Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

So I did something I normally never do. I started reading this book and, about three quarters of the way, I watched the movie adaptation, thus “spoiling” the ending. It goes to show how good a writer Ishiguro is that reading the end of the book despite knowing all the twists was still an enjoyable experience.

never let me goNEVER LET ME GO
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Published by: Vintage Books, 2010 (2005)
Audiobook: 9 hours
Paperback: 288 pages
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: My name is Kathy H.

As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

The only experience I’ve had with Ishiguro’s books was The Remains of the Day which pretty much blew me away with its eloquence and subtle undertones. The same underlying sadness came through in Never Let Me Go, a story about memories and wasted lives, about friendship and love and what humans are capable of doing to each other.

To change things up a bit, I got my hands on the audiobook version, narrated by Rosalyn Landor. She does a fantastic job of bringing Kathy H.’s childhood memories of her time at Hailsham School come to life. The credit for these memories being so vivid and realistic goes to Kazuo Ishiguro. Don’t we all remember what it was like when your favorite possession – whether it’s a toy, a CD, or some other trinket – is lost. It feels like your whole world is crumbling. And don’t we all remember moments when our secret crush ends up with the other girl? I for my part have plenty of childhood memories that fit the bill, even though I didn’t grow up in an idyllic English countryside boarding school. But the setting is beside the point when it comes to the beautiful friendship between Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy.

These three protagonists are distinctly different characters, their personalities complement each other even though they may not always agree. In the audiobook narration, I was stunned by how calm they stayed, even as children. The impulsive Ruth, for example, who is prone to lying to get attention, seemed strangely reasonable when it came to her relationship with Kathy or Tommy. Kathy herself felt very much like a narrator, even in her own life. She participates in the fun, of course, but I never could shake the feeling that a part of her was also on the outside looking in. It made for interesting observations, to say the least.

never let me go coversThere is a science fictional aspect to this seemingly happy story comprised of childhood memories and the growing pains of three young people. Because, and this becomes clear very early on, they are special. The children at Hailsham never talk about their parents, they only have one-letter last names, and they are told that for them, more than anyone else, it is vital to keep in good health. As one of Hailsham’s teachers says so perfectly: They were told, and not told.

I’m going to be vague about it, even though anyone who’s read some science fiction will guess it in the first chapter. Let’s just say that Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy don’t have the same choices we do. Their future is set and it’s not one to look forward to. I was all the more impressed with their way of embracing life, with the way the teachers at Hailsham taught them to enjoy what little bliss there is for them. This is a very sad story that somehow manages to make you happy. It is life affirming and thought provoking, two things that will always make me love a book.

The thing is, we only see one side of the story. Only at the very end is the other side presented, and then only in one short scene. However, putting yourself into that alternate history’s population’s mind makes it easier to understand why Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy will never be allowed to grow up to become waitresses, and actors, and university professors. People kept talking about the amazing plot twist but, as I said, the truth was obvious and didn’t shock me. What did surprise me was how ordinary Kathy’s life seems and how crassly different it really is from “normal” people. The juxtaposition of that normality with the truth that slowly comes to light was more shocking than any “I am your father” twist could have been.

I also loved how the title of the book shows up within its pages. “Never Let Me Go” is Kathy’s favorite song, one for which she makes up her own back story that hits home all the way when you realise just how little hope there is for her or any of her school friends. There are a couple of surprises at the ending but the melancholy tone of the novel prevailed and left me rather deflated.

It’s strange to recommend a book that makes you ultimately sad. But there is no disputing the quality of the writing, the depth of the characters and the sheer drama of their lives. It’s not loud drama but it’s the kind that leaves you emotional and breathless.

never let me go movie posters

Book vs. Movie

I just need to say a few quick words about the movie adaptation. First of all, it was beautifully done. The three main actors blew me away with their performances, but most of all I noticed the difference in deliver between the audiobook narrator and Keira Knightley in her role as Ruth. As I said above, Ruth seemed strangely calm when she spoke in the novel, despite her personality being loud and out there. Keira Knightley managed to make Ruth more believably selfish, jealous, and hypocritical. She did overdo it a little and turned the essentially good Ruth into a cruel person who deliberately hurts her closest friends.

Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield had surprisingly good chemistry and the romance that was very, very subtle in the book, became all the more obvious in their facial expressions. Plot-wise, the movie didn’t change much. A few tiny scenes were taken out here or there, some others moved around in time, but if you’re really lazy, you can watch the movie and get the same story you would from the book.  Both book and movie are highly recommended.

RATING: 7,5/10  –  Very, very good

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale

It is shocking that it took me well into my twenties to finally pick up and read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Not only do I consider it required reading for anyone who calls him or herself a fan of SF literature, but it also features on pretty much every single reading list I’ve ever followed. I now see why and feel quite smug about finally being in the club of Atwood-readers. I intend to stay.

handmaids taleTHE HANDMAID’S TALE
by Margaret Atwood

Published by: Vintage Digital, 2012 (1985)
ISBN: 9781446485477
ebook: 336 pages

My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.

It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.


How does one go about reviewing a book that is not only considered one of the best ever written but was published a full year before one’s own birth? I suppose one doesn’t. Then again, what I do here in my little bloggeress haven is really only putting my impressions into writing, not fully reviewing books (I believe that’s only possible with spoilers and I avoid them so you guys can enjoy the books I recommend in full). It took  me a long time to finally read Margaret Atwood’s probably  most well-known book and I’m happy to say that, again, the WWE Women of Genre Fiction Challenge gave me that last push.

The story throws us into a world not too far in the future where women are separated into castes with specific purposes. There are Wives, whose job is fairly obvious – they are married to important men – there are Marthas and, because humanity has a lot of trouble procreating, there are the Handmaids. Offred, the first person narrator, is one such Handmaid and as such is given to a childless family in order to give them a baby. I won’t go into detail of how this is done but you will get to see the “ceremony” in the book.

Margaret Atwood leaves it, I believe intentionally, vague for a long time what happened in the past that has led to such a sinister society. We get only glimpses of how the system works but slowly, the narrator fills in the blanks to create a full picture of horror. Offred, whose real name we never find out (she is just that, the Handmaid “of Fred”), supplies us with flashbacks of her time Before. What impressed me the most is probably how the author managed to make me feel so strongly for the character, almost missing her past with her, even though all we get are little snippets of that happy family life.

The narrative has a beautiful flow to it and certain sentences completely hit home. They don’t even have to be about important dramatic issues, they just happen to be a string of words, tied together in a way that is both poetic and meaningful. These sentences come up at random and without warning, they struck a chord with me on so many levels that I have to be impressed, if not by the plot or characters, at least by Margaret Atwood’s prose. That said, both the plot and the characters were also brilliant.

copyright @ Erin McGuire

copyright @ Erin McGuire

Many people I’ve talked to find Offred too passive. She is integrated into this new society and just tries to do her job and stay alive, dreaming about what her husband and her child might be doing – if they’re still alive, that is. There is an underground movement and Offred is aware of it, yet she never joins them. Personally, I completely understood her. Fear makes you numb, it keeps you even from trying to break out of a life you loathe with all your heart. The will to survive eclipses any hope for a better society you may have. So Offred is happy about the small victories she is allowed in her structured, anonymous life. Until the Commander, the man who is supposed to plant a baby inside of her (there’s nothing romantic or sexually arousing about it, trust me) invites her to visit his room alone…

This book may be older than I am but, oh God, has it impressed me. It is clearly as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Apart from telling a gripping story of one woman’s struggle to survive and keep her sanity, it deals with issues that, in our society, haven’t been resolved. It is about gender and sexuality, about equality (not just of men and women but of religion as well). It never whacks you over the head with a hammer, just gives you enough to make you think for yourself. That is what a great dystopia is supposed to do. Hold a mirror up to current society and say: Look, if we keep going this way, we may end up like this.

There are parts of the book that felt a bit long or drawn-out, but in the end, I wouldn’t change anything about it. People have expressed different opinions about the ending. I loved it. It doesn’t really give us an answer or a resolution to Offred’s story, but it gives us something better. Hope.

THE GOOD: Fantastic writing, characters and a world that are fully fleshed out, that terrify and make you think. All in just a few pages.
THE BAD: One slow part just around the middle. If you got that far, however, you will no doubt push through it.
THE VERDICT: With the current craze of YA dystopian novels, it is refreshing to remember what a dystopia is all about. Margaret Atwood is a magnificent writer who only whet my appetite with this little novel. That teaches me: The classics, even the recent classics, are worth picking up when fed up with what’s currently published. Most highly recommended!

RATING: 8,5/10  Truly excellent


Hugh Howey – Wool

It’s all Luke‘s fault. Yet again. If you want to hear a recommendation that will make you crave this book, listen to his podcast episode. He does a fantastic job of telling you just enough to get you interested but spoiling nothing. Luke Burrage is one of those trusted book recommending engines I use. I don’t love everything he loves and I loved some books he disliked but overall, he is so great of just making me want to read books I otherwise would have totally overlooked. Thanks for a great tip!

by Hugh Howey

published: Create Space, 2011-2012
ISBN: 1469984202
pages: 457
copy: ebook
series: Wool #1-5

my rating: 8,5/10
goodreads rating: 4.49/5

first sentence: The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do.

The blurb: The first Wool story was released as a standalone short in July of 2011. Due to reviewer demand, the rest of the story was released over the next six months. My thanks go out to those reviewers who clamored for more. Without you, none of this would exist. Your demand created this as much as I did. This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

As this starte out as a short story with another short story added and then another and then another two, I will have to do this review a bit differently too. Because while this omnibus edition tells one rounded and amazing tale, each story deserves its own remarks and has its own strenghts and weaknesses. Also, I have to be extremely vague at times because there is so much potential for spoilers. There will be none here, you can read this safely.


This first and really very short story in the series shows us the life of the sheriff of the Silo where the entire story takes place. His job is taking care that laws are obeyed and that – in case of infringement – the criminal is sent to cleaning, the capital punishment in the Silo. Humanity, or what’s left of it, lives in this very deep Silo under the earth, a sort of bunker that protects people from the toxic atmosphere above grounds. A set of cameras above the silo give these people at least a glimpse of the outside world. But being poisonous and dirty as it is, the air usually makes the camera lenses quite dirty after a while. And when somebody goes to clean them, it’s a one-way trip.
Three years ago, the sheriff’s wife asked to leave the Silo of her own free will, seemingly because of some information she discovered (hidden by the IT department). From this point on, his life changed forever. The sheriff watches his beloved wife clean the camera lenses with her patch of wool and walk towards the top of a hill where she stumbles…

I was surprised at how much I cared about the characters. And how quickly. I can’t put my finger on it – even after reading the entire series – but Hugh Howey has a way with words that just makes me like his characters. The sheriff’s sadness was tangible. Imagining him watching his wife walk into certain death was heartbreaking. And, of course, the biggest pleasure I got out of this is knowing that there is so much more I don’t know yet. Slowly discovering all the little facts and secrets about the silo and the IT department was incredible fun. And Howey never gives away too much or too little.

Wool 2 – Proper Gauge

In this volume, which is still quite short, we follow the Mayor, who along with the sheriff, is one of the most powerful people of the Silo. She may be ageing but she clearly has the best of the Silo at heart. However, there is one political position that needs a new face – and it is exactly for that reason that she walks down from the top levels of the Silo all the way to the bottom, a journey of several days. On her various stops and rests in between, we get to see more of the Silo and how it works. And a meeting with the head of the IT department creates more questions than it anwsers…

Not a single boring page could I find in this story (or the first one, for that matter). Again, characters come to life within a matter of paragraphs and as different from the sheriff’s perspecitve this one may be, as great was my enjoyment. We are still seeing this underground world only out of one limited perspective but the mayor is a clever woman and her thoughts help the reader get creative. I still couldn’t have guessed most of the secrets but it was fun guessing. This second part ends in a very evil cliffhanger so you’ll want to get this omnibus edition. Trust me on that.

Wool 3 – Casting Off

Wow! In the third part, which is already clearling longer than its predecessors, we get to know Juliette, a smart mechanic from the lower levels of the Silo. Her quick mind and caring heart make her see things others may miss and discover some secrets better left alone. Juliette is by far my favorite character, even though the mayor is a close second. Apart from the madness that is the Silo, there are also signs of a very tender and subdued love story. How authors can surprise you. There I was, thinking I had Hugh Howey all figured out and gauged his style of writing, and then he makes me care about yet another set of characters. I actually wanted them to be together. The author definitely made me feel the feels in this one and with this cliffhanger he acquired a new fan. I wanted to shout “Awesome!” and scream “whaaaat?” all at the same time. :entsetzt:

Wool 4 – The Unraveling

Yes! Finally we get to know some of the big secrets of the Silo and why it exists in the first place. This is also the first volume that opens up the narrator’s perspective to several characters. We’re not “stuck” with only one person and their views any more, we get to see different levels of the Silo and different people with different kinds of power. One of the point-of-view characters is even employed in the IT department. And finding out what the fuck is going on in there has been the biggest question (for me) of all. I caught myself quite giddy and excited while reading this.

Maybe I should mention that Howey also has no problem killing his characters off. So whenever somebody I like is in danger, I really fear for them. Because, let’s face it, there are plenty more people in the Silo who could continue telling this story, right? So the characters I’ve come to love are in actual danger and the reading experience becomes all the more thrilling. And the closer I got to the end, the sadder I was to let them go – one way or another.

Wool 5 – The Stranded

This is the first time I can say anything negative about this book at all. And the one little thing that bothered me was the fact that the plot dragged a bit in the beginning. As Luke said in his podcast review, this is probably due to the fact that the books/stories were meant to be read after publication and not in one go. So all the author did was catching us up on recent events and reminding us of all the awesome and terrible things that happened before. However, I did read this in one go (I couldn’t have stopped!) and this made the beginning of the last part a bit tedious. It does pick up again, of course, and gives us a surprisingly well-rounded ending.

There are still tons of questions unanswered (book 6 is waiting for me already) but this particular story that was told in five instalments is finished. The ending was satisfying, closed the story arc beautifully and – I admit it – very unexpectedly. I thought we would get another cliffhanger or simply stop somewhere. But Hugh Howey turns out to be an extremely good writer. No matter what people say about self-published writers (I hear the omnibus has been picked up by Random House recently), this one deserves to be published in a beautiful, fat hardback. Whenever it is published, I’ll get my copy for the bookshelf.

THE GOOD: Well-written, fantastic characters, intriguing setting and so many mysteries and questions, your head will smoke from trying to guess.
THE BAD: The beginning of part five was a teensy bit long-winded.
THE VERDICT: Highly recommended! Do yourself and your nerves a favor and get the omnibus. You will not want to stop reading at pretty much any point in this story.

RATING: 8,5/10  Eight-and-a-half excellent Silo levels

The Wool/Silo Series:

  1. Wool
  2. Proper Gauge
  3. Casting Off
  4. The Unraveling
  5. The Stranded
  6. First Shift

George Orwell – 1984

This was one of the most impressive books I have ever read. It was also one of the most depressing (along with anything by Kafka). I read this in January of 2011 at the old age of 25 because in my school we never had to read anything. We were encouraged to but there was never any required reading and I felt way behind everybody else in not having read this classic for so long. Also, it being a popular book read in schools, I assumed it would be hard to plough through but it really wasn’t. Orwell’s specific horror made me race through this book in a matter of days. If you haven’t read it you should. Right now!

by George Orwell

Published: Signet Classics 1950 (1949)
Pages: 326
Copy: paperback

My rating: 10/10

First sentence: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

Winston Smith lives in a world without freedom. The four Ministries – the Ministry of Peace, Plenty, Love, and Truth – control everything. Big Brother is watching you! For younger readers, or people who don’t read in general, it may be interesting to know that this is where Big Brother comes from. Being watched any time of any day and judged if you take so much as one step in the wrong direction, is a quite chilling perspective. This father of all dystopias is as terrifying – if not more so – now as it must have been when it was first published. If we look at our world today and how willingly we publish the most private details about ourselves, about our habits and preferences (think Facebook), this book gives you an incentive to question your own behavior.

From the very first page, I plummeted into this novel. It has something of a traffic accident quality to it – terrible and scary but you kind of can’t look away. Discovering Winston Smith’s world and how the government is controling everybody in it, is at the same time a pleasure to read, simply because it is a well-written book, and eye-opening in a very uncomfortable way. Ideas such as doublethink or newspeak scared me more than Pennywise the Clown ever did. But the modification and simplification of language to keep citizens in check is only one of the things that took my reader’s breath away. The seemingly random rewriting of history to suit the government’s current needs was another. If the country is now at war with Oceania, it is made clear that it has actually always been at war with Oceania – even though that’s not true.

People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.

Chapter 1

I could go on and on about all the little details and the big ideas that make this such a monster of a book. But apart from all that, it is an incredibly well written story. The plot shows us how Smith wants to break out of this world and that he’s not the only one. Orwell gives us the slightest bit of hope which keeps us going and rooting for Smith to find something better than a world with though police.

It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak —  ‘child hero’ was the phrase generally used — had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police.

Chapter 2

I cannot recommend this book enough and I’m quite angry with myself for waiting so long to read it. After a year-and-a-half, the imagery is still as vivid in my mind as it was when I first read the book. I find myself jokingly using words like doubleplusgood, I find myself questioning my lifestyle – and that currently acceptable by our society. Even if you hate the plot, even if you don’t sympathise with Winston Smith, this novel does one thing above all else. It makes you think! I assume that’s why it’s so widely read in schools and I hope it will continue this way. Any friend I have, avid reader or not, I beseech to read this book. It won’t make you happy and it won’t make you feel good, so reviewing it in summer is maybe not such a great idea, when everybody wants light, fun reads. But I don’t care. Whether you’re 13 or 83, if you have a shred of curiosity in you, if you think the world is not perfect and if you want to share this vision of a man from the 1940ies: Read. This. Book.

THE GOOD: A great, an important novel, full of chilling ideas, plenty of food for thought and a great plot, well written.
THE BAD: It won’t exaclty leave you happy. There might be a post-book-mourning period afterwards.
THE VERDICT: Everybody should read this book. If my children aren’t told to read it in school, I will rave about it so long that they’ll want to read it, too. One of the most impacting books I have ever read.

RATING: 10/10 A truly magnificent book!

Related posts:

Other reviews:

Lois Lowry – The Giver

After a lot of chunky books, I felt like something slim in between. And since this book has been recommended for ages and is a Newbery winner (like Lloyd Alexander, who is awesome) I thought I’d give it a try. It ended up being almost too thin a book and it made me gasp at the realisation just how blatantly some newer authors copied Lois Lowry’s ideas. More on that later…

by Lois Lowry

published: Bantam. 1993
pages: 192
copy: paperback
series:The Giver Quartet #1

my rating: 7,5/10

first sentence: It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.

In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.

Now this is a dystopia to my liking. Not that I’d want to live in that world, but Lois Lowry introduces us to a society – seen through 12-year-old Jonas’s eyes – that doesn’t seem at all bad. Sure, people seem a bit sheepish, but there is no war, no crime, everybody is happy with their lot. There are no racial issues, no predefined gender roles, and nobody is hungry or sick or lonely. This is how a dystopian novel should start – with a world that seems kind of alright. It is up to the reader – and the protagonist – to figure out what’s really wrong with this society and finding out more about this world and about the price the community paid to achieve this sort of peace.

Jonas was a likeable protagonist. As a 12-year-old, he is already well integrated into his society, he knows the rules (and the rules are important!) and is looking forward to learning his assignment. When it turns out he’s neither going to be a caretaker of the Old, nor a Nurterer of newchildren, nor a Labourer and – obviously – not a Birthmother, his world turns upside down. While it may be easier for grown-up readers to see the community’s problems, it was still a great and fast-paced read and I loved learning more about this future society. Lois Lowry had a few surprises up her sleeve and kept me reading until the very end.

Which brings me to the one negative point I have to mention. The ending. The book was such a fast read only to become really strenuous in the last few chapters. I understand that this is also due to the plot but I felt a little cheated. The very end was left up to the readers’ imagination a tidbit too much for my taste, though I thought it was appropriate and leaves the readers on a fitting note.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The language was simple enough for younger readers to understand but not so simple that it feels like Lois Lowry things children are iditos (you know how much I hate that). The author also has a knack for explaining words, all within the plot, to the readers, that I found quite clever. The Newbery Medal is absolutely deserved and I see why so many people adore this book that teaches about the importance of free will and memories.

Now to something I have to say: As much as I hated Allie Condie’s Matched just for its own (lack of) merits, it now becomes obvious that she simply took ideas that other writers (read: Lois Lowry) have had and blatantly used them as the main idea for her novel. I know that everything has been done before and Lowry is not the first author to bring up the idea of humans being matched by the society to live in a sort of marriage – but if you take an idea that’s well known, at least put your own spin on it. Yes, you should judge books by themselves, without comparing them to other books (even by the same author), but if anything, this beautiful little book made me hate Matched all the more. Miss Condie should have taken the writing style as an example, too.

THE GOOD: A well-written, fast-paced novel with a believable dystopian society that opens the reader’s eyes slowly to the gruesome truth.
THE BAD: I didn’t like the ending too much, but that’s really a matter of taste.
THE UGLY: Highly recommended for everybody who’s suffering from the YA dystopia craze and doesn’t feel that the mass produced trilogies people poop out recently are enough.

RATING: 7,5/10 A very good book.

The Giver Quartet:

  1. The Giver
  2. Gathering Blue
  3. Messenger
  4. Son

Veronica Roth – Insurgent

Yaaaay! It’s here. After a couple of really, really bad YA books, I was looking forward to this so much.

by Veronica Roth

published: Haper Collins, 1st May 2012
ISBN: 006211445X
pages: 544
copy: ebook
series: Insurgent #2

my rating: 6,5/10

first sentence: I wake with his name in my mouth.

This review contains massive spoilers for Divergent, the first volume in the trilogy.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Insurgent picks up exactly where Divergent left the readers. Unlike its predecessor, this volume takes quite a bit of time to get started properly. The first half is concerned mostly with setting up characters, moving them around a lot between factions – and yes, we do get to see some of the other factions’ headquarters and way of life. But I think I speak for most of us when I say, what we have really been waiting for is more focus on the world-building aspect, to find out, why this society is the way it is and most of all: What’s outside the fence?

Let me say that not all of these questions get answered in this book and that is partially why it suffers from middle-part-of-a-trilogy-specific problems. The story arc is not very well developed, gets lost on the way only to resurface with a boom at the end.

Veronica Roth’s style is still very accessible and fast-paced but she puts a lot more focus on Tris’ character here. That was a pleasant surprise for me and we get to see new depths in Beatrice’s personality. After what happened in Divergent, it is only logical that she’s not the person she was before. For a young adult novel, I thought this was very well done and while she tends to drift off to a really dark place at times, I always felt her actions and feelings were believable and Tris stays as good a narrator as she was in the first book.

Maybe I just want it all, but because of Tris’ development, a lot of other characters suffered. Names are introduced (or we’re reminded of minor characters from book 1) but I couldn’t realy put a face or character to them. This made the inevitable deaths of certain people less dramatic than the author may have intended. Tobias especially felt absent throughout most of the book even though he was phyically there. After making us all fall for him in Divergent, seeing so little of him and his interactions with Tris, was a bit disappointing.

All things considered, it was the lack of plot, of substance, that left me not quite so eager for book 3. A lot of the times I felt that Roth was just filling scenes with unnecessary action. It may be well written and keeping you on the edge – and trust me, starting at about halfway through this book, you won’t want to put it away – but where in the first novel, everything felt fleshed out and full, this one felt like we were just sightseeing in this strange future Chicago.

Hard-boiled fans may consider waiting with this volume until the trilogy is finished. Because Insurgent ends with a huge cliffhanger. Trust me, Divergent was well rounded in comparison and even though its ending was also rather open I felt like I got some closure. In book 2, the scene just gets interrupted and leaves you hanging in the air. This said, now that some questions were answered and a few new ones popped up, I look forward to finding out how Tris and Tobias’ story ends, if not quite as eager as before.

THE GOOD: After slowish beginning very fast-paced, great character development for Tris, some questions answered.
THE BAD: Not as good as book 1 (sorry, you can’t help but compare), slow to begin and decidedly too little Tobias.
THE VERDICT: If you liked Divergent, you’ll like this one too. It’s the second part of a trilogy, let’s not judge too harshly.

RATING: 6,5/10  Quite good read

The Divergent Trilogy:

  1. Divergent (German review)
  2. Insurgent
  3. untitled

Veronica Roth – Divergent

Eigentlich erstaunlich, dass ich so knapp nach dem grauenvollen Matched eine weitere romantische Jugend-Dystopie lesen konnte. Auch Veronica Roth ist wohl im Kiel des Erfolges von The Hunger Games geschwommen, der Roman folgt demselben Schema. Doch hin und wieder schleicht sich bei diesen Mitläufern ein Buch unter, das seinem Hype gerecht wird. Veronica Roth ist so ein Roman gelungen. Und ich geselle mich zu den vielen Lesern, die gespannt auf den zweiten Teil warten.

Deutscher Titel: Die Bestimmung
Erschienen: 2011
Seiten: 487 (480)
Übersetzt von: Petra Koob-Pawis
Erschienen bei: Harper Collins (cbt)

Meine Bewertung: 8/10

Erster Satz: There is one mirror in my house.

Abnegation (Atruan), Dauntless (Ferox), Amity (Amite), Erudite (Ken) und Candor (Candor) – fünf Fraktionen mit eigenen gesellschaftlichen Regeln und fast völlig abgeschottet von den jeweils anderen. Im Alter von 16 Jahren muss jeder Bürger der Stadt entscheiden, welcher Fraktion er sich anschließt. Und diese Entscheidung beeinflusst das gesamte restliche Leben. Ein Einstufungstest soll dabei Hilfe leisten – doch in Beatrice’ Fall ist das Ergebnis unbestimmbar. Soll sie die Fraktion ihrer Eltern – Abnegation – verlassen? Und wenn ja, wie soll sie sich entscheiden?

Schnell und spannend führt uns Veronica Roth in die Welt von Divergent ein. Beatrice – später Tris genannt – ist einem sofort sympathisch und man kann sich mit ihr identifizieren, ob man nun in ihrem Alter ist oder sich nur daran zurückerinnern kann. Als ganz und gar nicht perfekte Heldin ist auch ihre Charakterentwicklung spannend mitzuerleben. In Abnegation aufzuwachsen, bedeutet totale Selbstaufgabe. Man lebt für Andere. Die Umstellung auf Tris’ neue Fraktion – so viel verrät auch der Klappentext – ist da schon eine gewaltige Herausforderung. Körperlich und vor allem seelisch. Alleine in der Initiationsphase muss sich Tris so vielen Ängsten und Problemen stellen, dass einem beim Lesen der Atem wegbleibt. Und Roths Ideen sind nur teilweise vorhersehbar, aber selbst dann extrem spannend geschildert.

Tris als Protagonistin hat mir sehr gefallen. Sie erzählt im Präsens in der Ich-Form von ihren Erlebnissen und benimmt sich wie eine glaubhafte Sechzehnjährige. Einige Nebencharaktere erhalten erstaunliche Tiefe – ich war überrascht über die Vielseitigkeit von Christina – andere sind eher Pappfiguren, die hin und wieder lustige Kommentare von sich geben. Wieder andere sind mir zu schwarz-weiß. Aber das ist in einem Jugendbuch erlaubt, vor allem, wenn dafür andere Charaktere umso interessanter werden.

Ich würde empfehlen, dieses Buch an einem Freitag Abend zu beginnen, denn weglegen will man es kaum mehr. Die Handlung schreitet so schnell voran, dass kein einziges Kapitel ohne Höhepunkt vergeht. Der Spannungsbogen zieht sich schön von Anfang bis Ende und die dezente Romanze – die wirklich gut geschrieben ist! – bildet einen Nebenplot, der mich als erwachsene Frau mehrmals zu einem dämlichen Grinsen verleitet hat. Team Edward kann sich da ganz weit hinten anstellen.

Der einzige Kritikpunkt – dafür ein großer Kritikpunkt – ist die Welt. Wir erfahren häppchenweise ganz wenig darüber, wieso die Fraktionen überhaupt existieren und es wird angedeutet, dass es “da draußen” eine ganz andere Welt gibt. Verwirrend war für mich vor allem die politische und ökonomische Situation. Dass politische Ämter nur von den Selbstlosen bekleidet werden, ist zwar eine nette Idee, aber was diese Ämter wirklich tun, ist nicht klar. Ebenso wie die Produktion und Distribution von Gütern. Es ist die Rede von syntethischem Essen – aber nicht davon, wer dieses erzeugt. Die Dauntless verteidigen die Stadtmauern – und das ist einer der etwa drei Jobaussichten, die man als Dauntless zu haben scheint – aber wovor, wissen wir nicht. Hier muss ich gestehen, dass mir dieses Geheimnis gefällt, da ich vermute, dass wir in Band 2 mehr darüber erfahren.
Das seltsamste ist, dass die Gebäude, die erwähnt werden, darauf hindeuten, dass die Handlung im Chicago einer unbestimmten Zukunft spielt. Und dass außerhalb dieser Stadt noch eine Gesellschaft existiert, wird völlig geleugnet bzw. ignoriert.

PRO: Hochspannende Lektüre, mitreißende Charaktere und eine schöne, nicht Überhand nehmende Liebesgeschichte.
CON: Schlecht durchdachte Welt, unausgereifte Ideen, was die Gesellschaft betrifft.
FAZIT: Ein rasanter Lesespaß, der keine Sekunde langweilt. Wem nach den Hunger Games der Lesestoff fehlt, der kann hier anfangen (und sich dann zu uns Wartenden gesellen *seufz*)


Die Serie:

  1. Divergent
  2. Insurgent (Rezension auf englisch)
  3. noch kein Titel

Ally Condie – Matched

Es ist immer wieder dasselbe. Ein Autor oder eine Autorin landet einen großen Hit mit einer (vorzugsweise) Trilogie von Jugendbüchern mit Fantasy-Element und viele andere ziehen nach und laben sich am Erfolg des anderen. Wie das bei Nachmachern so oft der Fall ist, lässt die Kopie leider sehr zu wünschen übrig. Besonders auffällig ist das hier in Ally Condies Matched – einer dystopischen Liebes-Trilogie, die sich aus allem, was Erfolg hat, ein bisschen was rauspickt und so ziemlich alles falsch macht, was man nur falsch machen kann.

Deutscher Titel: Die Auswahl – Cassia & Ky
Erschienen: 2010
Seiten: 366 (452)
Übersetzt von: Stefanie Schäfer
Erschienen bei: Dutton Juvenile (Fischer Fjb)

Meine Bewertung: 1/10

Erster Satz: Now that I’ve found a way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?

Die 17-jährige Cassie erfährt bei einem grandiosen Bankett, wer ihr “match”, ihr Lebenspartner sein wird, den sie später heiraten wird. Dieser Partner wird von der Society ausgewählt und Bürger haben keinerlei Einfluss darauf, mit wem sie zusammengewürfelt werden. Das Augenmerk liegt auf genetisch und psychologisch passenden Partnern. Cassia kann ihr Glück kaum fassen als sie erfährt, dass ihr bester Freund Xander ihr “match” ist. Doch dann passiert der Society ein Fehler – auf Cassias Speicherkarte mit den Daten über ihren zukünftigen Ehemann, ist ein anderer Junge gespeichert. Der mysteriöse und stille Ky. Nun weiß Cassia nicht, in wen sie sich verlieben soll…

Es ist wirklich traurig, im Laufe dieser ohnehin nicht sehr originellen Geschichte, zu bemerken, aus wie vielen Ecken Frau Condie ihre Ideen ausgeliehen hat. Eine Gesellschaft, die fast ständig überwacht wird klingt zwar sehr nach dem Urvater der Dystopien, George Orwell, aber der Vergleich widerstreb mir zugleich. Denn ein Meisterwerk wie 1984 mit diesem Roman in einem Satz zu erwähnen, macht mir ein schlechtes Gewissen. Die Idee, dass man seinen Partner nicht selbst auswählen kann, ist erstens in vielen Ländern auch jetzt keine Absonderlichkeit und weil so wenig auf die tatsächlichen Kriterien bei der Auswahl eingegangen wird, konnte sich bei mir auch kein wirkliches Interesse bilden. Vor allem, weil die (übrigens perfekte, schöne und schlaue) Protagonistin Glück hat und ihren besten Freund ergattert.

Das Liebesdreieck, wenn man es so nennen will, ist praktisch eine Kopie von Suzanne Collins’ Katniss, Peeta und Gale. Mädchen, bester Freund und ein bisher nur wenig bekannter Junge, der aber schon lange ein Auge auf das Mädchen hat. Die Liebesgeschichte war schon bei den Hunger Games nebensächlich und zumindest für mich eher langweilig (mir war so egal, wer wie mit wem und warum!), aber hier eine bekannte und öde Geschichte in schlechtem Stil aufzuwärmen und sie zum Hauptthema zu machen, ist ein fataler Fehler.

“There’s Em,” I tell Xander, pointing, and together we weave our way through the blankets on the grass and say hello to our classmates and friends. Everyone is in a good mood, giddy with the novelty of the whole activity. Looking down, trying not to step on anyone’s blanket or in anyone’s food, I walk right into Xander, who has stopped.

Ally Condie beweist in diesem Buch keinerlei Sinn für Geschwindigkeit, Plot (Zeug, das passiert ist NICHT gleich Handlung!), Sprache oder Charakterentwicklung. Die Charaktere, viele sind es nicht, bleiben allesamt flach und furchtbar uninteressant und seltsam unemotional. Wer will schon über ein Mädchen lesen, das so viel besser ist als alle anderen, aber mit keinerlei Konflikt konfrontiert wird. Dasselbe gilt für die beiden “Helden”. Kein bisschen Persönlichkeit, nur strahlende Augen, die ihre Farbe wechseln, und hübsche blonde Haare.

Weiters benimmt sich gesamte Gesellschaft wie Schafe – und damit tue ich den Tieren noch Unrecht. Keiner stellt irgendetwas in Frage und das ganz ohne Gehirnwäsche. Wenn die Gesellschaft wenigstens ordentlich beschrieben würde, sodass man das Handeln der Charaktere nachvollziehen könnte, wäre das etwas anderes. Aber auch diese Mühe spart sich die Autorin zugunsten von langweiligen Jung-Mädchengedanken über das Küssen und ihr schönes Bankett-Kleid.

Um diesem Desaster eines Romans dann etwas Tiefe und Stil zu verliehen, fügt Frau Condie Gedichte von Robert Frost, Tennyson und Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night ein. Leider ist der Zusammenhang dieser Gedichte mit der Handlung ebenso wenig durchdacht wie das System dieser Dystopie selbst. Dass es etwa nur noch 100 Stück von jedweder Kunst gibt – Die Hunder Lieder, Die Hundert Gedichte, Die Hundert Bilder, etc. – hat absolut keinen Grund und wird mit einem wegwerfenden Satz erklärt: “Wie sollen sich Menschen denn sonst für etwas entscheiden in all dem Überfluss?”

Nach etwa drei Vierteln habe ich dann aufgegeben und beschlossen, dass mir meine Lesezeit zu kostbar für so einen Schulmädchenaufsatz ist. Das Ende habe ich dann noch überflogen und bin zu dem Schluss gekommen, dass ich absolut nichts verpasst habe. Kein Konflikt, keine Beziehung zu den Charakteren, kein Grund weiterzulesen.

Um zu einem Ende zu kommen: Dieses Buch ist für mich mangelhaft in so ziemlich jeder Hinsicht. Das Einzig schöne daran ist das Cover und auch wenn ein schönes Äußeres bei einem Buch toll sein kann, macht das die Geschichte hier keinen Deut besser.

PRO: Ich kann mir vorstellen, dass “Team-Edwart/Jacob/Peeta/Gale” T-Shirt tragende und lesetechnisch unbedarfte junge Mädchen vielleicht genug Fantasie haben, um in dieses Buch eine Geschichte hineinzulesen, die halbwegs interessant sein könnte. Mir ist das nicht gelungen (trotz Fantatsie-Überschusses).
CON: Anfängerfehler was Stil, Charaktere und vor allem Plot betrifft.
FAZIT: Grauenvoll!


Genevieve Valentine – Mechanique

Mit Erwartungen ist das so eine Sache. Oft wird man durch die Covergestaltung oder den Klappentext eines Buches so stark beeinflusst, dass man sich sicher wähnt, welche Geschichte einen erwartet. Medienpräsenz, Auszeichnungen und Buchkritiken können da ebenfalls ihren Teil beitragen.
Bei mir war es eine Mischung aus alledem, gepaart mit dem momentanen Hype um Steampunk-Bücher und jugendliche Helden in dystopischen Welten. Und was bin ich froh, dass meine Erwartungen hier nicht nur über den Haufen geworfen, sondern um ein Tausendfaches übertroffen wurden.

Deutscher Titel: noch nicht bekannt
Erschienen: 2011
Seiten: 284
Erschienen bei: Prime Books

Meine Bewertung: 9,5/10

Erster Satz: The tent is draped with strings of bare bulbs, with bits of mirror tied here and there to make it sparkle. (It doesn’t look shabby until you’ve already paid.)

Es gibt Bücher, bei denen man neidisch wird, dass man nicht selbst so wundervoll schreiben kann wie die Autorin. In Mechanique ist jedes Wort perfekt, jeder Satz durchdacht und jedes Kapitel wie ein Gedicht. Bücher wie dieses rufen mir wieder in Erinnerung, warum ich Genre-Literatur lese. Denn Genevieve Valentine steht in sprachlichem Können den großen Schriftstellern unserer Zeit in nichts nach. Hätte ich etwas zu sagen, würde ich ihr jeden nur erdenklichen Preis für dieses Meisterwerk hinterherwerfen.

Little George ist Teil des Zirkus Tresaulti, der vor jeder noch stehenden Stadt sein Zelt aufschlägt und mit künstlerischen Akten fasziniert. Ayar, der Starke Mann mit der Wirbelsäule aus Stahl, die fliegenden Mädchen auf ihren Trapezen, die Jongleure und die akrobatischen Grimaldi-Brüder, Jonah, der Junge mit der Uhrwerk-Lunge…

Genevieve Valentine schafft es, Charaktere innerhalb von zwei Sätzen zum Leben zu erwecken, ihnen eine Vergangenheit und eine Zukunft zu geben und das scheinbar mühelos. Dieses Buch mischt Genres wie kein anderes. Teil Steampunk-Buch, Teil Charakterstudie, mit einer sehr versteckten Liebesgeschichte in einer dystopischen Welt. Mit Bravour jongliert sie diesen Mix und trifft stets den richtigen Ton.

Die Autorin springt nicht nur wild in der Zeit herum, sie wechselt auch immer wieder die Erzählperspektive. Während der Großteil des Romans von Little George in der Ich-Perspektive erzählt wird, springt die Erzählung in manchen Kapiteln in die dritte Person und zeitweise sogar in die zweite Person. Diese Du-Sicht gefällt mir normalerweise gar nicht, aber hier weiß man immer ganz genau, wer dieses “du” ist und diese Persepktive wurde so gut gewählt, dass es mir erst nach mehreren Kapiteln aufgefallen ist.. Und auch diese Mischung funktioniert ausgezeichnet. Da Genevieve Valentine den Leser direkt anspricht, fühlt man sich dicht im Geschehen und erlebt wirklich mit, was in der Manege vor sich geht. Man sieht das Geschehen durch die Augen verschiedenster Charaktere und weiß nur sehr selten mehr als die Zirkustruppe.

Hier eine sehr schöne Passage, in der Jonah mehr oder weniger unfreiwillig einen Wolf adoptiert hat, der sich dem Zirkus angeschlossen hat und nun langsam immer wilder wird:

One day the wolf was wild enough to run into the forest near their camp, hunting something only it could sense. A week later when they pulled down the tent, the wolf had not come back. “Call it, if you want,” Boss told Jonah. “We’ll wait.”
That night Jonah stood for an hour at the edge of the camp, looking into the darkness of the woods. He came back empty-handed.
Ayar frowned. “It didn’t come?”
Jonah said, “I didn’t call.”

Mir fehlen die Worte um zu beschreiben, was für ein Erlebnis dieses Buch war. Nach der letzten Seite überkommt einen Trauer und man wünscht sich zurück in diese seltsame, düstere Welt des Zirkus Tresaulti. Man ertappt sich dabei wie man zu den schönsten Passagen zurückblättert und die Worte in sich aufsaugt. Meine Daumen für den Nebula-Award sind gedrückt und ich denke, es ist nicht zu früh um zu sagen, dass dieses Buch eines meiner Jahreshighlights wird.

PRO: Poetische Sprache, tiefgehende Charaktere, ein spannender Plot, originelle Ideen und interessanter Stilmix.
CON: Mir fällt nichts, aber auch gar nichts ein, was ich hier zu beanstanden hätte.
FAZIT: Absolut lesenswert, für ein sehr junges Publikum vielleicht etwas verwirrend.


Auf der Homepage zum Roman findet man die ersten Seiten als Leseprobe, Videos und Infos sowie Kurzgeschichten über den Zirkus Tresaulti (genau darauf werde ich mich sofort stürzen).