on February 15, 2015
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Science Fiction
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Sometimes the strings that tie us down are the same strings that set us free.
Sixteen-year-old Pia has always lived in a mysterious facility where mechanical strings control her existence. She plays apprentice to her father, Gio, in performing nanotech designs for the Company, and she soon suspects there are diabolical human forces behind the manufactured reality of her world.
Though her childhood memories and the origins of the strings remain strangely elusive, she begins to find solace with the introduction of two unlikely friends: daring, irrational Sofia, and calm, tender Marco.
As the truths of the past and present unravel together, Pia must find a way to free herself from her strings and escape the facility before facing the wrath of the unstable head of security, Mr. Davis. But to gain her freedom, she must navigate the dangers posed by Davis and by her suspicious new friends to find the real identity of the puppeteer.
If Pia can succeed in revealing the secrets of the Company, she may very well find the independence she so desperately seeks. But in her controlled world nothing is as it seems, and the closer she gets to the truth, the graver the consequences.
Today I’m pleased to host Strings by David Estes on Happy Indulgence! As you may know, David Estes is one of my favourite indie authors, having absolutely loved Moon Dwellers (Review), Brew (Review) and Fire Country (Review). Strings is a dark Pinocchio retelling in a science fiction setting.
You know how fairy tales are usually magical, romantic and fluffy? Throw all that away when going into Strings, for it’s a surprisingly dark, edgy retelling loosely based on Pinocchio.
The premise is about Pia and her father, who are confined by thick, black mechanical strings which constrict their movement at times. Everyday, they work on manufacturing intricate technology for a nameless Company. It’s evident that Pia’s experiencing some post traumatic stress disorder, as she’s plagued by disturbing nightmares about her childhood. There’s an air of mystery surrounding Pia’s strings, why she has them and the small liberties that she’s allowed each day.
I liked Pia’s strength and personality, and how she would constantly battle against her oppressors and the strings. Given the circumstances, she never just sits down and obediently takes what she’s given, but instead, she constantly strives for a better life. With her brave and inquisitive nature, each day she questions her father’s devotion to the Company, her newly found friend Sophia, her strange dreams and the handsome and brooding Marco. This story is about how Pia puts two and two together, and discovers the truth behind the Company and her circumstances. And it’s one I would have never imagined, with heaps of unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Our strings tie us down, restrict us, force us to live a life we never wanted, a life we think we have to live, one we never chose for ourselves. But all strings, whether invisible or as clear as the tumbling spill of a waterfall, can be cut.
Pia will form tentative friendships with Marco, the handsome disabled boy in a wheelchair who we know works for the Company. But you won’t really find out in what capacity, and why he seems to be good based on Pia’s reactions. She’ll also form a welcome female friendship with the friendly and eager Sophia, who quickly welcomes Pia into her beautiful garden. But even some of her behaviour is slightly off. Even Pia’s relationship with her father is tentative, even though you know everything he does is out of love, even he can be questioned for his secrets and lies. All of this causes for a pretty unsettling atmosphere, so I gladly welcomed Pia’s relationship with Fig, her helpful and loyal robot (who is Jiminy Cricket).
The atmosphere in the book is haunting and mysterious. You’re given small hints as to what’s happening, and only later in the book it’s revealed. As Pia would constantly ask questions, struggle against her strings and question everyone, I got a bit frustrated as became repetitive after a certain point. Things would constantly happen, and you wouldn’t really know the significance of them until the end of the story. The pacing felt a bit off, as there were times where I thought the story would have peaked, but realised it wasn’t anywhere near the end.
The truth is, my mind is shattered. Every time I feel like I might be getting a handle on the world I live in, another piece breaks off, rusty and distorted. My past, my present, and what little I can see of my future have become a junkyard of half-thoughts and impossible solutions.
Although I know the world building was kept constricted to the Company for a reason, I wish we knew more about the world in which it operated. But without giving too much away, I found it to be too convenient, explaining away things with the use of advanced technology. The darker setting in Strings was also unsettling, with its themes of trauma, mental illness and childhood abuse. Strings is definitely not a happy book, and you have to be in a certain frame of mind to pick this one up.
I also found the ending of Strings to be unsatisfying, especially given all the build up towards the end of the book. As much as it was shocking and unsettling, I wanted more of a conclusion, especially given as this is a standalone story.
Strings is an experiential, haunting and dark retelling of a girl constricted by strings. It’s a disturbing, unsettling and unique and creative thriller with a great focus on family and individual strength. While the mystery shrouded around the plot frustrated with me at times, I admired the unique plot and big reveal of the secrets behind the company. Strings is for the patient reader, who can withstand these small frustrations and know that you’ll be rewarded for your patience in the end.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rysa Walker, bestselling author of TIMEBOUND
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