Tag Archives: Dystopia

Station Eleven

Title: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Publisher: Knopf, September 2014

Summary/Review: The Georgia Flu has swept the globe, wiping out 99% of the world’s population. With them went everything that had been taken for granted: technology, medicine, and electricity to name a few. Those who survived are forced into an uncertain future fraught with dangers.

Among the survivors is Jeevan Chaudhary. On the very eve of the pandemic, Jeevan was in the audience when famous actor Arthur Leander was struck down on stage. After aiding in the attempt to save the actor, Jeevan learns of the impending disaster from a doctor friend at the hospital.  With this advance notice, he is able to stock up supplies and attempt to wait out the disaster holed up in an apartment with his brother. He could never have imagined what would be left of the world when he emerged. Kirsten Raymonde, a child actress standing off stage when Arthur is struck, is barely 8 years old when the flu hits and life as she knows it is changed forever. Left to wander the landscape with her older brother, Kirsten learns quickly what it takes to survive.

Fast forward 20 years and Kirsten is now part of the Travelling Symphony, a troupe that travels from one community to the next playing music and performing Shakespeare. Dangers have always lurked in the wasteland that they travel, but now a new and greater threat has emerged in the form of the Prophet. Again, life as she knows it is threatened and Kirsten will do whatever it takes to keep her new “family” from harm.

Yes, another dystopic novel but the characters, not the chaos surrounding them, are the focus of this story. I love Emily’s writing. She has the ability to draw you in so completely that you are right there, watching events play out before you. With an uncanny ability to tie everything together without forsaking her beautiful writing, she is an author who should not be missed.

Who will like this book? Someone who is interested in dystopias but is sick of the same old thing.  Someone who is looking for a character-driven story.

If you like this, try this: Mandel has also written “Last Night in Montreal” and “Lola        Quartet”, so if you liked her writing there is more to try.  If you’re interested in dystopic fiction, there are plenty of options:  try “Handmaid’s Tale”, a classic by Margaret Atwood, which is more based on societal collapse than an outbreak.  Other titles include “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” as YA crossovers, or “1984”.  If you’re interested in dystopia after an outbreak or health issue, try “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, or “World War Z” by Max Brooks.

Recommended by:  Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

This one was reviewed with an ARC – an advanced reader.  What does this mean?  It means that since it’s not published yet, we can’t buy it for the library quite yet.  But be on the lookout!

 

 

The Circle

[Cover]

Title: The Circle 

Author: Dave Eggers 

Publisher: Alfred A Knopf 

Summary/Review: Dave Eggers’ book The Circle has been labeled everything from heavy handed to visionary and stunning. Even though I did want to withdraw into a world of luddites for a short time after I finished the book, I prefer to think there are enough people in the world not quite as naïve and lacking in self-confidence as Mae, the protagonist, to prevent this kind of dystopian hell from evolving.

Mae Holland is thrilled to be working for The Circle, the world’s most powerful and all-encompassing Internet company. She thrives in a corporate culture where your worth is measured by your number of posts and zings and responses to the post and zings of others. And she begins to rise steadily through the ranks.

The Circle is all about transparency. The products they develop, from small cameras which can be placed anywhere to chips to install in the bones of your children to make them easy to track in case of abduction are all about helping you to find peace of mind through transparency. After all, who doesn’t want to keep their children safe? Who doesn’t want to plant small cameras around the home of their elderly parents to check in and make sure they haven’t fallen and hurt themselves? To not share, to keep anything secret, is considered part of an aberrant behavior system. Everyone has an obligation to share what they see and know, and everyone has a right to know everything they can. To this end Mae, now the public face of The Circle, becomes transparent. She’s equipped with a camera the size of a locket to hang around her neck and a wrist bracelet with a screen where she could see exactly what her watchers were seeing and also keep track of her number of watchers. Her job is to provide an open window into the daily life of The Circle.

It’s heartening to see that not everyone in Mae’s life buys into The Circle’s philosophy where the concept of transparency seems to spill over into gross violation of privacy and your life is given validation by the number of smiley faces or thumbs up you receive from virtual strangers. Her former boyfriend Mercer bluntly sums up her new life: ” You sit at a desk twelve hours a day and have nothing to show for it except some numbers that won’t exist or be remembered in a week…you think that sitting at your desk, frowning and smiling somehow makes you think you’re actually living some fascinating life…Do you realize how incredibly boring you’ve become?” But of course she doesn’t realize and things in the world of The Circle go from bad to worse.

One of the true horrors to contemplate in Eggers’ book is a world full of people whose lives are so without purpose that they would invest any amount of time in following someone with a camera slung around their neck as they go about their daily life. How much of a pathetic loser do you have to be to stop investing in your own daily life in favor of vicariously living through someone else?

Who Will Like This Book:  Anyone who enjoys visiting a dystopian world but then closing the book and not actually having to live in it!

If you like this, try thisSuper Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart ; Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Or, check out the Library’s  database “NoveList” for even more Read-alikes!

Recommended by: Sue D’Numb, Librarian

If this looks like one you’d like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!

Lexicon

[Cover]

Title:   Lexicon

Author:  Max Barry

Publisher:  Penguin Press, 2013

Summary/Review: “Sticks and Stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” is basically a big, fat lie in the world of Max Barry’s Lexicon.    If a Poet tells you to go shoot yourself, you will.

Emily Ruff, a homeless teenager making money by hustling tourists, is one of the special few recruited to attend a very exclusive school where the students are taught to use words to manipulate the minds of others.  The best will graduate and become Poets.   Emily is already adept at the power of persuasion, a skill she’s had to develop to survive life on the street.  She is, however, lacking in discipline, wary of authority and absolutely ruthless in doing whatever it takes to survive.  Not surprisingly, Emily is tossed out of school but not before learning that everyone has a specific personality type and once you learn what that is you can control them with certain words.  And there are some words that are very, very powerful.

Wil Parke is the exception to the rule.  He is (almost) completely immune to manipulation by a Poet. Wil’s world has become a waking nightmare.  Strange men want information from him that he doesn’t have and they aren’t shy about hurting him to get it. He has vague memories of a happy life but can’t quite recapture them as he’s too occupied with not getting killed.

Will and Emily’s stories play out against a background of potential Armageddon.  An ancient symbol with the power to destroy has surfaced and the race is on to possess it.

Who will like this book: Readers who enjoy a fast paced science fiction thriller that keeps you guessing about who the real “bad guy” is until the very end.

If you like this, try this: Lexicon has been compared to The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman;  NOS4A2  by Joe Hill and  The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Recommended by: Sue D’num, Technical Services

If you think this could be your next read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check availability and/or place a hold

 

Watchmen

Title: Watchmen

Author: Alan Moore

Illustrator: Dave Gibbons

Publisher: DC Comics, April 1995

Summary: After a summer of blockbuster movies, you might just be sick of superheroes. But soon (pending some legal wrangling) the greatest graphic novel ever is coming to the big screen: Watchmen, by legendary scribe Alan Moore (responsible for such classics as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta.) It is the story of a group of superheroes undone by their all-too-human frailties. Set in the mid-80s, a killer is stalking the former ‘masks,’ who have either retired or been driven underground by anti-vigilante legislation, as the world moves closer and closer to nuclear conflict.

This is a thoroughly post-modern take on heroes, and while characters like The Comedian, Nite Owl, Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan might not be as familiar as Batman and Wolverine, their stories are just as unforgettable. If you think you’re too grown-up for comics, read Watchmen. This is a true masterwork that explodes any expectations you might have for the flying and tights genre, named an essential book by Entertainment Weekly and Time magazines. Read it before the movie comes out!

Who will like this book?: Superhero fans who have read it all. People who like stories that expose the humanity, for better or worse, of heroic figures.

If you like this, try this: Anything by Alan Moore, especially V for Vendetta and From Hell. 300 by Frank Miller.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Broken Angel

TitleBroken Angel

Author:  Sigmund Brouwer

Summary: Set in a Christian dystopia, in the not-so-far-off future, Broken Angel is the story of religious fundamentalism gone horribly wrong. Caitlin has grown up in Appalachia, an independent country within the United States run by fanatics who have distorted Christianity. Punishments for crimes in Appalachia (including the heinous crime of reading and teaching others to read) range from forced labor to death by stoning. No wonder there is secret network of people, known as the Clan, who help people escape this hell hole. Oops-that probably would have gotten me 5 years of hard labor in the factory.

As Caitlin reaches puberty, her father plans for her escape to the Outside. You see, Caitlin was born with a deformity that they have been able to hide up until now. If this deformity is discovered, she will certainly be put to death. Since everyone’s movements in Appalachia are monitored by the government, escaping is never easy. Caitlin is forced to flee on her own as her father tries to draw the bounty hunters away from her tracks, but she eventually meets up with two other fugitives. Together, they must help each other survive while keeping ahead of their pursuers. Will all three of them make it? What really happened to her father when the bounty hunter caught up to him? Is everyone in Appalachia what they appear to be? What is this mysterious deformity of Caitlin’s? Brouwer does a great job of keeping this a fast paced story with intriguing characters and plot twists.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Feed

Title: Feed

Author: M.T. Anderson

Summary: Imagine having the Internet in your head. In Feed, a dystopian novel set in a not-too-distant future, Titus has grown up with the feed: a computer chip installed at birth that connects him, and everyone else, to the Feednet. Instant messaging, television, telephone, even shopping (complete with pop-up ads) all hard-wired to his brain.  Life revolves around the feed until Titus meets Violet, a girl who prefers to think for herself. When Violet begins to  question this new society and fight the feed – no matter what the cost, Titus must make a decision: Stand by Violet, or give in to the feed.

This book presents an America taken over by consumerism and technology about to implode on itself. That it is entirely plausible makes this novel even more timely and frightening. However, it retains a sense of humor, and like the best satire, will leave the reader thinking about the book long after the last page is turned.

Who will like this book: Sci-Fi fans, technophobes and IM-addicts

If you like this, try: Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini, Jennifer Government by Max Barry

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian