December 14th, 2014
Niko by Kayti Nika Raet
I'd recently finished this book after a long stint of not finishing any books. Niko follows the exploits of "Niko" , the titular heroine. "Niko's" universe is a dystopian one, in which the world's conditions have become extremely harsh, and the world also has a dangerous threat known as a "Slither." Slithers are humanoid cannibalistic creatures, and only people of a certain grade can kill them.
I liked Niko. I definitely think it has a lot of potential. There were some things that I thought would've made it a stronger book, but I did enjoy the outcome.
What I liked:
I did like the world building. I think most dystopian books make clear depictions of the conditions and how they differ from how many of us live today. In "Niko's" universe, it rained acid, which was sometimes worse than being killed by a Slither. Much, much slower....
It made food and water that much scarcer, and often made me believe there was very little hope for the "Outsiders", or those who didn't live in a big city. Which was nearly everyone.
I did really like Niko. I thought she was a cool heroine, who didn't need to seek anyone else's validation, could take care of herself, and had an unyielding determination to find her lost younger brother. But I did think she was my favorite character until Norm and Lo were introduced.
Maybe I just don't think f/f relationships are depicted enough in fiction, especially speculative fiction. But the minute they were introduced, Niko kinda got demoted XD
Niko did give some awesome copy that made her a Han Solo for real XD But aint nothing like a powerhouse lesbian couple to shake shit up.
There was plenty of conflict. Perhaps too much conflict for just 200 pages though. Sometimes I think conflict was thrown in just to add action, perhaps even when it wasn't always necessary. But I'd rather discuss that later.
Not every dystopian book has given me this much diversity in one book. It was unique for that, but I'll bring that up later when I talk up the diversity.
I think the stronger element of the editing side of the book was the formatting. It was formatted well enough not to take a point away for that.
The book's strongest element is the diversity. I will most likely offend someone for this, but it was nice to see a book where people of color received more copy, and lines than the white characters. I can only think of two white characters in a sea of characters of color, and to be honest, this is where most dystopian books fail.
How are we supposed to believe only white people survive the apocalypse? Statistically, Blacks, Latinos and South East Asian folk tend to be more likely to suffer from poverty. Yes many overcome these setbacks, but if the world went to shit, I'd say we'd be the most likely to survive.
I can't speak for all people of color, but my childhood under poverty levels taught me how to survive with very little. While I've managed to live above the poverty line since becoming an adult, I know damn well I'd more prepared than my middle class uppity white boyfriend.
Race was never mentioned, but there were a few characters of South East Asian descent(because their names? Clearly Vietnamese.) several East Asian characters, I think a character of South Asian descent(To be honest I though the character was Black, until I saw the author's fan cast) and four Black characters. All main characters!
And because my two boos were lesbians?
People of color-Check
A character introduced later is partially blind, with the possibility of a character with a limp. I'd say yea, that got me.
There was so much that wasn't left out, that many dystopian books neglect. Guess what? We do make it to the end of the world!
I think the title and cover suit the book, but one thing about the cover I didn't connect with. I didn't get the impression that Niko was big breasted or dangerously curvy. Niko wasnt sexualized too much in the book. I just wonder why she was on the cover.
I think the character names were cool. Some names stood out more than others, but Im just like that when it comes to ethnic names. I like them better. When you have to think about their pronunciation , they command something from you, that a common name just can not. But I'd say for the most part they suited the characters well.
Not every character was described in the detail that Duc was. Duc was my favorite boy in the book, and I know ALOT of Vietnamese dudes, just because I really like dancers, who look like him in my head. Ari, I thought was Black, but I think she was meant to be South Asian. Ben I actually thought was white, until I saw a fan cast, so I immediately discarded my initial thought of him.
They were described well enough where I could make up my own mind of them, but maybe I would've liked more.
Things I didn't connect with:
I think the editing could've been stronger. The editing effects more than grammar and misspelled words. Some of the developmental editing could've afforded to be stronger as well.
Many of the conflicts in the book seemed misplaced, or could have went different directions to capture the reader more. Sometimes certain situations told more than showed, so if they were meant to be super climatic, they didn't capture me in the way they were meant to.
I'd rather give an example, though I won't go super nitpick crazy.
Example: A antagonist named Phin was introduced toward the end of the book to create conflict. He was the leader of a gang that exploited people for protection. More time was given telling me he was a dangerous guy, that showing me.
So when he and Niko were forced with a confrontation, it made me think Niko taking care of him was unnecessary.
Mind you, if I'd seen some of his terror, I would've thought that was ok. But just because Niko knows he was dangerous on the outside, doesn't mean the reader will automatically get that vibe just by being told.
Some of the backstory on the birth of the world, and the slithers could've taken a paragraph or two more to describe. While I did like the world building, I felt as though several times, the story would unfold itself more, only to be more confused about certain aspects of it.
I didn't think the editing was perfect. If that doesn't bother you, I'd still highly suggest the book. You're not going to get a dystopian book that is this diverse in the traditional publishing world.
I didn't have clear pictures in my mind of everyone, but I did dream cast Niko, Duc, Ben and Lo & Norm!
Samira Wiley was my Niko, and Michael B. Jordan as Ben
I saw Jabawockeez crew member Tony Tran as Duc. Tony has a bunch of face piercings, and Duc was known for twirling his lip ring a lot.
Arden Cho and Brook Soso were my Norm and Lo!