Tag Archives: friendship

Review: The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Where did I get this book? My local library!

Where did I get this book? My local library!

This engaging novel, written by two best friends, explores the consequences that arise when a jilted bride has the chance to rewrite her own history–on social media.

After her fiance Max breaks the news at the rehearsal dinner that he can’t go through with their wedding, Kate is crushed. She doesn’t know how she can possibly explain what’s happened to all the people posting congratulatory messages on her Facebook feed, especially when she doesn’t understand what’s happened herself.

When Kate posts a status update wishing she could go back and do the past month over, she gets an unexpected second chance at saving her relationship with Max. It’s not surprising that her efforts have unintended consequences, but the story has enough twists and turns to keep it fresh and interesting. The book’s real strength lies in its depiction of strong and lasting friendship, as Kate’s friends Jules and Liam do their best to support her even after she throws them for a loop with her crazy tales of time travel.

In the end, The Status of All Things serves as a good reminder that the lives we see on Facebook are rarely as effortless and perfect as they appear.

Genre: Female friendship fiction with a time travel twist.

Read it if: You love the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding, the collected works of Jennifer Weiner, and/or Landline by Rainbow Rowell; you spend too much time looking at your friends’ perfect lives on Facebook; you have always dreamed of a do-over button.

Skip it if: You have difficulty suspending disbelief when confronted with Freaky Friday style plot devices; you really can’t stand Facebook; you are squeamish about occasional use of profanity and very mildly naughty bachelorette parties.

Movie-worthy: This definitely has potential–its success would depend entirely on casting.

Best enjoyed with: A mocha from Starbucks or shots of Pappy van Winkle.

Review: The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson

Where did I get this book? The library.

Where did I get this book? The library.

Imagine the chance to find a group of like-minded people who welcome you with open arms, people who just get you, who understand what you mean before you even say it. In The Affinities, author Robert Charles Wilson conjures a future in which taking a series of tests offered by the company Inter Alia can open up a whole new world of social harmony. Adam Fisk, unhappy with his unsatisfactory friendships and dysfunctional family, makes the decision to give the testing service a try, with remarkable results.

Adam discovers a social network that offers support and comfort unlike anything he’s experienced before. Others in his affinity group, the Taus, offer him a place to live after his family cuts him off financially, and hire him when he needs a job. He develops a fierce and lasting loyalty to the Taus and works to defend his group against the machinations of their increasingly powerful nemesis, the Hets.

Not everyone who takes the Inter Alia tests is so lucky. Only about 65% of those who try the service are actually assigned to one of the 22 affinity groups named (somewhat randomly) after the letters of the Phoenician alphabet. As the affinities take on greater importance in society, opposition to them also grows. Meanwhile, those who belong to an affinity group increasingly cut themselves off from outsiders, even finding it difficult to communicate with them on the most basic level. Adam loves his fellow Taus, but he never loses his empathy for those outside his group, and this eventually leads to conflict.

I love science fiction that focuses on society and The Affinities is an excellent example of the genre, taking a current societal trend to its potential extreme. People increasingly tend to seek out the company and opinions of others who share their views and outlook on life, but what are the potential consequences of this preference for similarity? What happens when you exclude from your social circle anyone whose perspective differs from your own?

The author resists the temptation to spell out all the specific characteristics that make you a Tau, a Het, or one of the other affinity groups, and in fact doesn’t even describe most of them. That means no chance to guess which affinity you belong to, no sorting yourself into Candor or Abnegation. While the technology to assign people to affinity groups doesn’t yet exist, we’re already sorting ourselves on Facebook, Fox News and Farmers Only.com. Would we jump at the chance to make it scientific? I’m guessing we probably would.

Genre: Social science fiction.

Read it if: You are intrigued by fiction that explores ongoing social trends; you dream of finding people who truly understand you, preferably with the help of an algorithm; you enjoy books like The Circle by Dave Eggers and The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.

Skip it if: You are looking for the next Divergent; you prefer your science fiction more hard than not; you categorically refuse to read books set largely in Canada.

Movie-worthy: Sure, why not.