Friday, March 8, 2013

Review of "Incarnate," by Jodi Meadows


I remember the plot of this book pretty clearly, but my memory's hazy on what was my final impression of Incarnate. That probably puts it into "okay" territory, as it was neither stellar nor terrible enough for me to have a lasting opinion. Mostly, I think I was kind of bored until the last few chapters.

*opens Goodreads and looks for status updates*

Ah, there. On page 126, I wrote: "The world is interesting, but the things the characters do and say aren't exactly believable." That's the only status update I have, but I guess it does sum up my opinion of the book. The world has an interesting concept behind it: A world where all souls have been reincarnating for thousands of years. People have been living for so long that they can't even remember how it all began. What I appreciated the most about this book is that Jodi Meadows didn't half-ass the reincarnation premise. Although there were some shaky parts (How can you chemically disable a god? Science is about what can be known, and theology is about what can't. You really can't combine those.), for the most part, I got the sense that she really put a lot of thought into this concept. The re-dedication ceremony and the parts where Sam talks about his traumatic deaths are what stood out for me. Also, the thought that Ana's death might be permanent leaves its own sort of fear--it's a shockingly obvious reminder of how short a single life is.

It was also kind of cool to read a second-world fantasy that actually incorporated technology. There wasn't enough of it in there for me to consider this "science fantasy" (other than that one bit of "chemistry" I mentioned in the spoiler), but it was a nice change from the norm.

So I did appreciate the world, but what bothered me were the plot and characters. The plot was very 'meh,' and Ana and Sam were rather unmemorable. There were also some parts where I had trouble believing that Ana would think or say something--it was as if her mother's abuse had worn off too quickly. I can't really get more into detail because I already returned the book to the library, but my feeling is that if Ana had been isolated in a house for most of her life with a woman who hated and mistreated her, the interpersonal and emotional damage should have been far worse (and much more long-term). Abuse is one thing, but having almost no social interaction apart from that one individual? It would take years to recover from that.

And that leads me to another point--Ana's mother, Li. She was just...too unbelievably evil. Like, she would do things solely for the purpose of making her young daughter miserable. And yes, I know those people do exist, but unless you happen to know one, they're never believable in fiction. Besides, I would think that most of that behavior is related to either uncontrolled anger or the need to feel in power. I never got the sense that Li was experiencing either of those. Her cruelty was almost too casual. (If you want an example of what I thought was a believable abusive parent in fiction, see Ship Breaker.) Plus, I think the book once mentioned that the society's leaders decide who can and can't have kids. If the people in this community knew Li for thousands of years, shouldn't they have some idea of how evil she is? Why would they force her to raise a child she didn't even want? The whole "Li" element just made the whole book fall apart for me.

So in short, I liked the thought behind Incarnate, but I just couldn't get into the story. Oh well.

***

This book was on my list of "books that are similar to my novel-in-progress." Both books are utopian fantasy, but that turned out to be the only element they had in common.

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