Audiobook Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

19 02 2013

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Divergent, Bk. 2)

Read by Emma Galvin

Harper Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 22 Min

Genre: Young Adut Dystopian

Quick Thoughts: Insurgent is a fast paced, action packed near future adventure novel filled with apocalyptic visuals, a fascinating world and a cast of fully drawn characters. Any fan of Young Adult Dystopian novels should be thrilled with Insurgent, and Roth should expect a horde of fans clamoring for the next book in this series.

Grade: B

They say the key to any relationship is communication, and since I want the relationship here with those who may stop by The Ole’ Guilded Earlobe Weblog to be a good one, let’s talk about communication. The more I read, the more I think 90% of plots in books would fall apart if people would just talk to each other. The problem is that literary characters have all these great reasons for not sharing valuable information. They may not trust someone, or worry that if they tell someone something that happened it would cause that person not to trust them. They spend so much time trying to figure whether or not to tell someone something, or exactly when the best time to reveal something is, that it allows the plot to go on an on, when in reality, the right word to the right person would have had the story wrapped up at about the novella range. It seems this lack of information sharing is even more prevalent in Young Adult fiction. Not only does a character not talk about things because the boy or girl of their dreams may not be all crushy on them if they do, adult won’t tell teens crap because they are just kids. Even if the young person is key to the survival of their group or the overthrow of the dystopic order, adults will rather keep it to themselves than tell some a young person whether it be a bratty outsider or their own responsible progeny. So, when I think of all the important traits a young adult protagonist needs, the most important is the ability to eavesdrop on adults. Hell, even Harry Potter probably would have ended up as basilisk chow if he didn’t have all the tools he needed to sneak around Hogwarts, and spy on adults. So no matter how competent, how cute and perky, or how tragic and moody you are, if you are the star of a Young Adult novel and you can’t find ways to gain information from unexpecting adults, the odds will never be in your favor.

After the shocking finale of Divergent, the Dauntless faction is split up, and those loyal to their faction are being hunted along with Abnegation by the tech savvy Erudite. Now, with the city on the verge of war, Tris and Four must search for allies and uncover secrets to prevent more death and the rule of as oppressive system, with the key to everything possibly being her Divergent status. Insurgent is a fast paced, action packed near future adventure novel filled with apocalyptic visuals, a fascinating world and a cast of fully drawn characters. I loved the thought and detail Roth put into her world, and how she lovingly developed each character, making them jump off the page. The plotting was strong, all though it did meander at moments. At points it got bogged down in the inner struggles of Tris, romantically, ethically and politically, but Roth does a good job pulling it all together. Yet, despite all the awesomeness she packed into this novel, I didn’t fully connect with it, the ways that many others seem to have. The problem, for me, was in the world she created. There’s nothing wrong with it, and she deftly creates this interesting societal structure, but it didn’t ring true for me. One of the things I love about dystopians is following the natural extrapolations of the process of the breakdown of our society. Like with Divergent, I had trouble seeing the structure of Roth‘s world being a natural development of the world we live in. I felt like I do when I try and read comic books, the world just doesn’t fit exactly for me. It was like I was in the Matrix, and not a true version of the world. Now, I understand there is a reason for this, and Roth does take steps to explain some of this feeling, but, I still found myself feeling a bit cold as I read it. All that being said, my qualms where more due to my preferences as a reader, and not any problem with this book. Any fan of Young Adult Dystopian novels should be thrilled with Insurgent, and Roth should expect a horde of fans clamoring for the next book in this series.

Emma Galvin again gives a solid reading of Insurgent. She is fast becoming one of my favorite Young Adult narrators based on the thoughtful detail she puts into her work. Galvin doesn’t assume that the main character sounds like her, but uses her voice to reflect the character that Roth creates. Galvin does a great job pacing the many elaborate action sequences that Roth sets up, keeping the flow, yet never muddling the action. Insurgent is a wonderfully produced and narrated audiobook. The characters feel real, and Galvin gives the setting a hyper reality that seems to fit in with the author‘s intent. It’s nice to have a Young Adult novel narrated in a way where the teenagers seem like teenagers, and the adults seem like adults.





Audiobook Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

14 01 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Read by Emma Galvin

Harper Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Quick Thoughts: Veronica Roth has built a fascinating world, and filled it with interesting characters, an intriguing plot, a lot of adventure and of course, the obligatory kissy kissy. Divergent is definitely an upper echelon entry in the YA Dystopian subgenre, and while there were times I was frustrated by the microcosm of the plot, I believe the world will be more fully explored in future editions of the trilogy,

Grade: B+

I know most people, including myself, tend to put Apocalyptic and Post Apocalyptic literature into the basic same genre as dystopian literature. There are a lot of good reasons for that. Very often, a dystopia forms in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event, although this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. I have always preferred Apocalyptic literature to Dystopian because I enjoy that journey. Many Dystopian novels seem to start with an interesting oppressive World structure, and then build around that. An author will ask, what kind of journey we would need to take to get us from our current world to one where the government forces our children into Death games and then place just enough hints about that journey into the narrative. Most Apocalyptic fiction comes at it from the opposite direction. What kind of society would form after the world suffers ecological breakdown, or a nuclear war? This is the journey that often fascinates me. Take humanity, strip away its accoutrements, alter its values and what rises to the surface. What new religions are born? What new archetypes enter our genetic memories? This is why I often get frustrated with Dystopians. I want to know why the world became what it is. I become distracted looking for clues to what external forces pushed society to adapt in such a way to lead to these new societies. Many Dystopians have really good setups, but rarely feel natural. I always feel like I am missing an element to the story, a sort of Dues Ex Machina that has guided the world to this point. This is often why I like to start with the bang, and work my way to the new society, instead of being dropped right there, without all the pieces.

Divergence is set in a future Chicago, where society has shifted and now breaks itself down into groups based on key values that people believe are needed to keep the world on the right course. Beatrice was born into the Abnegation Faction who value selflessness. This faction provided most of the governmental leaders and is in constant conflict with Erudite, the faction that values Intelligence. Yet, Beatrice feels unsure of her own selflessness, and finds herself in even more conflict when during a test to determine faction proclivities, she is told that she is Divergent, but she must keep that outcome secret. Beatrice then chooses to join another faction, Dauntless, who value Fearlessness. During a brutal initiation process where the losers become Factionless, Tris must try to find her place, while search out what exactly it means to be Divergent. I know, 99% of the world has already read this book, and I am quite late to the party. I finally gave in after reading too many of my favorite YA bloggers add this author’s work to their favorites list. Still, I expected to be disappointed with it. I expected to let the hype diminish it for me. Luckily, I really enjoyed Divergent. I may not have been blown away as some were, but it’s a pretty solid adventure, with some nice twists and a really well thought out world. I think Roth has created a very interesting Dystopian set up, with some interesting hints to what may have lead to it. Still, I wanted to know more. Divergent is set in a very isolated setting, built on the ruins of a fallen city, set within the predominate social structures. While this set up was brilliantly built, I couldn’t help but wonder about what else was going on. I wanted to know more about the factionless, more about what Dauntless needed to protect and guard the city against. This was probably why I didn’t love this as much as some, I was more intrigued by these issues than Tris’s actual story. Not that the story was bad. Sure, there are some lovey kissy moments with a mysterious boy-man, but the whole Divergent subplot gave to adventure and intrigue a grounded purpose, Yet I wanted more. Now, as this is a trilogy, I am sure that more is yet to come. Veronica Roth has built a fascinating world, and filled it with interesting characters, an intriguing plot, a lot of adventure and of course, the obligatory kissy kissy. Divergent is definitely an upper echelon entry in the YA Dystopian subgenre, and while there were times I was frustrated by the microcosm of the plot, I believe the world will be more fully explored in future editions of the trilogy,

Of all the narrators that typically handle Young Adult novels, Emma Galvin is probably my favorite. She really manages to bring a fresh perception to each reading. Sometimes I feel some narrators sort of force the voice of the story to fit their narrative style, yet Galvin never does this. She allows her voice to reflect the story being told. Just hearing the progression of Tris’s journey, as she move away from the soft spoken Abnegation girl, to the Fearless Dauntless shows just how much thought Galvin puts into her characters. It was interesting, with each character, you could almost feel their journey, a blending of their original faction with their current. For example, Erik was read with a sort of mocking cockiness that showed his Erudite background blending with his Dauntless position, while Four’s soft confidence gave plenty of clues to his background. As usual, Galvin’s pacing was precise, giving the reading a visual feel that played well with the elaborate set ups of the author. Divergent is definitely a novel that translates wonderfully to audio thanks to its talented narrator.