26 December 2011

Dystopia Utopia

Yeah, I know it's the holiday season and all that, but this is my week for Reading Monday and I've been wanting to do a dystopian list so here it is!

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Had to start with this one, of course. If you haven't heard of it, you've probably been in a media-proof hideout for the past 4 years or so. The main premise is that in a future USA, the country has collapsed and been rebuilt into a Capitol surrounded by twelve districts, each of which must provide two "tributes" each year to take part in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death that's sort of like Survivor meets Lord of the Flies. Katniss takes her younger sister's place in the Games in order to protect her... and that's when everything starts going pear-shaped.

Declaration - Gemma Malley

What if scientists actually figured out a way to live forever? Massive overpopulation, right? Well, not if people are forbidden to have children... This chilling British trilogy takes off from this starting point and focuses on Surplus Anna - a girl (just one of many) living in a Surplus home and told that because she was born illegally, she has no rights as a person and the best she can hope for is a post as a servant to a rich Legal. Enter Peter, who tells her, among other things, that she IS in fact legal, that her parents DO want her back, and oh yeah, he's descended from the man who discovered the immortality formula...

Birthmarked - Caragh O'Brien

16-year-old Gaia Stone trains with her mother to become a midwife, delivering the children of their small settlement outside the walls of the wealthy Enclave near the edge of what used to be Lake Superior (now called "Unlake" - it has clearly dried up). Every month, the first three babies delivered are "advanced" into the Enclave, to be adopted and raised by families within... but a lack of record-keeping has resulted in unintentional incest and a generation of children born with hereditary defects like hemophilia. There are currently two books available in this planned trilogy (Prized being the second one) - I'm very much looking forward to discovering where the author takes the story in the final volume.

Chemical Garden Trilogy - Lauren Destefano

In this trilogy-opener, which starts very much in media res and then fills in the details, faulty genetic experimentation has resulted in an entire generation of children in which all the men die at 25 and the women at 20. Polygamous marriages are common among rich families, scientists are desperately trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, and Rhine Ellery is kidnapped from her home in Manhattan and transported to Florida to be forcibly married off to a wealthy 21-year-old. Technology is at a high level, and as anyone watching the news lately could predict, the rich have only gotten richer, but the luxurious house and personal servants can't entirely disguise the fact that it's a prison for Rhine and her two sister wives. Second installment (Fever) is due in February - can't wait!

1984 - George Orwell

The classic, of course. I first read 1984 IN 1984... the week before I started kindergarten. Yeah. My grandfather thought it'd be funny if my teacher asked me what the last book I read by myself was and that was my answer. He had a strange sense of humour. Anyway, many if not most of the dystopic tropes find their origins here - totalitarian government, Big Brother (no, not the TV show...), and the intriguing use of language as a control tool (I remember being hopelessly confused by "doubleplusgood" as a munchkin - luckily it all made much more sense when I came back to it at the age of 20). Winston Smith is just one cog in the massive machine... but he's a cog we come to care about. It's one of those "required reading" books that really needs to stay on that list - because while 1984 has come and gone, the situations described in Orwell's future are, to a large extent, happening now...

Matched - Ally Condie

Arranged marriages, mysterious pills, lives which all end at 80... This one doesn't seem all that bad at first, but the further into this world Condie takes us, the more off-kilter it becomes. Cassia thinks life is pretty much perfect, in this world where everything is controlled and streamlined, from job selection to the 100 items in many categories which were deemed all that anyone would need. 100 poems, 100 songs... no more than that. (That bit terrifies me, frankly.) When she is matched with her best friend, it's just one more piece falling right into place - until, upon reviewing the data she was given, another boy's face flashes onto the screen... Also the first of a trilogy; Crossed is already out in hardcover.

Delirium - Lauren Oliver

If love were classified as a disease - and we're talking DSM-style here - would you want to be "cured" of it? Yeah, me neither. Most people in this odd future society DO want the cure, though - and it doesn't matter if they don't, because it's mandatory. 17-year-old Lena is counting the days until she turns 18 and is eligible to be cured herself - after all, her own mother committed suicide out of despair after the death of Lena's father. However, since it's a novel there must be a twist - and in this case, his name is Alex. Like Oliver's previous novel (Before I Fall - also highly recommended), the ending is not what you'd call happy, but it really couldn't end any other way. Fortunately for us, it seems this too is destined to be only the first third of the story.

Shades of Grey - Jasper Fforde

Ooookay, so up front let me just say that I adore Fforde. His off-the-wall style, oddball allusions, and utter disinclination to explain ANYTHING make me ever so happy - I've even met him twice, so all my copies of his books are signed and stamped and spiffy. This one is rather a departure from his usual BookWorld adventures, but it's a fantastic read. Eddie Russett is a young Red living in a strictly-controlled Colourtocracy which classifies (and stratifies) the entire population based on their ability to perceive colours. Most people can see only one, or at most two, of the primary colours, and some not even that much (they're the Greys). Everyone has a colour-based surname, there are some very strange societal rules (like the "no manufacturing of spoons" one), and no one is quite who they seem... Supposedly there will be two more here as well, though with Fforde also publishing books in two of his other series this year, I have a feeling it'll be a bit of a wait still for the others.


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love series and the anticipation of the next book coming out.

ViolaNut said...

And yet, sometimes I hate it at the same time because I just want to know what happens!!! Ah well. ;-)

Cruella Collett said...

Great list! You should recommend books for a living or something. Oh, wait... ;)