Monday, 23 January 2017

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

If you look closely at the cover of this book, it's a fairly lovely image. Unfortunately, and entirely unfairly, every time I saw the cover, I briefly wondered "why is there a bloody Q-tip on the cover?" Every single time, out of the corner of my eye, that was what it reminded me of. Unfortunate, and probably unfair, but still, not the best impression.

I am kind of at a loss with Scott Westerfeld. He's never once irritated me enough to make me want to stop reading his books.  But on the other hand, I've now read quite a few of his works, and there wasn't a single one that made excited to be reading it. He skates by on "fine," and it hasn't really changed with this book. Although there were a few moments early on that made me think that maybe this would be his breakout book in my affections, in the end, it was...fine. Not bad. Just not great.

It's two books, neither of which is long enough or in-depth enough to quite stand on its own. Put together, it's an interesting experiment, and it doesn't not work. We have the story of a young woman who writes a book for NaNoWriMo and gets it accepted for a six figure advance, as well as another six-figure advance for her next book. It may not be clear, but this is almost as much fantasy as the book she wrote (the other half of the book). As a wish fulfillment for everyone who participated in NaNo, I get it, but the very few times this has happened in real life is outweighed by all the other publishing "debs," as they too cutely call themselves, getting deals that are not as good, but still way better than you could expect for an unknown author.

And of course, it's also the fantasy that to be a "real" author you have to live in New York. So the main character promptly packs up and moves there, instead of going to college. Which, again, fine, but let's be clear - this is fantasy. Most authors write wherever the fuck they are, and only long into their careers can they give up their day jobs, if ever they get that lucky.

The other half of the book is Darcy's first novel that netted her the $150K for it and a sequel. We flip back and forth between the novel and Darcy's time in New York as she falls in love, splurges money, and writes and tries to write. The novel is a YA paranormal romance between psychopomps, one a teenage girl newly minted after surviving a terrorist attack, the other an incredibly old Indian young man. Of course, they fall head over heels in love.

What I did think was clever was the moment when you become aware that you're reading, not the crude first draft that prompted the huge advance, but the more polished copy that will eventually be published. Darcy is given edits, and as she goes through them, you see how she had changed the book. It's fun, and was the one moment I almost entirely bought in.

Other than that, it's two YA romances for the price of one, neither enough to fill out an entire book on their own. And they're both...fine! Neither pissed me off or made me upset. But neither filled me with delight either.

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