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4.5 out of 5 stars
Random Acts of Senseless Violence (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
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on 6 July 2017
I found this book after watching a YouTube vid by a guy called Jakob Tanner. His vids are a cut above (though he doesn't make many) and you should check him out. Anyway he raved about this book and I kind of share his tastes so I thought - why not?

RAOSV tells the story of a middle class girl called Lola, who through the actions of a corrupt and unjust society, descends into a life of violence and anger. The novel does a good job of showing how external forces and governments and individuals can act with violence upon their own citizens or fellow humans, and of how institutional violence normalises violence amongst those it who suffer it.

Womack does a brilliant job with the character of Lola who is super-convincing as an intelligent tween trying to find identity against a chaotic backdrop. And I totally think this is a book that boys and girls, men and women would all enjoy. This would also be a great read for YA readers of 12 years plus.

I gave this book four stars rather than five because I wasn't entirely convinced by the dystopia. I wanted more information and I didn't get it. And for me, Lola's changing voice became a little too dramatic in the final sections of the book where I wanted a little more ease and clarity.

Overall though ROASV is very good book. I can't rave about it as much as Jakob does, but I certainly enjoyed it and I think that you will too.
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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2014
The book is set in Manhattan sometime around about the present day. Something has happened which has turned society on its head and violence rules!
Lola is a 12 year old girl, who lives a traditionally middle class life. Her parents are a writer and a teacher but are both struggling hard to survive in the chaos surrounding them. Lola and her sister still attend a private school in the city but when they have to move deeper into the city to save rent, life gets more difficult.
There is an obvious comparison to Anne Franks diary which was unexpected having read the blurb for the book. Here we have a young girl, immersed in her relationships with friends and beginning to find her way sexually who lives in a world of terror which she cannot properly comprehend - she even calls her diary "Anne".
As Lola adapts to her surroundings she slips more into using a "street" dialogue which makes the book feel very real but does make it quite difficult to read at some points. Overall the book gets much darker and ends up being a depressing account which is hard to read.
The main problem I had with the book was the characters. I don't mind that none of them are likeable but I did struggle with engaging in any way with any of them. The easiest ones for me should have been Lola's parents but they were just impossible to believe - they both had problems but I fail to imagine that they would not have been able to look after their children in a better way.
On a positive, I found that the book encourages thought about the lives that we all live. How close is our society to these conditions thinking about the recent riots in the UK? How many people live in wartorn cities around the world today?
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on 7 April 2014
Womack's story of a near future world on the brink of disaster is cleverly told through the pages of a 12 year old school girl's diary. Covering just a few months Lola tells of the changes she experiences in her home town Manhattan, having to move from her comfortable middle class suburban apartment to a rough part of the city and being shunned by her classmates for her assumed lesbian proclivity Lola is the only one of her family who does what she needs to do to survive - she adapts. Her younger sister, whom we know used to be close to her sister, becomes more and more unable to cope fearing not only the changing world outside but also her own sister. Lola's x-hippie style parents; a kind and loving but self-medicating mother and a father who now has to work long hours at a local bookstore for a merciless tyrant, have, we are told, not been good with money and it is hinted they may be partially to blame for the denuded circumstances that the Hart family find themselves in. The apparent acceptance and weakness of the other family members serves to enhance Lola's strength, as she makes new friends within the rough 'street' neighbourhood and learns that things are not going to go back to how they are anytime soon. The use of the diary form enables us to view the action in the past tense but also gives us access to Lola's true feelings and fears and reminds us that she is a 12 year old girl, something which it is easy to forget as you hear how she spends her days with little parental supervision and often in situations where her safety is threatened as the society around her descends into chaos and anarchy.

The changes in Lola's character as her survival instincts take over and she sets to right some of the wrongs done to her are reinforced by the degeneration of the language she uses but Womack does this deftly and you don't find yourself struggling to much with the recurring phrases and abbreviated sentence constructions. I particularly liked the use of people going 'post office' which she later explains is a bit like when someone working in a post office goes crazy and kills everyone! There are many other gems to look out for. Definitely a good choice for a book club read.
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on 15 March 2018
Reads like a master work of modernist fiction. The slow tortured decline of a soul and her world that's falling around her is horror of a different sort, it's the horror of coping with the ordinary sins of growing up and the confiding as she changes is reflected in not just her cold rationality, but her very language. It is a rite of passage, a story of growing up too soon, with a backdrop of a society that's fallen. If the world you live in has no value, makes no sense, how do you become civilised? The world could learn a lesson from this darkness, descent into dystopia never felt this personal.
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on 4 October 2014
Difficult to decide whether to give this five stars, because I don't think it fully works as a stand-alone novel, despite being the first in the Dryco/Ambient series timeline and pretty self-contained as far as the plot goes. I was put off by the fairly relentless misery: however there is much more of a point to this than is altogether clear from just this one instalment, but it's not easy to say why without spoilers for later volumes.

Having said that, I was sufficiently impressed by this very well written book to go on to subsequent parts of the series, which I then devoured one after another. The series is definitely more than the sum of its parts and well worth reading in its entirety; it also goes in a direction you would definitely not anticipate from RAoSV alone.

In terms of publication order this is actually one of the later volumes in the series, and reflects a distinct maturing and deepening in Jack Womack's art since he began it.

Like most readers I would strongly advise reading the series in timeline order, starting here. Don't be too put off by the misery: though the Dryco world is truly grim, the series as a whole has much more to say about it than appears here.
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on 1 October 2017
I found this book a bit hard to get into but I thought "come on...stick with it.." I'm glad I did as it got better and better...more harrowing as it progressed. The way the girls changes and the language of the future kids was amazingly written. Very good but very sad.
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on 6 July 2014
Makes you think - breakdown of society for reasons that are not clear as seen by young teenage girl. The change in her thinking and feeling as circumstances change is fascinating and well created but characters are a little one-dimensional and although the story was surprisingly convincing, I felt the ending was a bit predictable and a bit of an anticlimax - the real interest is in the change from conventional security to survival mode and how simple and straightforward that can seem. That part is written brilliantly but I think the author was not sure where to take it then.
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on 2 November 2014
very dystopian. The only reason I marked down a star is because I found the writing style very difficult to read. African-American inner city slang can be hard to read for a European like myself and it hampered the flow of reading. By the time I got used to it I was also almost at the end of the book. The story itself is good though, very grim. Definitely a good read for anyone into "end of society as we know it sci-fi" fans.
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on 13 December 2014
First published in 1993, this is a prophetic and disturbing look at an America five minutes into the future in which growing inequalities have reduced society to two cohorts: the minority made up of the wealthy and ultra rich and the vast majority of the ultra poor. Womack describes the death of the American Dream. There are no more Horatio Alger 'rags to riches' life stories. All such hopes have been extinguished in a world in which the middle-classes are being hollowed-out and slipping inexorably into the underclass. Lola Hart is a nice middle-class girl at an expensive private school but suddenly she finds that she and her family have to fight tooth and claw to survive in the New York underclass or pay the consequences. Remarkably, Womack predicts the start of the Occupy movement and he describes the savage backlash to crush it by the establishment. This book could not be more topical, given the demonstrations and civil unrest in US cities over ethnic minority deaths during police arrests. An OECD report 'Focus on Inequality and Growth' of 9 December 2014 describes how growing inequalities in society have actually stunted economic growth, contrary to the received wisdom of the 80's and 90's that 'greed is good' and that inequality fuels growth. If all that is not enough, Womack is William Gibson's favourite author and one can understand why: This is not just another dystopian SF yarn but a highly literate and painful glimpse into a possible near future. It's also a cracking story.
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on 14 April 2014
I'm trying to read out of my usual 'go to' authors and be a bit adventurous. I was really engaged by this account of Manhattan / the US sliding into chaos and how a young woman adapts very quickly to how things are becoming. This aspect of seeing a girl go from a naïve big sister to street-child is beautifully written. I would recommend this book alongside 'I Capture the Castle' as two original books about girls growing up at completely different ends of a spectrum.
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