Review: “The Thousandth Floor” (The Thousandth Floor #1) by Katharine McGee

Initial reaction: I’m of two minds about this book and need a night to sleep on it. I’m not happy with this book on several levels for harmful and horrible stereotypes that made me want to throw my book against the wall, but oddly enough, the core of this story’s conflict made me invested enough to want to see where it goes. It has some very interesting ideas and points of tension, but I don’t think it did as much as it could have.

Full review:

It took me a full several months to decide how I felt about this book. I’ll be clear on one thing to start with – I’m intrigued enough to read the rest of this series (and I have all three books – so regardless of how it actually ends up, I’m going to finish this for the whole nine yards). The first book in this series has so many interesting ideas – from the technological advancements to having points where it looked like the story could turn into a dark YA noir (which I would’ve been jumping out of my seat to see a proper futuristic crime thriller in YA). When I heard comparisons of this being a cyberpunkish Gossip Girl, I thought “This could either be really awesome or a trainwreck, possibly both.” (I said as much in one of my status updates). The end result was a showcase of both, but not in as deep or cohesive a way as it could’ve been.

You would think that this story would have also other things going for it such as a diverse cast of prominent POC main characters and GLBT characters too. What ruins it? Stereotypes. Lots and lots and lots of threadbare (even cringe-worthy and harmful) stereotypes. I’m surprised at the level of racial minority stereotypes this book had not just in assumption of role, but also fixation for status. Also, while this book has a prominent GLBT couple in the mix, *MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT*

 

it’s a “bury your gays” situation.

 

I was fuming at that latter note and I’m like… please just stop doing this. Oy vey.

Still, let me set the stage for this novel.

“The Thousandth Floor” showcases a futuristic New York in 2118, where class and status is determined by the floor you live on. The higher up you are, the higher status you have. The story starts off with the demise of a character, so that definitely sets the ball rolling as to how this drama unfurls, basically a showcase as to how said character gets to said point. The story rolls through the perspectives of Avery, Watt, Leda, Rylin, and Eris as they navigate life, relationships, and…the rather notable death that occurs at the beginning of the novel.

There are a number of perspective characters here to keep up with, so the pacing of the novel is more sluggish than it should’ve been – possibly due to head-hopping and awkward transitions. Yet, overall, I was okay with the different character narrations with the audiobook reader (who did a great job and is one of the main reasons why I’m rating this book as high as I am). The characters are distinct enough in the varied range of performances, which is something I don’t know came across in the physical book. “The Thousandth Floor” has some cool ideas in terms of the virtual and sci-fi tech in the society, but it’s not so much a futuristic thriller or YA noir crime drama as much as it’s a ROMANTIC drama. That latter distinction would be fine as it as long as I’m invested in the character relationships. For some parts of this novel, I definitely was. I liked Eris in the end – she’s probably the only character though this entire journey that has a marked arc of character growth because of her transition and change in family status as the novel progresses. Everyone else was a mixed bag of anti-heroes and problematic characterizations.

I don’t think there was a single character to truly love in this novel, which I would be okay with them all being anti-heroes if the characters had more development and personal stakes through the plot. However, this book was a hot mess of vilifying characters over their racial statuses, added with notations of slut shaming, cheating, incest, completely glossing over a male character being raped, among other things.

So you may be thinking with these notations, “Why the heck did you end up not 1-starring this dumpster fire and being done with it, Rose?”

That’s a good question, one that I still struggle with even after putting this book down. I think part of it might’ve been watching Eris’s progression through the novel pulling me in and really wanting to know what centered around the character death that happened in this novel, working up to the pieces of that plot point. The other positive: watching latter turns of the narrative conflict where the characters messed with the heads of others by blackmail and manipulation, the conflict shaping in an interesting direction by the end of the novel. I think this book could’ve done a better job with its overarching conflicts and identities if it actually had something constructive to build upon, rather than tearing them down by leaning on stereotypes and backhanded denouncements of the diverse showcases here. It relies more on drama for the sake of drama and shock factor, which is more to its detriment than anything else.

Still, if I’m taking the pieces of “The Thousandth Floor” that I liked, it makes me curious to see where the rest of the series goes. I’m weary in a recommendation for this novel/series, however, because it felt like a long, painful slog just to get to some of the small sparks of where this novel could’ve been great. And that’s disappointing to say the least.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

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