Small and scrappy, Nailer works as a ship breaker on “light crew” in a post-apocalyptic version of America’s Gulf Coast. It’s a dangerous job, and eve...moreSmall and scrappy, Nailer works as a ship breaker on “light crew” in a post-apocalyptic version of America’s Gulf Coast. It’s a dangerous job, and everyone is looking for that one “lucky strike” that could take them away from all the poverty and struggle and set them up for life. Nailer proves lucky, not once, but twice and has to decide the best way to parlay his luck into a better future for himself and those he cares about.
SHIP BREAKER pulsates with energy from page 1 as we follow Nailer into the narrow, claustrophobic passages of a dead freighter on the search for copper wire to make his quota and justify his place on his work team. As Nailer confronts challenge after challenge in a series of escalating cinematic action sequences, we also really get inside his head and root for him unabashedly.
Because this is much more than a post-apocalyptic adventure novel – it’s also got great characters. Nailer is not perfect, but he’s clever and retains a certain level of basic human decency and compassion even when most of the world’s population seems to have abandoned such luxuries. That he wants so badly to do the right thing – the good thing – is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. And the cool thing is – that instinct pays off.
The other major character here is Nita, and she’s a great counterpoint to Nailer. She grew up rich and pampered, but that “swank” life doesn’t do her much good on the run, and she learns to admire Nailer’s resourcefulness and survival skills. Nita represents a possible improvement of Nailer’s lot in life, but she’s characterized to be so much more complex than a mere golden goose. Her relationship with Nailer is fascinating to watch develop.
Supporting characters are also diverse and well-drawn. Tool, the” half man” is especially noteworthy and ties to the theme of loyalty that is thread throughout the narrative (as does Pima, Nailer’s friend from the light crew, albeit in a radically different way). And Nailer’s father? One of the most terrifying fictional guys I’ve come across lately.
There are a few places where the plot disappoints a bit, devolving into a sort of panicked “run for your life” mode that I never can totally get into, but those bits aside, this is an ambitious, rollicking ride that sparkles with originality and complexity. (less)
Can a novel classified as post-apocalyptic get away with not having a single character die?
When I pick up a book in this genre, I expect bad things t...moreCan a novel classified as post-apocalyptic get away with not having a single character die?
When I pick up a book in this genre, I expect bad things to happen. This, however, was the happiest, most cheerful "dystopian" book I've ever read.
That's doesn't mean it's bad. It's quite good, actually. It just completely didn't mesh with my vision of a dystopian. It's set in the future, after a partial economic collapse of North America as we know it. Sure, things are less than ideal. But people are coping. It almost seemed to me to be like a second Great Depression than "the end of the world as we know it."
Against that background, we have the story of Molly - a 16 year old Canadian charged with travelling to Oregon to pick up her grandparents and bring them back.
Molly has a bunch of challenges and obstacles in her path, but thankfully, she's blessed with healthy portions of resourcefulness and luck. (less)
GRACE is not necessarily a dystopian - in fact, when I spoke to the author about it last May, she confirmed that it wasn't written as a dystopian. It'...moreGRACE is not necessarily a dystopian - in fact, when I spoke to the author about it last May, she confirmed that it wasn't written as a dystopian. It's a story that could very well happen today in one of the many oppressive societies around the world.
The basic premise is this: Grace has been raised to be a suicide bomber and to die showing despot Keran Berj that the People will never be ruled by him. Once she is given her assignment however, she chooses to live instead and has to go on the run. The story takes place mainly in a dilapidated train car with Grace sitting next to "her brother" Kerr, a young man also trying to escape. During the train ride, Grace forms an uneasy bond with Kerr as they recall the horrors that brought them both to this point.
GRACE is a very dark story. Both Grace and Kerr are killers, their minds warped by propaganda from both sides. They've lived through sexual abuse, ostracism, starvation, cruelty. They've be programmed to live for others ideals, and they've both decided to be selfish, to live for themselves and to stay alive no matter the cost.
Scott limits her scope to these two broken souls and the barest of pertinent details. It's an effective choice - by not diluting Grace's story, it hits harder. Still, I did find myself wishing for a bit more (especially towards the end). Similiar to LIVING DEAD GIRL (Scott's spare novel about a kidnap victim), GRACE is not going to appeal to the squeamish. But those who don't shy away from the darker, deeper questions of the human condition will find much to think about and discuss here.
Cassia lives in a society that decides everything for its citizens for the greatest good of them all – even who you marry. When Cassia is matched with...moreCassia lives in a society that decides everything for its citizens for the greatest good of them all – even who you marry. When Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander, she is thrilled. But when viewing her matching card, another face flashes on the screen – that of mysterious classmate Ky. This seeming glitch awakens an awareness of forbidden desires within Cassia, and for the first time she begins to question a society where the individual has no right to choose.
MATCHED is without a doubt a well constructed novel, hitting all the expected beats of a YA dystopian novel. And while there may be few surprises for avid readers of the genre, there are some genuine discussion-worthy developments. I enjoyed this installment, but hope that the emotional impact quotient is raised in book two. (less)
Lena can’t wait to get the surgery, that at 18, will cure her of the disease that took her mother – the highly contagious delirium nervosa (or in laym...moreLena can’t wait to get the surgery, that at 18, will cure her of the disease that took her mother – the highly contagious delirium nervosa (or in layman’s terms: falling in love). Lena’s main concern is passing the exam that will determine her future status in society. But then she meets Alex and soon becomes “infected”.
While certain aspects of this dystopian society’s set-up seemed a bit implausible (i.e. why would a society that abhors love allow the family unit to remain intact, putting its most vulnerable citizens – those uncureds under 18 – at unnecessary risk?), the world-building suited the main plot brilliantly. Lena’s relationship with her best friend is heart-breakingly real, and her burgeoning feelings for Alex make the novel soar to dizzying heights of emotion. And that ending...whoa! What are you doing to me Lauren?!(less)
Gaia Stone is a midwife outside the walled Enclave, and she and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three babies per month to its rulers. Whe...moreGaia Stone is a midwife outside the walled Enclave, and she and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three babies per month to its rulers. When Gaia’s mother and father are taken away to be questioned about their written baby records and subsequently thrown in prison, Gaia begins to question her loyalty to her brutal oppressor. Soon, she too is captured and forced to solve her parents’ mysterious baby code.
From the very first chapter, the fascinating world building, foreboding atmosphere and characters hooked me and had me wondering what the heck was going on (in a good way!). BIRTHMARKED is set far in the future, north of “unlake” Superior, and the Enclave seems to be the only settlement in a region dominated by a scorched, post-apocalyptic landscape. Those who live outside the wall depend on the Enclave for their livelihood and in return, the Enclave takes their healthiest children and brings them up inside. Both Gaia’s older brothers were taken, but she was not, due to a burn on her face she suffered before her first birthday.
While I was very entertained by the narrative – really there’s never a dull moment – I have to admit that I found the ultimate explanation of the Enclave’s “sinister” deeds to be rather tame. No doubt the man in charge is ruthless (and tends towards overreaction), but I never got the feeling that his iron fist was all that solid, and I kept wondering why the populace didn’t just kick his butt to the curb already. I also didn’t get what was sooooo special about the baby code that Gaia’s parents felt the need to protect it with their lives, unless as some sort of symbolic gesture of rebellion. Also? Sgt. Grey’s “dark secret” was so lifted from a soap opera I had to chuckle, although I guess it did fit very well with the particular strain of paranoia the culture was rife with. (less)
Trella is a scrub, just one of the thousands packed in like sardines in the lower levels who keep Inside clean. Because of her penchant for roaming th...moreTrella is a scrub, just one of the thousands packed in like sardines in the lower levels who keep Inside clean. Because of her penchant for roaming the miles of pipes around Inside to steal moments of peace for herself, Trella is known as Queen of the Pipes. And her superior knowledge of getting around comes in handy when she inadvertently starts a rebellion against the ruling Upper family of Inside and their brutal Pop Cops.
I don’t often get fangirly in my reviews, but OMG does this book make me giddy! I’ve been thinking about it non-stop since I finished it last night, and I am excited to share what made me enjoy it so (spoiler-free of course).
This dystopia has a very sci-fi feel, especially when you realize that everyone Uppers and scrubs alike are essentially trapped within a very large, self-sustaining cube. It gets you spinning theories as to how they got there, why they’re there, and who controls “gateway” (the way out all scrubs are hoping really does exist).
This cube setting was difficult for me to imagine initially. Trella does A LOT of crawling through the pipes from one sector to the next, so it made things much simpler once I drew a diagram (there’s a detailed description in the first 10 pages that starts you out) to help me imagine the distances and locations of everything.
Speaking of Trella... She’s hard to like at first. She’s a stubborn, skeptical loner with a prickly, sarcastic personality. But as the story progresses, and she starts to let her guard down, your heart goes out to her as you realize it’s the divide and conquer techniques of the rulers that have molded and manipulated her (and everyone else).
And boy are the rulers messed up. Seems they seized control from a more democratic initial leadership, and make sure nobody is in the know except for them. Anyone who doesn’t conform to their 10 hour on, ten hour off shifts, who asks questions, or forms noticeable friendships is fed to the Chomper. They have a strict one child policy for the Uppers and encourage pregnancy in scrubs (but take the children away). There’s a lot of food for thought here on eugenics, class warfare, and such but it’s worked so well into the plot and action, you never feel like you are getting an info dump.
The plot kept me engaged throughout with its clever twists and turns. Along the way we get to know a great cast of characters, all of whom felt real to me (even the rat guy who was only given one page of face time).
My absolute favorite character was Riley, the Upper boy who becomes Trella’s ally and romantic interest. He is so YUM, I want to create a button that says “Team Riley” (though there’s no other team to be on really in this book) and post in my sidebar right under my “Team Peeta” button. I loved his and Trella’s scenes together, and how his silly sweetness really draws her out.
Ok, now that this is officially my longest review ever, I’ll wrap it up by saying the ending packed a punch. I thought it concludes this chapter of life Inside very nicely (the story arc feels complete, no cliffhanger), but still makes you eager to read further adventures when they come out. I just hope the next installment, OUTSIDE IN, due in 2011, has lots and lots of Riley! (less)
Genres within dystopian fiction can be quite varied, from sci-fi to fantasy to horror, etc. Well, here’s a first for me: a western! And very untypical...moreGenres within dystopian fiction can be quite varied, from sci-fi to fantasy to horror, etc. Well, here’s a first for me: a western! And very untypically for a dystopia, Ty is not suffering under a repressive regime. In fact, he and his family are doing just fine under the sea, thank you very much. But Ty knows things back on land are not so peachy, and this fact is made clear by his chance meeting with a Topsider, Gemma, on the search for her older brother.
Gemma is a ward of the commonwealth, where “stealing space” (for example, making use of a spacious game room without paying) is a capital offense. She’s escaped from her boarding house, and never wants to go back – a great reason to help Ty.
Ty and Gemma are caught up in a new, dangerous adventure seemingly every chapter, so this is a perfect book for those who like a lot of action. As someone fascinated with the ocean, I also very much appreciated the world building and the undersea setting. The exploration of dark gifts – paranormal talents developed by children and teens who spend time under water - was particularly fun.
The middle grade audience should love this one, and there is plenty to enjoy for teens and adults too.(less)