Wednesday, November 7, 2012

REVIEW: Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard

Katya's World Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

Katya’s World is a candy of hard science-fiction. It has themes, ironies, and allegories. I could easily imagine reading this in high school and discussing the book’s literary value in English class. I would have definitely preferred reading this over Ender's Game, which I liked but not as much as KW. Yes, KW was better than Ender's Game. That’s my opinion so believe it.

Now, I love romance, but I was delighted by its absolute absence in KW. Very atypical for a YA, KW had no dreaded love triangle and no distracting eye candies. It was all about “holy fuck, I’m thrust into a situation beyond belief and now I gotta help save my planet from an apocalyptic war!!!” Yes, the triple exclamation points are necessary.

What few interludes the story has are short. Disaster after disaster occurred; I literally bounced my legs out of excitement as I read KW on my bed.

An Eyebrows-raising Beginning

The prologue was complete world building. The info-dumping was a lazy way to begin the story but I honestly liked it. I didn’t have to gather slivers of information and complete the world building puzzle as the plot happened. The prologue laid it all out for me: how far is this in the future, why begin colonizing planets, where is this story is taking place, etc. KW allowed me to sit back, relax, and enjoy the cinematic-like action.

Rare is the hard sci-fi I read that isn’t stuffed with dizzying expositions. I wouldn’t have wanted KW’s beginning to change in any way.

However, there was one thing...
A colonisation project was mounted. In common with all such projects, the colonists were all taken from a single ethnicity. Previous experience had shown that, in the stressful environment of a new world where disasters may occur at any time, people look for others to blame and ethnic differences were frequently where fracture lines formed.
All my brain cells commented and overloaded my capacity to form a coherent opinion. However for the sake of enjoying KW, I went along with it...hesitantly. Pretty quickly, I saw a literary message building itself. One that said to me, “Yeah, I know. It’s full of crap. And here’s why. I’m going to tell you the ‘why’ using the story’s plot.” (YMMV.)

The Characters

+++ the heroine

Katya Kuriakoya was awesome! Her self-aware detached personality may alienate readers but I loved it. I loved everything about her. I found her courageous, resilient, and pragmatic. She got dangerous and morally ambivalent things done. No matter what the odds were — and the odds were invariably high, she strived to survive. This was a tough girl through and through.

+++ the others

I liked every characters, including the cowardice, power-abusing Officer Suhkalev. I didn’t expect much from this very minor character other than as a villainous cannon fodder.

Every characters on were on different sides, and it was hard for me to choose a side. They were all strong and determined. One moment I’m on that character’s side, and the next I’m on the previously-a-bad-guy-now-maybe-a-good-guy’s side. Everyone was right to an extent and wrong to another. KW is not a black and white novel. You will feel a lot inner turmoil as you determine which side is the right side.

Or maybe there is no right side because in the end I settled for being on Kayta’s side and hoped everyone survive despite being enemies. As I said before, the characters were likable. Not everyone survives; every death saddened me. This book didn’t hesitate to pull the spectrum of human emotions from me.

Also worth mentioning is the handling of female characters. There were no damsels in distress or sexualized kickass heroines. KW was dystopian, but gender was not part of its scope (not that I personally discerned).

+++ the Leviathan

It was mysterious. It was frightening. It was indomitable. It was also a very well named villain. Speaking of names, I loved how a few of the names in KW derived from mythology.
She spoke the names softly like a prayer. “Kraken. Scylla. Leviathan.
Once the story was revealed Leviathan, it became scarier. I thought, “Oh Mother of All Tentacle Aliens, how the hell are they going to defeat this?!”

The Plot

KW was flooded with action and doused with twists. The plot was unpredictable, fast-paced, and utterly epic. Honestly, near the end I wanted the novel to ease off the action with a long interlude because it was too much of a headrush to handle in one sitting of a read.

The PoV

KW was told in Katya’s 1st person PoV, but towards the end it was occasionally interjected with others’ PoV. Usually this would annoy me but it felt natural to the story and kept my interest. It also helped greatly that the times it switched to a supporting character’s PoV it was to introduce a twist. And woah were there many twists. Nonetheless, I hope Katya remains the star throughout the series.

The Ending

The ending was one of those things-are-just-beginning-cue-dooming-theme-music kind. I didn’t mind that, but what I did mind was the flat resolution. Talk about a big disappointment. It strongly felt like the story’s engine of adrenaline sputtered out. And no, KW being the first part of a series did not mollify me.

In Conclusion

I rate KW 3-stars for I liked it. I loved everything about the KW except for open ending. I recommend the book for those who like YA science fiction to be actual science fiction instead of a facade for romance.

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