Monday, May 5, 2014

Not My Thing: Wasteland Wanderings

I think it can be just as fun to hear about the types of books that people don't like as it is to hear about those that they do. The books that I consistently feel are real slogs are survival novels or, as I like call them, wasteland wanderings.

Death in the Wilderness:

Follow the River by James Alexander Thom: This is very likely the instigator of my ire toward wasteland wanderings. It's about a pre-Revolutionary Virginian who is captured by Shawnee Indians. She escapes and makes her way back to her settlement. It's a noble story and a true one, but the trek through the wilderness nearly did me in. All that walking, bad nuts, Mary's crazy German companion, starvation. Repeat.

Crossed by Ally Condie: I quite liked Matched, despite the mixed reviews, but Crossed basically removes all that I loved about the first book--The Society, its rules, its order, its sneaky opponents--and instead the reader is lost in the wilderness with Cassia and Ky. In addition there is a real lack of danger or urgency. It was so painful that I still haven't read the final book in the series.

Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott: I almost didn't finish this book because of the wasteland wandering. In Fire & Flood Tella enters The Brimstone Bleed, a race across four ecosystems. The race begins in the jungle with Tella absolutely alone. No human companions. Nothing. All the wandering, and the hunger, and the dangerous insects and animals, and the rain, and the heat. I'll just stop now.

I Survived (just barely):

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: There's a lot of wandering in The Lord of the Rings, and some is good and some is not. I much prefer all the parts of the books that have to do with the humans. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum's  trek through the wasteland, on the other hand, just about does me in. I can summarize it for you in a couple of sentences: "And they were walking and walking. And the ring was getting heavier and heavier. And Frodo was getting more and more distant. And the elf cakes were tasteless. And Gollum was good. And Gollum was bad. And Gollum was good. And Gollum was bad. And then there were some orcs and a really big spider." 

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan: I'm a big fan of Rick Riordan, but I didn't like The House of Hades as much as I've liked some of his other books. My sister was saying she felt the same but that she wasn't sure why. I know why. It's because all the wasteland wandering through Tartarus is kind of a drag. 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: The thing about Scott Westerfeld's Uglies Series is that I love the world that he's created in the cities. It's so interesting, but then he always takes his characters out of the city and my interest plummets.The wilderness is the same old wilderness no matter if it's the distant future or 1755.

Best of the Wasteland Wanderings:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel: After all you've read, you'd think that a book about a boy stranded on a raft with a tiger would be a disaster for me, but I actually really liked this book. What was a bit bewildering was the Hindu/Christian/Islam religion throughout.

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra: It's kind of strange that I've developed this ire toward wilderness wanderings because as a kid survival novels like My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Julie of the Wolves were some of my favorite books. Into That Forest is the Tasmanian version of Julie of the Wolves for an older audience. Two 19th-century Tasmanian girls are adopted by Tasmanian tigers after a devastating flood. The girls slowly go native. They begin to lose their language and begin to fear humans and act like tigers. Their reintroduction into human society does not go well.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini: athlete, bombardier, castaway, prisoner of war. Much of Unbroken is survival, but all of it is good. After reading this book I decided that anyone who has a fear of sharks is absolutely justified.

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