Tag: dystopia

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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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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Mar 01

Crossed by Ally Condie: Simpsons Did It!

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Romance 26

Top O’ The Morning, Bookworms!

You knew I couldn’t read just one book of a trilogy, right? Even if it wasn’t my favorite? Sooo… Let’s talk about Crossed!

crossed

At the end of Matched, Ky is shipped off to the Outer Provinces, Cassia’s family is relocated, and Xander is left at the homestead being all brokenhearted and whatnot. Cassia finagles her way into a work camp. Her plan is to hunt Ky down in the Outer Provinces. Because, you know. Putting your life on the line for a boy you’ve kissed once is a BRILLIANT idea. (Sorry. Angry feminist moment. I’m just really OVER young girls doing stupid things for “love.”)

Persons unknown are trying to blow up The Society. Whoever this enemy is, they’ve already killed off all the real inhabitants of the Outer Provinces, and The Society is trying to pretend they’ve got a disposable population. Ky is sent here and realizes what’s going on. Fortunately, he grew up in the area and manages to escape with two compadres.

Cassia shows up in Ky’s village a few days after he’s disappeared. Not to be outdone in the “I can survive in the wild” contest, Cassia takes her new pal Indie (who seems to have developed a major crush on Xander, despite never having met him) and runs off into some geologic oddity (they refer to it as “the carving.”) Y’all remember in Son, the final book of The Giver series where Claire spends a crap ton of time scaling a cliff? Yeah. They do that too. Anyway, they all wander around and the groups connect and everybody learns a lot about The Rising (AKA The Society’s opposition.) After a lot of walking and talking and theorizing, we finally meet some members of The Rising. The reader is left to ponder whether The Rising is really any better than The Society. Dun dun dun!!!

Are any of you South Park fans? I won’t judge you one way or the other. I don’t watch regularly, but there’s an episode of South Park where every time a new plot point is introduced, someone pops up and yells, “Simpsons did it!” The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking, “The Giver did it! The Hunger Games did it!”

I’m probably being too hard on this series. It’s hard to find something truly original anymore, especially in such a prolific genre. I was chatting with my pal June about this, and we agreed that the society in Matched is a whole lot more believable than many that have been described before. Aside from having limited choices, being in the Society is pretty sweet. You get all of your meals delivered to you. You don’t have to worry about what you want to be when you grow up. You don’t even have to worry about finding the love of your life because the Match program sounds pretty doggone successful at putting together happy marriages. It’s a lot more believable that people would submit to this sort of a society and not riot constantly than it is to believe in a society where an oppressive regime starves its citizens and forces their children to fight to the death for sport…

What do you think, Bookworms? Am I being to much of a curmudgeon, or should I cut this series some slack?

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Feb 26

Matched by Ally Condie: It's A Little Like A Lot

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction 38

Hi Bookworms,

Remember when I promised to read Matched by Ally Condie? Let it never be said that Katie does not keep her promises! Matched is the first book of a young adult dystopian trilogy. We begin the story with Cassia, a 16 year old girl on her way to her Match Banquet. The Match Banquet is like a cross between a debutant ball and an arranged marriage ceremony (you’ll be disappointed to hear, fans of Gilmore Girls, that there was no fan dance. Not entirely a debutant ball, then.)

Yeah, so the Society in which our story is set is a bit of a mashup of those in The Giver, Brave New World, 1984,The Hunger Games and basically every dystopian novel ever. That sounds really bitchy, but let’s be realistic. The scenario laid out in this book is pretty derivative. Fortunately, I can’t get enough of this genre, so I don’t mind terribly much.

matched

Cassia wears this pretty green dress to her Match ceremony.

Our heroine Cassia is put into a tricky predicament when her Match and BFF Xander may NOT in fact be her Match. She’s given a card that shows her not Xander’s handsome mug, but the beautiful face of the mysterious Ky Markham. (Are you seeing the Hunger Games-esque love triangle forming?) It’s all so angsty and confusing!

This society also has PILLS (like The Giver) but these pills aren’t for repressing feelings and sexuality. The blue pills are a nutrition supplement to be used in case of emergency. The green pills are to calm one down (cough cough SOMA cough.) The red pills are to wake up from the Matrix a mystery. The Society not only chooses your mate, they also give you personalized meals, monitor your exercise, and determine your choice in career. You die (whether you want to or not) on your 80th birthday and you have children at the proscribed time… (You can’t have a kid after 31. You’re supposed to have them when you’re around 24. Because SCIENCE. But. Eff, you, Science. If I decide to have babies after my 31st birthday, it’s none of your beeswax, mmmkay?)

Hey Society, you and me would be having WORDS.

Hey Society, you and me would be having WORDS… for Worms. Don’t worry. I smacked myself for that one.

Pretty much the whole book revolves around Cassia’s confusion in falling for Ky in spite of her affection for Xander. Being adored by two boys is HARD. I guess. I wouldn’t know. Boys weren’t lining up to take me out when I was 16. Pfft. The further Cassia gets into her love life drama, the more the oppression of the Society begins to show. Cracks form, rules are broken, craziness happens. Oh. And they all RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT. I mean. I dig Dylan Thomas, but this poem always reminds me of Dangerous Minds, and then I get “Gangsta’s Paradise” stuck in my head, and I’m forced to rock out.

So bookworms, who’s read this? Did you find it to be a mash-up of what’s gone before, or is my inner crotchety old man coming out?

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Dec 21

Don't They Know It's The End of the World?

Dystopian, Fantasy, Humor, Personal 21

Hi Bookworms! Today is “Doomsday.” People who have misinterpreted the Mayan calendar have decided that the world is supposed to end today. I’d really prefer the world not end. I have things planned for next week. Beyond that though, I’d do very very poorly in a post-apocalyptic world. I looooove dystopian novels, so I figured I’d explore how I’d perish early on in some of my favorites. Ready?

1. The Stand by Stephen King. It’s easy to assume that I’d die in the plague that kills 99% of the population, but I have a really impressive immune system. I may be jinxing myself here, but I haven’t needed an antibiotic since I was 16 and had my wisdom teeth removed. I get sick very infrequently. So. I think I’d survive Captain Tripps. One of my favorite parts of The Stand though was that King discussed the casualties that occurred AFTER the flu had run its course. I’d probably survive the flu only to succumb to something really stupid… Like getting a paper cut from a book and contracting a flesh eating bacteria. It would be my cosmic punishment for bragging about my immune system and how I don’t need antibiotics. I’d survive the virus to be taken out by a self important bacterium.

Good vs. Evil. Super Flu. Apocalypse.

Katie’s battle with the paper cut didn’t make the final draft.

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If I were in Katniss’s shoes, I wouldn’t make it very far. I lack aim, archery skills, and knowledge of edible forest plants. The good news is, I probably wouldn’t need those skills. You know how at the very beginning of The Hunger Games the contestants stand on pedestals until the countdown is over and the games begin? If anyone has a “false start” their pedestal explodes. That would be me. Considering the alternatives in the arena, that’s probably not a bad way to go.

Ka-Pow!

Ka-Pow!

3. World War Z by Max Brooks. I shy away from physical violence, and I’m not especially strong. To be frank? I’m a weenie. I can’t even arm wrestle effectively. I’d be bitten very early on. But then? Then I’d be a zombie! Only, I’d make a terrible zombie! I’d be really really slow and unobservant. I’d be the zombie that they use in demonstrations to teach small children how to defend themselves. At least I’d be useful to humanity in some capacity. As the loser-iest zombie.

Zombie Katie!

Katie: The Loser-iest Zombie

4. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Yes, I know this isn’t an “end of the world” scenario, but I being in the middle of a war zone is definitely an “end of the world as we know it” scenario. Scarlett was really annoying during peace time, but she kind of kicked butt during an emergency. She delivered babies and farmed cotton and still managed to keep up her unhealthy fixation on Ashley. If I were a character in Gone With The Wind, I would not be Scarlett. I’d be like her first husband, Charles Hamilton. He got sick and died before he even saw combat. That’d be me. I was always the one dying of dysentery in Oregon Trail. I know I have a great immune system, but I’ve never had to contend with dysentery, okay?

That's me.

That’s me.

5. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Technically, the villains in this book were vampires, not zombies. Why wouldn’t I make it? I am DELICIOUS. No, seriously. Blood sucking insects seek me out. If there is a mosquito within a mile radius, it will find me and feast. Once, I lived in an apartment and my upstairs neighbor managed to infest my apartment with fleas. Do you know what fleas like to eat when there aren’t animals readily available? KATIES! It was beyond miserable. This contributes to my pervasive and borderline obsessive fear of bed bugs. In case you were ever curious about the existence of vampires in the real world, the fact that I’ve yet to be eaten is definitive proof that they do not exist. I’d be vampire catnip. For reals.

vampire-bats-2-clipart

It’s a good thing vamps aren’t real. They’d be seriously offended by this clip art.

There we have it. Five very specific reasons I would not survive any number of apocalypse scenarios. Like I said, it’s a good thing the world isn’t ending. I am going to celebrate by enjoying some of my favorite things: pizza, electricity, the internet, and my husband. Who will continue to have zero chance with Taylor Swift. Happy days, Bookworms. Happy days.

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Nov 07

Don't Kill The Messenger! (Messenger by Lois Lowry)

Children's Fiction, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction 5

Happy Wednesday, Bookworms!

I know what you’re thinking! “Messenger had better link up The Giver and Gathering Blue or I’m going to be one angry bookworm!” I know that’s what I was thinking. Well it wasn’t exactly that vitriolic, but I was pleased when I started this and recognized the characters.

We start off this story with Matty. Remember Matt from Gathering Blue? In Kira and Matty’s community they earn syllables to tack onto their names as they age. So Matt became Matty. Which is funny because, in traditional English naming convention, the addition of a Y actually makes the name sound YOUNGER. Like, your full name is Matthew but when you’re a little kid you’re Matty, and when you hit 8 you refuse to answer to the baby name and insist on Matt? In this society, you’d start out as Matt, go to Matty, then Matty-Saurus-Rex. You know. The usual progression.

Messenger takes a turn for the allegorical in this novel. We depart from the sci-fi realm and move a little more into fantasy territory. Remember how Kira’s dad showed up to see her in his blue shirt? And how Matty was the one who found him? We finally find out that this mysterious village that takes in the disabled is where Jonas and Gabe ended up!!! Cliffhanger resolved! Jonas and Gabe didn’t die, the lights they sledded to in the midst of that blizzard was this village.

A dude and an evil forest. Oooooh.

At the end of Gathering Blue, Matty decides to stay in the village with Kira’s dad, but he still visits Kira from time to time. He’s got a talent for traveling back and forth through the woods without having the trees turn on him and attack him Wizard of Oz style. Now the village in which the outcasts resides is pretty serene. They don’t euthanize their misfits or leave their injured in a field to die.

Unfortunately, things are starting to get a little weird in the village. The village starts having regular “Trade Marts” which is sort of like a marketplace, with a twist. There’s a weird peddler dude (who calls himself “Trademaster”) who is coming to the village and making “trades” for his goods. The uncorrupted village population soon begins trading the best parts of their personality for gaming machines and vanity items. The villagers’ temperment begins to change and they decide to close their borders. Since things are starting to get a little dicey, Kira decides it’s time to hurry up and join her father in the village before the borders close. (As you recall, Kira opted to stay in her home society to help them change for the better. It’s implied that she manages to make progress, but Lowry doesn’t go into much detail there. )

Matty goes into the angry forest to fetch Kira and bring her to the village safely. Along the journey, Matty begins to be rejected by the forest that once favored him. He gets stung by insects, tangled by vines, and attacked by underbrush. Are you ready to embrace allegory? Okay. Kira has a gift for weaving. We’ve covered that. Jonas has a gift, which is part of what made him attractive to become the Giver. His gift manifests itself by occasional psychic episodes. Matty also has a gift , of sorts.

Yeah, like I needed ANOTHER reason to avoid the great outdoors. Forest attacks? Clearly I won’t be camping… Ever.

Matty plays the sacrificial lamb. While in the forest, he sacrifices himself to whatever evil spirits are jacking things up. He restores the forest to a normal state, and his death chases the influence of the Trademaster from the village.

Now, I appreciate that this book gave me some closure to Jonas’s story. I was downright giddy that Jonas and Kira were woven into the same plot. However. I wasn’t crazy about the turn we took from relatively realistic science fiction to full on fantasy. In The Giver everything seemed to have a scientific explanation. In order to have a peaceful society, you have to take away certain aspects of humanity. No place for passion in a place where there is no fighting, no sexual competition, no need for individualism. Gathering Blue had hints of fantasy, but mainly felt like a society that had gone back in time after a cataclysm in the world we know. The animated evil forest and the Trademaster took me on a journey I wasn’t anticipating. I won’t say it was a terrible place to go, but I would have preferred sticking to the realistic feel of the first two books.

Does it bother anyone else when a book takes an unexpected turn? I’m not talking a plot twist, I’m talking a genre shift. Am I the only person who isn’t crazy about this?

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Nov 06

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry: The Giver, Part 2. Only not.

Children's Fiction, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Friendship, Historical Fiction 14

Hello Again Bookworms! I bet you’re all dying to know what happened to Jonas and Gabe, aren’t you? Well… Too damn bad! This book doesn’t mention them at all!

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is the second in The Giver series. It takes place in another dystopian society, but this one is NOTHING like the one Jonas and Gabe came from.

Our heroine is a girl named Kira. She lives during the same time period as Jonas, but in a society very different from the one we met in The Giver. Kira’s society is brutal. They lack modern conveniences and live in squalor. The society is ruled by the passionate voice of the people…No pills in to keep the masses in check. Everything that is ugly about humanity is shown in a harsh light. Kira was born with a twisted leg, which requires her to walk with a cane. In this harsh society, people who have deformities or are in any way incapable of working are abandoned in a field to die. The sick aren’t cared for- they’re sent to the field. After Kira’s mother passes away, her neighbors try to confiscate her home and send her to the field as well. An orphaned girl with a disability doesn’t have a place in this society. In an attempt to prove her worth to the society’s ruling body, Kira presents herself and her weaving to the Council of Eddifice. The Council recognizes Kira’s talent for weaving and gives her new lodging within their headquarters.

Kira is given a single task. She is set to mend the beautiful cloak that the Singer wears once a year. The Singer’s sole responsibility is to sing the story of human civilization at the annual festival. Though this book doesn’t really touch on religion, the Singer’s significance seems holy in nature. It’s the glue that binds the society together. Being put in charge of the robe is an honor and quite a responsibility for Kira, but the council tries to make it worth her while, so to speak. (Really though, it’s not like she could leave. Her only other option is to try to go home and face the angry mob that wants her in the field…)

I imagine the Singer’s cloak to look a lot like the one displayed in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I like musical theater. Hush.

Life in headquarters is very different than what Kira has grown up with. She’s got electricity, running water, and plentiful meals. She is no longer subject to the cruel tribal life she is used to. She meets another resident there, a boy named Thomas. Thomas is gifted in wood carving and has been given the task of carving the story of human civilization into the singer’s staff. As Kira runs low on thread, she’s introduced to an old woman who lives in the woods. The woman becomes her mentor and teaches Kira how to dye thread to make the colors she needs to continue mending the cloak. The most difficult color to come by is blue, but unfortunately there is nothing they can grow in their gardens that will produce a blue dye. (I found it interesting that Lowry chose the color blue as the missing link, because I’ve read a few historical fictions that also focus on the difficulty of cultivating blue dye. Lapis lazuli was the best source of the color, and because it is a gemstone/mineral as opposed to a plant, it was often prohibitively expensive. Just a little nugget for your brain banks.)

It’s such a pretty color! But hard to find. Yay for chemicals so we can have blue dye! (And old ladies can have blue hair. Don’t hate on the blue hair.)

As time goes by, Kira becomes more and more suspicious of her surroundings. Kira begins to hear wailing at night. When she and Thomas discover the source, they find a very small little girl named Jo, who is little more than a toddler. She is being kept there in training to take over the duties of the Singer when the time comes. Jo has a gift for singing, but is tiny and frightened. Kira and Thomas try to ease her fears, but they’re beginning to see that their new lives are rather unusual. During the ceremony that year, as Kira admires the work she’s done on the Singer’s robe, she notices that the Singer’s ankles are chained. He is a prisoner. It occurs to her that she, Thomas, and Jo are prisoners as well.

Kira has one friend from her old life, a little boy named Matt. When Kira explains her problems with the blue thread, Matt tells Kira that he’s come across a village in the woods that HAS blue. Blue cloth everywhere. When Matt returns from his mission with more than just blue cloth for Kira to use… He returns with the father she thought was dead. As it turns out, though he was left in the field to die (after being attacked by his own people, no less) and was rescued by a group of people from this mysterious village. Kira’s father offers to take her to the village in which he lives, but Kira declines (at least temporarily) to help improve the society she lives in.

Okay. So that’s a story right? I didn’t like this book as much as I liked The Giver, but it wasn’t bad at all. I’ve got a weakness for historical fiction anyway, and the way Kira’s society lived felt very much like a bygone era as opposed to a future time. I didn’t even mind the long descriptions of thread dyeing- I like to read about how things were done once upon a time. I never actually want to have to DO things the old fashioned way, but you know. If there’s a zombie apocalypse, I figure I can make a living being an herbalist and dying thread or something. I don’t know. I just like learning things. So there. I know what you’re thinking though. WHAT IN TARNATION DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH JONAS AND GABE?!?!?!

You are just going to have to wait for book 3, now aren’t you? Yep. This is the sequel that’s not a sequel at all. Have any of you read Gathering Blue? What are your thoughts on Kira’s society?

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