Tag Archive | dystopia

Review : Incarnate

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Pages : 416
Genre : YA, Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Series : Newsoul, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Ana lives in Range, a place where souls are being reincarnated in different bodies, over and over. No one ever really dies, and the souls keep their memories from one life to the other.

That is, until one night one soul vanished, and Ana was born instead. Living with her abusive mother, Ana has always considered herself a “No soul”, an abomination that shouldn’t be. But when she finally leaves home in a quest for answers, Ana meets Sam, and she begins to consider that maybe being a “New soul” is not all bad.

My Thoughts :

What an interesting premise and an intriguing world Jodi Meadows has created with Incarnate! Though this strange world was a tad difficult to get into for the first few pages (it wasn’t clear to me if the book was fantasy, science-fiction, futuristic, etc), I was quickly hooked to Ana’s story. Her world was new, different from the ones I usually read about, real or imagined. I also had a lot of compassion for what was happening with her mother, an abusive woman who basically blamed Ana for the disappearance of another soul.

It is quite obvious, when Ana meets Sam, that romance will be had in the story. While romance by itself isn’t a bad thing, this is where, for me, the book lost most points. Though Sam and Ana do spend a lot of time together, we are not allowed to see enough of their friendship and their romance feels a bit forced. From that point on, they spend a lot of time thinking about each other, looking at each other, being with each other… and sadly the romance takes over other aspects of the story which were, in my opinion, more interesting. I wanted to learn more about the big city of Heart, the world of Range, the legends, the characters surrounding the two lovebirds, Ana’s story, etc. I will say that despite the romance, there still is a lot of information about the world, just less than I would have hoped for.

An interesting aspect of the novel was, of course, the reincarnation, and with that, gender. This came as a surprise for me, as I didn’t know which form the reincarnations would take in the story. In Incarnate, souls can be reincarnated as man or woman. This raises important questions on what is gender? A pure biologic function? Social conventions? A mix of both or something else? The novel doesn’t directly raise those questions, but I couldn’t read it without my brain wondering about this constantly. If two souls decide to be linked forever together (as some do), and come back in other lives in a different gender, wouldn’t that affect their relationship? Or maybe the constant cycle of reincarnations gives them a more open point of view on gender? Maybe they see it simply as another characteristic, like eye color, hair color, height, etc?

I don’t have an answer, and the book doesn’t either. I’m not sure if the author simply didn’t think that far, or if she wanted her readers to make their own ideas. What would it be to be Ana in this world, born only once as a woman? Would it feel normal to have a boyfriend who was once a girl? If the society you grow up in is used to that, would you be too? I don’t know. This makes my brain hurt a little.

Which probably means that Incarnate offers something that many YA novels of speculative fiction don’t offer (sadly), and that is : interesting topics of discussion. I think there is a lot to be said about a world where you can reincarnate, forever, and keep your memories. What makes life worth living then? What would change in our daily lives? And there is, as I pointed out, a lot to be said about gender too.

There was also a slight issue with pace; after a lot of the romance between Sam and Ana, things suddenly start happening towards the end, when there is a rush of events and a few twists. I wouldn’t have minded this discrepancy in paces  if the slowest part wasn’t so focused on the romance. Other than that, I did enjoy the story, the characters, the world, and the conclusion. I’m looking forward to reading more about Ana and her world in the coming novels.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Incarnate
  2. ?
  3. ?
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Review : Across the Universe

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Pages : 416
Genre : YA, Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Series : Across the Universe, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The plan for Amy’s family was simple; cryo-sleep aboard the Godspeed ship, to wake up on another planet a few centuries later. Only, something goes wrong, and Amy wakes up alone, too soon.

Before long, Amy discovers something bad is going on Godspeed : other sleepers get murdered and the ship’s ruler, Eldest, isn’t friendly towards the new girl. As she tries to uncover the truth and protect her family, Amy has to decide whether she can trust Elder, next in line to rule the ship.

My Thoughts :

The first thing I thought about when starting to write this review was “Should I really tag it as dystopia?” Because in truth, Across the Universe is more science-fiction than anything else. Even the romance, which the cover hints at strongly, takes a backseat to the mystery, the ship and the characters’ own personal issues. As for the dystopian aspect, it’s a part of the plot that is not clearly revealed from the beginning, but I did feel the hints were big enough that this is not a spoiler in any way. So, yes; Across the Universe is a slightly dystopian futuristic novel with an intriguing premise.

I’m not sure why the book sat so long on my shelf. When I finally decided to read it, I got hooked to the story instantly. While the narration itself didn’t particularly stand out, I was curious about Amy’s situation. Being put to sleep sure didn’t look like fun! However, I was disappointed by the dual narration. Nothing against Elder, but his voice wasn’t particularly different from Amy’s. I think I would have preferred to discover the ship and the future only though Amy’s eyes.

I also had a few problems with the technological side of the worldbuilding. Maybe it’s because I’m currently reading Physics of the Futurebut I couldn’t accept that the technology used on the ship wasn’t more advanced, more sophisticated. Parts of it were; but some parts of it were too easy, too similar to the technology we already use. Sadly, there was no explanation in the worldbuilding to justify that.

I do wish the characters were more dimensional, too, and less stereotyped. As a villain, Eldest had very little depth, but this is something that could be said of other secondary characters, too.This being said, I do think the strong point of the novel was the story itself. Even though it felt predictable and I could tell, mostly, who did what and what would happen, the pace and the twists kept me reading.

I also loved that, while Amy and Elder had a certain attraction for each other, the novel wasn’t about the romance itself. It was something happening on the side, and that never truly developed into something more. To be honest, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the author introduced another love interest for Amy, since her interest for Elder seemed to be more about curiosity, loneliness and friendship.

Across the Universe sure differentiated itself from all the dystopian stories coming out these days. I’m looking forward to reading book two, A Million Suns, which is already waiting on my shelf.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Across the Universe
  2. A Million Suns
  3. Shades of Earth (coming 2013)

Review : Uglies – Shay’s Story

Uglies : Shay’s Story by Scott Westerfeld, Devin Grayson and Steven Cummings
Pages : 180
Genre : Graphic Novel, Science-Fiction
Series : Uglies (graphic novel), Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Shay is an Ugly, and like all Uglies, when she turns sixteen, she’ll be transformed into a beautiful, perfect Pretty. She’ll get new looks and move to the most interesting part of the town with all the other Pretties.

But then Shay meets the Crims, a group of teenagers who play tricks and like to explore outside the city limits. There Shay discovers a whole universe, and she starts to question whether she wants to become a Pretty at all.

My Thoughts :

I read the Uglies series a few years ago and absolutely loved it. With the Hunger Games, it’s one of my favorite YA series and one against which I measure all the new dystopian YA series. So of course I wouldn’t pass on a illustrated version of the series, and when I saw it at the store last week, I immediately grabbed it. I am so glad that I can say that I really enjoyed it.

First, I really liked the illustrations. I don’t read that many mangas and graphic novels, but when I do I love the style to be clean and clear. The characters really came alive and I loved how the scenes on the boards felt full of action. I could sense the movement and the danger, and it was exciting to see that what I had imagined from my reading of the story mostly matched what I saw in these illustrations.

The story itself was fun, though very predictable if you have read the books. There seem to be two trends right now for book series; new short stories to keep readers interested in between books’ publication, and direct adaptations of the books into graphic novels/mangas. Interestingly, Shay’s Story is a little of both; the story is almost the same as the one in Uglies, but from another character’s point of view. This mix of familiar and new worked really well for me, helping me remember the series while giving me the chance to discover Shay.

I have always loved Shay as a character. In the books, I always found her a bit mysterious. It was often difficult to understand her true motivations, desires and goals. While her complexity wasn’t as obvious here, I liked that we got to see how it all started for her. Seeing Tally, David and Zane was also really nice. I found it interesting how, seeing the story from another point of view, it was Tally now who became a little mysterious, intriguing.

This visual adaptation of Uglies does have a flaw, and in my opinion it’s a big one. While I loved the illustrator’s style, I felt there wasn’t enough difference in appearance between the Uglies, Pretties and Specials. I do remember that the Uglies are not necessarily ugly but normal, ordinary. For the purpose of a graphic novel though, I feel the contrast should have been bigger. It seemed that all the Pretties had different was a better hairstylist and a touch of makeup, and the Specials didn’t look that special either. This was a tiny bit disappointing.

Still I really appreciated reading it, and it made me want to reread the complete series. I am really happy to know there will be two more volumes following Shay’s Story, and I can’t wait to put my hands on them!

Review : Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Pages : 390
Genre : YA, Speculative fiction
Series : The Hunger Games, Book 3
My Rating :

(review may contain spoilers on the series)

I first read Mockingjay when it was published back in 2010. After a year of waiting, I was too excited to wait anymore and read it almost in one sitting. Reading the last few pages, I was left both satisfied and dissatisfied, but mostly confused about whether I had enjoyed it or hated it. There was just too much information, too many events and twists and turns, for me to process in what had been a few hours.

Despite not writing my review of it, I went online and read tons of them, hoping something would click and that I would finally understand my feelings about it. As it turned out, some people absolutely loved it, others hated it, and I could relate to most of their arguments. A book has rarely left me so confused, and a year and a half later, all I could remember, except for Prim’s death, was that Katniss spent most of the book drugged and sleeping.

A little over a week ago, I decided to reread The Hunger Games to be prepared for the movie. After watching it, I really felt like rereading the following two books, as I had never read them all as a whole before. So here we are!

I am pleased to say that, reading it just after the two previous books, in a calmer state of mind, I truly enjoyed Mockingjay. It was fast, heartbreaking, horrifying, intriguing, and even though I had read it and knew where it lead, I kept being surprised and the emotion from the scenes still got to me (I had forgotten a lot of what happened to Peeta, apparently!)

I related a lot more to Katniss this time around. Knowing in parts what was coming in the story, I was able to focus on her character and her interior battles much more. My first reaction : how can this girl still get up in the morning after all that’s happened to her? I was also pleased to see that, though she does spend a lot of time sleeping and healing, she also participates in many events. In fact, I found it refreshing to have a main character who isn’t always standing in the middle of every  important scene happening in her world. It was realistic, because no matter how important she is to the cause, I don’t believe adults would happily handle all of their very important business to a 16, 17 years old girl. While as a reader I found this frustrating the first time around, I ended up appreciating this aspect of the book. There’s enough action in Mockingjay, and adding more would probably have taken away from Katniss’ personal story.

Speaking of Katniss, I appreciated her state of mind more after a second reading. Reading the three books in a row, it made it easier for me to understand what she had lost, lived through, suffered in less than a couple of years. I feel that P.T.S.D. isn’t even enough to describe what she was going through. Katniss isn’t strong in every scene because she is, in many way, just a regular girl who wants to be left alone. But she doesn’t get a break, with all sides using her, and though I enjoy strong characters, it is extremely refreshing to have one who seems human in her reactions and decisions. Katniss is a complex character, just like I love them, with flaws that become strengths and strengths that become flaws. Like the world she lives in, Katniss isn’t black or white but somewhere in between, which is very true to life.

If there is one thing though that hasn’t changed since my first reading, it’s my opinion on the epilogue. Now, I do appreciate knowing what goes on in her life, many years later. It’s nice to know that life goes on, even though she’ll forever live with that dark cloud over her head. The problem is, I found this epilogue to be so weak after the book’s conclusion! The last sentences of Mockingjay, before the epilogue, are some of the strongest I have read for a series’ last words. They are perfect for the characters, the story, they have a strength and an emotional weight that the epilogue doesn’t. So for me, the book’s last word will forever be, “Real”.

Before concluding, I also want to give huge props to the author for making what has been, I am sure, some very difficult decisions. There’s a lot of heartbreak in Mockingjay, even more than in the previous books. I am sure some readers found it gratuitous, but for me, it was realistic : we don’t choose who goes first, nor do we choose how or why. And so it is in the world of Panem.

I am so glad that I reread not only Mockingjay, but the complete series. It is clear to me now why The Hunger Games is always the book I compare other YA novels of dystopia. Even though I often find them thrilling and entertaining, there isn’t one that has captured both my imagination and my heart like The Hunger Games.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Catching Fire
  3. Mockingjay

Review : Crossed

Crossed by Ally Condie
Pages : 367
Genre : YA, Dystopia, Science-Fiction
Series : Matched, Book 2
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Cassia will do anything to reunite with Ky, the love too soon taken from her life by the Society. Following his trace into the canyons, Cassia meets new allies and new enemies as she focuses on her simple plan : once she finds Ky, they’ll join the Rising and fights against the Society. But before she reaches the rebellion, Cassia will learn that even the ones the closest to her may have some surprises of their own…

My Thoughts :

I’ve mentioned already on this blog how for a while, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read Crossed, even though I said I would in my review of its predecessor Matched. I will spare you the long story of how I changed my mind 20 times and ended up reading it anyway – and with a teeny tiny bit of excitement, to be honest.

So, was Crossed fun to read?

Somewhat. I did get through it, and I read most of it in a day. It was an easy read, the pages turning quickly as time flew by. Condie’s writing was generally pleasant, although some of her prose sends my eyes on a rolling carnival. But that’s okay, because these excessively flourished sentences are sprinkled along the chapters rather than being the core of her writing. I can live with that, and I know other readers will absolutely love it.

Where her writing fails, though, is in having a dual narrative. I couldn’t tell Ky from Cassia. It wasn’t too bad when they were each on their own with different people, but once they reunited, I couldn’t differentiate the two. If I picked up the book in the middle of a chapter, I had to turn a few pages back to see who was talking.

Plus, I wasn’t a fan of Ky to begin with. He is tortured, and dramatic, and not my kind of guy. I prefer Xander much more, but he was almost absent from this book. (I heard he was the one narrating with Cassia in the next book though, so I’m looking forward to that.) On the other hand, I like the new additions to the cast, mainly Indie. She was an intriguing character, one of the things that kept me reading.

I will say that this book really felt like the “middle book”, the journey between the Big Event that started it all and the Big Event that will conclude it. For a while, I felt like all they were doing was walk, walk, walk and not much else. I feel that Reached will probably be more exciting and more of a page turner, and I’m fairly certain, now that I am two books into the series, that I will be reading it. I think.

Maybe?

Probably.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Matched
  2. Crossed
  3. Reached (coming November 2012)

Review : Legend

Legend by Marie Lu
Pages : 305
Genre : YA, Dystopia
Series : Legend, Book 1
My Rating : 

What it’s About :

What once was the United States of America is now divided between the Colonies and the Republic, two entities engaged in an endless war. At the hearth of the Republic live two fifteen-year-old coming from two opposite backgrounds : June, a prodigy of the highest military circles, and Day, a wanted criminal living on the streets. When the murder of June’s brother brings them together, the two discover secrets that will forever change their lives.

My Thoughts :

In some aspects Legend doesn’t distinguish itself from most YA dystopias : teen heros battling an evil government, a touch of science fiction, lots of action, a touch of danger and voilà! Those who are tired of the genre might not find it the most refreshing novel, but as someone who loves dystopia and isn’t tired of it yet, I found Legend to be one of the best dystopia novels I have read in the last twelve months.

First of all, I thought the writing was great. I’d say simple, to the point, while carrying emotions in a believable manner. The novel is told both from June and Day’s point-of-view, and I thought the author did really good in writing them in a distinctive manner – and not just because they were printed in different fonts (though this was a nice touch)!

As for June and Day, I liked them both. Day is by far the easiest to love, strong and beautiful and charming, while Jude starts off a little less likable. Because of that though, I found her journey much more captivating, as there is a real change in her behavior and her thoughts from start to finish. Day’s weakness for his family revealed his vulnerability, which made him all the more lovable. Paired together, the two had a great chemistry that didn’t feel forced.

Also, it needs to be said : yay for no love triangle! Marie Lu proves that you can write a great romance between two characters, with lots of tension, without forcing a third character into the mix. I did think there would be a triangle with Thomas, but the author used him as a mirror of society for June, which I thought was a lot more interesting.

As for the plot and the secrets uncovered, I thought they were fairly predictable as the author gives a lot of hints along the story. This being said, I didn’t feel it took away from my enjoyment : I liked how June and Day uncovered the facts and how it was, in both cases, linked to their personal history.

Legend was a fast-paced novel that I really enjoyed. Government conspiracy, technology, intriguing secondary characters also played a role in getting me hooked to this new series. While this chapter of the story concludes itself, I felt I was only reading the beginning of a bigger story – and I am really looking forward to discovering what comes next for June and Day.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Legend
  2. – to be announced –