Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest Post: "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" by Carrie Ryan

Summary: The Forest of Hands and Teeth follows the story of Mary, a young woman living in a village surrounded by the Unconsecrated, basically zombies, who live in the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The village is run by the Sisterhood, a nun-like religious sect, and the Guardians, who protect the village by killing Unconsecrated and mending the fence that surrounds the village. When a rare "Fast One" Unconsecrated breaks into the village, Mary flees the village with a group of villagers including her brother, her betrothed, her true love (happens to be her betrothed's brother), and her best friend. The group escape through mysterious Paths in the forest and fight for survival.

Musings: Greetings, fellow musers! I, Tia's wonderful husband, decided to give Tia a break and pick up one of her books. Tia said she had heard of this book through the blogosphere and wanted to try a zombie apocalypse book (besides Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, of course). I needed a distraction from my graduate school work, so I gave it a go. Of course, in the time it took me to read this one book, Tia finished one book, read another book, and is halfway through a third. Blerg.

I myself have never read a zombie book, and while I'm not necessarily a zombie nut, I was a big fan of 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, and The Village, which I first thought of when I read the inside cover. Plus I'm also a fan of YA dystopian novels (required for the marriage), especially those with female leads. So, even though the concept of a zombie apocalypse isn't exactly original, I was excited to see what a YA take on it would look like. Unfortunately, all this excitement was brought crashing down by incessant, nauseating, maudlin, and frankly unnecessary melodrama.

In the first act of the novel, Ryan spends way too much time reminding us all of what we already know: these may be the last survivors, death looms (literally) at the gates, the future looks grim, so the town's only goal is survival. We get it. It's a zombie apocalypse. Worse yet, Ryan decided to ignore the most interesting aspect of the novel (the zombies, where they came from, how the town came about) and instead tries to interest us in the inner workings of the village and its social structure. Problem is, the story lines flit from one to another too quickly for any to gain any traction. Even worse, after you've spent this time learning a little here and there about the village, Ryan throws it all away by bringing in the zombies. I felt like Ryan may have had a interesting back story about the village in her head, but didn't let us see enough of it before wiping it away. Maybe we'll see more in the sequel.

In the second act, the novel picks up the pace a little bit as the characters escape the Unconsecrated. Again, however, Ryan spends way too much time emphasizing the uninteresting aspects of the plot. Here its the characters themselves, who are frustratingly one-dimensional. The main character, Mary, is a typical rebellious spirit, though way too inept, melodramatic, and selfish to gain my interest, especially compared to strong female leads such as Katniss in The Hunger Games and Katsa in Graceling. Her love interest, Travis, has no real personality besides being "the essense of my soul, the love of my life, the everything of everything" according to Mary. The other men are pretty much stock characters and are generally pushed aside to allow for more time for Mary to wax poetically about her love for Travis and why she's so tortured. Ho hum.

It wasn't all bad; the few action scenes are exciting, and the description of the zombies lurching towards the characters engaged me. The end of the book also gears the series towards what I find more interesting - finding out the history of the world of the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Problem is, I'm not sure I'll want to struggle through more of Mary's thoughts to learn about it.

1 comment:

  1. Good work, husband! :) Although I was intrigued by the zombies, I don't think I'll be trying this one myself now.