Published by Tor on November 5th, 2013
Genres: adult, science fiction
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From Robert Charles Wilson, the author of the Hugo-winning Spin, comes Burning Paradise, a new tale of humans coming to grips with a universe of implacable strangeness. Cassie Klyne, nineteen years old, lives in the United States in the year 2015—but it’s not our United States, and it’s not our 2015.Cassie’s world has been at peace since the Great Armistice of 1918. There was no World War II, no Great Depression. Poverty is declining, prosperity is increasing everywhere; social instability is rare. But Cassie knows the world isn’t what it seems. Her parents were part of a group who gradually discovered the awful truth: that for decades—back to the dawn of radio communications—human progress has been interfered with, made more peaceful and benign, by an extraterrestrial entity. That by interfering with our communications, this entity has tweaked history in massive and subtle ways. That humanity is, for purposes unknown, being farmed.Cassie’s parents were killed for this knowledge, along with most of the other members of their group. Since then, the survivors have scattered and gone into hiding. Cassie and her younger brother Thomas now live with her aunt Nerissa, who shares these dangerous secrets. Others live nearby. For eight years they have attempted to lead unexceptional lives in order to escape detection. The tactic has worked.Until now. Because the killers are back. And they’re not human.At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
I don’t know what it was about this book, but it was one of the oddest reading experiences I have ever had. Burning Paradise was ridiculously compelling while also boring me to tears sometimes, and other times I had zero idea what was going on and yet I couldn’t stop. The book, for me, was pretty much unputdownable, and yet, I am hesitant to recommend it. Basically, my thoughts are all over the places and it has me wondering if all his books are like this. I can tell you one thing: I want to read more of his books because I have a feeling they are better, but how am I to go about reviewing THIS book?
The story is weird, weird, weird. That’s a good thing though as it was one of the parts I enjoyed most. The book kept you guessing, and I can honestly say that I was stumped until the end. I had my ideas but they were all wrong. That was the good thing, and I can say that the ending did NOT let me down. The build to the conclusion is the best part of this book, and it’s very difficult for me to say what or how without spoiling anything so I think I am just going to skip that part. You can read the summary for yourself, and while it is a teensy bit misleading, it does cover the most important parts. What I can tell you is that it’s a book about aliens and they take the shape of humans. In my mind, these are the scariest kinds of aliens because you can’t see them coming if they look like you. Here’s the bad part though: there weren’t NEARLY enough scenes with the aliens. When it was good it was great, but there are some things I really didn’t like at all. List time.
1. The pacing was all over the fricking place. There was a lot of driving from one place to another, a lot of scenes where not a whole lot happened, and then something exciting would happen, and then it would be infodump, infodump until the next bit of action. Annoying.
2. There was a lot of scientific jargon that really made my eyes gloss over. I was worried that it would affect my understanding of the events that occurred later on in the book, but it didn’t. So the fact that I really didn’t absorb any of it didn’t matter one iota, so why was it there. It made shit drag majorly.
3. None of the characters were likable. I have been having this issue a lot lately with books though. I know the author tried to make characters like Cassie and Leo likable but I just couldn’t relate to them because I don’t feel like they were developed enough. I was on the fence. The characters were compelling enough, but when you don’t like any of them, is that okay? I guess that depends on the reader.
Here’s the thing though. There were some really grand ideas here that I have not read anywhere else. I’ve read about aliens that take human form before but not in the way that these did. The events that happen in this book are pretty terrifying because it’s not so hard to suspend disbelief. I do think that something like this is possible. The universe knows no bounds and who knows what is going on out there somewhere else? To think that there are not other worlds out there that sustain life like ours just seems ignorant to me. But again, you have no idea what I am talking about without me spoiling the book for you and I won’t do that. So what I say to you is this: if the blurb sounds interesting to you, then perhaps you should give it a shot. It wasn’t my favorite book but I definitely don’t regret reading it, and I think down the road this will be probably one that sticks with me for some time. Technically, I believe it could have used some work. But that’s not all there is, is there?
Also, I need to add in at the last minute because it would not fit anywhere else: the world-building is excellent, though I suspect this is what this author truly excels at. He takes you from rural Vermont all the way to the Atacama desert in Chile, and it alternates from viewpoint to viewpoint, and he does it well. So, I am conflicted, and you can see my dilemma. Which is why I will read more of his work to truly decide. He’s won the Hugo award so I have high hopes.