On the eve of Earth’s destruction, a young scientist discovers something too precious to lose, in a story of cataclysm and hope by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Divergent trilogy.
It’s only two weeks before an asteroid turns home to dust. Though most of Earth has already been evacuated, it’s Samantha’s job to catalog plant samples for the survivors’ unknowable journey beyond.
Preparing to stay behind and watch the world end, she makes a final human connection.
As certain doom hurtles nearer, the unexpected and beautiful potential for the future begins to flower.
Veronica Roth’s Ark is part of Forward, a collection of six stories of the near and far future from out-of-this-world authors. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.
Going into this novella…
I didn’t have many expectations about this series of novellas, but I definitely didn’t expect the wide range of quality. Let’s talk about “Ark” by Veronica Roth…
The characters are all fairly shallow and undeveloped. None of them were very interesting or well actualized. On the other hand, since the characters are cookie cutter and familiar, we are quickly acquainted with them, which is important in such a short piece of fiction.
I didn’t personally feel any connection for these characters, and found them to be unbelievable (as in they didn’t feel real).
They also read as very YA, and I later realized that this is the author of the popular YA Dystopia series, “Divergent”. So, I suppose that makes sense, except this is an adult series…?
This novella is much more focused on a concept that is told using distant and matter-of-fact narration rather than a fully developed story with atmosphere and plot. The way this novella is written is not conducive to an immersive reading experience. The world and setting are not heavily described for a sensory heavy experience, but more so a short glimpse or montage into a moment in the main character’s life. Additionally, the five senses that usually enhance a reading experience were mostly absent or ineffective. There is some scenery described., but overall, not an atmospheric read.
There isn’t much to knock the writing for. The writing is solid, nothing outstanding or unique, but it’s also not bad. The language is accessible and the story is mostly clear. Although, it is the fault of the way this novella is written that the ending is vague, rapid, and disconnected.
Personally, the writing is inoffensive, but significantly lacking in emotion, depth, and craft. It’s simple, quick, and even vague. The ending really bothered me, because this concept had so much potential, but it felt rushed and there wasn’t much shown about how the main character made her decision or what she was feeling.
Despite this story not having a lot of atmosphere or character, it isn’t plot driven either. The plot (if you can even call it that) is focused on a decision that the reader doesn’t even get to see unfold. The main character wants to die on Earth when the meteor strikes, then a single flower makes her question everything in a matter of seconds. Then, the story cuts to her in a spacecraft leaving the planet. We don’t see her thought process or get any more than her looking out a window immediately after the flower discovery. There could have been an interesting monologue, message, or emotional scene, but instead the reader is given a matter-of-fact scene of her leaving the planet picturing the flower.
To put it simply, this novella suffers from being too short and inefficient with its space. Not a lot happens in this story, because the focus is on flashbacks and memories. The length didn’t have to be a hinderance. Look at Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin, that book is also very short (and even limited by its narration style), but it is still impactful, emotional, and thoughtful.
The intrigue of this story is a bit difficult to gauge, because the concept is very interesting. The setup and potential this story opens with is highly intriguing with endless directions that Roth could have chosen. Ultimately, the story takes a routine that is not very interesting, and the possible conversations that were hinted at in the beginning are abandoned. This piece lacks a defined purpose or message to leave the reader thinking about after they’ve put the book down.
By the end of this book, I was left feeling a consuming sense of “why?”. This story lacked purpose and direction. I want my Sci-Fi to leave me thinking about some major question or concept, but this read more like an incomplete glimpse into a decision a character makes, and not an interesting or dramatic decision at that. It lacks closure and a defined message. It isn’t offensive by any means, just disappointing.
This potential future for humanity is not outrageous or impossible; it’s actually a future that readers could speculate happening one day. But, the main character’s decision and what motivated it at the end of this story doesn’t feel earned or validated due to the abrupt and vague ending. Sure, the reader could speculate why the character made her decision, but this is a very short piece of fiction, which doesn’t leave the reader with much to work with. Overall, this story does not make its readers scratch their heads in disbelief, but it also doesn’t justify the decisions made with context and character development. There just isn’t enough content, passion, or character packed into the 33 pages of this novella.
- have enjoyed Roth’s work in the past
- need a quick, easy read
- enjoy speculative fiction about humanity’s future
- like botany and plants (orchids specifically)
- don’t mind a vague and speculative Sci-Fi
… then I recommend giving this novella a try, given that you know what to expect from it.
I personally didn’t dislike this novella (especially compared to others in this series), but I also wouldn’t go around recommending it to others. I don’t think about it anymore, and I actually had to take a moment to recall what it was even about, because it’s forgettable. Good news is, I don’t feel like I wasted my time with this one, like I felt with some of the other novellas in this series.
I am now quite hesitant to pick anything else up by this author, but I am always open to second chances when it comes to reading.
Let me know if I should give some of Veronica Roth’s other work a chance.
Compared to the rest of the Forward Collection…
This novella ended up in the middle of the overall ranking within this series. It is definitely better than some of the other novellas but also not as good as a few of the others.
If you’re interested in some of the better novellas in this series or want to read about how some of the others were actually offensive, then please consider checking out the other reviews for this series!
- Video Review and vlog of every novella in the Forward Collection
- Quick series review of every novella in the Forward Collection
- Dedicated reviews for the rest of the collection coming soon…