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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I was so ready to love this book.  Scott Westerfeld is one of my go to ‘read this’ guys.  His world building in the Leviathan, Uglies, and Midnighters series is brilliant.  I couldn't wait to see how Westerfeld would weave his science fiction/fantasy magic into a dual track narrative:  one part telling the story of the author, Darcy, and her year of bringing her first book from contract to publication; and the second part the fantasy book she’s written.  Admittedly, I should have keyed in to the early clues that reading about someone’s challenges with revising a draft and fighting with editors could be a bit dull—but I held out hope.  The paranormal romance part of Afterworlds, the book Darcy wrote, seemed like a Westerfeld sure thing.  I was so disappointed. 

Darcy’s story (the young author) reads like an attempt at a cathartic coming of age tale.  She moves to the big city, enters into her first serious relationship, faces fears of surviving in the publishing industry and then battles out how to balance her publisher’s expectations with her own artistic integrity;  I found her experience both fantastical and dull at the same time.  I eventually found myself skimming her chapters and hoping the chapters from her paranormal romance book would compensate.  Darcy’s book follows the plight of a young woman, Elizabeth, who survives an horrific terrorist event only to wake up and realize she’s something of a grim reaper who sees ghosts AND is set to fall in love with a super-hot god of the dead.  Now this sounded promising.  But, alas, it’s as if Westerfeld’s attention was so divided between the two plot lines that neither world was sufficiently built.  The characters all felt quite flat (even the supposedly super-hot god of the dead).  We were supposed to believe that Elizabeth and the super-hot god of the dead were desperately in love, but that was the least steamy romance in the book. 

I persevered, reading to the very end, thinking, surely, Westerfeld is going to somehow meld these two plots together in a brilliant twist that makes it all worthwhile.  He didn’t.  I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this book, but I sure would be keen to see if other readers think it was truly as bad as I thought.  

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