Book Title: The Forever Watch
Author: David Ramirez
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Date Published: April 22nd, 2014
Date Read: May 1st, 2014
Format: Hardcover, borrowed from work
Cover Love: Mehhhh…it doesn’t stand out a whole lot from the other Sci-Fi/Fantasy books out there. They’re all futuristic landscapes and jewel tones. Or dragons and pastels. Or a combination of the two. The picture of that city is beautiful, and does give a nice glimpse into how Ramirez pictures cities on the ship – The Noah. But the book flap made me want to read this book. Not the cover.
“All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new planet aboard one ship, The Noah, which is also carrying a dangerous serial killer…
As a City Planner on the Noah, Hana Dempsey is a gifted psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat and is considered “mission critical.” She is non-replaceable, important, essential, but after serving her mandatory Breeding Duty, the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, her life loses purpose as she privately mourns the child she will never be permitted to know.
When Policeman Leonard Barrens enlists her and her hacking skills in the unofficial investigation of his mentor’s violent death, Dempsey finds herself increasingly captivated by both the case and Barrens himself. According to Information Security, the missing man has simply “Retired,” nothing unusual. Together they follow the trail left by the mutilated remains. Their investigation takes them through lost dataspaces and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a serial killer after all.
What they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity in this thrilling page turner.”
What I’d Add: There’s a lot of Government Grubbing also – complaining about abuse of power, wondering if ignorance truly is bliss, etc. It’s a tired sci-fi/dystopian theme, but Ramirez does it creative justice (more on that in a bit). Hana also develops a lot of time and attention to a piece of technology she creates and grows to help her investigate the murders. Her “Monster” (which develops many names throughout the narrative) is a key part of the story.
And the search for this serial killer is just the tip of the iceberg that is The Noah and it’s mission (oooh, ominous!)
It’s Sorta Like: Errmmmm…probably a bunch of stuff I haven’t read yet. Invention and technology-nerdiness plus anti-government grumblings plus police investigation. And dystopian worldbuilding.
My Grade: B+
The Forever Watch tears me in two a little. It has some nagging flaws. It has big parts that drag on and make it a little difficult to keep engaged. Its characters are hard to get to know, and the dialogue can be glaringly poor at times.
But there are books whose ending completely ruins the narrative. You’re reading along, completely content, enjoying it even, and the ending stops so suddenly you’re flipping pages to see where the rest of the story is, or characters die that you feel are completely unnecessary (the epitome of this for me is My Name is Memory by Ann Brasheres – loved the book, completely hated the ending, which ruined the ENTIRE story for me). For The Forever Watch, the exact opposite is true.
Not in that the whole first part of the book sucked. It was decent. The world of The Noah is set up wonderfully. There isn’t a waffling of will-they won’t-they get together between the main character and her male companion (pretty refreshing after pretty much every. TV. Show. Out. There. I can tell who will get together with who by episode two – WHY drag it out until season 3?!). I loved the idea of buying other people’s memories as entertainment, like you would buy a Netflix subscription or watch a YouTube video. It’s both a creepy concept and yet totally believable as a vice people in the future would develop. The Implant that every citizen gets as a way to hone their Abilities (superior physical prowess, nicknames “Bruisers,” and “Reading,” and “Writing,” Abilities that allow people to read minds and transfer thoughts and feelings to others) is also intriguing, and a nice addition to the complex world aboard the ship.
But holes develop. The dialogue can be patchy. Characters speak in a certain dialect (dropping the n’s off words, for example), and then in a few pages have no distinguishing speech patterns – they suddenly sound like everyone else. A gay character is somewhat stereotypical: makeover and sex-focused. At one point he actually utters the word “Dah-ling.” It made me cringe (not that those people don’t exist. I know some and I think they’re fabulous).
The hardest bit for me was accepting all the technical-nerdery (new word!) that peppered every few pages. Hana is a technology whiz. She specializes in creating computer programs, in hacking and hiding her work from people who would penalize her for it. And she tells the reader her every. Single. Step. All the edits she makes, all the programs she writes and firewalls and synapses she adds…and whatnot. I can’t remember half of the things she does because it flew right over my head. An instance or two of this would have been great. It gives a nice insight into the work she as a heroine/protagonist can do. But it becomes so frequent. Great swathes of the technical speak could have – and should have – been cut. Perhaps they would make sense to a person more technologically savvy than I, but it really bogged down my reading. I read it but absorbed nothing.
Those last hundred pages or so, though. They were spectacular. The way I mark a book as good, great, AMAAAZING, is when I think of it long after I finish it. If I feel deeply for the characters and care about their fate when the narrative ends, the author has done his or her job. And The Forever Watch ratchets up the action, the tension, the stakes for the characters in that homestretch (and by homestretch, I really mean the last third of the novel – it has a nice, strong arc). Everything comes to a head. You switch the side you are rooting for. Multiple times. You sit your butt on that couch and read for hours to see how it will end. And your heart will break on the final page (oh, and there’s literally a twist in the last three pages. And it works!). I am not ashamed to say that I cried at the end of this book. Crying (usually) means something has been done right – you’re feeling something for a written work. I felt something for the characters, for their circumstances, their fate.
I so wish I could give this book an enthusiastic A – put it on my Favorites shelf, loudly promote it to everyone I know. But a great ending does not necessarily a wonderful book make. It does make a great book, which The Forever Watch is, despite it’s knobby flaws. I’m still recommending it – as long as you think you can stick it out, because that ending is worth it.