When the synopsis of “The Hungry Ones” says that the city is alive, that is 100% not hyperbole. Gomel has crafted a semi-cyberpunk dystopian where the city itself is a sentient being where the poor, the outcasts, all live on the lowest levels, and the elite high above the labyrinth in glittering towers of flesh and bone. Where the humans of the city have ‘arms that are sentient whip-like weapons embedded in their palms, and the living brain of the city births’ its own odd looking residents. Some of whom are inanimate objects brought to life, like yarn balls or traffic cones. It sounds vaguely funny, but this book is anything but—in a good way. “The Hungry Ones” is a literary fiction, fantasy horror ride that follows a woman who can’t remember who she is, but has a devastating power that can both stop the zombie-like Hungry Ones plaguing the city, and potentially save the city from a looming war with the country. This book was full of disturbing imagery, unexpected twists, and also beautifully written.
At its core, “The Cretin Gene” is a satirical look at how technology, junk food, and our current culture’s protest and counter protest mentality is making us, not just stupid, but violently stupid at that. It follows an aging cartoonist who is thrust into the limelight when someone looking to disrupt the world order commandeers one of his benign vegetable characters and assassinates someone. The assassination is a front for the true villain to inject society with the actual cretin gene, which has been supplied to the populace via their phones and their food. They essentially go crazy, and can be defeated when you read literature to them, or show them real books. See? Satire. Kind of. Satire is very hard to pull off in the best of circumstances, and maybe this ended up just not being for me, but the satire never really got to be the commentary it was supposed to be, and instead stalled out on caricature characters that got very difficult to read.
This book is beautifully painful, and often painfully beautiful, and no, that’s not the same thing. This is my first foray into Schwab, which might be weird considering that I own pretty much all her books, but they stare at me in open judgement as I slowly, ever so slowly, whittle down my TBR, and then sometimes throw that out the window with books like this. All this to say, I didn’t entirely know what to expect from this author, or this book, just that I admire Schwab and her candor, and therefore auto-buy her books. So I can’t say if this is always Schwab’s voice, but my goodness, the PAIN that she manages to stuff into her main characters cut me deeply. This is such a millennial book, and I mean that in a good way. It often feels that millennials, more than other generations, suffer from this panic and anxiety driven desire to be enough, to do enough, to leave a mark, to be remembered, and then you bundle that up with the very uniquely human drive to avoid death, where we are never ready for the end… This book spoke to me on a level where I felt seen and heard, even though Schwab was doing all the talking.
I was honestly ready to walk away from this series. This book was going to be the make or break point for me, and (thankfully?) I’ll be sticking around a bit longer. I guess I should have believed everyone that kept telling me the third book was when things really picked up and things started happening. Which isn’t to say that some of my issues from the start of this series weren’t present—they were—but they were easier to forgive with the introduction of my new favorite character(s), as well as the growth Celaena/Aelin undertook that finally started endearing her to me as a character.
The Call for Finis: Pride is a quick novella full of deeper meaning. Told in a type of omniscient third person POV that flows between the three main characters as needed, we’re presented with a story that may feel a bit familiar to some readers. The main character may be Salvia, but the reader is given almost equal page time with the knight Baldric and his companion, Zinnia as they travel the countryside—rather reluctantly at times—keeping Salvia safe as she and the demon within travel to purge a city of sin. It was an interesting look at demons and angels that flipped the traditional view of demons on its head. I really loved the demon, Ultor! The novella is also not subtle about the social issues it incorporates from our current world and places within this fantasy setting, keeping it very rooted in a world that is unnervingly similar to ours at times.
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