Worth the Hype // The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Worth the Hype // The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Once upon a time there was a sea filled with endless possibilities, sweeping sagas, and stories; so many stories. But one day something happened to the sea leaving it stuck with stories but no endings. People thought this to be a scary change in the sea of possibility and decided to close the doors to its beautiful world. However, the sea is always trying to finish its stories. Then Zachary Ezra Rawlings showed up.

The Starless Sea follows Zachary Ezra Rawlings. For all intents and purposes, he’s your average grad student writing his thesis on video games and how they relate to stories. One day, he finds himself reading through the fiction section of his university library when he comes across a strange book called Sweet Sorrows. Curious to its contents, he checks the book out only to find one of the stories to be a memory of his when he was a kid; a moment where he encountered a painted door in the alleyway near his mother’s fortune telling store. A moment where he wished he opened that door, but never did and then the next day, it was gone. He couldn’t believe a book that looks older than him has a story about him in it. Keeping that in mind, he investigates further only to find himself at a posh literary party in Manhattan. From there, he dives deeper into a world filled with magic and fantasy revealing something much bigger than he imagined from a book.

But Zachary isn’t the only person who knows about the Starless Sea. There are others; those trying to protect the sea and others welcoming newcomers like Zachary to enter and create new stories. The protectors have been destroying doors like the one Zachary encountered as a kid. The others continue to paint them. But the real battle is not between those with varying belief systems. The real fight is with the sea itself.

OMG I’m shook. I can already see how this book will be loved by many and disliked by others. It’s not an easy book with a level of cerebral writing that will leave you scratching your head. But, if you give it a chance then it will reward you.

This book is a combination of Alice in Wonderland and The Neverending Story and all the books where characters stumble down into these magical worlds beyond their average day. However, the difference in this story is that Zachary stumbles into his own story.

If you’re a fan of magical worlds and destiny, then this is the book for you. Erin Morgenstern’s really outdone herself with this one creating a place more beautiful than The Night Circus. It’s completely different from The Night Circus, but the world built is something I would have never imagined. With complex prose and tons of imagery, you will most definitely get lost in this world because I got lost in it.

 

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I will be honest that I was so confused by what was going on most of the time. At the halfway point, I almost considered DNF-ing the book because nothing had happened and nothing was explained. There’s a lot of details still missing and some of the jumping between stories really made it difficult to keep track of what was going on. The detailed descriptions of some passages made the book much slower than it already was. You leave the book with more questions than you started with and that’s never a good feeling.

However, because I’ve read Erin Morgenstern’s work before, I kept on reading because I knew there would be a bigger reason for everything she was handing us and there truly was. I’m so glad that I did because despite the ending not giving me all the answers, it was completely unimaginable and a level of fantasy I’ve never read before.

If anything, you need to let go of everything you understand about a good story. You have to let Erin Morgenstern guide you. Put your hand in hers. Close your eyes and let her take you on this magical journey. Take it slowly. Read the pages and really read the words. You won’t finish the book knowing everything happening, but there’s enough there to have an understanding and she’s built a world you just can’t forget.

And while I sat completely confused the entire time I was reading, I was so intrigued. I continued reading because I wanted to know what the Starless Sea was. I wanted to know where Sweet Sorrows came from and learn about Fate and Time. Like I said before, you’ll finish this book with not a lot more info on what happened, but you get the idea and the idea is gorgeous.

Seriously, it’s the magic you wish you can see in the real world. It’s that letter to Hogwarts finally making it to your door. It’s being imbued with magic powers on your 16th birthday. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of happening to me when I was a little kid (and tbh, as an adult); entering a world where the impossible is possible and magic is most definitely real and here to create your own story for you.

img_4297I think in the end, the story is this: Magic is everywhere. Stories are everywhere. Once one story ends, another begins. You just have to be the type of person willing to see the seams of it in the reality of the world. I honestly feel like Erin Morgenstern’s approach was to allow the reader to imagine the world and become a part of the story as well.

One piece of advice? After you finish reading the book, reread the story from the beginning that Dorian tells Zachary. The one about Fate falling in love with Time. After you finish reading the book, the story makes much more sense.

So is it worth the hype? Overall, a beautiful story but I can see a lot of people either DNFing the book or not liking it in the end. It’s high concept for sure, but it’ll leave you breathless at the end. Proceed with that in mind, but if I can encourage you, please read this whole book. This goes double if you love the world of magic that books brings to your life.

I received a copy of this book from Doubleday for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Worth the Hype? Recursion by Blake Crouch

Worth the Hype? Recursion by Blake Crouch

I saw so many people post about Recursion over the past few weeks that I knew I needed to read this book ASAP and share my thoughts on it. Hyped books worry me sometimes because when a ton of people like the book, it sets your expectations much higher than you would have if there wasn’t any hype at all.

High expectations + a new read you’re not sure if you’ll like = possible big mess

So I usually hold off on reading books with tons of hype, but I thought it would also be cute if I read the book and shared whether or not the hype was worth the read. Let’s see if Recursion is as good as everyone says it is.

42046112The story itself is pretty complicated. I’ll try my best to sum this up without 1) spoilers 2) confusing you. Basically, it follows Barry, an older investigative officer who just tried to talk a woman off the ledge of a building. She suffers from False Memory Syndrome aka FMS, where two lines of memory are inundated in a person. One is the life she had been living up until that moment and then the second is an alternate life she doesn’t remember living but somehow those memories are just as real as the life she knows she lived.

It also follows Helena, a scientist who is on the brink of finding what she hopes is a cure for Alzheimer’s. Since her mother’s diagnosis, she’s been determined to find a cure and help her mother regain some of her memory before the disease takes over completely. When she was about to run out of funding from Stanford on her research, she meets Marcus Slade, your Elon Musk for all intents and purposes who believes in what she’s doing and funds the rest of her research.

As Helena makes strides in building a machine that lets you relive your own memories, she’s pushed to her scientific limit when they make a discovery that allows users to travel back to their own memories. However, the consequences of reliving these memories becomes clear as it not only affects the person traveling, but the people around them. And as Helena’s machine falls into the wrong hands, she and Barry team up to find how to stop the machine from ending humanity as we know it.

TW: Suicide, mass genocide, and anxiety-inducing existential life questions

Before I start this review, I wanted to explain what “recursion” means. Recursion (in a scientific and mathematical sense) is a computer programming technique involving the use of a procedure, subroutine, function, or algorithm that calls itself one or more times until a specified condition is met at which time the rest of each repetition is processed from the last one called to the first. This definition basically explains what happens in this book.

This book reminded me a lot of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind except without all the sad “I’m deleting all my memories of my former lover” feelings and instead traveling to that point in time and reliving that moment. It’s like if Joel realized the catalyst moment of their relationship falling apart, going back to that moment, and saying the right thing to keep them together. If that makes sense.

It’s not your average time travel book. If you wanted to understand the time travel here, I would say it’s like layers of timelines. They’re all stacked on top of each other and come together at the point where you jumped. It’s not like how they do it in Back to the Future. It’s not like Austin Powers and his time traveling movies. This takes the current concepts of time travel and throws it out the window.

Blake Crouch actually does a very good job at explaining the mechanics of this world. He really takes the “science” of science fiction and writes really great action-filled fiction using it. On many levels this book reminded me of Dark Matter except traveling through time instead of dimensions. While I wish there was more science behind how all of this worked, I guess it really doesn’t matter because science won’t be able to really explain what happens.

You will keep reading this book despite how confusing the science may seem. It’s like you want to know what happens every time someone gets into the deprivation chamber and travels. You want to know where they go and what they do and what happens. I think Blake Crouch does a really good job with the suspense in that effect. You’re always wanting to know how the world has changed and how it’s affected the people around you.

Speaking to that, I really loved how this didn’t exist inside a vacuum. The butterfly effect of changes affected everyone involved. People were living with dual sets of memories. Some people remember their own deaths, which is something I don’t know if I can handle. Barry and Helena lived multiple lives trying to find a way to destroy the machine, but every time they jumped it affected everyone around them. I really loved that aspect because it made it feel real.

And in Blake Crouch style, there’s always a little emotion. Barry goes through an emotional rollercoaster all throughout this novel whether it was reliving the death of his daughter or helping Helena find the solution. Barry and Helena’s emotional states were really what drew me to this story because they felt so real. And in a story where there’s very little reality, you need this to hold on to and remember that this is real human connection.

The only thing I had an issue with is the repetition. I mean, the book needs the repetition because they relive years of their life over and over again, but at some point I felt like it was a little too much. I think many of the jumps they made back to the same moment in time could have been summed up in a paragraph or two.

So is this book worth the hype?

Yes, I like to think so. It’s an action-packed novel with a scientific bend to it. The science isn’t too difficult to understand and fits into the definition of “recursion” very well. It’s definitely one of those books you’ll sit down to read and suddenly find yourself devouring. It doesn’t hesitate with its start and the action keeps going until the very end. It also has human and emotional elements to it which I like to think brings a sense of reality to a story that steeped in science fiction. Is it a read right away book? No, not necessarily. However, it is a surprising read and if you liked Blake Crouch’s first book, Dark Matter, then you’re going to like this one just as much.

I really hope they turn this book into a graphic novel or a movie. I’m hoping more for the latter because it would be excellent on the big screen. I can only imagine Bruce Willis playing Barry and like Jennifer Aniston as Helena. Super visual and extremely plot-driven, this book will leave you wondering if you could go back and change any regrets you’ve had, would you?

I received a copy of this book from Crown Publishing for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.