I'm a big fan of dystopian fiction but when I thought back to which books I'd actually read, not many sprang to mind, except for the fabulous 'The Han...moreI'm a big fan of dystopian fiction but when I thought back to which books I'd actually read, not many sprang to mind, except for the fabulous 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood and more recently 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy. I don't think I'll have any problem remembering 'Matched' however. I absolutely loved it and it's a perfect example of dystopian fiction which lives and breathes in your hands and your head. I know it's only January but I have a feeling that this is already going to be competing for my book of the year.
What I enjoy most about this genre is reading about the imagined world as it may become in the future. Yes, obviously we can't see into the future but who's to say that these things won't actually happen. We have no idea what awaits humanity. It's both chilling and frightening and intriguing all at the same time. Cassia lives in a perfect society governed by officials who make all the rules and decisions for people - who they marry, how many children they have, when they will die, where they will live, what job they have and so it goes on. People are given pre-packed meals catering to their individual dietary requirements and there has been a cull of art, poetry and books with only a hundred items of each selected to remain in popular culture. The latter is horrifying! I'm someone who loves culture and being surrounded by literature and theatre and art. I can't imagine only being able to read a prescribed 100 poems and not having the ability to write and create.
All choice and free will has been eradicated in cultivation of what the officials call an equal society. Cassia believes in the virtues preached to ber by the officials and the story begins as she is about to attend the ceremony that will 'match' her with her future husband. All goes well until a mistake is made and Cassia's whole life is turned upside down. Her future is no longer clear cut. Cassia is a strong central character who begins to question the rules and regulations which are imposed upon society. She finally starts to see things clearly for the first time in her life and fights back against the bonds which are imposed upon her.
The love triangle between Cassia, her best friend Xander and neighbour Ky is dealt with sensitively and thoughtfully. When Cassia does finally make her choice, I liked the fact that it wasn't necessarily a choice which would isolate her from one or the other. She loves both boys but in different ways and it was nice to see those feelings explored. She has known Xander all her life and they've grown up together so the potential is there for them to have a long and happy life with each other but there's also Ky with whom she feels the first blossomings of a love that's new and exciting and real. He teaches her about things she has no knowledge of and they learn and grow together.
Hope is a significant theme in the book. The idea that there's always something to hope for and that however much you may have to struggle and however futile things may seem at times, hope always remains. That meant that the book ended on what I thought was quite an uplifting, rather than bleak, note.
Ally Condie's prose is exquisite. I savoured every single word. I felt like I was living Cassia's story with her and experiencing the same emotions and feelings. I'm hugely impressed by this sensational debut and thrilled that Condie is planning a whole trilogy. There's so much more to come and I'm excited to see where the story is going to go next. The film rights have also been sold to Disney so there's a big screen outing for 'Matched' sometime in the future too.
'Reached' is the third and concluding part of Ally Condie's incredible trilogy. My expectations were high as I loved the previous two books and couldn...more'Reached' is the third and concluding part of Ally Condie's incredible trilogy. My expectations were high as I loved the previous two books and couldn't wait to see how the story of Cassia, Xander and Ky was going to be wrapped up. I was also excited to see which boy Cassia would finally commit her heart to as the love triangle between the three main characters has lain at the heart of much of the books.
Firstly, 'Reached' is a big book at 512 pages long. I have to say that at times I almost felt that it was too long and too drawn out. A large part of the story deals with a plague which hits society but although this was in itself interesting, I think so much attention was given to this one single element that other aspects of the story suffered. At certain points in the book it really felt like not much was actually happening. As I've come to expect from Condie, her character development is extraordinary but I would have liked to have seen a little less of this in the final instalment of the series and instead more of a focus on wrapping up all the threads of the plot.
I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the story combines three separate viewpoints; those of Cassia, Xander and Ky. It was lovely to finally get to hear from Xander in particular as he has always been my favourite character in the series. I learnt a lot more about him as a person, his feelings and aspirations and by the end I felt I could understand where he was coming from and what he hoped for the future. Each characters' voice is distinctive and well written and this meant that I was never confused about who was telling what part of the story.
If I'd had a little more time, I would probably have gone back and reread the other two books in the series first before starting this one. Because the release dates have been a year apart, I couldn't remember as many details as I would have liked and I think it would be interesting to read the whole trilogy in one continuous flow.
Although I did think that the pace of the story was extremely slow, I loved the ending of the book. The series has always been about the struggle for freedom and the right for the individual to choose and make decisions for oneself. Ally Condie has always stayed true to this message and 'Reached' exemplifies this with the characters all choosing the path which they must walk.
The concluding instalment may not have been quite what I was expecting from the finale of this tremendous series but after having invested so much in the incredible world that Condie has invented, along with her wonderful characters, it was great to finally see how the story concluded. I hope to read much more by this hugely talented author in the future. (less)
'Crossed' is the sequel to the fantastic 'Matched' by Ally Condie which has been one of my favourite dystopian books of the last few years. The ending...more'Crossed' is the sequel to the fantastic 'Matched' by Ally Condie which has been one of my favourite dystopian books of the last few years. The ending left me hanging, so I couldn't wait to get started on this one as soon as it arrived. I have to admit that I was feverish with excitement because I'd been waiting for this book to be published for months and was dying to find out what was going to happen on the next step in Cassia's journey.
After Ky is sent away to the Outer Provinces, Cassia is determined to find him so sets about leaving everything she loves behind - her family, friends and more importantly Xander, to track him down. The narrative is split between Ky and Cassia who tell the story in alternate chapters, providing greater insight into both of their feelings and motivations. I wasn't a huge fan of Ky in the first book, but I enjoyed getting the opportunity to find out more about his background and family history. Although he is growing on me, I still love Xander and was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see more of him.
My main problem with 'Crossed' is that the plot was very slow to progress. I think it did suffer a little from middle book syndrome and it felt like there was much more to come but it was all being saved for the last book in the trilogy. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, there was no real resolution to the Cassia, Ky and Xander love triangle and although more was gleaned about the the Society and the Rising, it wasn't enough to feel like a substantial step forward had been taken with the story. Ally Condie is obviously keeping a lot up her sleeve!
I liked the fact that both characters were not only on a physical journey, but also a mental and emotional one. Cassia discovers that her path and Ky's may not lead them in the same direction and has a lot of time to think about what she actually wants out of life and more importantly, who she wants to spend the rest of her life with.
Some interesting secondary characters were introduced, such as Eli, who reminds Ky of Cassia's younger brother Bram and Indie, who Cassia journeys with to try and find Ky. I loved Eli who may be young but is also incredibly brave and resiliant and I liked finding out about the enigmatic Indie who there's a lot more to than meets the eye.
The third and concluding part of the trilogy is due to be published next year and although this book didn't quite meet my very high expectations, I have a feeling that the final part is still going to be amazing and will answer all those questions that I'm still puzzling about! (less)
I’d seen some mixed reviews of ‘After the Snow’ prior to reading it so I tried to approach the book with an open mind. It doesn’t easily fit into the...moreI’d seen some mixed reviews of ‘After the Snow’ prior to reading it so I tried to approach the book with an open mind. It doesn’t easily fit into the dystopian genre although this is how it could be pigeonholed as the story is set in a barren future wilderness. The book features fifteen year old Willo whose entire family disappears leaving him to survive alone in the cold snow of a bleak ice age.
Narrated by Willo himself, it took me a while to adjust to the style of narration which consists of his inner thoughts and ramblings. He doesn’t have a very wide vocabulary and his inner monologues are often quite short and stilted, so it was several chapters into the book before I was able to read fluently without taking so much notice of his unusual style. After a while it did seem to actually suit the book but overall I did find it difficult to get on with.
I really like books which feature one character battling against the elements and having to survive against all the odds and this seemed to sum up Willo perfectly. Although he does make several friends along the way, including Mary who he takes under his wing, he still seems a lone figure for most of the book even when in the company of others. But he’s quick-witted and has the survival instinct embedded deep inside him which always made me feel confident that he would come out on top in the end.
The overall message of the book seemed to be about having hope and believing in a better future even when things look bleak. Although I found this inspiring, I have to say that I was a little bit disappointed with ‘After the Snow’ as I was hoping for a gripping, dystopian read with interesting and appealing characters but didn’t feel that the book quite delivered all this.
'Twinmaker' is a sci-fi thriller set in a world which on first appearance seems to be pretty much perfect. People are able to travel anywhere in the w...more'Twinmaker' is a sci-fi thriller set in a world which on first appearance seems to be pretty much perfect. People are able to travel anywhere in the world using d-mat technology which can transport them to their chosen destination in a fraction of a second. There are no limitations to where a person can go and the technology described in the book sounds amazing. For Clair and her best friend Libby, d-mat is a normal part of their everyday lives, until Libby decides to use it to 'improve' herself. Improvement turns out to be more dangerous than they could ever have thought possible and changes their very existence. Suddenly the world doesn't seem so perfect after all.
At the beginning of this book I wasn't convinced that it was going to be my kind of read. I love dystopian fiction and I'm quite keen on the sci-fi genre but I found the world building at the start of 'Twinmaker' difficult to get to grips with. There were a lot of new concepts to cope with and I didn't understand all the technological explanations of d-mat and how it worked. I very nearly gave up but I'm so glad that I stuck with it and kept on reading because Sean Williams turned out a great story which was thought-provoking and interesting and raised so many ethical questions that I'm still pondering some of them now.
It is quite a long book at over 500 pages and in places I thought that it could have been trimmed a little but once I got over my initial confusion about the direction of the story it really took off. Clair is a great heroine who surprises herself with her strength and bravery and she is at the heart of the plot. It's on her shoulders that the future of the world rests but she is more than capable of the journey ahead of her. There are some intriguing secondary characters in the book as well, including the elusive Q, bad boy Zep and Clair's counter-part Jesse who I really liked.
This is the first in a trilogy so there were a lot of questions left unanswered at the end, but I'm hoping that these will all be addressed in the sequel which will be out in 2014. (less)
'Blinded by the Light' is a dystopian young-adult novel, written by a British author. The first book in the Union trilogy it paints a bleak portrait o...more'Blinded by the Light' is a dystopian young-adult novel, written by a British author. The first book in the Union trilogy it paints a bleak portrait of a future society which has been decimated by disease, leading to the formation of the Boundary. The latter has been set up to protect the people within it from the Echo who are feared by all.
The main character MaryAnn lives inside the Boundary with her parents. She's an Alpha - safe, well looked after and privileged. She always has enough synthetic food to eat, she's free from disease and is luckier than many of the Delta who hold menial jobs in society. At the start of the book I really wasn't sure about whether it was going to be for me because so many of the characters came across as quite unlikeable. As I read on, I was sucked in by the story but sadly never really became a big fan of MaryAnn and her friends and family.
Everything changes for MaryAnn when her parents are killed by a bomb. Trying to cope with her devastating loss, she goes to live with the Director but only begins to discover the truth about events when she comes into contact with her brother Daryl. I thought the plot was great. I'm a big fan of dystopian fiction and I enjoyed the idea for 'Blinded by the Light'. The world building in the book was excellent and it was interesting to read about a world where the residents live within a protected barrier, believing they are being kept safe from outsiders. The truth is something altogether different and I thought the way that Joe Kipling gradually revealed this was done brilliantly.
I felt like the book was let down slightly by some of the dialogue and by the fact that it was hard to feel real sympathy and understanding for some of the characters. There are hints of romance between MaryAnn and Peter but I suspect that this is going to be developed more in later instalments of the series.
There are some interesting questions raised in the book and it puts forward ideas about good and evil which show that this isn't always completely clear cut. I enjoyed the opening instalment, even though not everything came together completely for me and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. (less)
'The Trap' is an epic and exhilarating conclusion to one of the best series out there! I was on the edge of my seat as I followed Gene and Sissy's str...more'The Trap' is an epic and exhilarating conclusion to one of the best series out there! I was on the edge of my seat as I followed Gene and Sissy's struggle to save the ones they love and survive in a world riddled with danger.
I have loved each instalment but I think this was my favourite so far. It was an incredible, pulse-pounding read which I devoured in one sitting. The story takes up where 'The Prey' left off, with Gene, Sissy and co on-board a train headed towards an uncertain fate. As they face unimaginable horrors, they vow to stick together no matter what but someone from Gene's past has other ideas.
The plot rockets along at full speed ahead, as Gene and Sissy find themselves in one dangerous situation after enough. Having followed their journey this far and having invested so much in the characters I was desperately keeping my fingers crossed for them. They've faced such terrible situations that I really wanted them to come out the other side and have some hope for the future. They have a lot to get through first though before that's even a possibility.
Andrew Fukuda is an incredible writer. The scenes in the book leap off the page as his writing leads you on a journey full of horror, terror and danger. There are some wonderfully rich descriptive passages in the book which made everything feel very real and frankly left me quite terrified at times.
I was preying that the ending would leave me satisfied and wow, did it ever! There was a truly unpredictable twist near the end which was jaw-dropping and so, so clever. I never saw it coming which made it all the more surprising. Sometimes the last book in a series can let you down but 'The Trap' delivered right up to the last page.
This was a real page-turner that I can guarantee you won't be able to put down. I'm excited to see what subject Andrew Fukuda will turn his hand to next. (less)