Legend

Legend - This review is also on my blog.My Reaction: A solidly enjoyable read, but in the end, too disjointed to be really great. This book had a lot of potential and I did really enjoy many of the things in it. The plot between Jude and Day was predictable but still a lot of fun, and just the kind of story I enjoy reading. Predictability never bothers me as long as I enjoy the formula. Spies who change sides and prison break outs will never disappoint me. However, I never got a good enough read on the worldbuilding to warm to it, and that really hurt the book’s attempts to include some “uncovering the evil government” plot points. The narrative was too narrow in focus for us to really appreciate the society-wide issues that were thrown at us, and in the end, too many questions were left unasked. (Unanswered is one thing when there are sequels, but they should at least be asked so we know they’ll be addressed later.)Highlights:• Jude and Day’s romance was, given the genre, quite subdued. I enjoyed the fact that it was there, but not overpowering, and their motives were usually rooted in something stronger than a day-old crush.• The dystopia left a lot to be desired, but it was at least more solid than most of the recent offerings to the genre. • June and Day were both enjoyable characters, despite being “perfect” in the child-prodigy sense. The book managed to walk that line and treat them as characters instead of authorial darlings, although that is a fine line and some readers won’t agree with me.• June and Day might as well have been the same character. Their voices were identical.• The government’s grasp of science was…lacking. Even with the book’s vague excuse of “we lost a lot of tech,” I still don’t buy it. There’s a difference between “lost tech” and “lost the ability to use the scientific method.”• Day’s motives and methods are never examined.• There’s a completely gratuitous torture scene near the start of the book, which had absolutely no mental or emotional impact on our “heroine.” That bothered me greatly. Rants and Raves:I’m getting rather sick of despotic governments who’s actions are handwaved with “well, they’re evil!” There’s quite a difference between evil and self-destructive, and the two don’t have to go hand in hand. In fact, it’s quite possible to have an effective, efficient, smart, well-run government that is evil. There’s no need to display their evil by having them shoot themselves in the foot.And that’s basically what the Republic does in this book. Though there’s no hard figures on the world, we can extrapolate the knowledge that they have low population numbers from the following facts: they’re in a decades-long war, natural disasters are common, and a plague routinely runs through the country and wipes people out. AND YET the government puts every 10 year-old to a standardized test and then kills those that don’t pass.Why? That’s something you do when your population numbers are high and need to be brought down, but all the evidence suggests exactly the opposite. The public fiction is that those kids go to a “labor camp,” which just begs the question why are there no actual labor camps? Surely with so much of your population tied up in war and infrastructure rebuilding, there’s no reason not to use every body you can get your hands on. The fact that they failed their test, and thus are presumably unintelligent or weak, doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse. You don’t need a lot of brains to break rocks, or be a meatsheild at the warfront. And, in fact, wouldn’t it be better to put your near-useless people to that kind of work and save the smarter ones for more skilled jobs?And then we find out that not only do they kill perfectly good children, but they also engineer the plagues that pass through, too. That’s even more of your population dead, and for no good reason! And no, the reason they give isn’t a good reason. The reason they give falls under the “do you even know how science works?” header.So, yes, both those things are evil, but they don’t make sense. They’re just there to show off evilness. I always have and always will prefer my fictional evil governments to make sense. I think that’s why I liked Thomas as a character best in this book. He was bad, yes, but he felt so real. His reasons for the way he thought, though flawed, at least a kind of sense to them, and he was multifaceted and, therefore, fascinating. Much more than the commander, who was just evil for the LOLZ of it.Also, add this book to the growing pile of “women in command tend to be evil bitches” examples. Although it does better on female characters in general, there’s only one that’s in a position of power, and she follows the trope.And then there’s the torture. Look, books, torture is a dicey subject. You can’t just toss it in there for the sake of showing off evil. That’s up there with using rape to show that a character is a bad guy. It’s cheap shorthand and you’re not treating the subject with the weight and gravitas that it needs.In this book, torture seems to be used as a matter of course, like they just use it as a standard practice on everyone they come across. While I can see a despotic, war-time government using torture, it shouldn’t be used so cavalierly. First of all because it’s shit. There’s not enough return on torture for the price of it, because you simply get way too many false positives. So you’ve got to find and train the people who have a stomach for it, deal with the burnout from those people after they just can’t keep doing that for long, deal with the medical costs of keeping your prisoners alive after you’ve cut body parts off, and all for what? For some information that’s probably wrong anyway, and which you have no way to verify. Torture is inefficient. We have questioning tactics that work much better and don’t involve the emotional and monetary costs of torture.But this book goes one step further and also has the government torturing captives just for the LOLZ. Not individuals, which I could understand if they have particular hatred for a prisoner, but official standard practices of torture even when there’s no attempt to get information. That is absolutely ridiculous and serves no point. When something is used only to show off evil, it shouldn’t be used. Period. Stuff should have a point and a purpose and then also be evil, because that’s totally a thing and not even very hard!And the complete lack of a reaction to the torture scenes by our main character didn’t help matters. Even people who believe that torture works and are willing to use it will often feel uncomfortable, upset, or at least just feel something when faced with an actual screaming injured person.