Disclosure: I received a free eBook copy of Meritropolis from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Meritropolis was an easy, fast-paced read thDisclosure: I received a free eBook copy of Meritropolis from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Meritropolis was an easy, fast-paced read that I found to be very typical of the dystopian genre. Each of the 50,000 inhabitants of Meritropolis is assigned a numerical score that decides their worth to society and whether they get to remain in the city or are cast outside the gates and left to die. The main character, Charley, plots to take down the system responsible for ‘zeroing’ his brother-leaving him at the mercy of the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist outside the city.
The notion of a society that ranks its citizens based on a scoring system is a familiar one, but Ohman does bring some unique elements to this premise. For example, the strange hybrid creatures that live outside the walls of the city added an additional threat. This was an interesting development that added lots of tension to the plot, but they did have quite silly names and far-fetched descriptions that just didn't seem believable to me.
The main thing I enjoyed about Meritropolis was that there was plenty of action. The main characters didn't spend too long thinking over what they should do-for the most part they put plans into action quickly. There was an exciting scene where they tried to break into the hospital and some good battle scenes at the climax of the novel.
However, my main disappointment with the novel was that it was quite simplistic and at times read more like a middle grade novel than a young adult one for me. The score system that determines the citizens’ worth wasn't explained as fully as it could have been. The controlling system running Meritropolis wasn't really developed either-all we are really told is that the scoring system exists because of limited resources in the city, so a ‘survival of the fittest’ strategy is needed. It’s the classic utilitarian idea of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few.
I think it would have been more interesting if some of the common dystopian tropes were turned on their head-for example, if the protagonist had been someone with a low score rather than someone special and in the elite minority. I didn't feel that it was explained how Charley came to have such good fighting skills or academic ability, so he could possibly be accused of being a bit of a ‘Gary Stu’.
Another problem was that a lot of the plot felt contrived. Because of his high score, Charley is pardoned after an act of rebellion against the system, when it would have made more sense for Commander Orson to kill him and stamp out the threat there and then. Charley also just happens to be given crucial information from a powerful character who takes a liking to him on their first meeting. It all just seems a bit too convenient.
I didn't really connect well to Charley as a main character as he seemed arrogant, but I did like Sven and Sandy. The rest of the characters weren't really well fleshed-out or memorable. However, one good thing about Meritropolis was that the plot wasn't overshadowed by romance. Some romantic interest between Charley and Sandy was hinted at, but it took a back seat to the main action. Ohman thankfully didn't use some of the usual YA clichés such as insta-love or a love triangle.
Overall, despite some plot weaknesses, Meritropolis was an enjoyable read. I would recommend it to fans of similar dystopian novels such as Divergent and especially Marie Lu’s Legend series. I think that slightly younger readers would enjoy this novel, especially boys. However, the novel didn't really capture my imagination or leave me desperate to find out how the story develops, so I probably won’t bother with the sequel, Meritorium. ...more
"What if your whole world was a lie? What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything? What if love and loyalty made you do things"What if your whole world was a lie? What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything? What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?"
I was looking forward to reading Allegiant as I'm a big fan of the Divergent series and was wondering how it would all end. In the final instalment of the trilogy, after Tobias releases a video to the public revealing the truth about the faction system, everything starts to crumble. Evelyn takes over as leader of the city and forces everyone to become factionless, but not everyone is happy with the new order. A rebel group called the Allegiant are determined to escape the city, find out the whole truth about their existence and reinstate the old way of life.
Finally, Tris and Four venture beyond the walls of Chicago to discover what lies beyond. A lot of the questions that arose during the previous two novels are answered-like why the faction system was set up in the first place and exactly who or what exists outside the city. I wasn't completely satisfied by the 'big reveal', as I felt the reasons for establishing the faction system didn't really make sense, so that was a bit disappointing. There were also some threads of the plot that I felt weren't fully developed or explained. But there were some interesting revelations that intrigued me and some nods to classic dystopian novels like Nineteen Eighty Four. Some things we learned in the previous books turn out to be lies.
The main thing that separates Allegiant from its prequels is that it's told using a dual narrative-the chapters alternate between telling the story from Four's point of view and from Tris' perspective. To be honest, I found that it didn't really add anything to my experience or reveal anything interesting about Four. I felt that the two voices weren't very distinctive-so much so that at times I wasn't sure whether it was Four or Tris narrating, so it got a little confusing.
Allegiant was a very emotional read. Some characters that I had become fond of don't get the happy ending they deserve and the relationships between the main characters seem to break down. There's tension between Tris and Caleb as she can't completely forgive him for his earlier betrayal. Tris and Four's relationship, normally the ray of sunshine that lifts the series from a dark place, also takes a bit of a nose-dive in this book as they have a lot of trust issues and end up fighting or ignoring each other at some points. It was really sad to see their relationship falter like that and was quite hard to read, as normally their romance provided some much-needed comfort and light-heartedness.
Luckily, there is one particular scene that I felt completely made up for this. This quote really resonated with me:
“I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.”
That's what it's all about it, isn't it?
Tris and Four's individual character arcs were really interesting. They both discover a lot about themselves and their families in this book and we get to see how they handle some pretty difficult home truths. But Tris remains as frustratingly stubborn and rash as ever and sometimes I was willing her to make different choices as I knew she was making a big mistake! This is in-keeping with Tris' character, though and makes her very believable. She's far from perfect and if she didn't make mistakes there wouldn't be such tension in the novel.
Which leads me onto the ending. Oh, the ending! It's obviously been much discussed all over Goodreads and the blogosphere and sadly I had already seen a major spoiler so I knew in part what was going to happen. That still didn't stop 'all the feels'! I know that a lot of fans were angry and upset at the conclusion, but I honestly feel that Roth was right to end the series the way she did. Although it wasn't the ending that I personally wanted to read, it fitted perfectly with the events that had taken place earlier in the series and was a true reflection of the characters' motivations all along. I think Roth made a brave decision to preserve the continuity and authenticity of the series.
Overall, Allegiant was a very exciting, interesting and emotional end to the Divergent series, although I wasn't entirely satisfied with the explanation for the faction system and I felt some aspects of the plot weren't fully developed. I would definitely recommend that fans of the series read it for themselves and form their own opinions. ...more
The Body Electric by Beth Revis is a fast-paced and skilfully woven sci-fi novel in a unique dystopian setting. Ella Shepherd works at her mum’s MentaThe Body Electric by Beth Revis is a fast-paced and skilfully woven sci-fi novel in a unique dystopian setting. Ella Shepherd works at her mum’s Mental Health Spa, where clients can enter into ‘Reveries’- dream-like states in which they can relive their happiest memories. But Ella realises she has an ability to use these reveries in a way that no one else can and discovers that there are others out there who want to use her mother’s technology for their own ends.
At times the novel reads like a political thriller, with hints at conspiracy theories and terrorist plots, and both Ella and the reader are never sure of who to trust. There are elements of mystery as Ella tries to piece together the parts of her missing past and discover which side to align herself with.
As a main character, I feel that Ella is likeable and easy to identify with. She’s not the annoyingly perfect Mary Sue that you find in many YA novels. In many ways she is just a normal girl, but losing her father to a terrorist attack and bearing the responsibility of caring for her terminally ill mother meant she had to grow up fast. Understandably she worries a lot about her mother and about another war happening, but really she’s a strong person who continues to fight even after people have tried to take everything-even her memories-away from her.
As the synopsis already reveals, Ella fears that her memories may have been tampered with. A boy called Jack, who she suspects is part of a terrorist organisation, claims to have had a relationship with her, but she has no memory of him. She starts having hallucinations and begins to feel that she may be going insane. This was fascinating to read about, as I’m really interested in anything about amnesia, distorted perception, illusion and dreams vs. reality. Ella is obviously an unreliable narrator, so part of the fun is trying to piece together what really happened to her.
The world-building in this novel is fantastic. ‘New Venice’, set in a futuristic version of Malta, is brought to life with vivid descriptions of sounds, smells and colours. Revis describes interesting and quirky details of the city and Maltese traditions to help you create a clear picture, yet doesn’t slip into long drawn-out descriptions or purple prose.
I really enjoyed the science fiction elements of the setting, which were fascinating and not too far into the realms of imagination. One of the themes that Revis explores is government surveillance, evident from the robotic pigeons that record people’s movements to the ‘cuffLINKS’ that monitor their health stats, identify them and track their location via GPS. The cuffs are a feasible development of smart phones and we know that we are already recorded many times in a day by CCTV, so these aspects are quiet believable. Revis also explores the concept of nanobots, microscopic robots that are currently being researched and developed in medicine to identify and destroy cancer cells or toxic chemicals. In The Body Electric, this technology is taken further, with most people having nanobots injected into them so that they can watch videos behind their eyes or listen to music without the need for earphones.
Another major science fiction theme is android technology. In the novel, the use of androids in all areas of life is widespread and they look and act much more realistically than the androids we have so far managed to create in real life. Revis explores one of my favourite philosophical problems-the question of what really makes us human and how we can be differentiated from machines that look and act almost exactly like us. Revis has mentioned that she is influenced by Philip K. Dick, the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the novel that inspired Blade Runner). There are a few allusions to this in The Body Electric, such as Ella’s scientist father, named Philip K. Shepherd and the sheep logo on the Mental Health Spa where Ella works. Philip K. Dick also wrote a short story called “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, which is all about real vs. false memories (the movie Total Recall is loosely based on this). I could also see some similarities to iRobot-one of my favourite sci-fi films.
If you’re a lover of literary allusion, you may also be interested to know that ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ is the title of a poem by Walt Whitman and also of a short story by Ray Bradbury (who wrote brilliant dystopian novels like Fahrenheit 451). In Bradbury’s story, a child called Agatha is unwilling to accept an electrical grandmother as a surrogate for her dead mother, until the grandmother demonstrates her own immortality.
As well as all these literary and film references, I was delighted to discover little ‘easter eggs’ from the Across the Universe series that I wasn’t expecting. Before reading, I didn’t realise that The Body Electric is set in the same universe and focuses on what happened back on earth during the events of the trilogy. There are references to Godspeed, the lunar base, the colonies and even solar glass (big alarm bells for anyone who has read Shades of Earth!). There is also a motif of bees and honey running through the book and I enjoyed playing a game of spotting all of the references I went along. Revis definitely has a sense of humour, as you can see from the following example of metareference:
“Real science is messy. This isn’t a sci fi novel.” Jack raises an eyebrow. “We’re doing brain scans in a mental spa, love.”
Jack is quite a funny, cheeky character. The romance between him and Ella is an important plot point, but never took over the main elements of the story, which were mystery, action and suspense. The ending comes with a juicy twist that is foreshadowed earlier but was still a surprise to me.
There aren’t many negative things I can say about this book, except that there were a few minor errors I noticed in the text that occasionally pulled me out of the story (I guess that’s just my inner-editor). For example, the following quotes:
“I raise the opacity of the program using my cuff, and sure enough, my dad becomes more and more transparent. More and more ghost-like. Thinking that makes a shiver run up my spine, and I shoot the opacity back down to zero so that he appears solid and real again.”
As opaque is the opposite of transparent, surely raising the opacity would make him appear less transparent?
“Maybe the nanobots I injected in myself were the result of the weird abilities I’ve been having, as well as the hallucinations.”
Surely the nanobots are the cause of these effects and not the result?
However, these errors didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Revis is a brilliant world builder, capable of some truly beautiful writing. Here are a couple of my favourite quotes:
“The sea is a dangerous place because it makes you believe in forever.”
“If I can only see him in madness, is it worth trying to hold onto sanity?”
In conclusion, The Body Electric was a joy to read and everything I want from a sci-fi dystopian novel. Beth Revis is now on my auto-buy author list and although this was a stand-alone I’m hoping she will write some more books set in the same universe. I would recommend The Body Electric to all lovers of science fiction (not just young adults), particularly those who have enjoyed the Across the Universe series, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Bladerunner, iRobot, Total Recall or Inception....more
**spoiler alert** I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in The Hunger Games trilogy, and was eager to start on the final instalment. Catching Fire**spoiler alert** I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in The Hunger Games trilogy, and was eager to start on the final instalment. Catching Fire ended with the cliffhanger that there is now no district twelve and there were a lot of questions left unanswered.
In Mockinjay, Katniss discovers that district twelve has been destroyed by the Capital, and all that remains are piles of ash. Most of the citizens were killed, but a small number, including Katniss’ mother and sister survived and have started new lives in district thirteen. District thirteen was thought to have been obliterated by the Capitol in the rebellion years ago, but instead they have been living underground building up resources, training and arranging undercover missions to take down the Capitol. Katniss’ mother and sister take up jobs as medics while she and Gale travel to some of the districts where uprisings are taking place and participate in the fighting whilst recording propaganda material to inspire people to keep rebelling. Meanwhile, Peeta is rescued from the Capitol where he was presumably tortured for information, and he returns as almost a different person. He is extremely aggressive and mistrusting of Katniss, and they suspect he has been brainwashed to hurt and fear her. All the while President Snow continues to manipulate Katniss with death threats and subtle things to unnerve her. She begins to fall apart under the weight of it all, struggling with her feelings of guilt and hopelessness, so it’s quite a harrowing read.
Unfortunately there is no real happy ending. President Snow is overthrown, but at a terrible cost, leaving Katniss heartbroken, and the regime that replaces his rule is far from perfect. It was very sad to read and reduced me to tears, but that is the way it should be. The message was realistic and not sugar coated: that war sometimes needs to happen, but it’s a terrible, horrible thing and the survivors are scarred by it forever. There are no real winners, no happy endings, but there are lessons to be learnt. The final pages of the book were extremely poignant and while the ending was bleak it did offer some hope that life goes on for the survivors, even though they will never be the same. And after all they have been through, how could they? Collins wrote an ending that was true to the situation and respectful of the character’s lives rather than just giving readers what they wanted. It was a very powerful ending to the series, and offers a very interesting socio-political commentary on the world we live in. ...more