Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Measuring Up to Other Dystopian Worlds: Divergent Review

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

In reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent, two other book series came to mind. One, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. And the other, the massively popular Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins. While I don’t think Divergent packs the same amount of punch like that of Uglies or Hunger Games, I do believe it has just enough exciting elements for an enjoyable read.

Akin to the different houses at Rowling’s “Hogwarts,” Roth’s world is separated into factions. Five factions, in this case. Each of which dedicate their lives to a particular culture and ideal. Candor values honesty. Abnegation values selflessness. Dauntless values bravery. Amity values peacefulness. Erudite values intelligence.

And like all the other kids turning 16, Beatrice (or “Tris,” as she calls herself) has to decide which faction is for her. She does, but the result is something she wasn’t at all prepared for.  What follows is an enjoyable and often exciting dystopian tale that has the right idea about how we live. Ms. Roth, it seems, understands that things are not always so black and white; that the narrow-minded can, in fact, be quite dangerous; that it’s important to recognize individuality as it pertains to the cultures or “factions” we live within; and that each culture holds inherent value we as individuals need to recognize—for ourselves and our factions.

Unfortunately, even with the above mentioned, I was mildly disappointed in the story’s originality. It just seemed, as I was reading, that I had read it before—in Uglies and Hunger Games, for instance. I wanted something more. Something that I didn’t see coming. Something that was going to surprise me.

All in all, it was fairly enjoyable. And, being the dystopian junkie that I am, I will continue reading the series. But with some trepidation.

Age Group: 12 and up
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian, identity, discrimination
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books

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Book Festivals are Exhausting, but Oh So Awesome

This weekend was fantastic.  Exhausting but fantastic.  Saturday I was selling books at the Mission Viejo Book Festival.  (Side note: Latitude 33 Bookstore closed at the end of August, but I have been adopted by another wonderful bookstore located in Irvine called A Whale of A Tale Bookshoppe.)  I was able to meet Cornelia Funke, author of Dragon Rider, the Inkheart Trilogy, Igraine the Brave, and many other great titles.

Cornelia and Me

Cornelia in her amazing dress and Alex (owner of A Whale of a Tale)

My Enthusiastic Face

At the OC Book Festival myself and Non helped out Robyn Hawk (Check out her blog Reading it All) with the YA/Teen Stage.  It was a hot day but the line-up that Robyn put together was just so cool.  (See how I did that–hot and cool.  I’m a dork).  The event started with a Tween Panel moderated by the ever so funny author of the School of Fear series, Gitty Daneshvari.  It featured the following authors: Greg Taylor – Killer Pizza series, Helen Stringer – Spellbinder and Midnight Gate, Greg van Eekhout – The Boy at the End of the World, Mark Jeffrey – Max Quick series.

The Tween Panel

Me and My BFF

Gitty was a fantastic moderator and I utterly adore listening to her talk.  She is just the funniest and I like to imagine we are best friends who exchange witty, self-deprecating remarks about our imagined illnesses and ridiculous fears.  We laugh and then we cry and then we check our WebMD Apps.

Following the panel were authors Frank Beddor (Looking Glass Wars series), PJ Haarsma (Softwire series), Lisi Harrison (Monster High series), and the very likeable Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of I’ll Be There.

Frank Beddor and PJ Haarsma

Me and Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Teen Lit (Keeping it Real) Panel featured:  Jessi Kirby – Moonglass, Kirsten Hubbard – Like Mandarin, Lindsey Leavitt – Sean Griswold’s Head, and the awesome Andrew Smith with his new novel, Stick.  The portion of Stick that Andrew read made me so eager to read the entire book.  He truly has an amazing narrative style.

The Teen Lit Panel

Me, Andrew Smith, and Non

The rest of the day was filled with paranormal/supernatural lit.  The Paranormal Panel included:  Emma Michaels – The Thirteenth Chime and Anasazi, Inara Scott – Delacroix Academy, Cindy Pon – Kingdom of Xia series, Gretchen McNeil – Possess, Jeff Mariotte – Dark Vengence.  Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series, and Heather Brewer, author of the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series and now her new series The Slayer Chronicles, drew large crowds.

Kami Garcia

The Paranormal Panel

Heather Brewer

The final two authors, Nancy Holder and Amber Benson, rounded off a great day at the festival.  I purchased Amber’s series, Calliope Reaper Jones, and can’t wait to start it.  Amber’s writing style is so smart and funny that I know it will be awesome.

Me, Nancy Holder, Amber Benson, and Non

Amber Benson

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The Knife of Never Letting Go

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

It’s not often I find myself so enamored, so transfixed by two books back to back. First, The Marbury Lens, which utterly floored me (read the review).  Second, after reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, I came to realize just how much I adore dystopian fiction. I like the idea of looking into a future that came about as a result of certain social, economical, religious, political and/or governmental action.

With that said, I couldn’t have prepared myself for the first sentence: “The first thing you find out when your dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.”

In Prentisstown, everyone can hear what you’re thinking. The thoughts are aptly called “noise.” There are also no women in the town, which, in addition to the noise, is a result of some unknown virus. When the story opens, the protagonist, the twelve-year-old Todd Hewitt, discovers a place where the noise doesn’t exist – a sort of patch in the air in which all is silent, and the noise is nonexistent. Unfortunately for Todd, the peace doesn’t last.

With the oppressive elders from Prentisstown, including the maniacal religious leader Aaron, at their heels, Todd, along with Viola, the young girl (yes, girl; and the first female he’s ever met) and his dog Manchee, flee for safety and survival. Over the next few hundred pages, Patrick Ness sets up a story that is both fast-paced and cognizant and indicative of its dystopian intentions: themes of privacy, gender politics and religious fundamentalism run throughout.

In addition to its fascinating story, the author writes in such a language that speaks to a post-apocalyptic, post-brick and mortar education colloquialism that is both rough and endearing.

I truly enjoyed this story, and I would recommend it to just about anyone. I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

**The Ask and The Answer: Book Two and Monsters of Men: Book Three are already available at your local independent bookstore!!

Age Group: 14 and up (Contains some bad language and sex is mentioned – 14 is really just a guess so you be the judge)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian,
Publisher: Candlewick

CommonSenseMedia.org – This tells you in detail what is in the book that “might” be questionable.  Kind of interesting tool.  But if you are really worried about stuff then just read the book!

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Do You Have The Marbury Lens?

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

Andrew Smith’s The Marbury Lens is an intense, terrifying, poetic and redemptive ride. And it’s certainly a ride worth taking. Again, and again, and again.

The story opens with the teenage Jack and his best friend Conner attending a party one would typically find kids of their age. A few hours into it, after some level of drunkenness and boredom settles in, Jack finds himself wandering home, wherein he encounters a stranger. Curious, slightly cautious, but mostly too inebriated to find the clarity, Jack accepts a ride from the strange man.

Hours later, Jake wakes. Distraught, frightened for his life, traumatized.

Wishing to escape the traumatic experience, Jack takes off on a previously planned trip he and Conner had been planning. A trip to England. A trip, in Jack’s mind, that couldn’t have come at a better time. So he says goodbye to Conner (he would arrive one week later) and his uncle and aunt, and sets off across the pond.

It is at this point in the story when the intensity increases ten-fold. After meeting a curious man named Henry Hewitt, Jack finds himself with an equally curious pair of glasses.

Without saying much more about the plot, I will say that The Marbury Lens is every bit as eloquent and dynamic in its storytelling as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. It is well-crafted, both structurally and in regards to its character development. It is a perfect mélange of grungy science fiction, of inter-relational study, of serious examination of trauma and the way in which one reacts to, and heals from said trauma.

Overall, I was blown away by this story. It is affecting and impactful. And you should read it too.

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Note from Jessica: I have not seen Non speed through a book like he did this one (well, not since the first Hunger Games). In fact he hardly put it down. Check out the author’s blog, Ghost Medicine— I particularly like his blog post about categorizing children into age groups for books. I am doing this for my blog, but it can be somewhat problematic– Scary Smart Kids

Age Group: 16 and up (Contains bad language and teenage/adult content)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, trauma, social issues, mental health
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (imprint of Macmillan)

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I Am Number Four

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits

Typically, I like to read the book before I see the movie. And I am not entirely certain why that is the case. Perhaps, as I often hear, it’s a matter of preserving the vision you have created after reading the book. This way, the characters, the imagery, they are your own, not to be muddled by the perceptions of the filmmakers. Or, rather, maybe it’s to do with the fact that the book almost always precedes the film, and there is some sort of unnamed hierarchy or chronological importance tied to it.

Frankly, I have no idea. The order, in some respects, is irrelevant. But I’ll let you make that decision.

As I intimated, this wasn’t one of my typical moments. After seeing the movie, I was inspired to pick up a copy of the book I Am Number Four, written by Pittacus Lore.

The story is a fine mix of high school adolescence, coming-of-age and science fiction. John, the protagonist, is an alien from the planet Lorien. One of nine warriors (or “Garde”) in total, John is Number Four (hence the title). This is significant because the Mogadorians, the other non-Earth entities, are out to kill John and all of the rest of the Garde. The caveat, however, is that they need to kill in order, from One through Nine.

After finding out that Number Three had been killed, John and his guardian, or “Cepan,” Henri move, once again (they are always on the move), to the little town of Paradise, Ohio. It is in this town they are both faced with their toughest challenge yet.

With the Mogadorians close on their trail, John and Henri must make a choice. Do they stay in Paradise, alongside John’s new girlfriend Sarah, his friend Sam, the geeky conspiracy theorist, Bernie Kosar, the mysterious yet loveable beagle, and the first place they ever felt at home?

With John’s developing “Legacies,” or powers, do they stay and fight to protect their new home?

You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out for yourself!

Just know that you’re in for an enjoyable ride.

Oh, and a ride that contains telekinesis, shape-shifting creatures, and, you know, things like fighting daggers that consume the energies of living plants and trees for their source of power. Little things like that.

Check out the movie’s official website.

Age Group: 12 and up (Contains bad language and teenage/adult content)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction / Fantasy
Themes: Science Fiction, Aliens, Teenagers, Superhero
Publisher: HarperCollins

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Postmodernism in Feed?

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Feed, by M.T. Anderson, left me thinking about it for months and I even forced a friend to listen to the audiobook.  I needed to share with someone this inexplicable, yet totally real, world Anderson creates in Feed.  This review is long overdue.  I read this–actually I listened to the audio version of this book quite a while back, perhaps a few months ago.  There is something about this book that intrigued, frightened, and repulsed me–but I loved it.  My friend enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as I.  He just couldn’t find the main character, Titus, in any way likeable.  Titus is not likeable.  He is a quintessential teenager in a future that is dominated by consumerism and instant gratification.  He is not meant to be likeable.  I look back on my teen years and at times I find myself unlikeable.  The choices/decisions I made that were usually driven by a hormonal and insecure ego led to some ridiculous moments.  I look back and shrug my shoulders, chalking it up to my age, but when I am forced to relive teenage years through Titus it is almost unbearable.  He is utterly self-centered!  But again, he is also intriguing.  He develops a relationship with Violet, a socially aware teenage girl who contributes to Titus’ development as a character.  His fascination with her and her fascination with him is what drives this book.  You love her.  She forces Titus to confront issues of consumerism, the deteriorating natural world, and the global impact of technology on society in the most pleasantly benign manner.  She does not preach at Titus, but wholeheartedly shares her concerns as with a lover or an intimate friend.

Anderson never specifies  how far in the future the novel takes place, but it is clearly the Future with a capital “F.”  The first scene features Titus and his pals taking a trip to the moon as if it were the same as going to the mall.  The slightly annoying vocabulary of these futuristic teens captures the age perfectly.  In Anderson’s Future, most humans are implanted with a “feednet” that delivers pop-up like advertisements directly to your brain the minute you step into a store or look at a billboard.  Imagine walking around and you happen to catch a glimpse of an empty Starbucks cup, immediately the Feed will shoot a verbal advertising assault to your mind.  It’s like having radio commercials broadcasting directly into your brain.  Corporations are capable of monitoring what your interests are directly from your brain waves.  It is kind of creepy.  Privacy is non-existent.

M.T. Anderson - The Mastermind

The thing that makes this young adult Sci-Fi novel postmodern is its ability to create a world where language has become stupified by the future and by technology.  Titus is unable to write because all messages are sent through the mind, like a telepathic instant messenger.  The novel focuses on an uneasiness and suspicion towards the future, as well as the past.  The short snippets of the Feed disorient the reader at times, always reminding the reader of the constant pro-consumerism intrusion into the internal self.  Interiority is being exploited.  The result of such a world leaves humans only able to ingest information but never digest, resulting in a shallow humanity and utterly vacuous teenagers.  The question remains–Is there redemption for Titus?

Did I mention I kind of love this book?

Age Group: 16 and up (Contains bad language and teenagers being teenagers)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian, social issues, postmodernism
Publisher: Candlewick Press

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Comic Books for TV: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead on AMC aired on October 30th. It was enjoyable. Compared to the comic book there was a bit more characterization and I thoroughly enjoyed the additions/changes for television. Check out both the TV show and the comic book, by Robert Kirkman.

Also, check out the young adult book Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black.  The book is a series of short stories alternating between Unicorns and Zombies.  At the beginning of each story Justine, the advocate for Zombies, or Holly, the lover of all things Unicorns, explain why their particular creature is better than the other.  Personally, I am ready for some zombie unicorns.  (Published by Simon & Schuster)

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