Incredible how it’s been almost a year since my last Well #?^% post. I gave up on numbering them after I realized I skipped a number here and there. But it’s nice to get back to some classic content and write a good old fashioned rant. This one is about my least favorite part about Goodreads‘ smartphone app.
Mostly, I use the app whenever I’m browsing a bookstore or the book section at Target. After reading the back and inside covers of books that catch my eye, the app is a convenient way to check reviews and what else the author has done. Maybe the best part is that it helps keep me from impulse-buying every book that dazzles me. And if Goodreads hasn’t talked me out of that dazzling book, I use the app’s handy barcode-scanning feature.
As much as I love that tool, it is also the reason for this post. Even if my phone is on vibrate, the app makes an obnoxiously loud BEEP every time I scan a barcode. If I was the kind of person who maybe only scanned one book, maybe I would hate that noise a little less. I could scan my book, then run away before anyone could catch on that I was the cause of that awful BEEP.
At minimum, I scan two books. I want to keep track of everything that I want to read. Books I saw promoted on Twitter three weeks ago that now sit on a bookshelf in front of me. BEEP. Books by authors I love. BEEP. Books with crazy awesome cover art that I will read regardless of the premise. BEEP.
I become the weird person pulling book after book off the shelves, holding it up to my phone, and making that ungodly noise. It’s not so bad that I stop using that feature on Goodreads. I could simply type in each book’s title and accomplish the same task. But some part of me just loves scanning books. If that BEEP could be removed, I would love it even more
The description of this book certainly mentions the complexity of the plot, but it does nothing to warn readers of the painfully disjointed way in which it is presented. Between a perfume turning Petra K’s classmates into ravenous lizard people, pet-sized dragons becoming outlawed, and the tension of a brewing revolution, it was difficult to tell where the plot was going.
Petra K and a number of the other characters are ten years old (or thereabouts), but they act more like adolescents going through a rebellious stage. And each one of those characters felt so inconsistent and undefined that it seems like the author gave up on any kind of characterization.
Unfortunately, this also applies to the various cultures present in the story. The Half Nots, the Newts, and the Kubikula all offered opportunities for this world to be as diverse as the real one. However, they are limited by superficial generalizations or a complete lack of description to make them distinguishable. The Half Nots like gambling, have wings concealed in their shirts, and tend to be psychic. The Newts remain a mystery, and the Kubikula are scaly hunchbacked people confined to the sewers.
The entire first half of the novel was written so dryly it diffused whatever tension the author constructed. The underground dragonka tournaments would have been a wonderful source of excitement, but Petra K (our first person narrator) was so detached from her experiences. She seemed to coincidentally stumble from one plot point to the next, unfazed by most of it, until she ended up in a place she feels she belongs.
The Communist elements where thick enough to choke on, making the fantastical elements seem like a last-minute addition to save it from sounding contrived. While the dragonka and their place in society was intriguing, they were not enough to make this book worth reading.