Unwind

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Unwind

By:  Neal Shusterman
Published:  2009
# of pages:  353
Series:  Unwind (#1)
Challenges:  A to Z

Quote:  “Please what? the teacher thinks. Please break the law? Please put myself and the school at risk? But, no, that’s not it at all. What he’s really saying is: Please be a human being. With a life so full of rules and regiments, it’s so easy to forget that’s what they are. She knows—she sees—how often compassion takes a back seat to expediency.”

Goodreads description: 

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them.
Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

My opinion:  I don’t even know where to begin with this book review.  Let me start by saying bear with me and also, while your opinion is probably fine to leave in comments, no arguments or rudeness will be allowed.

I didn’t know this book was going to be so thought provoking.  The story follows three teenagers as they runaway from their homes, family, and friends in order to stay alive.  Connor’s parents decided to unwind (his body taken apart and given to people in need of a donor part without dying) him because of the problems and embarrassment he causes them.  The decision was made to unwind Risa because the government doesn’t have enough money to help all of the orphans in state care.  Lev’s parents made the choice to unwind him before they even conceived him because their religion smiles upon “tithing.”

At first I was incredulous about a system like this ever being a reality.  But the more I read the more I saw a connection between unwinding and abortion.  And maybe there was a time people would have been horrified to think of abortion clinics and the fact that abortion has become something fairly commonplace, not just something done in extreme situations.

My political leanings are fairly liberal when it comes to abortion, but it’s never a choice I’d personally make after having been pregnant.  I don’t feel overly strong about the issue, but honestly I don’t think about it too much.  This book made me think of it though.  And I just wonder……… the kids in the book were so adamant that their bodies belonged to themselves and that they deserved to live.  Their parents shouldn’t make that choice for them, the government shouldn’t make that choice, religion shouldn’t make that choice.  And while of course in our present time we can say that women should have a choice with their bodies and their lives….. but there are lives inside them that would eventually be walking, talking, thinking humans…..  Do they (the living matter/cells/embryo/baby inside the women) have the right to live and be who they can be no matter what other people do or think or say?

I’m not tying the situation in the book with abortion solely on my own.  The backstory of the book discusses a war that took place that revolved around abortion.  Unwinding takes the place of abortion and is justified because it technically isn’t killing the person’s body, they stay alive even while being dismembered.  However, they don’t feel pain, so once again, it’s justified.

Which also made me think a lot about war.  Before reading this book, I was thinking about the traditional patriarchal societies throughout history and how perhaps that’s why we’ve had as much war as we’ve experience throughout history.  I wondered how a matriarchal society would have handled conflict throughout the ages.  And I wondered if having more compromising leaders would have changed conflicts and perhaps led to other outcomes other than physical violence.  But this book explores the idea that there was a compromise that ended a war, but perhaps it was still just as violent.  I just thought it was interesting to read about a nationwide conflict resolution after thinking so much about it.

Overall, the book was an interesting read with unique characters and situations.  It was a little disturbing at times as you can imagine, but it’s not terribly graphic.  I’d recommend this to older teens and adults who enjoy YA fiction/sci-fi.  There’s more books in the series, but I think I’m happy with leaving it off with the first book.  It was a satisfying ending and I don’t feel overly curious to know what happens next.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Good pacing, interesting characters, unique story, a little disturbing at times, skipped over some development later in the novel.

Strain of Resistance

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Strain of Resistance

By:  Michelle Bryan
Published:  2016
# of pages:  314
Series:  Strain of Resistance (#1)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

My name is Bixby. I was 12 years old when the world ended. A mysterious mist had blanketed our world, turning most of the population into blood-sucking predators. The few of us left uninfected…well, we were the prey. Vanquished to the bottom of the food chain.

For eight years we’ve fought this alien war. Barely surviving. Not knowing which day would be our last. But now we face a new threat. The parasite that took us down is evolving. Becoming smarter. Stronger. Deadlier.

The infected took everything from me. My home. My family. The man that I loved. No more.

This is the story of our resistance.

My opinion:  I love a good “zombie” apocalypse novel.  This one has been on my TBR list for a couple of years.  I saw that it was 99 cents on the Kindle so I went ahead and bought it to read.  I don’t think the series is complete.  There are two books  so far and a 0.5 book, which I’m guessing is a prequel to Strain of Resistance.

The story follows Bixby, a young woman whose life has been shaped by the arrival of an alien species that takes over the bodies of millions of people on Earth.  Those bodies turn into predators that prey on the uninfected for eight years until things suddenly change…for the worse.  Bixby and her fellow survivors set out to discover just what has caused this change and encounter countless horrors along the way.  Bixby is also forced to confront her own emotions and learn to mesh her past, present, and future feelings.

I feel like this book borders on being young adult and adult.  There’s some almost graphic sex scenes, nothing too detailed, but it may be too much for some young adult readers.  There’s also some violence, but also nothing that solidly makes this inappropriate for young adults.  Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Strain of Defiance.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Quick and easy read, cool apocalyptic concept, Bixby is immaturely annoying at times.

Station Eleven

 

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Station Eleven

By:  Emily St. John Mandel
Published:  2014
# of pages: 
336
Challenge:  Full House (Canadian author)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

My opinion:  On Facebook, Goodreads posted a link to an article that claims to list the best dystopian fiction.  Several people wrote that they were disappointed not to see Station Eleven on the list.  I had never heard of Station Eleven, but I looked it up after seeing it mentioned so many times.  Now I’ve finished reading it and it didn’t disappoint.

The novel follows a selection of characters that (even though not all of them know it), were all connected in the past when the world was “normal.”  We learn about Arthur, Clark, Miranda, Jeevan, and Kirsten both before and after the collapse.  The story bounces back and forth between the characters and the different time lines.  At first I wasn’t sure I liked that method since I was afraid I would lose track of what was happening with each character or that my questions wouldn’t be answered.  However, it worked very well and I enjoyed each of the stories.  The method puts the reader right into the minds of the characters and into the situation.  It’s interesting to see how the characters associated a death of an actor with the beginning of the “apocalypse.”

I’d classify this novel as both post-apocalyptic and dystopian.  We see how society is ruined and then slowly emerges as something different.  In some ways the new life is freeing and in other ways it’s terrifying.  In the questions section on Goodreads, readers were asking why, after 20 years, the society wasn’t more advanced.  But that’s what this book is about.  Survival comes first, but slowly other things take shape.  It’s interesting to think about how the arts (in this case music and theater) and preservation (teaching and displaying parts of history) fit in with survival and advancement.

What are some of your favorite post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian novels?  Have you read Station Eleven?  If so, what did you think?

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Original story line and an interesting way of thinking about “the end of the world,” didn’t completely draw me in since I feel the multiple characters kept me from completely connecting with just one or two.

Oryx and Crake

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Oryx and Crake

By:  Margaret Atwood
Published:  
2003
# of pages:  
376
Challenge:  
What’s in a Name? (title with an X), Full House (On TBR 2+ years)

5Stars

Official description:

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future.
Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

My opinion:  Just as I said in Wednesday’s post, I did not expect to enjoy this book.  It’s been sitting in my TBR list for years, but I wasn’t motivated to pick it up and read it.  I enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale by the same author, but didn’t enjoy Cat’s Eye or The Blind Assassin.

I ended up loving this book and it’s now on my all time favorites list!  I understand why some people wouldn’t be a fan of this book.  I kept thinking, “I shouldn’t be enjoying this as much as I am.”  It was similar to the what I thought when I read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Oryx and Crake switches back and forth between Snowman/Jimmy’s experiences in his present situation and his past.  Snowman is on a journey, retracing his steps, which makes him remember and analyze his past experiences and interactions.  The creatures he encounters on his journey are horrifying and his remembrances of his formative years and the events leading up to his present situation are even more horrifying.

That’s a large part of why this novel is so thought provoking.  The society Jimmy grew up in was messed up.  Not only because of the gross examples of science infringing on everything from beauty products to food to reproduction, but also the rampant poverty and sex trafficking taking place in much of his world.  However, did that justify how events played out?

This would be a great book club read for adults.  If you enjoy dystopian/apocalyptic books you very well may like Oryx and Crake.  If you like books that are somewhat vague and leave room for readers’ interpretations (which I like), you will also enjoy this novel.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Thought provoking, I managed to sympathize with some of the characters in spite of their many flaws, and enjoyed the hints throughout.  It’s great that Atwood was able to pose so many questions to make the reader think instead of blatantly answering them all.

Other reviews:

Have you reviewed this book?  Let me know and I’d be happy to post a link.

Wool

Wool
By: Hugh Howey

Challenge:  50 States Challenge

Published: 2013 (hardcover)

# of pages: 509

Official description: In a ruined and toxic landscape, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside. His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.

My opinion:  This book was recommended to me by my dad.  After he described it to me I knew I had to read it.  Dystopian society, yes please. I feel like if everyone in our government would read a couple of dystopian novels this country would be a different place.

The world Howey created in this novel is original and fascinating.  It was a little slow at first, as it follows two characters who introduce the world of the silo.  However, it picks up as it follows Juliette and the reader is pulled into the world and the other characters that are introduced.

I recommend this to lovers of dystopian novels, those who enjoy sci-fi, and those that enjoy reading a novel that can pass on important messages.  There is a little bit of language, but it isn’t overwhelming.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Original setting, characters who are easy to relate to, interesting plot, couldn’t put it down after I got past the first third of the book!

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

The Kill Order

The Kill Order
By: James Dashner

Challenges: Dystopia Challenge 2013, 50 States Challenge

Series: Maze Runner

Published: 2012

# of pages: 327

Official description:

The prequel to the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series.
Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.
Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.
Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

My opinion:  I was a little confused because I misread the “Thirteen Years Earlier” and thought it said “Thirteen Years Later” for some reason.  However, other than that the book was good.  It’s definitely geared to young adults like the other books in the Maze Runner series, but it’s an action filled, quick read.  I thought the ending was original, not your typical happily ever after.  This is the prequel, but I read it after the other 3 in the series and that’s probably how I recommend reading them.  I think it makes this first one easier to understand.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  It was nothing super special, but I liked the main character, Mark.  I think young adults, especially boys, will enjoy this a lot.

Other reviews:
It’s All About Books

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

Matched

Matched
By: Ally Condie

Challenges: Dystopia Challenge 2013

Series: Matched

Published: 2010

# of pages: 366

Quote: “I hold onto my brother and for the first time in years he hugs me back, tight, the way he did when he was a little boy and I was the big sister he admired more than anything else in the world.” -pg 203

Official description: Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.


My opinion: At first I wasn’t overly impressed with this novel.  I didn’t find it particularly original.  However, as all dystopian books are for me, it became very thought provoking.  I don’t want to become too political on this blog, but recently I’ve found myself comparing the dystopian novels I’ve read to our current society and the new laws that are being passed/have been passed/will be passed.  The more rules and laws there are, the less freedom a society has.  Some laws are for the common good, but do we really want what’s best for all of us at the cost of our freedom?  Cassia’s society thought so, but as Cassia discovers, sometimes we don’t want what’s best for us.  And while some in a society will suffer, is that a reason to take away the freedom of everyone?

As Cassia thinks:

“Even if the fall of our Society would make life better for some, it would make it worse for others.  Who am I to try to change things, to get greedy and want more?  If our Society changes and things are different, who am I to tell the girl who would have enjoyed the safe protected life that now she has to have choice and danger because of me?” -pg 239

She also thinks about the “perfect” Society:

“They have perfected the art of giving us just enough freedom; just enough that when we are ready to snap, a little bone is offered and we roll over, belly up, comfortable and placated like a dog . . . They’ve had decades to perfect this; why am I surprised when it works on me again and again and again?” -pg 249

I also became impressed with the quality of writing Condie displays.  Cassia is a very thoughtful character and every other thing she thinks and says sounds like it came out of a book of quotes.  I also loved the poetry motif throughout the novel.

 

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  High quality of writing, thought provoking, I liked the character of Cassia.  Not the most original (unfortunately young adult dystopian novels are everywhere now!).

Other reviews:
Book Nut
Bookfoolery and Babble
A Girl, Books and Other Things

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.