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Dystopian

Book Review: The Circle

The Circle
Author: 
Eggers, Dave
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The only reason I read this book was because of the movie starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks but I'm one of those who [for the most part] read the book first before watching the movie because we all know that books are always better and have more details than the movie versions.

I've been on the fence about deactivating my Facebook and Twitter accounts and signing up for Instagram or keeping my blog, Ravelry and GoodReads active since I use Ravelry and GoodReads mainly as online databases for my yarn craft and books respectively so I won't have to create an offline database from scratch and my blog as a way to share things that I enjoy and my book reviews like this one. The Circle by Dave Eggers definitely showed some pros and cons to going "off the grid" to quote Mercer and some pros and cons to being online to keep up with family and friends and social media is good way to reconnect with old friends especially if you have no way of contacting them because your address book hasn't been updated in a long while.

Enter Mae Holland who hasn't used her social media account in a while and ends up working for the Circle, a tech company who is all about sharing [everything] and being social online and offline and unifying everything into one account. I rated this book 4 stars not because it's really good but mostly because the author managed to make me feel something and made me think. When Mae first started working at the Circle, I felt as stressed out and exhausted as Mae felt while learning about her new job and balancing her work-related duties as well as her "social" duties and the constant need to "smile," "frown," and "zing" can be overwhelming for someone like me who likes to moderately share things online. Yes, I do believe that there are things that should be kept private and still do even after reading this book.

I don't think it is healthy to spend so much time online "smiling," "frowning," and "zing-ing" what other people share to the point where you no longer have time to live your life in the real world. And changing your opinions because you don't like getting "frowns" is not being human. Being human is about having different opinions and thoughts and it shouldn't matter if your opinion is unpopular because it is you. The way it is presented in this book is that slowly, everyone in the world is of one mind, one opinion which is already happening in the real world. People get shamed, hated on or bullied online when you express sentiments that are not in line with the sentiments of others. And this mentality should stop.

There are some aspects of unifying databases from this book that I liked the idea of. An example would be medical records that way when you switch medical providers or during medical emergency situations, all your records can be found in one centralized system/location to make it super efficient for the medical team to give you the right medication or treatment as well as if you're unconscious, there's a way to alert your medical/care team to send help. While it is also great to get real time results on polls and surveys, being forced to vote by suspending all electronic/computer/online activities until you've voted is wrong in the sense that people have the right to vote or not vote. Sure it will help a lot if everyone voted but to make it mandatory like what the Circle suggests violates the right to decide whether to vote or not. I'm on the fence about humans getting micro-chipped like most of our pets are micro-chipped because I personally don't want everybody in the world to know where I am. I only want my I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contacts to know where I am and that's about it. There's more examples in this book that I'm either on the fence on or completely against the idea of but I have to end it here otherwise, this review will be as lengthy as the novel itself.

Moving on to the general overview of the plot. It's believable to some degree and I can see the parallels to the real world especially on the social media aspect and we are somewhat slowly getting there on the other technological aspects. The pacing of the story is slow to moderate and sometimes it makes you think if there's any point to this whole thing. The whole time I was listening to this book, I was waiting for a really cool plot twist or a big revelation or a big self-discovery, but unfortunately, none of those happened. There was a revelation towards the end but it was a bit of a let down because somehow, at the back of my mind, I already knew that.

As for the characters, I feel like they're not as well-developed as I'd hoped. There's no real depth to Annie, Dan, Jared, the three wise men, Francis, or any of the rest of the characters, including Mae (more on that, later). It feels like these other characters are there to either add drama in the case of Francis, to move the story along in the case of Dan, Jared, the three wise men, etc., and as proof of validation and someone to vent to as in the case of Annie. As for Mae, I somewhat resonated with her in the beginning but as the book progresses, her character became less real and more fake in the sense that the Mae readers liked in the beginning slowly disappeared as she became "one with the hive" err Circle and lost her own individuality. Another thing that was disturbing about Mae was in the end, while visiting her catatonic best friend, Annie, she looks at one of the monitors scanning Annie's brain waves and wonders what Annie's dreaming/thinking about while in a coma and decides that people's thoughts should be accessible to everyone and that "the world deserves nothing less" which to me, is frankly, quite disturbing.

Finally, the narration. Dion Graham did a wonderful job narrating/reading this book even though this book follows Mae's perspective and there's none of that high-pitched voice trying to sound like a woman/girl.

In conclusion, if you are someone who shares everything online then you might enjoy this book and if you are someone who is on the verge of deactivating all of your online and social media accounts, you might find extra reasons in this book to permanently go offline. If you are someone who likes to see characters evolve into a better version of themselves, this book is not for you.

Reviewer's Name: 
Mary Grace C.

Book Review: 1984

1984
Author: 
Orwell, George
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

1984, written by renowned author George Orwell, a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair, follows the protagonist Winston Smith set in what Smith believes to be the 80s in London. In fact, Smith is not sure of anything anymore, definitely not the exact year or what happened to his family or who the mysterious dictator called Big Brother is or who his state is at war with. Eurasia, right? No, must’ve been Eastasia... All Smith knows are the mottos of each of the ministries that form the government in Oceania, where London is. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. He is told what to think, what to say, and what to do for nearly every part of his life. His government banks on strict organization and dire consequences for disobeying the rules. 1984 is an interesting read that set the bar for dystopian novels, defining inefficient governments from real life examples.
The novel is more realistic being inspired by Orwell’s hatred for totalitarianism and the events of World War II. I recommend 1984 to anyone curious about examining different types of societies, their standards and how those effect the population. The novel is fairly political and examines rebellion, although not as face paced as typical young adult reads. 1984 allows for an in depth examination of the character’s internal conflicts, Winston is one of the more detailed and complex protagonists because there are many parts where he cannot he sympathized with due to his lesser characteristics. The setting is clearly presented in a more world-building way than just giving out straight information. I was especially pleased, surprised, curious, and angry throughout the progression of the story.
Overall, I did enjoy this book more than most others, but the fact that Winston does not form any significant relationships until the second part and is the primary person talking, I was relatively bored during the middle chapters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella W.

Book Review: Brave New World

Brave New World
Author: 
Huxley, Aldous
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Among one of the first Dystopian genre novels ever published, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World questions the extent at which technology could potentially control society. Set approximately 632 years after the creation of the Model - T, a World State now controls society with the intent on eradicating personal thinking and individual creativity. With a new system called the Bokanovsky process, the World State utilizes the idea of Henry Ford’s assembly line to produce thousands of nearly identical embryos that will grow up to work for the State. All embryos are conditioned to be in one of the 5 castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon; with Alphas destined to control the World State and Epsilons to perform menial labor. When Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John decide that something is wrong within this “perfect” society, they take it into their own hands to expose the World State and stop this flawed Utopia. Huxley’s novel, written in only 4 months, is phenomenal because it challenges the ideals of the limits to which technology can override nature. With the novel being published in 1932, Huxley questions practices that were uncommon and unrealistic back then, but are slowly becoming a reality now as our society leans more and more towards technological innovations. I recommend this novel to high school readers, especially those interested in the Dystopian genre, since this is a perfect example of a Dystopian Utopia.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe T.
Awards: 

Book Review: Divergent

Divergent
Author: 
Roth, Veronica
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

When I first picked up this book, I was skeptical, because I'm not normally a fan of dystopian novels. But I LOVED this book, I read it in three hours, I could not put it down. This fast paced thriller drew me in. When I was finished I found my self picking it up various times and rereading my favorite parts. I would for sure recommend this book to everyone I know.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma R.

Book Review: Red Queen

Red Queen
Author: 
Aveyard, Victoria
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

In this dystopian novel, Reds (those with red blood) live like peasants and servants to the god-like Silvers (those with silver blood), who live in luxury and royalty, possessing mind bending powers that make them superior. While the Reds slave away, Silvers feast. Mare, a Red, finds herself right in the middle of it all when she is surprisingly allowed to work in a Silver palace. In a freak accident, Mare finds out something about herself… she possesses one of the many god-like powers, like the Silvers.
And not just any power, a power that has never been seen before. She is betrothed to marry a Silver Prince and forced into a Silver life. She embarks on a quest to find out who she really is. This book, I think, deserves a 4 out of 5. The plot was amazing, but several things kept it from a full score.
First of all, the author’s attempt at creating a heartfelt and loving romance failed miserably, leaving me gagging from the sappiness of it all. On that note, I felt like the main character, Mare, was too dependable on her lover. However, I did like the overall plot and outcome, and I didn’t regret reading this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
Author: 
Ishiguro, Kazuo
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Kathy isn’t a normal kid, and neither are any of her friends. They were all cloned, and someday, their vital organs will be harvested until they die. But for now, they will grow up in a secluded boarding school nestled in a corner of England, called Hailshem. Hailshem is idyllic: creativity is nurtured, friends are everywhere, and there are supported teachers. Kathy retells her experiences as she looks back on her life in preparation for her organ donations. And…. that’s basically it. It sounds like a really interesting concept for a book, but the author completely butchered it! His writing drags on and on, and completely bored me to death. If he had written it better, or if someone rewrites it, the book would be fascinating. But the writing style is so dreadfully dull. I warn you-- do not read this book! You will seriously regret it if you do!
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: Maze Runner

Book Review:Maze Runner
Author: 
Dashner, James
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The book The Maze Runner by James Dashner is a fascinating book. It places the reader in a semi- dystopian world. The time for this story takes place in the late 2200s (Maybe. Dates tend to come in this format 231.5.4 or May 4, 231.). As a disease ravages the world outside turning people into savages, the main character, a 16 year old boy named Thomas wakes up in a swinging box having no recollection of his life before that point. He remembers nothing except his name. Half an hour later, the box opens and Thomas meets the Gladers (as they call themselves because they live on a glade). All of them are male. They are all surrounded by towering walls and giant gates that shut whenever it gets dark. The giant gates lead to a seemingly impossible maze with moving walls and creatures that threaten to hurt them. These creatures are called Grievers and they are hideous bulbous creatures with concealed blades and needles. Whenever someone gets caught by one of the Grievers, they are Stung, which has a lot more meaning than getting stung. When someone is stung, they experience horrible pain and occasionally go mad. The Gladers have people they call Runners who go into the Maze every day to find new passageways. They receive food and water and antidote for Stung victims at the same times every day. Someone new arrives once a month and they are always male. All that changes when someone new arrives two days after Thomas and she is female. Then supplies and antidotes stop arriving.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nathanael G.

Book Review: Uglies

Uglies
Author: 
Westerfeld, Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The novel “Uglies” by Scott Westerfield is an adventure into the future. In this futuristic society, everyone is “ugly” until they turn 16. When they turn 16, they get surgery to become pretty and go live in the pretty world. The story is focused on a girl named Tally. She has been anticipating the day of her 16th birthday ever since her brother went to the world of pretties. But Tally wasn’t the best ugly out there. She broke some rules before her 16th and might have to face consequences for her actions. This includes losing the privilege of becoming pretty. Everyone in her world wants to become pretty, but she happens to meet a friend who doesn’t want to change. She and this girl are the last ones to turn 16. I recommend this novel to people who enjoy scientific fiction and adventures. This book sucked me right in. There are 3 more in the sequel and I ended up buying and reading all of them!
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Reaghan D.

Book Review: The Death Cure

The Death Cure
Author: 
Dashner, James
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

If ever there was proof that not every book should have a trilogy, it’s The Death Cure. Sure, The Maze Runner was an interesting concept, but it brought up a lot of questions. None of these questions were answered by the end of the series since most of the focus was on random action sequences rarely driven by the main characters’ actions. If action wasn’t the focus, then the loose and unbelievable “love triangle” certainly was. In the end, I had no connection to the characters, which was why I was mostly unaffected by some of their deaths.

The real problem with The Death Cure (as well as its predecessor, The Scorch Trials ), is how much “fluff” is in the story. The Maze Runner worked because there was a concrete objective: escape the maze. In the two books that followed, what was the goal? Was it to defeat WICKED? If it was, then the characters didn’t seem too committed to it, since they kept having to deal with obstacles that randomly put themselves in their path. Consequently, the second and third parts of this trilogy could have probably been cut down into one book and saved the reader some time.

Unlike most trilogies, which provide at least some semblance of closure, The Death Cure leaves all its questions unanswered and merely tries to tack on an ending as a Band-Aid. This hand-waving approach was unsatisfying because we still don’t know why running immune subjects through a deadly maze would lead to a cure. We don’t know what the greavers (or any of the other “faceless enemies”) are, or what their purpose was. We don’t know why Teresa was so illogical and vague. Its series like this (which are only popular due to the “Young Adult” craze) that confirm my bias against this “cash-grab” genre.

An unsatisfying end to a trilogy that should have been one book, I give The Death Cure 1.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: Stranger

Stranger
Author: 
Brown, Rachel Manija
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The book Stranger, by Rachel Brown, tells of a post-apocalyptic town called Las Anclas and its citizens. The people in the world have been affected by a solar storm, which has caused them and the environment to develop mutations called "The Change." These effects can either harm or benefit the people.
The story is told through the perspectives of many other characters, and it gives a lot of insight and information on the characters pasts and thought.
This allows for excellent foreshadowing, which is one of the biggest strengths in the book. The novel describes the dystopian world mainly through the eyes of a young teenage boy named Ross Juarez, which develops the plot, romances, and details of the town and its people well. The book also places action nice and evenly throughout the story, so that it can focus on the story telling and background of the town and characters in other parts.
Overall, the book Stranger has been one of my favorite reads, and I'd recommend it to people who like dystopian worlds, action, and adventure books.
Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L.

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