Middle books have it tough - not just because readers have certain expectations towards the series, but also because the reviews are much more sparse. People have either moved on from the series, or can't be arsed to pick it up, or are loving it, or aren't loving it and sticking out of a desire to finish things off. At any rate, nobody seems to be approaching it from a state where they don't have any expectations whatsoever, and while that is to be expected, it's still a bit... yeah.
I'm not entirely unbiased either. I came into this series late (really, really late) and ended up liking the first book a lot. This one, I've read in the library, in between study trips and it's been quite a nice motivator for me to get through my journal articles, I'll tell you that.
But before I get into the real review, let's get the obvious out of the way:
ARGLE FLARGLE THAT COVER BLARGLE!!!
It's just sooooooooooo pretty! And shiny! And relevant to the book! (given how some book covers are made by people with no knowledge or interest in the actual plot, this is a big damn accomplishment.)
The colors! The imagery! That dress!
Yes, I see it's a skinny white girl.
Yes, I know there's like a million covers like those. But this one is actually made with thought!
Okay, yes, forest, trees, bigger problems. I get it. Can't I enjoy something without having politics shoveled on top of it?
I guess not.
Well, anyway, back to the review, "Fever" picks up almost immediately after "Wither" ends, and we're definitely not in Florida anymore, Gabriel. Gone is the easy life in the mansion, and Rhine has to get back to her old, pre-married self in order to find her brother and... well, find her brother.
Yeah, on a plot level, "Fever" doesn't expand much in scope. Rhine's main motivation is still getting home, and Gabriel is... well, I suppose he loves her, and the two develop as they travel along. But that's not really a flaw - the main focus of "Wither" has always been the inter-personal relationships and how the setting affects them. But while the first book was very much static and slow, "Fever" is more active, in that, through the characters' journey to Manhattan we experience more and more sides of this very bleak world.
And boy, is it bleak. The Apocalypse hasn't happened yet, but not for lack of trying. While some of the details don't make sense (like, seriously, how is it that North America is the only continent that hasn't been swallowed up by water?) we see the more immediate effects of this dystopia where it matters - on the people.
"Wither" had two types of characters: those that believed a cure was imminent, and those that were unconvinced but willing not to think about it. Which, when you think about the setting (a swanky mansion where the evil scientist was God) makes sense. "Fever" though has people who live without the dollar-shaped rose-tint goggles, and who cope with the shitty reality in all sorts of ways - drugs, denial, aggressive denial, just plain anger, hope, acceptance, depression. There's a breadth of emotions shown, and none of them are particularly condemned in of themselves - at one point, Rhine actually goes and says, in regards to boys and girls using sex to escape reality: "Who am I to judge them?"
(How often do you see that, in a genre where virginal heroines condemn sex (or, at least, loveless sex) every chance they get?)
Now, before someone says I lost all my reviewer teeth, this book is Not Without Its Flaws (TM.) And because I can't be arsed to discuss it at length, here's the cliffnotes:
- Rhine calling out the plot developments as being "too easy" does not make them seem any less coincidental.
- All the superlative nicknames that she amasses (from total strangers, no less) also grate after a while.
- Boo for the few instances where ableist slurs were used.
- Rowan's character could have used more off-screen development.
- Gabriel too, for that matter.
- How come pro-naturalists are called "rebels" when they have no trouble standing up in front of video cameras to give TV interviews?
- Also, a general observation, but doesn't anyone find it awfully convenient that there is always some sort of in-text reason why the main character never gets it on? Like, they can expose themselves to all sorts of danger, take every risk, challenge everyone, but when it comes to becoming intimate, they suddenly think "Now's really not a good time." (There's a blogpost in there somewhere.)
So yeah.... not perfect, but definitely a series that was pleasantly surprising. Really looking forward to Sever.
And hey, first book in my 2014 prequels and sequels challenge!