Posts Tagged ‘dystopia’

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Gathering Blue

August 25, 2015

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)I have to admit that I like this one better than The Giver. The writing is better, the pacing is also better. I finished it faster simply because I cannot help to find out what is going to happen on the next page.

Many other reviewers complained that they didn’t like this book simply because it is not continuing Jonas’ story line. I am not on their side. Lois Lowry is indeed continuing the story in greater scale, which means she introduced what is going on in the other community, in Jonas’ world. Of course the world is much bigger then Jonas’ own community. The story of Jonas will have to wait.

The story is told in a more sophisticated way. I like the way the author introduced “new” vocabularies unique within the community. I also like the way she includes puzzle for us to solve: (view spoiler). There is an aura of mystery also, in age proper description. And also the sense of adventure that is a bit missing in the first book.

I cannot help again by comparing this book with The City of Ember series. City of Ember, I would say, is better in the world building, and creating a technotopia (my own word for technology related utopia/dystopia), while The Giver series is a mystitopia (a mystique utopia/dystopia). The mystique is getting denser in the second book and I love it.

This book indeed creates a greater horizon for the series and I am greatly satisfied. This is indeed one of the best series for children that I would recommend for everyone.

four star

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Little Brother

April 14, 2015

12664948This is easily the best book that I have read this year. It is clever, engaging, and believe me or not, it is a YA novel! (At least it is marketed as a YA) But being a YA novel, it is not your common YA novel. I can only name one YA novel that is not like other YA novel, Ysabel. This one is another one. It does not fall into the same pitfall which devoured all YA novel: teenage angst, Mary-Sue character, predictable plot, and overly romantic. It is geeky, rebellious and the most important one: subversive! It is more like a manifesto in a form of novel by Cory Doctorow actually. And if you believe it, you are a changed man.

The story is about a young teenager, Marcus Yallow, aka w1n5t0n, and later m1ck3y, a rebellious and geeky teenager, captured in a situation which has change his city, San Fransisco, into a surveillance state. Together with his geeky gang, he fights the Department of Homeland Security to regain their freedom.

We can easily see the resemblance between this novel and 1984. You can call it a 1984 version 2, or even 1984.net. The title “Little Brother” is a tribute to the 1984 “Big Brother”. In this novel, Cory Doctorow shows us how the government can go wrong using the current technology. What makes it so scary is that this kind of situation, given the current development of technology and politics, is POSSIBLE. The war against terror has show that such thing can happened. Many moslems are facing inconvenience situation just because they are on the radar of terrorist hunt. Snowden has already revealed that NSA is actually snooping into our email. It is just a matter of time that it can happened to all of us, unless we do something about the government.

Some people criticize that this novel is not a sci-fi, because it is not using any future technology. I think that they are missing the point. Sci-fi is not always about space ship and laser gun. Sci-fi is about seeing the what-if scenario, whether it is in the past, current or in the future. And this is novel is a perfect example extrapolation of what can happened to us RIGHT NOW! It is always the job of a writer to see what that public cannot see, and reveal them.

Actually I am expecting another scifi writer will comes up with another “current day” dystopia, about how our financial system can go wrong. And the protagonist is some kind of the we are the Occupy Wallstreet movement. It can be quite nightmarish to see the financial system collapse and in one second all the money that we have become valueless.

PS: in the introduction, Cory Doctorow is tackling another sensitive issue: Book Piracy. It is worth a reading. And he makes sure that he is consistent. This book, can be downloaded freely at http://www.feedbooks.com/book/2466/li….

If you are interested in this idea, I suggest you to read Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity.

five star

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The Giver

April 7, 2015

3636This book has been on my reading list for some time, but only because the movie shows up I decided to give it a quick read. And it is indeed quick because it is only about 100 pages.

The story starts in a community, with Jonas, an Eleven, anxiously waiting for his assignment once he becomes a Twelve. And all the story is told from the point of view of Jonas.

The story telling is quite interesting, showing a society that is not quite like ours. There are many unrevealed questions for an outsiders like us when we read it. I believe that the author will reveal it bit by bit in time.

For a preteen novel (I refuse to call this novel a YA, because it does not fit into the stereotype of a common YA), this book deals with many big thoughts: free will, controlled affairs of state, and (view spoiler). Even though the story telling is not too complicated, the story itself might trigger an apprehensive child to ask that kind of question to adult. Beware you folks if your younger children asks you this heavy caliber philosophical questions.

My complain is that it is too short. There is some feeling of un-fulfillment when I read this novel. If the author gives more room for the characters and the story to develop, I think it would make this novel better.

I cannot help to compare this novel with The City of Ember. The story begins with almost the same tone, young children waiting for their assignment. But their worlds are quite different apart. Somehow I like City of Ember better. It gives you more of a bitter sweet taste, a sense of adventure, and a deep lamentation of the lost good-old-days. It does not mean that The Giver is below par, because The Giver is indeed more philosophical. So I think it is just a matter of taste.

I think younger audience would love this book better and give it a FOUR. For me, I give it a 3.5 actually. But not quite a 4. But I am eager to read the next installment, because I cannot wait to see some surprises to be revealed in the next book.

three star

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Unwind

November 13, 2012

This is the best YA dystopian novel that I read so far. The idea is compelling, even though the premises are not solid. I love this novel much better than Delirium. See my review for Delirium.

The world in this story is a post-war world, a war between pro-life and pro-choice (which I think is almost improbable). It ends with a compromise, the solution of Unwind (killing a teenage human being to harvest the organ), hence the title.

First, the idea that the compromise between pro-life and pro-choice is an unwinding process sounds ridiculous. The pro-life doesn’t even agree to abort the younger-than-3-months fetus, not to mention 18 year old juvenile. The pro-choice also will not agree because the whole idea of pro-choice is to give the mother (which is a grown adult) more right than the fetus.

Second, the writer redeemed himself by making me interested enough to continue to read because of the idea of the locus of soul. When your body is divided to several part, is your soul divided also? When your body cell are kept alive, even though through separate body, can you say that you are still alive? This is quite a philosophical question to make you ponder. There are many twists in this novel referring to this idea.

Third, the characters are well designed and lovable. You can connect with the inner struggle of characters and sympathize with them. Yes, the character are not that complex, but it suffices for YA novel.

Fourth, the plot and pacing are good enough to make it interesting without being overly romantic like other YA novels.

Five, as a political statement, this book is not so strong. It is this fact that separate this novel for being in the same league as the political dystopian classic such as 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. I think the writer can do much better if he explored not the pro-choice and pro-life debate, but instead the rampant case of body part sales (in China for example) for economic needs. The news of a teenager in China who sold one of his kidney just to buy an iPad make me feel sick. I don’t know how many people sold their body part just to get money. Imagine that China become a rogue state that legalize the sales of human parts; THAT is a good premise for a dystopian novel.

Overall, well done, and I am willing to read the next installment:
UnWholly.

Verdict: 3/5

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Delirium

November 10, 2012

Definitely not my type. Remind me next time to be cautious to read YA genre. Beware you out-there sci-fi fans. This is not a sci-fi book. It is a teenage love story with a hint of sci-fi.

This novel is telling the story of the main character Lena, who lived in a supposedly a utopian society, which is peaceful because “love” no longer exist.

First, the premise is bad. Love (or according to this novel: amor delirium nervosa) is a disease. If it is a disease, what is the pathogen? Virus, bacteria, amoeba, or what? Then, what is the vector carrying the disease? Insect, airborne, water borne? None! It is bad science. The cause is simply raging hormone in adolescence, which is neither a disease or a threat to human society. It is a process of growing up.

Second, assuming it is a disease, the cure is definitely ineffective. The ancient has already found the perfect cure for this disease (at least for the male part). It is call castration. You don’t need hi-tech, just a sharp knife. In order to procreate, you can simply store the sperm before doing the castration.

Third, assuming it is a disease, it is not called love based on the symptoms. It is called teenage angst, teenage rebellion, puppy love. When you fall in love you think that that is the most important thing in this world, not global warming, financial crisis or world justice. And the cure is also simple, it is called growing up.

The sci-fi movie “Equilibrium”, starred by Christian Bale and Sean, explored this theme much better. The disease is the human emotion, which sometime hinder us from using rational thought. So the entire population is vaccinated to suppress the emotion. But when emotion is taken, we are half the human we are.

This book (and the following series) definitely aims for teenagers with their daily routine problems: not allowed by parent to go to wild parties, listening to trash music, going out with boyfriends. And the parents supposedly create this dystopia. In the eyes of teenagers, every parents are fascist, then. The entire book is built on this premise: an analogy of teenage rebellion against parental authority. Maybe this is the cause of the booming of this book, because it touch the reality faced by teenagers.

But again, this is not a sci-fi novel. I give it a two star instead of one only because it is well written, especially the note before every chapter. The nursery rhyme is the best part. Otherwise it is simply worthless.

Verdict 2/5

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Fahrenheit 451

November 6, 2012

This one is not related with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. This book is a classic, by Ray Bradbury.

Well, I consider myself really late in joining the wagon of Fahrenheit 451, considering it is written in 1953. Maybe it is because it is out-shined by the other more well-known dystopia: 1984 and Brave New World. But again, better late than never.

The book tells a story from a world without books, when you have a Gestapo-like-secret-police (which is played by fire fighters! believe it or not), which will burn all of your books if you are stashing them.

The idea itself quite surprised me, especially since it was written before the era of TV and Internet like nowadays. Only a genius can write something like this, predicting the future decades ahead. The writer concerned about the decline of reading culture, taken over by audio-visual culture, such as TV and now, the Internet. When everything is about entertainment, politics, news, even crime scene and the advance of REALITY SHOW!. How close can it be to nowadays reality.

His premise is quite believable. Even some publisher in my country are afraid to print books which are sensitive, afraid that it might offend certain group. Just months ago, the publisher burn the book because of the pressure of religious group, a book writer which are beaten because her ideas are blasphemous. If this continues, the days when publishers stop publishing books about ideas, because it might offend people, are closer than we think.

This books are inline with Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is The Message
and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. They are the prophets who shout in the middle of the desert, “Beware you commoners, thy world is bleak as long as you are stuck in front of your TV! Read books! Think for yourself.”

This book remind me why I love sci-fi books. Because of its prophetic nature. The only cause I do not give a five star is because its rambling dialogue. I still prefer Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, even though it is a non-fiction, because it is more entertaining.

Verdict: 4/5

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Insurgent

October 30, 2012

The first book is not perfect, but at least it is readable. This one is a big flop, which ensure me not to continue reading the next installment. This book, which is a sequel from Divergent, adds almost nothing to the first.

First, the opening is lame. It jumps right into the story just like it is the next chapter of the last book. It does not give you some reminiscence from the previous book.

And then the story. The plot is just about Tris making one stupid mistake continued with another stupid mistake, but turns out to be OK later. She is not a divergent to me, she is just the luckiest person, which never pay for the consequences (yes, her parent died, but she turns out to be OK anyway. She is not torn apart).

And the character development, I can simply say: None. Tris stays being Tris, Tobias being Tobias. The writer also does not seem to be interested in giving her audience the raison d’ĂȘtre of the act.

One ingredient of any fantasy/sci-fi novel is the world development. She has done well in development in the first book, but somehow it stopped there.

So no story, no character development, no world development, equals to nothing.

Sorry Veronica, you fail this one.

Verdict: 1/5 star

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Divergent

October 26, 2012

Fast pace. A good “fast food” book. Easy to enjoy, but easy to forget also. Some might compare it with Hunger Games, but I think it has its own uniqueness (just like when many people try to compare any book with magic to Harry Potter).

It is set in a utopian world, which divides the society into factions: Candor, Erudite, Amity, Dauntless, and Abnegation, which capitalized on the virtue given on their name. Until something went wrong.

The different factions selected for different people might ring a bell with Harry Potter fans. This kind of selection I would say is not unique in Harry Potter; you can find it also in City of Ember. I still would argue that it is original. Especially when the factions are indeed run by the unique virtue, not to say excluding the other virtue.

The good: design of dystopian society. It is genuine, and believable, even though it is not foreseeable in the near future.

The bad: the love story. It is an unnecessary addition. It doesn’t make the story better, it even makes it worst. But it is understandable, since it is marketed as Young Adult Fiction.

Verdict: 3/5 star