Thursday, September 30, 2021

Book Review: When the Sparrow Falls

 When the Sparrow Falls

My first audiobook (other than road trip books with the kids). So first: I really missed being able to see the words especially because the futuristic country has an eastern European basis and the protagonist has a Russian background, so I felt lost sometimes not knowing how the words appeared. It is weird to examine why this was so aggravating to me, other than I am just very visual. 

As for plot: the end of Act II felt like the end of the book. Then the point of view switched and head hopped for a little while before returning to the original (first person!) protagonist and continuing some head-hopping which was necessary given the state of the characters.  This is all quite unconventional for the strict rules of modern writing, but it ends up being justified by the material: there are uploaded consciousness copies of people and people who might be dead.  

The general structure is also against current recommendations: a prologue (gasp!) with a clear narrator using a strong authorial voice and an epilogue where the narrator explains why he told the story in the POV he chose.

Within the text, the backstory interjections were longer than currently advised, also, but definitely only came in when necessary. This is actually a recommended style that I don't like; I much prefer the Lisa Cron recommendation of folding in the back story so that when it becomes relative the reader knows immediately.

He did a good job with raising little mysteries. In fact, my audiobook loan expired when I was twenty-two minutes from the end and I put it on hold and had to wait a week to listen to just that bit, and the reason I wanted to was because of a major answer that I thought would still be revealed. And then it wasn't. So that was quite disappointing!

Even with that, though, it was an interesting insider's view of an autocratic society within a world in which AI actually has solved all of humanity's problems--one piece of dystopia within a utopia. And I came to care enough about the protagonist so that it was nice when a twist appeared at the very end.


The Authentic David Wren said...

Great review! Really intrigued by the concept, but appreciate your cautions/concerns as well. I have books that I cannot make work as audiobooks, but other books that I prefer as audiobooks, and sounds like this is a good one to get in print.

Kara C said...

Having spent years in Russia and recently immersed in the grishaverse, I’m not sure I could handle another pseudo-Slavic setting. But I’ll see if a certain 14yo will test read it.

Aside from that, we will never tease out if our visual predilections are nature or nurture! I’d highly recommend audiobooks read by the author. Angela’s Ashes was my first, and with the various accents plus songs, was incredible. Trevor Noah’s memoir is also a gem.

Dani said...

Oh cool, I'll try Trevor Noah's. My favorite read-by-the-author is Charlotte's Web. Heartbreaking, you can hear the tears in his voice!

Oh, and Nathan Lowell for soothing-voiced adventures.

Eric Coe said...

I'm always here for a psuedo-Slavic setting. But I need to be able to flip back to touch up on names and places. I don't track plots nearly as well on audiobooks.