Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Hope City: SunHi Mistwalker

Title: New Hope City
Author: SunHi Mistwalker
Stand Alone or Series?: Sequel to a short story called "The Shelter".
Genre: Dystopian Novel
Publisher: Smashwords
Publish Date: Jan. 24, 2013
Pages:  168 (pdf)
Obtained: Review copy obtained free from Library Thing.
Synopsis Obtained from Life in economically and socially collapsed America has taught 14-year-old Sunni Brown more than a few tough lessons 1) Life sucks,2) People suck too, and 3) You can't trust your own flesh and blood relatives even if your ability to keep breathing, eating and living depends on them. 

Sunni's move to New Hope City, a town known more for its former glory than its current corruption, is supposed to give her a fresh start. But like so many things in Sunni's life, her  fresh start is soiled by those seeking to exploit her. Corrupt cops. Ruthless gangsters. Ambitious youth with dreams of ill-gotten fortunes. They all seek to lift themselves at Sunni's expense.  It's only Sunni's street smarts and a strong distrust of people that keeps her one step ahead.  But not without a cost. Something is brewing inside her -- a bit of hate, a touch of rage and a large dose of righteous indignation. For Sunni, life in New Hope City is filled with injustice that she's powerless to fight. But when she crosses paths with a disillusioned cop, will her growing outrage and his desire to change a rotten city transform her from helpless victim to vigilante outlaw?

This is the full-length novel follow-up to "The Shelter."

This Review contains spoilers.

In the interest of full disclosure I just want to let everyone know that I started to skim the last two or three chapters because I couldn't handle reading too closely anymore. Needless to say I did not end up enjoying this book in the slightest. This is really disappointing to me since I usually have such an easy time getting into (post)apocalyptic settings and the synopsis  sucked me in with a dystopian world struggling with an economic crash on top of a young girl and disillusioned cop teaming up. Recipe for success as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately the story was poorly executed. 

My first major problem with the book is that the author chooses to tell rather than show when it comes to storytelling. The first chapter is essentially a couple of paragraphs blandly talking about the economic collapse, rather than showing the effects and history through setting and characters. Her characters share a similar fate in which we're simply told they have certain characteristics or are feeling a certain way rather than it be portrayed through their actions (which are at times extremely contrary). Characters also change suddenly without any proper development an example being Tony, the 'disillusioned' cop. The author tells us from the get-go that Tony is pretty much the only good cop on the force. However a few scenes later he's faced with finding out that nearly the entire force knew about his daughter being pimped out from under his nose. His response is to repeatedly punch his partner( and apparent best friend of 15 years) in the face repeatedly after he informed Tony. His actions there are forgivable, but by the end of the novel by-the-book Tony out of nowhere actually makes the main character, the one he swore to protect, kill her own puppy in order to show her that lying is bad. What's more the author, and the main character still treat him as if he is worthy of respect and that his actions were completely rational. 

The main character, Sunni, stays static throughout the novel as she is victimized again and again by everyone around her and even invites it on some occasions. She doesn't seem to develop in the slightest in spite of what the synopsis will have you believe.  The author tells us that  Sunni is a girl who trusts no one and yet she is shown easily trusting the very people she shouldn't. Her love interest Jin is a prime example as she openly trusts him even though he hangs out in her pimps circle, he is shown to violently abuse girls, and even threatens and abuses Sunni herself. Now this could be seen as a tragic character flaw if played right, however as with Tony, Jin is written in such a way that it's obvious that the author wants us to sympathize with Jin and see him as a good guy. 

The writing style itself also irritated me, dialogue was repetitive and circular. Tony and Sunni's conversations follow a constant "blah blah" "stop lying" "I'm not lying" "yes you are" pattern that offers little to no growth or progression to the story. The 3rd person omniscient point of view is also quite confusing to read at times since the author tries to convey several characters thoughts and emotions simultaneously:

                "Patricia's expression grows serious. "No...," she says as she reaches into the breast pocket of her fannel shirt and pulls out a single  cigarette, her last one. She lights it and takes a long drag as both Jin and Sunni watch her every movement. "I followed ya'," she says. She rolls up her sleeve and shows them a purple and black bruise on her arm. "Lucky give me that, say if I don't get the info on ya' he'll give me another to match." She puffs her cigarette again as she watches Sunni cringe at the bruise."That's why I followed ya and I figure ya might help me out for not telling what I know."
                "There's nothing to know," Sunni counters her offer. Some days she fears that Lucky or Baine or even the Captain will show up and just drag her off. But even in New Hope that type of brazen lawlessness would be too much for those who pretend it's a civilized place.
                Jin motions for Sunni to remain silent. "Help you out how?" he asks. He resents being blackmailed; but he figures it's worth at least listening to what she has to say."

This style of writing left very little to the imagination and took away most of the suspense the story might have had to offer. Not only that but due to this omniscient, multi-character P.O.V. it made it quite hard for me to keep track of character relationships, and who was feel what when. 

There were also a few gaping plot holes in the story along with questions that were never answered. For one reason or another it is hinted that Sunni is inexplicably valuable or special to the gangsters that are perusing her. Something that seems to make her important enough to stick their necks out for -- but this is never addressed. The gangsters also seemed to have had trouble locating Sunni in spite of the fact that everyone knew she was staying with Toni, and snatching her would've been quite easy to accomplish seeing as she was left in his trailer alone, quite often. This situation is made even more unbelievable by the fact that Sunni also starts attending the same school some of the gangsters (including the one that pimped her out) attend.  Those same gangsters eventually barged into Sunni's classroom and was harassed and openly threatened by them WHILE THE TEACHER CHOSE TO KEEP TEACHING THE CLASS. The teacher failed to acknowledge anything was going on even when they forced her from the classroom. It is these kinds of situations that I found completely jarring and eye-roll inducing for the entirety of the novel.

In short, this novel has a myriad of issues and at some points failed to make any sort of sense at all! Reading this book was very much like watching a horrific train wreck. As I said before I started to skim during the last two or three chapters because I could not handle anymore. I do know for a fact however that in the end -- nothing gets resolved and there isn't any satisfying character development from any of the characters either. Sunni ends the novel in the same position she started in except with more dead bodies. 

Rating: 1/10

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