Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: The Lens and the Looker

"There's hope for the future, but what about the past?
It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.
In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.
These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history."

  • Publisher: Fiction Studio
  • Date of release: March 16, 2011
  • Page count: 336
  • Format: Paperback
  • Unique elements: Book divided into three different mini-books, each one starts over at Chapter 1
Favorite Quotes:
"'Well, for a mouth breather like Ugilino, his sights can't be set too high,' Hansum snorted. 'This daughter must be a real dog too.'"

"'Oh, a thousand apologies, magnificent spawn of nobody-knows-who. The pot at this time does not have noble merda in it, only that of a peasant.' 'Whose?' Lincoln asked, his eyes burning. 'Me. It is mine from last night and this morning. Oh, it was a magnificent evacuation.'"

"'Father Aaron once told me that life is a dance. A dance where we live with one foot in Heaven and one foot in Hell. We dance back and forth between the two and are given a choice. Life is learning always to always dance back into Heaven.'"

The first in The Verona Trilogy, The Lens and the Looker was different than anything I've read. It seems a little more geared for middle readers, even though Hansum is 17. Still, I did enjoy it. I like the concept of History Camps-- the method the future society uses to reform unruly young people. At the History Camp based on old Verona, as Hansum, Lincoln, and Shamira discover, it is meant to seem like you are living back in the past when such luxuries as Aritifical Intelligence personal robots don't guide your every move. Hansum already knows how fake the camps are, and the kids hash out a plot to disrupt the play acting adults, so much so that they lose their accents in frustration. Everything changes when a man they think is another History Camp enactor, Arimus, comes on the scene and takes the three kids back to the real Verona back in 1347.  

I thought some of the descriptions of future life were interesting. It would be pretty cool to have a little brass lamp with a tiny mischevious genie inside that was all-knowing and appears as a holographic image. This book is divided into three books, and I couldn't fully immerse myself into the text until Book 2, which was page 87. When Arimus shows up and only speaks in rhyme, I could appreciate the hard work that author Lory Kaufman put into making the prose flow perfectly. I couldn't quite understand all the tecnical descriptions of the lens making machine, but Kaufman also did his research on the machinery and architecture of the time. There's even a moment when Ugilino (love that name, especially since he's ugly!) bites his thumb as an insult, which is true to the times! 

When the kids landed in the past and I didn't know what would happen next, that's when the story became intriguing. In the hopes that the History Camp elders will bring them back, they begin to tamper with history by introducing technology that has yet to be developed. Will changing time history erase them from existence?

At times, mostly in Book 1, I felt there was too much telling and not enough showing, or imagery, going on. I also thought that some of the chapters just ended; there was no true hook to make me keep reading. It was a nice touch that there were little hour glasses to separate sections within the chapter to go along with the time traveling theme. 

However, I did like the 3rd person limited narrative because I could experience different characters' thoughts. The fact that the reader doesn't get into the head of all the characters leaves a bit of mystery. The romance between Hansum and Guilietta developed at a nice pace. It's great to see the class divisions-- that Hansum, as an "orphan" lens maker's apprentice, would not be an ideal match for the daughter of a lens maker. Then there's the creepy Prince Feltrino who only has eyes for Guilietta, and mostly so he can treat her as a conquest. Hansum is not permitted to stand up for her with Feltrino because of his status. He's always held back by some adult, including a monk at one point. Starcrossed lovers are always an interesting element in any story. Lincoln's sense of humor and quirky jokes, even his future slang word "zippy," brought life to the story.

I came to enjoy the plot twists, especially the huge one at the end of Book 2. I actually remember gasping out loud! I'm looking forward to checking out Kaufman's second book, The Bronze and the Brimstone, because of the cliffhanger at the end of The Lens and the Looker.

1 comment:

aLmYbNeNr said...

I had much the same experience you did when reading this, but I'm glad I gave it the chance. It surprised me. The second book is even better!