July 13, 2011

Book Review(s): The Last Werewolf & Ship Breaker

I just got back from a tropical island, which means I just spent a lot of time reading. I mean, I did other stuff, too. I swam with giant turtles. I sailed in a very small series of circles. And I got a marginally nice tan. These books are also worth a mention.

The Last Werewolf
by Glen Duncan

This story is about a man who realizes he's the last werewolf left alive and he's feeling pretty apathetic about it. He's planning to end his life at the next full moon unless the men who hunt him find him first. But almost as soon as he decides that life is no longer worth living, a series of events--and a beautiful woman--change his mind. This is not your typical paranormal story. This is like nothing else I've ever read. The writing, for one, is completely unique and beautifully crafted. Duncan's sharp sense of humor and way with words is so astounding that I found myself rereading whole pages, nodding emphatically, smiling to myself like I'd just discovered a secret no one else knew about. I had nothing in common with his characters, but he found a way to make me feel connected to them on some fundamental level.
Plus, the story's just fascinating. Talk about characters with interesting baggage.

But there were moments when Duncan's voice was so clever (and so aware of the fact) it made my teeth hurt a little. There are moments when I wanted to pull this writer (or, really, this narrator) and say, "really? We get that your smart. Do you need to rub it in my eye with a stick?". This book has moments of pretentiousness, for sure. Which I hate to say, because I loved it enough that it was worth those moments of eye-rolling.

Verdict: A little violent and raw around the edges with beautiful writing and moments of clear, mesmerizing brilliance.

Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi

This YA book is about a young boy in a dystopian world. Life is pretty brutal on the beaches off what used to be New Orleans where he lives breaking down ruined ships for their precious metals. He doesn't have much to look forward to. Until he and a friend find a beached cruise ship, and half dead rich girl, and the opportunity to change their lives forever.

This is a beautifully written book. You've got a fast-moving plot that never stops churning, and a set of characters that are rich and interesting to follow around. The world that Bacigalupi describes is not a pretty world, but he manages to fill the story with hope and friendship. Unlike a lot of other YA novels I've read lately, it doesn't rely on its more fantastical elements and a cloying love story to tell a gripping yarn. This is a book that boys won't roll their eyes reading and that girls will love just as much, I think.

The verdict: Unique, well crafted, and well worth a read.