Category: Dystopian

Oct 12

Confession Friday: I Don't Finish Reading Everything I Start

Book Club, Classics, Dystopian, E-Readers 32

Welcome to the Confessional, Bookworms! Let’s talk about my secret shames, shall we? Ordinarily, I am a stubborn book finisher. There have been occasions where I power through a book where I hate the characters, hate the situations, and sometimes talk back to characters… Loudly. It makes me feel powerful to “not let the book win.” The books that have won haunt me. Let’s talk about them!

I started reading The Fifth Book of Peace by Maxine Hong Kingston because I had read her book The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of Girlhood Among Ghosts in college and really liked it. Woman Warrior was all about Chinese girls growing up in America and the cultural mish-mash they encountered. So, when I was in Barnes & Noble with my graduation gift cards burning a hole in my pocket, I saw The Fifth Book of Peace on the clearance rack and bought it excitedly. Unfortunately, I made it halfway through the novel and gave up. It starts off with Kingston lamenting the loss of one of her books and her home to wildfire. (Terribly sad for her, I’d absolutely lament too.) Then she started reconstructing what she remembered of the original novel. A Chinese American artist, his wife, and their son run off to Hawaii during the Vietnam era to avoid the draft. They lived off the grid in a squatters village and… I have no idea because I stopped reading. Reading this felt like a chore, and there are so many FUN things out there. I took a break from it, put it on a shelf, and never went back to it. To this day, it taunts me from the bookshelf…

Stop judging me, book!

Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence is next in my little walk of shame. I really liked Lady Chatterley’s Lover, so I figured another Lawrence tome was a safe bet. Back in the days before I had a Kindle, I carried handbags of epic proportions. I went to visit my Slaw (short for sister in law, for those of you who aren’t up on my lingo. Jenny smells nothing like cabbage and I actually hate coleslaw, but my brain does stupid things with letters and this is what it spit out) in Chicago one weekend and had perhaps one adult beverage too many. At this point, I started hunting for my lip balm, thus scattering the contents of my ginormous handbag on a table in a bar. Photographic evidence below… I should really stop using that bookmark. That’s the one I was using on The Fifth Book of Peace too. Maybe it’s cursed. I read a little bit more of it on the train back home, but that was the end of that. I was expecting some Lady Chatterley flowery smut and I got a carnival and some weird dating stories. Then I fell asleep. Narcolepsy, I guess. Or a mild hangover. Tomato, toMAHto.

Of course there were cameras that night! Of course there were.

Our last stop on the walk of shame is 1Q84. Oh boy. So I’ve mentioned that I only speak English right?  The title of this book apparently means something funny in Japanese, but something is lost in translation. The number nine and the letter Q? Yeah. Not funny. How I came to be reading this in the first place is an embarassing story. I’m apparently an accidental cultural bigot. My book club (Wine and Whining) read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and I loved it. Yay dystopian clones! One day, I was hunting through the books available for Kindle from my local library. I saw 1Q84 by Hakuri Murakami and I thought “oh! I liked his book about the clones!” Because if you’re me, those two completely different Japanese names are the same?! You are welcome to judge me harshly for this- I deserve it.

Murakami is more the sort of novelist that fancy people pretend to like- nothing about clones (sad face.) The problem with Kindle books is that you can’t see the, uh, girth of the novel. I’m also lazy and I never look at the approximate page numbers when choosing books, so I didn’t realize that trying to read a 928 page novel on alternate worlds set in Japan wouldn’t be possible in the span of my two week lending period. The book went back to the library (no late fees = digital lending perk) and I never checked it out again. Woops.

Maybe one day I’ll get back to it. Maybe.

There you have it, Bookworms. Katie’s walk of shame- books I didn’t finish. Happy weekend!

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Oct 10

I Am Legend… Wait For It… Dary. (By Richard Matheson)

Dystopian, Vampires 12

Happy Halloween Month, Bookworms!

I’m gearing up for The Walking Dead premiere next Sunday, so I decided to read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I saw the Will Smith movie, and while not overly impressed, it was certainly tolerable, and since books are always better than their movies, it seemed like a good bet. This book was awesome. But it was about vampires, not zombies. Luckily, Matheson’s vampires aren’t sexy, sparkly, or suave, so they may as well have been zombies. Zombies that can sort of think. Terrifying.

This book was crazy good! I could not put it down, I seriously read the whole thing in a day. Here’s the doomsday scenario- the population of earth is crippled by a mysterious disease. This disease slowly kills the hosts and they rise from the dead looking to consume fresh blood. Robert Neville, as far as he can tell, is the only man left in Los Angeles. He’s immune to the disease for whatever reason. He’s tormented by loneliness and the loss of his wife and young daughter to the disease.

Neville has a pretty sweet setup, he’s got a generator and plenty of food. He’s got a fortified home, a greenhouse full of garlic, and a collection of records (Yep. Records. This apocalypse was in 1975.) He’s also got a lot of whiskey, and nobody can blame him for drinking too much. I mean, what do you do without a soul to talk to? No family, no friends, no network of weirdos to talk to online. Every living being (living being a relative term) is trying to kill you. I’d be mainlining whiskey too.

Like I said earlier these Vampires aren’t like your traditional vampires. They’re not like zombies either. There is a distinct difference between Vampires that are “alive” and those that are “dead.” The fully dead vamps are pretty zombie-esque. But the living ones? They’re something else entirely. Though they have become reliant on human blood for nourishment, they haven’t gone entirely catatonic, brain-wise.

I’m going to shut my face right now, because I don’t want to ruin this. If you like zombies, vampires, dystopias, or a combination of the three, read this book. It’s an awesome read and totally seasonally appropriate. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up! Also, if you don’t watch The Walking Dead, you need to start. And you can start on Sunday.

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Oct 05

Banned Books Week: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Banned Books, Classics, Dystopian 25

Hello Bookworms! It’s Friday, and thus we have reached the end of Banned Books Week. We’re going out with a disaster scenario and talking about Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

This book has been challenged countless times. According to the ALA website, these complaints typically take issue with this book’s excessive violence, bad language, and racial and sexual slurs. Seriously though. Have you heard pre-pubescent boys talk? It’s not gratuitous, it’s just realistic. Parents, please remove the sticks from your backsides and let your kids learn something. It’s allegorical, you really can’t HELP but learn from it.

Lord of the Flies takes place on an uninhabited island. A plane evacuating a group of British school boys from an unspecified war zone crashes. The pilot and all adult chaperones are killed and the boys are left to fend for themselves. The story that follows explores the thin veil of civilization… And the all encompassing power of bacon. (I’m not even kidding about the bacon.) It also contributed to my fear of children in large groups. That and Children of the Corn. So. Many. Nightmares.

So. There’s a group of school boys stranded on an island. They have no supervision, no supplies, and no idea what to do next. It’s decided that a little boy named Jack Shephard Ralph will lead the group because he found a conch shell that can be used as a horn to call the group together (and why not? I’m sure some politicians these days lack such a qualification.) Ralph is followed around by a boy called  Hurley Piggy. Poor Piggy. He’s a chubby kid with asthma and spectacles. This was written so long before the outcry on bullying, but by God, this kid. He’ll break your heart.

Remember how they have no food? They discover that there are some wild pigs on the island (mmmm bacon) and Ralph organizes a hunting party. This is his downfall, because his hunting party fails. The Others A rival faction takes root and its leader, Benjamin Linus Jack, manages to kill a pig. Coup de’ bacon, as it were. Ralph couldn’t bring home the bacon, Jack could, and the fickle boys changed allegiance to follow the boy who fed them. Makes sense, right?

This is where it all goes terribly wrong. Jack is an asshole. Maybe he wasn’t hugged enough as a child. I imagine hugs are somewhat lacking in boarding schools. He’s a bully of epic proportions. He turns the whole gang of boys against poor Piggy in order to steal his glasses. The reasoning behind the theft is that the tribe needs the spectacles to start fires (but you know a jerk weasel like Jack really just wanted them so he could fry ants.) The boys hunt Piggy down, and in the heat of their feral moment, sacrifice him to the smoke monster kill him by dropping a boulder on his head. (Poor Piggy!!!!) They then set their sights on Ralph, who takes off to the forest to hide. Jack the Dictator decides it’s a great idea to burn down the forest to smoke Ralph out.

Oh irony! The fire they set to capture Ralph is the very same fire that signals a ship to their position.  The boys rescued by a naval officer who obviously has no idea of the level of depravity these boys have displayed. He takes one look at their tribal chaos and gives them a stern “I would have expected better of British boys.” And that’s the end! For real. How could these kids not be outrageously screwed up from this? Hello, PTSD! That’s one thing I loved about The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins gave us closure, and not just a happy ending. Katniss and Peeta have serious psychological issues that follow them for the rest of their lives. I imagine it will be similar for many of the boys on this island. Except Jack. He’ll probably turn into a serial killer. I hate that kid.

So Bookworms, what do you think? What would it take for society to break down and chaos to reign? Zombies? Massive prolonged power outage? A Category 5 Hurricane? I’m seeking a friend for the end of the world, y’all. Tell me things!

Who am I kidding? We ALL know it’s gonna be Aliens.

…My husband helped write this post. He kept thinking I was writing a book report on Lost. Not that book reports about TV shows are a thing… But I may have humored him a little. Silly husband… I’m pretty sure he’s an alien.

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Oct 03

Banned Books Week: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Banned Books, Classics, Dystopian 29

Happy Hump Day, Bookworms! It’s no secret that I love a good dystopian novel. When I’m having a bad day, I like to tell myself things like, “This sucks, but at least I wasn’t forced to fight other children to the death in a televised competition.” Or “This really sucks, but Big Brother is just a crappy reality show.” Sometimes it’s not even a dystopia thing, it’s a, “This sucks, but I totally have indoor plumbing and deodorant! Celebrate!”

To continue our celebration of Banned Books Week, we’re going to discuss one of the all-time-greatest dystopian novels, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This was written in 1931. It was banned in Ireland in 1932 (quick turnaround, right?) The American Library Association has a huge list of American high schools that have challenged this book as required reading. Parental complaints over the years have included that the book shows contempt for religion, marriage and family. (I can’t disagree with that except that Henry Ford, he of the assembly line, is a godlike figure to these people. So they don’t hate religion… Just YOUR religion.) Among other things, parents objected to the idea that this book made promiscuous sex sound like fun. (I don’t agree with that sentiment either. It wasn’t “fun” so much as required… And our protagonist isn’t really into it.)

Everybody loves a bleak dystopian future scenario!

Fast forward to London in the year 2540 (or the year 632… After Ford.) The human race has become mechanized. All conception and gestation of children takes place assembly line style in test tubes and jars. All children are genetically coded to belong to a particular class. The classes do NOT intermingle. Everyone is sleep hypnotized throughout their formative years so they’re conditioned to believe their particular caste has the best lot in life. There is no nuclear family, and the basest human instincts have been exploited. Multiple sexual partners are required, and if anyone begins to get a little bit cranky, a wonder drug that sounds like xanax plus valium plus ecstasy called “soma” is administered. That helps any ne’er do wells who might get their undies in a bunch to simmer down.

In any “utopia,” there’s always a black sheep. This black sheep is named Bernard Marx. He’s a top tier brain, but rumors abound that he was exposed to alcohol accidentally as a fetus, because he’s short and not as handsome as the rest of his peers. As a result he has a massive inferiority complex. He’s also a psychologist, so he understands in more detail than most exactly what conditioning goes on in order to maintain their peaceful society. This just fuels his discontent.

While on vacation, Bernard witnesses a society of “savages.” Apparently not EVERYONE was on board with the soma induced happy land of the new world order, so there are isolated pockets of tribal peoples who live without modern conveniences. They also (GASP) give birth to their own children. And have a semi organized religious tradition that has nothing to do with drug fueled orgies. As it turns out, Bernard and his buddy come across one of their own lost amongst the tribes decades ago. She was stranded without her birth control, so her socially approved dalliances led to a birth. The woman and her (now grown) son are rescued by Bernard and his compadre and returned to their society in London. The woman soothes herself with excessive use of soma, and dies in a drug induced haze. Her son is devastated and completely confused and horrified by the new society. Of course, Bernard starts hanging out with the wildling, and gets himself into all manner of trouble.

Okay. Stop for a minute. This sucker was published in 1931! I mean, some of these ideas are still pretty radical today. The book resonates 80+ years after its publication, and not in a “where’s my flying car, Jetsons?!” sort of way. Do you even know what was happening in 1931? The Great Depression. Television didn’t exist yet. Birth control pills weren’t invented yet (which leads me to wonder what exactly Huxley was imagining the egg producing women were using to prevent births…) There was no polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization was decades away… Huxley was kind of DaVinci-esque in his prediction of future technology.

In essence though, I think Brave New World boils down to being a cautionary tale. Huxley was worried. Worried that humanity would go all hedonistic and forget about all the good wholesome things that make the world go round. I love this book, and I think Huxley was a genius to have written it. BUT. Every generation since the beginning of time has thought that “these kids today” would be the end of civilization as we know it. Ooooh that Rock-n-Roll! Get off my lawn! You kids have no respect! When I was your age, I had to WALK to school. In 8 feet of snow. Uphill both ways. And I was HAPPY TO DO IT! (I’ll be 30 in March, I’m practicing my Angry Old Lady-isms. My husband is already well versed in his Angry Old Man-isms. I was reading this to him and he shouted, “The Jersey Shore generation will bring about the apocalypse!”)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not especially scared that Huxley’s future will come to pass. Unless, of course, someone invents soma and releases it into the world’s water supply… Dun dun dun!!!!!! It’s October, y’all. I’ve got to Halloween it up a little. What would your Utopia look like, Bookworms?

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Aug 27

Zombie Apocalypse

Dystopian 25

Dystopian fiction is one of my favorite genres. Nothing makes me feel better about my life than reading about some completely jacked up alternate future. What better way to celebrate my dedication to the dark side than to turn the spotlight on the apocalypse scenario of the moment: ZOMBIES!

Full disclosure- I generally don’t like horror movies, books, or television shows. Psycho killers, demons, and ghosts frighten me more than zombies. I suppose I can just look at a zombie apocalypse as a far fetched scenario. I mean, even the crazy people on the Doomsday Preppers show never admit to be prepping for a zombie apocalypse. It’s always something more urbane, like a financial collapse or nuclear war. Plus, psycho killers are REAL. And demons MIGHT be real. And ghosts are PROBABLY real in some form or another. I don’t like the idea of dead people, demons, or interloping psycho killers watching me shower, so I try to avoid reading about them.

It seems like zombies are everywhere these days, and I am not immune to their festering charms! The Walking Dead on AMC is absolutely addictive. Sadly, the show runs in short seasons- what’s a girl to do when the zombie show goes on hiatus? Read zombie novels, of course! (I have not read the graphic novels the Walking Dead TV series is based on. I haven’t taken the leap into graphic novels… Yet.)

Zombie Katie! Zombieme.com allows you to upload your face and zombie it up. I suck at photoshop type things, so this is what I made. Why am I still undead? I have a head wound!

World War Z by Max Brooks was my first foray into the zombie-lore in book form and it was infectious! The book is presented as a series of articles written by a journalist after the worst of the zombie attacks are over. The stories are poignant, concise, and super creepy! They begin with the first reports of zombies, and continue through the entire “war.”

We see the military’s failures, the learning curve that comes with fighting an unknown threat. The way the public reacts is very realistic. At first people are disbelieving- I mean who would believe the dead have risen and are trying to devour humanity? Then they panic, because, HOLY CRAP! THE DEAD HAVE RISEN AND ARE TRYING TO DEVOUR HUMANITY!

Luckily, Max Brooks’s zombies have some weaknesses. They can’t climb, for one thing. Also, they freeze solid in the winter. The military eventually develops body armor that can protect against bites, and if you’re a good enough shot and have  a ton of ammo, you can climb a tree and pick them off, brain by zombiefied brain.

World War Z added so many scenarios I hadn’t thought of. It explored the psychological implications of surviving such an event. Some people would actually go all catatonic, THINK they were zombies, and join the hoard. Post apocalyptic depression can be pretty crippling, too. How does one come to terms with having to see their loved ones eaten alive? Or having to exterminate the zombie versions of their families? It was a great, well rounded look at a topic that can be super campy and cheesy.

A lot of zombie movies end with the island scenario. The rag tag band of survivors go in search of an island where the zombies won’t be able to reach them. This book blew a hole in that theory. Think about it. If zombies are dead, the don’t need to breathe. What’s to keep them from shuffling their way across the bottom of the ocean to eat the survivors on the islands? Do you feel claustrophobic yet? There is nowhere to hide!

This monkey terrified me as a child, and it now lives on my bookcase. You can’t hide from him either! And he looks sort of like a Zombie cymbal monkey. So it’s appropriate!

For the truly insatiable, check out this post on real life Zombie Apocalypse scenarios. I will warn you that the images are not for the faint of heart, but it’s definitely a cool piece. (*Sponsored by Qwer.com*)

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