I recently got my paws on an advance copy of The Arrivals by Melissa Marr, so I thought I would post a review. The basic premise is that people from different times in history get transported to a new world where deaths are usually a temporary thing. The story follows a small resistance group fighting the power of a man who is steadily gains control over this new world as well as the “arrivals” from other times. I know this blog focuses on “myth meets modern”, but this was more of a modern (along with western, gangster, and all the other genres that the resistance band represented) gets thrown into myth. Its not a genre I normally read, but I found the touches from different timeperiods interesting, particularly when it came to the explanation of the villain’s motives.
I have not read any of Melissa Marr’s work before, and I initially felt the writing style of The Arrivals a bit jarring. The blurb about the books seems a little misleading to me. It starts with Chloe, a woman from modern times. In the book, however, we don’t actually meet Chloe until chapter five. This may have contributed to the initial difficulties I had settling into the book because I was expecting the focal character of the novel to be Chloe. It’s not.
It took a chapter or two for me to settle into the voice and genre of the book. Once I did, I found the characters and world pretty enjoyable. The attitude towards death was very interesting among people that could, but usually didn’t, stay dead. I particularly loved how this attitude shaped the thoughts, actions, and feelings of the characters throughout the book. I enjoyed seeing the different ways that the setting influenced the characters based on the different historical periods they came from, as well as how their individual histories also shaped their actions.
There are some times that the author’s writing style drew attention to itself. I would laugh at a particular comparison and appreciate the unique expressions. There were a couple of lines from the book I had to share with the people who heard me snort, and one that I had to share with other avid reader friends. I have some mixed feelings about this though: On one hand, I know that writers are supposed to strive for creating new and unique descriptions so that their work won’t sound cliche. Some of these descriptions, however, end up so funny or striking that it jolts me out of the book and draws my attention to the author’s craft.
Another aspect of the novel that drew my attention to the writer’s craft in this book was the timing of when two major relationships between characters both came to their climactic point very close to each other, in a way that drew me out of the book again. The timing seemed too convenient and made the climactic action stand out like pointing a hundred neon signs right at it. The funny thing is though that as the story progressed, and it became more clear why this particular timing structure was important to the overall plotline, I ended up mostly forgiving The Arrivals for the convenient timing of the character arguments. Still, I think I might like the flow better if one of the relationships had its climax a scene or two earlier in the novel.
The point at which different characters make their peace with being stuck in this weird world (along with the characters that never strike such a peace) was also interesting. It gets harder to talk about this without giving too much away, but I loved the journey that one character in particular makes towards finding her place in the new world. There are some of the side characters that I wanted to see more about in terms of their journeys and how they felt about the setting, but I also felt that the author revealed as much about those characters as was necessary. I view it as a mark of good world & character building if I do have some questions left at the end of the novel that keep me wondering, or hoping that the author will write short stories to fill in the gaps, much like Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have written so many short stories and even complete novels that detail events that barely get mentioned in their Liaden novels.
I was disappointed in just how much assistance the main characters received from one of the natives of the world, however. I started to feel like there was a bit of deus ex machina when too many issues were resolved entirely due to the aid of the native. There were two aspects of the story where I wanted the characters to have to do more to complete the storyline than picking up a package from an ally. I wanted to have them discover a mystery or learn something about the world that was crucial for resolving those dilemmas.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and am glad I read it. I have some conflict over the ending to The Arrivals. Although I liked how many of the questions regarding the setting were resolved at the end, I feel that one of the answers also opened up a gigantic plothole too. I enjoyed the world, and feel like it avoided any
Flying Snowmen effects where an aspect of the world stands out as being ridiculous even after buying into the basic premise of the story. The plothole is more of a logistical issue. I am hoping that this is something that may get changed before the final printing.