How does it feel to be a gender and not a person?
Buckle in, ladies and gentleman, we're gonna be here for a while. I have a lot of coming-to-grips to do with this book and you're about to watch me decide whether or not I like it, almost in real-time. Let's do this.
This is a smart book. It's not a good read, but it is smart. Let's face it, if smart books made for good reading, David Foster Wallace would outsell James Patterson... (does that mean Patterson writes good reads? Fuck, stop. Let's reword that...). How about: if smart books were good reads, Don DeLillo would outsell Stephen King. Better. Whew. That was almost a disaster.
The brains of this book come from Owen King. Stephen King (for all my hero worship) does not write smart books. He writes entertaining books. Books you don't have to think too hard about. A lot of people are going to hate this book simply because it's smart. It's gonna go right over their empty heads and they're gonna take a break from fingerbanging their cousins to come on here to rage about how the book is sexist against men and nothing but feminist propaganda and yadda yadda Caveman make poopy in diapey. This book is anything but all of that, but we'll get to that later.
Right out the gate, this book feels like someone doing a middle-tier impersonation of Stephen King. Imagine a Stephen King book written by, say, Joe Hill after Hill's been hit in the head a few dozen times. In other words, it reads like The Fireman. That's the first problem. It's a big story told in a super small way that feels much less epic in scope due to the way it's told. Then again, The Fireman has its fans (who knows why that is), so if you liked that trainwreck, you'll likely enjoying watching this one occur.
Seriously, side by side The Fireman and Sleeping Beautiesare almost the same book. Damn near note for note, which is odd. I've been comparing Hill to King for a while now, so to compare King to Hill feels, I don't know, fucking backwards. Anyway, both books use the same generic flow, which is easy to read but devoid of that special something King fans have come to expect. For that reason, you're going to have lifelong King fans who're super pissed at this book, too. Shit, man, the Mercedes trilogy felt more like King than this did.
The next thing that comes to mind is how King-ish this book is without being anything like a Stephen King book. It has the cast from Under the Dome, a gender-swapped Andre Linoge (for you non-King nuts out there, he's the bad guy from Storm of the Century: An Original Screenplay) named Evie Black, and the most Condensed-Books version of The Stand you will likely ever read. But the writing sounds nothing like Stephen King, and I would hazard a guess that it's because he didn't write a healthy portion of this kitten-squisher. Owen did. You feel King in some sentences, but mostly it's Owen. Why is that? Lemme explain.
King and Owen did an interview wherein King says the idea for the book was Owen's. Owen told Stephen he should write it. Stephen said, nah, you do it. Then they settled on doing it together. It was going to be a television series (which I would've liked much more, I think) but somehow it became, well... it became this thing. And the book reads like a detailed script. For fuck's sake, the novel starts with a cast list. And if you're a King fan you know that none of his books that start with a cast list are any good. That cast list is there because not even the publisher has any faith in you remembering who the fuck is who and why the fuck you should care.
The thing is, like I said above, I've read about these people before. I didn't like them the first time I read about them in Under the Dome and I don't like them now. There's not a likeable person in the whole bunch. Why the fuck should that be?
Oh. I'm not supposed to like anybody because the book is packed full of villains, you say? Wait... what?
What about Frank?
What about Evie?
Villain. Super duh.
What about Clint?
Villain. Less of a duh.
What about Lila?
Villain. She's not obvious at all, is she?
Goddamn it, where's the heroes? A 702-page goddamn book and there's not a single hero? How come, E.!? HOW COME??????!!!?!
Because this book has a message. And fuck me, it's a good one.
Ladies, dig it. How does it feel to not have a choice? How does it feel to have your reproductive organs, your own personal vaginas and uteri and ovaries and wombs and in-utero babies, controlled by men in government? How does it feel to be told what to wear so you don't get raped? Where to go so you don't get raped? Who to talk to so you don't get raped? How does it feel to be treated as if you are constantly in need of protection? How does it feel to be a gender and not a person?
Focus on that last sentence.
How does it feel to be a gender and not a person?
Of course I'm man-splaining here, but fuck it, I'm going all in. This is what this book is about:
Women stripped of choice finally given a choice. Do they deal with the swinging-dick version of this world, or start over? Evie Black plans to give them that choice. But, in the end, even she tries to decide for them. Elaine tries to decide for them. Frank does... Clint does... Yes, even Lila does. Everyone thinks they know what's best for the female gender, but not one of them stops to think about what each individual personneeds.
And THAT is what makes this book smart. Doesn't make this novel a good read, but it's smart as fuck. And that's all I have to say about that.
In summation: A gargantuan story told in a bubble. Not a fan of the delivery or the writing or the characters, but I loved the message. Awesome themes aside, I'd wait to find a thrift-store paperback version. Simply "okay".
Final Judgment: The brains get in the way of the story.