Between the Lanterns by J.M. Bush
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'd rate this more of a 3.5 (but you know, rounding) mostly because it gets pretty slow going in the middle.
Between the Lanterns is a Southern love story set in a futuristic, heartless, soulless New Dothan. As in really heartless and really soulless, where everyone is all teched out and thinking only of themselves. Yet in the midst of these near-robots, Samantha - a cook who wants people to eat Real Food instead of Nutricator slop - meets August - a tinkerer who longs for the good old days where people sat down and talked and were kind to each other - between the lanterns on West Main Street.
The soullessness of the society grates on you after a while, and you're left wondering if people are really capable of being that heartless. (Maybe they are, but probably not in the quantities you meet in this book). The warm, kindly, openness of Sam and August rubs off on you too, and you start to wonder how these two got to be who they are because it hardly seems like there are any good role models for them to follow after.
The middle of the book (somewhere around the 1-hour mark) gets a little draggy. Things happen and things happen and more things happen. It doesn't look like the book is heading anywhere fast. Then Bush gets a little sneaky by throwing in a medical diagnosis and NOT TELLING YOU WHO IT RELATES TO. Aha! Something is about to happen! And the story picks up again from there as he keeps you guessing for pages until the denouement. (And then it's heart-wrenching, of course.)
In the midst of all that, Between the Lanterns plays briefly with the themes of ascension and explores the concept of the soul. Is our consciousness equal to our soul? Is there a heaven? What happens if we finally manage to upload our consciousness into tech? Do we get to live forever?
I liked the second half of the book more than the first. The tension is heightened, and it also feels more thoughtful as the Luries figure out a balance between Sam's severe dislike of tech and August's constant tinkering with it. The first half, especially the second quarter, is very much a setting up phase--an explanation of all the things that need to happen to bring them to the right emotional mood for the rest of the events that follow. (Or maybe I don't tend to like Southern stories all that much, and there was not enough other stuff to distract me from it.)
All in all, Between the Lanterns is worth pushing through, mostly because I liked the ending.
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