A father and his young son walk along the road in a post-apocalyptic time. There is nothing alive except for a few lawless people that they must hide...moreA father and his young son walk along the road in a post-apocalyptic time. There is nothing alive except for a few lawless people that they must hide from. Ash covers the earth, and their only food is what they can scavange from abandoned homes. A pistol with two bullets is their only defense. In this bleak, dark journey to the warmer southern coast, the sole brightness is the love and devotion between the father and the son. The Road is a beautifully written, riveting story that I could not put down.(less)
"The Handmaid's Tale" is a very chilling book about a dystopian society. If we look back at the atrocities and genocides that have happened in reality...more"The Handmaid's Tale" is a very chilling book about a dystopian society. If we look back at the atrocities and genocides that have happened in reality, Margaret Atwood's novel has a scary ring of truth to it. It was hard to get into the book at first, but then I could not put it down as she drew me in.(less)
In this dystopian novel, Hannah Payne lives in the State of Texas where the government monitors the movement of its citizens, and criminals are punish...moreIn this dystopian novel, Hannah Payne lives in the State of Texas where the government monitors the movement of its citizens, and criminals are punished by altering the color of their skin. Each class of criminal has a color matching their crime, and the Chromes are targets for aggression by hate groups and religious fanatics. Hannah was convicted of having an abortion, illegal in this futuristic world, and her skin color was turned red.
This is a reimagining of The Scarlet Letter where a religious young woman is seduced by her pastor in a time where there is little separation between church and state. The chromed Hannah is living in a very dangerous world which is determined to destroy her. Hannah must use all her inner strength in her attempt to get to a safer place.
This novel was a real pageturner. It was interesting to see Hannah progress from being a shy, sheltered young woman to a more independent, questioning person. Except for a scene with Simone, which seemed out of character with Hannah's emotions and desires in the rest of the book, the plot was well written.(less)
John is writing a book about the day the atomic bomb dropped, and is interviewing the family and coworkers of one of the scientists that created the b...moreJohn is writing a book about the day the atomic bomb dropped, and is interviewing the family and coworkers of one of the scientists that created the bomb. He finds out that the scientist's last invention, "ice-nine", could cause the apocalypse.
John flies to San Lorenzo to do more investigating and gets swept up in a crazy world. A new religion, Bokononism, has been founded by a calypso singer on the island. The sayings of Bokonon are witty and sarcastic with a ring of truth to them. Vonnegut uses humor to skewer the government, weapons, religion, relationships, and science. Like a "cat's cradle" made of yarn where you don't see a cat and don't see a cradle, things in the world aren't always what people say they are. The plot in this book was wacky, but the social commentary was interesting.(less)
Luke has lived his whole life in hiding, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. While his two older brothers go outside and go to school, h...moreLuke has lived his whole life in hiding, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. While his two older brothers go outside and go to school, he lives as a shadow child in a world where he has never had the opportunity to make a friend. Then, he observes a girl's face occasionally at a window of a neighbor's house where he knows two older children already are at school. He guesses that another shadow child is living there. He decides to take a big risk in order to make a friend.
Luke is a wonderful, likable character and it's easy to identify with his emotions. Both Luke and his new rebellious friend, Jen, have to ask themselves in several situations how much risk they are willing to take in order to live more normal lives in a dystopian world.(less)
Gathering Blue is the second book in the dystopian trilogy for young adults that started with The Giver. Kira has a twisted leg, and after her mother'...moreGathering Blue is the second book in the dystopian trilogy for young adults that started with The Giver. Kira has a twisted leg, and after her mother's death, she no longer has someone to defend her. She is living in a society that brings the physically flawed to a field to be attacked by the beasts. But Kira has a magical artistic talent that involves weaving, and is allowed to live. Her talent is nurtured by a wonderful old woman who teaches her to dye threads naturally using plant materials. In the story Kira learns things about her community and other civilizations with very different values, and how she might impact the future. I enjoyed this book, but found myself comparing it to The Giver which had totally different characters and had a greater impact.(less)
In a dystopian future, Guy Montag worked as a fireman who burned books, since reading books was forbidden. The paper in books burns at 451 degrees Fah...moreIn a dystopian future, Guy Montag worked as a fireman who burned books, since reading books was forbidden. The paper in books burns at 451 degrees Fahreinheit, giving the book its title. It was a controlled society where people were surrounded by TV walls telling them what to think. Montag meets Clarisse, a seventeen yesr old girl, who tells him about a past world where people used their senses, and were able to think and converse. He also befriends an old professor, Faber, and discusses the value of books and thinking. Montag begins to question why he is doing his job, burning the last books in the world in this censored society. He feels he must act on his beliefs...but he is constantly being watched and a robotic hound is programmed to kill anyone who gets out of line.
This was a wonderful futuristic book. Ray Bradbury's use of colorful imagery was great. The book would be enjoyed by most book lovers, and would be a good basis for a discussion about censorship and freedom in an acedemic setting.(less)
For no known reason, the rotation of the earth began to slow with both the days and nights becoming longer. Gravity became stronger, tides became more...moreFor no known reason, the rotation of the earth began to slow with both the days and nights becoming longer. Gravity became stronger, tides became more extreme, and maganetic fields were disturbed. The story is told through the eyes of a middle-schooler, Julia, who is also dealing with the normal pressures of growing up. In addition to its unusual, inventive premise, the book has wonderful characters that seem very real as they try to cope with the challenges. It takes a special resiliance to keep going when you don't know what the next day will bring. Described in the author's beautiful prose, the earth's creatures and plants are harmed by this new environment,reminding us to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world we live in. I was a little surprised that there was not more looting and fighting as the crisis went on, especially to obtain food. This story was a quick page-turner that I will be recommending to my friends.(less)
In this science fiction book, scientists have performed an experimental brain operation on mice which augments intelligence. The white lab mouse, Alge...moreIn this science fiction book, scientists have performed an experimental brain operation on mice which augments intelligence. The white lab mouse, Algernon, is running through mazes at record speed. The mentally challenged Charlie, who does menial jobs at a bakery, is asked to be the first human to undergo the experimental surgery. He writes about his conversation with the neurosurgeon before the surgery: "And he said that meens im doing something grate for sience and Ill be famus and my name will go down in the books. I dont care so much about beeing famus. I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of friends who like me."
Charlie keeps a diary of his progress, and his spelling, grammar, word choice, and punctuation change as his intelligence increases. He undergoes emotional changes, and is able to see his childhood from a different view as his IQ zooms higher. He has flashbacks where he feels that the disabled Charlie is looking through a window at the new Charlie. Then the scientists notice changes in Algernon's behavior, and wonder what will happen to Charlie.
Daniel Keyes had a degree in psychology, had published science fiction stories, and had experience in teaching developmentally disabled adults when he wrote a short story called "Flowers for Algernon" in 1959. The story was expanded into a novel in 1966, and several movies have been based upon the book. The author shows a great understanding and compassion for developmentally disabled people who are often treated by other people in a superior, condescending manner, or made the butt of cruel jokes. There's a lot of food for thought in the pages of this book, so I can see why the story of Charlie and Algernon is so popular for classroom use.(less)
The terminally ill owner of Al's Diner told school teacher Jake Epping that the back of his diner contains a portal for time travel. It can take him f...moreThe terminally ill owner of Al's Diner told school teacher Jake Epping that the back of his diner contains a portal for time travel. It can take him from the present year of 2011 to the past year of 1958. He can stay as long as he wants time-traveling in the past, and only two minutes will have passed in the present year of 2011 when he returns through the rabbit hole to the diner in Maine. Al begs Jake to go back and prevent the assassination of President Kennedy on 11/22/63. Perhaps the war in Vietnam could have been prevented, saving thousands of lives, if Kennedy had lived.
When Jake goes back to 1958, he assumes the identity of George Amberson who is checking out real estate in Maine. He tries to right a few small events, and finds some "feathering." When one thing changes, many other changes must follow. If he changes history, will the world be a better or worse place?
Stephen King does a great job of transporting the reader back to the 1950s with cars with big tailfins, slicked back hair, milk with cream on the top, factory pollution, racism, and pervasive cigarette smoke. King was a young child during the 1950s, and he captured the decade well.
When Jake/George moves to Texas, he is not willing to knock off Lee Harvey Oswald unless he knows Oswald is the true killer of Kennedy. He has heard so many conspiracy theories that he feels he must investigate Oswald thoroughly first. George also meets a pretty school librarian, and falls in love. Can she trust a man that doesn't seem to have a past? What will happen if he rewrites her life? History does not want to be changed so it sets up multiple obstacles in George's way as he gets close to the 11/22/63 date.
Stephen King is a good storyteller, weaving science fiction, history, and a love story together. Jake/George is a good, likable person trying to do the right thing. But lots of things in the past are hidden, and no one knows what scary outcomes are possible if important events in history are changed. This is a big doorstopper of a book at 849 pages, but it seems shorter since it's such an engaging story.
"Community, Identity, Stability"--the World State's motto.
In the satire Brave New World, we read about the utopian/dystopian society of the World Stat...more"Community, Identity, Stability"--the World State's motto.
In the satire Brave New World, we read about the utopian/dystopian society of the World State. Their calendar starts in the year that Henry Ford rolled out the first Model T on the assembly line, and the book is set in 632 A.F.(after Ford). Mass consumerism is encouraged. Nothing is repaired, just replaced, so there is near universal employment.
Children are created in the Central London Hatcheries and Conditioning Center in jars on an assembly line where the proper nutrients are infused at the appropriate times. Multiples with the same genetic attributes are created so there will be the optimum number of people with a specific intelligence to match with specific jobs. The children are conditioned with positive and negative reinforcement, as well as hypnophaedia (listening to recorded messages while sleeping) so they will be content with their place in society.
Religion is replaced by community singery meetings. People do not spend time alone, but have strictly scheduled social activities. Physical satisfaction comes from promiscuous recreational sex where "everyone belongs to everyone else." People are never unhappy because they can just pop a drug "soma", a hallucinogen that is hangover-free.
Bernard and Lenina go on a holiday at a fenced reservation where the descendants of the Anasazi live in New Mexico. They get exposed to a primitive society, and Bernard questions the modern society he lives in. Bernard returns with John (the Savage) and his mother, a woman from the World State who was lost in the reservation years ago while on a trip. John is excited to go to the "brave new world", but cannot adjust once he spends time in the World State. The book deals with the contrasts between primitive society and the modern World State, the role of the individual, and the advantages and disadvantages of feeling strong emotions.
Written in 1932, at a time when assembly line production was being promoted and science was making many advances, the book is an interesting look at where society could be heading. It shows how technology could be used to control society, and the dangers of an overly powerful government. The book illustrates the conflict between the interests of society and of the individual. There's a lot of food for thought in this utopian/dystopian story.(less)
George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he...more "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"
George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he witnessed the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin. This inspired him to write Nineteen Eighty-Four about a totalitarian state that uses surveillance, mind control, perpetual war, rationing, persecution of independent thinking, and changes in the records of the past to control the people under its power.
Written in 1948, Orwell's vision of the future in 1984 is an Oceanic police state called Ingsoc which is ruled by Big Brother and the Inner Party. The Outer Party carries out tasks involving propaganda, revising history, creating the language of Newspeak which removes words associated with rebellion and the past, organizing Hate Week, and constant surveillance. The proles are the lowest class who are kept undernourished, uneducated, and do the menial jobs.
Winston Smith, an Outer Party member, works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to revise history. If the past looks like a time of misery and trouble, then the present time under the Party's control looks like an improvement. When Winston rewrites the past to make the Party always look good, he also totally eliminates troublesome people from the records as if they had never been born (unpersons). If the Party tells the people the revised past over and over again through propaganda, it eventually seems like the truth. A party slogan is, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
A forbidden love relationship develops between Winston and Julia. Julia rebels against the Party for sexual pleasure. Winston is an intellectual, and believes in the freedom of the individual. His thoughts give the reader insight into how the Party establishes control over society. But their rebellions against the Party come with a high personal cost when they are captured by the Thought Police.
Orwell created a disturbing vision of the future, and many of his ideas have been seen in governments both before and after the book was published. He was also concerned about how technology would be used in surveillance of individuals. Orwell was brilliant in analyzing the many ways that the state can manipulate individuals and take away their freedoms. ___________________________________________
I visited the Peabody-Essex Museum in Massachusetts a few years ago. They have a Chinese house from the Mao regime in China. There was a loudspeaker at the house which blared propaganda all day long, and the villagers were not allowed to turn it off. It reminded me of the constant propaganda coming from the telescreens in this book.
Published in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of...morePublished in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of violence. The teenagers speak in an argot called Nadsat, which is mainly English with some Russian words, Cockney rhyming slang, and Romany, as well as some invented words. If your edition of the book does not contain an appendix with a Nadsat dictionary, print up a copy at wiktionary. The author, Anthony Burgess, was a linguist, and he increases the use of Nadsat as the violence increases.
The book starts with Alex and his droogs (friends) spending a drug-fueled night beating and robbing people. They end up at a home where they beat the husband and gang-rape his wife. Alex reads a paragraph about free choice from the book entitled "A Clockwork Orange" that the husband is writing before destroying the book.
Later in the book, Alex is imprisoned and is chosen for the experimental Ludovico's Technique, a form of psychological conditioning (somewhat based on B F Skinner's work). It modifies his behavior so that even thinking about violence makes him nauseous and sick. This also results in Alex having no way to defend himself.
The book asks the question of whether man is naturally violent and evil (original sin). Is it better to choose evil with free will, rather than be good with no freedom of choice? Alex is no longer acting freely as a human being, but is acting as a mechanical thing. How far should the state go in suppressing an individual for the benefit of the state or community?
I won't go into the plot details and spoil the book. "A Clockwork Orange" is a book filled with horrific violence, but it has a clever dystopian plot and the fascinating Nadsat language. Anthony Burgess wrote twenty-one chapters in the original book published in England, with some sense of redemption but no true remorse, in the last chapter when Alex matures and becomes an adult. The last chapter was left out of the American books until recently, and was also omitted in Stanley Kubrick's dark film in 1971. So it's interesting to read an edition with all twenty-one chapters to see which ending seems more realistic.(less)