Tag Archives: dystopian

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker CoverThe blood bond was nothing. It was the people that mattered. If they covered your back, and you covered theirs, then maybe that was worth calling family. Everything else was just so much smoke and lies. P. 274

I have finally begun to go through all the YA books I bought last year that have been sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently for me to read them. After finishing up my last paper of the semester, I wanted to read something COMPLETELY different than the two novels I researched and wrote on. I thought Ship Breaker would be a good choice, and it turns out I was right! Bacigalupi certainly earned those two prestigious stickers on the cover of this book. I can see the appeal for both the Printz and the National Book Award (of which this novel was a finalist).

Nailer and Pima are infectiously likeable, multi-dimensional characters. They have both grown up in the bleakest of places: Bright Sands Beach, the shipyard. Nailer is a ship breaker on light crew–he scurries through big, landed, oil tankers taking copper, wiring, and whatever other light materials he can scavenge. Nailer and Pima are on the same crew–all crews swear a blood oath to protect one another. All of Nailer’s former knowledge and assumptions about blood bonds, family, even genetic destiny are challenged when he meets Lucky Girl–a “swank” from Boston who survived a “city killer” hurricane and is faced with the impossible choice of stealing her jewels, worth more than what he’d make in a lifetime of ship breaking (enough to escape his terrible father) or saving her life, which could be the scavenge of a century…if she’s not lying about who she is. Ship Breaker is an incredibly sophisticated look at our world, what our world could be in the midst of the destructive effects of climate change. It’s not your average YA dystopia or science fiction novel. It’s grimy, gritty, real, but also incredibly enjoyable to read. In fact, I couldn’t stop reading this once I’d started–I HAD to finish it in one night. I recommend Ship Breaker to those who are looking to read something a little different this summer. It would also make for a good companion book to read before watching Mad Max: Fury Road coming out soon!!!!

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Divergent + Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Beatrice Prior lives in a futuristic, post-war world of factions. Factions are groups of like-minded people that take care of different functions within their community. Amity are farmers, the artists, the peacemakers. Dauntless are the faction of the brave—those who are the police, the warriors, the guardians. Erudite create new technologies and medicines: they are scientists, teachers, and doctors. There is also Candor: faction of the unflinchingly honest, the lawyers and policy-makers. That leaves Abnegation, the faction Beatrice was raised in. They are the selfless, those who run the government and make sure that even the factionless are taken care of. Beatrice longs to escape her parents’ world of gray and selfless caregiving. She longs to be free, but there’s just one hitch in the plan—her abnormal aptitude test results. In Beatrice’s world, she has the choice to pick any of the factions she wants, but will her choice bring her the freedom that she longs for?

I found Divergent, the first book in the series, to be fast-paced and action-packed, much like its accompanying movie. It was a fun read that kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting more. I liked Tris and Four. They were the most well developed characters. Some of the humor in the writing falls kind of flat, but overall I still found Tris and her Dauntless crew to be enjoyable. The world of the faction system became much more fascinating to me once I found out that Veronica Roth originally intended this world to be a Utopia, rather than a dystopian world. I have to agree with her, no human being can really imagine the perfect world. What is paradise for one person is absolute hell for another. I also appreciated Tris’s constant inner struggle with leaving behind Abnegation. This struggle is known to those of us who have grown up and grown just a bit farther away from the teachings and philosophies and ideas we were taught in the environment we grew up in. However, I also like that Tris continues to remember her Abnegation beliefs about the world and fits them into her new way of life.

divergentmeme

I did not enjoy Insurgent as much as I did the first book in the series. It doesn’t really pick up until about halfway through the book. Tris’s struggle with her loss was very well drawn, but as it usually goes in a dystopian novel—there was a bit too much fighting and sometimes not enough explanation or description. The writing also didn’t feel as tight. However, there were a few really great scenes (the scene between Tobias and Marcus in the Candor cafeteria was very…interesting) and, of course, a cliffhanger ending that makes me itch to read the third (though it will be awhile before I do).

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written a post, but that is because I have been busy finishing up my Master’s degree! I can’t wait to graduate not this weekend, but the next. I will be sporting my Information Science lemon and burnt orange regalia. Hook ‘Em!

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May 6, 2014 · 1:52 pm

Two Epic Heroines and the Ethics of Care

The Hunger Games trilogy is a fantastic ride, filled with
heartfelt emotion and heart-pumping excitement, but it’s also
a journey of moral development. Along with Katniss, we grow
into a deeper understanding of the complexity of morality and
moral reasoning. Experiencing Katniss’s trials, we come to
recognize that sometimes the answers to ethical questions are
more complicated than the one-size-fits-all answers offered by
the impartial morality of the justice perspective. Above all, we
must follow Katniss’s example of cherishing our memories of
natural caring and letting them instill in us the ideal of ethical
caring. In that way, we prepare ourselves to answer the cry of
a world that’s hungry for people who care.

Averill, Lindsey Issow.“Sometimes the World Is Hungry for People Who Care: Katniss and the Feminist Care Ethic.” The Hunger Games and Philosophy. Ed. Dunn, George A. and Nicolas Michaud. 175-6.
Hunger Games Philosophy
In addition to having read this chapter in The Hunger Games and Philosophy, which discusses Katniss and the ethics of care, I also recently applied the ethics of care to Daenerys Targaryen of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Because both series are wonderful, and Katniss and Daenerys are some of my favorite fictional heroines, I thought I would take some time to discuss my thoughts on them here–in relation to the ethics of care.
What is it about Katniss and Dany that make them both such marvelous heroines? My theory is that one of the reasons why readers find these ladies irresistible not to root for, is because they are deeply caring, humanistic characters who adhere to the ethics of care.
 
katniss
Yes, Katniss may be a bit rough around the edges and have a difficult time expressing her emotions and understanding her own feelings. Yes, Daenerys might occasionally breathe fire. But at their core, they truly care about the people that inhabit their world, most especially the people they consider their family. Averill argues that Katniss moves from the act of natural caring (caring for our family and people who are very close to us) to ethical caring, which is applying that natural care to people who are perhaps tangential in our lives, people on the periphery, or people who are suffering that we have never met before. It is very obvious that Dany makes this sort of progress as well. She begins not just to care for her family (her dragons and her khalasar), but also for the Unsullied soldiers who follow her, and ultimately for the masses of slaves that she frees.
dany
Katniss and Dany are both protectors–both mothers, in their own way. Katniss continually grows to extend her care to all the people of Panem–even people of the Capitol (once considered wasteful, frivolous, and overly privelaged) as Dany extends her care to all slaves (even though a slave women was the original cause of losing her husband and unborn child). Both Katniss and Dany are fierce in their caring–and we love them all the more for being so. There is a lot more the ethics of care that I’m not covering here.
For more reading on the ethics of care, see the very helpful article below:

Held, V. (2008). Gender identity and the ethics of care in globalized society. In R. Whisnant & P. DesAutels (Eds.), Global Feminist Ethics (pp. 43-57). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Also see my thoughts on Daenerys’ care ethics and the privacy of minors (for my Information Ethics course last semester):

Daenerys and the Ethics of Care

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January 28, 2014 · 10:31 pm

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Reboot by Amy Tintera (a Texas native!) is the story of Wren, a girl who was dead for so long (178 minutes) after being shot that they thought she wouldn’t “reboot.” Wren’s world is a horrifying post-apocalyptic Texas where those who catch a certain virus will just “reboot” back to life once they’ve died. However, they don’t just come back to life perfectly restored–Reboots have lost some of their humanity in the process, and the longer a Reboot is dead, the less human they seem when they wake up. A less than friendly corporation called HARC takes these children who have “rebooted” and trains them to be soldiers, as most of society believes Reboots to be heartless monsters. Wren’s virtually emotionless existence is challenged, however, by her new trainee Callum: a seemingly hopeless case who was only dead for 22 minutes.

I found Reboot to have an interesting idea of a future world where humans try to use zombies as their soldiers. I also found it interesting that the setting was a futuristic Texas. Indeed, it made me wonder where the rest of the United States went to–as Texas is the only place Wren seems to be aware of. Perhaps more information will be delivered to us in the sequels. I enjoyed Reboot and think this story would be appealing on many different levels: there’s romance, humor, zombies, action, and dystopia (the latest fad in YA Lit). However, I have to say that I think the first person narrator here might have been a mistake. So many YA novels use the first person–I think it is really becoming a trope of the genre. However, for a character such as Wren–who is not fully human–I think perhaps close third person might have worked better, especially when she subtly begins remembering more of her past and feeling more human as she is falling in love.

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September 5, 2013 · 5:05 pm

Legend by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu

Day is the street name of a criminal the futuristic and dystopic government of the Republic desperately wants to catch. Ever since he was ten and “failed” his Trial, Day has been on the run, scouring the streets and garbage bins of Los Angeles to find and do whatever he can to protect his family from afar. However, this goes awry when his little brother Eden is diagnosed with a new strain of the plague. On the other end of the spectrum, spoiled and pampered prodigy June is labeled a troublemaker at her college. She wants to go on missions with her brother and fight for the Republic, even if her brother thinks she is still too young.
Although they are enemies and couldn’t be more different, June and Day will become unlikely allies and discover they have more in common than they ever could have thought.

Legend is fast-paced with an interesting premise (I particularly like that the author drew inspiration for the story from the central conflict in Les Miserables) and a truly dystopian world. However, I felt that something was lost by having the characters switch back and forth in their points of view. I felt that there was so much potential in the story–potential that wasn’t fully explored. I know that this is only to be the first in a series, but this is the primary thing which often bothers me about YA science fiction and fantasy series: I often feel that the story is incomplete. Yes, I realize that there needs to be loose ends for the story to continue. However, to me it is not a strong novel if the story is not complete.
But for a compelling futuristic world and a good balance between fast-paced action and slower, emotional scenes, I will have to say that I would recommend this book to someone who enjoys the dystopian genre (specifically if you enjoyed The Hunger Games series or Across the Universe by Beth Revis).

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February 19, 2013 · 11:52 pm