Sunday, 16 June 2013

25 Perfect Days - Mark Tullius Review

Publisher: Vincere Press
Pages: 322
Genre: Futuristic dystopian/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Vincere Press and Netgalley.
Synopsis/Blurb: A totalitarian state doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a slow, dangerous slide. 25 Perfect Days chronicles the path into a hellish future of food shortages, contaminated water, sweeping incarceration, an ultra-radical religion, and the extreme measures taken to reduce the population.

Higher taxes, strict gun control, an oppressive healthcare system. Complete media control, genetically modified food, experimentation on citizens. The push of depersonalizing technology, unending wars, government sanctioned assassinations. Is this collection of stories merely science fiction or soon to be fact? Are these policies designed for the greater good or disguised to benefit a chosen few at the expense of the masses? Is this brave new world the best we could do or part of a sinister grand plan?

Through these twenty-five interlinked stories, each written from a different character’s point of view, 25 Perfect Days captures the sacrifice, courage, and love needed to survive and eventually overcome this dystopian nightmare

I put off reading this book for a long time because of other books I had to review and it somehow fell to the bottom of the pile. I regretted that at first but eventually realised it was the right decision. I'll explain below.

So, the book is an exemplary, textbook dystopian, and a hugely chilling one at that. There's mandatory sterilization and weight limits for people - if you don't fit under a certain (very low) weight, no matter your height, you get (to my knowledge) vaporized (wasn't really explained). Hint: People went to such lengths as having limbs cut off. Scary. Then there are the weapons, which basically erase the targets from the world with plasma, literally wiping them out until they're not even visible.

At first, I was very impressed with the world-building. It was terrifying, but all the dystopian elements were obviously thoroughly thought out and original. It's truly a world of terror, and that was echoed on every page. An element I liked was that the church, the Way, had basically taken over the world, and it was the enemy. It was a theocracy gone terribly, terribly wrong. Then the 'blue eyes and blonde hair' nod to Nazi ideologies.

I really enjoyed a couple of the characters, but it was incredibly frustrating when I only saw them quickly and then if they came back they were, as in one case, probably in some really dire situation about to be exterminated. It wasn't just thrilling, it was genuinely frightening. I have to respect it for that, but I actually got scared while reading it, and not neessarily in a good way (read: a few nauseating incidents).

There were some excellent scenes, but here's where the problems started.

Many of the scenes themselves were well-written, brilliant even. But there was no cohesion in the overall story - try as I might, I couldn't actually locate a plot. I just spent the whole story in a state of confusion, nonplussed by the bewildering cast of characters. There was an evil ruler, but no particular person to root for. There was even a glossary of characters at the end of the book, and unless it's high fantasy, that's not usually a good sign.  

Yes, events happened. But as someone said to me once, plot is not what happens. Plot is how the characters react to what happens. Lots of things happen, and the frustrating thing is that they could make for a good story. Except that I didn't know who was doing it, and why I should care because I wasn't invested in any character! The book is in third-person, so it's not like I had to keep checking back to see who was talking - I could see the name in front of me but because there was no character continuity, I didn't understand who that person was supposed to be and what their relation to the events was.

As far as I could see, there was no main character. It was like a collection of short stories set in the same elegantly-described world. I could take the people who participated in the climax as the main characters, but I'd only seen them in one other chapter! There were some very creepy, chilling and sometimes nauseating dystopian details, but they were never once explained and I just felt horribly confused.

I understand that the book is part of a series, but I just felt cheated by the ending. Perhaps if it had pulled all the strings and different characters together it would've redeemed the book and made me treat it as a work of genius, but all it did was depose the Big Bad Guy, and it was rushed and confusing at that. I really didn't know who was doing what. I mean, I noticed the author bringing recurring chracters along but I'd just see the name and think 'Hm, that name sounds familiar but . . . who are they again?'

After reading some other reviews, I realise that it is indeed a kind of collection of short stories. I had known it spanned several generations, but I maintain that it would've been better to focus on a small group of memorable characters. Perhaps my thoughts are flavoured by the amount of YA I read (this is adult) but that was my personal experience.

I was unfortunately disappointed at times. While the start was still as odd on the character and plot front, the world-building led me to believe that there'd be some miraculous coup d'état at the end that would explain everything, but it was like the whole book was devoted to description of the dystopia and situations in it and the flimsy resolution was just thrown in as an obligatory afterthought. So there's a warning - don't let excessive exposition get in the way of your plot, because it can damage a book that really had potential. It covers one day a year over many years, and I would have understood this a lot more and probably had a better reading experience if that fact hadn't been omitted from my web-ARC (reading copy).

Technically, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, it is a very good book, a disturbing and powerful cautionary tale against a theocracy. But it cannot be denied that I didn't come out of it feeling satisfied, thus the mediocre rating. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the book at the moment . . . mainly as though I missed something major. But I believe that a book is largely for entertainment value, and it would've been nice to have more continuity and a solid ending. I'm sorry this book and I got off on the wrong foot though - next time I swear to read the blurb first!

1 comment:

  1. Yikes, you get vaporized for weighing too much?! That is intense! And I need intensity in my dystopians so that's good. I can't say I've ever been into short story collections though, so I can understand how you ended up being disappointed with this one because I think I would feel the same way. Same as you, I prefer to have a very solid direction in the plot as well as a solid indication of an MC to for a connection with over the course of a novel, so I'm pretty sure this one wouldn't really work for me either. Bummer! Very nicely reviewed though.


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