Thursday, February 13, 2014

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

First came the storms. Then came the Fever. And the wall. 
After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, the residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct... but in reality, a new, primitive society has been born.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader's newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has slipped into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other's last hope for survival.
Sherri L. Smith delivers an expertly crafted story about a fierce heroine whose powerful voice and firm determination will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.

~Print copy (from library), 324 pages
Published: 2013 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (an imprint of Penguin Group)

I meant to post this Monday -- I know, I know, it's rather late. But snow and school and lack of a proper Internet connection has made it hard.

So, here's a somewhat-more-organized-than-usual list of what I think of this book:

Premise/summary: Yes.

I love the premise, of course. Why else would I decide to read it? I had some doubts when the summary began to mention Daniel, because that smacked of romance to me, but the whole Fever and quarantine sounded interesting enough that I picked it up anyways. I wouldn't have called the Delta society "primitive," but that's because I'm picky and like to think that such paleolithic/early-neolithic-style societies are simply different, perhaps even innovative and worth studying more than they are to be looked down on.

Story/Plot: Meh/Yes.

The baby thing, written this way, made sense. The pacing didn't really flag. There was no romance, which was a relief. I'm not sure what the problem was -- well, I somewhat do. By the end, it was getting more... random. Things looked like they were happening by chance, and the things I would have focused on were mostly mentioned or just barely elaborated. And there were odd blocks of flashbacks that were there mostly to explain in detail Fen's backstory -- and just her backstory. There were mostly explanatory information on Daniel outside of true flashbacks. And I won't mention how out-of-the-blue-in-a-most-unpleasant-way the ending was.

For the randomness, as I won't mention that without some evidence for you, take this example: the growing feud between the O-Positives and the ABs. It looked to be getting steadily worse, but Fen cares nothing about it; neither does Daniel. It's just there, in the background. And the "cure" for the fever Daniel was working on -- I won't mention it, but I was a little disappointed in how that turned out.

Characters: Meh/Yes.

Fen was actually a decent character. She was fierce and smart. Always calculating the odds and means of escape. And she could easily have ditched this newborn girl, who only dragged her down and cried in the worst of moments. But she didn't; even when she had ample opportunity, and it would have facilitated her own escape, she didn't let the baby die. And it's not even hers, just her dead chieftain's.

Daniel, on the other hand, I was less fond of. A bit of a bumbler, and he didn't seem too motivated. Just there. He had his sob story about his brother, dead from the fever, but he's just sort of like, "Hmm, I managed to find my way into the Delta. What am I supposed to do now, with my outdated maps and total ignorance on what goes on around people-wise?" Unfortunately, he was a pretty major character, maybe almost more so than Fen, which I was disappointed about.

Writing: Meh.

A real problem, for me, was the switches in POV. It would randomly switch POVs between Daniel and Fen, but not only is it a total change in style -- Fen had "tribe speak," with very loose, imprecise grammer, and Daniel spoke much more grammatically, like you'd find in any other novel -- it also changed tense and POV style. Fen's was written in first person, present, with the aforementioned unique voice. Daniel's was written in third person, past tense, with a more conventional voice. It was jarring, to be bounced between the two.

I did love the uniqueness of Fen's voice. But instead of writing the book entirely in her voice -- which, I admit, would be a difficult feat -- it was sort of halved by the conventional voice of Daniel, and instead of dividing the chapters between the two, it furthermore would switch in the middle, at the end of a chapter, or after several chapters. I didn't like how this was organized.

Overall: Yes.

I did like this, of a sort. I think it's very original, with the fever and quarantine, the dynamics between the Outer States of America and the quarantined Gulf Coast, and the way they're both depicted. And there was a refreshing avoidance of romance. (I hate romance; the more I see it, the more it upsets me. And I read mostly YA, I am generally in the mood to cry when I pick up a book.)

I would recommend this to most people. I don't like the ending, or the way POV was handled, and Daniel was a bit iffy -- but I think that at points, the premise and Fen made up for it. I'd say a 3.5 stars, which of course can be rounded up to 4 stars.

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