Storm Thief, by Chris Wooding

The Storm Thief, by Chris Wooding

Genre: Young Adult Dystopia, Science Fiction, Ages 11-14

Reason for Reading: This was my bookclub book for this month. 

Summary: The island city of Orokos has been trapped in isolation for so long that the idea of a “world outside Orokos” had become a dream for only the naive and the fanatics. There is nothing outside of Orokos, and Orokos is nothing but city, ghetto, and the ruling Protectorate. Chaos storms wreak havoc upon Orokos and its inhabitants – picking people up and dropping them elsewhere; crippling some people while giving life to others. Even eyeshadow isn’t too small to be overlooked by the probability storms.

When Rail and Moa make a snap decision to hide an expensive artifact from their Thief Mistress, they must flee with an assassin hot on their trail. While running, they come across a golem, Vago, who’d been misplaced by a probability storm before he had any idea of who he was, where he was from, or why he was made. Where can these refugees go when the Protectorate rules with an iron fist – keeping ghetto-folk away from the city? Their path is simply a series of coincidences strung together…leading, where?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. The characters were simple enough to flow well in a book for young teens, but each character had an interesting mixture of strengths and weaknesses. My favorite character was Vago, the Golem, whose process of self-discovery throughout the story made him intriguing. 

I loved the philosophical underpinnings of this story. It reminded us that the random power of entropy will always win. It always destroys what we have worked to build. Entropy is a non-stoppable machine. So why do we continue fighting it? Why do we continue dreaming of that “other world” when we have so much evidence that it doesn’t exist? Why do we clutch hopefully to mere coincidences and use them to fuel our dreams? 

Slight spoilerish material
This is a book about hope as well as one about chaos. One character, who was “fanatically” willing to risk the lives of her people in pursuit of a seemingly impossible dream said: “We can stay here with our dreams just out of reach, or we can risk everything to reach them.” Even after having finished the book, I’m still not certain which was the right thing to do – was it better for her people to risk everything in pursuit of their dreams? Or was it foolish? Is it better to keep yourself safe by being cynically aware of the brutality of the world, or is it better to hope, dream, or love?

To me, the lasting message of the book is: your life might be nothing more than a series of coincidences that are out of your control, but how you respond to the world defines who you are – and YOU decide how you respond. I’m not sure whether I agree with this philosophy or not. Lately, I’ve had a bit of a faith crisis – which makes the life-is-a-random-string-of-coincidences theory sound rather rational. But I know what everyone expects me to say is that God is in control, it’s not a string of coincidences. 😉 


Wool, by Hugh Howey



Genre: Post-apocalyptic dystopia for adults, short stories

Reason for Reading: This was the choice for my real-life book club several months ago, but I only finished it this month. I had a bit of a reading slump in there, but I prevailed! 

Synopsis: In this collection of related novellas, we explore a post-apocalyptic world in which everyone is living in a “silo” spanning downwards into the earth, instead of up into the sky. There, they are safe from the toxic fumes that ravage the earth’s surface. However, it’s not at all clear how humanity got into this underground silo, why the people of the past have revolted so many times, and…slowly…new evidence arrives to suggest that possibly the people in power are hiding something nefarious. This set of novellas follows several different characters as they independently discover secrets of the silo.

My Thoughts: This book had a really slow start for me since I prefer novels rather than short stories. I like the character and plot development that is only possible with a novel-length story. Wool is a long book, but it is a collection of loosely connected novellas rather than one continuous story. This creates an intriguing atmosphere of mystery, and allows for different characters to discover different types of secrets of the silo – which is a refreshing turn from most dystopic literature these days in which one character manages to discover all. I guess this format is more believable in that way. But the format slows down plot and character development. The book started picking up about half-way through for me, though. This is when it started focusing on certain characters for longer. Thus, more character development. Also, about half-way through the book is when I started to realize that perhaps Wool was ideologically different than most dystopias. I began to wonder if maybe the choices the government was making really were protecting the people. Maybe ignorance – though abhorrent – was necessary in this case? I’m not going to say what my final conclusion on this subject was…you’ll have to find out for yourself. And I probably still need to read the prequel, Shift, and the sequel, Dust, in order to come to a conclusion.There’s still a lot of mystery to me about the silo.

The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released in June 2013.

Genre: Young Adult Dystopia

Review
Cia wishes more than anything that she will be chosen for the testing procedure – leading to a university education. But the testing procedure turns out to be more than she’d bargained for. The other kids are literally cut-throat competitors, and the testing officials are cruel and calculating. Will Cia be able to hang on to the person she is and still pass the test? Does she even want to pass the test anymore? What dire consequences really do follow failure?

This book was a fantastic addition to the popular young adult dystopia genre. It took me a little while to get in to the story because there was little to distinguish it from all the other YA dystopias I’ve read lately, but after about 50 pages I was really sucked in and wanted to know where Charbaonneau was taking the story. I had an inkling what might happen in the end – sort of a “wow, I hope it goes in this direction, because that would make the next two books really interesting.” And it DID go in that direction. So, the ending wasn’t unpredictable, but it was unique, and I was in suspense for the entire book which way it would go. I hope she really works that aspect in the second and third books. To me, that’s the aspect that will make this trilogy stand out from the crowd. Another thing I liked is that although there’s potential for a love triangle, that aspect wasn’t focused on. As I’m really tired of the triangle, the lack thereof was very refreshing. I hope the trilogy stays that way. The violence might be a bit off-putting to some young readers, but I’d say it’s about the same as The Hunger Games – maybe a little less.

Overall, a fun quick read. I hope this trilogy is popular. 🙂

Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion

Reason for Reading: Loved the movie and trying to kill reading slump.

Review
R is an above-average-intelligence zombie (he can speak 4-6 syllable sentences!) who is living a doll-drum life in an abandoned airplane – but his un-life gets a sharp slap in the face when he meets Julie, who by all rights he should have eaten. Instead, he takes Julie home and tries to communicate with her. This small act of curiosity on R’s part ignites a chain event of new perceptions. The world must crawl out of it’s stagnant existence and remember what it was to live.

I admit that I watched the movie first. I generally don’t do that, but it just happened that way. I LOVED the movie and had to rush out to get the book. This is one example where I’d say I liked the movie and the book equally. 🙂 Warm Bodies is unquestionably a retelling of Romeo and Juliet (right down to the balcony scene), but it was certainly the most unique retelling I’ve read. Additionally, I interpreted the book as a parody of YA paranormal romance – I took it very tounge-in-cheek. So I got a LOT of laughs while reading it. But what I thought was most interesting was the allegory. The zombies symbolized passionless people who have simply accepted life as directed by the ruling body (Bonies, in this case). And R was a zombie who just couldn’t quite conform. I loved the idea that a renewal of passion (and I don’t just mean romantic passion) could revive R’s potential as an individual. One simple act of individuality could change the course of history. On the other hand, I got a little tired at the end of the book of the cheesy internal dialog (and I DO mean internal dialog and not monologue). I think Marion was laying on his philosophy a little too thick. It would have been much more elegant to leave these philosophical discussions out – anybody who was willing to see Marion’s philosophy would be able to do so without cheesy dialog. But that was my only complaint about this funny, quirky, and delightful story. 🙂

Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman

Noughts and Crosses 

Written by by Malorie Blackman, Narrated by Syan Blake and Paul Chequer

Reason for Reading: Group read for my Social Justice February theme (which didn’t go so well this year due to a month of hospital runs….but things are looking more perky now!)

Review
Callum McGregor and Sephy Hadley have been best friends for as long as they remember. But recently their feelings for each other have begun to develop into something…stronger. Unfortunately, Sephy is a member of the dark-skinned upper class of Cross, and Callum is a pale-skinned, low-class Nought. The teens’ romantic problems intensify when Callum’s family gets caught up in a terrorist liberation organization that Sephy’s father (a politician) has sworn to stamp out. Sephy and Callum must learn to love each other in a tumultuous world of hatred. Does this scream out “star-crossed lover” to you? But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? (I got the same Romeo and Juliet vibe from Warm Bodies, which I just finished reading. I think it’s fun when the cosmic net of connected concepts captures me.) 

I’ve heard fantastic things about this book, but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be. Maybe it’s just because I wasn’t in the mood to read depressing race-relations books (and they’re all a bit depressing, aren’t they?), but this book wasn’t a slap in the face of my preconceived notions.  It was just another book about racism, much like a book written about a white girl and teenaged member of the Black Panthers. The whole skin-color switcharoo seemed like an unnecessary literary device to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was a bad book…I was just expecting more amazingness, that’s all. It was a tragically-sweet love story about a very important issue – racism, and the ease with which we can be swept away by other people’s causes. But I think the book would have been more powerful if she’d focused on  the realism of the story instead of trying to build a new world that was simply too similar to our own to justify the effort of creation.  

What do other people think? I imagine there are people out there who think the skin-color switcharoo added to the story? If so, please let us know. 🙂


The Fox Inheritance, by Mary E. Pearson

2012 Book 169: The Fox Inheritance

Written by Mary E. Pearson, Narrated by Matthew Brown

Reason for Reading: It’s the second book in the Jenna Fox Chronicles.



Review 
After 260-years of purgatory, Locke Jenkins awakens with a body that seems familiar – yet somehow changed. His friend, Kara, who died in the car crash that killed Locke, also has a achingly similar body…but her mind isn’t quite right. Locke and Kara soon learn that their minds had been downloaded and saved centuries ago by the father of Jenna Fox – another victim of the fatal crash. Although Jenna had been given a new life right away, the copies of Locke’s and Kara’s minds had collected digital dust until Dr. Gatsbro brought the teens back to life in this brave new world. But Dr. Gatsbro’s motives are not altruistic. Locke and Kara make a desperate attempt to escape the doctor’s nefariousness clutches…and are jettisoned into the foreign world of the future. But can Locke keep Kara from making a terrible mistake?

When I read The Adoration of Jenna Fox years ago I really liked it, but as I was reading The Fox Inheritance, I realized that I remembered almost nothing of the first book (perhaps it wasn’t so great after all?). I had to rely on spoiler reviews of the first book, and on the hints-of-what-came-before in the second book to remember. This made the first part of the book rather confusing. I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with The Adoration of Jenna Fox before starting The Fox Inheritance. Although I enjoyed this book, I wasn’t as impressed as I had been after reading the first in the trilogy. The Fox Inheritance had some world-building and good characters. It brought some interesting moral issues to the table: Is it ethical to bring someone back to life after they’re dead – and risk changes? Is it ethical to use a sentient being that of human-creation for our own purposes, or do they deserve civil rights? These are intriguing questions, but they’ve been explored in many other books/movies. So, in the end, I liked this book. It was a fun read. I’ll probably pick up the third book when it comes out. But I would have been perfectly happy if this trilogy had stayed as ONE standalone book. And I’m pretty sure I’ll forget the plot of this book within a few weeks.

Crossed, by Ally Condie

2012 Book 164: Crossed

Written by Ally Condie, Narrated by Kate Simses and Jack Riccobono

Reason for Reading: Second book the the Matched trilogy



Review

Cassia has been at a work camp for months now, but she hasn’t had the chance to find her lost love, Ky. So, when an opportunity arises for her to be sent “accidentally” to the Outer Provinces she snatches it up. Upon landing in the Outer Provinces, Cassia and her new friend Indie run away from Society, following Ky’s path. Meanwhile, Ky has also run away from Society with a couple of new friends. Will they find each other before Society or The Enemy find them? I thought Matched was a cute book – nothing amazing, but not disappointing. Crossed was pretty much the same. This story is more about world building than action or teenanged angst. That makes it unique in the YA dystopia genre right now. I look forward to reading the third, but it’s not going to be in my hands tomorrow, by any means. 🙂