Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lenore's Dystopian Side

432_dystopia-metal_poster4.5 I was really excited when I found out Lenore was devoting a WHOLE MONTH to reading dystopian fiction.

The month is almost over, but you still have a week of great reviews and contests. Be sure to check out all the things she has posted in the last few weeks.

I have been a fan of the dystopian genre/subgenre for a really long time. Oddly, I never realized that a lot of dystopian fiction can be classified as science fiction. Over the years I have always struggled to find more titles to satisfy my desires. But dystopian is trendy right now and there are also some great lists of dystopian fiction out there. It has been great finding other people around the blogosphere with the same interests as me. I think Lenore agrees with that because when I asked to interview her about dystopian fiction she didn’t hesitate to agree! And now, may I present Lenore!

What was the first piece of dystopian fiction that really impacted you and why?

Well, some of the dystopian fiction I’ve read, such as THE HANDMAID’S TALE or 1984, I read long before I was conscious that I was reading “dystopian fiction”. I just thought of them as really great novels.

I guess the book that made me actively seek out other dystopian fiction was NEVER LET ME GO. A friend put it in my hands shortly after it came out and told me it was a must read. I was enthralled. After that, I had to have more!

Why were you originally drawn to dystopian fiction?

Before I even knew dystopian fiction as a category, I was reading a lot of sci-fi recommended by my father. I noticed I liked stories that pictured a future Earth the most…and, well, a happy future Earth doesn’t make the most exciting story does it?

Why did you decide to devote a whole month to this kind of fiction on your blog?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         My TBR pile is huge and I thought it might be less overwhelming to add some structure via themed reading. I realized I had a huge pile of dystopian fiction I was excited about (about 20 books) and thought February would be the perfect month to do it. It’s always so dark and dreary in Frankfurt in February.

Is there a type of dystopian story you enjoy most?

Anything really high concept with an original premise grabs me. But most satisfying to me as a reader are the novels that really dig deep into their themes and are thought provoking.

Why do you think dystopic themes are relevant in modern society?

You know, a lot of people aren’t political. Look at how many people don’t even bother to exercise their right to vote. Maybe those people who instinctively shy away from having deep real life political discussions are able to discuss those themes in a fictional context. And that’s certainly better than not at all.

What book are you looking forward to reading the most this month?

I am keeping my fingers crossed that Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE will make it to me by the end of the month. *squeal* I also can’t wait to dig into INCARCERON. I’ve heard such great things about it, that I bought the sequel SAPPHIQUE just in case.

What book have you enjoyed the most so far?

shades-of-grey2the-ask-and-the-answer-by-patrick-nessThat’s a toss up between Jasper Fforde’s SHADES OF GREY and the 2nd book of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy THE ASK AND THE ANSWER. Both authors deftly explore weighty themes with fully formed characters and engaging plot.

Why do you think that dystopia will be an enduring element of fiction?

I can imagine a scenario where someone makes a time capsule of a good canon of dystopian novels and buries it underground. In a couple of hundred years, after some earth-whipping catastrophe, a new society of survivors forms. After a couple of generations, some plucky teen heroine uncovers the dystopian novels (now the only literature on the planet) and tries to piece together what society used to be like. Probably figures she doesn’t have it too bad after all!

Thanks to Lenore for participating in this interview and highlighting dystopian fiction on her blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dystopian Digest Issue #3

Dystopian reviews:

Nicholas Morine reviewed Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: 'Bound tightly together by a cast of intelligently written characters led by an empathetic and tragic protagonist, Atwood's intrepid and touching story stands shoulder to shoulder with literary giants within the canon of dystopic literature."

Lizzy of Cornucopia of Reviews reviewed The Line by Teri Hall: "The Line was an intriguing, and suspenseful book focusing on the dystopian society that was once the U.S. (the Unified States). After winning a nuclear war, borders aren't to be crossed, and the government bears down on citizens by enforcing harsh laws."

Lenore of Presenting Lenore reviewed The Resistance by Gemma Malley: "
While these are certainly interesting ideas to explore, the execution is very uneven. Every adult not in the resistance (with one notable exception) is
portrayed as irredeemably selfish and heartless."

Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
reviewed The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness:"
What can I say, if you liked the Hunger Games then I am sure you will like this one too. Anyone can read and and enjoy it. And it sure has some suspense, and the secrets, oh the secrets. For fans of dystopian like fiction, read this."

Dystopian news and articles:

Will there be an Uglies series movie? Read the full article here.

Two big book covers were revealed this week. One for
Zombies vs. Unicorns and the other for the third Hunger Games book:

While you're at it go to that Zombies vs. Unicorn site and vote for zombies!

Lauren Oliver
announced the title of her second book "a dystopian Romeo-and-Juliet story."

Carrie Ryan
blogged about how to get autographed copies of her book The Dead Tossed Waves: "Hey y'all! I've had a few people ask about how to get an autographed copy of The Dead-Tossed Waves when it comes out March 9, 2010 (yay so soon!). Here are three ways!"

Dystopian contests:

Lenore is giving away The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

When I think of dystopias, several books immediately come to mind, 1984, Brave New World, The Hunger Games, etc. It seems like everyone got to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for school except for me. To be honest, I sort of wish I had read it within the classroom setting, more on that later.

Brave New World opens in a laboratory setting, the scientists are making babies in a test tube, and people no longer care to make babies the natural way. Children don't grow up knowing who their parents are, kind of like in The Republic by Plato. The terms mother and father take on negative connotations in the society described. Parallel to the laboratory setting a woman named Leninia is getting ready for a hot date, and we learn people of BNW get it on with whoever they want, whenever they want without care of reputation.

Ultimately Brave New World is about control, reproductive control, and mood control. The people are controlled by these drugs which take away all negative feelings. There's stark contrasts between BNW and this fringe society in the book which lives on a reservation.

Now, Brave New World is supposed to be a satire, and I can certainly see elements of this, as the people don't pray to God, they pray to Ford. However, I think I may have got the book better if I had some sort of guidance, i.e. a teacher who is going to help me tease out the higher meaning of the book and some classmates to dissect it with. I know a lot of people hate those sort of experiences and have emotional scars from classroom reading, but I suppose I'm weird in that I enjoyed that sort of thing.

Overall, I do recommend Brave New World, just because it is a classic of the dystopian genre and well, if you read it in a group/book club, you'll probably get so much more out of it than I did. However, if there's a choice for you between reading BNW and 1984, I'm going to say choose 1984. Personally, of the two I thought 1984 to be easier  to connect with emotionally, and to understand.