Aftertime, Sophie Littlefield’s latest foray into post-apocalyptic fiction is a moving piece that defies a specific genre fiction label. Is it post-apAftertime, Sophie Littlefield’s latest foray into post-apocalyptic fiction is a moving piece that defies a specific genre fiction label. Is it post-apocalyptic? Is it dystopian? Is it romance? Is it sci-fi? It is essentially all of these elements and more, a stark and yet moving journey about a single mother who survives a catastrophic apocalypse only to lose her daughter. As a survivor to the eventual plagues and bioterrorism that follow the decline of the United States, Cassandra Dollar finds herself with little memory of an attack that leaves her stranded and vulnerable in the California wilderness.
At the forefront of Aftertime is the immeasurable strength and internal will that Cass demonstrates as she picks herself up and with a single-minded purpose seeks out those who can help her locate her daughter Ruthie. But within her core is a perpetual internal conflict-her past, present and future inevitably warring against one another, threatening to unravel her mission. These internal struggles characterize Cass deeply for readers, telegraph her acute pain, self-loathing, and the promise of redemption.
Somehow, someway, Cass must align herself with someone who can help her.
But friends from Before are easily enemies, and even those with whom she struggled with directly after the cataclysm-their loyalties have become divided. And on the horizon, two factions are moving into place to seize power: the Rebuilders whose totalitarian rule will shape the face of the future of civilization and the Resistance who will fight to the death to prevent them from coming into power. Enter Smoke, a widely respected but reluctant leader. From a shadowy past, and an even shadowy present Smoke has earned the respect many survivors and the contempt of the Rebuilders. If they ever get their hands on him, it will be trial without a jury….and an almost certain death sentence. Littlefield has managed to cloak Smoke’s motivations very carefully, we never see the clear path to why he gravitates towards Cass, why he is risking his neck for her, and where his power base lies.
Together Smoke and Cass journey from relative safety into the wilds of scattered outposts, Rebuilder enclaves, under the constant threat of Beaters. As they venture, Cass keeps some of the truth of her attack under wraps, and Smoke hides his past incursions against the Rebuilders. These secrets will end up haunting them, and perhaps will hurt them in the end. But a reckoning will be had sooner or later. Aftertime was a stirring read that sincerely whetted my appetite for the next in the series mainly due to Littlefields’ skillful weaving of details and hints here and there that punctuated the story and kept the pace taut, and the story memorable. At the end, I hungered for answers to an abundance of questions. What exactly is Smoke’s background with the Resistance? And how long will it be before others recognize the salvation to the plague just might lie in Cass and Ruthie’s blood? What of Dor? What will happen when Smoke actually organizes officially…how will the factions play out their conflicts? Who will be caught in the middle as civilization struggles to reassert the path that was meant to be. Promise is heavy in the air with Aftertime, and all of these drool-worthy questions set the stage for the next installment.
I wait with bated breath.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) ...more
Collins has detoured straight into full-scale revolution with Mockingjay-the final chapter of The Hunger Games series. And the plight of Panem, KatnisCollins has detoured straight into full-scale revolution with Mockingjay-the final chapter of The Hunger Games series. And the plight of Panem, Katniss Everdeen, District 12 and her band of Hunger Games victors has been thrown to the wind as conflict shadows their every move, rarely letting readers up for air.
In these moments we are pensive, forever guessing at the direction that Collins is taking us. Never do we dare think that the road that we've been diverted to is one that will only end with very real casualties-and this is where Mockingjay morphs from a YA dystopian novel into something more perilous.
Through each page turn, I kept remembering the poem Plato Told by ee cummings, that particular poem reverberating through my head endlessly as well as the lyrics of “Strange Fruit”. Those cautionary, but powerful words portend the tone of this final chapter in Katniss Everdeen’s life. It is as if Mockingjay was the proverbial wolf in sheeps clothing: a raw and harrowing amalgam of world history. Our own. Like Peacekeeper: Road to Sarajevo cloaked as a young adult novel with a subliminal message to its readers.
For fans of The Hunger Games, Collin’s overtly somber tone and stoic ending might derail them, unwilling to follow the long road of a once entertaining but serious tale into a world where hope is diminished and not without very real sacrifice. Will readers follow? Most likely yes, but unwillingly.
Mockingjays’ grave finale works against everything Collins started with her series, and sometimes it leaves bitter ashes in the mouth. Palpably the conflict churns between Peeta, Haymitch, Gale, the rebels, and the ongoing inner turmoil that Katniss feels. There are glimmers of hope of love, however fleeting and yes there is the satisfying conclusion with Peeta and Katniss at the very end. But at what price?
Mockingjay cannot be denied as a powerful piece, and thoroughly engrossing, but it is a Crazy Ivan nonetheless. Gone is the enigmatic rebel, the leader who launched a revolution and in its place is shadow of her former self. It is clear that Collins is imparting a lesson to her readers and at times it devolves from a thrilling story to cautionary tale.
The best that can be described for this much-heralded conclusion is that it is a pyrrhic victory of sorts.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) ...more
Lauren DeStefano’s latest young adult dystopian novel due out in March of 2011 is testament to a world gone wrong -science has wreaked havoc3.5 Stars
Lauren DeStefano’s latest young adult dystopian novel due out in March of 2011 is testament to a world gone wrong -science has wreaked havoc on the genetic code, war has broken out and decimated much of the known world, the polar ice caps have melted, and the center of the known world is now the United States…or at least what is left of it.
Now men only live until 25 and women to age 20. In order to perpetuate the species until a cure can be found, a sinister practice has surfaced. Girls are being kidnapped by Gatherers and delivered to either brothels or rich families and bonded into marriage with their prospective husbands and sister wives. The aging First Generation is hopelessly trying for a cure, but with the growing divide between pro-naturalists and the scientists, a cure is too far out of hand.
At first glance, I wondered is DeStefano’s world enough to draw in readers? Wither’s theme is off-putting…where girls…some very young, are thrust into the role of wife and mother, clinging to each other for support and guidance. It is a theme all too common in this day and age-and at every remote corner of the globe, and Wither brings it home to readers-riding a fine line between adult and YA fiction.
DeStefano plays this hand heavily in her characters: Rhine Ellery the lead in Wither whose unusual genetic makeup and beauty has targeted her for a House Governor’s mansion after being stolen away from her home and her brother Rowan. There is Cecily who grew up in a government orphanage desperate to escape-even if her route is as a child bride, and Jenna who has done whatever she could to escape the mean streets to survive. Each has a different background but a similar fate…
Much in the same vein as The Handmaid’s Tale, Wither delivers a similar theme, but there is too little to draw in readers, sparse relief, and hope seems in short supply. The draw between Rhine and Gabriel, her attendant provides a brief respite, and sometimes the uneasy truce between Linden (Rhine’s new husband). But overall, DeStefano seems uncertain on how to weave the uneasiness between Rhine and Linden. Does she fall for him, her captor? Does she hate him even though he does not know the truth about her abduction? Why doesn’t Rhine tell him the truth? About the true reality of “outside” and how she, Cecily and Jenna were abducted for his benefits? Everywhere is the spectre of Vaughn, Linden’s frightening father who controls every aspect of the estate and those who are held prisoner there.
Wither is darkly haunting, uncomfortable, and well written. And DeStefano’s story world-building is superficial, not fully explained. But it is not the theme that turned me from DeStefano’s story. True, it is a troubling subject, but the vital component missing was hope. That necessary ingredient has to be present to save the reader from its depressing theme. Without this relief, Wither can be a dark, brooding morass emanating a poignant feeling of being trapped in a gilded cage.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) ...more
In the not too distant future, in the Province of Oria, every aspect of your life will be controlled-and you will l4.5 Stars and Top Ten Favs for 2010
In the not too distant future, in the Province of Oria, every aspect of your life will be controlled-and you will like it. How would you ever know that things were not as they seemed? How would you fight back? Could you? And when it came time for Society officials tell you to shake the red pill out of your container and take it-would you?
Will you go gently into that good night?
Ally Condie’s jewel, “Matched” immerses you in the world of Cassia Reyes so much so, that you are swathed in the beauty and serenity of her world. Condie captures you and holds you prisoner in her story-you are elated and surprised when Cassia is matched to her logical choice at her Matching Banquet. Also, it looks as if she will be given a great assignment after Second School. Cassia’s future seems set. She’s followed the rules. She’s been a model Society citizen. Everything seems to have fallen into place. After all, isn’t that how the Society has planned it?
But when Cassia gets a moment to read her matching microcard-that will outline the Matching Guidelines, that will tell her all about her new love, and future husband, someone else’s face pops up. And it’s someone she recognizes.
Has the Society made a mistake?
That one mishap leads Cassia on bittersweet journey that will take an inordinate amount of courage, awareness, newfound hope, and inner rage, to propel her into a destiny of her own choosing-one that will dangerously deviate from the cloistered protection of the Society, making her a potential enemy of the state.
Matched is lethal in its simplicity. Its narrative is carefully cloaked in subtlety that portends a sinister and chilling dystopian future-with Ally Condie as its oracle. It is a stunning story that will both mesmerize and haunt you.
In many ways, the love triangle between Cassia, Ky and Xander takes a back seat in lieu of the overwhelming insidiousness of Condie’s totalitarian vision-its subversive tentacles into the minds, hearts and lives of the Society’s citizens chills me to the bone. This suspenseful fear lingers on throughout the books- causing you to question everything you know. It is an excercise in civil disobedience, dystopian style with an ardent love story at its center.
Condie’s words summon up an equal measure of bittersweet love and anger. You will feel both, and will not be likely to forget it. Ever. Matched was powerful-and stunning. Simply stunning.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat). ...more
Caragh O’Brien explores the bonds of kinship in a deteriorating dystopian society that brings to a head many provocative themes, and forces us to pondCaragh O’Brien explores the bonds of kinship in a deteriorating dystopian society that brings to a head many provocative themes, and forces us to ponder some difficult questions and even more troublesome answers. In Birthmarked, three hundred years into the future, humanity’s survival depends on diversity. But the citizens of Western Sector Three don’t know that. For countless years they have been sacrificing their select newborns to the Enclave for basic necessities, never to see them again. One girl will unravel the mystery and thrust these two societies into chaos.
Birthmarked was such a compelling read because it’s chock full of substance. O’Brien’s world is one of obedience. Where the technology, the advancements of a bygone era, hydroelectricity, computers, and the means to grow food are all controlled by the Enclave. Their rules are harsh and unforgiving to those that disobey them. Those outside the walls live a simple life, largely uneducated and supply…babies to the Enclave unknowing that genetic defects are so prevalent within the upper castes.
O’Brien does not purposely soften the tone of her story merely because it is young adults who are her audience. Rather the adversities that Gaia Stone goes through in Birthmarked, bonds the readers to her plight. When Gaia starts to unravel the mysteries that are left to her after her parents are jailed, she must confront the consequences of her actions. What ultimately happened to the babies that she and her mother “advanced”? What became of her two older brothers? What does Leon want with her? What is the significance of the tattooed “freckles” and worse, how will the Enclave use that knowledge especially as their situation worsens? She has the power to destroy or join together both societies…will she do it?
There is harsh death as well as the balm of new life within O’Brien’s world, which makes it realistic and meaningful. I have read plenty of YA dystopian novels but none of them can come close to the subtly expressive and thought-provoking themes that Birthmarked contained. I was enthralled from the first page, contemplative, and reveling throughout the entire story. It was simply an amazing debut read. Every reader will want to accompany this courageous heroine on the journey to discover exactly what she is capable of, unravel the mystery of the coded ribbon, and whether she can step unfettered into the future. I definitely want more and am anxious to find out what happens in the next book!
Lila Amanda Black is no more. In her place is a half-human half cyborg hybrid body. Meshed with her own psyche and an onboard Ai, Lila is no ordinaryLila Amanda Black is no more. In her place is a half-human half cyborg hybrid body. Meshed with her own psyche and an onboard Ai, Lila is no ordinary girl anymore, but she still bleeds, and still feels within that drop dead exterior-even if she can bench-press a small auto.
Now working for Incon, Lila is test-driving her new body on a routine bodyguard assignment for one of the most popular bands to hit the realms. An unorthodox mix of faery and elven witchery, The No Shows have recently seen some press action since their lead, mysterious Zal Ahriman and Rolling Stone darling has been seriously threatened-with death. Lila has to get to the bottom of the conspiracy before she loses control of the situation and before she loses control of Zal. Little does she know that the death threats are of a political nature, that not only threaten her realm but others, and that Zal is not who he seems. Everything eventually comes full circle-including her life.
Magic and science collide in Robson’s worlds, the casualty of a super collider incident that split realities and opened the ‘verse up to multiple realms: Demonia, Alfheim, Zoomenon, Thanatopia and Faery, the aetheric magic wielding realms versus the non-aetheric technology driven Otopia (formerly Earth). Not everybody in the realms are happy about their worlds being revealed, and xenophobia as well as burgeoning terrorism is running rampant. There are also threads of real world scenarios that add a certain depth to Robson’s writing: racism, technology saturation, and ethnocentrism to name a few. It’s fairly coherent with the exception of some terminology and theorizing about interstitial space between the realms. I’d recommend a legend to accompany the reading.
Aside from that criticism Keeping it Real was like nothing I had ever read before and I loved every minute of it especially the intense attraction between Zal and Lila which only grows as she traverses the realms to rescue him. From the wilds of Zathanor to the clutches of the Jayon Daga and Arie, to the gig circuit where Zal and his band rock on, Robson doesn’t relent until she is sure that she has taken us for an incredibly lavish ride. Readers will detect a slight Isaac Adamson-Jamie Hewlett-Lester Bangs feel to the story. It’s a rock n’ roll tale merged with slick technology, magic, and futuristic popular culture. I’ve heard others remark that it reminds them of the Bionic Woman, but come on…the Bionic Woman only wishes she were as cool as Lila! I’ve already finished Selling Out, Book #2 and have started on Book #3 Going Under, that’s how much I have been sold on this series. ...more
The Clone Codes is a children's futuristic sci-fi novel about Earth in the year 2170 on the cusp of intergalactic travel. But pushing into the vacuumThe Clone Codes is a children's futuristic sci-fi novel about Earth in the year 2170 on the cusp of intergalactic travel. But pushing into the vacuum of space does not always mean a society is advanced, or has paid its dues with regard to science, ethics, and technology. Gross segregation occurs worldwide as clones are used in schools, homes, and businesses. Little more than slaves, genetically altered and chipped to be easily controlled, clones are the center of a glaring slaveocracy, a dark mark on humanity.
The McKissacks want to focus on the plight of clones, the fight for sentience, the exploration into what is human and "real" as well as intermesh critical historical references and personages. But the overall feel of the book seems more like a class history lesson than the tangible conflict that one would expect when dealing with these issues.
As a teenage girl whose mother was just arrested for seditious and treasonous activities and exploring her own genetic roots, Leanna Deberry is strangely benign when she discovers the unfathomable. When dealing with issues of sentience, one would think that Leanna would run the gamut of emotion. A wide emotional spectrum is expected because well..the issue is LARGE when dealing with what makes a human...Human. Philosophers have agonized about this for countless centuries...Descartes in particular. This theme has also played out in so many sci-fi novels that I cannot even list them here, but the ones at the top of my list are Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Asimov's I, Robot.
Taking into consideration the intended audience, middle-schoolers will find The Clone Codes an interesting and fast read that will fire up their creative neurons, but anyone older, even tweens might recognize it for the light fare it is. Overall, I did enjoy the book, the setting, the colloquialisms, the descriptions of technology, and the pace were all very engaging but missing that elemental emotional component. Remember...Watership Down might have been a children's book, but within its pages were tangible bittersweet emotion and compassion that endeared it to readers for generations. ...more
Flash three hundred years into the future where mankind has been propelled into a chilling dystopian vision. In one act of terrorism, an engineered peFlash three hundred years into the future where mankind has been propelled into a chilling dystopian vision. In one act of terrorism, an engineered petroleum bacterium has brought the world to a standstill. Free thought, free will, industry, culture, diversity and imagination have now become things of the past.
In its place resting on the ashes of the 21st century and all it encompassed, is a world shaped by scalpel. This is the world that Tally Youngblood unknowingly lives in. As a fifteen year old "Ugly", Tally looks forward to her 16th birthday. That is when she will be whisked off to complete her transformation from an "Ugly" to a "Pretty"-where beauty's specifications are cunningly determined by the Pretty Committee.
But what she doesn't know it's that that not only her body will be changed, but her mind. Just mere weeks before her operation date, she meets Shay, another Ugly in the dorm. Shay seems to know of a world that operates outside of Uglyville and New Pretty Town-a mysterious backwoods utopia known as The Smoke-where the government can't get at you. But getting there might end up costing too much. And what Tally and Shay don't know is that the government will do anything to crush The Smoke and its rebellion. Including using her and Shay to their own ends.
Westerfeld knows the intricacies of humanity's foibles and he exploits them in his terrifying vision of the future, where everyone looks alike, acts alike, thinks alike, and only a select few are chosen to think freely. The human race is depicted as operating with such diminished capacity that readers will cringe, and Westerfeld manages to encapsulate the conflict and pressures of superficiality that plagues society today. What could be scarier: A future where the government controls your actions or where they actually tamper with your mind? The Uglies Trilogy is an inventive and captivating YA series, reminiscent of Stephens' The Big Empty, and Orwell's 1984 with a little bit of Logan's Run thrown in. www.fiendishlybookish.com...more