Friday, January 29, 2010

Sab's Dystopian Challenge List

I will be joining for Level 3- Junkee - 20 books

My List
  1. The Line by Teri Hall
  2. Life as we Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  3. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
  5. Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
  6. Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
  7. Feed by Mira Grant
  8. Hunger Games 3 by Suzanne Collins
  9. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
  10. The Dead & the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  11. This World we Live in by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  12. Dark Life by Kat Falls
  13. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
  14. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
  15. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  16. The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness
  17. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
  18. Candor by Pam Bachorz
  19. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  20. Epitaph Road by David Patneaude

Dystopian Digest Issue #2

Challenge news:

Parajunkee is hosting a 2010 Dystopian Reading Challenge: "I've placed this challenge upon myself, so I decided to share it with the blogoverse. I enjoyed books such as The Hunger Games and Uglies so much that I planned on revisiting them this year, along with others in this category for comparison purposes. Therefor why not a challenge?" Click here* to join the tour of find the rules. *blog contributors feel free to post your challenge list on this blog as well.


Reviews for The Sky Inside and The Walls Have Eyes by Clare B. Dunkle at Stilleto Storytime: "I felt the premise while done before was done beautifully and given new insights and ideas. Readers who like science fiction and dystopian settings will be delighted. I really enjoyed both works. While somewhat predictable at times, one has to remind oneself that for this reading level it might not be predictable at all. I highly recommend the series and am hoping that it will be followed with a third installation at some point. It would be a great pick for reluctant readers especially boys. "

Review of The Ask and The Answer at Rhapsody in Books: "The author takes what is basically a one-note idea and creates a dark fugue of complex characterization and surprising plot turns. There are such moments of deep tenderness and poignancy intermixed with visceral cruelty that it can take your breath away. This is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat book that repeatedly impresses you by
the author’s skill for conjuring up the unexpected."

CarrieK of Books and Movies reviewed Gone by Michael Grant: "This book is extremely well-written, with the right amount of description to put the reader right into the action – smelling the smells, seeing the sights, feeling the fear and anxiety – but not to slow the pace. It kept me turning page after page. And I will definitely be picking up book two in the series to see what happens next. Don’t let the YA label keep any of you grown-ups from picking this up! If you love a good story, this book delivers."

Zella Kate reviewed Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: " Rather than fashioning atotalitarian communistic society, like so many other dystopianwriters, Bradbury's futuristic world bears a disturbing resemblance to modern-day America, with its rejection of knowledge and culture in favor of superficial pursuits. This book is often championed as a criticism of book censorship and it is. But the real target of Bradbury's anger is obsession with televison and superficiality in general.


Joni of The Spectacle writes: "What defines a dystopian novel for you? What are some of your favorite examples… and any alleged dystopias that may not fit the label? Or is “dystopian” just a marketing word without meaning?" and "Are dystopian books science fiction, fantasy, or not even speculative?"

Bill Gates Warns of a Dystopian Future: “If we project what the world will be like 10 years from now without innovation in health, education, energy, or food, the picture is quite bleak,” said Gates, in his annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, published earlier this week."

A very thoguht provoking cartoon titled Amusing Ourselves to Death can be found here. Aldous Huxley vs. George Orwell: who had the right idea?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Genesis - Bernard Beckett

Title: Genesis
Author: Bernard Beckett
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Purchased
Parental Warning: none

“Every pause, every flickering of uncertainty: the Examiners observed them all. This, surely, was how they decided. Anax felt suddenly slow and unimpressive. She could still hear Pericles’ last words. “They want to see how you will respond to the challenge. Don’t hesitate. Talk your way toward understanding. Trust the words.” And back then it had sounded so simple. Now her face tautened and she had to think her way to the words, searching for them in the way one searches for a friend in a crowd, panic never more than a moment away.”

Anaximander lives in a world of rigid faith and structure. A world where plague has decimated populations and changed the way the people of Anax’s country were governed. Most importantly it became a world that changed how free people were to live the lives of their own choosing. As part of this world an ultra exclusive Academy has been created where only a chosen few are allowed entrance. Anaximander, fortunately or not, is one of those few.

As part of her entrance exam she has chosen to provide an oral history of Adam Forde. A somewhat controversial subject, Adam is a man branded as both friend and foe to her country. A man Anax considers a hero. It is Adam’s relationship with Art, the central player in the one act the former perpetrates in defense of humanity, that becomes the singular focus of Anax’s testimony before the Examiners. In that re-telling, Anax showcases how Adam changed the direction of history and as a result shaped the world they all lived in.

It’s extremely difficult to review this book without giving away the most surprising elements of the story. But as a lover of dystopian settings I’ll say that this one was pretty awesome. It’s one hundred percent worth your time to read.

It’s a pretty short story that is quickly read. Having said that, however quick a reader can get through is of no real consequence though as it is as profound and thought-provoking a book as many of the classics. I’m going to get a bit cliche here and say that when all is said and done Genesis is the very definition of a page-turner.

Beckett paints the picture of a stunning locale — futuristic in tone but simplistic in reality. Moreover, he generates innovative and enthralling characters in Anax, Adam and Art. Each obviously has their own individual characteristics but are all also bound together by their love of thought. Their story, told primarily in flashbacks, is a stunning portrait of how one event can be the catalyst to shaping an individual’s opinions on humanity, religion and government.

Subtle hints throughout the story foreshadow the end (which I will not spoil here) but, surprisingly, did not give it all away. It wasn’t until I went back and re-read certain points that I noticed small references, a word here and there, that reinforced the ultimate resolution to the story. Beckett was quite masterful in that way.

In case you didn’t already get the idea, I absolutely recommend that anyone read this book. Even if you aren’t a sci-fi fan (it’s really not overwhelming in the fantasy elements) I believe you’ll find it enjoyable.

Where it's Reviewed:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dystopian Digest Issue #1

Welcome to the very first issue of Dystopian Digest. Dystopian Digest is a weekly feature showcasing some of the latest dystopian links in the blogosphere. My inspiration for DD came from The Story Siren's YA Connection feature.

Dystopian book reviews:

Mr. Maurer of Coffee for the Brain posted a review of The Maze Runner by James Dashner: "If you are looking for a book to quench your thirst of a novel like Hunger Games, then this is a must read. Actually, this is a must read if you just plain enjoy reading books that have the dystopian feel."

A review of The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood at The Last Word Blog: "Atwood’s writing is confident and taut, something I rarely expect from a female writer. There is so much going on in terms of plot, pace and subtext, that you find yourself marvelling at this woman’s talent. "

Kate at The Neverending Shelf recommends Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey to all of her readers: "This book is always on the top of my recommendation list. It is an amazingly vivid novel that sucks readers into its pages. To be honest, this is book remains the grittiest novel that I have ever read. "

Bermuda Onion reviewed one of my favorite dystopian novels this week, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami: "While the overall plot of this book was good, I struggled to finish it. At over 600 pages, I felt that it was too long, and at times, there was too much detail. Several pages would be devoted to a student’s background just to lead up to their death. "

Beth of Beth Fish Reads reviewed Genesis by Bernard Beckett: "Unfortunately, I have no way of discussing this book without ruining the entire experience. Just take my word for it, this is a book worth reading and worth owning, so you can reread it—maybe even moments after you finish the first time."

Dystopian movie and Televesion reviews:

Brad Brevet of Rope of Silicon reviewed the new movie Daybreakers: "There's some fun to be had and it feels unique, but Daybreakers lacks an overall "wow" factor making it hard to suggest it as a necessary theatrical viewing."

Greg Victor of reviewed the new movie The Book of Eli: "No matter how much I wanted to like this movie (and I did want to like this movie), I have to report that I had absolutely no idea how I felt about it as I walked out of the theater. Was it a great action flick/morality tale or just a ridiculously hyper-violent missed opportunity? Alas, if that question has to be asked, then we know the answer. "

Other articles and posts:

The Top 9 Signs You Are Reading a Bad Dystopian Novel at littlefivers:
"9>This author’s idea of a bleak, grim, and hopelessly angst-making future seems to revolve around not having a Starbucks on the corner." Click here to read the rest of the list.

One of our very own contributors, Gail when to the ALA this past week. Check out the recap on her blog to see what cool dystopian titles she got: "On the day of the ALA I decided to drive into Boston and thanks to my handy dandy GPS I made it to the convention center no problem, parked in their ample parking lot and before I knew it I was all registered and getting my first site of the floor."

Lusty Reader asks: Are apocalypse and dystopian stories now less appealing: "The pictures and news of the earthquake in Haiti is a true post-apocalyptic world. As I scrolled through these images were burned in my brain and merged with all the imaginary images from the books I had been reading. The ash that the characters in The Road had to breathe through and that covered the land is too eerily similar to the concrete dust that coats the faces and streets of Port-au-Prince."

Philip Reeve wrote a thought provoking post titled Apocalypse, schmapocalyspe: "The truth is, we never get tired of seeing the world destroyed. I suspect on some deep level most people secretly look forward to armageddon. We feel we deserve it. "

Dystopian giveaways:

  1. Win a copy of Veracity by Laura Bynum at The Bibliophilic Book Blog. Open until 2/5
  2. Win a copy of The Passage by Justin Cronin at The Boston Bibliophile. Open unitl 1/31
If you know of any dystopian giveaways that I missed, please link to them in the comments.

Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Note: This was originally posted at my books. my life.

Title: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian
ISBN: 0805076689
Pages: 265
Year: 2008
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Source: Dunedin Public Library
Rating: 5/5

Plot summary:

17-year-old Jenna Fox wakes up from a year-long coma to a life she doesn't remember. She has no memory of the accident that changed her life but she can recite whole passages of Walden. Her secretive parents and uncaring grandmother only further confuse Jenna.

Other Books I’ve Read By Author: None.

Why I Picked Up This Book: Jennifer really liked it and I'd heard good things, but I really just requested it on a whim.

My thoughts:

Loved it. Go read it now. Right now.

I left the plot summary pretty thin because I had no idea what I was walking into when I picked up this book and I think that made the experience even more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. I was immediately curious and dying to know what was going to happen. I read it in a weekend and would have read it in one sitting if I could have.

This novel deals with the issues of bioethics, the increased use of science and technology in our lives, the essence of identity, and the lengths a parent will go through for a child. I disagree with the "young adult" label for this book. Pearson is generally a YA writer and the protagonist is 17, but the themes are mature and would appeal to readers of any age.

This book is dystopian, but it's a really scary dystopia because it is so close to our own world. There is no clear date for the story, but it hints at 2040 or so. And decisions that our society has already made are to blame for the current state of affairs in the novel. It may be less "dystopian" than some other novels, but the fact that it seems entirely possible makes it somewhat worrisome.

If I had to pick something I didn't like about the novel, I would say that I could have done without the epilogue at the end (but I tend to be one that hates epilogues). I thought the final scene before the last section was so touching that it should have ended the novel.

I'm having a little difficulty articulating what it is about The Adoration of Jenna Fox that I loved so much. It just has that extra something that makes a book special. I know it's only January 20, but I anticipate this one cracking my top 10 for 2010.

Memorable Passages:

"Maybe that is all any life is composed of, trivia that eventually adds up to a person, and maybe I just don't have enough of it yet to be a whole one." p. 174

"One small changed family doesn't calculate into a world that has been spinning for a billion years. But one small change makes the whole world spin differently in a billion ways for one family." p. 256

Will I Read This Author Again?: Absolutely.

Other Reviews:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Movie Review: District 9

This is a cross-posted review from one of my posts of 2009 - I just watched this again recently on DVD and it prompted me to post the review on this page...the movie is too good to miss.

Before I launch into why this is another of my current LOVES, let's begin with a bit of summary: The actual 'District 9' is a compound for aliens. Basically, the movie plays out an alternative history where back in the early 80s an alien spaceship appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. The world watches the ship but it doesn't budge, cough, or scratch itself for three whole months. So, of course, curiosity gets the better of us humans and the special operations team is sent in to 'cut open' the spaceship and find out what the hell is lurking about. And it's not what they expected. Millions of aliens cowering in the darkness.

Like a whole bunch of Little Bo Peep's lost sheep, the aliens are shifted to a makeshift city away in the slums of Johannesburg, much to the chagrin of the human slum residents. The aliens are seen as a public nuisance, and in the last 20 years since they 'landed' have been coined with the dereogatory and kinda racist term 'Prawns', because of their physical resemblance to such creatures.

Enter Wikis - a totally naive, excitable, nerdalicious government bureaucrat, who leads a team of military men and P.A's into the compound with a 'notice to evict', to shift the aliens to a concentration camp-looking area further segregated from the humans known only as 'District 10'. Wikis goes into the compound brazenly and condescendingly, asking the aliens to 'scribble their name' to show they've 'understood' that they're going to be evicted. Some of them don't appear to understand what the hell 'eviction' even means...those who do and put up a fight are killed on the spot. Wherever an alien gives 'trouble', Wikis searches their unit, knowing them to be particularly 'evil' and harbouring weapons which his company could take and use to blast the shit out of people. Oh, if only the weapons didn't have to be activated by alien hands...

In a particular unit resides Christopher Jones, an alien with his young son. They've been doing something really naughty - trying to get back home. For the last 20 years, Jones has been secretly working to get the spaceship back on track. Wikis sniffs out Chris' hidden workshop, and gets totally sprayed by the alien DNA used as the secret 'fuel', the last piece to the puzzle of making the spacecraft work.
From this DNA spray, Wikis starts turning part alien. And the government want him for experiments and such. So he runs - to hide in the last place they will ever look for him - District 9.

I really don't know where to begin talking about the sheer superiority of this film. Peter Jackson backs it - he must have spotted the talent a mile away and poured his moolah into it because the resulting special effects are simply WOW. The aliens and the spacecraft look so real, especially placed against the dusty Iraq-war style landscape of the compound. And this movie is totally gory in the best way - I'm talking heads blown off, bodies ripped apart - everything. But it's super.

When you first start watching it, the Cloverfield/ Blair Witch handheld camera technique and the documentary style of the beginning sequences makes you wonder whether this will be as good as the critics have said it will be. The Boy actually leaned over to me about 10 minutes into it and said 'THIS movie got a perfect 10?" I nodded and wondered secretly to myself whether he would ever pay for my movie ticket again. And then suddenly, the story starts to build momentum - bricks are placed on bricks and the foundation is such that when you get to the suspenseful bits your heart is in your mouth and your fist is ready to pump the air when victory is at hand, and then suddenly you're totally deflated as the chance flies out the window. THAT'S the sort of tension you want to feel when you're at the movies - some EMOTION, people!!

I think what I liked best about this movie (besides the perfect plot and script) is the commentary on humanity. There's the underlying racial tension between the humans and the aliens, which you know is wrong straight away. But as a viewer, when I first saw the aliens, I was like "EWW"! And then, as the story plays out, somehow these aliens become more real to you than the humans. You feel for them not the way someone might feel for an ugly but vulnerable animal, but rather like your best friend. There's some uber poignant bits which I don't want to spoil here (I could go into very minute detail about this movie, the images are just seared into my brian) - but you need to know that this movie has absolutely everything from humour, to romance, to sci-fi dystopian setting, to action-packed gun-wielding scenes arnie swarznegger would be totes jealous of. And the added benefit is that it doesn't suffer from being a Hollywood Blockbuster - it's more indie with South-African actors (I think the writer or director or someone is a white South African himself).

I loved this movie so much - I don't know what else to say. I'm buying this as soon as it comes out on DVD of course, but the movie definitely benefits from the surround sound of the cinema complex. If you haven't been to the movies in ages, or you just 'dont like THAT sort of movie' then get off your arse and stop type-casting yourself and GO SEE THIS MOVIE. If you have a brain and a heart it will be a piece of entertainment for a while (the editing is beautifully done and the 2 hours you spend here will not be misused or feel drawn out at all). And who knows, you might love it as much as I did, and come crawling back to thank me profusely for making your life more meaningful. And just so you know, in this case - I accept cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes.

5 out of 5 stars for 'District 9'.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Off the Road by Nina Bawden

Tom sees a door ajar and steps through it.

Off the Road was published in 1998, but deals with some of the same issues that are popular in fiction right now. When a person becomes of certain age, they are locked away to be cared for apart from others.

Tom pushed out of his known world and into one that he has been told his whole life is scary and dangerous. In the outside world, Tom sees his grandfather sliding away, trying to escape, going mad. Tom's grandfather is trying to go off the road into a world filled with barbarians and dangerous trees that will eat children in a single bite. In desperation, Tom follows after his grandfather in hopes of saving him from the mistake of venturing into the wild.

Tom is convinced that his grandfather's brain has gone soft, for that is what happens to people when they age, he has been told. It is clear to Tom that his grandfather has wandered off in a fit of senility and gotten lost.

But as Tom and his grandfather stray further and further from the road, the reader begins to understand more and more about the world Tom left. Where words like brother and sister are rude and unspeakable. In Tom's world, children are the most important and most respected people. In the same way that we understand where Tom comes from, Tom is also faced with the lies his world had taught him. Tom understands why his grandfather has chosen to escape.

The thing I love about this book is that it continues to build the world through the story. It doesn't just set the world up in the beginning and abandon it for pure adventure. Every step of Tom's journey helps you understood where he had come from, because the story doesn't start in Tom's world, it starts with Tom leaving his world.

When I read a dystopia or science fiction, I want it to be more than an adventure story nestled in a futuristic or government controlled world. I want the story and adventure to live and breathe inside the world, and Off the Road does just that. The book continues to deepen an understanding of Tom's world throughout the whole story. The reader stays connected to the inside world by the emerging details. The story unfolds in an interesting way, even if the dystopian elements fall together in a rather standard pattern. Tom is faced with a type of survival I have not seen in previous worlds. There were moments when the story was slow, but overall it was a compelling and rewarding read.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Review of Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous - the only neck I risk is my own. Until I accidently start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution. I should have just said no...

I'm Trella. I'm mean. And I care about nobody.

I really wanted to love this book because I'm a Maria Snyder fan as well as a dystopian literature freak. One of the biggest problems was the main character Trella. Simply put, I just did not like her. She was whiny, annoying,and mean. This made it nearly impossible for me to really
get into her story. I just didn't care what would happen to her.

Another issue that was the setting of Inside Out. I found the authors descriptions of the setting to be confusing and completely overwritten. I had a very difficult time picturing any of the scenes in my
head. After a while I just started skimming over the descriptions so that I could get to the actual story. The setting descriptions were just too headache inducing.

How was the story? Well it left much to be desired for this dystopia fan. The ending was such a cliche. I kept praying that the book wouldn't end the way that I was expecting it to. The ending just sucked! I'd love to discuss it more but I don't want to include any spoilers in this post.

Overall, Inside Out was a big disappointment. I felt like I was reading a combination of other dystopian books as opposed to one unique story. A little bit of Logan's Run mixed in with maybe a little bit of Robert Heinlein, Inside Out brings nothing new to dystopian literature.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K LeGuin

Publisher: NA
Publication Year: 1975
Format: ebook
Pages: 32 (according to Amazon)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

I stumbled across this story today when I was reading Bibliolatry's blog. In this post she talks about a short story by LeGuin that she had heard about and then found on the internet. The short story is only about six pages in a word file and is a quick read. Despite its shortness this is a story that stays with you as it is very thought provoking.

The opening of this story is about a utopian society. Life is peaceful and everyone is happy. But what is the cost that these people must pay for their happiness? (For there is always a cost.) When you read this story is this a city where you could live? Knowing all there is to know about Omelas. Or would you be like those few who walk away in the unknown?

This story is about about choice. When faced with a difficult decision, what would you do? If you haven't read this story yet then go here and do so now. Then head back here and let us know what you would do if you found yourself in Omelas.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Your Introduction to Dystopia


a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression,
disease, and overcrowding.

The word dystopia, as exampled by this dictionary definition, has taken on an exact meaning in contemporary times. This definition both narrows and broadens the original classification of the word. Literature has defined what the word means, but this literature itself has been defined in many variations throughout the past 100 years.

To understand dystopia, one must understand what is working in opposition of. The prefix dys- indicates a lack of functionality. Dystopia therefore comes to mean "a non-functioning Utopia." But we accept the term Utopia at face value, as it has merged into our modern lexicon. But the word has a single and definite point of origin. When Thomas Moore penned the idealistic Utopia in 1516, (highly influenced by Plato's Republic) he understood the optimism involved with the concept. Utopia means "no place" in Greek. He constructed this word because it was clear even in conception that utopia could not exist.

By looking at the meaning of Utopia we can see the true definition of dystopia is "a non-functioning no place." Is your head spinning yet?

Originally the works written in opposition or dysfuction of Utopia were called anti-Utopian because it in some way appears to be dystopian. The society and government control is working for the supposed betterment of society, or at least did at conception. But the aim of the work is to show the flaws of a supposed Utopian society or the belief in that society. Both the reader and the main character strive to see the flaws of the society exposed. The anti-utopia can have different levels of acceptance or disillusionment of the society by the main character. He tends to either be initially naive to the situation or distrusting of it from the beginning. Either way, he begins to chip away at the lies that have been formed around him. Seeing the little inconsistencies in his life.

A true dystopia is based in a world with no hope and no protection and no false sense of unity. There is now and never has been the illusion of dystopia, if but only the distant past being good enough as to be a Utopia compared to what is happening now.

Even books with successful utopias can often have a dystopic element because the character must emerge from the perfect world into the realities of life. Both dystopia and Utopia seem to be an "other", set apart from something else, whether it is another part of the world or from the past.

With all these fragmentations off the original Utopia, dystopic fiction becomes a difficult category to define. Also confusing is the consideration that the classification of dystopia can cross many genres.


if there is non-historical or alternately historical governmental control, it is probably dystopian

if there is a group or person in power who is lying or hiding something, it is probably dystopian

if the outer world has been "destroyed" or is "dangerous", it is probably dystopian

if the world has been destroyed due to government control, lies, or revolution against such things, it is probably dystopian

if the people are blissfully being mind controlled, then it is probably dystopian

if the inhabitants find out they live in a false world, it is probably dystopian

We use the world "dystopian" to now classify all the subcategories of utopia and it's negative off shoots. Therefore it becomes increasingly harder to fine what dystopia is with a dictionary. It is also important to understand that a piece of fiction may NOT be a dystopia but still be dystopian!

Don't get too caught up in the details.
Use your judgment because you still have free will.
And enjoy the ride!

Monday, January 11, 2010


The Last Blog In The Universe on Twitter and Goodreads.


  1. Half a century of English language young adult dystopias.
  2. List of dystopian literature on Wikipedia.
  3. List of dystopian films on Wikipedia


Other Blogs:

  1. SF Signal
  2. Young Adult Science Fiction

Just for fun:

  1. Top 5 ways to survive in a dystopia
  2. What are your chances of survival in a dystopia?
  3. What are your chances of survival in a zombie apocalypse?


A list of reviews at The Last Blog In The Universe: