Thursday, November 3, 2016

Soft Sci Fi New Release: Infinity

Infinity, Jus  Accardo
So this came out this week.  The beginning of a new series.  Infinity employs some basic science fiction principles primarily to explore the "what if's" of relationships.  I don't think you'd have to be a sci fi fan to enjoy Infinity.  I do think you need to be a fan of colloquial, entertainment-value writing.  Allow me to elaborate;
  • This was easy to read, and so long as I didn't think too much, it stayed that way.  Easy entertainment; fairly amusing, fairly interesting.  More than that, I wanted to read it, and fast.  But....
  • It has content and attitudes I wouldn't want anyone impressionable I know to be reading (the rebellion is strong, with this one).  
  • There's also some minor sensuality (wanting to have sex and coming close a number of times), quite a bit of light and heavy cursing (some blasphemy), and some crass humour.  There is less of these than Green, but more than Craw, either of the Meyers or Briggs.
  • There's some really knee-jerk awful objectification writing.  In time it is minimised as new information comes to light, but it doesn't change that the description of the male and female gaze are so. so. different.  There's also insta-love (later minimised also), but still, it's there.
  • It feeds some stereotypes. Example?  Here's the female narrator reacting to a male character giving her a caution: "Because apparently he'd never got the memo on teenage girls. Telling us not to do something was the fastest way to nudge us towards doing it."  Oh, is that how all teenage girls are meant to be?  Oh.  What a revelation!  Simply changing this to say, "Because apparently he'd never got the memo on my MO.  Telling me not to do something was the fastest way to nudge me towards doing it."  Solid.  AND I get to learn about the character, not be given negative platitudes about all teenage girls everywhere.  Wasted words.   Also: branding teenage girls in this way is so demeaning.  Aaaaand...
  • Within that same quote, the expression "Apparently he'd never got the memo..." is overused and perfunctory.  More wasted words.  I've heard this expression so much, and adding "apparently" added nothing.  Most of the sentences are like this.  I don't prefer it.  The recipe for a sentence appears to be: Choose a colloquialism, choose an idiom or hyperbole, and splice splice splice!  I imagine it would all sound better aloud than it reads; speaking this way -- without the opportunity to edit -- makes more sense.  I think Accardo is probably a great in-person storyteller.  In writing, the constant condensation of lots of casual-speak reads as trying too hard to be youthful.  If a sentence's recipe isn't casual-speak plus an idiom, it's a commonly-use phrase, slightly changed, I think in an effort to be funny.  One example of this twist-from-the usual format:  "I deserved a cookie for keeping it all together."   Medal is the obvious go-to in this context, not cookie.  Changing it to cookie didn't make it a great sentence for me, it made it slightly better, but it's still ultimately a throwaway sentence; a twist on a cliché spliced together with an urban language expression.  Don't get me wrong, YA should have some urban language...but this sentence didn't give me more story, and I had already been shown via dialogue the protag was being given a lot of information to process...telling me as much in these terms doesn't do it for me.  When I read that sentence now, not within the paragraphs of the book, it doesn't seem so bad.  It isn't bad.  This sentence appearing in a book I was reading wouldn't bother me.  It's that every sentence in this book seemed to be like this, that bothered me.  I am not exaggerating when I say a single paragraph could have twenty idioms or colloquialisms/slang terms in it.  I would love to hear what an ESOL reader thinks about this.  This is not a paragraph from Infinity, but this is a sample to illustrate what I mean.  It might go something like this.  "He needed to keep his socks on.  I was splitting nowhere but I needed a sec to get my thinker on straight before we could bust a move."  Any single element (or even two) of this could work for me.  Altogether?  Too much.
  • I've seen a couple reviews that said that the science or story was confusing with so much information-dumping.  I disagree completely.  I found it very straight-forward.  The only confusion comes from the science not working and not being explained convincingly, not from it being too complex.  I can't go into this without spoiling it.
  • This book isn't really about the science.  The science is superfluous.   It's really about romance and the implications for romance a barely-fleshed-out theory could have on that.  The science in this is riddled with flaws that I could mostly overlook.  That's okay.  I like science fiction.  I like romance.  I'll take either or both, but SF fans should be warned: this is pretty weak on the science.
  • The flaws in the narrative were harder to look past.  There are so many things that seem implausible, unlikely or just plain nonsensical.  A whole army base can't find a single girl in a small town (when she's not trying that hard to hide and they're all carrying cellphones)?  Three people (two of which are trained soldiers) can't take down one soldier in the many, MANY times they attempt to do so?  Not only can they not beat him at his game when it is extremely predictable and there are more minds allied against him, they can't physically overpower him when there are three of them.  Also: they're in the U.S., they're from the army, and they aren't armed.  Okaaaaay.  A reality with less guns would be nice...but it seems so...unlikely that people tracking and attempting to stop a killer would go in unarmed (=zero arms) as a rule (and that the killer would as well).  But I get it, put a gun in their hands and this whole three cats never catching one mouse gig wouldn't make sense. Oh wait, it still doesn't.  I also couldn't buy into the villain's logic.  And normally I can (sometimes too well, an author like Briggs can make me nauseous with empathy).  I think because I could understand a single choice the villain had made, I was invited to suspend disbelief and find all the villain's choices made sense.  But they didn't.  Only one choice did.  Every other choice seemed far-fetched and driven by a need to advance the story, create tension and have a bad guy.
  • The best character in the book resembles Rowan a little, for Stiefvater fans. 
  • The greatest disappointment of this book for me was that the relationships that felt most tender, authentic and worth exploring, didn't get any of that.  They didn't get anywhere near as much time as the teen romance.  Kori's relationship with her parents is where it's at.  This story read romance-romance when I would like to have read about the management of grief and celebration of life more.  The cancer story is the real story, for me.
In spite of all of this: it was a page-turner!  It amazes me.  I really wanted to read it all and I wanted to know what happened.  The subject matter has been tackled (Canavan, Pullman, Lewis, Gaiman and more).  This treatment reminded me a little like Spark (including its relationship tree)...but it isn't as good as Craw (or even close, sorry).  I think fans of Shusterman might like this one.

Advance review copy received via NetGalley.

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