Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review - Freak of Nature

Freak of Nature
(IFICS #1)
by Julia Crane
Date: 2013
Publisher: Valknut Press
Reading level: NA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 284
Format: e-book

Donate Body to Science. Check.

When seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn checked the box, she never suspected she’d have her life–and her body–stolen from her. She awakens one day in a secret laboratory to discover that her body is now half-robot and is forced to hide her own secret: that she still has human emotions and a human mind. If the scientists who made her find out, they’ll erase what remains of who she was.

Kaitlyn finds an unlikely ally in Lucas, a handsome, brilliant scientist who can’t get over the guilt he feels knowing she was once a vibrant, beautiful young woman. He never expected a science project to affect him the way she does. As he tries to help her rediscover her past, he finds himself falling for the brave girl struggling to find her place and acceptance between the human and computer worlds.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I have no idea how to review this book without being mean.  After slogging through nearly three hundred pages, I'm cranky and exhausted.  I feel like I wasted my time, and I feel disrespected as a reader.  This book never should have been published.  Had I paid any money for it, this review likely would have been full of swearing; as it is, I'm having a hard time trying to stay polite.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

There is absolutely nothing I like about this book.  I didn't go into it thinking I was going to hate it; the synopsis is somewhat intriguing, after all.  But the actual story only vaguely resembles what we were promised, so it was a huge disappointment.

It's all a matter of taste...

I have no idea where to start when describing what's wrong with this book.  (Maybe the title?  How is a robot a "freak of nature"?)  It has fairly high ratings on Goodreads, so some people must like it.  But if you're like me and you want decent writing that's been properly edited, three-dimensional characters, consistency, and an actual plot... well, you're going to be disappointed.  There isn't even a climax!  Well, I guess if there's no plot it's kind of hard to have a climax...

None of the characters are engaging.  They're all emotionally stunted, even though the cyborg girl is the only one who's supposed to be.  None of them are particularly realistic, and some of the dialogue is laughably bad.  The villains turn out not to be villains (at least, they're so easily dealt with that they aren't any sort of a threat).  Kaitlyn is apparently so beautiful that any man who sees her wants to rape her; she's threatened with sexual assault no less than three times during the course of the story... including the final time, when it's decided that she doesn't understand the rules of society because she tries to defend herself.  What the hell?!

We spend most of the novel believing Kaitlyn is seventeen, and she hangs around with a fourteen-year-old girl... leading to the assumption that this is a young adult novel.  But then we're hit with an actual sex scene, thrown in during the male love interest's point-of-view chapter (which seems an odd choice).  It feels out of place in the book, since the writing style is so juvenile.  It also made me really uncomfortable, since Kaitlyn comes across as so naive and childlike that it was like watching a little kid beg an adult for sex... and then have him give it to her.

The science is awful and makes no sense.  Somehow, Kaitlyn's memories are stripped away and put onto a hard drive.  How this is done is never explained.  Then we're supposed to believe that she has feelings, even though her emotions are just... off.  She can eat, but doesn't have to... and yet it's never explained how she stays alive.  What's nourishing her human cells?  What's keeping her machinery going?  We're told that her heart was replaced with an artificial one, but then her heart is mentioned multiple times in very human ways, as if the author forgot that she no longer had one.  The use of the word "sensors" drove me to distraction.  Sensors, by definition, sense... but in this book, they do all sorts of other things, too, like regulate bodily functions.  (The author has some brainwave-measuring "sensors" sending currents of electricity buzzing through the main character's head, though, so I suspect she just doesn't understand what a "sensor" is.)  There's also the question of why anyone would do what they did.  The IFICS (which is an acronym for nothing; it's simply "sci-fi" backwards, which the author seems to think is really clever) seems to have wanted an unfeeling killing machine.  So why didn't they just build a robot?  Why go to all the trouble of procuring a dead body (though she wasn't actually dead, which is a huge plot hole; how can you donate your body to science if you're just in a coma?) and removing its memories and emotions if you could just build a robot in the first place?  And why is a seventeen-year-old girl allowed to sign her life away to a top-secret organization?  (Parents played zero role in this book.  Kaitlyn could have gone back to hers, but she thinks it's kinder to let them think she's dead.  Yeah... I could not connect with this girl at all.)

And then there's the style.  It's simplistic and unsophisticated, confused (and confusing) in places, and prone to jarring jumps through time.  There are also weird info-dumps that slow the story (what story there is) to a crawl.  The whole thing with Kaitlyn loading her gun had me gritting my teeth.  (see quote below)  The author used over a hundred words to say what she could have said with four: "She loaded the gun."  I haven't been this annoyed by info-dumping since Jenny Davidson's perseverating ramblings about dynamite in The Explosionist.

Let's get technical...

I am absolutely appalled at the writing and editing in this book.  For most of the time I was reading it, I thought that the author had just published a first draft... without beta readers, without editors, without even reading it over herself after jotting it down.  I suspected that I would spend more time reading the book than was put into writing it.  But in the acknowledgments, she thanks beta readers and an editing service!  Really?  As a reader, I find such shoddy work insulting; if you want people to spend time reading your book, you should at least spend some time making sure it's the best it can be.  There are grammar errors and more punctuation mistakes than I can count.  Verb tenses are all over the place.  The characters' names aren't consistent.  The text obviously wasn't even run through a spell-checking program; there are outright spelling mistakes that nobody caught.  I'm tempted to call BS on the claim that this book was seen by anyone other than the author before it was published, but I don't know for sure.  Just be forewarned.

The verdict...

My Kindle edition is a mass of highlighted passages and notes... and none of them are for anything good.  I basically did what Crane's editor should have done in the first place, and corrected the text as I went.  Readers shouldn't have to do that.  My advice to Crane: slow down, take your time, and make sure your books are edited properly before you put them out there and ask for money.

Quotable moment:

Automatically, Kaitlyn removed her pistol from its holster and locked the slide to the rear. She quickly checked the chamber to ensure it was empty, then removed a full magazine from the carrier on her left hip, inserting it into the pistol, the motion so smooth and practiced it felt natural. With a flick of her thumb, the slide slammed forward, loading a round into the chamber of the pistol. She then conducted a 'press check,' reaching underneath the pistol, pinching the slide, and moving it to the rear just enough to see that a round was actually in the chamber. Seeing the brass, she released the slide and holstered her weapon.

Premise: 1/5
Plot: 0/5
Characters: 0/5
Pace: 0/5
Writing: 0/5
Editing: 0/5
Originality: 0/5
Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall Rating: 0.13 out of 5 ladybugs


  1. Oh my gosh. You have me appalled and I haven't even read the book. It bugs me too, when authors just rush to get their books put out there. Seriously? It's shouldn't be just about getting your book published--no matter what state it's in. Make your book the best it can be.

    Writing a novel should be hard work. Although I do wonder just how much time she put into writing that gun scene....

    1. The gun scene just seemed like she was regurgitating information. It added nothing to the story. Aside from training with a gun, she never actually used one!

      I agree. Writing a novel is a lot of hard work; that's just the way it is. If you try to rush it or take shortcuts, prepare to be called on it!

  2. Heyy you mentioned this on my site and I had to see if you had a review. Wow you are irritated by this book lmfao! I get this feeling sometimes when a book just wastes my time. SO I guess this one's not worth checking out? Awesome review though and it's very detailed!

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

    1. No, I wouldn't bother with this one. There are better cyborg stories out there!