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Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: Warchild by Karin Lowachee

Title: Warchild
Author(s): Karin Lowachee
Genre: Adult Character-Driven Space Opera
Page Count: 451
Publisher: Warner Books

Summary: The merchant ship Mukodori encompasses the whole of eight-year-old Jos’s world, until a notorious pirate destroys the ship, slaughters the adults, and enslaves the children. Thus begins a desperate odyssey of terror and escape that takes Jos beyond known space to the homeworld of the strits, Earth’s alien enemies. To survive, the boy must become a living weapon and a master spy. But no training will protect Jos in a war where every hope might be a deadly lie, and every friendship might hide a lethal betrayal. And all the while he will face the most gruelling trial of his life… becoming his own man
-Summary from backcover

The Review: lol, wonder of wonders, I actually read a sci-fi novel and liked it. (Seriously, I can count all sci-fi novels that I honestly enjoyed with my fingers.) But love it I do, and the reason why I loved this novel so much was definitely due to the very strong character-driven aspect of the novel. !! Which reminds me…

WARNING: This book contains child abuse and child exploitation. Reader’s discretion is advised.

Okay, moving on. This novel is very much Jos’ story, and I suspect the reader’s enjoyment of this novel is going to be heavily dependant on whether or not they buy into his character. While this is space opera and there is a lot of explosions and battles and life-and-death situations and spies, that is not the focus of this novel. The focus of the novel is a big character sketch on Jos’ psyche, from childhood to adulthood. Warchild is, in many ways, a coming-of-age story. That’s why this novel is so fascinating for me. I became deeply attached to Jos with all his angst and flaws as I read further and further into the storyline. I love my character-driven stories, and Warchild delivers this aspect in spades.

I love how Lowachee plays with tense and perspective. It may sound odd to hear this, but she manages to switch between 1st person and 2nd person singular seamlessly. Yes, in this novel, Lowachee uses ‘you’ in some parts of the novel to narrate. And, despite my initial reservations, actually works really well. The trauma Jos suffers as a child is all told in second person, taking the awful parts of his experiences growing up and retelling it in a voice that separates this trauma from himself, and it worked marvellously. Later on in the story, when he and other fellow comrades get sent off for battle as soldiers to kill the “enemy”, Lowachee will once again use 2nd person to great effect. This way of narrating shows us readers in the very text how Jos distances himself psychologically when he experiences or undergoes various horrors, and it’s brilliant. To all the sceptics out there who (like how I once was), never thought using ‘you’ as a narrative voice could ever possibly work should pick up Warchild. You’ll be in for a treat.

The plot is deeply intertwined with Jos’ character arc, and Jos’ perspective shapes the way in which all the events of the novel are perceived. I really liked this aspect, because I really cared about everything that happens to Jos, so that when we reach the “slow” moments, away from the battlefield and get dialogue and/or contemplative moments, the pacing never meandered for me. There is, of course, plenty of action throughout the novel to keep things moving. (This is, after all, space opera. =D)

I really liked the way Lowachee handled the world building. The world of the aliens and the humans were solid without Lowachee spending chapters going on and on about every little world building aspect of the setting or how this and that technology works in all it’s amazing futuristic ways. Instead we are shown the world through Jos’ eyes, and how he interprets the world around him. Because Jos is very much an outsider trapped between two worlds, we get an outsider’s look on everything, and details that would have been taken for granted by the locals are explained and described to Jos.

Also, about the alien world, it has quite a lot of Asian cultural influences. Now, this could have been really problematic, since the war is Humans vs. Aliens, but Lowachee portrayed this war with two definite sides to the story, and the Aliens are not seen as evil incomprehensible beings that humans can’t empathise with. In fact, I liked the arc about Jos’ stay on the striv planet a lot. It felt like a whole and complete world, and I enjoyed that. On the EarthHub aka Human world, I really liked the fact that not everyone was whitewashed. So often I come across novels in the SFF section wherein everyone was all pasty white medieval world influenced by default, so the fact that Warchild doesn’t do this pleases me.

All in all, a very enjoyable read, and everyone should go and try this novel out. I’m personally looking forward to reading through my copy of Warchild’s Sequel, Burndive. =D

Rating: 5/5
Enjoyment: 100% ♥

Title and Cover Discussion: I looooooooove the title. The title 'Warchild' makes me think of child soldiers, and broken childhood, and that is, in a way, what this novel is very much about. I also like how we can relate Warchild with what goes on in the story, since a man called "Warboy" becomes a mentor to Jos. As for the cover... Well, keeping in mind this is Sci-Fi and most of the covers, from my experience, are hideous, I suppose I can't fail it. It's not the worst I've seen, but it's not exactly easy on the eye. The cover just comes off as generic sci-fi boringness. Also, I think it's kinda telling when the French cover actually manages to look better, and French covers usually suck.

Title: A+
Cover: C


ninefly said...

nyahhh, now I really regret not buying the other copy that day DDDD8
you didn't really mention the ~*fabulous*~ elements though??
I rather like the cover looks WAY better than most other sci-fi covers, trust me XD; and well...I like covers with asian guys =3=
the second-person pov really does sound ingenious though, can't wait to steal this off you (is emi DONE yet??)

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

lol you totally missed out. >D
I thought about putting it in, but I didn't want to make this into a 'WHO SHOULD JOS BE PAIRED OFF WITH' debate, and then I thought of mentioning the m/m aspect of the child abuse, but then I thought that could potentially come off as "homosexuality is eeeeeeeeevil" and that is not what I want to happen AT ALL, so I cut all that out in the end. (I did kind of allude to the whole Warboy thing in the title discussion? Kind of? =/)
lol I can believe that. Some of the sci-fi covers I've seen... *shudders* Hmm, I don't think Jos was meant to be Asian? Well, the guy on the cover didn't look Asian to me, at any rate. =X lol now I feel like rereading to see if I'm right/wrong about this...
Emi has yet to get it from me, lol.