Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Poll: DNF or continue reading Glitch?

Release Date: August 7, 2012
Source: ATWT Tours
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin

Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.

When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers.

As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Both boys introduce Zoe to feelings that are entirely new. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.

In this action-packed debut, Glitch begins an exciting new young adult trilogy.

At the moment, I'm on page 120 out of 320 of Glitch, but I'm hitting that stage. Feeling disinclined to continue but wondering at the same time if I'm being too harsh with the book.  You tell me--do I continue or do I stop reading?

What I dislike:

1. the science is wrong.  I don't think I'm a hardcore sci-fi fan, and normally I wouldn't even notice blips in the science... but Glitch interested me because of the science. Emotion is one of the things I've studied in college, and I find it particularly fascinating. I wondered: would this book be based on Eckman's theories (i.e. just by smiling, you'd feel the emotion of happiness... he's also done work to show the universality of some emotions like happiness, anger, fear, etc. and much more) or would it take a more brain-centered approach-- that is to say, would it focus more on the regions lateralized to processing emotion?

It took the latter.  And got it wrong.  The explanation is that the "V-chip" implanted in everyone deactivates the amygdala which "facilitates the emotional response."  NO.  Activation of the amygdala directly correlates to a fear response. For instance, one study found that the amygdala was more active when more of the whites in people's eyes showed (and when do the white of your eyes show?  When you're more frightened of something, etc. etc.) It's theorized that the amygdala has a role in processing other emotions, and yes, it is a part of the limbic system, which is a series of brain structures involved in the processing of emotions. BUT no, the amygdala is not solely responsible for emotions. A "V-chip" designed to shut off emotions would have to do more than that.

For example, it's known that people who have bilateral lesions / damage to both sides of the amygdala have trouble experiencing fear.  They can still experience happiness and sadness etc. etc, and if anything, people who have this damage tend to be "more social" and have increased confidence. The emotions they have trouble experiencing are the ones that more negatively oriented like fear, disgust, and anxiety. Clearly there is more to emotion than just what role the amygdala plays.

The bad science didn't end there.  This book tries to use scientific concepts to explain paranormal abilities. One of the explanations for why Zoe has telekinetic powers is because of evolution. Hmmm... have several generations passed?  Because, yeah, evolution happens over thousands of years, not a few generations. And you cannot focus/direct evolution on one specific subset of people. It just happens, and the likelihood of it happening to this small portion of people?  Yeahhh.  I really could go on and on about this, but there's other stuff left.  The other explanation was plasticity.  Not a lot is known about plasticity, but it's believed to happen when your brain compensates for damage to its other regions (for a long time, the brain was believed to be immutable, unchangeable; this concept puts that belief to shreds by showing how the brain remaps itself in response to certain challenges). There's a famous case of this blind painter who's able to figuratively "see" and paint people/scenes in color because his brain dedicated the space that would normally be activated for the visual system for that.  So if the brain dedicated the neurons that would normally be activated for emotional processing to paranormal abilities, Zoe shouldn't be able to experience the level of emotions that she does after "glitching."  There's a sacrifice involved here. You can't have the best of both worlds.

Another small detail:  Zoe says that at age eighteen, they are given an adult "V-chip" that'll last for the rest of their lives. That logic makes no sense. The limbic system has extensive connections to the prefrontal cortex which is still growing when you are in your twenties. Why would you get a new chip when you're 18 and your brain isn't fully formed yet?  If the Community is really trying to keep its inhabitants under control via inhibiting emotions, it wouldn't do a very good job with that system.  If anything, this only shows that the science was dumbed down for young adult and its max perceived age group.

When I look at #1, I wonder if anyone else besides hard sci-fi fans would be disappointed.  It's more personal for me because I study neuroscience and it's really offensive to see how "hot" of a science it's become -- that people just want to take advantage of it and simplify it to these kinds of means...


2. the premise is great but not executed to its fullest potential. It's essentially the same problem I had with Shatter Me.  This book is trying to tackle too many issues at once.  Emotions + dystopia + paranormal romance = headache. And things skipped over. What seems particularly interesting to me is that if you didn't have emotions before, how would you know to identify them when they came? How would your personality be affected?  How would your conscience change, and would you really want to experience emotions if you had none before? Adrien, the romantic interest, has to tell Zoe what conscience means, but Zoe's already had all these values input into her... like duty and order. How has that affected her conscience?  Does she still not have one without emotions?  If it truly is just knowing the difference between right and wrong, she would already have one, yes? I feel like this book could deal with these questions in a much more potent way... but so far it really hasn't.  

There's also quite a gap in the narrative itself and the premise.  At the start of the novel, Zoe has already started glitching... but even so, there's still this weird feeling I get when reading her POV. I find it hard to believe that she's only just started glitching and experiencing emotion.  Her narrative isn't dry enough for someone who hasn't experienced a whole lot of emotions.

3. the romance is too fast.  I'm not even to page 150. Adrien is the one who pulls Zoe away from a dangerous scene, and their conversations mostly consist of info-dumps about how bad the Community is for enslaving its inhabitants in this emotionless world.  Given the content of their conversations, I have a hard time believing in their romance.  Adrien, maybe I could believe in his side of it. Visions of the future with Zoe in them, with him?  Yeah.  I could see that.  Zoe?  You're just experiencing emotion, you've just left everything you knew behind, and you've realized that the boy before you is attractive in many ways.  But you've known him for less than a day. You're telling me you wouldn't feel overwhelmed by all the info.?  You're telling me that you'll feel that intense of a "connection" within a DAY?  ARGH INSTA-LOVE.

What I like:

1. the dystopian part is well done.  For once, the heroine finds out that the dystopian world is not what she thinks it is... within the first like 50-100 pages.  The whole book isn't you getting angry at the protagonist for not seeing how BAD an idea this society would be.  And I liked that.  And I liked that it felt vaguely dangerous, and I liked the history behind how this society came to be. I can definitely see why Andrea Cremer blurbed this book.

2. the blurb promises lots of plot twists.  I haven't reached any major, MAJOR twists yet, but since she's already realized how bad this dystopia is... what else can there be left besides lots of action and getting to the Resistance and spying and suspense?

I'm already getting the feeling that fans of Nightshade, Matched, and Across the Universe might like this book. (Then again, I am a fan of all three and I'm not too happy with it...) (The book kind of feels like a mix of all three, which is why I'm making that comparison).

So what do you think?  DNF or continue reading?  At this point, I'm kind of leaning towards DNFing but you guys tell me.  Do you want a full review of this book, or do you think this is valid enough for me to stop?  Should I give it a second chance?


  1. I can see how the science may be wrong. I don't actually mind if YA sci-fi gets stuff wrong. At some point when you build a dystopian world I feel like they have to take liberties. I mean, if the author really wanted to get technical than it might take pages and pages to explain, which would just drag the book down. I'm all for stretching the truth a little bit. And I'm a huge science-nerd. I'm actually pre-med :)

    I liked the book, but I definitely bought into the whole world pretty easily. If your sticking in for the plot twists than I'm not sure how much you'll like it. They were just okay twists, not outstanding. My favorite parts were the beginning with the whole emotion thing. So it may not be for you. I would see what others suggest though. I'm sorry you didn't like it. Hopefully you'll have better books in the future :)

  2. Not knowing much about science in this aspect, I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit, but I could seriously see how it would be annoying if you KNEW the science and knew it was wrong.

    I'll agree on the insta-love, although it does get better, I thought at least.

    There are some plot twists but they are near the end. I didn't see them coming and thought they added a good twist, but again that's my opinion.

    Everyone has their own take on books and so I wouldn't feel too terribly if you decided just not to finish it. It happens.



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