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Bibliophilic Monologues

All Men of Genius

All Men of Genius - Lev A.C. Rosen I am not in the habit of mincing my words so I’m going to come right out and say it. Reading this was a painful experience. Not an impossible feat (like Shatter Me was but that’s another story) but very, very painful. But I persevered and completed it just so I can review it with a clean conscience.I was sold on the book the moment I read the synopsis. I found the title to be particularly witty (All Men of Genius, only it’s a woman’s genius we are going to be seeing, get it?) and I thought that the title reflected the content of the novel. So after lusting after the book for a week, I decided that eating was overrated and bought it. I needed to have it, okay? None of my libraries have it and none of them are considering getting it so…I had no choice. I’m telling you this so my review is framed in a way that will let you understand why I was so colossally disappointed.I didn’t read this book expecting the worst. In fact, I began this book with a fervent hope that it would be insanely awesome.Unfortunately, no one was listening to my prayers. The biggest obstacle I faced in my enjoyment to this novel was the writing. None of the characters are ever allowed to develop. The author either thinks readers are too dimwitted or he doesn’t trust our ability to decipher the subtext, that is, what’s happening between the lines. One of the greatest reasons I love reading is because while a good author builds the foundation for his/her story, the details are left for the reader to decode, interpret. You are allowed to draw what conclusions you will because that is what reading is. A personal affair. We are not given the chance to do so in All Men of Genius. The author insists on spelling out how each character feels, what his thoughts (and hence feelings may mean), his motivations, his dreams,every single thing. It’s like whatever free voice there may have been in the characters is choked off by the narrator’s (interfering and jarring) voice taking over. There is no subtlety and there is no flow to the narrative. And it pissed me off.So, the writing was bad enough but couple that with flat, one dimensional characters (who aren’t able to be more because, well, the writing refuses to let them). They are not fleshed out, they are not interesting and they read more like representations of stock characters than original characters. Is this because this is a conflation of two different classic novels? I have no idea. I just know that any time an author uses “everyone laughs” or any other generalizing sentence, he/she kills whatever individuality that may have been present in the novel. If you want your characters to sound and act like real people, do not, seriously just don’t, lump them all together when narrating their reactions. Not all people will laugh and even if they do, you don’t need to say it because you risk your narrative sounding campy.Moving on from the characters, let’s talk about the plot. Which is predictable and lacking twists. So this is a steampunk novel and I realize that you can’t be minutely versed in all aspects of mechanical engineering but if you are going to write about a genius, you should at least pretend in a sincere enough manner that your genius evinces her intelligence persuasively. The fact that she can make such complicated machines in so little time is not just improbable but also ridiculous and takes away from the believability of the novel. And the housekeeper becoming proficient at all things mechanical? Is it really that easy? It felt that the author did not do as much research on his topic as he needed to and usually, I don’t notice such things but when your subject requires a lot of jargon, or at least description of mechanical parts etc, you can’t help but notice the lack of it.The romance. Oh. My. God. I think I mentioned that this book has the year’s worst love interest ever. Violet is, I believe, around fifteen years old. The love interest is no other than the “headmaster” of the school she is attending in disguise. He is also around thirty years old though he behaves like he is a hundred. A bare handful of meetings and Violet is falling in love. And oh dude, it is SO interesting that the narrative voice chimes in that “Violet doesn’t want to be in the company of other students because she doesn’t to feel attraction to them” or something to that effect. Or, on another occasion, insinuates that she can control whom she is attracted to because of course, with a college full of handsome men more her age, she is going to fall for the headmaster who is about as appealing as a turnip.I was also, deeply, uncomfortable with the ease with which the casual killing of animals was related. They feel "sorry" about it but it’s for science so it’s okay. Um, no, it’s not. It felt vicious, callous and whatever little regard I had for the story, died along with the animals.In conclusion, in case you haven’t figured it out by now and I need to spell it out (like the book does), I wouldn’t recommend this novel to you. I really wouldn’t. If you want to read steampunk, read The Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott. Vastly superior in all ways that matter.