Sunday, May 27, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Charlinder's Walk by Alison Miers

Release Date: October 16th, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-published)
Page Count: 484
Source: Complimentary copy provided by Novel Publicity for review (thank you!), as part of the Charlinder's Walk book tour

In 2012, the Plague ended the world as we know it. In 2130, Charlinder wants to know why.

The origin of the disease remains a mystery. Their ignorance of its provenance fuels a growing schism that threatens to destroy the peace that the survivors’ descendants have built. Unwilling to wait for matters to get any worse, he decides to travel to where the Plague first appeared and find out the truth—which means walking across three continents before returning home.

Charlinder has never been more than ten miles from home, has never heard anyone speak a foreign language, and he’s going it alone.

He survives thousands of miles of everything from near-starvation to near-madness before he meets Gentiola. By then he’s so exhausted that the story she offers to tell seems like little more than a diversion... until he hears it.

Nothing could have prepared him for what he learns from her, and no one ever told him: be careful what you wish for. The world is a much bigger place than Charlinder knew, and his place in it is a question he never asked before.

What Stephanie Thinks: For me, this book is full of contradictions because it encompasses the most complex and diverse of political issues—the universal ones that apply to both our world, and to the world of Charlinder that Miers carefully illustrates—and yet is so grossly simple at the same time. The story itself overflows with ideas, a few of which I'll touch upon (but all of which, I won't have nearly enough space for!) but I still get a sense that there are areas that are highly unrealistic, perhaps too idealistic and too 'best-case scenario', to really constitute for a heavy and considerable dystopian novel.

A self-proclaimed coming-of-age book, Charlinder's Walk is first and foremost an adventure. It embarks on Charlinder's aspiring journey of discovery, but not before introducing the time—post-apocalypse (referred to as post-Plague); place—Paleola, a small village east of the Appalachians; destination—Italy, westward; and goal—to find the origins and secrets of the disease that created Charlinder's world as he knows it. As readers, we know that Paleola has a community that is very different from our modern, industrialized environment. We discover later that other villages featured have commodities and values that are far, far stranger. 

I'll admit the 'adventure' here isn't too exciting. Yes, Charlinder meets countless new faces and is exposed to countless little complications and countless unfamiliar cultures throughout his voyage, but they mostly pass as a blur. Things always work out a little too well for him: he always finds shelter right when he runs out of food/energy/motivation, he never really encounters serious barriers (lingual, topographical, physiological, and so on), and he goes on his trip and returns, finding just what he wanted, and without any twists or surprises, so there's nothing particularly memorable. How dull.

The history of the Plague is pretty surprising, I'll give credit where it's due, and Gentiola, the only enigma of a character, enchants me, but the so-called 'secret' seems to be minor in the book, compared to the 400-some remaining pages which describe everything else that occurs.

What I do find fascinating, however, is how Miers finds a way to shove a huge, all-bound sociology debate into her novel. Some topics broached include science and medicine, literacy, gender roles, domestic values, sexuality, religion, diplomacy, human ethics, and even a touch of magic, which laces in the fantastical elements to the plot. They're all subjects that make me think hard, and are what made this book most engaging.

Miers's style is pretty ordinary, but I appreciate how it is straightforward and chronological (no tricky play on perspective or memory, here!). My biggest complaint is that it is agonizingly wordy. Descriptive writing, I'm all for, but when the descriptions do near nothing to further the plot, it gets tedious. For a 484-page novel, this one is not so elaborate and masterful as I would expect; I feel it could have been written in half its page count without much being retracted.

Charlinder's Walk is a quickly paced, fairly easy read that makes me want to jump into arguments about all the global and political affairs it bestows. Kudos to Miers for being able to fit all that into one storyline and still make it relevant, and even more impressively, enjoyable. This isn't just a cheesy read; it actually has substance. However, in structure and in overall theme, it's quite shallow and nothing I will praise strongly. Some places are awfully awkward (for instance, one thing that irks me is how the characters all 'do sex' with each other when I've been taught to 'have' it) but that's nothing too big of a crime. Pick it up during the summer if you've plenty of free time and an open mind.

Stephanie Loves: "...there is no end to the ways that people are limited by societies hiding behind the safety of routine. It may help maintain stability, but tradition should never be used as a substitute for thinking for oneself. It is a support system for life ... not the other way around."

Radical Rating: 
7 hearts: Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥