Saturday, 8 October 2016

Review: Never Pick up Hitch-hikers!

Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! by Ellis Peters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this again to counteract the rather disappointing The Giver Quartet, since Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! is one of my favourite novels, and realised I never wrote a review about it.

Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! is a "classic whodunnit", like the cover says. It follows 20-year old Willie Banks, who is trying to move out from under the protective wings of his mother - and accidentally ends up in the middle of a plot to fake a bank robber's death and recover the loot. Worst of all, it's Willie who was selected as the stand-in to die, but with luck and a girl he met on his way, he gets away in time. Since someone else was there to burn in the flat of the bank robber, it takes the bad guys some time to realise that Willie is still around - and meddling, taking the attempt on his life quite personal. Together with a London mob and police involvement, things are getting a little bit complicated as the treasure hunt is on...

Personally, I love Willie. He's clever, fun, and self-reliant, which is surprising considering he just left home for the first time on his own.
I'm also a huge fan of Ellis Peters' writing style, the way she describes people, places, happenings... I have many of her books (excluding Brother Cadfael, which I never looked into), but this one - my first - is still by far my favourite. Willie and Calli, they way they interact and work as a team, the ease they both show when pretending to be innocents and when dealing with people in general... It's very enjoyable to read. In fact, it's such a joy (for me), that this time was the first occasion on which I noticed a - rather glaring - inconsistency in the plot: Willie has to hide from one of the mobsters, since he has seen him before and could get suspicious. This can't be true, since at the only occasion when the mobster could have seen Willie in connection with the case, Willie was hiding and couldn't be seen. His having to hide is an important part of the plot at that point, but, actually, it's quite unnecessary.
I still love the book, though. ;-)

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Review: Son

Son Son by Lois Lowry
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is really difficult for me to rate. It was relaxing to read - except for the bouts of rage it caused with every new mistake made. Interestingly enough, while I have a list of these mistakes, I can't remember most of them from the top of my head. They were horrible when encountered, but as easily forgotten, it seems. Nevertheless, I don't know much else to say about Son, so this review will mostly consist of spoilers.

Anyway, before I list the things that made me angry, some general disappointments:
I was hoping to learn more about the consequences of Jonas' leaving the community in The Giver, since the first part of this book starts around the same time, at the same place. Sadly, Claire left shortly after Jonas and Gabe, and can't remember much about what happened in between learning that Jonas took her son and being washed up on the shore of a village she spends the second part of the three-part novel in. Similarly, we never really learned in which ways Kira changed the village she was born in, in any of the Giver Quartet books - I had high hopes for Messenger in that respect.
Talking about Messenger - in the third part of Son, which is set at the same village as Messenger, they finally gave up calling it "Village" with a capital "V" and no article. Thank goodness for that! On the other hand, Jonas is not Leader any more, which is weird considering that those capital letter occupation names were supposed to be the "true names" of the people. They're not true forever, then?

Right, on to the many inconsistencies...
They start early, with Claire thinking of Sophia, a girl from her year who was assigned nurturer when Claire was assigned birthmother. Allegedly they sat next to each other at the December Ceremony - BUT later they talk about their numbers (remember, newchildren are numbered before they are named in December) and Claire was 11, while Sophia was 27. In The Giver it was made very clear that the children are sitting ordered by their numbers at every Ceremony, so it was impossible for Claire to sit next to Sophia.
According to Claire, she never visited another community, and also never met anybody from somewhere else. In The Giver, on the other hand, Jonas' younger sister complains about children from another community coming to visit and not knowing their rules. Jonas then mentions that he had visited another community some years previously with his class, and I kind of assumed that was the norm - and that there were more communities like that of Jonas and his people. Nevertheless, with Claire it sounded like that never, ever happened...?
According to Claire's colleagues, the assignment of Jonas had something to do with "Giver and Receiver". This is simply not true. At his Ceremony, only the Receiver of Memory was mentioned. He later called himself the Giver, when Jonas started receiving, but this was never made public, and he was still called "Giver" by everybody else. Plus, this position is supposed to be very prestigious, and everyone was supposed to respect Jonas, know what he is, answer all personal question he might ask... Well, it sounded like people would know better than what was mentioned in Son.
A minor thing I also wondered about in the first part of Son is that Claire and her colleagues at the Fish Hatchery appear to be too lazy to read the rule book. I thought this was, for one, an important part of the school system, to learn about the rules, and in The Giver, the community left a distinct impression of being very fixated on rules, and everyone knowing everything.
In the same line, "they" (the government, Elders, whoever) forgot to tell Claire that she should take pills (the ones that suppress feelings). I didn't think that was even possible in this tightly regulated community.
And, talking about rules and regulations, Claire's POV also made it clear that feelings were never discussed. Well, except for the mandatory discussion of feelings every night for every family over dinner??

That were the most prominent inconsistencies I noticed in the first part of Son compared to The Giver, and they gave me strong feeling that Lois Lowry doesn't know the world she created very well...

And then there were some more things I wondered about in the other two parts.
For example, how did Claire become able to see colours? Is this magic again? Because inside the community nobody but the Receiver can see colours, and I assumed this had a biological background, maybe a mutation or something, or medication. But as soon as Claire is someplace else, she can see colours, too. How is that possible? She never took the pills, so it couldn't have been caused by them. The Receiver (and Jonas) could see colours inside the community, so they were definitely there. How is that possible??
The rest of the second part was, well, ok. The ending with the story of Einar was weird, but, well, the rest of the book wasn't better than that, anyway.

The worst inconsistency in the third part was that of Kira father, who apparently "stumbled sightless to the village" after someone from his own home tried to kill him. Oh, the bullshit. Gathering Blue clearly describes that people from the (nice) village came in the night to the field where the dead are left, took him and carried him through the forest for days to bring him to their village, his new home. Seriously, Lois Lowry, read your own books again before you write a successor novel.
Same with Trade Mart (from Messenger). Matty went there to see what was going on, and told Jonas about it. Maybe Jonas went after that, while Matty was gone to fetch Kira, but him saying that he went there to check it out is just plain wrong and an insult to the dead Matty.

The third part of Son was, generally, not very good. Jonas decides to send Gabe to fight and kill (?) Trademaster even before he looked beyond to find him and learn that he is waiting for Gabe anyway. That's a nice confirmation for his plan, but he planned to send the boy even before he knew that! And without knowing what his "gift" was, too. Absolutely irresponsible and not at all like Jonas/Leader, especially after Matty died trying to save the village with his gift (which was also never satisfactorily explained, by the way).
The "fight" between Gabe and Trademaster was then also very boring and disappointing - to the point of being actively annoying. Oh, what Terry Pratchett could have made out of that material! What a waste...

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