Late as always, but not by months this time. It’s a review! Enjoy everyone.
Some years ago humanity began settling a new planet so that they could leave the polluted shell that was Earth and once again feel the sun on their skin and breath without respirators. They terraformed their new home, built cities, and started shipping in colonists and animals. The planet is a perfect place for humanity to start again, or would be if not for one minor issue. The planet’s natives, the Indigenes, aren’t happy with their aggressive new neighbors and want their home back from the beings that drove them under ground. Not all is what it seems and, between an alien world and an inhospitable Earth, it can be impossible to know who to trust.
Eliza Greene’s Becoming Human is the kind of book that I really wanted to like. It had enough elements that I usually love that I should have liked it. Unfortunately, it also feels very much like a first attempt at writing and had a lot of pitfalls that go with that. I’m imagining that she will improve as she continues writing.
Becoming Human’s biggest issue, to my mind at least, is that it spends the first half of the book introducing characters but giving the reader no time or reason to care about them. Most of the characters who are given point of view chapters could have been safely omitted from the novel to focus more on Bill, Stephan, and a couple of others who were directly important to the plot. The flip side to the lack of character development winds up being one of the villains, Bill’s boss, she gets a couple of chapters of focus and they don’t do anything to make her a more engaging character or a better villain. I’m certain that I, as the reader, am not meant to like her. But rather than not liking her because she’s doing terrible things, I don’t like her because it keeps being drilled into my head that she doesn’t like other women and that she has to have things done “the Japanese way”. It’s acknowledged in text that Japan was where she was trained, but that’s pretty easy to forget and the focus on doing things “the Japanese way” feels less like she’s an exacting highly organized villain, and more like the author didn’t really have characterization set for her.
So that’s my biggest issue, the other big one I can think of is the ending. The author spent the first half of the book or so introducing characters and not really going anywhere with the plot. When the plot finally shows up it’s jumbled and feels rushed and then, just as the heroes are actually going to do something, the book ends. It’s a painful set up for the next book given that the reader doesn’t actually get much story in this book, just a lot of characters that don’t go anywhere and build up. This one actually bothers me more than the characters not being well done, but it winds up being a smaller issue as a whole because not being invested in the characters leaves me not invested in the series.
So, with those as my big issues for the book, what works? I did enjoy the idea of the Indigenes and the initial deal with Stephen sneaking around trying to figure out how humans work. There were a number of ideas on the Earth side of things that, while fairly stock at this point, could have been pretty awesome with a little more work. This being stuff like going more into how Earth wound up with a single government for the whole planet, how people dealt with the air being poisonous if you didn’t wear a mask, or even what was done to prevent near endless worker casualties with the combination of ridiculous work weeks and stimulant pills.
How, then, does it rate? Being Human has a lot of minor issues and two really major ones and, unfortunately, the parts it does well don’t do well enough to make up for those. It felt very much like a first book and could have done with a bit more polish before being released. That said with work from this point I think Eliza Green could become a solid author. So at the end of the day, it earns a two out of five.