Tag Archive | science fiction

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)
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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 : 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 : Wither

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Pages : 358
Genre : Ya, Post-Apocalyptic, “Dystopia”
Series : The Chemical Garden, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Rhine grew up knowing her days were counted : in her world, males die at 25 and females at 20, and young girls are viewed as prized possessions, their only worth being their capacity for making babies.

Rhine is 16 when she gets kidnapped and married, along with two other girls, to a man she has never seen before. Despite her new home’s wealth and luxury, she has only one thought; to escape and find her twin brother. When she discovers her new father-in-law is using her sister wives as experiments, she knows it’s time to put her plan in motion.

My Thoughts :

First of all, I’m not sure dystopia is the right tag for it, hence the quote marks at the top; I use it more in the sense current YA literature uses it, as in “any post-apocalyptic society”. But, to be honest, Wither is more of a futuristic post-apocalyptic novel than one about a dystopian society. There is a distinction and while I do find it blurry at times, it’s an important one. If you’re not sure about this, I highly recommend this post at Giraffe Days.

Second of all, this is a bit of a generous 3 stars rating, mostly for “entertainment” value. Wither is not a bad novel and I can see why so many enjoyed it. It’s a terrifying world, and while many of us, I’m sure, have stories of grand-mothers or great-great-grand-mothers who had their first babies in their teen years, it doesn’t make Whither‘s world any less chilling. Plus, DeStefano’s writing was pleasant and had some great moments.

I was mostly interested and Rhine and her sisters’ story. The romance side, a little less. There is a form of love triangle in place but Rhine’s feelings are so unclear that, until close to the end, I wasn’t sure if there was a love triangle, a simple romance or just friendships. It was a bit refreshing to not have the romance being front and center for once, and I appreciated that.

I have read as many negative reviews as positive ones, many of which questioned whether Wither’s world made sense or not. These can easily be found on Goodreads and are worth the read if you like to discuss world building. I have to say that I did find it a little shaky; I would believe that if the world was in such a crucial need of babies, more young women would voluntarily offer themselves to marriages like the one Rhine is trying to escape. I’m not sure there would be such a need to kidnap young girls, and even less to kill a bunch of them… Unless I’m missing something?

I think it’s lucky that Linden (Rhine and her sister wives’ husband) was mostly a decent human being. Or not. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this one, to be honest. My first thought was that I was glad that he wasn’t forcing himself on these young girls; it would have made a horrible situation even more horrible if violence/rape was part of the deal. But then, what choice do these girls have? Sure, Rhine resists and isn’t forced into it, but then you have Jenna, who sleeps with him even though she despises him. It was all a bit icky, really. Just because I don’t want the difficult parts of life to be glossed over, doesn’t mean I don’t find it really hard to read at times – this was one of those times.

I’ll be reading the sequel because I do want to find more answers to my questions, and I’m hoping the author might offer some in Fever. But I was so torn about this novel while reading it, that I feel like this review is not going into a specific direction, negative or positive. So I’ll just sit comfortably in the middle, thank you very much.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Wither
  2. Fever
  3. (coming 2013)

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 –

Review : Aftertime

Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield
Pages : 375
Genre : Post-Apocalyptic
Series : Aftertime, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

After bio-terrorist attacks destroyed important parts of the ecosystem, the government’s plan to make it better failed by turning people into Beaters, creatures who yearn for human flesh. Extremely dangerous, the new disease has left many more dead than alive and forced the survivors to fight for the smallest necessities.

Waking up from a traumatic event with a blurred memory of the recent past, Cass knows only one thing for sure : she has to go back to her daughter Ruthie. Fighting the zombies that took over her world and people’s fear of outsiders, Cass also has her own secrets, one in particular that could get her the wrong kind of attention.

My Thoughts :

Let me tell you something : at the start of the year, I read some really great books that I immediately added to my “Best of 2011” list, thinking that if my reading continued on the same way, I’d have a fantastic reading year. Then school kept me busy and I thought, no problemo, I’d spend the summer reading anyway. I expected it to be full of awesome, but as it turned out, it wasn’t exactly like that.

I have read many good books this summer, even a few great ones, but Aftertime is the first to hit me this way. I loved it, I just couldn’t let go of it. Every time I finished a chapter, all I could do was read the next one. Littlefield created a fantastic character who, all the while being a kick-ass woman, also has plenty of faults. Cass’s life has never been easy, not even before this apocalyptic disease happened : victim of sexual abuse as a teen, she is now a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t made peace with her past yet. She has guilt about being a bad mother all the while wanting to be perfect for her daughter, and I found it impossible not to feel for her. She’s an intricate character that felt real, all the more important in a world ravaged by horrific creatures.

Talking of these creatures, I have to say that the author accomplished something amazing on that aspect. The Beaters aren’t the laughing stock of the story, like zombies often are : instead, they are scary as they should be. They also aren’t the only aspect of this post-apocalyptic universe on which Littlefield focuses. The world has been changed forever and the author really gives a lot of attention to what this results in for the survivors : clans are formed, things that used to be taken for granted become precious goods to be traded, life is an everyday battle with completely different rules.

Each new character Cass meets open a new door for new possible story lines, and I loved that. I don’t know when (and if) Cass will meet again the Covent’s sisters, the Rebuilders, or any of those she met along her way, but each glimpse we get of these different groups is rich with ideas. Every time Cass left some place, I had the distinct impression life continued there, and I could imagine how it was. What I mean is that, even though we’re reading Cass’s story, it didn’t feel like the whole world revolved around her, you know? The author does a great job of describing her world in a realistic manner, making Cass’s story a frightening yet captivating one.

I can’t finish this review without mentioning Smoke, of course. Smoke is the mysterious hot stranger who accompanies Cass for most of her journey. He has secrets of his own, doesn’t reveal too much about himself, but him and Cass, they worked well. I believed it. More than that, I loved that while he is very present through the pages, he isn’t Cass’s main concern. They care for each other but it’s a slow, careful fall. They can be intense and the attraction is there, but Cass doesn’t lose focus from her sole objective : get Ruthie back.

I can’t say enough good things about this book! While it doesn’t reinvent the post-apocalyptic genre or the zombies-type creatures, it definitely exploits these things beautifully to explore the complexity of the human character. If like me you love dystopian universes, post-apocalyptic stories or zombies, then this is one to read. I can’t wait to see what’s next for these characters – I have a feeling I’ll have my nose in book 2 before long!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Aftertime
  2. Rebirth 
  3. Horizon (coming January 24th, 2012)

Novella : Survivors, Aftertime 1.5.