Book Review: Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen

So I happend upon Suzanne by distant association. I work for the small publisher that released her cyberpunk thriller Dragon’s Teeth. I didn’t work with her personally, only knew that her writing was amazing, according to the editor that worked with her, and I filed that lovely knowledge away in storage. Later I happened across her on Twitter and recognized her name, and we got to talking. I agreed to read her book and review it, so on with the show!

The Details

YA LGBT, science fiction of the Philip K. Dick meets YA – AKA mind-bending stuff that really makes you question your perception of reality, but in a YA styled package, which is definitely unique, and not in the bad way.

Plot

Kyle Wolfe is living in multiple realities, and it’s killing him slowly, or not so slowly. Obscura, a blue planet that just appeared out of nowhere in the sky, is messing with all sorts of things as it aligns with Earth, and may bring about the end of the freaking world.

In one reality, Kyle’s boyfriend Danny is still alive. In another, his best friend Shira, and he’s sleeping with her. There was a fire, on the same day Obscura appeared in the sky, that killed Danny or Shira, and now Kyle has to figure out how to fix it all, how to untangle reality and save everything from falling to pieces. But nothing is that simple, and nothing is what it seems.

What I liked

  • THE ENDING. Oh my gosh, I can’t give any hints, but let’s just say I sat there, blinking, utterly impressed.
  • The writing style itself. As a writer whose style doesn’t seem to quite fit into the standard box, it’s nice to see that unique styles that cross two seeming opposite genres together — in an amazing way — can and does work out sometimes.
  • Kyle. He was a whiny teenager, yes, but the shit he’s going through actually warrants the level of whining. He’s not Bella, going to go cry in a corner because my boyfriend broke up with me, type of teen, which is very refreshing, as I honestly haven’t read much YA lately.
  • This was my first LGBT book, and I felt it carried those themes and issues across in a mature, honest way that didn’t bullshit the issues, what gays and bisexuals and anyone not straight, basically, have to go through, especially as teenagers. All while not truly focusing on it. It’s a subplot — a major one, sure — and only one part of the whole. Basically the story doesn’t beat you over the head with a message, and I do so love that.
  • The writing. I feel it deserves two bullet points. Because, again, it reads like YA but has a great amount of depth at the same time. I know that’s not an easy thing to pull off, so I applaud Suzanne for that.

What I didn’t like

  • The formatting was a little hard to follow, but that might go with the Philip K. Dick meets YA style. Also I read this as an ebook and I have to be honest, and this will be a first for me, I probably would’ve had an easier time reading it as a print book, mostly because of how the paragraph and chapter breaks are in print verses ebook. That being said, the actual number of typos and formatting gaps itself were next to none, and it might not be an issue for everyone.
  • The ending. I know this seems counterintuitive, but bear with me. It has a bit of an open-ended, well, ending. There’s a resolution, but also a (purposefully) unanswered questionInception did this, and I have to admit it really made me go OH COME ON. I still love Inception, but that ending still frustrates me, for all that I love it’s ambiguity (freaking Christopher Nolan). If you don’t like endings that have a resolution but also leave this huge question out there as well, I caution you on this book. That being said, you should still freaking read it because the ending was still jaw-dropping and worthwhile. Is this still a negative point? I don’t know. Let’s just call it a gray point and leave it at that.
  • There’s a play on words in the story that absolutely frustrated me. It was sneaky and cool once I realized what was going on, but seriously, I kept thinking it was a typo half the time. Again, not the author’s fault, but more so my own lack of understanding and, er, slight Grammar Nazi persuasion.

Final Verdict: 4/5 stars

I really should get a star image and use it on my reviews, huh?

Anyway, if you like science fiction and young adult, I really recommend this. It’s a great mind-bender.

About Suzanne

This is a new little section I’m adding to my reviews. I’ve seen them on a lot of other blogs and I realized it would be nice to get a little blurb about the authors, too.

Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Suzanne is a freelance writer and author from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Suzanne is the author of the cyberpunk novel Dragon’s Teeth (Divertir), the YA science fiction novel Obscura Burning (Etopia) and has had several short stories published by Golden Visions Magazine, Space and Time and Niteblade. Her non-fiction articles on travel, music and other topics can be found scattered throughout the Internet. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance to ninth graders or playing in the snow with her shiba inu.

Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

Suzanne is also a publicist for Entranced Publishing.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen

  1. kewl! I don’t read much YA (but I like scifi) and your review made me get vaguely interested in the book! However, now the ending is slightly spoiled just from you emphasizing it ahhaha. That’s what you get from reading any reviews!

    • I also often like a gray vague ending, if it’s adequately showing you the lack of resolution to life’s questions and pushing the general feeling of a movie/book to an extreme…

      • Yeah, see, I love and hate them at the same time. Sometimes I like resolution in an ending (except for in my own writing, apparently — lol), but then sometimes when an open, gray ending happens I love it, too. It’s just so mood-based for me. Overall though I still like them, but I felt that needed to be put in the downsides section because some people hate that kind of ending with a passion, you know?

    • The ending isn’t ruined, actually, I can promise you that. The actual twists and stuff are more than the open ended question, and that’s what makes the ending so memorable. :)

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