Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review - Grounded

(The Grounded Trilogy #1)
by G. P. Ching
Date: 2012
Publisher: Carpe Luna Publishing
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 407
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

In the year 2050, a secret government study nicknamed Operation Source Code injects eight volunteers with a retrovirus. The goal? To abate the energy crisis by reprogramming human DNA to power personal electronic devices. The experiment works but with disastrous consequences.

Seventeen years later, Lydia Troyer is far from concerned with the energy crisis. Growing up in the isolated community of Hemlock Hollow, life hasn't changed much since 1698 when her Amish ancestors came to America. She milks her cow by hand, bakes fresh bread every morning, and hopes to be courted by Jeremiah, the boy who's been her best friend since she could walk.

But when Lydia's father has a stroke and is taken to the outside world for medical treatment, Lydia and Jeremiah leave home to visit him. An ordinary light switch thrusts Lydia into a new world where energy is a coveted commodity and her own personal history makes her the most sought-after weapon on the planet.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book started off okay, with an interesting premise and halfway decent writing, but the quality of everything rolled steadily downhill and by the end my brain was balking and I was having to read each sentence multiple times because my synapses were shutting down as some sort of protective mechanism against the crap I was forcing myself to read.  I'm so glad I got this book for free; if I'd paid money for it, I would be even more annoyed than I already am.

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

I thought the premise of this book sounded pretty interesting, with the genetic modification of people to produce electricity, and I hoped the inclusion of the Amish element would add a unique dimension to the story.  The pace at the beginning was good, so I got sucked in.  And... that's about all I can say that's positive.

It's all a matter of taste...

Where do I begin to describe what's wrong with Grounded?  There's just too much...

Lydia's world makes little sense.  Basically, the world has been taken over by the Green Republic.  Imagine if Monsanto, Enbridge, and Greenpeace joined forces to form a fascist government (without any apparent leader), and that's pretty much what you've got with the Green Republic.  This makes no sense, of course.  That was just the beginning of the ridiculousness.  We've got people running around with octagonal red blood cells (which somehow don't shred their blood vessels), electricity mixing with water without consequences (except near the end), a group of people living in a nuclear exclusion zone with zero ill effects, engineered meat that somehow smells delicious but has no flavour, a bias against organic gardening because it taints the groundwater with chemicals (wait... what?), scientists who operate on assumption rather than facts...  If you like the science in the novels you read to at least be plausible, it's probably best you stay away from this book.

The problem with making half your characters Amish is that, if it's not done exactly right, it can come off as really wrong.  Lydia and her friend Jeremiah both start out in the Amish world, and it's all fine at first... but when they get to the English world, they (especially Lydia) lose most aspects of their Amish-ness.  Lydia seems to know an awful lot about the English world, even before she's told certain things (which leads to awkward passages where she names certain unfamiliar objects before being told what they're called).  She also doesn't speak like an Amish person, and uses phrases that I highly doubt a real Amish person would use (including ones that seem to border on blasphemy)... and then, at other times, she'll fall into this pious, submissive, self-deprecating mindset that I guess is supposed to show her Amish background.  I also just didn't like Lydia as a character.  She's a special little snowflake who turns out to be more powerful than everyone else... and so, naturally, she has to be kept out of the loop and constantly protected by the men in her life.

Which brings me to the sexism.  It was subtle and possibly unconscious, but it really made me uncomfortable.  Apparently the main trait of the Amish is rampant sexism (leading to a ridiculous scene where Jeremiah refuses Lydia's help during an escape attempt and leaps from a window shouting, "Let a man be a man!").  Throughout the book, Lydia is treated as incapable and fragile, though that doesn't stop the males from using physical force against her when they want to get her attention; whether it's punching her in the face (her trainer), grabbing her shoulders and shaking her (her father), or kicking her (her love interest), it's made to seem like Lydia is such an airhead that she can't focus without a man slapping her around.

So... these men.  None of them are all that interesting, either.  There's Jeremiah, Lydia's childhood friend, who everyone thought she'd eventually marry.  But that doesn't happen because she's too busy being coy, stringing him along, and flirting with the new guy she just met... right in front of him!  There's Korwin, the stupendously bland love interest who's continually latching himself on to the heroine's hand.  When Lydia and Korwin kiss, they blow out circuits.  They're warned that if they ever have sex, the result could be equivalent to a nuclear blast.  (But at the end of the book, Lydia feels she knows better and thinks they can probably contain their power and not have anything go boom.  Judging by the way the book ends, I suspect she's wrong.  So I kind of wish they'd gotten down to business and put a neat end to the trilogy right then and there: "So we consummated our marriage and blew up the village.  Whoops!  My bad.")

The other thing that really drove me to distraction was the pacing.  The first part starts out strong and moves along well... but at a certain point, things grind to a halt.  It might've been when Lydia kept wandering around the Stuart mansion for no good reason.  It might've been when her trainer offered up backstory in dribs and drabs, making me more frustrated than Lydia herself when we found out we'd have to wait until the next training session to find out more.  Things picked up again near the end, but then a lot was glossed over with a whole bunch of telling.

Let's get technical...

This book definitely could have used some more editing.  The writing wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great, either.  Especially by the end, it was getting a little rough.  And I can't look past it when an author misspells their own character's name; how can you not remember how your own character's name is spelled?  Plus, it's confusing when you give characters names starting with the same letter: Konrad and Korwin, Jameson and Jeremiah and Jonas...  A little more variety would have been nice.

The verdict...

Grounded is offensive to women, to men, and to the Amish.  A spark of a good idea was ruined by a poor execution.  I have no desire to read the sequels.  I'm just relieved that I'm done with this one... and that it was free.

Quotable moment:

I cup his face and my blue glow bathes him in light. As I lower my lips to his, the draw I've felt to Korwin from the very beginning takes hold. My energy flows into him freely, in one direction at first, but then just as Maxwell explained, the flip comes and the power between us morphs into something else, dividing and multiplying. He is empty, so it takes some time before the power returns to me. But when it does, it almost knocks me off the bed. Our cells feed each other, revolving faster and faster. Atoms in a perpetual dance of motion heat the air around us. Energy pours out and in until my muscles twitch and the paint on the wall behind Korwin begins to peel and singe.

Premise: 2/5
Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 2/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1.75 out of 5 ladybugs