And I quadruple hate doing book reviews for writer's like me, who only have a book or two out and are just starting on this crazy publishing ride. Because talking about the latest from JK Rowling or King or whoever, I'm totally just speaking into the vacuum, but when it's someone like me I assume they're listening and I'm going to crush them like a bug if I utterly hate their book.
Which hasn't happened yet, but I keep waiting for it.
So. Anyway. Today we're going to talk about a book that I got as a review trade (it's author agreed to review my book if I reviewed hers) and I know most of the reviews I've done before are as a writer, but this one isn't going to be. Today is all about Reader Hat. Also, assigning a value to stuff like this is hard. I envision screaming tirades about how so-and-so bought that book because I gave it 4 stars and they hated and...anyway.
Dalton's Daughter: The Autobiography of Sasha Wheaton, by Virginia Caraway Stark
What I know is this: Dalton's Daughter is the story of a woman escaping from the resource planet she was born on through the most convenient way possible--the military. If you're not super into sci-fi, a resource planet is basically what is says on the tin: a place intended to be strip-mined until it's given all it's got of value. They're traditionally not...nice places. Dalton's not any different, and Sasha's life there is more than horrible enough to make you understand why she wants to leave.
Disclaimer the Second: Normally I'm not a fan of 'trigger warnings' for reasons that aren't relevant to this review so I'll keep them to myself. That being said, if you have trouble with depictions of sexual abuse you should be prepared for that. And maybe give the first couple of chapters a skip.
Things I Liked:
--There were parts of this book, particularly around the middle, that reminded me very much of John Scalzi's Old Man's War, which is one of my favorite books of all time. Generally I'm not so hot on Military Fic, but apparently I really like Boot Camp Fic, and Dalton's Daughter delivered plenty of that.
--Stark's characterization, not just of Sasha but of most of the characters, was surprisingly deft in a short amount of space. I got a good feel for people and people-like-things pretty quickly, and honestly, through Sasha's eyes and in a way that fit someone with her cracked life experiences.
--Stark is utterly and completely unafraid to go the dark, uneasy places. Generally that's not actually a thing I like, but for this book it works. Sasha has to struggle with some seriously icky places in her own mind, and in her past, and she doesn't necessarily do it in ways I like or agree with but she does it.
Things I Wasn't So Fond Of:
--In the early chapters I had a little trouble with Sasha's voice. She's a complex person, but she's not always clear and it took a while to find my feet with that. Initially the narrative felt like I was spending time with a ten-year-old so when I did the math and realized she's seventeen or eighteen it was a little jarring. She's pretty extremely emotionally stunted though, and given the fact you get a front seat for most of why that is it makes sense.
--There were a couple of places where the time skips--which obviously have to happen in any book, because otherwise it'd be like 1200 pages long--felt a little rushed. Like I started the chapter expecting us to spend time in one place, but we very quickly wound up someplace else.
--It ends at 'To be continued..." which just...gah. It didn't feel exactly like a cliff-hanger though, and I felt it coming long before we got there. Still. I'm not so much a fan of 'To be continued...' I is not a patient person.
Rating, Because Everybody Likes a Scale:
For the purposes of reviews on my blog, I go out of 4 stars because I think I've read one book in my life I'd have rated at 5, and that way it'll wind up the same everywhere. Assigning a value to stuff like this is hard. I envision screaming tirades about how so-and-so bought that book because I gave it 4 stars and they hated and...
So here's the thing. If you read hard space-opera-y science fiction a lot and you absolutely love it and the concept of a website all about this universe's Encyclopedia Galatica makes you shiver with glee, then I'd tell you this book got a full 4 stars. Because the only thing's I'd have docked it for wouldn't matter to you anyway.
If you don't read that kind of science fiction, or just don't generally read science fiction I'd tell you it got somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars. It's worth reading, even if you aren't a fan of the genre. Sasha Wheaton is real, even when she's a mess, and it's an interesting trip in her head.
Find Dalton's Daughter:
On the Web
Find Virginia Caraway Stark:
Well...I'm gonna try anyway.