Cover-to-Cover is a Lot 10 series that makes the case for judging a book by its cover-- until after you've finished it.
Night is a YA book that at first caught my attention for its unique cover. I am a big fan of the YA genre, and a quick perouse of the concept left me interested: they live in a world of day and night cycles that last decades. When night approaches their island village moves to a desert where day time remains… but the three main characters get left behind, and they discover that there is more than just darkness waiting for them when night falls.
I was intrigued, and excited to read it.
Night was a bit of a strange read. On one end, I really enjoyed the world the authors (there were two) created, and was genuinely invested in the characters. There is a good mystery, and it creates a lot of suspense throughout the story. On the other end, the authors head hop quite a lot, and while I was never lost, it took me out of the story enough that it became a problem. I’m all for stories with multiple perspectives, but those perspectives should not change mid-scene. It wasn’t enough to soil the story though.
The Windup Girl
I have a list of books that I want to buy, and I have been slowly acquiring them the past few year. All of the books illuminate the path to becoming a better author through the lessons they offerer but frankly some of them can be tough reads. I had only managed to find a few tough reads, nothing else, and wanted to get a book that sparked my imagination so I looked for a random book to catch my attention. Enter The Windup Girl, a sci-fi novel that stood out on the shelf with its title, and interesting cover: a busy, dystopian market place in Thailand, futuristic and yet archaic; a genetically modified elephant called a Megodont works its way through the peddlers of genetically modified food. The book uses several different perspectives, and takes place in a dystopian world where GMOs and genetic modification has run amuck. The titular Windup girl is a genetically modified human, and her story intertwines with other perspectives of politics, mystery, and espionage to create this cautionary tale.
The story had potential, but I was most interested by the world the cover seemed to promise.
This book starts off kind of slow. For the first ten pages or so I wasn’t hooked, which may not seem like a long time relatively speaking, but as a reader I was conscientious of the fact that it wasn’t quite clicking at the beginning, and I think that’s a problem-- but then, something amazing happened, and by page fifty author Paolo Bacigalupi had me believing I had just stumbled upon the crown jewels of novels. The world exploded to life, and the story began to really interest me. It had everything I could want: suspense, mystery, action, world building, and characters with dimension, all written in beautiful prose. Part of the reason the world came to life was because of the multiple perspectives, of which there were quite a few. This could have weakened the overall narrative by spending too little time with any one character, which in turn would have diluted the themes, and weakened the resonance of the story. Bacigalupi manages quite the opposite though, and the multiple characters different perspectives and experiences not only strengthen the narrative but also help the world created within the story feel nuanced and three-dimensional.
The story is unfortunately a bit of a shining star, in that it burns brightly for a while, but in the end sort of flickers out. As I closed the back cover I was left feeling a little like I was promised something I didn’t get. The end (and most of the story, honestly) is very bleak-- but this in itself is not a problem. What is a problem is that it seemed for a while like we were building to something special, and the end, while not bad, isn’t near as interesting as where it seemed to be going at the midway point.
LA is Editor-in-Chief and Head Writer at Lot 10 Underground. He is an avid Eagles fan and a weary Lakers one. He grew up sneaking through the halls of Hogwarts after dark with Harry and his more talented friends, stumbling along the dark walls of Rock Tunnel in Pokemon Red, storming through flood riddled ships with Master Chief, and questioning Goku's parenting techniques in DBZ. If you'd like to contact him, you can try an owl, but he prefers e-mail.