Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Some Fine Day - Kat Ross Review

*Published: 1st July 2014
Publisher: Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry
Pages: 384
Thanks to Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry via Netgalley for this ARC.
Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She's smart and deadly, and knows three things with absolute certainty:
1. When the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.
2. The only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.
3. There's no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.
Jansin has been lied to. On all counts. 

NOTE: I've just heard that Strange Chemistry is shutting down, so the publication date listed above could be dodgy. My sympathy to all the authors left out in the cold and, oh man that is sad. I'm mourning an imprint now.

In short: Mixed feelings about some parts, but an enjoyable and mostly fast-paced read.

In not-so-short: Alright, so it took me way too long to read this book. I had a hard time getting into the first 20 (or so) pages. I just couldn't bring myself to care about the characters or events (oh wow, they're going on a holiday. Whoop-dee-doo) so I kept procrastinating. The day before yesterday I sat down and read it properly and - fortunately - enjoyed it a lot more. So stick with it, it's worth it. My Kindle app tells me I wrote 'It's growing on me' 15% through.

I get that the blurb is supposed to intrigue you, but I do feel it's a bit lacking in actually explaining what the book's about, so here's my run down. 

At the start of the book, Jansin Nordqvist's on the fast track to success in her home underground (where humanity was driven after a ton of global warming and the arrival of hypercanes rendering the planet's surface uninhabitable) as a military cadet. I'm not totally sure why, but job options are apparently limited to military, the sciences, mining and ... hard labour, or something. 

Her parents - a high-ranking army official and an important scientist - book a short trip to the surface as a special vacation. Unfortunately, Jansin is then kidnapped by - shocker - humans on the surface. Savages, or so we think. She's taken away with them, held captive etc etc ... and when she finally settles in and starts to like them (and finds lurve) her people track her down and rescue her, by storming the island with all her new-found friends and ... yeah. She's pretty pissed about this, so she starts digging around in the military's secrets and bam bam bam tada dystopian plot. 

So that's my plot summary. Here are my thoughts. 

I found the pacing/timeline majorly weird. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but it felt like the book started in the middle of a book and finished at the end of a sequel, if that makes any sense. You know the feeling you get for where a book's going to go, and when? You expect the moment of doom *here*, a big reveal *here*. It defied all that. Made me fairly uneasy, at times, and made the book seem a lot longer since the storyline was put together in a way that seemed like several 'plots'. That said, it was interesting: once it gets going, the book is a pretty stereotypical dystopian - but the timeline is certainly original, though again, it might rub some up the wrong way. 

Also, the book was slow in some places and then the ending was WHAT THE HELL FAST I CAN'T CATCH UP. So yeah.

Infodumping was pretty weird, too. I'm overusing that word, I know, but it was. The start of each chapter has a little paragraph that's just straight-up infodumping, doesn't even make any pretenses about it, and that was fairly annoying - at first. I mean, it would say things like: 

The spirit of cooperation that permitted the Consortium to complete its work amid global chaos soon disintegrated under the weight of political pressures and looming famine. Communication between the far-flung colonies was severed.

But towards the end I did grow to appreciate those, as the whole story came together. My Kindle App is full of notes like 'Trust your readers!' because narrator Jansin overexplained things quite a lot - and then other times she didn't explain them enough. For example, there's an important plot point (a chemical used in biowarfare) where she explains the symptoms, and then shows someone who's been injected with it with a completely different set of symptoms? I might just be reading it wrong, but it was confusing. Like the timeline, it felt unbalanced. Then again, I do like world-building, so I could look past that. Which leads me onto...

The research was great. Alright, I am not nor ever have been a military cadet, to my knowledge, nor have I used hydroponics or any of the other topics in the book.So I wasn't exactly scrutinizing the novel for 100% correct facts. But it is a novel, and the point of that is to make your words seem realistic to the general public reading. With Some Fine Day, this was definitely a success. I don't even know where to start, but I felt like I was in capable hands with the research. It seems like some spec-fic YA novels lately were written like 'Oh, it's fiction anyway, no need to research.' This wasn't. Alright, there were some mistakes (such as when someone uses a GPS and I mentally scream 'YOU'RE UNDERGROUND AND YOU JUST SAID THE SATELLITES WERE KNOCKED OUT'.) Pro tip: Satellites are needed for GPS. Mad, right? But overall, fab research. Related to that...

I'm a big fan of the science here. Okay, I love science, and I love science fiction. It saddens me that much of the YA science fiction I read doesn't really have the 'science' bit down. This one did (to my limited layperson knowledge. Don't shoot me with your plasma beams, real scientists). There was the explanation as to how the apocalypse-of-sorts happened, etc etc, but there were also some original features. For example, Jansin's mother is a scientist (an agronomist, if I'm not mistaken). We actually see a little of her work, and later in the book we see a lot of the scientific research facilities. As I'm personally working in a research lab this summer, that was interesting! So yeah, that's a highlight.

I noticed a lot of diversity here. I don't know if this was accidental or if it was an intentional effort to diversify the book, but this is a lot less white-teenage-straight-girl-centric than some other books. Which should be commended, I guess. I like how the author doesn't make a huge deal out of it, just throws the details in there. Like, instead of just leaving the details out so everyone can whitewash them, she has pretty clear-cut descriptors like 'ebony skin and cornrows', plus two happily married gay men and Jansin's mother's name (Tamiko)

I have mixed feelings about the writing. Again, this was unbalanced. Some of the lines, especially towards the start, are pretty clunky - that's partly why I had a hard time getting into it. But almost all the chapter endings are fantastic and keep you turning pages, and there are some fabulous turns of phrase.So, basically - hated chapter beginnings (see above), loved chapter endings. So it just depends on your tastes, really. I'm not supposed to quote an ARC (already have, whoops), but here are some examples:

'[...] she neatly sidesteps the hook punch and punches him in the side. No, stabs him in the side.'
'[he - I'm no spoiler] turns to me, his eyes full of love and pity. And then he shoots me in the face.' 
 By the way, nobody dies in those two examples. That would be spoiling.

SOME FINE DAY is very good at building up suspense. This could be to do with the stellar chapter endings, but whatever it is, it works. I was afraid to look at the page sometimes! (You know like when you're watching a scary movie and you cover your eyes? Yeah, that. With a book).

The effectiveness of the POV varied, and sometimes left me wondering if this was actually YA. Jansin's a teenage girl, but (especially at the start of the book) she says a lot of things that a teenager just wouldn't say, and she looks at them with a kind of hindsight. It's not just that she's a *smart teenager*, and thus thinks differently. Like I said, it's  like she's reflecting on it from an adult perspective. Then again, as the book progresses it gets a lot more YA and that's good.

There were some very intriguing hints dropped and then never followed up on. The ending obviously leaves room for a sequel, so they might be covered there. Bit annoying, but it does leave me eager to read on.

The cover's a bit unoriginal. Here's my petty side coming out. The cover's grand, it's not horrible, but eyes are just so so so overdone. A picture of a hypercane could've made a really nice picture. I mean, eyes suit Stephenie Meyer's The Host, because they're quite important in the book. But Jansin's eyes really don't matter here.

All that said, I still enjoyed it. It just left me with a lot to say. So ... good concept, some very cool elements, with somewhat dodgy execution in places.