I love a good young adult novel about dystopian futures, and Uglies is undoubtedly my favorite so far. Set hundreds of years after Americans finally s...moreI love a good young adult novel about dystopian futures, and Uglies is undoubtedly my favorite so far. Set hundreds of years after Americans finally self-destruct at the hands of foreign oil dependency, Scott Westerfeld's future seems, at first glance, a neo-liberal paradise. All energy is clean and renewable, all materials instantly recyclable; all citizens are vegetarians, appalled that their ancestors ever wasted acres of South American farmland on raising cattle. There is no war, no hunger, and no poverty. And there is no racism or discrimination - because everyone looks the same, thanks to an operation that renders every 16-year-old "pretty," a work of biological beauty, with perfectly proportioned and symmetrical features.
The idea is that because everyone is the same, there is no basis for hate. But of course, as lovers of dystopian fiction know well, this ideal seldom works out as planned. On the verge of her surgical rite of passage, 15-year-old Tally meets a community of rebel citizens who persuade her that being pretty isn't all it's cracked up to be. Tally's dilemma over an order from the department of Special Circumstances to betray this rogue cell is absorbing, and the novel's conclusion risky and refreshingly complex. I finished this book days ago and I'm still mulling over its implications for how we live now, and the fact that even noble liberal principles have a dark side. Highly recommended.(less)
I’ve never been into books about dragons and fairies and whatnot (I don’t even care for Lord of the Rings), but Larbalestier’s magic is so suffused wi...moreI’ve never been into books about dragons and fairies and whatnot (I don’t even care for Lord of the Rings), but Larbalestier’s magic is so suffused with real, temporal, relational implications that it was easy to overlook the unicorn-adorned fantasy sticker on the book’s spine. Magic, in this world, does not rely on the wand-and-spell clichés that make Harry Potter so endearing, instead finding inspiration in psychic energy that flows from humans to the natural world and back again.
The heroine, Reason, is a fascinating narrator, her first-person experience allowing the reader to grasp new revelations as they occur; the addition of her friends Tom’s and Jay-Tee’s cross-cultural viewpoints rounds out the perspective on the mysterious happenings in Sydney and New York. I also liked that magic was loosely defined within the world of the novel, following certain rules (e.g., the shocking double-bind at the center of the plot affects all witches) while freely bending others (for example, magic is expressed differently in individuals; Reason’s manifests as a preternatural feel for numbers and math, while Jay-Tee’s is centered in relational connections and crowds and Tom’s in clothing and fabric).
I’m eager to read the rest of the series to see how the questions raised in the first installment resolve, such as the mystery of the black and purple feathers and, most pressingly, whether the quandary of “magic or madness” can be circumvented. (less)
Gosh I loved this book - the first adult novel of Gaiman's I've read. His bad guys are truly bad, his heroes are nuanced, he does these nasty little p...moreGosh I loved this book - the first adult novel of Gaiman's I've read. His bad guys are truly bad, his heroes are nuanced, he does these nasty little plays on words that delight you, he is the master of the bizarre yet endearing. While Gaiman's themes are adult, he wraps readers in a childlike cocoon of "ooooh maybe there really is a whole city beneath London, and if there is it's just like THIS, with Black Friars in every station and Shepherds in Shepherds Bush." I felt that I was taken to another world, and that I believed in it wholeheartedly while I was reading. (less)
I'm basically hate-reading this series. So many plot contrivances, so many gaping holes in the world Condie is trying to build, so much resting on an...moreI'm basically hate-reading this series. So many plot contrivances, so many gaping holes in the world Condie is trying to build, so much resting on an uninteresting love triangle. Nice try on being the next Hunger Games. (less)