What it comes down to with this book is that the barriers to entry were too high. (I shouldn’t have to add the “for me” to that statement, but I will because other people are losing their mind over this book and it was nominated for a bunch of awards, so clearly SOMEONE gets it.)
With science fiction and fantasy as a genre, certain barriers to entry are expected, even looked forward to. I always relish that feeling of confusion and displacement I get when entering a new fictional world for the first time, before I learn its intricacies and rules. I trust that that feeling will pass and will be replaced by understanding and anticipation. Stories with high barriers to entry—nonstandard language usage, new terminology, laws of magic, made up technologies or social structures, or honestly whatever else can be imagined—have to walk a fine line. They have to find a way to introduce all their weird crap so that you accept it, and do so in a way that has literary merit, that remains engaging as a story, and that is just intriguing enough for the reader to push past any confusion to find out what happens next. The key there being: not so confusing that you lose your reader entirely.
This book lost me. It lost me pretty early on. I mean, I kept going, and the weird thing is, I never thought about stopping even though I knew I KNEW I was missing literally at least 50% of what was happening. I was able to follow the plot and character arcs all the way to the end, but only in the most basic of senses. And that was only after admitting to myself at about 25% in that I wasn’t going to understand almost anything that was happening, and accepting: Okay. This is my life now. And sure enough, all the way to the end, the confusion at the beginning just bred more and more confusion, and I’m still not entirely sure I grasped even one of the basic concepts that make up the most important parts of this book.
Like, what the fuck is calendrical heresy anyway? That’s not how math works!! You’re using that word and it’s not meaning what it’s supposed to and what is even happening????
I get that this book isn’t in to hand holding AT ALL, but it’s one thing to throw your reader into the pool and expect them to swim, and quite another to throw them into the pool, except it’s winter, and oh whoops you can’t swim? and is that even water, and what is water? I thought it was kind a clear but looks blue, but nope, it’s green and sparkly and full of molecular molecules and they’re happy molecules and everything is science and sparkles and your legs are made of jello. And then whoops, you’re dead.
Maybe I shouldn’t have done this as an audiobook. Too easy to let your brain drift away, and this isn’t a book that allows for that. Maybe I’m just way more stupid than I thought. I don’t get math things. I like concrete explanations. I am hopelessly mundane. Maybe this is just a book that you need to read twice. I know if I decide to read the second book in the series, I will have to read this book again, and maybe if I do that, with the limited amount of understanding I managed to scrape together by the end of this first time, I’ll actually get it.
But UGH, you shouldn’t have to read a book twice just to grasp the basics of the plot and the worldbuilding! Second read-throughs are for noticing details you missed the first time, and unexpected revelations, not basic things you need to understand what is going on.
I don’t know, man. This review came out a lot more negative than I anticipated. Maybe because I can tell that if I had actually been smart enough to understand it, I would have really liked it.
So I don’t know. 2.5 stars? I guess? What I understood of it I liked. I wish the book had been just a little easier to comprehend.
You’ll notice I said almost nothing of the book itself, and that’s because I’m not entirely sure anything I could tell you would make any sense. It would be like one of those YouTube videos where they get a three year old to explain Star Wars, and it comes out all garbled. I thought I would spare you the torture.