Review: Updraft (Bone Universe, #1) by Fran Wilde

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: June 03 to 07, 2016
Recommended by: book club’s pick
Recommended to:

Not really a review, just some scattered thoughts I had after reading this book.

After seeing so many positive reviews and hearing so many people praising this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. Almost all the book blogs made it sound just fascinating–a city made of bone towers, wings and flying contraptions, sky monsters, a conspiracy, steampunk-ish technology, I think there were even mentions of otherworldly ecosystems. So a lot of hype, more than enough hype to get my attention. Turned out, the book was a let down. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was bad, just not right for me.

My biggest issue with this book was not being able to make sense of the setting, nor was I able to connect with any of the characters, but that’s a lesser issue than the setting. The point of reading genre fiction, for me, is all about the setting/world building. If a book can make me feel immersed in its world like I had lived there for the duration of the read, and it’s a great world, then that’s all I need, really. Just simple as that–“simple” hah! Characters, plot, narrative, story arc, prose, etc etc. all take a backseat to world building. But here in bone universe of Updraft, very little about this particular world seemed right and very little about it made sense. I think I checked out of this adventure around the point the Singers were introduced because I got tired of things not making sense, but ironically I continued reading to see if the ending made any sense.

This book without a doubt is a coming-of-age dystopian YA. Maybe if a few blogs and reviewers had mentioned that early on, I would’ve reigned in my expectations and gone in with the knowledge that the writing might not have been a good fit for me. YA is not my thing, neither is dystopian fiction, and together they… are really really not my thing–personal preference. That plus the world building inconsistencies made it an uphill slog. And this book had all the genre trappings of teenagers being angsty while rising up to challenge an oppressive ruling body. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve all read too many stories like it before. And if I had known that early on, it would’ve changed my whole reading experience.

Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I shouldn’t have fallen for the hype, maybe I should’ve read between the lines (of blog posts and reviewers) more. Or at least wait until a few friends pick up the book before deciding whether or not to read it myself. I wasn’t disappointed exactly because I’m not the book’s target audience, but it really was too bad it didn’t work out.

* * * initial reaction * * *

I was so looking forward to enjoying this one, but it just wasn’t meant to be. There are just too many things wrong with it, so I’m amending my previous rating because I don’t see what everyone sees in this book.

The bone world and the world-building is where all my issues lie. Nothing about these bone towers makes any sense to me, not even when I look at it from the context given and the logic of the bone world. And the more I think on these things, trying to unpack them, the less sense they make.

How is this bone world, way above the clouds, livable, let alone sustainable? Where do these tower people get their water? And I haven’t even touched on the baffling dystopian social structure or the flying contraptions yet.

Still can’t believe this book was nominated for a Nebula or that it won the Andre Norton. Then again, Uprooted by Naomi Novik winning the Nebula still baffles me too, so… yeah.

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Not quite 3 stars but close enough to round up.

I don’t know what exactly it is about the setting and world-building that bothers, so will have to think on them some more, but in general, almost everything about this bone world is not sitting well with me. There are too many questions about infrastructure, environmental upkeep, and basic ecology and evolutionary things that are keeping me up at night.

Btw, this is a coming-of-age, rite-of-passage, dystopian YA told in first person, and it’s very obnoxious obvious. I wish I’d known that going in because I was not prepared for all that teenage angst and foolhardiness.

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date Read: May 19 to 26, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by:
Recommended for: anyone who hasn’t read it yet

Like the Daily Telegraph quote on the cover says, “compulsively readable,” which sounds too casual for this book. So I’ll add: striking prose and imagery, a memorable POV, and a story that stays with you for a long time. The overall effect of this book is meant to do that–stay with you. Margaret Atwood chose her words carefully to weave this tale.

Finishing this book left me in a strange mindset that lasted for days. Speculative dystopian fiction tends to do that. What’s different about this book, though, is I can easily–too easily–imagine a theocratic regime, like the one in the book, taking over society after the country experience a crisis on the national level. I suppose this is due to Atwood’s superb writing. It’s hard not to imagine such a world. After finishing the book, I went back over a select passages and was amazed how realistic the descriptions of each scene were, still. These images are meant to stay with the reader. And perhaps that’s why it’s so easy to imagine life as we know it devolving into such a state. But perhaps it’s because many aspects of society has already began to devolve, bit by bit every day.

Offred, the titular handmaid whose name is literally “of Fred,” speaks of her current existence and explains many aspects and nuances of her life in this post-nuclear meltdown society where a theocratic government (“The Sons of Jacob”) has taken control.

My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter. I keep the knowledge of this name like something hidden, some treasure I’ll come back to dig up, one day. I think of this name as buried. This name has an aura around it, like an amulet, some charm that’s survived from an unimaginably distant past. I lie in my single bed at night, with my eyes closed, and the name floats there behind my eyes, not quite within reach, shining in the dark.

The new social order is set up according to the Old Testament. Women’s roles are restricted to those that concern the household and raising children. They can’t own property or work outside the home; they essentially become property again. These changes didn’t happen overnight though, but gradually over a short period of time, following a period of unrest after the new theocratic regime took control.

Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it really isn’t about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.

Birth rates have decreased dramatically due to radiation poisoning. So to help raise those numbers, handmaids are “indoctrinated” and dispersed. For a few select men in power called “Commanders,” a handmaid is provided for their households. The handmaid’s singular role, like in Biblical times, is to breed. The belief is that in a few more generations this “handmaid system” will become accepted as part of the functioning society, and that “wives and handmaids will live together under one roof in harmony.” But the unfortunate thing for Offred is that she is a handmaid of the first generation and she, as well as every woman forced into acquiescence, still remembers how life used to be before the collapse. In her former life, she was college-educated and had a job; she was also married and had a daughter. Following the collapse, she was sent to be a handmaid, and what became of her husband and daughter is revealed later in the story.

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

Offred lives every moment with the fear of imminent death hanging over her head. At any moment, or at the whim of the Commander or his wife Serena Joy, she could be reported for violating the code of conduct and be sent to the colonies where the condemned are forced to clean up nuclear wastes. Basically, a death sentence, a slow painful death sentence. Everyone in the society lives in fear of the being sent to the colonies, but women, handmaids especially, are most vulnerable. If they’re deemed unfit or no longer of use, they’re shipped off. Each handmaid gets three chances to bring a baby to term. Once a handmaid has given birth successfully, she is exempt from the threat of the colonies. But a handmaid who cannot bear children will be labled an “unwoman” and off to the colonies she is sent. Offred is on her third and final chance.

What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, criscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.

Although inwardly she fights her role as handmaid and against the social structures that bind her, outwardly Offred appears to accept it and tries not to be a burden on anyone. The power dynamic as portrayed in the book is fascinating and should be explored further; it touches on and echoes many of the struggles we still encounter today. Although the picture painted is one of complete oppression, there are many subtle but well illustrated nuances in Offred’s narration that explore the extent of her subjugation. Another fascinating thing is the set-up of the theocratic society. It looks ludicrous when you first read about it–like, really, how could anyone subscribe to these ridiculous laws??–but then as you get further into the story, it makes sense in an absurd way–like, yeah, now I can see how that would work. What Margaret Atwood get at here is the mindset of the people in power. Offred’s perspective is sympathetic, of course, because it’s her story and she’s the one being held down, but in contrast to that, there’s the people holding her down and the intricacies of their hold on power. Many of the Sons of Jacob aren’t even aware how others suffer because of their will. For this alone, I’d shelve this book as horror.

Atwood’s writing is exceptional, and she juggles nuances with expert control. I especially like the way she transitions from Offred’s current life to her former one and back again throughout the story; the contrasts between past and present are jarring, but at the same time, exquisitely done. What amazes me the most, although it really shouldn’t, is that Atwood not only created such a believable nightmarish society but that she followed through and really delved into Offred’s life and the theocratic society. Everything is laid out, and she leaves no stone unturned. Well, almost no stone. The ending is left to your interpretation.

If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending…
But if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone.
You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else. Even when there is no one.

Although it’s not an easy read, I love almost everything about this book. My only issue is the lack of quotation marks. It’s Atwood’s style, I know, but it makes it difficult to differentiate between thoughts and conversations. Overall though, this is a disturbing story beautifully illustrated.

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date Read: February 26 to March 2, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by: loads of people on GR
Recommended for: everyone

Such intense, vivid writing for a stark post-apocalyptic tale of survival and desperation. The execution–no pun intended–is absolutely brilliant. I rarely wish for a sequel when a story is so well written, but I do hope Mike Carey has one in the works because there’s still so much left to explore.

Everything I have to say about the book itself encroaches on spoiler territory, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so I’ll just say this is the most realistic fictional account of life following an unavoidable apocalypse I’d ever read. The characters and their fears are well depicted, and their journey through a wasteland that was once rural England is fascinating and terrifying. And the thing that fascinates and terrifies me the most is how easy it is to imagine this story as reality, how easy it is to see yourself making this journey through a world in various states of decay and upheaval with predators, human and nonhuman alike, lying in wait. It’s a world so far removed from the comfort of our own, where certain death awaits everyone who ventures out into the open wasteland, but it’s portrayed in a very realistic way.

You can’t save people from the world. There’s nowhere else to take them.

It’s not often that fiction scare me and it’s not often I enjoy the scare, but it’s hard not to like this book or the way Mike Carey writes. He mixes so many classic genre elements together to make them work in such a way that the story looks and feels new and fresh. The individual parts are familiar, but when put together, the whole of it feels unique.

I think everyone should read this book, even if zombie or apocalyptic fiction isn’t your thing. Aside from being well crafted and so suspenseful that you can’t put it down, it’s thought provoking. It will make you look at your world with new eyes and make you imagine a scenario in which you survive the apocalypse and must face a new reality in which you are alone, surrounded by the infected. In that it is like I Am Legend but more disturbing and deeply felt.

This really is a beautiful book, unexpectedly beautiful in so many unfathomable ways. Whatever you think this book is about, it’s so much more than that.

Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved. You’ve already stopped being the person who had the dreams, so it feels more like a weird echo of something that already happened to you a long time ago.

Melanie is a big part of the beauty in this book. She’s the element that makes the story new and fresh. She really is the girl with all the gifts.

Review (and reread): Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: December 28, 2014 to January 9, 2015
Read Count: 2
Recommended by: ads on Goodreads
Recommended for: I don’t know

Not your average YA in that it’s darker in tone and subject matter, just like The Hunger Games but wordier and not as heartfelt.

I read this book when it first came out and really liked it, but looking back, I think that was because it’s so reminiscent of Suzanne Collins’ sparse style that it brought back memories of when I first read The Hunger Games. Now that some time has passed, I’ve come to see that Red Rising doesn’t have much going for it on its own. Barely anything about it is original, except for the setting being on Mars. Overall, I found the book difficult to get through a second time, esp the first half, because things I’d overlooked before became too glaring to ignore. If not for the huge buddy read, I don’t think I’d get through it.

While it’s very much like every other YA dystopian novel published in recent years, right down to the survival-of-the-fittest games and oppressive caste system, Red Rising doesn’t have the heart or that spark (or characters like Katniss) to light its pages and carry the story. It’s kind of a drag actually–first person POV’s usually are for me. Sparse writing about hardship, grief, and loss needs strong characterization to hold the story together and keep readers interested, and sparse writing about hardship, grief, and loss in SFF needs a sense of realness and relatability to anchor it in our consciousness. Furthermore, it needs sharp commentary to make it memorable, to take it to that next level of relevance, but I understand that’s not what some authors aim for, which is fine but it’s a huge missed opportunity when a book about taking on an oppressive society doesn’t take the chance to make meaningful critiques that may or may not relate to current events. Just saying. It’s no wonder I don’t recall much about Red Rising; it’s not the kind of story that stays with me.

All right, on to the actual book. The setting is oppressive, dystopian, and on Mars. The population is divided into groups by the colors of their eyes and other physical and mental traits, all of which are the result of specialty breeding. Golds rule the universe, Reds are slaves, and other colors in between have their own specializations. Eugenics is an interesting theme to explore, but it’s not well explored or executed here and that’s why this book is young adult and not adult fiction. The scope is rather narrow with the focus being mostly on physical looks/altercations and might, and the single character POV is too limiting.

Anyhow. The Society is especially cruel to the Reds. They work the hardest, have the highest mortality rate, but receive the least recognition and are often scorned and abused by the other colors. This treatment, which goes back centuries, is permitted. The explanation for it is quite contrived, I must admit now that I can’t ignore it. And yet the Society has functioned like this for over 700 years. Within the Red population, there is separation between high Reds and low Reds. High Reds are permitted to live above ground and hold menial jobs; low Reds live below ground and never know there’s a whole world thriving on the surface of Mars.

Darrow, the main character, the titular Red Rising of this book and Golden Son of the next book, is a low Red helldiver; his fate, to forever live and die underground, and his job, to go deep into to the caverns of Mars and mine precious resources. It’s part of the work that keeps the planet running. Most helldivers don’t live past the ripe old age of 25. Darrow is only 16 at the start of the book, and he definitely sounds like it–this is what I mean about the scope of the story being narrow/limiting. He’s married to his childhood sweetheart, Eo, and what a lovely delicate gal she is. We all know what happens to lovely delicate characters in dystopian fiction–they don’t live to see the end because they get refrigerated early. Too early, in this case.

Eo’s death is the catalyst Darrow needs to rise up and take action, otherwise he would’ve been quite content living out the rest of his short life as a Red, burning away in those deadly mines. The real action gets rolling around the time Darrow begins his preparation to be become Gold, but things don’t necessarily pick up until more than half way through the book when he successfully infiltrates their ranks and the war “games” begin; I’d forgotten how much you have to wade through before things really get going. New characters, more interesting than Darrow, are introduced when Darrow takes part in these survival “games.” And then more things happen and a few characters die violently, and the end of the book makes you want to start Golden Son. That about sums it up.

The writing style is all right most times, though too often it is lofty and repetitive like the way idealistic young people tend to be when they speak of big-idea concepts like freedom and liberty and such. It’s not that bothersome once I got used to it, but it definitely took some time getting used to. I’d wager it’s the main factor that determines whether or not you’d like this book. I didn’t notice it much during the first read, but it’s hard to ignore during the reread. Darrow as a narrator is efficient during intense action sequences; Pierce Brown knows his ways around an action scene. However, during lulls between these scenes, Darrow has a habit of reliving past wounds (Eo, Eo’s death, Eo’s dreams) and wallowing in guilt and despair (Julien, Titus), so much so that it becomes repetitive. He spends a lot of time tearing himself apart all the while trying to survive these war games at this ridiculously sadistic school. I should sympathize, but I don’t feel anything for him or any of the other characters.

Your enjoyment of Red Rising will depend on your enjoyment of YA in general and dystopians with YA flairs specifically. While it’s better written than others of its kind published in the last decade or so, it doesn’t really stand out on its own. For me, this book is a compact review and reiteration of major (YA) dystopian themes and tropes. So it’s all right as an introductory crash course, but wouldn’t work if you’re looking for something new or groundbreaking. In short, recommended for readers new to the subgenre; not so much for anyone bored by over saturation of dystopian things.

Lastly I should mention I listened to the audio for my reread, and it changed my perspective of the whole book. Funny how that happened; I didn’t expect it to affect me so much. The narrator, Tim Gerard Reynolds, has a voice with a special talent, and that is to highlight every single flaw in the text that I would have ignored had I been reading. Nothing against his voice or accents, but there’s something about the way he narrates that makes these flaws so damn noticeable. Although I wouldn’t say he “ruined” this book for me, I did enjoy it a lot more before the audio.

So will I read Golden Son? Yes, probably in the next few weeks. But no more audios.

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Continue reading

Review: The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: February 16 to 18, 2013
Read Count: 2

In the future, there exists a world in which there’s no violence as all violent acts are foreseen and stopped before they occur. But what if you are accused of killing a person you’ve never met for reasons you don’t even know? None of this has happened yet, so there’s still time to change the course of the future. How would you fight a system you thought was infallible?

While I like the writing and find the idea of a dystopic future where precognition is so reliable that it’s used as crime prevention vastly interesting, I don’t find this story believable mostly because I can’t buy into the idea of precognition as reliable; even cognition (as we know it) suffers from reliability problems. So when things start to unravel for John Anderton, which is the whole point of this story, that precognition is fallible, I had already predicted (ha ha) that there’s a conspiracy behind it all and that Anderton is just a means to an end. I do like the world Philip K. Dick built though, but there’s just one too many holes in the narrative to keep me from being fully immersed in the story.

I saw the movie right after finishing the book and found it disappointing because Tom Cruise always disappoints. But Tom Cruise in sci-fi? Even more disappointing than usual.

Review: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date read: June 1 to 3, 2014
Read Count: 2

What if there’s an unstoppable outbreak spreading all across the world, wiping out whole populations, and the only area left unaffected is an island closed off from any contact with the mainland?

This is the state of the world in Genesis.

Guards on the island have been instructed to terminate on site anything they see floating on the water. If they hesitate, they are also terminated. The people on the island construct for themselves a Sparta-like dystopian society and government called The Republic to maintain their way of life and protect themselves from coming into contact with outbreak victims and carriers; hence the “kill on site” order. This goes on for several decades, maybe even a century, until the islanders no longer know of any news from the mainland. The status of the outbreak and survivors are unknown, yet the islanders maintain their kill order until one day Adam Forde, a guard on duty, saves a girl from the ocean. This one event sets off a domino effect that ripples through The Republic and changes the islanders’ whole existence. What follows is a story of a revolution told in bits and pieces.

By the time Genesis begins, all of the above is history, The Republic is a distant memory, and Adam Forde has become a legendary cult hero. We are taken to the present time, moments before Anax takes an entrance exam that will determine the course of her young life. Her chosen subject for the exam is Adam Forde, and through the Examiners’ questions and her answers, we learn about Forde, the island, The Republic and its destruction.

I think this book is the perfect example of an author writing about what he knows and achieving impressive results. Bernard Beckett is a high school English teacher from New Zealand with a background in genetic research, and these things come through in his writing, especially his portrayal of Anax’s internal struggles and final decision.

The story is set up in the format of an interview with short intersecting internal monologues from Anax’s POV. The story itself is interesting, but not that unique in dystopian fiction. The way it unfolds and takes shape, however, is quite impressive. It’s not easy to make interviews interesting, even when they’re necessary to tell the story, but Beckett has done just that by revealing a little bit at a time.

Also, there’s a twist you won’t see coming. Or maybe you will…

 

Since it’s short and poignant, I would recommend this book to everyone. Give it a try even if you don’t like dystopian fiction.

Review: Wool Omnibus (Wool #1-5) by Hugh Howey

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date read: May 27 to September 19, 2013
Read count: 1

Far exceeds my expectations. Howey is one of the few self-published authors who actually know how to write an engaging and believable post-apocalyptic world. Admittedly, there was some hesitation before I before I even read a word. As a rule, I stay away from self-published authors, mostly because I haven’t had a good experience with their books or writing and partly because I wanted to avoid the drama that might accompany a negative book rating/review.

* Rest of review to be added at a later time.

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Series book order Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1):

  • Wool (Wool, #1)
    Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
  • Proper Gauge (Wool, #2)
    Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
  • Casting Off (Wool, #3)
    Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
  • The Unraveling (Wool, #4)
    Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
  • The Stranded (Wool, #5)
    Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

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I had planned to read the rest of the series (Shift and Dust), but then this happened (DailyDotSlate). And that’s why I won’t be reading anything else from Hugh Howey, even thought I really did like the whole Wool series.

Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: June 18 to July 03, 2013
Read count: 1

SDCC 2013: Interview with Pierce Brown

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Very interesting dystopian book. It’s one of those rare dystopian books that’s actually about a believable fractured, disordered society that’s overwhelmed by believable social and economic problems (e.g. discrimination). But more importantly (to me, at least), no front-and-center crazy love triangles.

The writing is really good. Lots of descriptions, lots of action. Things are always on the move, rarely is there a dull moment in the text.

This book is the first installment of a series, and first books are usually difficult for me to rate because they’re only the tip of the iceberg, but I think this one does a good job setting up events and wrapping up some of these events in a satisfying way while preparing the reader for the next series of events. You’re not left hanging off a cliff… well, not that much anyway.

* Rest of review to be added later when I read it again.

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I received this ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. What a great looking cover.

Original review can be found here.

Review: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date read: December 07 to 15, 2011
Read count: 1

Interesting premise, well written story, fast pace, strong female lead who isn’t a damsel in distress. All of this is fascinating, especially when you take in the fact that this book is written for a YA audience.

But that’s where I find it hard to believe… that this book has the YA label, what with all the violence and gore.

I also find that I can’t buy into the supposed dystopian society that is Panem and the docile nature of Panem’s oppressed citizens, meekly going along with this children-as-gladiator game. Do we as reader really believe that anyone, no matter how fictional, could be OK with children killing each other for sport on national televised broadcast? Sure, dystopian societies are often portrayed as sociopathic totalitarian states, but setting up a society that has had 74 years of children brutally killing other children for entertainment and not backing that premise up with strong social commentary that might explain how the people of Panem have not risen in 74 years… is a shortcoming, in and of itself. Dystopian societies are often more complicated than just being oppressive and ruling with an iron fist. They’re also manipulative and cunning, efficient at making the population believe their oppression is for the greater good. No one in Panem, particularly district 12, believe Panem does things for the greater good.

Other than that, Katniss is a fascinating female lead who thinks and operates on a practical need-base system. She has priorities, puts the people she cares about first, and is resourceful and focused on survival. (She’d do well in the event of an apocalypse.) Given the current state of her district and her family life, it makes sense for her to be emotionally removed, as characters who are forced to grow up fast are usually distant and alone.

If more YA books head in the direction of The Hunger Games, in terms of strength of characterization, then perhaps we’d see better books. Then again, authors who don’t have a firm grasp on what a dystopian society is should stay away from dystopian narratives and futuristic fiction altogether.

Original review to be found here.

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Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: January 01 to 20, 2012
Read count: 1

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: February 01 to 20, 2012
Read count: 1

Review: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date read: November, 2010
Read count: 1

Much better than The Hunger Games. If you haven’t read it, you should try it. If you haven’t read either of these two books, try Battle Royale first.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write a proper review for this book. This always happens with books I really like.

Original review can be found here.