Monday, 1 October 2012

Review: Sulan by Camille Picott


THE STORY:
Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?


MY THOUGHTS:
I can sum up my thoughts about Sulan: Episode One: The League in one sentence: Traditional publishing is in serious trouble. I don't know where the industry is going to go when authors like Camille Picott are starting to choose to self publish. Sulan is such a high adventure, easily accessible story that I didn't come across many of the issues I tend to have with other YA novels. That's got to be saying something when you guys know how picky I can be.

The Basics
Sulan's world is a world like no other that I've come across in the YA genre so far. It boggles my mind the amount of research and imagination that has gone into writing this book. I can see dystopunk taking off in a big way. Though I'm not a huge fan of sci-fi, I think Camille has done well to make the science is Sulan accessible to the layman reader. Especially since I can really see the world going in this sort of direction in the near future. A great deal of care has gone into the world building in Sulan and I think that is reflected in the slower pacing of the first half of the book. Though this isn't necessarily a bad thing, the story does take a little bit of time to really rev up but it's well worth the wait for the thrilling second half. If I had one complaint about the world building, it would be that there isn't much explanation of how the world really works outside of Sulan's immediate surroundings. It would have been nice to see what life for the underprivileged was really like. Though I'm sure these themes will be more clearly explored in later books.
      Camille's writing was one of the aspects I enjoyed most about Sulan. I'm not big on huge literary tomes and while overly pretty writing is okay sometimes, I am all for accurate metaphors and succinct sentences. I flew through the book in a matter of days and that's saying a lot for someone who reads at a snails pace.

The Characters
Sulan: I must admit I started reading Sulan with a sense of trepidation. So often minority characters are portrayed in a very stereotypical way. I don't know why I was so worried. Camille does an excellent job of creating a heroine with depth and although the story has strong Asian influences, the theme is not rammed down readers throats every few sentences as a lot of other stories do to overcompensate.For all intents and purposes Sulan is a normal teenager struggling to balance other's expectations of her against what she wants for herself. Sulan manages to have a healthy and close relationship with a female friend who isn't secretly a plot device in disguise.

Gun & Taro: I can feel a love triangle coming on. Not sure how I feel about that at the moment, but I will say that if this is where the story is going, it's getting there at a respectable pace. No insta-love in sight. Whilst I am not a big fan of love triangles, I can see the merits in both boys and would be interested in seeing how the romance plays out. 

The Smaller Players:
I would have to say that some of my favourite characters in this book are the minor ones.  One of them especially (I won't reveal who for fear of spoiling the story) is so hilarious and vivid that I wouldn't be surprised if Camille knew someone like that in real life. That Camille is able to give him such animation in such a short part of the story is incredible. In fact, the only character I didn't really feel was fully fleshed out was Imugi. He doesn't have much page time and we never get a real sense of the motivation behind his devastating attacks. I get the feeling he won't be the big bad of this series at all.

The Minor Details
I really enjoyed reading Sulan and these points are probably just me being really nit picky but there were a few things which didn't quite ring true for me. For example, Sulan is a math prodigy and has managed to achieve a perfect score on her Vex school entrance exam. I'm not sure how she does this unless the entire exam is based on math. Which I don't think it is considering the vast array of talents exhibited by other students. Also, I'm still at a loss as to why Sulan's mother refuses to let her train to defend herself. It would seem like a logical step considering the dangers Sulan faces in her new world. 

On the whole, I really enjoyed Sulan and am looking forward to the next books in the series coming out. Anyone who enjoys dystopian or cyberpunk and is tired of the cookie cutter YA novels being published these days should really give this book a try!

THE RATING:

4/5

20 comments:

  1. Very thorough review! I'm glad you liked it. I think your problems with it will be resolved in the next books.

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    1. I hope so too. Though I've been asked to beta read so I can have some influence over what does happen!

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  2. I agree with you about traditional publishing--there are so many great indies out there. :)

    I know if you enjoyed this that it must be very good. Glad about the non-insta-love, it'll be nice to check out a story that's deeper and doesn't focus completely on romance. ;)

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    1. I used to be so against ebooks but now I can't live without them!

      It's funny but whenever a book doesn't focus on the romance it has a much bigger impact on me.

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  3. Great review, Lan! I agree with pretty much everything you said. I love how different Sulan is as a YA dystopia and its very unique world building. Why can't other dystopian authors do something like this? I also loved all the pixelated versions of everything in Vex because it's every gamers dream come true. You can live in your video game, now! LOL.

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    1. It's incredible storytelling isn't it? So different from the pseudo dystopia that's popping up. How much would you pay to live Metal Gear?

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  4. Thanks so much for taking part in the tour. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book!

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    1. My pleasure. I had a great time reading it.

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  5. So far, the only self-published author I liked is Susan Ee for writing Angelfall. Then again, I haven't read much self-published books so I have no right to comment =))

    Upon reading the blurb, I thought it was going to be like Legend. Not a big fan of Legend =)) But reading your review makes me think otherwise :D

    Wonderful review, Lan :D

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    1. I am completely obsessed with Angelfall! Self published books are just books really. You get your good and bad. The good ones you can't tell are self published. Sulan is definitely one of those. It's totally different from Legend.

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  6. Sounds like my type of book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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    1. No problems! I hope you enjoy it too if you read it.

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  7. Wow. Fantastic review, Lan! I'm definitely going to read this. Just checked on my Nook and it's now available there, so as soon as I get some book money I'll be looking into this. :) I admit the love triangle actually makes me curious. I'm usually really irritated by them now, but it's mostly because they're used as a cheap plot device instead of a natural build. Sounds like this series might lean towards the latter, and if that's the case I love me a good love triangle. :)

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    1. I'm glad I could make another recommendation for you! I'm annoyed by 99% of the love triangles out there but this one isn't really even a triangle yet. I can see it happening though. If it does it'll be a slow build up for sure. Or someone's going to die!!!

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  8. aha - thanks for the info about this one. Ihadnt heard of it and Im going to go get it now.

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    1. I really hope you like it! I'm still trying to find a Curran replacement.

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  9. Replies
    1. My pleasure! Now get to writing the second!

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  10. This definitely sounds like a book you'd enjoy! It's probably not so much my type, but I'll have to add it to my mental filing cabinet of books to recommend to my friends who like their books a little more action packed than I do :)

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  11. Enjoyed your review! Couldn't agree more that self-pubbed titles are getting better and better! Yes, there are still some terrible ones out there, but there are terrible books put out by the traditional publishers too. Will add this one to my wishlist, as it sounds like a great read!

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