’s all too easy to imagine her gripping the hand of the person beside her as the pilot loses control and the plane starts to shudder. And to see the rushing trees coming towards her through her eyes, see those last thoughts flash through her head.

And as easy as it to imagine how beautiful a starlight beach is at midnight, the sand rubbing your toes, the infinity of stars above you, that smell of open water and the mist from the surf prickling your skin, so it’s as easy to imagine how it feels to be trapped in a plane that’s being flown towards an already burning building, the Manhattan skyline unrolling beneath you at three hundred miles per hour.

I don’t get to pick and choose what Muse throws at me, and when she does, I feel the responsibility to share that empathy to lonely people like Paul…to tell the stories the way my imagination and experience of life sees them, both the happy stories and the sad: The beautiful beach and the burning building. Both edges of the sword, and both of them cut as deeply when I write.

I’m not complaining about that responsibility at all; in fact I enjoy it. I’ll always try and do the best job I can with the stories I write, because that’s the way I was raised – if a job’s worth doing, then do it well – and I take my writing very seriously, even when it’s just fun and games.

It wouldn’t be right otherwise.

One Last Job

It had been a while since I’d been in central London, but it never seemed to change; Houses of Parliament, endless commuters and even more endless tourists streaming from Westminster Tube and stopping to take out their phones and Tweet or Instagram where they were for the folks back home. I stopped for a few seconds too, content to let the crowd flow around me. I’ve got better at that since I retired. Once, long ago, I made the crowd. The eye the hurricane spun around, that was me. There was no way I could have stood here back then without crash barriers and a police presence to rival a presidents. That’s all behind me now, thank god. Very retired and enjoying it, thank you very much. I won’t be returning your call.

I had turned away from Big Ben and was walking south across Westminster Bridge when a black cab pulled from traffic and screeched up on to the kerb. Before I could move, three large men in unbuttoned suits dove from the back and bundled me inside and the car screamed away. I’m sure none of the thousand tourists on the bridge even managed to get a picture or even had time to react. Just a black cab in a city full of them.

I sat quiescent in the middle of the three goons, considering my options. The red light above the door lock cut them down to not-many; the screen between us and driver cut them down even more. I sat back and relaxed, resigned. So they’d found me, and in the space of a blink, I was back in their world again. My life had been a living hell of movement, of constant exposure and I’d vowed never to go back, and here I was, all over again, right in the middle of own little crowd. There was no point talking to these men; they would tell me nothing. Only the man they were taking me too would speak to me. I couldn’t do anything but sit back and enjoy the ride.

***

After twenty minutes of screwing with my sense of location – London does that to you without even trying – the cab pulled to a stop in a cemetery and the goons got out, pushing me between them. It wasn’t the first time I’d been herded like that, and none of the memories it raised were pleasant. They shepherded me forward between the headstones, then parted and stopped.

My focus dropped to the man sitting alone on a bench, watching distant London, fingers of skyscrapers scraping afternoon blue. I strode in front of him, breaking his eye contact with the horizon. He gestured at the empty space beside him, but I stood with my arms crossed, refusing to sit, and certainly refusing to break the silence.

He inhaled. “Been a long time, Jack.” His voice was exactly the same as it had been the last time we spoke, thirty long years ago.

I greeted him warmly. “Fuck off.”

“As humorous as ever, I see. That hasn’t mellowed.”

“What do you want, Will?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

He had the grace to look down before he replied, and even before he finished the first word, I was shaking my head. “We need you back.”

I repeated my earlier expletive.

He nodded as though he expected nothing more. “Please sit anyway. It’s a great view.”

He looked to my left and said no more until I sat as far away from him as I could.

***

For ten minutes we sat there. I only moved when the bench began to bite into my butt cheeks. “How did you find me anyway?”

“Never really lost you, Jack. We’ve always had tabs on you.”

“Fuck you, Will. I’m retired. I earned it, goddamit.”

“I know. But the world moves on…then it cycles back. Don’t tell me you don’t miss it.”

“I don’t miss being mobbed. I don’t miss not being to walk down a street without people calling my name every two metres. I’m not a superhero, Will. I can’t do it.”

“There’s no one else quite like you, Jack. There never was.” He shrugged. “Maybe never will be. When you were out there, people wept, Jack. They wept. I was one of em for god’s sake. They loved you, Jack. And you walked away from them.”

His appeal had worked, as no doubt he knew it would and I struggled to find a reply. “That’s not me anymore, man. I’m sorry. I…I really am.” I stood up, and he nodded again as I did.

When he turned to face me, his eyes were bright and liquid and I looked away quickly at the darkening velvet of the London dusk. When he spoke again, his voice was thick with emotion. “We need you more than ever, Jack. The world needs its heroes.”

“I’m not a hero. Just a guy who –”

“Hey…hey. Never put yourself down like that, Jack. Never. You made a difference.” He cut me off so sharply I spun to face him again, unable to find a reply once more, my mouth trying to catch up with my brain.

He smiled. “I’ve got it all memorised you know. Your moves, your style. You were a god in the old days. That Grand Canyon thing…no one has ever done anything like that. Ever.

I sat down again, defeated. I would be going back, it seemed, for one more job. “Gods are always alone, Will.”

“We’re all with you, Jack. Every one of us is there with you. You’re never alone. You never were.”

London dissolved into blurs and melting lights.

Just one more job.

“Tell me what you want from me, Will.”

“Three concerts, three nights, three locations. I’m reforming the band.”

4214

Review: Life of Pi

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4214.Life_of_Pi

4/5

Pi Patel travels with his family from India to Canada, on a cargo boat filled with zoo animals. When the boat sinks, Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger for a castaway companion.
When I started this and the author spent a page and a half talking about three toed sloths, I thought this was going to be a long haul of a book. To my immense surprise, the pacing picked up and I zoomed through it.

What helped is the voice of Pi. He’s warm, very smart, witty, loves wordplay and puns, and has an unending love of life he voices through his polytheism and zoology. His relationship to Richard Parker, the tiger he spends seven months on a boat with, is full of clever observation and humour.

Then something interesting happens almost at the end of the story. Pi tells some insurance people what might have happened on the boat, and suddenly…you’re left wondering. You’re left to examine the story anew. Pi even asks which version of the story you prefer, and leaves it up to you as reader to decide. It’s an interesting twist, but did the book need it? I didn’t think so.

This is how all literature should be. It’s accessible, it’s smart, it’s dark and it’s humorous, and works on as many levels as you want it to. Great book.

11735983

Review: Insurgent, Veronica Roth

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11735983-insurgent

3/5

Tris has to come to terms with killing a friend, and losing her parents, while trying to form and keep new alliances with The Factions (and Factionless). But nothing is black and white anymore…

I checked back, and it’s been two years since I read Divergent – high time I read Book Two, I thought, and I had some summer time reading space and went for it.

Despite the gap between the stories, I didn’t feel lost as to what was going on in this book. It’s almost self-contained, with enough back-story reminders to keep you on track. There’s a nice sequel hook at the end so you come back for Book Three to see how it all works out.

Roth sketches her world in rough outlines, with shades of grey and rain the predominant colours and weather, but despite that, you get a solid sense of place and are very grounded in this world and its characters.

I commented in the first book there didn’t seem to be much chemistry between Tris and her instructor, Tobias (now her lover). This time it seems more developed and the relationship more concrete. There seems to be more of a need for each other now.

Roth doesn’t hang about in this book. Her pacing is relentless; there aren’t many pages where the characters aren’t moving forwards to the next event. Tris is shifting locations constantly in this book, from Amity orchards to Candor confusing corridors. The pacing is almost too fast, and sometimes the action blurs into one.

Tris also changes alliances as her whims take her. I’m not sure I would Tris with my back in a fire-fight: She might decide the people we were supposed to be fighting have a better deal for her.
It does make her character and the dynamics of her relationships more interesting though. Tris is a woman in conflict, with everyone around her and herself.

I will be coming back for Book Three…maybe in another two years