Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: Tankborn

As brought up in my last post, since I get so many books from my library it's usually months between when I first hear of a book and when I read it, which means that half the time I've forgotten about a book by the time I finally see it on the shelves. That was the case this time around but, since I have a pretty good memory for which books I do eventually want to read, I picked it up anyway and was happy it was on the shorter side since my library stack seems to do nothing but grow these days.

Tankborn by Karen Sandler

In the far off future, humanity has begun to immigrate to distant worlds and, on one of them at least, a complex society has developed based on whose ancestors could pay their way to the new world, those who entered indentured servitude for it, and those were were artificially grown in tanks to serve as the new drudges. Kayla is a member of the last group and is unhappy with how much power she holds over her own life and how obvious from her appearance alone that she's a GEN. But, through a system of coincidences and plotting it seems as if she might have a say in the future of her world after all.

I was disappointed by this book considering all of the praise I had heard for it. It was yet another "it's the future and racism is still around!" book and there are great books which do this bit this wasn't a nuanced look at all the ways racism exists, it was just greed versus compassion. Heck it followed some eyebrow raising black and white lines, almost all the members of the upper caste we meet for an extended are "good" and over half of those we meet in the lower are either cruel or going along with a cruel system without any sign of putting up a fuss. Add in the princess like reveal that several lower members are actually much higher and, well, it makes for awkward implications. There are a exceptions here but, given that I already have to buy into such a strictly stratified society that 90% of the people never question, it just didn't work well. 

I also wasn't a fan of how the book simply drops you into the setting and tries to use as many new terms as possible without defines any of them. I was especially thrown when the book stated using the word sekai for personal computer/tablet when I'm used to it being a real Japanese word for world! I know some people dislike "unnecessary exposition" buy some IS useful! And the world building was very full too, I know that not all sci-fi novels can have grand, interesting settings* but this one felt as flat as the problems that occupied it. 

I know I keep saying this but, I really have the worst luck finding good YA sci-fi and while I can't recommend this one I can't really recommend another on in it's place. Also, when double checking a few details I realized that there are two sequels to this book and I'm baffled. The ending, while not an end-all-be-all, certainly gave off the impression of "and things were hard but the characters made it work and lived satisfying lives" and I'm really curious if this book was planned as a trilogy or if it did better than expected (/the publishers noticed it had some details similar to The Hunger Games and wanted to capitalize). Or it could be that the author started out with a one book deal and it did well enough to get the other two books picked up, regardless, I'm perpetually confused by YA sci-fi.

*If I'm being honest, I see few YA sci-fi novels with really cool settings, also grumpy that this one seems to adhere to the "one world, one biome" idea. 

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