Monthly Archives: September 2011

My utopia is dystopia (part 3)

The third and final book in my dystopian review is Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

The book opens as Amy prepares to be cryogenically frozen, along with her parents and many others.  They are set aboard a spaceship (aptly named Godspeed) bound for a planet that humans will inhabit.  Amy and the others are expected to be thawed 300 years in the future when the ship reaches the planet.

Elder is aboard the ship, years after Amy and her parents have been put aboard.  He is second-in-command, learning from Eldest how to one day run the ship.  However, Eldest has been holding back information because of a rogue Elder from the previous generation.  This doesn’t stop Elder, though, as he sneaks around the ship trying to find out as much information as possible.  For the first time in his young life, he comes across the part of the ship where the frozen bodies are stored.  He comes across Amy, though he doesn’t know her name, and he is instantly fascinated by her bright red hair (after generations aboard the ship, people have become ethnically monotonous).

Amy’s mind continues to be active as she sleeps, bringing up memories of life on Earth.  She is unaware of how much time has passed, yet is conscious that her brain is being active when it shouldn’t be.  At one point she starts hearing voices talking about the thawing process, right before she feels warmth.  Someone is thawing her!  Though complications arise, she makes it out alive, but only to find out that the reason she was thawed was to be killed.

Soon Amy and Elder meet and Amy tries to understand why society on the ship operates as it does.  It’s vastly different from life on Earth.  Not only are the people of one ethnicity (brown eyes, tan skin), they have limited knowledge of history, have sex in the fields during the Season (purely for procreation, though), and lock up the crazy (aka creative) people.  Elder and the people aboard the ship know no different, but to Amy, it is a nightmare.  She is anxious to get to the new planet and see her parents again, but as she and Elder later find out, the ship is still 100 years from its destination.  Amy will long be dead before her parents are woken up.

That’s not all that Amy has to worry about, though.  After all, someone tried to kill her.  She needs to find out who and why.  Elder continues to search out knowledge about the ship and he finds out secret after secret about how the society upon the ship is run and controlled.

The book was well-written, told from Amy and Elder’s points of view in alternating chapters.  Each chapter was titled with the narrator’s name so it wasn’t confusing.  The descriptions of the ship were so detailed that I had little trouble picturing something I’ve never seen.  It wasn’t until I was done reading the e-book version of it that I looked at a hardcover copy at the bookstore.  Apparently the cover’s reverse was a map of Godspeed.*  I was delighted (after my initial reaction of frustration).  Much of what I’d pictured about the ship’s layout was accurate.  To me, that marks the sign of a talented writer.

Overall, the book had a great amount of conflict, both inner and physical.  There was action, yet not so much that it was tiring and there was enough mystery and intrigue to keep me reading without ever feeling like I was working to get through it.

*I do no know yet if the paperback version will include a map of the ship (the paperback comes out in November).  However, if you read the book and need or are curious about the map, visit the book’s official website here.

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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Literature


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My utopia is dystopia (part 2)

My most recent delve into dystopia fiction was Possession by Elana Johnson.

In the book, Vi, short for Violet, is whisked off to Lock Up after being caught walking with a boy at night.  Such things are forbidden in her world.  She is thrown into a cell with Jag, a boy with dyed hair and tan skin – an obvious rebel.  Soon and with some effort, Vi and Jag escape Lock Up and flee toward a “freer” land, miles away.

Since Vi can feel “tech buzz” and Thinkers always use tech, she can sense danger.  It doesn’t always work though and she and Jag keep ending up having to fight for their lives.

Later, Vi finds out that she can control things and people with just her mind.  She also finds out Jag can control people with his voice.  Still, they hae to fight Thane, the one who controls everything.

***Here begin the spoilers***

When the book opens, Vi is walking with Zenn, her Match.  She loves him deeply, as she reiterates time and again.  But less than 50 pages later, after Vi makes Jag, she falls in love with him.  She knows little about him, yet knows that she loves him.  And, amazingly enough, he loves her back!  Did I mention that these characters are only 15?  Yeah, Vi, that’s just the hormones talking.

As previously mentioned, Vi and Jag are forced to share the same cell when in Lock Up, yet no other cells on their floor are being used.  As I read, I found this hard to believe.  I can stretch my imagination pretty far, but that was too far-reaching.  Vi lives in a society where you can’t walk with a boy yet will force occupancy with one?  Sorry.  Not buying it.  Johnson explains this away later in the book when Vi realizes that Thane wanted her and Jag together to see if they would use their powers.

Ah, yes, the powers.  Once Vi finds out she can control people and things with her mind, there are no more obstacles to overcome.  She can escape any imprisonment, win any fight without so much as breaking a sweat.  Creative Writing 101: take away conflict and you take away any reason to read.  Now, Vi hates being controlled so Johnson could have used this in Vi to have inner conflict.  Instead, Vi whines about it for a few sentences and then continues on.  Some rebel.  She hates what is not useful to her.

Then there’s all the coincidental stuff that happens in the back half of the book.  Vi’s dad had gone missing years before, but then she sees Jag with a book with her dad’s picture on it.  Only, she doesn’t recognize him and only knows it’s him because of the name underneath.  It’s a rebel book about how people can use tech to fight those in power.  Later, as she mentally yells at Thane, the one voice that can enter her mind and someone who has great power, she realizes that it is actually her dad.  Confused?  I’d be surprised if you weren’t.  Oh, and Vi’s older sister died after a year working for the Society.  But lo and behold, she’s alive and working with rebel forces.  She’s using a pseudonym so that no one can find her, especially Thane.  Now, let’s not forget about Zenn, Vi’s Match that she’s totally in love with, even though she’s in love with Jag, too.  It turns out that Zenn and Jag know each other and have for quite some time.  They’ve been working together to get a rebel (Zenn) on the inside.  He passes information along to the rebels to help the fight.  However, at the beginning of the book, he is the one who betrays Vi so that she is arrested, tags her with a homing device, and leads Thane to her.  So is he a rebel or not?  It’s hard to say and when it’s all over, it’s still unclear.

About half-way through the 400 plus page book, I started to get discouraged.  I kept going, though, because I’d gotten so far, I might as well have finished.  Really, the only saving grace in the last half of the book was the end.  Johnson could have made it a happy ending, one that would calm the reader and let her know everything would be okay.  But she ended the book with Thane conquering Vi’s mind, erasing her memory of Jag and forcing her to live a “happy” life with Zenn.  Though she has the feeling that she’s forgotten something important, Vi is content.  The end reminded me of the end of 1984 by George Orwell.

Still, overall, the book was a waste of time.  My theory (as well as a few other people who’ve noted online) is that this book got published because anything dystopian will sell right now.  It’s a shame because I love giving suggestions to teens and parents alike when it comes to books, but I sure as hell don’t recommend this one.

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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Literature, Rants


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