I almost wish…

I almost wish that, when I’d originally reviewed Victoria Foyt’s Revealing Eden, I’d been more ranty about the racefail. At least then I could say, “In before Internet explosion!”

As it was, I spent the bulk of my review talking about how it was just a bad novel. It had mathfail, culturefail, romancefail, writingfail… It had a lot of fail. The racefail was just one portion of that. And not being an expert on race relations and racially-sensitive issues (I know enough to generally avoid major missteps and to not be a douchebag),  didn’t comment much on the problems the book demonstrated when it came to those topics.

I almost wish I had.

I’m not going to say that book didn’t have racefail. It had it in spades. Just because it had potential justification in context doesn’t mean that it isn’t racefail. Pale-skinned people putting on skin-darkening cream to be more socially acceptable and to protect themselves against the sun’s harsh rays? In-universe justification. Inversion of the amount of times, both in the past and today, that various societies have stressed that pale skin is more attractive than dark skin. (Ignoring any racial connotations involving the mistreatment of non-caucasian people, that’s partly because tanned skin signified you were a peasant, always out in the sun, and pale skin meant that your family were rich enough that they didn’t need your help in the fields.) Dark-skinned guy being described as “bestial”? Well, in fairness, he did an idiotic experiment that turned him into a cat-man. He literally became “like a beast.” To me, that said more about a potential cat fetish that the author had, rather than her stance on race relations. The issue of coal being dirty but pearls being attractive and desirable? I didn’t see that. I saw coal as being a useful thing while pearls don’t do anything but uselessly sit around and decorate other useless things.

I can even see what Foyt was trying to do with her novel. She was trying to flip things on their heads, by inverting the race issues of today’s western society. Stick what is currently the majority into the role of a minority, and make it a racially-sensitive culture, and voila! Instant recipe for helping modern white folk understand more of the crap that our darker-skinned friends have to put up with on a daily basis.

In theory. In practice, it hit a lot of nerves. And rightly so. Hell, Foyt couldn’t manage to make a lot of things in her novel make sense, or even interesting half the time. I’m not really surprised that her intended “reverse racism” idea hit the same snags (see my review for the laundry list of problems that aren’t related to race). Even removing the racial issue, that stuff still doesn’t make a good story. Add the racial stuff, and BOOM – Internet explosion! What Foyt did in her attempted inversion was to make light of serious problems. And in her attempt to make white people understand racial problems by making a white protagonist, well, that was all too easily seen as her saying, “Look at poor poor whitey and all she has to suffer through.”

I finished the book being honestly amazed that some people read it and enjoyed it. Could they not see everything wrong within its pages? Or were they just so entranced by cat-man-on-teenage-girl action that all other considerations were removed?

This book has kicked up an nternet shitstorm in recent days. I’m surprised it took so long. I got leery when I first read the title of the book, seeing the potential for serious racefail. “Save the Pearls” doesn’t exactly make you hopeful that it’s going to contain a message of tolerance.

I’ll close this entry by saying that I dream of a day when racefail will no longer be an issue. When the amount of melanin in one’s skin, or the country they came from, or the accent/language they speak with, will no longer be an excuse for mistreatment and persecution. In this wish, I’m aware that I am putting on my privilege-tinged glasses (or at least I’ve been told that this sort of wish only tends to come from people who’ve lived a life of privilege and have never faced persecution — I tend to bite my tongue on ranting back that I suffered like hell through most of my schooling because I was foreign), but I’ll wish it anyway. And I’ll do my best to work for a future that will have books that are just as crappy as Foyt’s novel, but racefail isn’t the biggest reason for it.

Revealing Eden, by Victoria Foyt

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Author’s website
Publication date – January 10, 2012

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she’ll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she’s cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden’s coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she’ll be safe. Just maybe one Coal sees the Real Eden and will be her salvation her co-worker Jamal has begun secretly dating her. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, she finds herself in the eye of a storm and thrown into the last area of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land. Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity’s last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must change to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of love, along with a little help from her “adopted aunt” Emily Dickinson.

Thoughts: I was cautious about this book from the beginning, since it stood a high chance of having a strong dose of racefail, given that the premise of the novel is that the ruling class consists entire of dark-skinned people, and now caucasians are treated with disdain and have no rights. Tie that in with the series title, “Save the Pearls” (Pearls being the derogatory term for white-skinned folk), there was every chance that this could turn into a sod story about how poorly whites are treated and how unfair it was that poor whitey gets such a raw deal in life.

As it was, I didn’t have so much of a problem with that, but only because it was overshadowed by so many other problems. The plot itself was, on the surface, fairly interesting. Earth is no longer protected by the ozone layer, the population and life expectancy has dwindled, and scientists are secretly working on a plan to fiddle with the human genome in order to combine attributed from sun-resistant animal species in order to increase humanity’s chance for survival. As an antagonist, we get the Federation of Free People, a group who seem to have the destruction of all Pearls as their main agenda. The government keeps the population complacent with carefully-delivered information and doses of emotion-changing drugs and nutritional pills.

But there are a lot of problems that got in the way of me enjoying that plot. For starters, it’s established right at the beginning that mineral-related terms to reference different ethnicities is a racist thing, and thus we’re expected to see it as bad. But everybody uses them. Not just when they’re angry or attempting to be insulting. hey use them all the time. Casually. In reference to each other, and to themselves. They’re all but sanctioned code-names. But when Eden gets annoyed and calls someone a Coal, everyone acts as though she just dropped a nuclear n-bomb in the office.

The author also has a habit of throwing in scientific names for plants and animals. This would have been fine had the book been written in first-person, from Eden’s perspective, since she’s deeply involved in the scientific world, but it came across more as the author trying to show off that they know scientific terms. They weren’t appropriate to the plot, and appeared with such freqency that it got downright annoying.

There is a huge logical flaw in the government’s plan to keep humanity on top of things, too. Females are required to breed by 18, males by age 24, and if they don’t, the government cuts off all supplies of food and water to them. Eden is 6 months shy of her 18th birthday, and is paid a visit by a government representative to remind her that if she doesn’t breed soon and contribute to the continuation of the decimated human race, her supplies will soon end. But couples may only have one child. Essentially halving the population with each generation. This doesn’t increase humanity on the whole, but decreases it. Food and water supplies are limited, and this may be a good reason for the limitations on offspring, but that still doesn’t mean that one child per couple is a viable way to keep the population even stable.

Then there’s Eden herself. She was a whiny self-involved brat quite often, who seemed to engage others in emotional circular arguments that served little point. her reactions to Bramford were particularly annoying, and they amounted to frequent renditions of, “Ugh, I hate this guy so much, he’s so arrogant and annoying and so dark and sexy and I keep getting turned on when he looks at me but I hate that jerk so much.” Repeat ad nauseum. It drove me nuts, and was profoundly frustrating and boring.

This was one of those rare books where I couldn’t wait to reach the end, not because I was compelled to keep reading but because I couldn’t wait to stop reading it so that I could move on to something potentially better. I can’t recommend this book. Other people seem to have enjoyed it quite a bit, but I found it too flawed, too unrelatable, and too boring to be worth passing along to somebody else.

(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)