Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Variant

So this is my first book review. It's something I have generally avoided, because I'm a great big chicken. When you have author friends, they all have books. Duh. And they want you to review said book. But what if you don't like it? Do you stick to what you're momma taught you- If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all or do you lie through your teeth?  I'm going with neither. Honest and unbiased reviews. For good or bad. It's the truth, but it's only my truth
So why did I choose Variant by Robison Wells? For a few reasons. One, I don't know the guy personally. I know a few of his friends, but feel no pressure to stroke any egos. Secondly, because I had been put off reading this because of a friends bad review. 

Her reasoning to steer me clear? In her opinion, this was a less inventive version of Maze Runner, by James Dashner. So I went into reading this book already worried about that. I know that the James and Robison are friends. I believe they may have even been in the same critique group at one time. I have precious little reading time and didn't want to spend it on Maze Runner lite.

My friend warned me not to read this. 
I'm glad that I rarely do what I'm told.

This is probably one of the most expensive books I've ever read. Because after I cracked it open, I couldn't put it down. Meaning I missed my doctor's appointment and had to pay the $45 missed appt. fee.  Robison draws you in right at the get go. Because I was already on the Maze Runner wavelength, I immediately saw some thematic similarities. New kid is thrown into already completely jacked up civilization run by kids that have no idea what the hell they are doing. New kid bucks at establishment, yet finds a little bit of comfortable life. Then that gets tossed on its head and we have the great escape where not everything is as it seems. 

How many times have we heard this basic story? Not just in Maze Runner. But how many times have we heard Romeo and Juliet? Titanic anyone? Or a little book called Twilight? Great books often share common thematic elements. Or aspects of the heroes journey. It's what the author does with those themes that make a book really special. And this book is really special.

I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty, because I don't want to have any spoilers. But you should read this book if you like suspense, trying to figure what's going on, then kicking yourself because you didn't see that coming. You should also read this book if you like to think about the societal commentary long after the last page. How much do we turn a blind eye to because its convenient or easier? What is the cost to do the right thing? You should read this book for no other reason than it's a damned fine book.

My only regret in reading it was that I didn't wait until the sequel was in my hand. Now I have to wait and see what happens. Grrrrr..


  1. Great review! Couldn't agree more.

    Makes me laugh when people complain about thematic similarities between books--so any book with magic is an automatic rip-off of Rowling (as if she invented wizards) and so on. I think Variant is one as close to an original idea as you get can nowadays. It's closer to Lord of the Flies than Maze Runner, IMO. Only a lot more fun!

    Just as a gee whiz for anyone who really cares, James and Rob have been part of our critique group, but never at the same time. James left years before Rob joined. They're colleagues, but I can't imagine them influencing each other's work in the sense that your friend thought they did. They don't cross paths in that way, to my knowledge.

    I got to watch the process of Variant getting written and published, and it was such a joy--Rob really deserves any success he gets.

  2. Great review! I'm looking forward to reading this one. It's been on my list for a while.