Archives for posts with tag: Dystopia
ImageGenre: Future Dystopia (Is that all you read, Patsy? PRETTY MUCH)
Notes: Book 2/50
Review: This shit is crazy, yo. It is like the Handmaid’s Tale meets the 22nd century. This novel follows a Red. What is a Red, you ask? Let me explain. Future America has decided that prisons and housing inmates costs too much for their ballooning budget. (True. I think we spend more on prisons than schools). In an innovative and novel stroke of genius they decided to chrome (aka dye the skin of) criminals based on their class of crime and release them back into the general population to be basically shunned and harassed and beat up until their sentence has been served. Hannah is a Red. And Red is for murder.
The really freaky/futuristic part of the book isn’t really about the chroming (but chroming is definitely the most interesting) is the fact that Hannah is convicted of murder for having an abortion. Some of the more fundamental Christian state (like most of the South, Texas, and the Midwest/West) has enacted a series of Sanctity of Life laws, much like quite a few of the laws that have been kicked around in Mississippi and even Virginia. These laws decree that abortions are not only illegal, but they are murder. A fetus is a person and has all the rights and liberties of a person.
Hannah comes from a very religious, very Christian, very conservative background. Her parents have taught her that a woman is only meant to be a helpmeet to a man. Men are the unequivocal heads of households and women basically tend to the home and raise babies. So when Hannah starts and affair with her pastor, Aidan Dale, she really has no where to turn when the affair leads to her pregnancy. She would completely destroy Aidan Dale’s life if she told it was he who fathered her child and she would be held in contempt of the court until she revealed the father’s name. She elects to have an abortion and is subsequently caught and sentenced for murder.
While I enjoy the general premise of this book, it really isn’t that original. Other than the chroming, this story has been told before. Definitely taking one star off for lack of originality. However, the chroming is intensely original. Geneticists inject a virus into a criminals body thay dyes their skin a color. The color cannot wash off or be cut off or whatever else you would think to do to it. The only downside is that the virus doesn’t last forever. It only lasts a few months and requires regular injections throughout a person’s sentence. To ensure that chromes come back for their injections, they also implant a different virus that has a delayed release. When a person is overdue for a new injection, the virus causes hallucinations, a whole host of other things, and eventually death. No one can outlast the virus. People have tried. Everyone has failed.
I am also tired of reading books completely slamming religion. I feel that it is too easy. Yes, of course religion can cause a lot of problems and contradictions and oppress people. But I’m tired of reading about religion being like this evil force and only when people get out and experience the world can they truly see that their religious lives were lacking. Hannah struggles with her faith after being ostracized by her family and sees the double standards she was subjected to in her family. (i.e. it was a woman’s responsibility to remain modest and not inflame the passions of men) There are a few brief glimpses of tolerant religion, but the author didn’t explore that deeply enough. Religion and faith are complex and vary from person to person and I wish she had explored Hannah’s feelings further.
Bottom Line: This story has been told before, but it’s really interesting if you like these kind of books. The transformation of Hannah from a shy, sheltered church girl to a ragingly confident woman is particularly intriguing. It’s worth the read!

Genre: YA Dystopia

Notes: 17/50.  Don’t judge my reading choices.

Review: This. is. my. new. series.  Love times ten. And you know why?  BECAUSE THERE ISN’T A FREAKING LOVE TRIANGLE IN IT.  No Katniss > Peeta > Gale and especially no Bella > Edward > Jacob.  I love Hunger Games, but the love triangle was a bit much.

Divergent is set in a future Chicago that has basically crumbled.  We get snippets that there was a big war, everything got fucked up, and the leaders basically created factions to keep the peace (which makes no sense, but we’ll get to that later).  Each faction has one value that hold about all others: Dauntless values Bravery, Amity values Peace, Candor values Honesty, Abnegation values Selflessness, and Erudite values Intelligence. Each faction believes their way of thinking is the key to peace in the world and each has specific jobs to make sure society continues functioning. Each faction lives separately, wears special clothing, and only thinks like their faction.  If you can’t fit into one faction, then you live factionless, which is basically living in homeless squalor.

You know why I love this book?  Because Beatrice Prior (aka Tris) is a badass.  She does some dumb things, but she takes care of herself.  Originally born into the Abnegation faction, she chooses to join the Dauntless faction on choosing day at 16.  Their initiation process is brutal (and stupid, I would never have joined Dauntless) and she learns how to fight, how to survive, and how to become the person she was meant to be.  She takes a short trip to bitch town for awhile, but who doesn’t? She rights herself in the end.  What’s special about Tris is that she’s DIVERGENT.  She doesn’t fit into any one faction well.  She actually fits into three, Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite.  In this world, being Divergent is dangerous because it basically means you can think for yourself and can’t easily be controlled – something the power-hungry Erudite won’t stand for.  Divergent are usually rooted out and murdered.

I mean, to be honest, the story has been done before.  16 year old girl has a sneaky suspicion she doesn’t belong, no one understands her, has an inner struggle, and goes on a journey to find herself.  Finds love along the way, kissy puppy love, and saves the day.  How many times do we need that storyline? Apparently a lot because girls like me eat that shit for breakfast. I identified at times with Tris because I think (hope) that I would be Divergent too.  No one can make me do what I don’t want to do.  Just try.  I’ll spite you just because I want to.

Now, the plot holes: CREATING FACTIONS IN ORDER TO FOSTER PEACE DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. Sorry Roth, your dystopian premise doesn’t hold a lot of water.  I’m willing to forgive you though because the action moves swiftly and my 12 year old girl heart loves Tris and Four/Tobias together.

Bottom Line: I bought this book at the airport in Minneapolis on Sunday morning for my flight back to South Carolina…and finished before I landed.  Get your hands on it!  I’m reading Book #2, Insurgent, right now and #3 is slated to come out Fall 2013.

Genre: YA Dystopia

Notes: Book 16/50.  YA Dystopia is my bread and freaking butter.  I’m slightly ashamed that my reading tastes will never grow up, but then again, I don’t care.

Review: First of all, I need to stop starting trilogies.  I went to the library and this book looked interesting and, lo and behold, it is a dystopic trilogy.  This novel is set in a different world where you can hear everyone’s thoughts. Even animals.  Well, technically not everyone.  No one can hear women’s thoughts.

We follow Todd, the last boy who is not a man in Prentisstown.  Boys become men at age 13 through a ceremony that does not get revealed until much later in the book, and Todd only has a month to go. Except Prentisstown isn’t what it seems and Todd meets Viola Eades, a settler from Earth with her family (who is now dead) to get ready for the rest of their ship to land.

I really, really, really wanted to love this book.  I like it, I will read the other two, but it didn’t draw me in like most other novels of its kind do.  The writing (intentional misspellings, the Noise in a different font, Todd himself) took some getting used to, and I found it slightly annoying. Also, I don’t think Todd’s importance is explained well enough for me.  In the novel, Todd is chased by an entire army made up of thousands of men from Prentisstown and other towns along the way, and they never let up.  Ever.  But why?  Just ignore Todd and carry out your plan.  I don’t see how he makes you stronger.  It doesn’t make any sense!  Perchance I am too old to be reading these types of novels, but I still demand a well-written story.

This book did, however, give me a lot to think about.  I found it interesting that what seems to be the most religious, fanatic town (Prentisstown) is the cursed town and as Todd and Viola run to Haven (which sounds an awful lot like Heaven) with only Hope.  Hope that Haven will be able to protect them.  Hope that Haven actually exists.  Hope that they can finally stop running.  However, they are disappointed with what they find there.  (Disappointed is an understatement, but I don’t want to give anything away)  Maybe I’m reading too into this book, but Ness doesn’t seem to be a fan of religion and how far off track it can get.  People can do anything in the name of religion and call it right – even if they are committing murder.  And Haven’s lack of a Haven for Todd and Viola crushes any hope you have for this fictional world.  Frankly, quite a few YA books have this similar theme.  A theme of balance and thinking for yourself instead of letting other people make decisions for you – even if it is in the name of religion.  It’s an interesting and sticky subject, especially with the political battles going on today.

Bottom Line: Ness likes to give you hope and then stab you through the heart.  Can’t we all just get along?

Genre: Science Fiction

Notes: Scary realistic.  Plus it makes cracks about the metro escalators never working, PG county, and Potomac.  I think it’s infinitely more enjoyable if you’re from the DC area and know about the general suckage of traffic, metro, and people.

Review: This book is AWESOME.

While the Fountain of Youth is an old concept and it’s probably been written about a bajillion times, Magary take a new twist.  It’s like Tuck Everlasting  without the good feelings.  And nice people.  And, well, I guess it’s not that much like Tuck Everlasting, but the general message is the same.

In this novel, scientists accidentally find a cure for aging (not everything else, just aging.  You can still die from cancer, disease, or murder or anything else.   Just not aging related complications) while messing around with genes for hair color.  Everyone rushes to get “the cure” because, really, who hasn’t fantasized about never getting old?  I can stay in my 23-year-old body forever?  With all of the people I love?  JACKPOT.

But, as usual in science fiction books, everything goes to shit.

The world population (obviously) booms.  No one is dying.  People are still reproducing.  Families have one set of children, watch them grow up, and then have another set of children.  Cycle marriages abound.  (I will only stay married to you for 40 years, then all bets are off) Scary “Peter Pan” cases rip across the headlines.  (I want my baby to stay a baby forever!)

Meanwhile, crazy “green” people (environmental terrorists who literally color themselves green) wage war against the uncontrollable population to preserve the earth’s natural resources and balance.  The US government targets populations for extinction, some countries bomb themselves to eliminate entire cities, and doctors brand babies at birth with their real birth dates.

Through all this chaos, we follow John Farrell (cure age 29) as he navigates this new postmortal world.  John’s not exactly the hero character, but he’s relate-able.  He does some pretty shitty things to people around him, but he still possesses a good heart.  He tries.

Bottom Line: I cannot stop thinking about this book.  I can’t recommend it enough.  I’m kind of a science fiction nerd, but this is less nerdy and more dystopic near future-type literature.

Genre: Futuristic Sci-Fi, Romance, Dystopia

Notes: If you’re tired of hearing people say technology makes humans dumber, don’t read this book.  However, if you do believe technology takes away a lot of basic human interactions and the ability to communicate, this book delves deeper into a world where technology rules.

Review: The first thing that resonates with this book are the relationships.  They seem real.  And depressing.  If you like reading romance novels about people who complete each other and bring out the best, reading Shteyngart’s novel will make you sad.  Some couples are together simply because it is slightly less awful than being alone.  And it’s not only the romantic relationships they seem real, but the relationships between family members and friends resonate as well.

The book takes our reliance on gadgets and the internet to the extreme.  (well, honestly, maybe not that extreme)  US Citizens are constantly wired and linked to the internet.  Their apparats (the ipod like things around their necks) can do everything from shopping, rankings (are you the hottest person in the room?  Find out!), to news stories.   People even have a “fuckability” rating out of 800 as well as a Sustainability rating (rated in the Chinese Yen)

Reading this reminded me of going out to a bar and seeing everyone buried into their smart phones, not even paying attention to what’s going on around them.  The need to stay connected but living in a world of increasing isolation permeates this book.

The story revolves around two characters, Eunice Park and Lenny Abramov.  Abramov (39) and Eunice (23 or 24), make up an unlikely couple with all sort of cringe-worthy problems.  Abramov is a pushover and pathetic to the nth degree while Eunice has some weird, twisted idea of what love means.  Her father abused her as a child and, consequently, Eunice has almost non-existent self-esteem.  Eunice learns to “love” (I put love in quotations because their love is absolutely awful) Lenny and moves in with him to his apartment in New York.  This is really the part of the book I had an issue with.  I hated both of the main characters.  While I do think Shteyngart drew them true to life and full of flaws, I wanted to shake both of them.  I didn’t believe their relationship, and I couldn’t feel their love.  I felt Lenny’s slavish devotion to Eunice and I felt her ridiculously warped ideas of what made a man a good match for her.  But I didn’t feel their love for each other.

This book takes place in the not-too-distant future in New York (mostly).  The American dollar has fallen in value and the Chinese act as the primary creditors for the US.  Even with their help, most Americans live in crushing debt and the country lies on a precipice.  The Chinese creditors are threatening to withdraw their funds and give up on America – something the country will not survive.  It’s like Shteyngart takes all of the things Americans worry about (technology ruining our youth!  National debt! Isolation! Personal debt!  Mortality!) and crammed it all into one book screaming “Look, if you don’t change anything, this is what’s going to happen.”

Bottom Line: It’s an entertaining read and really does make you think about how you live your life.  But, honestly, I felt like he was bashing me over the head with his message.  Technology is happening whether you like it or not.  Don’t bury your head in the sand and pine for the good ol’ days pre-internet.