Thursday, 6 March 2014

Book Review: Wolves; Simon Ings

I said I wanted to have this finished by the end of today and I've managed it. This was my first Goodreads 'First Reads' Giveaway win and I have to say I can't wait to share my rather mixed thoughts on this book. I'm using it as an entry for the 'Quick Fix' challenge, as it's less than 300 pages. Button for that can be found at the bottom of this review!

SOURCE: Goodreads Giveaway
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Wolves
AUTHOR: Simon Ings
SERIES: --
PUBLISHER: Gollancz
PAGES: 272
GENRE: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Mystery

RATING: 2.5/5 Stars

Blurb:
Imagining the end...

At school, Connie and Micky cooked up all the ways the world could end. Years later, Michel imagines apocalypses for a living, and lives inside fantasies of the Fall. Conrad works in advertising, spinning aspirational dreams out of imaginary light.
Will their reunion reveal who killed Conrad's mother?
Will it make them a lot of money?
Or, just maybe, bring about the collapse of Western civilization?

Wolves is a surreal whodunnit about what happens when unhappy men get their hands on powerful media. Part crime novel, part coming-of-age story, this is an informed, atmospheric, cutting-edge tale of the near future.

What I Liked:
  • The beginning, for me, was actually pretty gripping. I had read a few other reviews for this book that said it was slow-paced and difficult to get through, so I went into this story feeling a bit apprehensive. I found though that I was pleasantly surprised. I was gripped from the start, it drew me into the story beautifully.
  • Simon Ings has a lovely turn-of-phrase. There are some really wonderful quotes in this one, and I really enjoyed finding them. His writing style is pretty consistent throughout too and that made me happy. The story jumps around a lot but I found myself able to follow it for the most part and liked reading Conrad's memories of his childhood particularly. 
  • The characters were both memorable and likeable. I really liked Conrad as a central character, and Michel and Hanna too were very well-written and likeable in their own way. Despite Ings leaping around in time, I remembered who everyone was and found that Ings succeeded in giving each character unique and engaging personalities.
What I Disliked:
  • I found descriptions of the book as focused on a Dystopian future with heavy Sci-Fi wholly inaccurate (as described on Goodreads). The 'Augmented Reality' (AR) concept is weirdly wonderful, and not too hard to imagine as something that could really take off should it be created. I found that it was rarely mentioned though, serving more as an aid to the story rather than something that was entirely necessary. The Dystopian element doesn't really come into play until right at the very end either (and it's written more like a minor irritation, not an apocalyptic catastrophe) so I felt all the way through that there was going to be some 'Matrix' style reveal and it never really happened.
  • I had an ongoing sense of confusion as I read. Despite enjoying Ings' writing style, I did feel that he lacked the ability to explain things very well. I didn't understand the AR element for quite a while, and he brushed over some significant events so that when they were brought up later I didn't remember them and had to go back. Conrad's feelings towards people and situations often changed too and so I never really knew where he stood on some quite important plot points.
  • The ending was very rushed, for me. Literally, the last chapter or two just completely threw me off and I didn't understand what was happening at all. This kind of ruined the book a little for me, as it started off pretty well right up until that moment. Perhaps a couple of chapters fully explaining the fate of some characters. Some sort of Apocalypse that had been beautifully foreshadowed throughout the book is what I assume happened, though to be honest it didn't really feel like anything changed. The nature of some key relationships within the story were left hanging a little and never explained or resolved to my satisfaction.
Overall Conclusion:
I did like a lot about this book. The continuous flashbacks to the past and the tragedy of Conrad's childhood were poignantly written and very gripping. The way Ings tied events together and built the story up to an inevitable climax was just great. The problem was, that climax was confusing, rushed, and disappointing. I felt like a lot of loose ends weren't tied and I was left with more questions than answers after reading the book. Despite a lot of initial promise, I had to drop my rating of it because of that. A real shame!