Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: Razorland by Ann Aguirre

This is my last book review of Dystopian August (I know - so sad!).  I have an unrelated book tour tomorrow, and will do my recap post (with a final AWESOME giveaway) on Thursday.  Look for it!

At her naming ceremony, Deuce finally receives the triple cuts on each of her arms that signify her as a huntress among her people. As a huntress, Deuce not only gathers food but also protects her underground community from wild mutant scavengers. She’s paired up with Fade, a mysterious young man who claims to have originally come from the surface. When they are sent out on patrol and discover that their nearest neighbors have been overrun, the enclave elders dismiss their concerns, and Deuce realizes her blind obedience to the enclave may not be the best course of action.

A dystopian society AND an apocalyptic wasteland in one fast-paced thrill ride? YES! Deuce’s world is pure survival of the fittest. When someone dies, they are not mourned, just thrown out to become part of the food chain. It’s a rough life, and that’s why the elders are no older than 24.

Deuce is immediately someone I liked. She’s an awesome fighter (wields a club in addition to knives) but she’s not arrogant about it. She’s been raised to be hard, but she also has an innate generosity of spirit that gives her a special connection to Fade. And Fade is definitely someone you want to cultivate a special connection to…YUM. Even though I insist time and time again that I am not big on romance, I wanted these two to get together. The fact that Deuce thinks “breeding” is for losers put a damper on things though…

I enjoyed following the story – it kept me on my toes, never knowing what would happen next. Some scenes felt like they might have been lifted from elsewhere (the cherry tasting scene was a lot like the coke scene in THE ROAD) but that could just be because I’ve read so many of these types of books where desperate people are scavenging for food.

Oh yeah…guys? This is a series. No big cliffhanger, but I do wish I could read the second book now. And the first one is not even out yet! *Sigh* These series are killing me!

My rating? 4 Zombie Chickens – An Excellent Example of the Dystopian Genre

RAZORLAND comes out in January 2011 in hardcover. Find out more about it and read the first two chapters at the author’s website.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway: Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill

Jacob Durango is a trained regulator on Mars, but fell into disgrace when his father went to prison. Still, he’s bound by the tenets of a regulator, so when a mining crew from the South Pole engages his services to protect them from a band of Draeu, Jacob accepts. He already knows the job won’t be easy or well-paid, but then, he gets more than he ever bargained for…

First off, I loved the voice in this novel. Jacob is snarky and fun and has an easy rapport with the AI grafted to his brain (who also happens to be his former chief, Mimi). The dialogue is fast-paced and often hilarious, making for an enjoyable read despite the rather shallow characterization of some of the supporting characters (for example, I couldn’t for the life of me distinguish between Jenkins and Fuse, two dim-bulb guys on Jacob’s crew).

The plot was mainly action driven with a lot of blowing things up and fighting, but there were enough inventive surprises thrown in to keep me interested. Although we do get some background into the Orthocracy, some sort of now defunct despot leaders, the Mars presented seems more like a wild west sci-fi setting than a true dystopia - think the TV series FIREFLY (and if you are a fan of that, you should love this). Jacob even reminded me a bit of Captain Mal (with a body to match).

4 Zombie Chickens!

BLACK HOLE SUN just came out in hardcover on the August 24th. Find out more about the book at the author's website, and read an excerpt at the publisher's website.

Annnnnnd now, for the giveaway!  I have one hardcover copy up for grabs for my readers in the US, curtesy of HarperCollins.  I'll keep this open until September 6th at 11:59 pm CST. To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail address.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Dystopian Reader Views - Other Dystopian Titles to Check Out

I know I focused on very new/upcoming titles (mostly YA) this month, so I asked my dystopian reader panel for some recommendations of older/more obscure/adult dystopian works.

Diana Peterfreund recommends:
I really love Marianne Mancusi's RAZOR GIRL. I don't know if it's still in print. It's a zombie book with all kinds of cyberpunk shout-outs and it's told half before and half after the zombie apocalypse, from the point of view of a girl who has been turned into a weapon by her father in preparation for the coming plague. Also, seriously, FEED, by MT Anderson, though that was an LA Times notable book when it came out, so I don't know how "obscure" it is. But it's amazing. It's set in a very scary, very realistic near future in which everyone has the internet in their brains, and it shows how society and language and even thought can break down if that's the case. And finally, there's an adult novel by Shawn Klomparens called JESSICA Z that I really enjoyed. It's extremely subtle. It's set in our world, our time, except with terrorism being an everyday occurrence in America. Ooh, and Robin Wasserman's SKINNED series. It's about robots. And an oldie but a goodie: EVA, by Peter Dickinson, about a girl who gets "downloaded" into the body of a chimp. SKINNED and EVA are actually great books to read side by side.

Julie recommends:
THE SILENCED by James DeVita (from 2007) is the best I could recommend here. It is most likely not considered obscure but overall it was an amazing read to me. It is Marena’s journey at a time that the Zero Tolerance Party has complete control of their world which engages its citizens in heavy restrictions like no reading or writing. Not only did it help me investigate dystopian lit to read more but it also encouraged me in learning more about WWII and the events surrounding the symbolism and significance behind “The White Rose” during that time period in our world’s history. It helped me give me perspective into the very depths of identity and integrity as well.

Alyce recommends:
THE GATE TO WOMEN'S COUNTRY by Sheri S. Tepper because most people haven't heard of it, and I think it's an excellent book. It's not obvious that it's a dystopian book from the beginning, but sometimes I think those that surprise are the best (kind of like the ending of The Planet of the Apes movie).

Amy H. Sturgis recommends:
I think MARY'S COUNTRY by Harold Mead (1957) deserves to be much more widely read than it is. My understanding is that it came out too soon after both 1984 and LORD OF THE FLIES, and thus became characterized as a mixture of the two, although that's a gross oversimplification of this haunting and sensitive novel. This is the story of what happens to the isolated young people who were being groomed for leadership roles in a totalitarian regime, when their country is hit by the enemy's devastating biological weapons and the children are free to flee on their own. It is a chilling and beautiful story about what makes us human and what gives us hope.

Heather Trese recommends:
AFTER DACHAU by Daniel Quinn. It's an adult title, and so, so powerful. I didn't really know anything about it going into it, which really made my reading of it even more enjoyable because there's a twist and I was totally blind-sided when it happened.

Rosaline recommends:
The Y: THE LAST MAN graphic novel series is incredible, and I’d call it both post-apocalyptic and dystopian. One day, for no apparent reason, all the males in the world (human and animal variety) die at the exact same moment – except two, Yorick Brown and his monkey. It’s funny and cynical and fascinating and heartbreaking all at once.

Sya recommends:

SPARES by Michael Marshall Smith. I think that some people may shelve this with sci-fi but it has always seemed pretty dystopic to me - based in a world where people are cloned for spare body parts. I am also always amazed at how many people haven't read PD James THE CHILDREN OF MEN - particularly after the success of the movie a few years ago.

Steph Su recommends:
BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami. It's like the Rated R version of The Hunger Games. Terrifyingly visceral, incredible character development, only to have the characters killed as soon as we start to care for them. Yiiiikes!

Celia Larson recommends:
SHADE'S CHILDREN by Garth Nix. It was published back before dystopian lit hit big, and it's VERY good. Everything Nix writes is fantastic, really.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What are some other dystopian titles you'd recommend?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Spoilers)

And so we come to the end of the Hunger Games road. I am weighing in relatively late with my thoughts because it was a pain to get my hands on a copy here in Germany, but I finally got one (no thanks to amazon.de btw – fail!) and just finished reading a couple of hours ago.

My reviews never have spoilers in them, but I have to make an exception for MOCKINGJAY. If you read the first two books, my opinion is not going to keep you from reading it anyway, and if you haven’t read any of the series, well, no time like the present to get started!

So, ahem….MOCKINGJAY starts off with Katniss in District 13, which we find out went deep underground and because of its possession of nukes, was able to strike a deal with the capitol to remain off the map. President Coin wants to use Katniss as the face of the revolution, the Mockingjay. And Katniss is understandably reluctant at first. But it’s no big surprise when she agrees. But here’s the thing – I am not sure Katniss understood how much being the Mockingjay would ultimately diminish her. If you think of it in LORD OF THE RINGS/Frodo terms, Katniss carries the heaviest burden, is in fact key to bringing down the evil empire, but does it at great cost to herself. She may not sail off to the undying lands, but she is exiled back to district 12, broken in body and spirit.

At first, I questioned why Katniss wouldn’t keep fighting to take her rightful place as an architect of a new society. She’s known as “the girl on fire”, with an internal fire that’s kept her going through two Hunger Games and beyond. Why can’t she stay “Rock Star Katniss”? Doesn’t she realize that it’s better to burn out than to fade away? (I mean, seriously, aren’t they blasting Neil Young in Panem?). But beyond my Frodo comparison, I think it comes down to this: from the very first moment, Katniss was fighting for her sister more than herself. She wanted a world where Prim could grow up and be a doctor and be happy. Prim is the reason “Rock Star Katniss” existed, and though she was perfectly willing to go out in blaze of glory for Prim, when Prim died (by fire, ironically), Katniss’s fire died with it.

And that brings me to the Gale/Peeta debate. I’ve always been unabashedly #teampeeta, but have come to respect the arguments for #teamgale. I have even come to think that if Prim hadn’t have died, taking Katniss’ fire with her, Katniss might have chosen Gale – someone that could match her fire. But Prim did die, and a diminished Katniss realizes that what her battered spirit needs is healing. I’m not 100% happy with Peeta’s portrayal in book 3 (the hijacking thing was a bit much imho), and the ending/epilogue doesn’t quite sit right with me, but I can understand it. The fact that Katniss was able to be “talked into” having kids does not imply that Peeta browbeat her into it, but that they were able to heal each other enough that she could finally participate in the rebuilding again. And what says rebuilding better than having a couple of kids? (And, hey, at least “Paw Paw” Haymitch wasn’t giving Katniss’ kids piggy-back rides in the epilogue, right?)

Anyway, back to District 13 under President Coin. It’s a wild card through much of the novel. The rebels know they need 13’s help, but how much can they trust them? You see glimpses of President Coin’s ruthlessness throughout, and hints that once in power, she could be just as bad as President Snow. In CHAOS WALKING terms, she’s like Mistress Coyle to President Snow’s Major Prentiss. A lot of people accuse Katniss of being dim, but she was on to Coin, and did what she had to do to sideline her. If Katniss’ decision to say yes to the new Hunger Games surprises you, it shouldn’t. It was just her way of getting Coin to let down her guard. I thought it was a fitting reminder that just toppling one bad government does not automatically lead to a good government rising up in its place.

Again, like in the first two installments, Collins excels at world building. I could almost feel those slimy breakfast beets slithering down my throat. But I have to admit, after 2 novels full of them, I did get a bit tired of all the fancy traps and mutt-ations. It was like playing a third Hunger Games, but this time on a much larger scale and with a lot more players and victims. It was so pimped up in fact, that the last mission in the capitol goes by in a blur of ultra-violence. Frankly, it sucked that there was not even a pause to mourn Finnick – especially after we just celebrated his wedding with him. He needed to have a “Rue” moment. (And you know who especially needed a “Rue” moment?! PRIM!)

I’m definitely going to have to reread all three books carefully, but for now, I am giving MOCKINGJAY 4 Zombie Chickens (HG and CF both would get 5, if you’re wondering). It might just be that I am slightly disapointed right now because I overhyped this so much.  Time will tell!

What are your thoughts on Mockingjay?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review: First Light by Rebecca Stead

When Peter’s father takes him and his mother to Greenland on a scientific trip, Peter is excited to finally be a part of the adventure he’s heard about all his life. But this is not just Peter’s story – it is also Thea’s, a girl who lives in a dystopian society under the ice. And it’s also the story of how they meet.

This novel, a middle grade that Newberry Honor winner Rebecca Stead published in 2007, gets off to a slow start but really picks up once Peter stumbles upon a hidden path to Thea’s underground home. Of the threads, Thea’s is more interesting, and the novel might have benefited by sticking to one thread but fleshing it out. There are so many elements of her society that were mentioned but never explored in any depth – the matriarchy and the fact that fatherhood is kept secret, the “hunters” that the original settlers were fleeing, and the reason why every settler is given a special dog companion.

Otherwise, it’s well constructed, with sympathetic characters and a central mystery that is worth discovering the truth about.
2 Zombie Chickens – Entertaining but not essential

Find out more about the book at the official website. And read the first few chapters at the publisher's website.
See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Recap of the Dystopian YA panel at BEA

Three months ago during BEA, I attended a panel about dystopian YA literature. Four authors were on the panel, but only two of their books are being marketed as YA: Lesley Hauge’s NOMANSLAND (my review) and Ally Condie’s MATCHED (my review). The other two have written very adult books with young main characters: Sigrid’s Nunez’s SALVATION CITY (my review) and Adam Dunn’s RIVERS OF GOLD (not yet reviewed).

I took a few notes, which I will finally share with you now.

When asked why she writes dystopian lit for teens, Lesley Hauge answered that YA should cover the whole range of the human experience, including suffering. Her book should create a sense of unease and get teens thinking.

Ally Condie says she likes writing from the point of view of teens because they are more vulnerable yet can feel accountable and still have time to take action. She wants to offer hope in her writing and said, “if you want to feel hopeful, but also sad, buy my book!”

Sigrid Nunez started her book about the effects of a global flu pandemic in 2007, before the swine flu panic. She feels like we are living in a time of extremes where there is incredible tension and something to be afraid of in every sphere. Readers like to be scared, but they also want the sense that they could survive if the scenario happened to them.

Adam Dunn talked by far the most. His book is about taxi cabs in NYC and is very anti-government in its sentiments. He likes mixing teens and dystopia because youth implies motion and dystopia implies a downward spiral. He thinks the genre is so popular right now because we are living in a gloomy time. Another such time was 1979, and 1982 therefore rife with dystopian movies such as Mad Max and Blade Runner. “The pendulum has swung back.” Is not that interested in offering hope, and said, “You have survivors, but they aren’t necessarily winners.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Upcoming YA dystopian lit for 2011 and 2012

First half of 2011

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship—tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Razorbill. January 11,2011

Read the exciting first chapter at http://www.acrosstheuniversebook.com/

And don't forget to check out the books of the other debut authors in the League of Extraordinary Writers that I profiled earlier this month.

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano
The first in THE CHEMICAL GARDEN trilogy. Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

Simon & Schuster. March 22, 2011

Visit the author’s website at http://www.laurendestefano.com/

BUMPED by Megan McCafferety
Described in Publishers Weekly as “a sharply funny and provocative dystopian novel set in a world where only teens are able to have babies, and are contracted by adults to carry them to term.” A cross between HEATHERS and THE HANDMAID’S TALE. Harper Collins. April 26, 2011

Visit the author’s website at http://www.meganmccafferty.com/

DARK PARTIES by Sara Grant
About a country that generations ago closed its borders to people and ideas. No one knows what exists outside their protected society. Neva and her best friend secretly plot to force the government to open its borders. Anyone who threatens the government seems to disappear mysteriously. Neva receives a message from her grandma who vanished without a trace 10 years ago, inviting her to escape to the outside. Now she has a choice–stay and save her country or leave and save herself. Little, Brown. April 2011.

AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky
In the year 2060, everything is done digitally. Kids no longer go to schools. They stay home and take classes online. Adults work from home, too. Even dating is no longer done in person. Why walk on a real beach when you can stroll down a digitally remastered one instead? No bad weather, no seagulls, nothing real to ruin a perfectly fine time.

Though she's grown up in this digital world, something about being cut off from everyone doesn't sit right with seventeen-year-old Madeline. Her favorite activity--the only one she does off line--is soccer. She likes the physicality of it and the comradery with the other girls.

Then she meets Justin. He, too, prefers life off line. It's all he talks about. He even takes her out to a real coffee shop and an underground club. Maybe it's his attentiveness, or the physical closeness of actually being with someone, or just that he's very good looking, Madie is definitely drawn to him. But there's also something very aloof about him, like perhaps he's hiding something.

When Madie uncovers the truth, she's faced with the question: What's more important, fighting for what you believe in or love? Houghton Mifflin. May 23, 2011.

Sometime in 2011

A post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Balzer & Bray.

Why Diana loves Persuasion http://www.dianapeterfreund.com/why-i-love-persuasion/

Start of the BIRTHRIGHT trilogy. Set in a dystopian future where chocolate and caffeine are contraband while water and paper are carefully rationed, the series relates the ascension and ultimate downfall of a 16-year-old girl, the heir apparent to an important and dangerous New York City crime family. FSG.

ASHES by Ilsa Bick
Begins when an electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, killing the vast majority of the world population and zapping every electronic device. Everyone still alive has changed considerably -- some for the better (those who acquired a superhuman sense) while others for the worse (those who acquired a taste for human flesh). Egmont.

Pitched as THE ROAD meets 28 DAYS LATER, in which four teenagers must travel different roads to find safety and each other, after earthquakes trigger the emergence of murderous ‘Baggers’, ordinary people turned crazy killers, in a world descended into apocalyptic chaos. Simon & Schuster. Fall 2011.

 This is a dystopian fantasy about a society where strength and intelligence are rewarded in 13 year olds and creativity is punished by death. Alexander Stowe is an unwanted and is “purged” from his community. Simon & Schuster. Fall 2011.

Coming in 2012

Two hundred years from now, the great cities of the west coast of the United Americas are under water. Blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet – especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antigens that protect them from the plagues that ravage the rest of the world.

Sixteen year old Cassandra Mecredi might be aboriginal by blood, but without a totem animal, she cannot make sense of her visions or walk the paths of the spirit world. When her family is forced to leave their reservation, they flee east to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory free from the depredations of industry and sickness and under the control of the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors. There, Cassandra will become the apprentice to a wise woman, fall in love, and find her destiny when the creatures of spirit claim her as their own. For the spirit world is angry... and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument. Simon and Shuster.

Visit the author’s blog http://catknutsson.wordpress.com/  

CYBERNETIC by Laura Riken
About a 16-year-old girl who lives in a walled city surrounded by bloodthirsty beasts, and also threatened by rival armies of cybernetic soldiers who want to enslave humanity.

A trilogy pitched as "The Hunger Games" meets "The Bachelor," following 17-year-old America Singer, one of the eligible young women selected to compete to become the next queen, who finds herself falling in love despite only wanting to break her family out of the lower castes and leaving her boyfriend at home. 2012.

Set in a dystopian world with killer tornadoes, corporations that profit from them, and a group of teens at an elite science camp who risk everything to expose their society's dark secrets and find a way to stop the storms. Middle Grade. Walker Books. 2012.

THE WAY WE FALL by Megan Crewe
A triology in which a 16-year-old challenges her fears, finds a second chance at love, and fights to keep her family and friends safe as a deadly new virus devastates her island community. Disney-Hyperion. 2012

Which 2011 and 2012 dystopian books are you super excited about?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review: Solitary (Escape from Furnace Book 2) by Alexander Gordon Smith

Back in February, I reviewed Book 1 of this series, and though it squarely aimed at teen boys and horror fans (of which I am neither), I really liked the main character Alex (a bad boy and a bully, but not deserving of the fate worse than death that is furnace prison) and his quest to make an impossible prison break.

Book 2 starts up immediately where its predecessor left off - and if you don't want to be spoiled, better stop reading now.

Alex's plan did get him and his buddy Zee out of the main population, but the river they found leads down, and they are caught and thrown into solitary. Much of the book addresses the madness that sets in when you are stuck in small, claustrophic hole in the dark.  Since this is one of my worst nightmares, I really had to disassociate myself from the book in order to keep reading.  Alex once again comes up with a clever escape plan, but this time, it wasn't as fun to follow as the first time - maybe just because the creatures that inhabit the depths of the prison were just so distasteful.

Though I'd still recommend this installment to the aforementioned teen boys and horror fans, I think I've had quite enough, thanks.  I might read the end of the third book just to see how Alex is faring by then, but I just can't follow his journey anymore.

2 Zombie Chickens - Entertaining (for some at least) but not essential.

Series order:

LOCKDOWN (read my review)
SOLITARY (coming December 2010/US, already out/UK)
DEATH SENTENCE (coming June 2011/US, already out/UK)

Find out more about the series at the author's website.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Dystopian Reader Views - What would you miss the most?

A few months ago, I was watching a season one episode of the the TV series DOLLHOUSE (very dystopian by the way - check it out) in which we jump to a future date in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. The characters happen upon the dollhouse (which was designed as a self-contained building underground) and discover not only does everything work, there are even hot showers.  This is too much for one of the characters to resist and she indulges, with predictably dire consequences.

That of course got me thinking that if I were her, I probably would've done the same thing.  Because long, hot showers are something I'd miss very much if I lived in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic world (unless, of course, I lived in one where you still could take hot showers, but I digress...)

I asked my dystopian reader panel what things they'd miss the most.

Diana Peterfreund said
I think that depends on what kind of post-apocalyptic world you're talking about. If I lived in the world of UGLIES, I'd probably be a bubble head, so I wouldn't miss much. (Though if I lived in the world of EXTRAS, I'd probably miss any ability to maintain my privacy!) If I lived in THE ROAD, um, I'd miss food, sunlight, my home, you name it! In the world of the Hunger Games, I suppose it would depends if I lived in the Capitol or not (and general freedom, of course). In Farenheit, I'd miss BOOKS! And so on...

Swapna Krishna said
Blogging! and being able to cook meat without having to catch/kill/skin animals. That would really be a bummer.

@marie_linda said
Electricity. I don't think I can live without an ice-cold water and the air conditioning. Those two things are a must when you live in the Caribbean and the temperature sometimes can be 100 degrees.

Julie said
I would miss having my favorite things all around me. I would imagine that life would be very simple as in this example below from THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson:  "There is not much to clean. My room is still sparse. "It is life near the bone where it is the sweetest, " I say to the walls. I amuse myself with my cleverness. I run a cloth over my desk and chair and I am done." pg. 192

Jen Arnold said
I can’t say that I would miss safety or predictability, because a lot of dystopian lit has more ritual, safety, safeguards than our world does now. I would probably miss being able to read dystopian fiction in that oblivious, fantasy way that we all do now...I don’t know if this genre would be quite as enjoyable if one of these stories came true!

Anna Horner said
Easy access to food, my freedom, and books. I suppose when you're fighting to survive, there's not much free time for reading.

Heather Figearo said
Well, if I lived in the world that the characters of NEVER LET ME GO live in, I would probably miss all the freedoms big and small of a normal life. I would probably be trained to be docile and uncomplaining, but I think some part of me, like the main character, would miss those things deep inside and not be able to explain them.

Amy Riley said
Air conditioning. Clean water. Ice for my diet coke. Getting around in my car.

Emily Ellsworth said
Chocolate Chips (from LIFE AS WE KNEW IT). There is a very poignant scene where Miranda eats all the chocolate chips in the pantry just because she is so sick of rationing food. It was a real turning point for her character. I know I’d miss chocolate and probably sugar in general. Other things I’d miss include: soap, toothpaste, ice cream, toilet paper, and pencils.

Amy H. Sturgis said
I don't know if this counts as a little thing, but I'd miss most of all having my personal space. Whether privacy's gone because Big Brother is keeping me under surveillance (1984), or because the world is vastly overcrowded (MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM!), or because the audience is watching my life like a reality show (SURVIVING ANTARTICA: REALITY TV 2083), I would miss terribly the opportunity to be truly by myself.  Oh yes - and toilet paper, shampoo, and soap! (Susan Beth Pfeffer's novels make me want to hoard all those bathroom items in vast quantities.)

Heather Trese said
It's hard to say, because every post-apocalyptic world is different. If chocolate were taken away I'm pretty sure I'd be devastated. The books that are always scariest to me though are the ones that restrict feelings, thoughts, or emotions, etc. And, of course, I would absolutely hate censoring books of any kind (whether all books were wiped out or only certain ones.) But on the other end something I always thought would be kind of fun to have in my house was one of those things that pops out whatever you needed/wanted, like in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. To just be able to describe the event I was going to and have the perfect outfit come out of my wall? OK, maybe that's one part of a post-apocalyptic world I can live with.

So tell us, what would YOU miss the most?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Lena can’t wait to get the surgery, that at 18, will cure her of the disease that took her mother – the highly contagious delirium nervosa (or in layman’s terms: falling in love). Lena’s main concern is passing the exam that will determine her future status in society. But then she meets Alex and soon becomes “infected”.

Lauren Oliver skillfully introduces us to a society where people are either afraid of love or are numb to it. For the past 43 years, the government has stamped out “messy” emotion in favor of a more ordered existence. Most accept it, as having the surgery makes you immune to heartache and pain. But of course, there are those who resist. As an “uncured”, 17 year old Lena, needs to be protected from those resisters, and there are strict measures in place to ensure her protection – a curfew, raiding parties that look for offenders, unisex education and socialization.

Though it was a bit implausible to me that a society that abhors love would allow the family unit to remain intact, putting its most vulnerable citizens – those uncureds under 18 – at unnecessary risk (if they REALLY wanted them safe, they’d lock them up in unisex dorms until they got “cured” - although that still wouldn't keep everyone safe, obviously), the world-building suited the main plot brilliantly. Because, of course, for the story to work, Lena has meet an uncured guy to her liking (and Alex fits the bill) and have the opportunity to sneak out and spend time with him.

And DAMN, if I may say so, Lena’s scenes with Alex sizzle, making the novel soar to dizzying heights of emotion.

But it isn’t just romantic love that is so well explored here. Lena has a very close relationship with her best friend Hana that is heart-breakingly real, and we also see snippets of the happy familial love she shared with her mother.

The shock ending underlines and gives even more depth to the powerful themes of the necessity of love and the meaningless of life without it. I, for one, can’t wait to read the sequel.

DELIRIUM comes out February 1, 2011. You must read this book.  Find out more about it by reading my interview with Lauren that I posted earlier today.

5 Zombie Chickens – The Ultimate Dystopian Reading Experience

See index of all dystopian Reviews on Presenting Lenore

Author Interview: Lauren Oliver discusses Delirium

For my final author interview of Dystopian August, I have the very lovely Lauren Oliver on deck.  Even though DELIRIUM is not out until next year, I was able to snag an early copy at BEA and I loved it. Look for my review later today. I am also dying to read book 2 of this series, and of course that one is not due until 2012.    Now, let's welcome Lauren! (applause)

What is about the dystopian genre that drew you in and made you want to write a whole series? Any favorites or influences you’d like to share?

Well, utopias are no fun, are they? No, but seriously—I didn’t exactly set out to write a dystopia, but I have always liked to imagine alternate societies, and alternate ways and patterns of living. That’s part of the fun of being a writer! This concept—the idea of love as a disease—necessitated a kind of dystopia because it required me to build a mythos for the kind of social, political, and religious order that would enable this idea to take root. But I do love the classic dystopia’s: Brave New World, A Handmaid’s Tale, The Giver. I love worlds that are so different from our own, and yet so completely imagined they seem totally plausible.

So. I must say, your romance scenes are HOT! What’s your secret for writing such authentic and steamy love?
Hmmm. You’d have to ask my ex-boyfriends. ;)

DELIRUM is set in Portland, Maine and you even spent some time there while writing as research. What about Portland specifically spoke to you as a setting for this particular story?
That’s a great question, and honestly, it’s one I never really thought about. Portland just felt right, even though I hadn’t spent a tremendous amount of time there before writing Delirium. I think something spoke to me about the bay, and Portland’s proximity to the ocean; it is a place both bounded and unbounded, circumscribed by the water and by a series of off-shore islands, and yet very, very close to open ocean. I liked that as a metaphor for Lena’s growing ambivalence over the society in which she lives.

Do you know the song Resistance by Muse? I swear when I heard it, I thought it could totally be the theme song for DELIRIUM. Is it something you could picture Lena connecting with?
I had never heard of it before you interviewed me, but now I’m obsessed! I could definitely picture this being one of the forbidden songs Lena connects to; through much of the book, she hears nothing but “approved” (and boring) music, and one of her epiphanies about the resistance occurs when she hears real, live, unregulated music for the first time.

Because, my darling, as you should have learned from Delirium: If you’re not getting your heart broken, you’re not feeling enough. And if you’re not feeling enough, you’re not living enough. And if you’re not living enough…well, then you’re only waiting to die.

Oh, I learned that lesson well, Lauren.  Thanks for stopping by!

Find out more about Lauren and her books at her website.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Review: The Limit by Kristen Landon

13 year old Matt lives in a world where going over your family credit limit can have serious consequences, but Matt's family is not worried.  Their father has a great job, and the family spends and spends.  One day, on a shopping spree, Matt's mother is informed that she has gone over their limit, and soon the government authorities come pick up Matt to make him work off the family's debt.

This fast-paced middle grade novel has such an interesting premise, and addresses the problem of runaway spending that many consumers engage in well.  Matt's parents are portrayed as very, very silly.  They buy expensive items they don't need and never check their account balances even though they know that going over the limit could mean that their children are taken away from them.  They both have such a serious shopping addiction that they can't stop even after Matt is taken away.

Matt has other worries.  Once at the government workhouse, he is installed on the "top floor" a paradise with everything he wants as long as he does his (difficult) work and never leaves.  Matt is a math genius, so it's no ditch digging for him.  The villian here, Ms Smoot, has a honey voice and knows that the carrot motivates more than the stick.  Yet, Matt becomes suspicious when people start getting headaches and having seizures.  Is something sinister afoot?

You bet! And this is a fun ride to find out what.

My rating?  3 Zombie Chickens - Well worth reading.

THE LIMIT is available in hardcover on September 7, 2010. Find out more about it on the author's website

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay 13 District Blog Tour: District 10!

Welcome to District 10!  Even though Katniss didn't think much of our tributes dressed up as cows with flaming belts (she called them pathetic), we're still 100% behind Katniss, our symbol of hope.

Now if you know livestock farmers at all, you know that we all really enjoy putting together playlists. We love the Hunger Games Survival Mix Forever Young Adult put together for Katniss to prepare for the games. Yep, Another One Bites the Dust by Queen never fails to get us pumped up.  It makes a nice change to the cacophony of cowbells and rooster crowing.

In any case, I wanted to take it one step further and make individual playlists for each of the Hunger Games triology main characters.  These are songs that I either thought of when reading particular scenes featuring the character or that I think describes the character well.

As the symbol of the revolution, it is fitting that Katniss get some 'protest' songs.

1. Tori Amos "Iieee" 
We scream in cathedrals, why can't that be beautiful? Why does there gotta be a sacrifice?
This is a line that always goes through my head when I think of Katniss taking Prim's place.

2. Bat for Lashes "Glass"
Sew a cape of red and gold, Stifle up the beam, With the perfect armor, With the perfect dream, When two suns are shining, The battle becomes blinding.
Makes me think of Cinna dressing Katniss for the games.

3. Rage Against the Machine "Darkness"
We’ll strike a match and it’ll catch, And spread the insight we need, A tiny fire burning bright, Shedding light on the darkness of greed.
This is what Katniss is to our revolution - a tiny fire burning bright.

4. Muse "Unnatural Selection"
They'll laugh as they watch us fall, The lucky don't care at all, I'm hungry for some unrest, I want to push this beyond a peaceful protest, I wanna speak in a language that they'll understand.
Self explanatory, I think!

5. Hard-Fi "Stronger"
You dish it out, I'll take it in, I can only grow from the lies you spin, If you're not scared then you should be, Nothin' in the world will keep you from me.
All I can say is that President Snow better watch his back.

6. Placebo "Every You, Every Me"
Pucker up for heaven’s sake. There's never been so much at stake.
This is what I imagine Haymitch yelling at Katniss before the broth/cave scene in book 1.
Listen to Katniss' playlist

So Peeta, he's a particular favorite of mine, and a lot of how we know him is in his relationship with Katniss. And of course we know he's a great painter and bakes beautiful, tasty cakes.
1. Tori Amos "Baker, Baker"
Baker Baker baking a cake, Make me a day, Make me whole again, And I wonder what's in a day, What's in your cake this time?
This is probably something Katniss sings to Peeta often.

2. The Rentals "Sweetness & Tenderness"
I need to figure this out, And find where my place is, I don't mean to threaten anyone, No need to get so defensive, You say you're with me, I know you don't care.
Something Peeta probably sings to Katniss often.

3. Stars "Take Me to the Riot"
Let's do that, just feed me, I hate when I have to get to sleep, You despise me and I love you, It's not much but it's just enough to keep.
Yes, the broth/cave scene again, this time from Peeta's point of view.

4. Coldplay "Spies"
I awake to see that no one is free. We're all fugitives - look at the way we live. Down here, I cannot sleep from fear. no.
Peeta and his nightmares.  Yes, The Capitol is indeed spying on you.

5. Placebo "The Bitter End"
Reminds me that it's killing time, On this fateful day. See you at the bitter end.
Something Peeta might say to Katniss before going into the arena.

6. No Doubt "Running"
Running, running as fast as we can. I really hope we make it. Do you think we’ll make it? We’re running, keep holding my hand, so we don’t get separated.
Towards the end of the first games, this one was going through my head.
Listen to Peeta's playlist!

And then we've got Gale, Katniss' best friend, and the one she might have married had Prim not been chosen at the reaping. You'll probably notice by my song choice that I am not #teamgale.
1. Tori Amos "Toast"
Lately you've been on my mind,You showed me the ropes, Ropes to climb, Over mountains, And to pull myself, Out of a landslide.
Something Katniss might sing to Gale. After all, he's her rock - the one who helped teach her how to survive.

2. Bjork "Hunter"
I'm going hunting, I'm the hunter, I'm the hunter, I'm going hunting.
Couldn't resist!
3. Rilo Kiley "Dreamworld"
See, I'm a man with a plan to use my hands. I'm touching yours, you're the girl who wanted more.
Probably what Gale was thinking before *that kiss* and going off to his job at the coal mine.

4. The Cure "Letter for Elise"
It doesn't matter what you say, I just can't stay here every yesterday, like keep on acting out the same, the way we act out, every way to smile, forget, and make-believe we never needed, any more than this.
Gale's letter to Katniss.

5. The Decemberists "Crane Wife 1+2"
I am a poor man, I haven't wealth nor fame, I have my two hands, And a house to my name, And the winter's so, And the winter's so long.
Describes Gale well, I think.

6. Sea Wolf "Orion & Dog"
Orion said I’m just a humble hunter, the dog the only company I keep.
How I picture Gale's future. ;)

Listen to Gale's playlist

When I think of Haymitch, I can't help but think of a lot of drinking songs...Margaritaville, Whisky in the Jar, Red, Red Wine, and I'm sure a ton of country songs (but I don't listen to country when I can help it). But he's also quite sly...

1. Tori Amos "Concertina"
I know the truth lies in between the 1st and the 40th drink.
We're never quite sure what Haymitch is really up to.

2. The Doors "Whisky Bar"
Show me the way to the next whisky bar. Oh, don’t ask why. Oh, don’t ask why.
Anyone else think Haymitch is drinking to forget?

3. Weezer "Say It Ain't So"
Say it ain’t so, Your drug is a heart-breaker, Say it aint so, My love is a life-taker.
The classic alcoholic regret.

4. Bush "Machinehead"
Blood is like wine, Unconscious all the time, If I had it all again, I'd change it all.
Feeling a bit guilty about what happened to Maysilee at the 50th Hunger Games?

5. Morrisey "Our Frank"
The world may be ending, But look, I'm only human, So, give us a drink, And make it quick.
Ever the practical one, that Haymitch.

6. The Police "Wrapped Around Your Finger"
I will turn your face to alabaster, When you will find your servant is your master.
You tell 'em Haymitch!  This is such a song for the end of Catching Fire.

Listen to Haymitch's playlist

Yes, The Capitol gets a playlist too.  And by The Capitol, I mean more the general population of The Capitol.

1. Tori Amos "Yes, Anastasia"
We’ll see how brave you are, We’ll see how fast you’ll be running.
I always picture the people singing this to the tributes as they enter the arena every year. (And why yes, it does look like I found a way to work a Tori Amos song onto every playlist!)

2. The Killers "Human"
Are we human? Or are we dancer?
Seriously! How can you all sit back and enjoy watching kids battle to the death?!

3. Iggy Pop "TV Screen"
No one wants to give a damn, Or even hear a thought, They rush from one fad to the next, You talk and it has no effect.
Sounds like a good description of those frivolous capitol citizens.

4. Aqua "Barbie Girl"
I'm a barbie girl, in the barbie world, Life in plastic, it's fantastic! You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere, Imagination, life is your creation. Come on Barbie, let's go party!
Which brings me to the most frivolous, bubblehead song I can think of, for people whose biggest regret is having feathered costumes at their birthday party.

5. Bow Wow Wow "I Want Candy"
I want candy. I want candy.
This is the song that's running through my head during the banquet scenes, mainly because of the scene in the movie Marie Antoinette.

6. Company of Thieves "Oscar Wilde"
Porcelain teacups decorate, Tables and the conversation, Beauty pageants, all the time, Is running out, the time is running out.
I think the frivolous times of the capitol are about to come to an end.  What about you?

Listen to The Capitol's playlist

We're going to find out soon, y'all, because tomorrow is Mockingjay release day (FINALLY!)

I know a lot of you are going to release parties tonight (envious!), but please remember, DO NOT post spoilers until we all have a chance to read it. Since I'm in Germany at the moment, I don't know when I'll be able to get my hands on a copy. But, oh, if you happen to be in Berlin, Germany on the 28th, there's a special Mockingjay party from 12-2 pm at Storytime Books.

But now on to my epic giveaway.  You do need a place to play all these playlists I've prepared for you, and that's where this 8 GB iPod touch engraved with a Mockingjay logo comes in. That will be one lucky winner!

To enter to win this amazing prize (US only - provided by a publicity company on behalf of Scholastic), you must fill out this HUNGER GAMES iPOD TOUCH GIVEAWAY ENTRY FORM.

And if you want to read more things Hunger Games, be sure to check out the official Facebook page, and head over to the District 11 stop at Mundie Moms on Wednesday.  Also, if you love dystopian fiction, I am currently smack in the middle of a whole theme month celebrating dystopias. Check it out and join in the fun!

Special thanks go to Daniel Jennewein (for designing my graphics),  Steph Su (who will have more playlists on her blog this week), Kristen M, and Michelle F. for song suggestions, and Michelle Erin for the playlist links.

 Go ahead! Tell me in the comments which character specific songs you'd put on your Hunger Games playlist.  Got a song for President Snow? Or for Cinna? How about Rue?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dystopian August Week 3 Recap + News

What an exciting third week of Dystopian August! Here's a quick recap in case you missed any of it.

6 book reviews

The Unidentified by Rae Mariz gets 4 Zombie Chickens
For the Win by Cory Doctorow gets 4 Zombie Chickens
The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher gets 3 Zombie Chickens
Matched by Ally Condie gets 3 Zombie Chickens
The Gardener by SA Bodeen gets 3 Zombie Chickens
Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez gets 1 Zombie Chicken

1 author interview

Cameron Stracher discusses The Water Wars

1 preview post

Upcoming Dystopian Sequels

6 still open giveaways

Win one copy of Matched (open internationally)
Win one of two copies of The Water Wars (open internationally)
Win one copy of the The Unidentified
Win the first three books in Michael Grant's Gone Series
Win one of 3 copies of Ship Breaker

Win a 6 pack of dystopian books from MacMillan

2 installments of Dystopian Reader Views
Mockingjay Predictions
Which dystopian characters would you want on your team?
The coming week is FULL of highlights:

Tommorrow, the Mockingjay tour is coming here with the MOST amazing giveaway yet! Plus during the week I'll have an interview with Lauren Oliver about Delirium, a look at dystopian titles coming up in 2011 and 2012, more book reviews and giveaways, a look at more obscure dystopian titles, and my dystopian reader panel tells us what they'd miss if they were living in a dystopia.

Dystopian News

First of all, PLEASE don't go to GoodReads if you want to avoid Mockingjay spoilers.  I learned the hard way...and so did Carla.

Suzanne Collins answers 5 questions over at Scholastic.

Mrs. DeRaps has a round-up of some cool Mockingjay posts around the blogosphere

Amanda at the Zen Leaf is preparing for Mockingjay. I am in complete agreement on her reading of the Gale vs Peeta debate.

Sarah Enni talks about the (casting) Katniss problem.  I love the idea of Tania Raymonde (Alex from LOST) playing her.

How to create a dystopia over at The Spectacle.

Also at The Spectacle, Beth Revis discusses dystopias.

Book Review: Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez

Cole has been orphaned by a flu pandemic that has not only killed his parents but also large numbers of people worldwide, creating widespread panic and chaos. After he recovers from his own infection, Cole is taken in by an evangelical couple in Salvation City who have a starkly different worldview than what he grew up with.

I’ll come right out and say that this was nearly a DNF for me. At about 100 pages in, I just really wasn’t feeling it. The apocalyptic setting did not seem integral to the story, and I felt I had been drawn in on false pretences. It’s a like a regular novel dressed up in apocalyptic clothing. At the start of the story, Cole is already with his new family and we only see snatches of his life before and what happened during the pandemic in flashbacks.

The plot is spare since this is very much a character study of Cole, a character I never really warmed to. He’s a cold sort of kid, hates reading (and is actually proud of the fact he’s never read a whole book), and at first even welcomes the pandemic:

To Cole, it was pretty exciting, albeit in a sick-making way, like watching an ultra-realistic slasher flick, or going on a roller coaster when he was still young and dumb enough to think it was a death-defying thing to do. […] It always gave him some satisfaction, seeing grown-ups lose control.” p 52-53 ARC version, may not reflect final published version.

It is an interesting idea to take a closer look at how a community who believes in the biblical end times would react to living in a post-apocalyptic world. And there are very thought provoking passages throughout. I just wish Nunez had delved deeper into the more intriguing aspects of her creation, such as the “rapture children”, or provided new insights into the evangelical Christian psyche (she isn't one herself, by the way).

I did decide to finish because the reading guide promised some scandalous happenings towards the end, but what occurs is so minor and so unexplored by the community at large that it left me with more questions than answers. Though this wasn't the best book for me at this time, if you like in-depth character studies of semi-unlikeable characters, then give it a try!
My rating? 1 Zombie Chicken - for dystopian completists only.

SALVATION CITY comes out in hardcover on September 16th. And even though the main character is 13, this is very much an adult book (as in, not YA). Find out more about it at the author's website.  (By the way, the author herself calls this "a near apocalypse and a temporary dystopia" in the Q&A on her site, and says that she was more interested in exploring Cole's circumstances than the effect of the pandemic on the world at large. Funny, I am interested in the exact opposite.)

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Dystopian Reader Views - Kick A$$ Characters on your Side

A question I often ask myself when reading a dystopian or post apocalyptic novel is: would I survive?  I always think it would certainly help if I had some kick a$$ characters on my side.  Naturally, no single character has the universal skills it takes to survive the wide range of world ending scenarios authors have thought up over the years, so it is essential to pick a good team.

So here's who'd I pick:
Peeta from The Hunger Games just because I love him
Lena from Gone because she's a healer and you can always use that
Elspeth from Obernewtyn because she can farspeak (telepathy), beastspeak, and has the power of coercion
Tool from Shipbreaker as my muscle
Topher from Dollhouse as my computer genius

I asked my dystopian reader panel who'd they want on their team (up to 5 characters from the genre) if they had to face down a villainous dystopian society. 

Diana Peterfreund's Team:

I think it would depend on the nature of the villains. I don't know how much use someone like even Katniss Everdeen would be if my dystopian society were powered by evil master computers. I think then I'd rather have someone from Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, or Crake or, you know, Neo. But if it were a low-tech kind of society, someplace where I might be attacked by a zombie around any corner, Katniss and her fighting skills would be a huge asset.

 Swapna Krishna's Team:

Gale from The Hunger Games (because he could hunt so I didn't have to)
V from V for Vendetta (because he'd kill everyone)
Shogo from Battle Royale (because he's smart and I'd assume he knew what was going on since he did in the book),
The main character from Anthem by Ayn Rand (because he figured out how to invent a light bulb, and I figure that would be useful)
Mary from The Dead-Tossed Waves (because I'd need someone to talk to - NOT the whiny version from The Forest of Hands and Teeth)

Julie 's Team

Marena from The Silenced because she is clever and thoughtful. Often she makes rushed decisions and trusts too easily but that is what makes her an endearing character. I need someone that I could feel comfortable making mistakes around and then coming up with a solution to get out of a problem.
Tally and Zane from Uglies. Tally’s skills on a hooverboard and her exemplary courage even through her dreaded doubts pretty much say it all. Zane’s amazing endurance and classy characterization make him an unforgettable choice.
Thresh and Rue from The Hunger Games. It just seems like Thresh was a strong character that was misunderstood & underrated. Rue’s ability to make herself hidden, her ability to forage and last as long as she did is what I’d want on my team.

Jen Arnold's Team

Tally Youngblood from the Uglies series...need I say more? Tally is bad-ass. Everytime I’m on a snowboard I imagine I’m Tally on her way to the Smoke.
Snowball from Oryx and Crake. Such a resourceful beach dweller.
The little boy from The Road. Tough kid.

Michelle Millet's Team

Katniss from the Hunger Games cause the girl uses a bow with skill, can kill when she needs to and dang it, but she needs a good girlfriend.
Tom from Mortal Engines because he is intelligent and handy in a fight. Good qualities both.
The Dad from The Road because sometimes you need someone willing to sacrifice themselves for the group.
Sam from Gone: It'd be very handy to have someone with his supernatural powers floating around for a big battle.
Manchee from Chaos Walking because I'd need a loyal companion when things really started to get dark - and he'd provide humor, which is a must.
Michelle Franz' Team
Katniss from The Hunger Games. That girl is like a cat she's got so many lives, smart and strong to boot!
Harper Adams from Veracity. She's got the ability to read people's aura's (maybe even a bit of ESP), she's a government agent/spy, and has critical thinking skills like nobody's business.
Alex from Delirium because he's super swoon-worthy and what girl doesn't want a guy who does the types of things he does (which I won't spoil because the book isn't out yet) for her?
Angela Mann's Team
Katniss from The Hunger Games, because she is fierce, politically astute, does whatever is needed.
Thomas from The Maze Runner as he is wily and tenacious and knows more than he thinks, cares for those around him
Sya's Team
Todd and Viola from Chaos Walking - because they have totally got it down.
Peeta from The Hunger Games - because I like cake.
Ethan from The Adoration of Jenna Fox - because I like Walden.
Boy from The Road - because I like hope

Beth Revis's Team

Katniss, because she is awesome at surviving and will hopefully help me survive, too
Mary from Forest of Hands and Teeth because she's pretty smart at getting out of trouble
Tally from Uglies because she can get out of scrapes well
Captain Mal from Firefly because he has no trouble shooting people and is very hot naked
Cinna from Hunger Games because then he can dress me and I'll look pretty for Captain Mal...

Jennifer Reeder's Team

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games because she’s a survivalist who not only knows how to hunt but who survived two Hunger Games and inadvertently started a rebellion;
Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451 because he can wield a flamethrower and recite poetry;
Ender Wiggins from Ender’s Game because he is the king of strategy
Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go because he’s a talking dog, and who would suspect a talking dog?

Gail's Team

Katniss from Hunger Games that girl can kick some serious ass, so yeah I'd want her on my side.
Peeta from Hunger Games because not only can he kick butt when need be but he's also got a very valuable skill. he can cook...and food is as essential to survival as facing down villainous dystopians.
Tally Youngblood from Uglies the girl is smart and can think fast which is a valuable assesst when being hunted - be it by crazy power hunger adults or by the zombie horde.
Dr Eph Goodweather from The Strain because he's a doctor. He's an expert for the CDC and so knows all about illness and disease and patching people up. Which is always needed in a battle.
Mary from Forest of Hands and Teeth because when the going gets tough and you need a sacrifice I can totes pitch her to the hordes for that purpose. Does that make me mean and heartless? maybe....but man, that girl just annoys me. lol

Looks like that Katniss is spreading herself pretty thin!  So tell me, who would be on your team and why?  And which of my panel members picked the best team in your opinion?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review: The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen

Mason lives with his mother in the shadow of the successful biomedical corporation TroDyn. One day, when Mason visits his mother at her nursing home job, Mason inadvertently awakens a comatose girl his age who insists she has to get away from “The Gardener” and seems frightened of TroDyn. Mason goes on the run with her and tries to help her figure out her past, not suspecting her past has something to do with his own.

There, I just tried to write a summary that doesn’t ruin the whole tension of the first part of the novel, like the official summary text and even the tagline on the freaking front of the book does. DO NOT read the official summary people – you will enjoy this book much more if you follow this advice.

Moving on…I really enjoyed the Mason’s characterization. After being attacked by a dog when he was five, half of Mason’s face is scarred. He’s football player big – a strong, silent type with a hero complex. He’s protective of his mother and takes to the “girl” immediately – not just because she’s hot, but also because she needs his help and doesn’t shrink from his scars.

TroDyn is also an interesting place, and it’s fun to uncover piece by piece just how fanatical they are about protecting people from the end of the world. And while most of the people at TroDyn’s motivations are clear, I never got a good read on what was up with the person who emerges as the main villain. It didn’t help that this villain has a serious case of “bumbling villain” disease.

THE GARDENER is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

My rating: 3 Zombie Chickens – Well-worth reading (especially if you DO NOT read the official summary. You have been warned.)

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway: Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia lives in a society that decides everything for its citizens for the greatest good of them all – even who you marry. When Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander, she is thrilled. But when viewing her matching card, another face flashes on the screen – that of mysterious classmate Ky. This seeming glitch awakens an awareness of forbidden desires within Cassia, and for the first time she begins to question a society where the individual has no right to choose.

MATCHED is without a doubt a well constructed novel, hitting all the expected beats of a YA dystopian novel. And while there may be few surprises for avid readers of the genre, there are some genuine discussion-worthy developments.

The society is set up to look to its citizens like a utopia. Strict regulations nearly guarantee you’ll live the prescribed number of years until your “final banquet”. Everyone is given the exact number of calories needed to maintain a perfect, healthy weight. The culture has been pared down to the hundred “best” of everything (poems, songs, stories, paintings, etc) so that everyone can appreciate them to their fullest instead of being overwhelmed with too much. It’s a society that rewards perfect order, but that also banishes any sort of individuality or aberration.

Cassia has always been a dutiful citizen, but she also likes to be a little different. She’s proud that she was the only one who chose the green dress for her match banquet. She thrills to the fact that her grandfather entrusts her with a forbidden poem (Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night”) before his own “good night”. And when she learns she could never marry Ky because he’s not in the match pool, that makes her more determined to find moments to spend alone with him. But could it be that even Cassia’s small rebellions are orchestrated by her society? Is there a more sinister purpose behind their interest in Cassia?

I loved the world building here (which is why I just spent two paragraphs of my review on it). It’s logical, well-thought out, chilling and thought provoking. However, the rigid society setup does have its’ downside in that I never got to fully connect to Cassia emotionally, and I was never convinced she had genuine feelings for either Xander or Ky. I felt very much like I was being TOLD how to feel, instead of actually feeling it (which, you might argue, based on the ending, is exactly what Condie was going for…but I digress).

I enjoyed this installment, but really hope that the emotional impact quotient is raised in book two.

My rating? My head gives this 4 Zombie Chickens, but my heart gives it only 3. And in that battle, when it comes to reading, my heart always wins.

Still, I can highly recommend it as kind of a must-read. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but there you go! And because I want you to read it, and because it doesn’t come out until November 30, 2010, I am giving away my extra ARC to one lucky reader anywhere in the world. Just leave a comment telling me what poem you’d make sure got into the Hundred Poems if you were a creator of this society (or if you can’t think of a poem, you can also suggest a painting or a song). This contest will remain open until August 31st at 11:59 CST and is open internationally.

Find out more about the book on the author’s website.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Author Interview and Giveaway: Cameron Stracher discusses The Water Wars

Earlier, I reviewed THE WATER WARS, a book I really enjoyed reading (my review). I am excited to welcome Author Cameron Stracher to Dystopian August today!

Reading THE WATER WARS made me constantly want to drink water. What’s the thirstiest you’ve ever been in your life?
I run a lot, so I'm often very thirsty. If I'm in the suburbs, I'll look for people who are watering their lawns, and stop to drink from their sprinklers. The last couple weeks, however, it's been incredibly hot in New York, and there are water restrictions, and most people don't water their lawn at the time I go running. I ran 8 miles the other day when it was 103 degrees and humid. I don't know if it was the thirstiest I've ever been, but it was close. I must have drunk about two gallons of water when I finally got home.

A war over water isn’t so farfetched, especially when you look at what is going on in North/East Africa right now with Egypt having rights to 90% of the water from the Nile even though the sources are in other countries that really need it too. If a water war were to break out in North America, where would the best place be to live? Should we all be moving to Canada now?
I'll tell you where we shouldn't live: California. Las Vegas, New Mexico, Florida, are close seconds. Most of our fastest growing cities have very little fresh water, and have to import it through upstream reservoirs and aqueducts. It's a bad way to live because those places are imperiled if there are water shortages, and it's destructive of the environment to transport water from long distances. Rather than moving somewhere else, however, I think we should all be conscious of the way we live, our use of water, and how we can be better at conserving. If we live in a desert climate like Nevada or New Mexico, we shouldn't be building golf courses.

The story is told in first person by teenage girl Vera. Was it difficult for you to find the voice of a teen girl? Was it always meant to be told from her perspective?
Actually, it wasn't. I don't know why. I always saw the book as Vera's narrative. I think I was influenced by To Kill a Mockingbird, which is told from Scout's perspective. In an earlier draft, Vera was a couple years younger, but my editor suggested she should be older, and I think that works better.

What is some of your favorite dystopian lit? Would you say any of it influenced your writing at all?
Two books inspired me to write The Water Wars. One was Feed, by MT Anderson, and the other was The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, which is not really dystopian lit. But both books showed me the range of imagination and literary skill that was possible in this genre. Once I started writing, I read a lot more dystopian lit, and my favorites are The Hunger Games (of course), The Pretties/Uglies, and The Road. I've also always been a big fan of dystopian movies like Blade Runner, The Matrix, Mad Max, etc.

You work as a lawyer specializing in First Amendment litigation. Do you have any interesting anecdotes to share?
I represent publications like Star magazine and television shows like Dog the Bounty Hunter. I'd love to tell you some stories, but my clients would kill me, and then I couldn't write a sequel. :)

Thanks Cameron!  Nice to hear there's a possible sequel in the works.
Since I know it's going to be hard for everyone to wait for January 2011 to read this fun adventure story, I am happy to report that Sourcebooks Fire is sponsoring a giveaway of 2 ARCs!  Just tell me about a time when you were really thristy in the comments and you're entered.  This one is open internationally and will remain open until August 31st at 11:59 pm CST.
Find out more about Sourcebooks Fire at the Teen Fire ning.
Photo credit for author photo: Simon Stracher