Tag: dystopian fiction

Mixed Feelings about “Allegiant”

Coming to the end of a series always provokes mixed feelings. If we love the characters, we’re sad to see them go. Exciting plots make us anticipate the final climactic resolution.

Or it might be anti-climactic.

I read the first two books in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series in the Summer of 2012. At that time, waiting a year to get the final installment seemed cruel. Truthfully, I had forgotten much of my earnestness by the time the package arrived from Amazon containing the newly released conclusion to the trilogy.

The craze of dystopian fiction, especially in the young adult age group, may have reached its peak. I have read four series from this genre and half a dozen stand-alone novels in the past three years.

This type of story appeals to me because it’s interesting to see where a creative genius (pretty much any author) takes the question “what if a catastrophe happened?” and runs with it. There might be a society where children fight to the death as a means of keeping the populace cowed. Maybe lawlessness would prevail.

The possibilities stagger me. In reading such an assortment of dystopian fiction, I’ve seen a few common threads and been interested to see some similarities. More on that later. Maybe.

At the end of Insurgent, everyone was in limbo. A video disclosing the truth that the factions inside Chicago were just an experiment of the government floored everyone. It was a cliffhanger. Fifteen months later when I got to read what happened next, all the urgency had vanished.

I recommend rereading the first two books before you pick up this wrap-up to the series. It took me more than 75 pages to reorient myself with the characters and begin to connect with them again. That said, I don’t believe this book has much appeal as a stand-alone read.

The main character we followed in the first book, Beatrice Prior, shares the narration duties with her boyfriend, Four or Tobias. I found the transition between their two minds choppy and I never truly felt they were distinct. The writer’s voice sounded the same inside either mind.

I make it a point never to include spoilers in my book reviews. To me, the purpose of the review is to help you decide whether or not you want to spend money on this book or borrow it from the library.

This book had the weakest plot of the series. The stakes seemed inconsequential until about three-fourths of the way through the book. My disbelief wouldn’t be suspended because I had a hard time with both Tris’ and Tobias’ reactions to their revelations in this story.

Each of them had a separate mission to accomplish at the end. In my opinion, Tobias’ resolution was too contrived and obtainable. On the other hand, I connected with Tris and her actions were much more believable, but I hated the outcome.

If you want to find out what happens to this cast, you should read this book. Story enjoyment is subjective. I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time reading this book, but since I hadn’t recently had my appetite whetted for the conclusion, I could have missed it and lived happily ever after.

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Dystopian Novels

The Start of the Series

After completing Michael Grant’s Gone series, I began wondering why I’m drawn to dystopian novels over vampire stories or other types of science- fictional fantasy. I happily read Divergent and Insurgent during the summer of 2012 and will most likely buy a copy of the third book, releasing in August.

Since it is sitting in the library at my middle school, there are definite things I didn’t like about Grant’s series .

Too much graphic violence

When a kid got ate by mutated worms, I thought Grant had gone too far. It wasn’t a pretty mental image. In the latest book, a little girl lights other kids on fire while laughing gleefully. If there’s a more disturbing picture anywhere, I don’t want to know about it.

Sex =Love

Caine and Diana treat each other with criticism and cynicism. Eventually, they have sex and – BAM – they’re suddenly in love with each other. It’s slightly better with Sam and Astrid because their relationship was based on friendship and mutual respect before the physical side was added. Still, it gives emotionally and sexually charged young people the impression that love is sex or vice versa.

Too many characters

True, Grant had a huge world to run and his story needed bodies to sacrifice to the evil inside the FAYZ. I have too many middle school students who can’t keep track of more than six or seven characters, so these books frustrated them.

If he would have focused less on the intricacies of how things ran, he could have spared us the enormous list of characters. However, the thing I liked about the series is that I could imagine this place and it was believable because he hadn’t overlooked any administrative details.

Of course, I read the entire series. Obviously, I must have liked a few things about it.

  • I liked that he started right at the point of the inciting event and gave us the necessary backstory of the characters gradually.
  • I loved the protagonist, Sam, but I felt like Grant made him less heroic as the series progressed. Sam lacked confidence, which is fine at the beginning of the series, but the fact that he had a similar view of himself after a year of defeating all sorts of mutated creatures annoyed me.
  • I certainly didn’t want him to become cocky. Caine took the cake in that category. Most of the kids believed in him and relied on him, but he didn’t believe in himself. Of course, the way Grant let Gaia beat up on Sam while he acted helpless reinforced that self-image.

Defeating the big boss should have been a group effort. Instead, Little Petey saves the day. It makes logical sense that since he created the FAYZ, he would need to destroy it, but it was anti-climactic. Everything Sam suffered inside that makeshift world seemed pointless at the end.

Dystopian novels entertain me because the author’s use uninhibited creativity to present scenarios that suspend disbelief. We can imagine a huge underground shelter for a select few before the end of the world comes at the hands of man (City of Ember). Or that war might cause our world to become a desert of conflict, guided by the law of “only the strong survive” (Blood Red Road).

Scientists and government officials desire to manipulate us. If they created an enormous lab test in Chicago, it might look exactly like Divergent. If the government decided to segregate the population even more, it could look like The Hunger Games.

Shouldn’t seeing all that could go wrong with society be depressing? What is the draw? If you like dystopian fiction, I’d love to hear from you.

Book Review: Rebel Heart

rebel heartSince I reviewed Moira Young’s first novel here, I thought I’d check in with readers about the sequel. The series is called Dust Lands and it looks like it will be a trilogy.

The book starts from Jack’s point of view, which is a good choice on Young’s part. He’s said to “betray” Saba in the flap copy, so seeing where that begins gives the reader sympathy for him. Later, more evidence piles up against him and Saba “sees” his betrayal with her own eyes. Her goal in this book is to find Jack, just like finding her brother was the goal in the first novel.

Saba disregards everyone – pretty much like before – to set out on her rescue mission. Of course, her brother and sister refuse to be left behind (did she really think she could leave them?) so they end up facing danger with her.

This time, the dystopian adventure goes awry. Through foreshadowing, the reader expects Saba to make another connection with Demalo, who is now the leader of New Eden and a new movement to remove the aged, infirm and unsavory from the planned Paradise. He’s put a price on her head, but she keeps dreaming about him.

It would have been nice if Saba could have kept one redeeming quality by the end of this sequel.  Unfortunately, I was sitting with Tommo by the campfire, sharing his spiteful thoughts: “Hurt. Betrayed. Decieved.”

As I write this, I’m rethinking my earlier assessment that Saba blows Katniss out of the water in terms of heroic qualities. It seems Young goes just a little too far trying to give Saba flaws. By the end of this book, only Jack is still talking to her, and we’re all imagining he wouldn’t be if he knew how she had betrayed him.

If you read the book, please chime in here and let me know what you think. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading it; I was just frustrated that we still didn’t figure out Lugh’s issues and that Saba acted like a self-centered, lovelorn teenager, and she seemed so far above that in the first book.

Source: Young, Moira. Dust Lands: Rebel Heart. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Pubishing Division, 2012. Print.