Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Veronica Roth's Insurgent: A Book Review

Insurgent, Veronica Roth’s second offering of the post-apocalyptic Chicago run by factions picks up moments after the cliffhanger ending of Divergent. The problem with the text, almost from inception, is that the series attempts to mimic the recent success of texts in the genre (think Hunger Games here) by becoming a trilogy. While the rise of Tris and the secret of her Divergent nature kept the pages turning in the first installment, barely anything keeps you moving through this one. She comes out, reveals herself, and is suddenly not that scary as others stand at her side and display the same characteristics.

Tris is hurt—she was shot during the simulation attack on Abnegation—and Roth reminds us of this fact nearly every page, along with the fact that she is divergent, that Erudite wants divergents, wants power, wants control, and has a secret. The Erudites are intelligent, they wear glasses for style, the Amenity are happy, etc. We are reminded of these facts as often as Roth needs to fill up a few extra pages to keep the publisher happy.

Yet, as we read along, the answers are strung out.  Roth, for whatever reason, takes an age to give them to you. As we bother Marcus again and again, asking the deposed city leader what his secret information is, one cannot help but think about Bella fawning over Edward in the Twilight series. We wait, the conceit is about making the book long more than tight knit. Thus Tris visits every facet of the city—holing up with each faction (including her own and the factionless) as she works to unwittingly instill societal change at the tender age of sixteen. As messiah, she is destined to save us all, but we don’t know why and after a while I stop caring why.

She reminds us of her love for Tobias, and despite having reflected on the hot and heavy moments many times in the first installment, Roth digs into the romance novel cheese with each and every teenage snog session. Perhaps this is what the teenage mind wants, but even when Tris selflessly sacrifices herself to Erudite, one knows Tobias will appear, her savior will lay a wet one on her, and she will drop a gun do to PTSD style trauma while uttering complaints about shoulder pain. At times one feels like we are watching reruns of Dawson’s Creek on the WB instead of reading an attempt at literature as Roth returns to these common plot motifs time and time again, and in the end a predictable socialist revolution takes place—the poor and the oppressed, the workers, the factionless take over and lead the city further down the chaotic rabbit hole. Already you can see that the end is near for Tris, she is doomed to die, to suffer at her young age, a martyr to the idea that humans can be more than overly selfish creates through divergence.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Veronica Roth’s Divergent: A Book Review

A quick post here on another in a string of young adult novels I have tackled, this time being Veronica Roth’s Divergent. The modern members of this genre seems to carry a similar style whether dealing with the end of the world in a mythological sense or a dystopian future. Life is at a terminus point: things as we know it could end through revolution and the central character and narrator stands at the center of the conflict. As often noted, Divergent follows in the footsteps of The Hunger Games, presenting a future we dread, systems of inequality, and the basis of our future tied to an unwitting heroine only looking to find her own way in life.

Divergent presents Tris, a member of one of five factions set up to break people into sects of likeminded individuals, thus preventing war and allowing for the purification of society in a future marred by war. Taking place in a dilapidated version of Chicago, the text follows Tris from the day in which she takes an aptitude test to determine whether she should remain a member of Abnegation, a faction of selfless individuals who is thus responsible for governing society, or move onto one of the other four factions. Predictably, Tris is different. Her test is inconclusive, yielding aptitude results that show that she fits multiple factions. For no legitimate reason, this result, henceforth known as Divergent, is seen as dangerous to society and thus becomes the secret of the text. Why this fact exists one does not know, and it is here that Roth misses many an opportunity to expand upon this novel.

Tris, who defects to the fearless army faction known as the Dauntless, spends the remainder of the novel surviving. First she must become a warrior while hiding her true self. Yet, because Divergents are dangerous, Tris also works to understand who and what she is and why she might be dangerous to the foundations of society. At the same time, her old faction, one she is obligated to ignore, is being persecuted and attacked by the Erudite. Through these attacks, Tris logically feels tension, and as most teens do, tries to place herself in the middle of said tension. Finally, Tris falls in love with an authority figure, one who conveniently possess the very same secret she does: Divergence. She rises from relative obscurity and finishes at the top of her class despite attacks from fellow initiates. But the vacation ends in a battle between factions as the system crashes down around them.

This landscape, while interesting has many flaws. Tris’ rise, determination, and importance feels forced. Roth wants her to do these things, writes her down these roads, but fails to justify the ascent. Likewise, while she is aiming to sell more books, the text itself just ends. A cliffhanger is fine, but the one here, one without any semblance of resolution can leave the reader unsatisfied and looking for more.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Skora Tempo: A Shoe Review

At my favorite trail head.

As SKORA continues to mature as a shoe company, their shoe line has followed suit. Their latest incarnation comes in the form of the Tempo. As a brand ambassador (for two years plus at this juncture), I sometimes have the privilege of wear testing the samples. In early January, the Tempo, Core, Phase, Form, and Fit all appear to be cut from same cloth, the Tempo has a slightly different look, you can tell it is related, but it is not the same per se. Yes, it has the same anatomical shape as the other models and a roomy toe box as well, but this shoe looks more like a road shoe than anything else SKORA has created. The heel is curved, but with more of an eye to a gradual curve, kind of like the curve Nike applied to recent incarnation of the Free (I wonder who the borrowed that idea from). Thus, the shoe has a more mature look but remains showy at the same time with a see through upper and extreme breathability. That said, this shoe has plenty to like
which had been rumored for a while, arrived at my door. The first thing that sticks out on the Tempo is that it appears as somewhat of a divergence from SKORA’s other models. While the

First off, while all of SKORA ’s other models work well on the road, at least in my opinion, this
Out of the box.
model is built for the road. It has a degree of padding that is perfect—you can feel the road, but you feel like you can run on the road all day. Yet, this padding is not spongy, overly thick, and it does not take away from your run. I found the right amount of give, and since I run in zero drop mostly, the adjustment period was nil for me. I could just log miles in the shoe and feel confident that my feet were receiving enough protection to feel good after a long run.

The sole is soft, flexible, and responsive. Your foot can bend it move like it is supposed to while feeling protected and supported. While some people post online that the bones in your foot do not bend, the fact of the matter is that your foot adapts to the contours of nearly every surface, so to run naturally, no matter what your foot-strike pattern, the shoe should move as well. This fact is something both Altra and Newton fail to understand. All in all, the stack height is a mere 22mm while maintaining a high degree of flex and zero drop. You will not appear taller when you wear these shoes, but you will feel faster.

On to the running: they handled well on the trails, surviving roots, rocks, and mud but they also felt great on the track. 400's felt easy (expect for the kids I was chasing) and a tempo run in the Tempo was comfortable as well. I’ve raced in these shoes and worn them around for walks with no complaints. The Tempo sample has become a frequent and common choice out of my shoe rotation.

  1. Just like with the SKORA fit, Synthetic materials are great in Florida. While I love the leather SKORA models, a more breathable shoe is a godsend in the humidity. This shoe, with an upper that is so breathable that it is see through, is perfect for the heat but withstood testing during the winter cold. In races and workouts, they worked out quite well.
  2. Just enough padding that you can go all day, especially from a bigger guy like myself, but with a continued ground feel.
  3. Night time reflectivity. Any spot that is silver literally glows in the street lights and headlights. Cars will see you, no matter which colorway you get.
  4. The heel will be embraced more by the general public. It is still round, allowing for your heel to move the way it should, but people will be more comfortable because, well, it looks more conventional than prior incarnations.
  5. Flexible for a natural run, the way it should be.
  6. This is a shoe you do not think about. They are on your feet and you run and the shoes serve their purpose at less than 8 ounces.

  1. Dirt. I know this sounds silly, but the airy upper can allow the intrusion of well dirt. Especially on trails, dirt found a way into the shoe.   
  2. The sole might be a bit soft if you drag your feet at all. The foam appears capable of withstanding the toll of hundreds upon hundreds of miles (SKORA shoes have legendary lifetimes), but so far so good. 
  3. MSRP came in a little higher than I expected at $130. I was thinking around a $100, but the price of this shoe is comparable to like models that it should outlast in the long run.
As always, any and all questions are welcome.