I'm enjoying this series. It's a fast read. I'm going to jump right into the next book and see how things turn out.Read "Four" before you read this.
I'm enjoying this series. It's a fast read. I'm going to jump right into the next book and see how things turn out. I might come back and write a longer review when I have finished. Right now I need to see how things turn out before I decide it it was worth it. ...more
Why did I pick this up? I watched a panel discussion with the author on women authors of dystopian fiction. And I thought the idea of factions based aWhy did I pick this up? I watched a panel discussion with the author on women authors of dystopian fiction. And I thought the idea of factions based around different values was interesting. I like that kind of thinking fiction.
Why did I finish it? It was really fast! The story was action packed. The main character keeps facing challenges and overcoming them in various ways.
Who is the protagonist and what does she want? The protagonist is 16 year old Beatrice Prior. She wants to leave the safety and selflessness of the community she was raised in for adventure, and she does.
Criticisms Some people have complained that the society is unrealistic. That nobody would think dividing society into five factions is a good idea, or that this could not possibly happen. Personally I blame such criticism on poor education is public schools. A better understanding of history would make you realize that people end up doing a lot of things that no rational person would think are good ideas.
A better understanding of literature would make you realize that just because a story takes place in the future doesn't mean it is a prediction. This kind of story is a thought experimenter. It is an answer to the question "what if". The idea of factions based on values gives the author a chance to explore what it would be like to base a community around these ideas. That the faction don't like each other is a given. But what are the strengths of each group. What are the unexpected consequences of their choices. What is it like to live in a community of shared values. We only get to see Abnegation and Dauntless in the first book. Abnegation are very much like some religious orders in their adherence to selflessness and service to others, but with touches of the Amish or the Mennonites. Dauntless are more like a biker gang or an anarchist camp. My version of the book came with extra material in the back about the author and the world she created. She got the idea for the Dauntless from exposure therapy, a way of overcoming your fears by exposing yourself to them until they are no longer scary. Fear serves a good purpose in our lives. It keeps us from doing stupid things. The Dauntless get hurt and die a lot. It is hard for me to see that working as a life style choice. On the other hand, there are people in our society who do choose that life. People who want every day to be exciting.
Some people have complained that the plot doesn't get started until the end. Again I would have to say that a better understanding of literature would help you see that the plot of the book is not the political intrigues of the factions but the growth of the protagonist. Beatrice wants her life to be more interesting. She chooses to leave her family and choose a faction that values bravery and facing your fears. Every day in the story she faces tests and conquerors challenges. The plot is a coming-of-age story about a teen aged girl who (essentially) joins the military and grows up a bit. It's about her discovering who she is and what she can do, as all coming-of-age stories are.
Some people have complained that Beatrice is too special. That she succeeds because she is the "chosen one". I have to disagree. While Beatrice is Divergent the story makes clear that she is not the only one. Despite the efforts of the big villains to kill off every Divergent they find there are several in the book. It is mentioned that the Abnegation faction produces more Divergents than any other faction. And while Beatrice does get some training on how to kick ass, when she succeeds on her own it is mostly when she is using her will, in simulations where will power is the only thing that really matters, or when she has a gun in her hand. When it comes to hand to hand fighting or strength she usually loses and needs to be saved by others. She is dauntless but not invincible.
Spoiler Warning One person pointed out that toward the end of the book Beatrice kills one of her friends but chooses not to kill several of her enemies. She agonizes a lot afterward about killing her friend. Was killing her friend necessary? Could she have done something else? I think that the problem here is that the author knows something that Beatrice can't know yet. Here is the real spoilery part. When Beatrice's father shoots the soldiers who are under control of the simulation we sees that they don't stop. People under control of the simulation will not stop attacking until they are dead. They are like zombies that way. People who are "awake" on the other hand can and do respond to pain and choose self preservation, so wounding them is viable option. So, no she had to take the kill shot anything less would not have stopped him. But we don't see any evidence of that until after she kills him. Which is unfortunate. If Beatrice's mother had told her that the mind controlled soldiers don't stop until they are dead or if Beatrice had noticed that when her mother was shooting at them then her actions shooting her friend would have made more sense. End Spoiler
Overall I enjoyed reading this. It was a fast fun read. I plan to read the rest of the series. ...more
In the city of Palmares Três they elect a King every five years. The King rules for one year and at the end of that year he is ritually sacrificed byIn the city of Palmares Três they elect a King every five years. The King rules for one year and at the end of that year he is ritually sacrificed by the Queen. The Kings alternate between Moon years and Sun years. In a Moon year the King is elected by the wakas, young people under 30 years old, and is a waka, a young man. A Moon King has limited political power but he does have more freedom and access to resources than most citizens. In a Sun year the King is elected by the grandes, people over 30 years old, and is usually an older man experienced in politics. A Sun King has actual political influence and is involved in the government. The King's last act is to choose the Queen who will rule for the next five years. The Sun King proclaims his choice before he is sacrificed. The Moon king makes his choice in "blood or gesture" after his throat has been cut, but the only person in the room with him is the current Queen so she is the only person he can spill his blood on or gesture toward. This effectively means the Queens are chosen by the Sun Kings and rule for at least ten years. And between Kings the Queen rules for four years without a King.
The Kings are chosen by the people but only rule for one year. They get to choose the Queens because they die for that right.
The city of Palmares Três is literally and socially a pyramid. It has ten levels and the higher up you live the higher your social class. June and Gil were raised on the eight tier, third from the top with only the government above them. Enki, the Moon King, was raised on the first tier, the lowest tier.
One thing I kept forgetting as I read the book is that the month of June in the southern hemisphere is seasonally the same as December in the northern hemisphere. And the spring equinox is in September.
Why did I pick up this book? I watched a book convention panel on women authors and dystopias with the author and was interested in what she had to say. Palmares Três is a matriarchal society, that interests me. She also talked about why a man would choose to be King if he knew he would die in a year. She decided that he might do it for Art. This is a book about the power of art.
Why did I finish reading this book? I was immediately drawn in. I like the main character, June. The writing is excellent. I wanted to follow her arc. She changes and grows throughout the story.
Who is the protagonist and what does she want? The main character is June, an 18 year old girl who wants to be the greatest artist in Palmares Três. This book is about the power of art to transform society or at least art as a form of political speech. The Moon king has very little real political power but Enki uses the perks of being King to perform art that challenges the entrenched powers of the city and champions the lower classes where he was raised. Enki also challenges June to make art that has real power.
Criticisms Other reviewers have complained that there is too much sex in this book. I have wonder if they were reading the same book. We are talking about 18 year olds. Enki has a lot of sex, but Enki only has one year to live. Having a lot of sex is one of the perks of knowing that you are going to die. Gil has a lot of sex, but he is an attractive 18 year old boy. Of course he is going to have a lot of sex. June mentions that she and Gil had sex when they were 13, just to get rid of their virginities. And she had not had sex with anyone else since then. There is one scene where she is discretely masturbating in a public park at night in a secluded grotto. Several people are appalled about this scene. While I don't want to encourage young people to masturbate in public it is hard to argue that it never happens. And it is not as if she was doing it for an audience, she thought she was alone. While the park was technically a public space it was not a high traffic spot, and it was late at night, and no one else seemed to be around.
Some people have complained that the "promiscuity" demonstrated above defames Brazilian culture and is an example of sexualizing people of color. As a white middle class American I felt the same way about getting rid of my virginity as June does. June and Gil are not white but they are well off and living in a culture with easy birth control and long life spans. When people can have sex without pregnancy and virginity is not a measure of a women's worth I would expect there to be more sex, as there is in middle class America today. I don't think it has anything to do with sexualizing Brazilians or people of color. The only things I found particularly Brazilian in the story were the occasional Brazilian words, the formal clothing, the food, and how often people seem to samba. Really, they dance a lot in this book.
There was also a complaint that the book defames the Yoruba religion by making it the source of human sacrifice and promiscuity. I didn't think the Yoruba religion had a history of sacrificial kings I thought that was a white European thing. And while there is talk about orixás, there is also talk of Jesus. When it comes to a religion that condones human sacrifice Christianity is it. Christianity is a serious death cult. And I covered the sex issue above. I didn't see that as a Yoruba thing. There was really very little discussion of religion in this book.
Another complaint was the lack of a clear villain in the story. I feel that this complaint shows a lack of sophistication in the reader. Life does not have clear good guys and bad guys. June faces many obstacles. Her biggest obstacle is her own fear of failure. She wants to be a great artist but she is torn between being true to her voice and pleasing those who have power over her future. What does it mean to be a successful artist? Does it mean being recognized and rewarded or does it mean speaking truth to power? Enki is willing to give his life to speak truth to power, is June willing to do the same?
My only complaint was the lack of any discussion of religion. For a book that deals extensively with death there was no discussion of the possibility of an afterlife. Not as a sure belief or as something that didn't exist. Every death is presented as a complete end with no discussion of how one might live on in art or just in the memories of your loved ones. There is some discussion of the possibility of living on as data, but that is dismissed as no better than death.
Over all I enjoyed this story and I want to find out what June does next....more
I recommend this book for people who don't know how to cook. The recipes are simple and she explains how to set up a pantry and what to buy to make coI recommend this book for people who don't know how to cook. The recipes are simple and she explains how to set up a pantry and what to buy to make cooking easy.
I'm an experienced cook so I didn't need that, but I agree with most of her advice. And I appreciate the recipe ideas she give in this book. As an experienced cook I'm always looking for new ideas.
The only recipe I have tried so far is the Raw Beet and Chickpea Salad. It was quite tasty.
She went to a lot of trouble to make this book attractive. There are a lot of beautiful pictures of the finished food. So many cookbooks for poor people make unappetizing food. This makes you feel good about food. You can get the PDF version for free and take a look to try it out before you buy it.
I had hoped that the paper edition would be more readable than the PDF. But the big pictures and the small text make it a little difficult for me to use. And when the book got damp the pages stuck together. Not a good feature in a cookbook.
The content is good. And I can see that she put a lot of effort into making the presentation attractive. But the result is text too small to read easily, and pages that stick together under normal use conditions. ...more
I just started reading this book, and it is what people say it is - a very scholarly discussion of how polytheism is different from monotheism.
What hI just started reading this book, and it is what people say it is - a very scholarly discussion of how polytheism is different from monotheism.
What he says is the truth but it is not the whole truth.
He doesn't seem to be aware of the Pagan Monotheism of classical Rome and Greece. Personally I think the recent spate of books on the subject misunderstand classical pagan monotheism.
But there is evidence that classical pagans did believe that their many gods were "representatives" of a much higher universal God. Part of the understanding the Romans had with the Jews (that gave the Jews a waiver from honoring the gods of Rome) was the idea that the Jews worshiped the one highest God, who was also the God over the Roman gods. The Romans agreed that the Jews' one God was the same universal God their gods reported to, that all gods reported too.
This is a sort of syncretism that Greer and many modern polytheist reject. Which is OK. It doesn't bother me, or God.
The distinction he makes between the characteristics of the monotheistic God and the polytheistic gods are valid.
Personally, I believe that there are two distinct ways that human beings experience divinity. One is as the universal, omniscient, ubiquitous, omnipotent, all loving presence that wants nothing and does not intervene in our lives. And the second is as the more limited powerful beings, persons, that Greer describes. The many gods and goddesses and spirits.
My main criticism of monotheism is that human beings are not well suited to worship the One God. We want intervention so we always end up worshiping the lesser beings that can actually do something for us.
Christianity fell into worshiping Jesus just a few centuries after he died. And then the Catholic church "solved" the problem of not having enough gods to meet everyone's needs by calling their many gods "saints".
Protestantism, by rejecting saints, has created a real problem for itself that seems to be only solvable by creating a new sect that worships a different version of Jesus every time they have a disagreement.
Buddhism has the same problem with worshiping The One True Reality, their many gods are called Bodhisattvas. Like Catholic saints they are officially not gods but they serve the same function and are as Greer defined gods: entities who are the proper object of human worship (or veneration).
He briefly mentions Wiccan dualism but declines to elaborate because he is not a Wiccan. As a Wiccan I guess I should write a book on that.
Wiccan dualism isn't really about gods. It comes up when we talk about gods but it has less to do with any doctrine about all gods being manifestations of one god or goddess than it does with the importance of balance. Most pagan religions aren't "about" gods. We have gods, but our religion is about life. Wiccan sophiology (the study of wisdom not the study of gods) is about maintaining the balance between complimentary forces. It has more in common with the Taoist idea of ying and yang than anything else. Wiccans are not required to believe anything in particular about the nature of the gods. But Wiccan ritual and Wiccan sophiology encourages us to try to maintain a balance.
I like to contrast the masculine/feminine duality of Wicca to the good/evil duality in Christianity. Christianity adopted the Zoroastrian belief that the world is a battleground between two opposing gods, one good the other evil. Two men fighting for possession of the world. Wiccans on the other hand like to view the world as the combination of two complimentary forces seeking union. A man and a woman having sex. The Great Rite, a central ritual action in Wicca, the union of opposites as an act of creation. ...more
I heard Margaret Atwood talking about the Children of Crake on the radio. The Children of Crake are artificially designed people from this series. TheI heard Margaret Atwood talking about the Children of Crake on the radio. The Children of Crake are artificially designed people from this series. They were created by a scientist who called himself Crake. I'm interested in utopian fiction so I finally picked up the book.
Unfortunately for me there is very little about the Children of Crake in this book.
This story is narrated by the Snowman, a young man who is struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic jungle full of genetically engineered creatures. Through flashbacks he tells us about his childhood as Jimmy, how he came to meet Crake and Oryx, and eventually what led up to the apocalypse that resulted in his current situation.
So this is mostly a dystopian novel about a world of elite corporate compounds and genetic engineering. It reminds me of the cyber punk novels "Snowcrash" or "Mona Lisa Overdrive", only with less computer programing and more genetic engineering.
It was very engaging at first. I dove right in. But toward the middle it began to slow down and now in the final pages everything is rushing to a conclusion.
I really wanted to know what the premise was for the Crakers. If it was Margaret Atwood's premise or Crake's premise. (You should never mistake the opinion of a character for the opinion of the author.) I finally got to the part where Crake describes the theories behind his ideal people and I think he made some basic mistakes. But I still don't know if these are Margaret Atwood's mistakes until I see how the Crakers play out in the future. Which we will not see until the third book.
p293 "War, which is to say misplaced sexual energy, which we consider to be a larger factor than the economic, racial, and religious causes often cited."
This is basically saying that war is caused by misplaced sexual energy, so the solution, in the Crakers, is a set mating period with no pair bonding and no leftover sexual energy. I believe that this theory is wrong and will fail spectacularly. War and indeed most violence is over access to resources, economics. Mates and children are sometimes the resources being fought over, and race and religion are sometimes how people know which side they are on, but the cause is economics.
The Crakers don't have racism because they "simply did not register skin color" p305 Well, they can see skin color. Their skin turns blue when they go into heat so they can see that. Being able to see something and thinking it is important are two different things. There is no gene for "registering skin color" if you can see color you can see skin color. Discrimination on the basis of appearance is not a higher brain function it is a lower brain function. Lightening bugs do it. If an animal can chose between a healthy mate and sick mate it can chose between a dark colored mate and a light colored mate.
I'm not sure about hierarchy issue. Once again I don't think you can remove "hierarchy" from the brain without removing the ability to make any distinction at all. Hierarchy is just about deciding "this is better than that". You can't live very long without that kind of distinction.
He says "They would have no need to invent any harmful symbolisms, such as kingdoms, icons, gods, or money." because they have no need for property, because they are herbivores. Two problems here. First herbivores such as horses, goats, and sheep do develop territories and fight over limited resources. And despite having limited mating cycles they do compete for mates. So, there is no reason to think the fact that they don't build houses or wear clothes will keep them from killing each other over grazing rights or access to mates. And second, I firmly believe that symbolism is part of our speech function. If they can speak they manipulate symbols. If they can manipulate symbols they will have icons.
In the little we have seen of the Crakers they seem to have developed religion in spite of Crake's best efforts. Snowman blames himself for this because he told them stories to manipulate them. But I think it was inevitable. Snowman's ideas about religion are rather simplistic and based on atheist cant about what religion is. ...more