Category: Dystopian

Oct 19

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 12

Greetings Bookworms!

I’ve been on an Octavia Butler kick lately. After I read Fledgling (review) wherein Octavia Butler turned vampire lore upside down, I decided it was time to tackle dystopian/post apocalyptic Butler. When an author totally blows your mind in multiple genres (because Kindred too!), it only makes sense to explore their entire backlist of titles, right? Enter Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.

parable-of-the-sowerParable of the Sower opens with a world rocked by environmental and economic crises. The US has devolved into complete social chaos wherein even gated communities cannot be guaranteed of their safety. Food prices have skyrocketed, crime runs rampant, and emergency services are available only to those who can afford to pay the fees. Lauren Olamina lives in Southern California with her family when their relatively safe existence behind walls goes down in flames. Literally. In an attempt to survive in the aftermath, she flees northward, hoping to find a safe haven in which to explore and establish her newfound faith. Parable of the Talents continues Lauren’s story as she tries to establish a community and eek out an existence in what is left of society. Her efforts at rebuilding some semblance of life are hard won, but making headway. Unfortunately, shparable-of-the-talentse must contend with slavery, human trafficking, religious fundamentalists, and nightmarish political leaders. Suffice it to say that things don’t go particularly smoothly.

I won’t sugar coat it- these books scared the ever-loving crap o
ut of me. I hadn’t had a book related nightmare in ages (and I read Joe Hill this summer!) but these novels were chilling. CHILLING. There were so many terrifying and startling parallels to current political cycle, I can’t even. DOWN TO THE CAMPAIGN SLOGAN, YOU GUYS. I can only hope Butler is simply an insightful genius and not an actual oracle, because I am fifty shades of
freaked out. I’m not saying that a certain candidate’s presidency would bring about an apocalyptic hellscape, but, I HAVE CONCERNS.

Despite the nightmares, these books were phenomenal, insightful, and generally awesome. I would recommend that all of humanity (and probably a few extra terrestrial species) read these books. I apologize in advance for your bad dreams, bookworms, but these books are SO GOOD.

What is the last book that gave YOU bad dreams? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 30

The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin

Audio Books, Dystopian, Fantasy, Science Fiction 7

Rusting Earth, Bookworms!

I’ve told you before that I rely on my bookish friends on Twitter for oodles of recommendations, but I cannot thank Shaina enough for raving about NK Jemisin. I devoured The Fifth Season (with my ears) and waited on tenterhooks for a few weeks before the sequel, The Obelisk Gate was released. Obviously, I gobbled that book down as well, but I was only semi-lucky in the timing of my reading because now I shall utterly rot in wait for release of the conclusion to the trilogy. Siiiigh. But let me tell you about these phenomenal books in the meantime, so that you may read them and then join me in my anticipation.

fifth-seasonThe world is ending… Again. Sometime in the distant future, the Earth has begun a series of catastrophic “seasons.” Seismic instability leads to volcanic eruptions that cause apocalyptic ash clouds. Unprepared populations even in The Stillness are unable to grow crops during this period and populations dramatically decrease due to violence, illness, famine, and desperation. But humanity has evolved somewhat. There are some who wield power that can help control the tumultuous earth- or use it as a weapon. Post apocalyptic society plus geological superpowers equals WHOA.

That abstract I just wrote completely sucks and in no way explains how great these books are. In fact, the world building is so incredible and detailed, it takes a bit of reading to fully understand everything that’s going on. Stick with it, though, the payoff is one thousand percent worth it. NK Jemisin is a master craftswoman. I want to thrust these books into the hands of every science fiction and fantasy reader I know. And then I want to thrust these books into the hands of people who think they don’t like science fiction and fantasy. They’re just so dang innovative! I mean, this world has NOTHING WHATSOEVER in common theobeliskgatewith Medieval Europe. It’s not just the Middle Ages plus dragons and magic (not that that isn’t great in its own way) it’s a whole different world. Except it’s THIS WORLD. Sort of. It might make your head spin a little. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing. I’m sure the books are fabulous in print, but the narrator of the audio books is superb. Besides, I always like to hear how names are meant to be pronounced, especially in fantasy novels. It adds a little something to the experience, I think. Plus it prevents me from sounding dumb when discussing the book with folks in person. The ONLY problem I can find with these books is the fact that I unwisely started the series before it was completed and therefore am prevented from full binge reading.

Alright Bookworms, who has already read The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate? And does anyone know if NK Jemisin’s backlist titles are anywhere near this awesome? I think I’m going to have a LOT of reading to do while I wait for the final installment of this series… 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The author will too, obviously, because royalties, so you’d be doing us both a solid.*

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Oct 01

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Dystopian 2

Greetings Bookworms!

It’s always a good day when we’ve got a new Margaret Atwood novel to discuss, isn’t it? She’s back and doing what she does best, dystopia-ing it up. In her latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, Atwood explores many of the themes that made The Maddaddam Trilogy (review) and The Handmaid’s Tale (review) so doggone awesome. Let’s talk about it, okay? (Like you have a choice in this. Ah the beauty of blogging. I’m gonna tell you whatever the heck I want. You’ve got the option to stop reading, of course, but why would you? I mean, MARGARET ATWOOD!) *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. Opinions expressed are not tarnished, etc. etc.)*

theheartgoeslastThe US has suffered a massive economic crash and devolved into a second Great Depression (or worse, hard to say.) Charmaine and Stan have gone from a life of relative luxury with two steady incomes and owning a home to living in their car and eking out a meager existence on the tips Charmaine receives tending bar. They live in constant fear thanks to rampant crime and are at the end of their ropes. When they see a commercial touting a new social experiment, they jump at the chance to have gainful employment, regular meals, and a safe place to sleep at night.

The tradeoff is that residents of this little utopia have to spend alternating months as prison inmates. The town’s entire economy is based on the prison, so the inmate aspect is critical. It seems to be going fairly well, until Stan and Charmaine (unbeknownst to each other) develop romantic obsessions with their alternates (AKA, the people who live in Charmaine and Stan’s house while they’re incarcerated, and vice versa.)

The Heart Goes Last is an Atwood dystopia, so you KNOW it doesn’t stop at obsessing over the alternates. Once again I gleefully followed the white rabbit down the twisted rabbit hole Atwood created and I loved every minute of it. Read it, read it, read it!

Tell me something, Bookworms. Do you think you’d strike the bargain Stan and Charmaine did and move into a weird prison community, considering the super sucky alternative?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Aug 27

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Audio Books, Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction 13

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

I know I’m constantly shoving book recommendations in your faces, but I like to think we have a symbiotic relationship. I mean, when one of my friends says “OMG Katie, read this book right now” I’ll do it… Eventually. Case in point! My friend Ash told me that I needed to read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and I totally did. Seriously, it was in a timely fashion and everything. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

theredqueenMare Barrow is a 17 year old “Red” girl from a poor working class background. She lives in a society where there are two classes of people. Reds like Mare and her family are ordinary folks. They put their pants on one leg at a time and bleed red. They’re also second class citizens because some quirk of evolution has created a group of people with superhuman powers who actually bleed silver. They’re called “Silvers,” natch, and they got a little drunk on their god-like powers and subjugated all the normal folk. The Reds think this sucks, because it does, but it’s pretty tough to win a fight against someone who can manipulate metal or hop into your brain and take over. Mare and her fellow Reds can only look forward to a life of poverty- if they live long enough, that is. All Reds are conscripted to fight in an endless war on behalf of the Silvers once they turn 18, assuming they aren’t already doing something useful for society (ie sewing fancy clothes for the Silvers. Silvers like pretty things.) After a chance encounter, Mare finds herself employed in the Silver Palace, surrounded by demi-gods and with an unexplained power of her own. Let’s just say that being Mare gets a whole heck of a lot more complicated from there.

Alright you guys. This book is the start of yet another trilogy in the glut of YA dystopias on the market. It combined a number of elements I recognized from Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha Trilogy (review of book 1, as I didn’t finish the series) and The Hunger Games Trilogy. That said, Red Queen was different enough to catch my attention, and not in an eye-roll-y way. Well, except for this love quadrangle thing that was going on, but I feel like that’s par for the course in these sorts of books so I’m willing to overlook it for a hot minute. The book got under my skin and the characters stuck with me. Maybe it’s because I listened to the audio narration and it was excellent? Perhaps I’d have been less engaged if I’d done a strict eyeball read, I don’t know. Still, I think I might give book 2 a whirl and see where it takes me. If YA dystopias are your jam, Red Queen is definitely not to be missed. It may have thawed the heart of even this cranky skeptic.

Talk to me, Bookworms! If you could have the power to manipulate an earthly element, what would you pick? (I’m torn between water nymph skills and the power to do lots of back flips. I bet there’s a Silver whose only talent is doing back flips and their parents are terribly disappointed by it, but I think it would be awesome.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Mar 05

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Dystopian, E-Readers, Mystery 9

Good Morrow, Bookworms!

Raise your hand if you use your smart phone more than you’re proud of. My hand is high in the air, y’all. (I blame Trivia Crack.) I remember hearing a whole bunch of folks talking about the awesomeness that is The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon so when it popped up as available from my library’s digital services, I had to download it. Because I’m controlled by machines. They’re becoming sentient. OooOOOOOooooO.

wordexchangeEnter the world of The Word ExchangeIt’s a few years in the future and a smart-phone-like device known as a Meme has become ubiquitous. The Meme ain’t your average iPhone though. This thing pretty much predicts your thoughts and behaviors. It’s more than a little creepy. It kind of makes me wonder why everyone is all kinds of surprised when things go terribly, terribly wrong. (Of course, the characters in the novel didn’t have the advantage of reading about the whole thing at a distance. Omniscience is a gift. Gosh, I love fiction!)

Anana Johnson works for one of the world’s last remaining dictionaries. When her father goes missing, she stumbles upon a conspiracy, a secret society, and contracts a potentially deadly plague. Makes your Friday night seem uneventful, doesn’t it? A “word flu” has begun spreading that’s causing people to speak gibberish along with a nasty case of physical flu-like symptoms. I’ll give you three guesses as to what creeptastic device is behind the spread of the plague, but you’ll only need one! Anana teams up with her colleague (and secret admirer) Bart in order to track down her father and try to save the day.

The Word Exchange is a fun, weird, ride. It’s not an especially lengthy novel, but I found myself taking longer than usual to get through it. I typically get most of my reading in at night before I go to sleep, and I found my brain rebelling when I hit passages where infected folks were speaking gibberish. And by “brain rebelling,” I mean I fell asleep. I wasn’t bored, I’m just really spoiled by standardized spelling. If you’re in the mood for a fast paced, semi-dystopian mystery with a side of word nerd (and who isn’t?) The Word Exchange is your book!

Sound off, Bookworms! Do you think that we as a society have become too reliant on our smart phones? Will it bring about the end of days? (I might be watching Doomsday Preppers. I can’t be held responsible for my alarmist tone.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 22

The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

Dystopian, Science, Young Adult Fiction 19

Greetings Bookworms!

I love y’all. Have I mentioned that? I love the book blogosphere, too. It’s where I get most of my book recommendations. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to reading something, but there are some bloggers (and generally awesome human beings) who never steer me wrong. My girl Heather at The Capricious Reader thought the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness was amazing and, as usual, she was right. I’m going to talk about the books The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men as a unit (a spoiler-free unit) because it’s making me think all the thoughts. This one’s for you, Ethel!

chaoswalkingWhat would you do if all your thoughts were suddenly audible? Every secret, every desire, every flash of anger and inappropriate thought broadcast for the world to hear. THAT is the world Todd Hewitt lives in. Todd is coming of age in a place called Prentisstown, a place full of angry men and their angrier Noise. All animals have Noise, too (and lemme tell you, dogs in Prentisstown think EXACTLY the way I believe actual dogs think.) One day Todd and his dog Manchee stumble across a shockingly quiet area in the swamp. With men and animals constantly broadcasting their thoughts, there’s no escape from the relentless Noise. Until now. Of course, mysterious silence comes with secrets, revelations, and the need to run for their lives.

The books themselves provide a good adventure story, great world building, and funky science fiction elements. My heart was SHATTERED several times, but I could not stop reading. I just couldn’t. There were all sorts of moral dilemmas and discussions of war, empathy, forgiveness, and the inner workings of animal minds that provide plenty for any brain to chew on. But what really blew my mind? The idea of a world where thoughts are audible. It has my mental wheels spinning and they will not stop.

heartbreakpenguin

I have uncharitable thoughts ALL THE TIME, usually in the grocery store. I don’t know what it is about shopping carts and aisles and checkout lines, but they turn my inner monologue into an aggressive, nasty place. After reading books featuring telepaths (this is the fault of Sookie Stackhouse, obviously) I’ve occasionally been extremely grateful that nobody actually can read my thoughts. The idea that EVERYONE could hear them (including Office Beagle!) was seriously disturbing.

Talk to me Bookworms. How would you feel if everyone around you knew exactly what you were thinking? How would you feel if you could hear everyone else’s thoughts? Am I the only person who turns into a raging lunatic at the grocery store?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 11

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Dystopian, Plague, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 16

Good Morrow, Bookworms!

I’m feeling rather Shakespearean today, and it’s the fault of Emily St. John Mandel’s new (and awesome) novel, Station ElevenThere’s been a lot of buzz floating around about this book, but don’t believe the hype. Well, no. DO believe the hype. But believe it because I said so. (Shhhh, it makes me feel important.)

stationeleven Station Eleven explores a world twenty years after a flu pandemic knocks out 99% of the population of earth. It’s a little bit like The Stand (review), minus any supernatural elements or government conspiracies. It’s just good old fashioned viral mutation that wreaks havoc. It should freak you out a little, because it’s a totally plausible thing that could happen. (Shivers.)

When the proverbial shiznit hits the fan, it’s fascinating to see how the survivors react. Dude, 99% of the population is GONE. That’s EVERYONE you know, except maybe that weird cashier from the grocery store. So you go wandering. You’re searching for meaning, and probably company other than that weird cashier.

In Station Elevenone of the primary groups that forms is the Traveling Symphony. They wander through towns performing Shakespeare and classical music, because “survival is not enough.” Cool, right? An attempt to preserve art in the face of mass extinction? Heck yes.

Of course, not everybody goes around getting their Bard on. And some of the groups that have survived post apocalypse are less than savory. I don’t want to reveal too much because spoilers! But I will say that this book is an excellent, thought provoking read that will leave you pondering civilization, spirituality, and hand sanitizer. Go check it out!

I’m feeling deep, Bookworms. Do you feel that art helps keep civilization from self-destructing? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

 

 

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Oct 02

The Ark by Annabel Smith

Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 15

It’s The End of the World As We Know It, Bookworms!

I feel fine. How about you? It’s no secret that post-apocalyptic fiction is my jam, so I was pretty excited when Annabel Smith contacted me about checking out her new book The Ark. You might recognize Annabel’s name as one of the founders of the Six Degrees of Separation meme. Annabel and I bonded over the fact that her meme was fun and it allowed me to connect books using yogurt (it really happened). *In the interest of full disclosure, Annabel Smith is my blog friend. I was offered a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. That said, I’m honest to a fault, so y’all can still trust me.*

theark-annabelsmithThe Ark is one part e-book, one part app, and one part high tech epistolary novel. It’s 2041 and the future is UGLY. Hidden in the Australian wilderness lies a secret bunker of sorts. It’s a seed bank, you know, where seeds are stored so humans have a backup plan when they destroy the planet. (Seed banks are a real thing, and totally legit. Swearsies.) An exclusive group of scientists and their families are invited to ride out The Chaos (peak oil, civil unrest, food shortages, general anarchy) in the seed bunker known as The Ark. It sounds like a great plan, except whenever you confine people into an underground bunker and lock them in, things get weird. Charismatic leaders always have hidden agendas, and the folks in The Ark are left wondering who they can trust.

The Ark was published as an e-book with a cool collaborative app experience. Or so I heard. The book is best experienced on an iPad, and relative luddite that I am, I’ve only got a Kindle Paperwhite. (Which I love the way humans are never meant to love electronic devices.) Luckily, I was able to poke around the novel’s corresponding website after I’d finished reading and came to appreciate it even more. If you’re going to read this one, don’t skip the website. Or, you could just read on an iPad and be one of the cool kids and not have to take the extra step. Whatever.

The story itself is laid out in a series of e-mail communications, text messages, and blog posts. There are also several segments presented as transriptions of conversations and it was exceptionally cool to get to listen to those through the website/app. Heaven help me, I LOVE Australian accents. Certainly an innovative idea for a disturbing story.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me without a minor gripe, would I? There’s a section of the book written in the form of a teenage boy’s blog posts. I know teenagers are all about the text-speak and the new-fangled lingo, but I struggled to read portions of it. That’s really more on me than the author, my inner old lady is spoiled by correct grammar and conventional spelling (they don’t call me Ethel for nothing!) Still, if you’ve got the itch to read some delicious post-apocalyptic fiction, I recommend you get your paws on a copy of The Ark post haste!

Alright Bookworms, let’s get real. If you were locked in an underground bunker, how long do you think you’d make it before losing your ever loving mind? I think I could hack it a week. Maybe. What about you?

 

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Aug 14

Sad Robot Stories by Mason Johnson

Dystopian 16

Greetings, Bookworms!

You know how I’m always rattling on and on about books and how you should read them? Sometimes I actually take other people’s advice. Really. I listen when you give me suggestions, I promise. Case in point. A few weeks ago I put together an Idiosyncratic Lit List dedicated to robot stories. When I posed the question at the end of the post as to what I’m missing in the genre, I heard a loud chorus of “Sad Robot Stories!”

sadrobotcover400Available through small press CCLaP Publishing, Sad Robot Stories by Mason Johnson is a novella that will warm the cockles of even the most robotic heart. Our hero is a robot… Named Robot. Because why not? He was always uncommonly fond of humans for a mechanical being. He even came to befriend and love a human family.

Sadly, that was before the world was destroyed and humanity snuffed out. All that remain are robots, which is perfectly fine with most of the android population, but our poor Robot is heartbroken. Seeing the glimmers of what makes humanity good through Robot’s eyes is a fantastic journey.

It’s not all wistful looks at humankind, though. Sad Robot Stories is darkly comedic and filled with poignant satire. You’ll be hard pressed not to laugh, cry, and fall head over heels in love with Robot. You bookworms have never steered me wrong, and Sad Robot Stories was no exception!

I’d like to thank Monika from A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall in particular for her, uh, gentle? persuasion in getting me to read this book. You know, if you consider emailing someone a direct link to a free downloadable copy of the book gentle persuasion (you dirty, dirty book pusher, you.) That said… You can download this book FOR FREE from the CCLaP site. If you love it (and I know you will) you can make a donation commensurate with your enjoyment. OR you can just buy the thing outright. That totally works too. Go get your robot on, Bookworms!

Talk to me, Bookworms. What other gems am I missing out on? Sound off on recommendations, I’m all ears!

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Aug 11

The Ultimate Nerdgasm: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Audio Books, Dystopian 35

Hey Bookworms!

I am just starting to get into listening to audio books in situations other than long solo road trips. I’m not exactly tech savvy, but I’m pleased to report that I have figured out how to access audio books through my library’s digital service for ZERO dollars! (It’s embarrassingly easy, actually. There’s an app for that.) I’m happy to report that Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (narrated by the incomparable Wil Wheaton) was a big winner!

ready player oneIn the year 2044, society sucks. A series of economic catastrophes, wars, famine, and natural disasters have rendered the world as we know it nearly unrecognizable. In fact, most of the world prefers to spend their time logged into the ubiquitous virtual reality server known as the OASIS than, you know, exist in their own skins. The OASIS is a multifaceted information and entertainment hub- think the internet on steroids. Times eleventy billion.

Wade Watts is an orphan living in a trailer stack outside of Oklahoma City. He escapes his Dickensian circumstances in the OASIS where he spends his time hunting for the ultimate golden ticket. James Halliday, one of the original creators of the OASIS, died and left a treasure hunt in place of a will. Whoever manages to find his hidden “Easter egg” will receive his entire fortune.

Wade and others like him spend oodles of time studying every facet of Halliday’s life trying to unlock the keys to his puzzle. Halliday’s formative years were spent in that most glorious of decades, the 1980s.

This book is the ultimate nerdgasm, but you don’t need to be hardcore to enjoy it. Despite having never played a role-playing game, being abysmal at every video game ever created, and having only a passing familiarity with Star Trek, I couldn’t get enough of this book. The pop culture references flew fast and furious. Wil Wheaton, narrator of my audio book, got to discuss HIMSELF as a political leader inside the OASIS. How much fun is that?!

Ready Player One is easily one of the most entertaining and fun books I’ve experienced in a good long while. Anybody who appreciates a good Breakfast Club reference, has a collection of vintage Transformers, and/or remembers Atari needs to read this book. Like right now. DO IT!

Any of you Bookworms moonlight as gamers? Anybody as terrible at video games as I am?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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