#6 “Pandemonium” by Lauren Oliver

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1.  Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
2. Holiday in Cambodia – Laura Jean McKay
3. Only Human – Gareth Roberts
4. Beautiful Chaos – Gary Russell
5. The Silent Stars – Dan Abnett
6. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
7. Every Breath – Ellie Marney
8. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
9. Delirium – Lauren Oliver
10. Pandemonium – Lauren Oliver
11. Requiem – Lauren Oliver
12. Venom – Fiona Paul
13. Belladonna – Fiona Paul
14. A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

I hate breaking up the flow of a story. If I am in the middle of a series, I have to keep reading that series. Even if a book I’ve been waiting for for months has just come out. Otherwise I get confused and mix up characters and force them to be friends/enemies/lovers with people they have never met. I currently have the novella Hana sitting on my Kindle app, waiting for me. I have no idea where it sits within the Delirium timeline but I know that I should read it. But if I read it in between the novels, I will get lost.

I am probably the worst kind of reader. I read too much, but because of that I have a habit of skim reading my passages. It’s how I manage to get through books so fast. But when it means that a character has gone from the edge of a cliff to arguing with a waiter in a café and I have no memory of how they got there, it becomes a problem. I have to go back and reread whole sections. Sometimes a full page.

I’m also really bad at wanting to read all the time but only getting to read snippets here and there. That happened yesterday during my airport shenanigans at Changi airport, which you can read about here. We would be sitting somewhere and Dani, my sister, would be messaging one of her many admirers on Facebook, so I would pull out my book and read a bit of Lena’s journey. I might be halfway through a page and then Dani would announce she’s ready to move again, leaving Lena in a particularly precarious situation. When I pick the book back up I have no idea how Lena got there. But I roll with it and nine times out of ten the situation gets re-explained for me.

I’m hoping that it’s this fragmented reading pace I set over the past few days that left me with a sense of repetition in Pandemonium, but I doubt it. After each dramatic scene there were images that were constantly repeated: fire, Lena hitting her head and feeling concussed, Lena being dizzy and needing support, glass, Lena being hungry. I mean, I know during this book she was being pursued a lot and attacked even more. But seriously. There are lots of different kinds of injuries and they can be just as dramatic as being struck on the head. You can also pass out just from pain. It doesn’t have to be pain and a blow to the head. It’s possible express weakness through physical attributes other than dizziness and unsteadiness. And I don’t really understand why everything was described as being fiery. Good, bad, or ugly, fire always came into the equation somewhere.

I got really disappointed because Oliver started with this beautiful metaphor of hate as a tower. I thought it was so elegant and so apt that I wanted her to lay the foundations and slowly build up the tower until Lena was either totally boxed in or something blew away her hatred. But you know what? The metaphor was discarded somewhere in the story and other, smaller metaphors took its place. Metaphors are a tricky thing to get right, especially if it’s going to be extended to more than one scene. Oliver was on a roll, but then she just decided to hop off and try something else. Unsuccessfully.

You know what this boils down to for me? Under-editing. A reader can always tell. An author may be absolutely brilliant but when they start to get famous editors shy away from making ruthless suggestions for fear of scaring the, now successful, author away. (I love Harry Potter, but seriously, Order of the Phoenix was the editor indulging Rowling. It was an enormous book.) And in my opinion when this happens, the story suffers for it. I get distracted by half-baked images, bad grammar, mixed metaphors, and other literary faux pas that the editor would have most definitely picked up if they were still trying. Another opinion: authors should know better. So what if you’ve started making lots and lots of money and people stop you in the streets to talk about your imaginary friends? Don’t you still want your work to be the best it could possibly be? That’s what editors do for you! Think of editors as the lattice work around which your story can grow and thrive until it sprouts glorious fruit.

I know I’m not a published author but I have had my work edited and having an analytical mind look over your story and make connections you haven’t seen or plot holes you have missed means that you can polish your story even further than you already have. I’m obviously saying this as a reader and a writer combined. You can always tell when a work’s been poorly edited.

Moving on from my gripe and getting back to the story: I like the idea of [MULTIPLE SPOILERS!] Julian and Lena but I don’t agree with the time frame in which it happens. Yes, teenage love is fleeting, I said so in my Delirium review. But Alex died. Lena and Alex didn’t break up. They tried to escape and Lena survived. Alex didn’t. He was Lena’s first love. I think it would take a lot longer than six months for Lena to get over Alex. I love the flashes of Lena seeing Alex in her peripheral vision, as though he’s still watching over her, and the idea of her asking his forgiveness for kissing Julian, but the love story between Lena and Julian feels forced to me. As though Oliver were twisting the characters to suit her own purposes. And that should never ever happen.

I do love the symmetry created by comparing Raven to the “Zombies”. I thought that was a nice touch; both sides using the same means to achieve different ends. I also loved the connection between Blue and Raven. Complex, three-dimensional characters are the best. Also, the idea of people who are just different being forced into hiding, not just those infected with “deliria”, also gave depth to the world that Oliver created.
But these gems were buried under pages and pages of story that needed a firm editor to trim away the dead branches so that the novel could achieve greatness.

Of course I will read Requiem. I have a desperate need to know how series end. That’s why I read Rapture by Lauren Kate even though both Luce and Daniel had started to annoy me by the second book. But I am honestly not holding out that much hope. I really hope that Oliver let an editor go to town on her next novel.

Pandemonium gets:

★ ★★

Please, Oliver, pick up your game. I really like this world you’ve created! Don’t let it (or me) down!

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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