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snark (reading) lady

In my free time, I snark things. In my freer time, I read things.

Currently reading

Night Film
Marisha Pessl
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)
Philip Pullman
Mark Slouka
The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien
For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfreund 3.5 starsI started off wanting to hate on this book. Somewhere along the middle, I really wanted to like it. Clearly, as is true more often than not with me, I have mixed feelings.For Darkness Shows the Stars is a retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen. To simplify, it's Persuasion meets a light dystopic sci-fi. It's ambitious to say the least, the way that all retellings are. And this isn't based on any book, but on Persuasion which is arguably the best novel of one of history's most beloved authors. For Darkness manages to stay dutifully faithful to the source material, and yet, at points strips it of what is so essentially Persuasion. Then again, there were so many times I wished that this book had nothing to do with Austen, and that we could explore the world independently. Peterfreund introduces to us the world of Elliot North. Experimentation in genetic manipulation has brought on consequences that no one involved could've foreseen. The population has been "reduced," that is, turned to a state of limited understanding and speech and thus ability to care for themselves. The only ones that survived being reduced were the Luddites, a group of people who refused any of the genetic enhancements and instead hid in under ground caverns while their world succumbed to war and destruction. When the Luddites emerges, they found the Reduced population and pledged to care for and provide for them. In exchange, of course, for the free labor of the Reduced. So they lived, as slaves essentially. Things get even more complicated as Reduced start giving birth to Posts, "normal" humans born into this indentured lifestyle. There are Posts who start rebelling, running away, some to their detriment and some making their own fortunes and fates.I usually don't really give plot summaries in my reviews, but damn if that isn't some great and imaginative world building. It brought up so many arguments for and against genetic experimentation, exploration, risks and duty. I truly would've loved to have been in this world a little more detached from Persuasion or, at the heart of it, a little more removed from the LUURVE story. As much as our Elliot speaks and acts in favor of duty rather than her affections for her childhood sweetheart Malakai Wentforth, these are such big issues and too many times they were shirked in favor of the romantic entanglements. I mean, we all understand that this is slavery, right? There was passing mention of rape and very cruel circumstances for the Reduced and Posts, but it was so glossed over that it often made me uncomfortable. I mean, "My father can be cruel and our slaves are going hungry but OMG WENTFORTH LIKES ANOTHER GIRL.I know, I know. It's the story. It's the point. Elliot is 18 and not 27 like Anne, Austen's beloved and steady and mature protagonist. The point is betrayed love and second chances. It was just so distracting to have this bigger world built around it and then pushed aside. Even the end seemed a hasty wrap-up of it all. Suddenly the antagonist decides to up and leave, simply and off screen. Suddenly, the Posts and Reduced are working but there is no mention if they are paid or free. Sure there is food and education, but, what else? Oh, I know. LUUURVE.This is not to say Elliot North is not without her virtues. She is also steady and she does right by those she loves. She's brave in an understated way. She was worthy of being modeled after Anne. Even with it's fault, I think the world was one of the ways the retelling worked. I know that seems like I've just taken back everything I've said. Hear me out: the entire system of Reduced (being unable to communicate and so reliant on their Luddite masters) the Posts, the Luddites and being born into your station is a GREAT representation of the social system in place in Persuasion. Other parts of the retelling faltered. Anne Elliot was persuaded to stay because of a duty to her family that was a little less tangible than Elliot North's. Yes, Anne did take care of her family, but there was more about the social acceptability of the match. Anne was young and was made to think that it was right that she should stay. Elliot North herself decided to stay behind because she had the life of all the Reduced on her farm to consider. She was literally in charge of lives. This is not a bad plot point, by any means. It made me respect and like Elliot. It does little to represent Persuasion though. The state of mind Anne was in, 8 years later, knowing she'd let herself be mistakenly be persuaded, and the state of mind Elliot was in, four years later, knowing she made the right, moral high ground choice, drastically altered the story. And yet, the main plot points remained the same. It was a little jarring, I must admit, to have it changed but not changed. Am I still making sense? I'm going to assume so and keep rambling. I also wasn't a fan of the letter. Guys, it's THE LETTER. Wentforth's letter to Elliot didn't feel so much as a re-imagining as it did a dumbing down. Again, it was ambitious. THE LETTER from a romantic classic and you'd like to rewrite it? LOL. Good luck with that. All said and done, Peterfreund writes well. I have nothing to say against her writing or her characters. It took me one day to read this, though. Obviously, I knew how it would end, but Peterfreund created an easy and entertaining enough story that I still plowed through it. Plus, I'm partial to books that make me think or FEEL things and this did both. An ambitious work and one that in the end had its merits.