storytimewithbuffy

Posts Tagged ‘Dystopia’

Zoo City

In Book Reviews on October 5, 2014 at 10:28 am
Angry Robot 2010

Angry Robot 2010

“You play golf now as well as Blood Skies?” Des says mockingly.
“No, I hate golf. It’s the genteel version of seal-clubbing, only not as much fun.”

Nutshell blurb: Zinzi December is a criminal. In this particular society, criminal are lumped with animal familiars and have certain powers. Zinzi’s power is that she can find lost things. She ends up on a mission to find a missing person and from that point everything goes wrong.

I fell in love with the writing style of this book. Lauren Beukes has a wry sense of humour as well as a knack for description, both of which greatly appeal to me. I put the golf quote up there, incidentally, because that’s exactly how I feel about that particular sport. There were so many lines in this book that I could relate to which made my reading experience that much more fun.

The main character isn’t a very likable person. She actively participates in email scams. You know the ones. Some tribal princess is in dire need of help. She can’t access her vast fortune and needs your help (and money) to do it. Of course, you’ll get a cut of her considerable wealth once she has access to it. That sort of thing. However, Ms. Beukes somehow makes her likable. It was very easy to overlook her criminal activity and sympathise with her. That takes skill.

The animal aspect was very cool as well. (A lot of people have likened the concept to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I’m not going to do that here because I’ve never gotten around to reading those books. I just wanted to let you know that in case you decided to say ‘Oh hey, this sounds like Philip Pullman’s books.’) It was interesting that only criminals get ‘animalled’. I would love to have an animal that went everywhere with me. Zinzi has a sloth, which is pretty darn cool. Bad things happen to you if your animal gets killed, though. It kind of reminds me of this (skip to 1.30):

Not very nice.

Overall, this was a really good book and as I said, I love her writing. However, the ending was a bit much for even me. I can sum it up in two words: BLOOD BATH. Now, I read lots of zombie, dystopia and horror books so I have a pretty high tolerance for blood, guts and gore but this exceeded what even I find acceptable. I found myself cringing quite a lot, but not in a good way. The violence was excessive, wanton even, and I didn’t think that it served the story in any way. It left me with feelings of disappointment and sadness when I finished.

It is a good read and I definitely don’t regret spending my time and money on it, however, if you are at all squeamish, approach this book at your peril. It won’t deter me from buying any of her other books, though. She is very talented and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

Who Fears Death

In Book Reviews on August 24, 2014 at 6:00 am
DAW Books 2010

DAW Books 2010

I’ll start off by saying that this book is not for the faint-hearted. It was both beautiful and terrifying and it took me a few days to get over reading it.

Nutshell blurb: Onyesonwu is Ewu – a product of rape as a form of ethnic cleansing. Her name means ‘Who Fears Death’ and she discovers that she has magical abilities. This is the story of her journey to find the person who is trying to murder her.

There are some heavy subjects in this book. Ones that certainly shouldn’t be ignored but are very difficult to read.

Like many women, the threat of rape is something that terrifies me. I can read books where people are dismembered horribly or eaten by zombies, but this is one subject I really have a difficult time reading about. The story begins with Onyesonwu as an adult and since it was her mom that was raped, I kind of thought that we would get away without reading about it in detail. Except that there are these things in books called flashbacks. Yeah.

It would have been cowardly for Ms. Okorafor to not write about it but it still made me squeamish.

The topic of female circumcision plays heavily in the story as well.

Why did I keep reading it? you might ask.

It’s a damn good book, is why. The writing is gorgeous and the characters are interesting. I didn’t connect as well as I’d like with the main character. She was moody, willful and sometimes not very nice but I think that the same could probably be said about me sometimes. She had a difficult time growing up as Ewu so I imagine that would have an effect on someone’s personality.

It was also a different experience for me reading about issues in a novel that I’ve only ever read about in the news. I don’t live in fear of soldiers invading my village and harming me nor is there any threat of FGM for me. Reading about these topics, even though it’s fiction, gave me some frame of reference for them. What we read in the news is very sterile with emotion taken out of it. To feel the terror from a character’s point of view who has had to deal with these issues is quite powerful. It makes it seem more real when I think that women in the world are actually going through these things and that it’s just part of their lives.

The story takes place in a futuristic Africa. The first image that actually popped into my head when I read that it was a dystopian story that takes place in a desert is this:

Tina Turner looking amazing in the desert. (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.)

Let’s take a moment to appreciate Tina Turner looking amazing in the desert. (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.)

 

It couldn’t be more different, though. There are some references to recording devices and computers but there’s also magic involved. Other than that, it didn’t feel very futuristic. I’m not complaining, though. It was unlike anything I’ve ever read and I was mesmerised.

As I mentioned, Onyesonwu had to get used to having magical powers. One of her abilities was that she could shapeshift. She was able to turn herself into different animals and birds. When she changed shape, she took on the characteristics of the animal that she became. I thought that was a nice touch and it was these types of details that made this story so enjoyable for me.

The ending felt a bit rushed, but other than that I absolutely loved it. I’m not sure about its re-readability factor, but it was an amazing experience.

Parasite

In Book Reviews on July 6, 2014 at 6:00 am
Orbit 2013

Orbit 2013

Nutshell blurb: In the future, humans live disease-free due to a parasite engineered by a company called SymboGen. Things are hunky-dory until the parasites decide that they want their own lives.

Yes, the premise of this book is excruciatingly gross. The thought of having a parasite living inside of me ON PURPOSE is horrifying. Much less the thought that it could become sentient and want to take over my body.

Hence the reason I HAD to read this book.

Mira Grant does a really great job of painting a hopeful future where things like diabetes or the common cold are things of the past. It’s very rare to find people who haven’t jumped on the parasite bandwagon.

The main character is Sally, a woman who had a nearly fatal car accident and whose family nearly pulled the plug on her life support. She made a miraculous recovery and was the subject of study for the SymboGen corporation as a result.

I’m not going to say anything more about the plot so as to avoid spoilers.

What I will tell you is that I really like Ms. Grant’s style of writing. She’s quirky and she has a knack for adventure and action. I’ve only read two of her books so far (here’s the link to my post on Feed if you’re interested in reading it) and I’ve really enjoyed them.

My problem with this book and the reason that I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is that I felt that it was very similar to Feed. They both featured a future that saw us with some sort of disease-preventing technology that’s gone wrong. And the characters were quite similar.

In Parasite, there’s the main character, Sally who seemed remarkably similar to Feed’s Georgia. There’s Sally’s boyfriend, Nathan, who reminded me of Georgia’s brother, Shaun. There’s the plucky side-kick, Tansy who could have easily been related to Feed‘s Buffy.

Even though the Parasite characters were, in many ways, different from their Feed counterparts they still felt connected to me. As I read the parts with them in it, I found myself picturing the characters from Feed. I’ve never experienced that before. It was eerie, although probably unintentionally so. As characterisation is a huge part of what draws me into a novel, I must admit that it was a bit off-putting.

However, the story was gripping enough that it wasn’t a huge issue for me. It was an enjoyable read and I would be up for reading the next one.

Shift

In Book Reviews on June 22, 2014 at 6:00 am
Arrow Books 2013

Arrow Books 2013

This is the second book of this trilogy by Hugh Howey. I read the first book back in August so if you want to read that post first, click here.

Nutshell blurb: The story takes place before Wool. We find out how and why the silos were built and the measures that were put in place to protect the people who live in them.

This book was quite gripping and, frankly, creepy as hell. This is why I love dystopia.

But before I talk more about why I liked the book, can I just direct your attention to the yellow circle in the picture above? This is a pet peeve of mine. I know that people do this to sell books, but I think it’s sneaky and underhanded. I try not to read too many reviews before I read a book (except for the ones I read on the blogs I follow) because I don’t like people to market things to me. I don’t mind it if people whose taste I trust tell me what they thought of a book. But the Sunday Times stating that this is ‘The next Hunger Games‘ is not going to get me to buy the book. In fact, if I had bought this book based on the fact that it’s been touted as ‘The next Hunger Games‘, I would have been extremely pissed off to find that this was absolutely nothing like The Hunger Games. Other than the fact that it’s dystopia. And a book.

I’m sorry. I’ll stop ranting now. But it’s nothing like The Hunger Games. So there.

Anyway, I really liked this book. It only took me 7 days to read which is pretty good considering that it’s a hefty 578 pages.

I always struggle to tell you about some of these books which contain twists and turns because it would grieve me to no end if I spoiled it for you.

I’ll do my best to not spoil it.

Let’s talk about the main character, Donald. That’s safe. He’s a pretty interesting guy. He’s a young senator who studied to be an architect at university. He’s enlisted by an older senator (who helped him win his votes) to design some underground silos. He doesn’t know why he’s doing it and does it despite having a bad feeling about it. I like this guy because he’s desperately in love with his wife. He does his best to prove to her that he’s not going to cheat on her even though he’s now working on this project with an ex-flame from university. This love for his wife is a central theme in this book and it is heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time.

The book flashes back and forth between the time time when the silos were being built and the people who are on shift in them in the future. Eventually, the future collides with the events that take place in Wool. There are a few ‘aha!’ moments when you realise that you’re reading the back story of someone from the first book. I really liked that.

I’m intensely curious about what’s going to happen in the next book although it will take me a while to get around to reading it. My stack of books to be read is quite sizable at the moment so I shall have to wait to see what happens. I’ll definitely buy the next one though.

The Passage

In Book Reviews on May 18, 2014 at 10:09 am
Orion 2010

Orion 2010

Nutshell blurb: 12 inmates used for experimental purposes escape from the underground Army testing facility they’re kept in. They wreak havoc on the earth and only one girl can save mankind.

I picked up this book not knowing anything about it. Even the cover blurb is a bit vague although strangely intriguing. It’s always a strange experience going into a story with no information. I had no preconceptions and no idea of where the story would take me.

That was kind of exciting, yet at the same time a little bit off-putting. There was no way I could predict what was going to happen (which is a good thing) yet sometimes I sat there thinking What is this story??

It was actually several stories in one and it reminded me of A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Except that I liked this story much more. Sorry, Walter M. Miller Jr.)

There were some really good characters and I’m happy to report that a few of those character were some kick-ass females.

That always makes me happy.

There’s also a really sweet note at the back of the book on how the author came up with the story. Apparently, it was inspired by his 8 year old daughter who told him that his literary books were too boring and that he should write something more interesting. They would spend part of everyday talking about the story and creating the characters. Frankly, she sounds a bit bossy. I like her.

Don’t worry, though. It doesn’t read like an 8 year old wrote it!

It’s definitely worth a read if you are interested in a different take on the vampire genre and are not intimidated by its nearly 1000 pages.

Lies

In Book Reviews on January 5, 2014 at 11:59 am
Egmont 2010

Egmont 2010

This is the 3rd in the series by Michael Grant and I’m still really enjoying them. Since this is the third in the series, I’m not sure how spoilerific this post is going to be but please be advised that I will divulge a bit of information (at least from the previous books). It would be impossible to talk about this book without doing so. If you would like to know what I thought about the two previous books in the series, please see my posts for Gone and Hunger.

Nutshell blurb: Kids are still trapped under the barrier that separates them from the rest of the world. They’ve found a solution to the food problem they were having but have discovered a new range of problems. New factions have formed and kids are fighting against each other in a bid for survival.

It’s been interesting to see how these kids would deal with the loss of the authority figures in their lives and the decisions they make. Mr. Grant doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects, such as cannibalism, even though we’re dealing with kids.

The event which caused the barrier aka the FAYZ to be created also resulted in some of the kids receiving special powers. It has also caused the wildlife that was trapped with them to mutate creating even more peril for them. In the previous books, the kids were separated into two factions: the kids from Coates Academy and those from Perdido Beach. In this book, there’s been yet another schism between the kids with special powers and those with none. Some of the kids who don’t have powers are terrified of those who do and have declared war on them.

It’s quite an interesting situation because the kids with powers in Perdido Beach are trying to establish a system of government in an effort to return to some sense of normalcy. They lack the ability to enforce these laws and are constantly frustrated in their attempts to give everyone a stable living environment. But hey, most of them are under 15 . Whaddya expect?

One thing that made me a bit skeptical is the addition of new characters into the story. I would have thought that we would have met everyone who was noteworthy in the first couple of books since we’ve been trapped under a dome since then. As it turns out, there’s an island off the coast that was the home of a celebrity couple who adopted kids from several different countries (Brangelina, anyone?) and the kids have no idea what’s going on. They end up getting dragged into the mess eventually. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief on this subject. For now. In the last book, the kids on the mainland were starving and trying to find food. They all knew about this island and they have boats. Why wouldn’t it occur to them to travel to it? I’ll have to see how it plays out in the next book. Hopefully there will be a plausible explanation.

We also get more of a view on what caused the barrier to be created as well as a brief snapshot of what is potentially happening outside of it.

This was a very fun and exciting book to read and I did so quickly. I’m a bit leery series that go beyond three books. Sometimes I find that they have a tendency to drag things out that could have been said or explained in less time and space. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case with these books so I’ll definitely pick up the next one when I see it in the library.

The Unit

In Book Reviews on July 28, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Unit

One World Publications 2010

I think it’s beautiful when men show their physical strength openly without being ashamed of it or apologizing. And I think it’s beautiful when women dare to be physically weak and accept help with heavy jobs.

This book affected me. Intensely.

Nutshell blurb: 50 year old Dorritt has just been admitted to the 2nd Federal Reserve Bank for Biological Material where she will spend the rest of her days in relative comfort, undergoing “humane” medical tests and donating organs to more important people in society until the day she makes her “final donation”.

This book scored high for me on the creep-out meter. I’ve been reading a lot of dystopia lately that has been deliciously scary but there is something about donating organs before one dies that freaks me right out. I mean, we will probably never experience a zombie apocalypse, an alien invasion or any of the many scenarios authors of dystopia have dreamed up. But this…this really feels like something that could happen one day. At least it does to me. I’ve never been the same since reading that email that did the rounds way back in the early 2000s about people being drugged in hotel bars and waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a note saying that their kidneys had been removed.

Anyway, back to the book. The fact that it weirded me out has no bearing on whether or not I liked it because I really really did.

As a strong, independent woman, there were things that were difficult for me to read without wincing such as the quote above. The important members of society were the ones in important jobs which served society such as being a doctor, teacher, police officer, etc… Being a parent left you home free as well. Women who didn’t jump into relationships and who made it to the age of 50 without having children or an important job were sent to the Unit. The same went for men who made it to 60. These people are considered dispensable.

The main character wrote novels and read a lot. She mentions that people who read a lot tend to be dispensable. These are the type of people I tend to befriend. Strong, independent, smart.

The reason that I get so affected by stories is that I have a very strong sense of empathy. When I read a book or watch a film, I usually put myself in the place of the characters. I don’t mean that I imagine myself actually in the film or book; I mean that I try to imagine what I’d do in that particular situation. What would my role be in the society?

Well, let’s see…I love to read and write. I have no children and am not sure whether or not I will. I don’t have a job that’s important to society. OH MY GOD, I’VE GOT TWELVE YEARS UNTIL THEY SEND ME TO THE UNIT!!!

Ahem.

This book put me through some heavy emotions. I was terrified, heart-broken, tense, over-joyed…All of these things. I was reading it on the way to work one day and I got to a certain point which made my eyes tear up. I almost started crying right there on the Underground. I absolutely love it when a book can trigger such strong emotions. (I’m sure my fellow commuters thought that I was a bit unhinged, though.)

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. It missed out on 1 star because I was unclear about why the author ended it the way she did. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it.) It was a pretty powerful ending but there was no explanation about why the main character made the choices that she made. I don’t feel that every story has to be perfectly wrapped up, but I do want to understand the motivation behind the choices.

Gosh, I’ve gotta stop reading this kind of stuff before bed…

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