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{Review} The Dark Side of Light – K. L. Jordaan

My flat-mate won a copy of this book off of goodreads and put it in our communal bookshelf. The cover looked interesting, if slightly New Age-y and so I borrowed it.

Blurb (from goodreads)
An inspiring tale about birth, death and the fraction in between we so loosely term life. Falling into an abyss of questions and seldom having the privilege of sensible answers, life gets lost in translation. Sam’s journey into the wasteland of imagined life takes a wild twist when Luke joins her.

Review
So… Firstly, if a novel purports to have an answer “to the question of the secret of life”, I expect it to deliver either scientific evidence that cannot be refuted or a coherent, logical theological argument that can be followed by the reader, even if said reader disagrees with the conclusions of such a piece.

Sadly the arguments lack coherency and jump from one impossible starting point to a perplexing conclusion that seems impossible to have come about from the facts presented. One such example begins with the statement that Eve was made of one of Adam’s rib bones and from this one statement draws the conclusion that this alone is proof that “our bodies were designed to live forever”.

Sam later concludes that the reason people no longer live for hundreds of years (as they used to according to some sections of the Old Testament) is that in the 21st Century, people have stopped believing they can live forever. Even after setting aside my own beliefs on this matter, I found this particular argument to be weak. Surely a purely Creationist conclusion (-and I’ve gone for Creationist here as it seems in keeping with the earlier literal interpretation of parts of Genesis- that sin’s presence in the world has shortened our lives) is at least easier to explain than the ‘loss of belief in our immortality’ line.

Sam’s hypothesis that ‘incorrect’ beliefs hold humanity back from achieving its full potential does not just apply to the length of human lives but also to other more scientific things such as being able to breathe in space. All we need do is “[f]orget what you’ve been told” and we should be able to breathe whilst orbiting the Earth.

This leads me to the second disappointment in this text. To say it in the most terribly British way, the science is at times a little off. Explosions, for example, were poorly explained. Tides on the other hand were well researched and accurately explained. This did however make the other scientific inaccuracies stand out more.

Thirdly, the language of the novel was, at best, unclear at times with some images that did not really work, such as “a smile played hide and seek on his perfectly formed lips” and some typos, such as “the elevator began it’s decent” that had me reaching for my post-it notes and a pencil. In addition to this, there were many instances when conflicting ideas that seemed to undermine previous passages were included. This could have been intellectually stimulating if presented in a Luis Buñuel La Vía Láctea way but a seeming lack of structure and purpose removed any potential thesis.

Finally, the adult Sam did not convince as a character. Whilst presented as an intelligent woman who desperately wanted answers to questions that had burnt away in her brain for years, she did not seem to have gone looking for these answers. Her arguments showed a lack of extended reading, quotes and sources that I’m certain a character such as hers would have accumulated over the years.

Overall
I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is to write original and challenging philosophical texts and have a great deal of respect for K. L. Jordaan for attempting to write and publish a thought-provoking book. Nonetheless, I feel thoroughly disappointed with it.

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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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{Review} Doll Bones – Holly Black

I received a free copy of this book as part of a goodreads giveaway. Huzzah! 😀 By way of thanks, here’s a review.

As Doll Bones has won many prizes, such as Kirkus Review’s Best Book, School Library Journal Best Book, Booklist Editor’s Choice Books for Youth and People Magazine Best New Kid’s Book (among others) this review’s going to go towards this year’s Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Blurb
Zach, Poppy and Alice’s friendship is centered around the imaginary world they’ve created together and have been playing in with their toys for as long as they’ve known each other. When Zach turns 12, his father bins his toys in the hope that this will help him to grow up and become manly, the distraught boy ends his friendship with the girls. Poppy has other ideas and attempts to re-start the game by creating what seems to be an irresistible quest line for the three of them to play. One that involves the Queen- a bone china doll that has long scared the three.

As the three try to set the Queen free, the lines between the real world and the imaginary blur and Zach, Alice and Poppy end up on a journey they’re not sure they’ll be able to complete.

Review
First things first: the cover and illustrations are gorgeous and complement the story well with their atmospheric shading (for the illustrations) and the dead-eyed stare of Eleanor-the-doll (on the cover) and so deserve special mention. The artist’s portfolio can be found here.

I started out with high hopes for this book and, for the most part, Doll Bones delivered. From the beginning, Black juxtaposed the grandness of quests and stories that take place in other books and the realm of the imagination with the often humorously anti-climatic reality of ‘real world’ adventures.

Despite ticking all the right boxes to fit the ‘paranormal bildungsroman’ category, I personally didn’t find the story too bone-chilling, nor the main character’s development to be too profound. However a younger reader (aka. one of the target audience) would probably be able to enjoy the mild spookiness without being truly terrified.

The only part that really jarred was the love/ romance element. Yes, it created a convenient motive for one of the character’s actions which in turn moved the story along. Yes, Zach’s evident discomfort at finding out about Alice’s feelings for him went a long way towards making its inclusion feel more realistic but it still felt too forced to sit comfortably with me. Additionally both Poppy and Alice felt rather underdeveloped (read: a little bland and indistinguishable from each other) as characters.

Overall
Whilst well-written, this wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. Nonetheless younger readers may be interested in this as it touches on some of the changes that adolescence brings. I’d be interested in reading more of Black’s work in the future as it was an enjoyable read, if not one that I’ll be raving about to others.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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