August 1, 2015

Review: Dove Arising

Dove Arising Dove Arising by Karen Bao
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wish Goodreads had a little more graduated ratings system. This book didn't quite make it up to a 3 for me, but it's not a 2, either. Some parts of it were more than just okay, and others weren't. It is a very flawed book, however, and ultimately it didn't excite me enough to want to read the sequel (and with the abrupt, unsatisfying ending, there will definitely be a sequel).

This story is set three hundred years in the future, when Earth has undergone drastic changes due to global warming--the current superpowers, and even countries as far as I could tell, are no more, replaced with floating cities, and there is a functioning colony on the Moon. The people on the Moon are the descendants of the scientists who left Earth when all the shit started coming down (illustrated in a rather heavy-handed way by their swearing "so help you Reason" during a trial, over a holographic copy of The Origin of Species). Religion is banned and the scientific process is the cornerstone of their society. They also have a nice little war going with the floating cities of Earth, with raids back and forth over...what, I couldn't exactly tell, other than the reveal far into the book that the Moonbases are not quite the self-sustaining things their inhabitants always thought they were.

Our protagonist is Phaet Theta (nobody has any individual family names; their last names are derived from the apartment complexes where they live), a fifteen-year-old girl. Her life is disrupted by her mother becoming ill and being dragged off to medical isolation. The family cannot afford to pay for her treatment and face being banished to Shelter, the Moon's equivalent of an internment camp. To spare her brother and sister this fate, Phaet joins the Militia, hoping to earn a high enough rank to pay for her mother's treatment--and eventually her bail, as we come to find out that her mother has actually been arrested for what's called "disruptive print." Even later, in the wildly uneven and disjointed back half of the book, Mira Theta is shown to be the leader of Dovetail, a revolutionary underground group rebelling against the nice little dictatorship the six-person Committee, the ruling council, has going.

Honestly, there are a fair amount of good ideas here, thrown around in a completely half-assed manner. The character of Phaet is one of the better parts of the story; her love for her family drives her to enlist in Militia, its youngest-ever trainee. The first part of the book, with the storyline of Phaet's military training, is to me the stronger half. But once she graduates (and, implausibly, is given the rank of Captain) the whole thing starts to go off the rails. The writing becomes clunky, the characterization diverges wildly from what has already been established, and the pacing goes wonky. Once Phaet's mother is bailed out of Penitentary, her storyline is forced to the forefront, and then we have the reveal of her position as this rebel group leader just after she is executed. Immediately thereafter, Phaet and her fellow Militia trainee, Wes, have to go on the run (and we find out Wes is actually an Earthbound spy), and Phaet winds up leaving her brother and sister behind to flee to Earth.

It's too much, crammed into too tight a space, and unfortunately it turned me off to the entire story. The author's bio notes that she started writing the book when she was seventeen, and it certainly reads that way. I suppose Dove Arising was good enough to get published (barely) but to me, the author needs a few more years of writing and life experience before she can really pull off something like this.

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