Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Snapshot Reviews of Recent Reads: The Invisible Library and Endgame #1

I have been reading profusely over the last few months and had the idea of doing some snapshot reviews, shorter (comparatively) than my usual ramblings/analyses, but still drawing attention to some of the more interesting books I've come across. 


This is a new sci-fi/adventure series from Tor UK based around an inter-dimensional library which harvests and preserves fiction from different realities. It’s a fun roller-coaster of an adventure which still has potential for more character insight and development in future sequels. There are limitless possibilities to the base concept – which is enough to whet every book lovers’ appetite on its own. There are elements of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian England, magic, horror and Steampunk. For me, the library and its hierarchy were the most intriguing part of this debut – especially with the time and space relativity and the careful balancing act that was Irene’s childhood – that’s something I’d love Cogman to go into in the sequels.

It’s a thrilling ride and I will come back for more if these elements come further into play – there are hints that they will – as these will make it a little more thought-provoking as well fun and fantastical. Irene was an interesting female lead, and her job as a spy is pretty awesome, but would love to see her come into her own even more. Kai felt like a bit of a distraction – especially as he was introduced immediately as being ‘beautiful’ – it made it harder to relate to him from that moment because it was a bit of a cliché. Again, it will be interesting to see where Cogman takes both characters as there is obviously still a way to go. 


I knew nothing about James Frey before reading this and that is probably a good thing- I wasn’t prejudiced in any way while reading the novel. Endgame #1 works as a piece of the puzzle that Frey is trying to create – it includes its own puzzles which promise a literal treasure of gold coins for any who can solve it – but the entire project involves a film, game and novella as well as future sequels and puzzles. This network of tie-ins will form a whole, no part really exists to stand alone – and that is something to note when critiquing this book. 

This first novel sets up the fight to the death between 12 bloodlines, only one of which will survive. It is a fast and compelling read but a fairly shallow one on its own, flitting between a starting cast of twelve/thirteen characters and their viewpoints as they race across the globe. It is, however, a truly diverse cast of characters – hailing from places like India, China, Turkey, Ethiopia, Australia, Italy, England and America. So once you get past the initial conceit of teenagers-killing-each-other, which has become familiar, the book develops an intriguing character of its own. My favourite characters were probably An Liu (China) and Chiyoko Takeda (Japanese). Both had complex backgrounds and inhibiting character traits, a volatility and a vulnerability which made them particularly fascinating. It definitely felt like there was more to them than some of the others.

At present it doesn’t feel like Endgame can be classed as a dystopia – it is set on a recognisable planet Earth with no overt forces of oppression in the foreground, though these may come into play in the sequels. Frey’s style can become repetitive after 400 pages, but he knows how to build suspense and he is ruthless when he needs to be (I liked the anti-romance in Christopher’s storyline). I admire the project and the effort that is going to go into this to make it an immersive experience – I think it will be easier to review and form a clear opinion once all components are available. It was certainly interesting to read and I remain curious.

Would be interesting to hear what other people make of both projects - particularly Frey's (no obvious Hunger Games comparisons please!)

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