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Posts Tagged ‘dystopia’

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The Blurb:

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

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My thoughts: 

Well…I loved the premise of this book. Slightly dystopian, slightly sci-fi (not heavy sci-fi, so don’t be put off if that is not a genre you like), and fairly believable, I thought there was so much potential. The book follows five people – Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Nick and Ellie – who all find their match. The stories are all completely separate and are told in alternative chapters. The chapters themselves are short and choppy, and almost all of them seemed to end on a cliffhanger of sorts, which had the effect of making me want to read on and find out what happened. Unfortunately this did get a bit tired after a while, and some of the events and dialogue felt like it was out of a wildly melodramatic soap opera. What started out as almost a feasible situation soon turned into the ‘that would never happen’ category. But STILL, I found it compelling enough to read on.

I didn’t think many of the characters were particularly likeable – although Jade was the most sympathetic of the lot. There’s no doubt that John Marrs can think of a good twist, but there were just so many of them. Some of them I certainly didn’t predict though, and that it always a good thing.

For all that irked me, I did want to read the book and never actually got bored – more a case of eye rolling a lot!!

I would probably give something else by this author a try, as I think the initial idea was an excellent one. But one final note – there were so many spelling and grammar mistakes in this book that I can’t help hoping that he has better editors for his future work!

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian fiction, drama

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This book is set in Dooling, West Virginia, but the events of the story are happening throughout the world.

A new global phenomenon which comes to be known as Aurora is affecting women as they sleep. They become cocooned in a web like structure, and if anyone tries to remove the webbing the women become uncontrollably violent. As women fight to stay away, inevitably they all (almost all anyway) fall asleep and the men are left to run things by themselves. It’s not long before they revert to their primal instincts.

In Dooling Correctional Prison however, there is  a new inmate named Evie Black, who is able to fall asleep and wake up normally, and opinion is divided over whether she needs to be studied in the hope of finding a cure, or whether she is a demon who needs to be killed.

I half wish I hadn’t chosen this book as my first book to read this year – I think it’s going to be hard for other books to live up to it, because quite honestly I LOVED this. It’s not a horror story, it’s more of a dystopian novel – and if there’s one genre guaranteed to get me interested, it’s dystopian fiction. The book raises the question of what the world would be like without the input of women, and while it’s fictional of course, so we cannot really know the answer, in this story at least, it’s not pretty!

As is normal with Stephen King (I’m not familiar with Owen King’s work, but after reading this would like to seek more out), there is a huge cast of characters, but I felt that they were all brought to life admirably and the distinct personalities shone through. There is the age old battle between good and evil, although both sides see themselves as good and the other as evil, and the suspense is maintained throughout.

I would say that this is a thoughtful and intelligent novel. Don’t be put off by the size – at just over 700 pages, it’s a big brick of a book – if this is a genre or theme that interests you, or if you have previously enjoyed Stephen King, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

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It’s March. We are a quarter of the way through the year and already I have found a book that I believe is a serious contender for my book of the year.

The Leftovers takes place three years after an event known as the Rapture by some, and the Sudden Departure by many. Basically, 2% of the earth’s population just disappeared in a split second. The monumental event, whatever it was, did not discriminate across gender, sexual, religious, colour or race lines. Set in the fictional town of Mapleton, New York, this novel examines the effect the Sudden Departure has had on the residents, focusing mainly on the Garvey family – father Kevin, the town mayor, who tries to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of normalcy; wife Laurie, who has left the family to join a cult known as the Guilty Remnant; daughter Jill, who is rebelling as a form of coping with seeing her oldest friend disappear; and son Tom, who put his faith in a man who calls himself Holy Wayne and who believes he has the power to absorb other people’s pain.

A lot of the events in the book could be described as mundane, in that it is people just trying to live their lives, coping with loss, not knowing what happened or why, and searching for ways to get through the pain and confusion. It does make you think ‘what if’, but what I loved about it was the fact that although the Sudden Departure itself is implausible, the reactions of the townsfolk to it do seem entirely believable. I wouldn’t class it necessarily as dystopia, and definitely not as sci-fi, but perhaps alternative reality. A reality that I personally would not want to contemplate!

Lives go off on their own trajectories, and people react in different ways. I loved reading about the residents of this small town, and I only wish there was a sequel. Incidentally, I tried watching the TV adaptation before I even knew that it was based on a book, and while the premise fascinated me, I couldn’t get past two episodes before giving up. The second long flashbacks annoyed me and there seemed to be too many storylines going on, but in the book the storylines all meld together perfectly.

Highly, highly recommended.

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Margaret Atwood specialises in what she calls speculative fiction (and what most of us call dystopian fiction). In this book, – the first in a trilogy – she introduces us to Snowman, a man who has survived the apocalypse and is now living in a tree with a few meagre possessions. He is somehow responsible for the children of Crake (I don’t want to explain too much about this as it will give away vital plot points), who in turn do their best to look after him. Stripped down to it’s bare bones, there is not much to the plot – Snowman decides to walk to somewhere where he knows there should be food and weaponry available to him, and then comes back again. However, in between the chapters telling the (future) present, are chapters where the story of what exactly happened to Earth is explained.

Atwood explains the role of Snowman’s childhood friend Crake, and Oryx, the woman they both loved. Their teenage pre-apocalyptic world is one of strange animal hybrids, violence and child porn as everyday entertainment, and communities divided into gated compounds, separate from the dangerous ‘pleeblands’ where everyone else lives.

I think Margaret Atwood is a genius, I really do and I have thoroughly enjoyed other books by her. But somehow this one took me a long time to get into. The story is fine – yes, not much happens, but it still has enough to keep it interesting. But I couldn’t help a small sense of relief when I reached the end, and I think it may be because I couldn’t really identify with – or even much like – any of the characters. Snowman is about the most sympathetic, as you would expect given that the story largely focuses on his point of view. Crake was a hugely intelligent, but revolting example of a human being, and Oryx was cold, cruel in her own way and too far removed from the reader for me to care much about her.

I do have the other two books in the series and will probably read them at some point, but for now I am looking forward to taking a bit of a break from Snowman’s story.

 

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Synopsis

This novel is set in present-day London during a global pandemic. People are suffering from what is being called ‘The Sweats’ and there is no cure. In the  midst of this, TV saleswoman Stevie Flint discovers her boyfriend Simon Sharkey dead in bed. Soon after, she herself starts suffering from the sweats but unlike most others, she recovers.

Stevie works out that Simon’s death was not due to the illness, but that he was in fact murdered, and she starts investigating who killed Simon and why, but when people are dying all around, it’s hard to get anyone else to care about one single death.

As social order collapses, and crime rates soar, Stevie finds herself alone and afraid, but determined to uncover the truth about her boyfriend.

My thoughts

I am really in two minds about this one. On the one hand I love dystopian fiction and I did enjoy the parts of this book that dealt with the aftermath of the pandemic – people’s terror on the one hand, and their abandonment of all societal norms on the other. However, the murder mystery aspect became the greater story with the pandemic more of a backdrop, and the mystery itself did not really grab my attention. For all that, it was still a quick read and the sort of story I could imagine being adapted for a tv mini series. I’m not entirely sure that I liked Stevie – she seemed devoid of emotion for a large part of the story – but I did kind of grudgingly admire her determination and courage.

I didn’t think it was particularly well written (in contrast to the last book of Louise Welsh’s I read, The Bullet Trick, which I thought was very well written) – Simon was supposed to be in his early 40s and reference is made to a schoolfriend in the same year who now has a son of 29. Not beyond the realms of possibility, but there is nothing to suggest that the man was particularly young when he had his son, although he would have had to have been. A lot of the story seemed to be ‘Stevie did this and then she did that’, and unfortunately the final part was something of an anti-climax.

For all that though, I did race through it quickly and while it wasn’t exactly a can’t-put-down book, it also wasn’t a can’t-bear-to-pick-up book. So a bit of a middling read for me. It has garnered very mixed reviews, with some people loving it and others absolutely hating it. I’m not sure I would recommend it to others, but I would still probably give this author another look if she brought out another book with an interesting subject.

 

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As the back of the book states, in this story, “A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant demagogue runs for President of the United States … and wins.” If that sounds horribly familiar to today, pause for a moment and realise that this book was written in 1935.

In an alternative timeline to what happened in real life, Buzz Windrip wins the Democratic nomination for president over FDR, and runs a campaign claiming that he will make America great again, appealing mainly to angry Americans who have suffered from the Great Depression. To Doremus Jessup, mild-mannered newspaper editor, the thought of Windrip as President is bemusing, but even as they hear reports of fascists like Hitler and Mussolini rising to power in Europe, he and like minded friends tell themselves and each other, “It can’t happen here.” And then it does.

When Windrip takes power, bemusement turns to anger and horror as innocent people have their jobs and homes taken away, and people are put into prison or tortured – or worse – for daring to disagree with the regime.

The writing style doesn’t always flow easily, and the book did take a few chapters to get going, but despite this I found myself absorbed, and I urge others to read this book. It makes for uncomfortable and extremely thought-provoking reading, even if afterwards I found I needed, in fact craved, something more light-hearted.

Definitely recommended, especially in light of today’s political climate.

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Margaret Atwood is probably one of the most popular writers of dystopian fiction. For my money, The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the best and most disturbing books ever written, and it was with eagerness that I picked up The Heart Goes Last.

The story is set in America in the near future, after an economic meltdown has resulted in unprecedented unemployment and homelessness (which makes me hope that Atwood is not also a fortune teller, given the current political climate!) Stan and Charmaine, a once happily married couple, are now resorted to living in their car, eating whatever they can scrounge, scavenge or afford from Charmaine’s low-paid bar job, and constantly avoiding the thieves and violent gangs who roam the streets.

So when they see an advert for a new social experiment called Consilience, they are keen to join. The idea is that everyone who lives in the restricted community will be given a nice house, a good job, and will have money for food and luxuries. In return they will have to give up their new luxury home every second month and go into Positron, the prison in Consilience…but even that doesn’t sound so bad. They get square meals, a bed and a job within the prison. However, once they are inside Consilience they realise that there is no way out – and that their every move is being watched. Each of them develop an obsession with their ‘alternates’ – the couple who live in their house during Stan and Charmaine’s prison months and vice versa – which only leads them further into the tangled reality of what really goes on in this promised utopia.

If I’m  honest, I am still not entirely sure what to make of this book. I definitely don’t think it is up to the standard of The Handmaid’s Tale, but that was truly one of my favourite books ever, so maybe it’s asking too much to enjoy every Atwood novel quite so much. For me, The Heart Goes Last started out very promisingly. The awful situation the main characters was living in was all too believable and I could see how they could be drawn into something which would seem like a wonderful way out of their dire straits. However, as the story progressed it got more and more unrealistic – and here’s the thing…for me at least dystopian fiction has to have an element of feasibility. Not that you would want it to actually happen in real life, but you have to see how it could. This novel just did not have that. The last third of the book in particular almost seemed to descend into farce, and this wasn’t helped by the fact that neither Stan nor Charmaine were particularly likeable or relatable characters. (In fact, there were very few people in this book who I felt I could root for).

That said, I still liked Atwood’s acidic humorous writing, and she does have a marvellous turn of phrase. The book is funnier than I expected, and it was an undemanding read despite some distinctly unsavoury events within the book.

This has not put me off reading more books by Margaret Atwood, and I probably would recommend it with caution to fans of the author. However, if you are trying her novels for the first time, I would suggest starting with The Handmaid’s Tale or maybe The Robber Bride.

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