Saturday, March 19, 2016

Mini Book Reviews: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld & Hell House by Richard Matheson

Title: Uglies (Uglies #1)
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publication Date: February 8, 2005
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 425
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Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. In just a few weeks she'll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she'll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world-- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally's choice will change her world forever...

Uglies is a book that I've had my eye on for years, but just never got around to read it, despite the fact that it's one of my brother's absolute favorites. When it came up as the Dystopia Challenge group read for February, I knew it was time to take the plunge!

This is a story set at some point in the future when age (quite literally) comes with beauty. As children, everyone is an ugly, also known as normal. Everyone has nicknames based on their "ugly" qualities, but no one cares because they all know it's only a matter of time before they're made pretty with a complex medical procedure and moved to the pretty side of town.

Tally is very close to the day of her procedure when this book begins, before she makes friends with Shay and her whole world is turned upside down. Tally is also one of my issues with Uglies because I just really didn't like her very much. I tried to cut her a little slack, knowing that she had been brainwashed from birth, but I had a very hard time liking her. Her loyalties were disturbing and her insistence on becoming pretty even after she'd started to learn the truth made her difficult to sympathize with.

The story itself was definitely unique and had the potential to be great. The technology was cool and I found the ruins themselves fascinating! I thought the idea of this kind of "pretty" conformity was an interesting one and I wish it had been better fleshed out. Instead, I had problems with the world building and the writing, finding it slow even when it was supposed to be exciting. I really wanted to know more about the why and how of the current state of the world. Maybe that's something that will be further explored in the remaining books.

I really expected more from Uglies than what I got. I think part of the problem might be that I waited too long to read it. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more ten years ago? The concept was interesting and there were certainly some bits that were enjoyable, but I probably won't continue with the series.

Title: Hell House
Author: Richard Matheson
Narrator: Ray Porter
Publication Date: June 28, 1971
Publisher: Viking Books

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Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going die. But when Deutsch, a wealthy magazine and newpaper publisher, starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums, one physical and one mental, $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death.

Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, accompanied by the mediums, travel to the Belasco House in Maine, which has been abandoned and sealed since 1949 after a decade of drug addiction, alcoholism, and debauchery. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townfolks refer to it as the Hell House.

So here's the thing... When Stephen King raves about a book that's topic is the "Mount Everest of haunted houses," I expect a REALLY scary book. Hell House has even been called a horror classic! So what the heck did I just read?? It couldn't have been the book all these people, including Stephen King, have raved about! I hate to contradict the Master, but Hell House was just... not scary.

There were several problems I had with this book, one being that I really didn't like most of the characters. They all came off as either really arrogant, annoying, helpless, or a combination of those. The only character I somewhat enjoyed was Fischer, and I honestly had to just go hunt down his name because I'd forgotten it less than an hour after finishing the book, if that's any indication. Even more than that, these characters are really, really stupid. There were so many moments where I wanted to just ask them if they were serious. I cannot actually believe that anyone with a brain would do most of the things these characters did.

Another major problem I had with Hell House was the horror. Where was it? What I learned from this book is that horror = sex. (Cover your eyes, kids.) I don't even mean violence! I just mean... sex. Even between a woman and her husband. The sexy horror ranged from Edith attempting to come on to her husband, ghosty sex, lady sex, basically all the sex. was. horror. I wish I was joking. Maybe sex was terrifying in the 70s? I honestly don't know how this was considered scary. There were a few possessions (and a few had to do with sex) but they were more amusing than scary. There was a teensy bit of tension here and there, but it quickly dissipated each time.

The ending of Hell House was also a huge let down. Huge. I didn't -totally- HATE Hell House. Hate is such a strong word. I did think that Dr. Barrett's idea for conquering the house was an interesting one and I did like Fischer enough, although even he was forgettable. Ultimately, I would not recommend this book.