Category: Dystopian

Sep 17

Falling for Fall: Top Ten Tuesday

Dystopian, E-Readers, Frightening, Mystery, Supernatural, Top Ten Tuesday 62

Good Day, Bookworms!

It’s the middle of September now, so I’m feeling very Autumnal. Luckily, the ladies of The Broke and The Bookish seem to be feeling this way, too! Today’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday listy goodness is the top ten books we plan to read this fall.

toptentuesday

Halloween is just around the corner, and this year to celebrate I thought I’d do some spooky reading. I know what you’re thinking. “Katie, you are afraid of everything and you are setting yourself up for a month of nightmares, you big chickeny chicken face!” You’re right. But I’m gonna do it anyway! Let’s get our creepy on!

1. The Passage by Justin Cronin. It’s October’s Fellowship of the Worms selection! Zombie/vampire hybrids? Yep. Nightmares. But at least we’re doing this TOGETHER!

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker. This is THE classic vampire novel. How have I managed this long without having read this book? It seems so terribly wrong…

3. The Walkng Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga. The new season of The Walking Dead  begins in October and I’m so excited! I got a copy of this book at BlogHer13 after watching Gale Anne Hurd’s kickass keynote. ZOMBIES!

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4. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I’m trying to incorporate some more classics into my literary diet and it’s spooktacular. (I know. I am already kicking myself for using such a dumb phrase. My shins shall be so very bruised…)

5. Feed by Mira Grant. ZOMBIES! I’ve heard great things about this series, so I’m pretty stoked about it. Braaaaaaaains. Om nom nom!

6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Halloween brings out the kid in me, why not indulge in a creepy kid’s story? Everybody loves the classic “kid raised by wolves ghosts” tale!

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7. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Aliens and religion. When you dig deep into religion you get into some secretive, scandalous, and mysterious tidbits. Add aliens?! Well. I mean, ALIENS! (I love ET. That doesn’t have a whole lot to do with anything, but that’s what comes to mind when I think of aliens. I cannot watch that movie without crying. He’s like a weird ugly otherwordly chihuahua.)

8. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages. I’m SUPER annoyed that I can’t get it for my kindle yet. Ugh. Seriously, people. I love me some digital books. I haven’t got the storage space to bring more physical books into my house. It seems exceptions will have to be made, but not without a little grumbling. Grumble grumble grumble…

9. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Duuuuuuuuuuun dun dun dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun! Sorry, sorry. It just got a little Andrew Lloyd Weber up in here. I would like to read this ghostly little tidbit though. I hear that no one tells a story like Gaston, so…

10. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. What is scarier than the end of the world, dude?! Let’s do this thing!

What are your plans for the fall, bookworms? A little bit of frightful fare for the spooky season? Tell me about it!

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Sep 13

It's a Very, Very MaddAddam World

Dystopian, Frightening, Science 38

Salutations Bookworms!

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. NOBODY does a dystopia like Atwood, believe you me. (I mean, have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?!) I have been waiting for what feels like FOREVER for the release of MaddAddamThis book completed Atwood’s epic dystopian trilogy that began with the 2003 release of Oryx and Crake and continued with 2009’s In The Year of the FloodI’ve been desperate to know the fate of humanity for YEARS now!

margaret-atwood-dystopic-trilogy

Atwood is a passionate environmentalist, and the future she paints as a result of environmental catastrophes is disturbing. In Atwood’s version of the future, global warming has taken a serious toll on the planet. Large portions of California and the Eastern Seaboard are underwater and therefore uninhabitable thanks to the melting of the polar ice caps. Science is now able to manufacture actual meat without having to harm any animals; they can grow a chicken breast in isolation. They’ve played around with gene splicing so much, the native species are all jacked up. Atwood doesn’t go into detail about all of the hybrid animals, but her naming of them gives clues as to their origins. There are now sheep who grow human hair and pigs with human brain tissue. Pharmaceuticals have been perverted by giant corporations so that in addition to curing diseases, they also spread them. Every extreme you can imagine has come to fruition, and it’s not pretty.

Our motley cast of characters are born into this reality. People not under the employ of a major corporation are cast out into the dangerous and impoverished pleeblands. New religions emerge that worship petroleum on one end of the spectrum and extreme recycling on the other. (Let’s face it. Handmade sandals fashioned from recycled tires are sexy, y’all.) Criminals are given the option to suspend their prison sentences by opting to fight to the death in an arena, gladiator style. (Painball is no Hunger Games- these aren’t little kids in the field, they’re psychotic murderers. Butchering one’s victims and devouring their kidneys is par for the course.)

plagueThis brave new world is the perfect chaos into which a genius with a God complex can enter to wreak havoc. Our doom fixated genius is a misguided young man named Glenn, though he has taken on the pseudonym “Crake” because he’s all about extinct species. The term “God complex” gets flung around pretty regularly to refer to people who like to control situations, but Crake is the very definition of the term. He was a scientific genius, but instead of sticking to commercial pursuits, he decided to crafted himself a new race. He gene spliced himself a new humanoid species that was meant to “correct” all the foibles that have plagued humans. He pulled a GENESIS, yo. That’s CRAZY! Much like the vengeful God of the Old Testament, Crake has determined that he needs to wipe the slate clean of the existing human race. The apocalyptic flood was unleashed in the form of a lethal genetically modified microbe nestled inside an sexual enhancement pill. Sinners and saints alike perished in Crake’s wrath. The handful of survivors attempt to regroup and figure out how to persevere in their new nightmarish reality.

I could go on and on about how insane Atwood’s world building is or how much I LOVE all the biological oddities she created. The work is intense, poignant, and cautionary. It will make you ponder ethical conundrums you never anticipated. You really, really, REALLY need to read this.

Alright Bookworms. Let’s throw out consequences for a second and take a trip into the land of imagination. If you could create a hybrid animal what two would you smush together?

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Sep 09

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction 28

Greetings, Bookworms!

Last week I talked about how much I enjoyed Divergent by Veronica Roth, and in true Katie fashion, I began the second book IMMEDIATELY after finishing the first. I’ve been completely sucked into this world, so Insurgent and I got along juuuuuust fine.

insurgentI said the other day that the second book in a trilogy is often sacrificed as the Jan Brady of books. (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!) There were quite a few of you Bookworms who mentioned that Insurgent was a disappointment to you, but I didn’t have any problems with it. Since it’s downright impossible to discuss the second book in the triology without spoiling the first, I’m going to go ahead and issue a big fat SPOILER ALERT!

When we left Chicago, the wicked Jeanine, leader of Erudite, had turned Dauntless into a faction of zombie mind controlled soldiers. She had them attack Abnegation and murder a bunch of important government leaders. Because Tris is Divergent, she wasn’t susceptible to the computer chip implant and… Neither was her new boyfriend Four! A little convenient perhaps, but I love their little romance so I’m cool with the dual Divergence.

After a whole lot of heartbreak, the deaths of Tris’s parents, and the reappearance of Tobias’s (AKA Four) abusive jerkface father, Marcus, our small band of refugees hops a train out of town to Amity’s compound. Amity! We haven’t heard much from them yet, so getting to see their compound and some of the questionable tactics they employ to keep the peace was pretty sweet. Eventually they head out of Amity to discover that once the Dauntless army came out of their trance, they split in half: one half bunking with the Candor crew and the other sticking with their Erudite brain masters. Families are torn apart. And in between all of this? Tris keeps taking stupid risks and putting herself in danger, which TOTALLY pisses off Tobias. Trouble in paradise, but at least, thank HEAVEN, NO LOVE TRIANGLE!

So there’s a big fat WAR going on. A war of the factions, a war in the city. The freaking FACTIONLESS threaten to rise from the ashes! People return from the dead. I mean, all bets are off. It’s insanity. We’re left with a ginormous cliffhanger at the end of this book. And I’m all…

Needless to say, I have SUPER high expectations for Allegiant which is due out October 22. I wish I’d waited a bit longer to start the series so I didn’t have to SUFFER in ANTICIPATION like this! Gah! Anybody out there in this boat with me?!

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Sep 05

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Frightening, Young Adult Fiction 61

Hey There Bookworms,

I have been putting off reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent for quite a while now. I really enjoy a good YA dystopia, but the market has been rather saturated with them lately. After reading and not loving Ally Condie’s Matched series, I was skeptical to try again… It’s a darn good thing I did, because right now the Divergent series only ranks below The Hunger Games in my personal ranking of YA dystopias. I KNOW!

Divergent hc c(2)

Alright. We begin in what I can only assume is a post apocalyptic Chicago. Lake Michigan has dried into marshland, and a mere sliver of the city is inhabited. The rest is in ruins. (I enjoyed this book all the more because I’m familiar with the major landmarks and buildings in the Windy City. I grew up in the Chicago burbs, and while I won’t call myself a native,I know Navy Pier from Millenium Park and the Sears Tower from the Hancock building. “Willis” Tower my foot.)

Anyway. The new civilization inhabiting Chicago is split into five major factions. The factions are sort of like fraternities and sororities on steroids. They each value a different virtue above all else. I imagine that Roth named her factions specifically to expand teenage vocabularies (for which I salute her!) Erudite values knowledge, Candor values truth, Abnegation values selflessness, Amity values kindness, and Dauntless values bravery.

Beatrice Prior has just turned 16. She was raised in Abnegation, the, uh Amish equivalent in this society. Not really Amish, I guess, but they’re very modest and focus on the needs of others before themselves. They’re big on feeding the poor and service. A very nice faction, on the whole, but they are discouraged from looking in mirrors and their lives are really regimented. Beatrice, like all the the 16 year olds in the community, is on the precipice of a huge decision. She is about to choose her faction. Being born in Abnegation doesn’t mean she has to stay there. Each student is given an aptitude test to determine where they are best suited, but they have the option to choose a different faction.

The students get to choose where they will go, but they’re not guaranteed acceptance. They have to go through a training and initiation phase, and not everyone makes it. Those who don’t are cast out to live among the “factionless.” The factionless work menial jobs and live in poverty, so it behooves the students to do their best to choose wisely. The problem Beatrice is facing is that her aptitude test was inconclusive. She has to embrace ONE faction, but her test results indicate that she’s got an aptitude for THREE. She’s considered “Divergent” as a result and that is a dangerous thing to be. DUN DUN DUN!

I don’t want to talk too much about this book, because it’s hard to discuss without getting super spoiler happy. I like this book too much to spoil it! Roth does some awesome world building in this novel. Her dystopian Chicago is well drawn and disturbingly lifelike. I love the implications of the faction system. I think it offers some good lessons on the gray areas of life and the importance of seeing things from other people’s perspectives.

After having read this book, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in a faction! Much in the way I dubbed myself a Ravenclaw after reading Harry Potter, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what faction I’d have landed in. I’m so confused! They’re all so flawed, but they’ve all got good qualities too. So far, the only two I’ve been able to rule out are Dauntless (because I’m a giant chicken) and Candor (because even though I suck at lying, I think living in an environment of CONSTANT brutal honesty would be REALLY bad for my overly sensitive self.) This leaves me with Erudite, but I don’t know if I could even go there because despite my inherent bookwormy nerdiness, they’re SUPER science-y folk, and that’s never been my academic forte. I think I’d flunk at Abnegation, because I rather like mirrors and though I’d like to be selfless, I know I’m not that perfect. I suppose I’d chill in Amity, because they grow stuff (I like to garden) and they’re all about being nice to each other… Then again… Maybe I’m Divergent between Erudite, Amity, and Abnegation. I’m all kinds of complicated.

What faction do you think YOU would land in, Bookworms? Where do you see yourself fitting in?

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Aug 29

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Classics, Dystopian, Frightening 30

Howdy Bookworms,

There’s a good chance I’ve been watching too much Doomsday Preppersbut you know I love a good post apocalyptic novel. It had been a while since I’d read one, so when Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank came up as a sale item on Amazon this month I jumped on it. Alas, Babylon was published in 1959, which for all of you scholars out there was at the height of the Cold War. The threat of the US and the USSR blowing each other to smithereens with nuclear bombs was palpable.

Alas, BabylonAlas, Babylon takes the leap into the “what if.” What if the USSR had nuked many of the major cities in the US? What if a small pocket of Florida remained untouched while the rest of the state was saturated in radiation? What if the power went out… Forever? I love a good apocalypse story, and this is one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s funny that something written 54 years ago could still be so relevant, but it absolutely is. Those of us living today in the digital age would be facing the exact same predicament as the folks in the 50s… Except a little worse, because OMG what would we do without the INTERNET?!

One of my favorite shows in the last ten years was JerichoIt was a tragically short lived drama (2006-2008, RIP) about a small town in Kansas in the aftermath of nuclear devastation in the US. The hit sites were very similar to those in Alas, Babylon, but instead of Russia being behind the bombs, it was a mysterious conspiracy. Obviously, since this book came out decades before that show, it’s almost impossible that the creators of the show were not influenced by this book. I LOVE THEM BOTH!

It had everything! People’s reactions to disasters always fascinate me. First there’s the disbelief that anything of this magnitude could happen. The shock. The panic. The looting of the stores. The lawlessness that inevitably arises when food and supplies run low. You’ve got the ingenuity of people re-learning how to do things the “old fashioned” way and the rise of the highwaymen. I picked up this book and I could not put it down. It was that awesome. Of course, I’m now slightly paranoid about nuclear war and kind of want to get a Geiger counter to keep in my basement, but what else is new? I’m highly susceptible to suggestion. This is why I don’t watch infomercials, because HOT DAMN that Forever Lazy looks like a good idea.

What about you, bookworms? Do you like post apocalyptic novels? A good dystopia? Do they make you want to stockpile things and build a bunker? No? That’s just me? I should probably stop watching Doomsday Preppers, shouldn’t I?

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Jul 16

Coming Out From Under the Dome

Contemporary Fiction, Dystopian, Psychological, Supernatural 36

Howdy, Bookworms!

Exciting news today: I survived the DomeAlong! I have some thoughts to share on the second half of the book soooo… SPOILER ALERT!!! (I’m not kidding, it’s like ALL the SPOILERS.) You’ve been warned. Ready?

Under the Dome lengthwise

When we last spoke, I was getting frustrated with the one dimensional bad guys (who were just the evilest of evil) and the fact that the good guys couldn’t catch a break. They had also alluded to the fact that the Dome was probably caused by aliens, so I wasn’t too surprised to learn that was indeed the case. This book had an astonishingly high body count, so I’m just going to write out some tidbits and illustrate my reactions with gifs.

Let’s talk bad guys. I think the most satisfying revenge-y deaths were Georgia and Frank. The fact that Sammy got even a teeny bit of revenge for the hideous gang rape she suffered (even though she then killed herself…) pleased me. Not sure what that says about me as a human. Then Junior. Evil, brain tumored Junior. He came by his wickedness honestly, being the offspring of Big Jim Rennie, but Junior was killed in the heat of battle as he tried to mow Barbie down in a jail cell. Luckily for Barbie, Junior’s tumor was getting really bad and his aim was crap. That and the little band coming to break Barbie out of jail arrived just in time. I might have preferred to see Junior drawn and quartered, but I suppose being shot by a good guy helped curve a little bit of my revenge lust…

The good guys who rescued Barbie (and Rusty, because he managed to get himself arrested, too) decide to hide out near where they discovered the device producing the dome. Turns out the Dome was indeed the plaything of aliens. Plaything being the operative word. King was a bit heavy handed in drawing the comparison to ants being burnt under a magnifying glass, but the effect was pretty creepy. The people were trapped in a town that was self destructing by adolescent ne’er-do-well aliens. It reminded me of this old Twilight Zone episode where a ballerina, bagpiper, clown, and a couple other people are mysteriously trapped in a room. At the end it turns out that they’re TOYS in a donation bin.

Preach it, Cam. (Source)

Preach it, Cam. (Source)

Meanwhile, remember that meth lab on the outskirts of town? The drug addled Chef (who was, coincidentally, married to Sammy Bushey, gang rape victim, Bratz doll torturer, occasional lover of Junior’s second murder victim, and mother of Little Walter) has gone COMPLETELY off his rocker and starts threatening anybody who comes near his lil slice o’ heaven with machine guns. Andy Sanders (the first town selectman) decides to try and off himself but chickens out. He’s heard about Chef and his machine guns and goes out to visit (hoping he’ll be killed so he doesn’t have to do it himself. You know. Sin and all.) Instead of meeting his maker, Andy is introduced to the joys of meth and becomes Chef’s disciple. Greeeeat right? Well, the two of those yahoos smoke themselves into oblivion, which would be innocuous enough, if they weren’t also hell-bent on bringing about the End of Days. Do you know much about meth labs? They’re full of outrageously explosive chemicals and sometimes blow up unprovoked. If you’re The Chef and you’ve already lost your marbles, you think it’s a good idea to wire the whole place with dynamite, just to help things along.

So that happens. And since the Dome is really bad about air exchange, anybody who isn’t vaporized immediately succumbs to the oppressive fumes shortly thereafter, with a couple exceptions. The good guys who were hiding out on the ridge manage to get to the dome and have the military set up super industrial fans to push a little bit of fresh air through. The kid who shot his eye out at the very beginning of the book (because Ralphie’s mom was RIGHT, dangit!) had a brother who managed to hide in the cellar under a pile of potatoes and breathe some oxygen his dead grandfather had left in the house. And yes, Big Jim Rennie, cockroach that he is, manages to get himself and his newly minted “son,” Carter (who happened to also be a rapist, though Big Jim isn’t one to fixate on such trivialities) into the town’s old fallout shelter. After he kills Carter (who, in fairness, was trying to kill Big Jim,) I was beginning to get super pissed that Big Jim would survive. Then, I kind of hoped that he WOULD survive, because he’d be forced to face the music for all his evil deeds. Needless to say I was a little annoyed when he was taken out by a heart attack. No answering for his crimes except (hopefully) eternal damnation?

So the good guys eventually manage to get out of the Dome… By appealing to the punk-ass alien kids who are holding them hostage. This part sort of reminded me of the end of Ender’s Game (so I guess, SPOILER ALERT again.) The alien kids thought that it was all a game, they didn’t think people had feelings or whatever. It was a sadistic little game, just like kids burning ants with a magnifying glass, or giant bug-like aliens attempting to exterminate the indigenous species of planet Earth because they didn’t understand that humans were in fact intelligent beings. (I can’t really blame the poor buggers for that one, sometimes we ARE pretty dense.) Anyhow. Julia manages to convince one little alien kid to lift the Dome, and like 10 people get out. Out of 2,000. Not great odds, but it’s Stephen King, you know?

What I don’t understand is why they didn’t try the psychic begging angle before. Like… Julia’s final encounter with the aliens wasn’t the FIRST they’d had- why didn’t it occur to anyone to try to throw their brain waves and beg for mercy? They could have gotten out, Big Jim could have had a big public airing of his misdeeds and been punished appropriately, and the Chef wouldn’t have had the opportunity to kill basically everyone because his meth brain thought he was doing God’s work. I mean… Really?

Amy and I are not pleased. (Source)

Amy and I are not pleased. (Source)

So, um yeah. I don’t think Under the Dome was King’s best effort. I mean, it’s fine, I guess, but it’s not The Stand. It’s more like… The Stand… Light. Just 10 calories. Not Stand-ish enough. I have heard that a lot of people looooove this book, so I’m feeling a little Debbie Downer-ish here. Has anybody else read Under the Dome? What’s your take on it?

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Jun 28

Hey! I've Read That! (A Confession Friday Game)

Blogging, Classics, Confession Friday, Contemporary Fiction, Dystopian, Pretentious 89

Howdy Bookworms!

So the other day I was skulking around the blogosphere as I am wont to do. I came across a list on Book Riot (HERE is the post by Jeff O’Neal) of 100 books that would make you “well read.” He had a set of criteria including cultural significance, familiarity with the classics of western literature, etc.  There was a big blow up in the comment section about what constitutes being well-read; what was included, what wasn’t, and so on and so forth. Then a bunch of people started FLIPPING OUT because 50 Shades of Gray was on the list. Say what you will about 50 Shades (and I had PLENTY to say… HERE if you’re interested) but it got a lot of people to read a book who wouldn’t ordinarily read a book. Would it be better if those people had picked up something with fewer grammatical errors? Probably. But if people choose a book, ANY BOOK, over another form of entertainment for even a little while? I consider that a win.

Sarah over at Sarah Says Read talked a little bit more about this (and inspired me to rip off her post… I mean… Borrow her idea and credit her properly.) Jen at The Relentless Reader and Rory from Fourth Street Review weighed in as well! (Can I go off topic and mention how much I love having a bookworm blog pal named Rory? My inner Gilmore Girls enthusiast is beyond thrilled by this.) Now, I’m not going to dissect the Book Riot criteria because I’m kind of lazy. Book Riot has a big old comment section, so if you’re interested, I suggest you check out the spirited discussion there. In my happy little corner of the internet, in lieu of  potential over analyzation, we play, “Hey, I’ve Read That!” One of my favorite things to do in a bookstore is to peruse and mentally point out stuff I’ve read (or point it out to whomever I’ve conned into shopping with me…) So. I’m going to gauge my “well read” status according to the Book Riot 100. Ready???

This is my smug face. I was making it because I made my "nephew" Jack fall asleep when he was being a crankypants.

This is my smug face. I was making it because I made my “nephew” Jack fall asleep when he was being a crankypants. He’s wearing a Sonic Youth onesie because he’s badass.

So here’s the list, in alphabetical order: (Stuff that’s marked out like so? That means I’ve read it!)

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton My Thoughts
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay  by Michael Chabon
  6. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  11. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  12. Beowulf
  13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak My Thoughts
  14. Brave New World by Alduos Huxley My Thoughts
  15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz My Thoughts
  16. The Call of the Wild  by Jack London
  17. Candide by Voltaire
  18. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  19. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (Got this for Christmas. Currently residing on Shelf of Shame)
  20. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  21. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  22. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  23. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  24. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
  25. The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
  26. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor 
  27. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  28. Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  29. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  30. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  31. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  32. Dream of Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
  33. Dune by Frank Herbert
  34. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  35. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  36. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green My Thoughts
  37. Faust by Goethe
  38. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  39. Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
  40. The Golden Bowl by Henry James
  41. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  42. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn My Thoughts
  43. The Gospels (I’m familiar with the Gospels, but I’ve never read them as like, literature, so I’m not counting it!)
  44. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  45. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  46. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  47. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood My Thoughts
  49. Harry Potter & The Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  50. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Hanging out on the Shelf of Shame)
  51. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  52. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  53. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien My Thoughts
  54. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  55. Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  56. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  57. if on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
  58. The Iliad by Homer
  59. The Inferno by Dante
  60. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  61. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  62. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  63. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  64. The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  65. The Little Prince by Antoine  de Saint-Exepury
  66. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov My Thoughts
  67. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  68. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Started this. Failed. Lives on the Shelf of Shame. In good company.)
  69. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  71. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  72. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  73. The Odyssey by Homer
  74. Oedipus, King by Sophocles
  75. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  76. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  77. The Pentateuch
  78. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  79. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  80. The Road by Cormac McCarthy My Thoughts
  81. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
  82. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  83. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  84. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  85. The Stand by Stephen King My Thoughts
  86. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  87. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  88. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  89. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  90. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  91. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  92. Ulysses by James Joyce
  93. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  94. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  95. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
  96. Watchmen by Alan Moore
  97. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  98. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte My Thoughts
  99. 1984 by George Orwell
  100. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James My Thoughts

My total? 49 books. I’d like to give myself extra credit for completing several of the series where only the first book was mentioned. I’d also like points for having read something by one of these authors, just not the title listed (Steinbeck, Woolf, Rushdie, Joyce, James, Rand- I’m looking at you!) Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, I have no desire to rewrite these rules, I just wanted to play the game. So. How’d you do, Bookworms? I’m feeling a little blue for clocking in at less than half of these titles. Anyone there with me?

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Jun 07

Killing Me Softly: The Kill Order by James Dashner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Frightening, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 17

Hey Bookworms,

How’s it going? Been hit by any devastating solar flares lately? No? Well. That’s good. Because you know what happens when solar flares hit? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Remember back to when I reviewed The Maze Runner by James Dashner and thought it was awesome? And then I read The Scorch Trials and thought it was compelling? And then I finished The Death Cure and I was kind of meh? I’d been told that I’d feel better about things once I read the prequel, The Kill Order.

killorder

Our story starts off with the only connection we get to familiar characters. Thomas and Theresa are nervously awaiting their decent into the Maze. As soon as Thomas is about to have his memory wiped, we are taken back in time and plunged into a world in chaos. The earth has been plagued by a series of destructive and devastating solar flares. Our main characters, Mark and Trina, only survived the initial impact by having been on the subway. The solar flares led to massive melting of the polar ice caps thus flooding the island of Manhattan and heaven knows where else. They’re taken under the wing of a pair of ex military survivalists along with a handful of other teenagers.

Half the population of Earth is assumed to have perished during the flares, what with the radiation and the heat and the melting of human flesh and whatnot. Those who are left, Mark and his crew among them, have tried to cobble together an existence out of what’s left. They’re living in shanty villages hunting, foraging, and getting their Bear Grylls on. For about a year they’re putting things back together until a bunch of douche canoes show up on an airship shooting poisoned darts at random. Their mission? As we learned at the very end of The Death Cure, they were sent by the world governments to cull the population to a sustainable level, given the Earth’s depleted resources. More humane, they rationalize, than letting nature take its course and having people die off slowly of starvation and/or conventional illnesses they’ve run out of resources to treat.

As we know, this supposedly humane virus turned out to be THE FLARE, the dreaded disease that went airborne, spread like wildfire, and drove people completely out of their minds before killing them. Sort of like Mad Cow disease, but with people… And different. AND it killed EVERYONE who wasn’t immune. SPOILER ALERT (if you haven’t read the initial trilogy.) They never did cure the damn thing, so the immunes are left to repopulate the Earth, a la The Stand… Minus significant awesomeness and supernatural elements.

Now topping the list of Stuff I'm Afraid Of: Solar Flares!

Now topping the list of Stuff I’m Afraid Of: Solar Flares! SOURCE

While I was happy to have some closure on how The Flare came to be and what the deal was with the solar flares, I had a few issues with this book. Throughout the original trilogy, Thomas has had his memory wiped and we only see bits and pieces of his past through random memory flashes. I didn’t love the device in the trilogy, but I tolerated it fairly well because, DUDE. They had their memories wiped! How ELSE would such information come through other than in fits and starts?

Dashner obviously enjoyed writing this way, keeping his audience guessing. Stylistically, I suppose he was trying to remain consistent by employing this same flashback-esque sort of shtick in The Kill Order. HOWEVER. Mark had full use of his memory. Sure, he had some mad PTSD as anyone who lived through the end of the world would be expected to. BUT. He never just comes out and tells these stories. They come to him in dreams. Strikingly coherent dreams that read like a narrative. Maybe I’m alone here, but even when my dreams dredge up painful memories, they’re NEVER cogent. My dreams always involve weird random crap popping up and a disembodied quality. Also, there’s almost always something I simply cannot do, like change clothes or find my classroom or find my car or find my train terminal or figure out why I’m skydiving…

It just seemed like an overused gag that didn’t fit the set of circumstances put forth in this novel. All in all? I’m glad I read this and got some answers to some of my nagging questions, but in the grand tradition of the Star Wars fiasco, this prequel left something to be desired.

What about you, Bookworms? Anybody read The Kill Order? Were you pleased that it brought you closure or were you all cantankerous about it like yours truly?

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May 09

No One Mourns The WICKED: The Death Cure by James Dashner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction, Zombies 33

Good Day Bookworms!

I would like to tell you a story today. It’s a story about LOST. Do you remember that show? Sawyer and Jack and Kate and all these people stranded on a crazy island? The creators kept SAYING they’d tie it all together at the end, but they pretty much just introduced a tertiary storyline that turned out to not be real and everyone re-united in the hereafter? Nobody ever explained why there was a frickin polar bear on the island other than some vague allusion to science experiments and fish biscuits? Why were they testing polar bears? For heaven’s sake, WHY POLAR BEARS?! Apparently it wasn’t important.

Sawyer. Reading. You're welcome.

Sawyer. Reading. You’re welcome.

I just finished The Death Cure by James Dashner and I feel a little bit of LOST letdown. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is the end of a series that I really enjoyed. Perhaps it’s because I still have questions. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don’t know. I’m just a little… ambivalent about the way things were left. But let’s back up a moment.

When we left the poor unfortunate souls from the Glade, they were being fried out in the desert and trying to complete a mysterious experiment for a mysterious entity known as WICKED. We learned in The Scorch Trials that after the earth was stricken with a devastating set of solar flares, a man made virus was somehow released that caused people to go insane. Not insane in a treatable realistic mental illness sort of way, but insane in a zombie sort of way. After victims of “the Flare” hit a certain level of brain deterioration, they begin running amok and feasting on human flesh. As it turns out, the boys and girls of the maze experiments were chosen by and large because their brains resisted the virus. They could be exposed to the air born virus all they liked and never succumb to the madness. (A few unfortunate subjects who were NOT immune were included as a control group, so the minute they were turned loose in the desert they were basically screwed. Thanks, WICKED!)

Thomas is our hero and he is one stubborn son of a gun. Once the group emerges alive from their trials in The Scorch, they’re returned to WICKED headquarters and told that the cure is nearly complete. The brilliant scientists just need to run a few more tests. By this point, Thomas and his cronies have had more than enough of this nonsense and they refuse to have their memories re-instated since they don’t trust WICKED with scalpels. All those questions I was hoping to have answered about what in the sam heck went on with Thomas before these trials started? I might know the answers to them now if THOMAS weren’t so STUBBORN!

The_Death_Cure

Thomas and his faithful crew decide they’ve had QUITE enough of WICKED’s tests and break out, jailbird style. That’s when we find out what’s become of the rest of the world. It’s not quite as dire as a full on zombie apocalypse or Captain Tripps, but it ain’t pretty. The group bounces around the remnants of a supposedly infection free Denver for a while before deciding to take a stand and destroy the entity that used them as lab rats. Even if the fate civilization is at stake. They figure that if after torturing children for 2 years WICKED didn’t get the appropriate brain wave patterns they were seeking, the search for the cure was moot. Game over, humanity! Or is it? Muahahahaha. Read the book y’all.

So. About me feeling a bit LOST. There IS a prequel. And I WILL be reading it. Don’t pull a LOST on me, Dashner, just don’t do it! My psyche is fragile! I shall keep you apprised of the happenings, my dear bookworms. Until then, tell me. These books bring up a lot of ethical questions about the rights of the few being sacrificed for the good of the many. We could totally have that discussion. OR. We could talk about why cheese is delicious and why penguins are so damn cute. Your choice, the floor is open.

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May 03

We Might As Well Be Walking on The Sun: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Book Club, Children's Fiction, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Frightening, Mystery, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 24

Hola Bookworms,

The other day I reviewed The Maze Runner by James Dashner and I was all WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?! So of course, I continued the series and just finished The Scorch Trials. Here’s the deal y’all. It’s kind of impossible not to spoiler the heck out of The Maze Runner and still review The Scorch Trials, so if you want to read them and know nothing, then stop reading this review right now.

The Scorch Trials

Alright. When we last left the kids of the Glade, the guys had been “rescued” by a protest group that didn’t approve of WICKED. Then they were fed pizza and given showers and clothes and bunk beds and all was well… Until the EPILOGUE where you learn that they’re still under WICKED’s thumb. Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

So the kids find out the morning after the pizza and the sleep that they have more to do (more horrors, not just intensive psychotherapy which they will ALL NEED for PTSD and whatnot!) After, you know, starving everyone for a few days, WICKED deposits the children in what is known as “The Scorch.” So the world ain’t right, that much is clear. It would be awfully hard to have elaborate mazes in which to trap and study children in a functioning society… As it turns out the earth has suffered from a series of deadly, destructive solar flares. They’ve managed to literally scorch everything between the Tropic of Cancer and The Tropic of Capricorn. It’s a freaky desert prone to intense lightening storms. It’s impossibly hot and there is NO SUNSCREEN. (I know, I was very upset by this, but I guess a group willing to kill kids with evil monsters probably doesn’t have a lot of scruples about the possibility of skin cancer down the road.) Anyway. The kids are supposed to traipse through this desert and find a safe haven. They’re given vague instructions, because when you’re an evil scientist, you don’t explain your process to the rats.

LIGHTENING! (image source)

LIGHTENING! (image source)

But it wouldn’t be that easy! The solar flares also seem to have caused a PLAGUE known simply as “the flare.” They don’t explain how you contract it, but to me it sounds like a cross between leprosy and syphillis, so it’s pretty nasty stuff. There’s no cure either, so they dump the infected in The Scorch (kind of like they did with Moloka’i and the lepers!) In addition to battling the elements, the lightening storms, and the tribe of girls who were apparently in ANOTHER maze, our brave little Gladers have to take on infections insane people who REALLY WANT THEIR NOSES! (I’m not even kidding about that part, the flare like eats your face and stuff.)

Guys, I’m hooked. Seriously. There’s a third book and a prequel. This girl is going to be reading them. I simply must know what happens! I’m usually pretty good at predicting things, but the plots of these books have me guessing all over the place. Maybe I don’t read enough thrillers, but I’m all confused about who to trust and what is good and what is bad and who is evil… It’s so frustrating- in the best possible way!

On an unrelated note, I have decided that I’m DEFINITELY going to start us up a book club. I’ll choose a selection once a month. We will read it and then I’ll post discussion questions that are WAY more fun and interesting than anything you’d find included in a normal “book club guide.” After that, we’ll just comment the mother loving heck out of the post and chat and it will be fun and interactive and awesome and you can attend in your pajamas. Refreshments will be served from your own kitchen, which is cool because I’m a terrible cook and you can’t send out digital food… Yet.

I’d like to make June the inaugural month, so anybody with ideas for book selections, let me know! Also, if you want to get your little brain wheels a-turning, I am planning on holding a contest for y’all to NAME the book club. Save your ideas, you know, write them down on a post-it note or something. The contest will take place at the end of the month. Prizes will be epic, if you’re in the US. If you’re not, it’ll probably be an Amazon gift certificate (because postage OMG.) So. Exciting things afoot!

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