Plot: Up the Tower is a dystopian novel which has an historian telling us about life on Junktown – the slum area of a town called St Louis – before an earthquake hit it. As the book advances, we are introduced to a handful of characters, first getting to know a bit about their history and then accompanying them through the day when the disaster happened.
Characters: We have a student who is not particularly brilliant, quite an outcast hiding behind a persona really, and has a major crush on a gorgeous girl (who happens to have the same name as yours truly, teehee); said girl wants nothing more than to get out of that place, so she will subject herself to her rich and powerful boyfriend in all means necessary; we have a young woman who is in charge of a gang and sees her life turn around; a 12 year old who is a tech genius; a half cyborg assassin clone and even a robot. As you can see, quite an eclectic mix. These characters, having lived in a world dominated by technology, poverty and power, try to survive the day where it all went crumbling down.
Positives: The story is, at times, quite engaging and interesting. I enjoyed how the characters were described and most of all how each of them seemed to have their own voice. Unlike some books, in this one each character has their own background and mannerisms in both speech and action. I appreciate that a lot. It makes a book a whole lot more interesting in my opinion.
I think overall the idea was well developed. We are presented a world which was pretty much carefully planned and it is fairly believable, though it still has several flaws. There was enough suspense to keep me wanting to keep reading.
Negatives: The book almost feels as if it was written by two different people – the historian and then someone more objective, a normal narrator who gives us an account of what happens with characters as they feel it, as a normal author would; so while the historian gives us not only the background on Junktown society but also his own point of view about everything that happened then and up to that point and wonders about what everyone (not just the main characters) was thinking and feeling, the narrator clearly dictates what each character felt and thought as the action progressed. How could an historian know that? He only had records to back his conclusions, not a direct link to the characters’ emotions.
While that is not necessarily bad, it gets confusing, especially because of how it was done. For instance, in part 1, we start with historian, then narrator steps in, telling us about what the characters went through during that day and a bit of their background and then historian steps back in, with the whole more or less subjective speech once again. And it’s like that throughout the whole book. The lack of cohesion is unnecessary in my opinion and breaks the rhythm of the book. It’s not that either voice is bad, it’s just that when you were just getting comfortable with one, enter the other one. Personally, I would only have one voice, the narrator. Or at least a justification to how the historian knows how the characters felt and thought. Otherwise, it’s just not believable.
Another negative is, although we are told how St Louis came to be under the dominion of one corporation and not the other, we are not told how they came to have that power in the first place, instead of having the government in control.
And last but not least, I actually wondered if the book was edited at all. There are a number of redundancies (“The stretch of St Louis’s influence stretched…”, “left all the merchandise left on the floor”) and just plain sentence construction errors (“what did she say was…”, “When we do start?” and many, oh so many more). That lowered the book’s value, in my opinion.
Conclusion: Up the Tower is a good read, if you are willing to keep up the pace with all the back and forth between narration styles and look past the poor sentence construction and some fairly minor plot fails. It’s books like this that make me wish we could rate based on more than 5 stars because, due to all the negatives, I don’t feel it deserves 4, but I do believe it is worth more than 3. If the book was properly edited, I would definitely give it 4 stars or more.
Read from August 25 to 29, 2014
Review posted on Aug 29, 2015
I would like to thank the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.