I had never heard of this young adult dystopian novel (a real genre in its own right now) until attending BookCon earlier this year. The con itself waI had never heard of this young adult dystopian novel (a real genre in its own right now) until attending BookCon earlier this year. The con itself was a bit of a mess with too many attendees, too few organizers who knew what they were doing. But I was able to walk away with quite a few freebies, and was also able to attend a few great panels, one of which was a Q&A with Veronica Roth and Alex London. I loved this panel so much, and was surprised that I had, since the Divergent trilogy had left me slightly disappointed. But the reason I loved it was the incredible rapport between the two authors, and the way they talked about their writing processes and the depth of thought that went into crafting their characters. I was immediately intrigued by London's discussion of Proxy and I was determined to read it as quickly as possible.
Alas other books got in the way, and I wasn't able to procure a copy of Proxy until months later, but as soon as I cracked it open, it sucked me in and I was blown away. First of all, London created a fantastic, yet utterly chilling and believable future in which the poor are held in crushing debt to the rich, so much so that young, poverty-stricken people are forced to be Proxies for wealthy Patrons, and have to take punishment for the misdeeds those Patrons commit. One of the protagonists, Sid (short for Sidney Carton, as orphans are named after literary characters) is such a Proxy for Knox, a brilliant yet spoiled Patron. In this world, debt is impossible to avoid and dangerous to have, and the human body is completely upgradeable and even able to be hacked.
I must admit, I found the technological aspects of the novel a little difficult to picture and process. How can data be in the blood? But that was easy to ignore in favor of the captivating way in which London wrote the action sequences in the book. There wasn't a dull moment in the book, and the ending was shocking and satisfying in a way which is not common in YA literature nowadays. Yet it still left me gasping to read the sequel, which I will hopefully be picking up from the library very soon....more
The Giver was one of my favorite books as a kid, but until recently I never knew that Lois Lowry had continued writing books set in the same world. AsThe Giver was one of my favorite books as a kid, but until recently I never knew that Lois Lowry had continued writing books set in the same world. As soon as I found out though, I knew I had to read them.
If I didn't know that this was a pseudo-sequel to The Giver, I might not have guessed it. The main character, Kira, lives in a society as unlike that of Jonas' as possible. Instead of a well-ordered, regulated society, her's is one where strength prevails, and the people live in hovels while subsisting mostly on what they can hunt and gather. The thing that connects the two societies though, is ignorance of the past, and a willingness to throw aside those members of the society who are weak or useless in some way.
Kira is considered weak by her community because of her disability, a leg which was twisted from birth and cannot hold her weight fully. Her mother was able to save her though, and brought her up alone, after her father went missing on a hunting expedition. When Kira's mother dies, however, she must figure out a way to stay alive.
She does that by convincing her community that her talent for weaving is one that they need. They soon contract her to repair the Singer's cloak. The Singer, like Jonas' Receiver, keeps the memory of the past, and every year, sings it at a special ceremony. Kira learns how to dye cloths, hones her craft, and meets someone who, like her, has a wonderful talent. Soon, however, her peaceful life is disrupted.
I enjoyed reading this book, though I wouldn't say it's as good as The Giver, and I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in Lowry's quartet....more
It has been a long while since I read this book, almost a year, and I am hard pressed to really remember what happened in it. I remember Tris and FourIt has been a long while since I read this book, almost a year, and I am hard pressed to really remember what happened in it. I remember Tris and Four being forced to move to Amity after the destruction in the previous book, and then revelations about different characters. I remember Tris having to move back and forth between factions and being used as a pawn in schemes by many characters, or did that actually happen?
I'm going to have to do a reread of this book before I have any hope of understanding the last book in the series, Allegiant. Or really, who am I kidding, I'll look it up on wikipedia.
I think the fact that the details are so easily forgotten shows a flaw in Roth's writing. While reading, I remember feeling excited by the action, but mere days later I don't think I remembered much in the way of plot or characterization. The real problem is that Roth didn't write characters that I was able to empathize with, and therefore remember. When I read other novels, I usually remember plot, characterizations, or even lines of text long after my first read. At the very least I remember how I felt while reading. This series is pretty good, but in the end, rather forgettable....more
Being an intense fan of the BBC show Doctor Who and sci-fi in general, I can't believe I put off reading The Time Machine for quite as long as I did.Being an intense fan of the BBC show Doctor Who and sci-fi in general, I can't believe I put off reading The Time Machine for quite as long as I did. I was finally inspired to do so after it was one of a series of free Young Adult audiobook downloads from Sync, a really great program from which I nabbed all sorts of goodies. To further incentivize me, the cover art was drawn by none other than Noelle Stevenson, the creator of the webcomic Nimona, and it was read by the wonderful Sir Derek Jacobi. With such a pedigree, how could I refuse? And all that before I read the first word!
As I listened, I marveled at how H. G. Wells' imaginative skill. In this short novel, he created a whole new genre of fiction, and established so many of the time travel tropes we are utterly familiar with, starting with the mysterious, yet always polite and proper, time traveler. Side note, I love that in books from the 19th century there was such a fashion of omitting characters' names, so as to make them seem like real people whose identities the author wished to conceal. There's the vivid description of the time traveler's journey, showing us centuries passing in a matter of minutes. There are futuristic ruins, gentle future folk, and monstrous villains afraid of fire. The time traveler faces trials and tribulations in the future, and the disbelief and scorn of his peers once he returns to the present.
Sir Derek Jacobi did an absolutely amazing job of bringing the time traveler's story to life. I thoroughly enjoyed the action and philosophical sequences in the novel, though I did notice some distasteful conclusions drawn about the Eloi and Morlocks. Undoubtedly, Wells was writing in a different time, but the way he writes about little Weena, an Eloi the time traveler "befriends" is quite creepy. Other than that though, I was glad to have finally read this classic piece of science fiction. It is the first in my quest to become really acquainted with the scifi canon. ...more
In the wake of The Hunger Games, a massive number of dystopian novels aimed at teenagers burst forth on the publishing scene. This book seems to haveIn the wake of The Hunger Games, a massive number of dystopian novels aimed at teenagers burst forth on the publishing scene. This book seems to have gathered the most buzz, and for good reason I think. Though it relies on many of the tired clichés all dystopian novels do, and added a not entirely believable love story, it does so with flair and really draws in the reader.
The novel is set in an unspecified point in the future, in what used to be Chicago. An unnamed disaster has decimated the population. To rebuild, society has split into five factions, each of which have special jobs and adhere to a specific moral quality. The Dauntless prize fearlessness, Amity reveres kindness, Candor values honesty, Erudite cherishes wisdom, and Abnegation strives for selflessness. The protagonist, Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior, is born into Abnegation, but never feels she belongs there. The novel opens on the eve of the aptitude test that tells all young people which faction they are most suited for. They are then given the choice to stay in the faction of their birth or strike out on their own in a different one.
I was fascinated by the idea of factions Veronica Roth came up with. The whole point in the novel is that society could not agree on which moral quality was essential to survival, so they split, but cannot exist totally separately. Members of Abnegation serve as public officials because they put others’ needs in front of their own. Members of Dauntless serve as law enforcement and other dangerous jobs because of their lack of fear. It makes a weird sort of sense on the surface, but as Tris realizes, adhering to just one quality isn’t enough.
In her test, she discovers that she is Divergent, meaning she qualifies for three of the five factions. She makes her choice, but still doesn’t feel a hundred percent satisfied in her new faction. Her divergence ends up playing a crucial role in the climax of the novel, after she discovers a plot by one of the factions to overthrow another. On the way, she makes valuable friendship and violent enemies alike. She also falls for her trainer, Four, who is harboring a secret of his own. As I said before, this romance is one of the weaker parts of the story, slotted in almost as an afterthought. Hopefully, future novels will expand on Tris and Four’s relationship, making it more believable.
This book was the first I read on my new Barnes and Noble nook, and I tore through it very quickly, eager to get to the end. Roth managed to strike that crucial balance between intense readability and a decent amount of good plotting and characterization. Now I’m impatiently waiting for the next book, Insurgent to drop. ...more
I love discussing books du jour with teenagers. I think their perspectives on the books are fascinating, since they are so different to mine. RecentlyI love discussing books du jour with teenagers. I think their perspectives on the books are fascinating, since they are so different to mine. Recently, I spoke to some teenage girls about the Hunger Games trilogy. The overall consensus was that the first book was amazing, the second nearly as good, and the third book disappointing. I asked why they disliked the third, expecting to hear that perhaps they disliked the framework of the novel without the Hunger Games, or they hated the amount of death and violence. Instead, most of the dislike stemmed from the relationships in the book.
This book leads directly from the events of the second book, Catching Fire, in which District 12 was destroyed and Katniss was rescued from the carnage of the Quarter Quell by District 13, which was thought destroyed 75 years before the beginning of the trilogy. Katniss is brought to District 13, which exists largely in tunnels underground. Its people are diligent, waste-conscious, and under the complete control of President Coin. Collins's goal for District 13 is to show that it is not so different than the Capitol, that all people do horrible things when given power, that the ends do not justify the means.
I found Katniss's narration to be rather confused for the entirety of the novel, which certainly reflects her state of mind. For most of the novel, she is paraded around as the Mockingjay, the symbol of resistance for the rebels. However she is desperate to fight and to get her friends and family safe, especially those, including Peeta, who were captured by the Capitol. Collins does write action very well, and many of the sequences were exciting and absorbing.
I do think the structure of the book struggled without the framework of the Hunger Games. The final third of the book did take place in a Games-like environment. The rebels have infiltrated the Capitol and most streets are rigged with devices and traps familiar to the Games. This part of the books did not really make sense to me. The Capitol was so confident during its reign of the inability of the districts to rebel, so why bother setting up death traps? Also, why set up those traps where your own citizens could potentially stumble into them. Katniss's experiences prove that there are poisonous wasps and deadly weapons concealed in inconspicuous places, just waiting to kill anyone who comes across it, Capitol resident and rebel alike.
Like the teenage girls, I was disappointed with the resolution of the relationships in this book. I never thought that either Gale or Peeta were particularly interesting or fleshed-out characters. Katniss's attraction to either seems based more on their interest in her than her interest in them. She doesn't show true affection to either of them unless pressed. I have yet to understand Katniss's true feelings, and I'm sure Collins isn't quite sure either....more
This second novel in Suzanne Collin's dystopian Hunger Games trilogy continues in much the same vein as the first. The book begins with Katniss EverdeThis second novel in Suzanne Collin's dystopian Hunger Games trilogy continues in much the same vein as the first. The book begins with Katniss Everdeen, one of the victors of the 74th Hunger Games, back in her home of District 12, about to embark on her victory tour. Before she leaves though, she is visited by the despicable leader of Panem, President Snow. According to the President, there is rebellion brewing in the districts as a direct result of her defiance of the Capitol at the end of the last Hunger Games. His solution is for her to quell the rebellions by rekindling her stale relationship with her fellow victor, Peeta, during the victory tour. In fear for her family's life, Katniss agrees.
Despite Katniss's best efforts and intentions, nothing goes according to plan. Everything she does on the tour manages only to fuel the fires of dissent and rebellion in the districts. This is a key flaw in Collins's dystopian world-building. Nearly everything President Snow and the Capitol does to stop rebellion only encourages it further. The Hunger Games themselves are counter-productive. The Capitol claims they exist to remind the districts of their subjugation and helplessness. In fact, they only remind the districts of the atrocities visited upon them by the Capitol every year. Also, the Capitol keeps the districts just on the edge of survival, often starving them and denying them basic rights and access to medicines. Starving people don't sit back and take their treatment. They do everything possible to survive. When the fungi decimated the potato crop of Ireland, millions of people fled across the ocean rather than stay starving where they were.
Beyond that quibble though, I found Catching Fire to be an admirable sequel to The Hunger Games. Though the victory tour dragged on a bit, it gave some insight as to Katniss's state of mind and expanded on her relationship with Peeta. I liked the twist of the Quarter Quell requiring former victors to participate in the Games, and was touched by Katniss and Haymitch's vow to keep Peeta safe. I also enjoyed learning more about the different districts and found the Games themselves to be interesting yet diabolical. The ending cliffhanger was shocking and served to set up the action for the final book in the trilogy....more