Tag Archives: dystopian

Review: Pandemonium

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I show that I read the first book, and have a few vague memories of it ( I wasn’t writing reviews back then – just noting that I had read the books), but that’s all, so this was sort of like jumping into the series half-way. I would recommend reading Delirium first. This one involves the continuation of Lena’s adventures now that she is “outside.” Her friend Alex, that she escaped with, has either been taken prisoner or died in the escape. She barely makes it out alive, and tries to get as far away as she can from the additional guards patrolling the perimeter, and the raids sent out from the city. She stirred up a hornet’s nest with her escape. But she is found by Raven, a girl who is one of the invalids, or uncureds. Lena had been told all her life that the raids over the uncured areas had removed all invalids, but is seems that is not the case. Many were wiped out, but some survived. She is taken into one such encampment of mostly children, where she is fed, and nursed back to health. But she must pull her weight in this new and strange uncured land. She learns to get physically fit, and to make do, to scavenge, and hunt, and cook. Inside the city, meanwhile, life goes on for the cureds. They live a life devoid of love, emotion or anything, as each undergoes a procedure at 18 to “cure” them of such undesirable traits that the leaders feel are the reason that society got into trouble in the first place. They place their reliance on church and the Book of Shh, a compilation of the bible and their new strictures against love, etc. I was hampered by my lack of recall on how the society is set up from the first book, but I got the gist of it. Lena is determined to help her new friends, since she wanted to escape the cure in the first place, and works hard, and eventually is sent back to the city to infiltrate and spy. But things are not as they seem and Lena must figure out who she is, and who are the people around her that she has trusted, or distrusted. Another book in the series will hopefully answer the questions left hanging. I can’t truly judge this book, since it wasn’t a stand-alone. You have to read the first in order to really make more sense of the whole story line. I did, but since my recall is almost nil for most books, unless really great, I’m in the dark.

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Review: Partials

Partials by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good, solid YA dystopian novel about a small group of survivors, all that seems to be left of humans on the earth, settled into Long Island, or what is left, after several wars. The first war is one where they created the Partials, part human, part machine, to give them advantage over the Chinese. They then used them as slave labor to help rebuild, and the Partials revolted, engineering a virus that wiped out 99% of the world’s population and leaving them childless, as babies die from the disease soon after they are born. They are hoping to find more immune ones, since all the survivors are immune, so girls are mandated to start having children by the age of 18, and the age is dropping. There are rebels in the woods around them, who do not agree with the council’s edicts on the forced pregnancies, esp. since the babies all die. One girl, Kira, a medic in training, works in the maternity ward, and is horrified by the dying babies, and the mothers who often don’t even get to see their own child – including her adopted sister. All teens in the book are adopted, since for the most case, only one in a family survived. So they formed new families. Life is down to the basics, since no one knows how to run the big machines, gas is getting old and destroying the engines, and all they have left are some generators, a little power, and a few high tech machines they save for the hospital. Otherwise they live a simple village life, growing herbs and vegetables, selling them in the markets, bartering for things they need. Clothing is not a problem, since there are tons of stores left open when the people literally died where they were, and lots to choose from, although they too are deteriorating in the salt air of Long island. It has been almost 14 years since the RM wiped out the people, and now the youngest kids are that age. So schools close, and the council works harder to bring the population to the only solution they can think of, more babies. Somehow, amongst these babies, they have to find the answer. But Kira believes differently – she was No. 1 in her Virology class, and thinks outside the box. She believes if they can capture and study a Partial, they can find out why the Partials are immune. So she gathers some like-minded friends together and they go off on a dangerous and hare-brained mission to bring back one of these super solders who can wipe out whole platoons single-handedly. But somehow they manage, but all is not as it seems. As more secrets are revealed, and more things discovered, they must fight for a way to get to the truth and make it be known. First in a series. Very good, and looking forward to the next.

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Review: Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having found I am not safe from corrections on Goodreads, 🙂 ,  And having enjoyed this book I decided to share.  it’s odd though.  In all the reviews I have done, and there have been hundreds since I started doing it a year ago,  no one has bothered to correct mistakes, and I sure there have been many.  My memory is horrid on details. But this one detail, on a companion book to the one reviewed, bothered people on both sites enough to comment on it.  Bacigalupi fans must be true fans.  I love his work, and I don’t know how I got the location wrong, since I placed it in India when I read it.  Sometimes I just am clueless (also, he is roundabout in mentioning locations and pinning them down in all his books).   So I decided to get over my silly hurts and get on with it.   So here is an interesting one:

This is an imaginative retelling of the Poe classic “Masque of the Red Death” in which a bunch of aristocrats hide in a castle to try and evade a plague outside. This one starts out in a similar fashion. The city has been decimated by a plague, with shows with bruised skin and open, pus filed sores. It seems to be in the air as well as contact, although medicine and technology are not as advanced. The richer people are issued masks that filter out the bad air, provided by the “ruler” of the city, one self-styled Prince Prospero, who is holding a tight grip on a city that is falling into ruins. He seems to have no interest in reviving the city, bringing hope to the masses, or even curing the disease or giving masks to the poor. Araby, a wealthy young debutante, or she would be if the world was “normal” spends her time at the Debauchery Club where you can forget your troubles any way you want – liquor, drugs , sex. She forgoes the latter, but seeks oblivion as she feels guilt over the death of her younger brother. There is a guy at the entrance, who checks all the patrons to see if they are clean, so they can remove their masks if they wish, that she seems to connect with briefly in their encounters, She is usually accompanied by her best friend April, a niece of the prince. April introduces her to her brother Elliott, a handsome young an with a goal in mind to rebuild the city. The book details the plans of Elliott, Will, and Araby as they try and make sense of this last chance at beating this plague, as another disease, called the Red Death, comes sweeping in, killing it’s victims in a matter of hours. Great world-building, although somewhat simplistic in vocabulary and writing style, but nevertheless, if you enjoyed Poe, this is a great way to stretch out that classic short story.

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Review: The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a companion novel to Shipbreakers, and is set in the same “world” but on a different continent. While the first was in the Gulf area, this one takes place in D.C., in what is now known as the “Drowned Cities.” The waters rose, the city flooded during climate change, and gradually enough political infighting tore the place apart, and various war lords and their militias sprung up and took over, lost and retook parts of the city. The Chinese came in for a decade, as peacekeepers, trying to get them to stop fighting, and cracking down on insurgents, but eventually they gave up and left, and the mixed race kids and the sympathizers were rounded up and either forced into slave labour, had body parts cut off, or were killed outright. One of them, a child named Mahlia, whose father had been a peacekeeper, and her mother an American, was left behind when the peacekeeper ships left. A lot of technology in this dystopian environment has been lost, although some has been retained by China, and a couple of the bigger cities, like Boston and New York. But much of the southern areas have been turned into swampland, and scavenging is the way of life. Mahlia fights her way out of the Drowned Cities after her mother is taken away, but then is caught by one of the militias, the Army of God, who hate all things Chinese, and they chop off her right hand. About to chop off her left, something draws their attention away, and she is is able to escape. It is Mouse, a farm boy coming in to one of the towns to try and find shelter after his farm was overrun. They hide from the soldiers and eventually are found by a doctor from a nearby village who bandages her stump, and takes them in, much to the villagers dismay, who believe that she is cursed. But she learns valuable medical training from the doctor, and finds a place there. He tries to teach her to be passive and to turn the other cheek to the insults hurled her way, but she is pure “Drowned Cities” and it’s in her blood to not take things lying down but to fight back. It’s what the Chinese gave up on and found so distasteful – the idea that every insult must be answered with a bigger one; every hurt with a larger hurt, until everything is gone. Many of the militia would rather see their ex-nation’s capitol be destroyed than allow anyone else to occupy it, even though they were all just Americans once. The stroy is of Mahlia, Mouse and a half-man,an augment named Tool, as they try and find a new place in this crazy world. Very bleak, grim, it’s different from his other books in that this one is more violent, and the people are all less easy to like. Mahlia has a chip on her shoulder as big as a house, and Mouse is stupid – conflicted beyond reason. The soldiers are mostly children, as Mouse is, and they are taught from a young age to kill, maim, rape, etc. Sort of a parable on our political infighting, and the child armies of the terrorists, it is a frightening glimpse at anarchy. But hope is at the end. A good book, but the bleakness made me keep it at four stars. That and Mahlia’s pig-headedness and contradictory ways. If you are going to do something, and damn the consequences, then stick with it, or all those people were hurt in vain. Don’t become lost in guilt and remorse.

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Review: Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second volume in a series, the first being Divergent. I really loved Divergent – thought the setting up of the world – the world building as it’s called, was unique and very different, and set it apart. Perhaps I forgave some writing flaws along the way, as I was more concerned with this dystopian solution to the world’s future problems. The city where they live, and it’s fenced – no one can exit or enter without the guard’s permission, is divided into factions, Erudite for those who hunger for knowledge; Abnegation for those who would serve without thought for themselves and are self-effacing; Candor, for those who strive for truth above all else; Amity, where accord and peace hold sway; and Dauntless – where the people are brave, fearless, and yes, dauntless. Dauntless provides the security, Erudite the inventions, medicines, and things that make their city work, Amity the food, Abnegation are the rulers, and Candor is also in positions of power. The only two factions they can’t get along without are Amity and Erudite for what they bring to the table, literally and figuratively. When a youth reaches a certain age, 15 or 16, they are given a series of tests and simulations which will determine which group they should choose. Usually you go back to the group you belong to. Occasionally someone fits somewhere else, and rarely, someone scores good on two factions and can choose. Tris, or Beatrice as she was called in Abnegation, scored well on three – an unheard of thing. She is what is whispered as “Divergent,” or not following the norm. She decided that the life of selfless service in Abnegation is not for her and chooses Dauntless – her brother Caleb chooses Erudite. Once you choose your faction, you go through initiation rites, and in the case of Dauntless, trials, to determine if you are worthy of it.

As this book opens, the city is still reeling from a power play in the previous books, and some people have differing reactions to it. And there are those who are factionless, kicked out by their faction, or didn’t test well in any, etc., or born to a factionless person. Abnegation likes to provide food and clothing to them, but other factions dislike their presence as it upsets the balance. But now, something has to change and various alliances are formed, tested, and split apart, as they try and figure out what is going on, who is behind it, and why. The why is important to Tris, as she scored well in Candor as well as Dauntless and Erudite. She is truly Divergent, and so many of the stratagems employed don’t work on her, and she becomes the focus of some of the groups wanting to use her for their advantage. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, so there must be more coming, referencing what is outside the city, and why the city was set up the way it was. The book was good, but this time, as I was familiar with the set-up, I wasn’t quite as impressed. The actions and reactions often involved Tris, and “Four” as he likes to call himself, her love interest, and her lack of truthfulness, even though she should be fearless, etc. She is afraid, and so things don’t go as planned. They are often running from mistakes she made. But the real kicker in this is the almost complete lack of background information provided on the world and it’s set-up. There is no get up to speed opening. The way it runs is slowly discovered through the book as it advances, and some is never revealed. To me, with my faulty memory, it was once again, like a recent book I read, a study in dredging up as much s I could recall, and then trying to fill in the gaps. So if my earlier re-cap of the set-up is incorrect, you can blame it on that, and the fact that the second books didn’t make certain things clear. Since I loved the world-building, I knew something about the set-up, but little was recalled about the people, or about the actions taken in that book. She sort of drops you in mid-stream. While that may be fine if you are reading them back-to-back, and be unnoticeable, or if you have a superb memory, but if you read the first when it came out, and this one as soon as you could after it’s debut, it’s a long stretch where a lot may be forgotten. And if you never read the first, I think you might be really confused. I almost gave it 3 stars because of that. True serial books, that build on each other, provide, to my mind, better linkage between books, and a brief set-up woven into the next book of what has happened before. But the story line was still interesting, and although the characters remained rather flat, and their emotions par for the course, it still is worth the read.

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Review: The Last Princess

The Last Princess
The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book I really hated to give a low mark to, since there wasn’t any one thing that stood out, and that was part of the problem. I just found it dull. It was trite, cliched, and lacked any characters that I really cared about. The story is set in the near future, in London, after a “17 day” event of natural disasters that has led to most of the world’s population gone, and for some reason, unexplained, leaving England reasonably better off. Food is scarce, and bands of Roamers have taken over the wooded areas, hunting the last of the animals and taking to eating people, and then there is a man who is intent on overthrowing the current monarchy and making himself king. He claims that the Royals are doing a Marie Antoinette thing, which they sort of are. Our heroine is the second daughter of the King, and as this mysterious cult leader and his army of recruits gets larger, she gets drawn into the quest to save the royal lineage. One of the things that bothered me was the callousness in the beginning that she felt towards others. She and her siblings seemed oblivious to the world around them and the fact that most people were starving. While some things were in short supply, they were eating well, and living in comfort, if a trifle cold, up at Balmoral castle in Scotland. Another thing that bothered me was three separate incidents of animal cruelty in the first half of the book. Not hunting, but just plain cruelty, to show how someone is becoming a bad person, or to show the callousness of the new army, etc. I just found it excessive and it bothered me, but then I an am animal lover. All in all, it’s not a bad book, just dull, cliched, trite, and mundane. i couldn’t get excited about anything, and nothing was described in enough detail, including the characters, to make me get involved. Just bored. The fact that the premise of the book meant it could have been good made it that much more disappointing. Another book in the series is planned for 2013, but I will pass.

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Review: Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am only giving this book 4 to 4 1/2 stars because of some minor quibbles, which may or may not be answered in future books. But I figure I am usually generous with my ratings and if these were bothering me, then it was as sign it wasn’t 5 stars. That said, I believe there will be more in the series, although that is not implied or mentioned in any way, just the way it ended – with miles to go. It is optioned for a movie and could do well. It is a terrific dystopian SF set sometime in the future, when somethings have still been preserved, but most of the people have retreated into pods, leaving everything outside – something happened – the Aether (electrical storms as far as I can figure out) came and caused great damage to the country side, and even the pods at times, and still do. There are two types of people – the Dwellers – those who live in the enclosed pods, and the Outsides – those who live in the Death Drop, the zones outside, where they are said to be deformed, cannibals – Savages. The book starts with Aria, on her own since her mother was sent to another pod in her top secret research a few weeks before, and Aria can’t get ahold of her – the links to Bliss- that compound, are down. So she pretends to like the son of the high councilman, and goes for a “joy ride” into one of the outer pods, thinking she can lure him away and get him to ask his father about her mother – not well thought out. They don’t know the boys well, she and her best friend Paisley, and soon the boys are turning this into a dangerous adventure and doing strange things. Normally , all those but maintenance people live in the central pod which is comprised of various Realms – virtual reality places where they can live, hang out, etc. Not much is said about their life when not in the Realms – do they eat, sleep, or shower even in real life, or is all that done virtually? If so, how? Anyway, the adventure turns bad as the boys, free from restraint, go wild, and start a big fire in the Ag pod, and then the boy who she was trying to get information from decides to try and ape her. But something, or someone comes into the greenhouse pod where they are, and helps her, and drags her to safety. She is found the next day. All the rest died, except her self and the consul’s son. She had her eye-piece in the whole time – her link to the Realms, and had recorded the whole attack, but the stranger took it with him. Why he was there at that time was a mystery to be later solved. She has no proof of what happened, since her eye-piece was missing, and the consul, not wanting his son to get into trouble, sends her out, supposedly to her mother, but in reality she is dumped into the barren and harsh Outside, where she is left to fend for herself. She is in deep trouble, thinking she will die of thirst, starvation or disease, when the same stranger that helped her in the pod comes along and tried to help again, although she is mistrustful, since they have been told that all Outsides are savage, diseased, etc. But she has no choice, and he did come to help her. And so begins their journey – to safety, and then to try and find her mother in the other pod, just as the Savage is trying to find his lost nephew who was kidnapping by Insiders. Along the way, they learn secrets about each other, about themselves, and begin to understand what is going on, and how it all happened. Plenty of detail, some interesting genetic qualities, and the action is non-ceasing, and their lives are in imminent danger more than once. Meanwhile romance develops, and there are several interesting side characters. Well done book – the only quibbles were the lack of information about how these pods came to be, other than just a mention of a “Unity” whereby the pods were built and the people retreated – those who didn’t want to, stayed outside. But why? And the lack of information about what life was like in the Realms and in the central pod. How much time did they spend in the virtual world? All of it? The story starts with her in the Ag pod, and so we never get to experience normal life for her, except as seen in flashbacks. I am too curious about such details for it to go unnoticed. I want my world-building to be complete. Worth the read though.

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Review: The Immortal Rules

The Immortal Rules
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the new series of Julie Kagawa. Her Iron Fey series, which was wonderful, still is ongoing (yeh!), but this is a real departure from that world. Although I tend not to be a vampire fan, since it was by Julie, I thought I’d take a chance, and was pleasantly surprised. Our young heroine, Alison, is a scrounger, living in the Fringe of a vampire city, after a plague, called the Red Lung, decimated the world’s population. Within this city (and there are others like it), is a master vampire, the vamps under him, their human pets and slaves, and the Registereds – those who come and “donate” blood once a month. Alison is unregistered. When her mother fell ill a few years ago, and couldn’t make her monthly donations, they came and took what was owed, which left her too weak to fight off the infection, and she died. Alison has never seen a vampire, and only knows her own existence – scrounging for food as an unregistered, since she refuses to register, as her mother died from it, and trying to stay off everyone’s radar, including the rabids, humans who were products of experiments to stop the Red Lung plague that went horribly wrong. One day Alison ventures to far out, beyond the city walls, into the ruins, where she went illegally looking for scraps of leftover canned food from Before. She is set upon by a gang of rabids, along with her friends. Two are killed outright, one she hopes escapes, while she is left to fight them all, but they prove too much and she succumbs. Then out of the darkness, someone leans over and asks her if she wants to live or die – to die, now, and he would make sure she didn’t turn rabid, or to live, but to leave all she knows behind – to become a vampire. She has a desperate will to survive and so she chooses the latter, but it’s not an easy road. The book details her struggles with remorse, human compassion, training, and learning what it means to be a vampire in this future dystopian world, and then setting out to find a life for herself, meeting up with a band of humans, bound for Eden, a place where there are no vampires they say. The first book in the series, it promises to be be a good, solid entry into the vampire lore, since they are neither all bad, nor “I’m just like you, but I drink from the blood bank.” These vamps are real – they have to drink from humans although they don’t have to kill them, but sometimes the Hunger is too strong…

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Review: Truth

Truth by Julia Karr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The sequel to XVI, this book opens with our heroine having her XVI (read sex-teen) tattoo, which is governmentally mandated. It shows that she is able to participate in sexual encounters. The media dominated culture works hard to convince women , who previously ruled the country, that now they should merely be objects of desire, and dress and act accordingly. But Nina’s mother raised her differently, and she resists becoming a sex-teen. Her mother and father had been members of an underground resistance, but without risking the first book, I can’t say too much more. Nina and her sister Dee are staying with friends of her parents – high tier ones. Nina and her family were low tier, and in this Chicago society, status is everything. She was worked hard to get her creative designation, and is a really good artist, and hopes that one day she can use it to get a better job and move up at least a few tiers to more financial stability. But meanwhile, she is at risk of unwanted sexual advances from unscrupulous boys and men who would take advantage of her XVI tattoo, and in this society, no one believes in rape – they figure it must have been consensual, since all girls want it – that’s how well the media saturated landscape has worked. And she wants to work in the resistance, working hard to change things, such as the FeLS program, where certain XVI girls are chosen, supposedly to be goodwill ambassadors to off planets worlds, but really are sex slaves to bigwigs in the government. It’s a truly interesting look at a dystopian society where morals are turned on their head and a young girl must navigate this dangerous landscape, while sticking to her morals and gut feelings about what is right and what is wrong. A good sequel to XVI, and hopefully more to come – it ended as if there were.

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Review: Article 5

Article 5
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a solid dystopian book about a moral militia. There was a war – that’s about all we know. Nothing was nuked it seemed, and most systems were n place, but the president had created the Federal Bureau of Reformation, thinking to crack down on dissidents and create a strong, moral society. He issued a set of moral statutes, which included the Church of America as the official religion, books and other media are banned, families are a man, woman, and child(ren), traditional male and female roles should be observed, and the one at the heart of this story, Article 5, where children of an unwed parent are not considered citizens and should be taken to reform schools. The books opens on a normal day, Ember and 2 of her friends are sitting around in their school uniforms, doing their homework, when a peremptory knock at the door scares them all. It is the MM (Moral Militia) as they call the soldiers behind their backs that enforce the Articles. They drag away Ember’s mother for having a child out of wedlock (she’s a bit of a free spirit), and take Ember too, although in a different van. They are rough, and hit and shove and kick them when they try and resist and ask why. One of the soldiers is the guy she had been in love with, who had lived next door to her most of her life, and whom she had sent away to join the army, thinking it was for the best. It wasn’t, as the book unfolds. Ember is sent to a reform school run by the Sisters of Salvation, a strict order of women who believe in taking these bits of “trash” and making them into little models of decorum. Right away Ember wants to escape – not only for herself, but for her mother, whom she fears for. Her mother she feels can’t take care of herself, and needs her. And so ensues a tight, never stop action story of Ember, and her search for her mother, and the soldier, Chase, who had been there when they were taken away. The book doesn’t allow much of a deep glimpse into Ember – who she is, what she wants, besides her frantic and frankly obsessive need to find her mother (she is seventeen). We aren’t drawn into her world, but sit on the outside, watching her behavior unfold. And Chase – his character is more complex, and there are moments when we see what’s beneath the surface. I love dystopian books, and what kept me from loving this one, was that Ember was not, to me, a truly likable character. She was sort of one-dimensional – all she could think about was her mother’s safety – to the detriment of her own and other’s safety. Now up to a point that is natural, but when confronted with as many dangerous situations, and major changes in her life and around her, you’d think she would think of other things. The other thing I would have wished for is more depth to the Articles – why and how did they come into being – why did everyone just bow down and do it. What had the war done that made them concede to this form of crackdown – curfews, originally fines for infringements of the articles, but later just take the offenders away and they are never seen again? There is a resistance, but who big is it – can it actually do anything? Some of that may be answered if there is a second book. No promo for one, but who knows. Interesting story, as it overly dramatizes some of the far right moral majority in this country already.

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