Tag Archives: dystopia

YA Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen Victoria AveyardRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Another one bites the dust! By that I mean, yet another mediocre YA novel I can add to my “one and done” pile.

It started out so well: a very strong voice in the form of first-person protagonist Mare Barrow, a snarky thief struggling to keep herself and her family afloat in a class-driven, oppressive society. The world is what I’d describe as fantasy-lite with a few steampunk elements – people have elemental powers, but it’s recognizably a human world with a quasi-feudal structure, and steampunk comes in with the inclusion of several machines – a bicycle, a robotic-esque war machine, and airships.

Society is divided into two classes: the ruling class “Silvers”, who have all the power and money, and the working class “Reds”, who are mostly servants, tradespeople, and conscripted soldiers. Silvers claim to be gods, and are certainly superhuman – each is born with an ability to control the world around – some can control iron, others fire, water, and other elements, and a few can control people’s minds. Their blood itself runs silver. Reds, on the other hand, have no abilities, and their blood is red. It’s a world in which your fate is ruled by your genetic background and, quite literally, your blood.

Aveyard, like most YA authors, attempts snark, and unlike most, succeeds – Mare’s occasional comebacks and insults are genuinely funny and witty. The plot is fast-paced, the world is reasonably inventive, and the first half is very strong. In the second half, however, the ongoing romance is really phoned in – an epic romance is conceived out of literally about five brief interactions, and then a MAJOR plot point is hung upon it. Some authors suffer from the misconception that you can slap the label “prince” on someone, have him be sympathetic to a heroine twice, and every reader for a thousand miles will think he’s the second coming of Darcy crossed with Edward Cullen. Neither of Mare’s suitors *quite* leap into reality; combine Maven and Cal and you’d have one fully realized male character/romantic interest.

The undercooked romance is followed by a secondary plot point that was both wildly predictable – I saw it coming the entire novel, because this is how young adult novels go – and also extraordinarily poorly conceived and unconvincing. giphy

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Caffeinated Links: Far From the Madding Crowd, Steven Spielberg to Direct Ready Player One, ‘The Flash’ Stars Sing the Serenity Ballad

far from the madding crowd 2015 poster

Fox Searchlight released the first, gorgeous poster for the upcoming adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, starring Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts.

In news that had me gibbering with nerdy glee, Steven Stielberg is to direct an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Ready Player One is a hugely popular sci-fi/dystopia novel that is a blast of inventive good fun as it follows the adventures of Wade Watts, a brilliant, somewhat overweight pop culture fanatic (I mention this because I wonder if the film will be true to this or replace him with someone who looks like, I don’t know, a Hemsworth) who spends his life, along with most of humanity, inside a massive virtual reality game.

The Flash‘s Jesse Martin, Carlos Valdez, and Rick Cosnett sing a gospel, acapella version of The Serenity Ballad and it is everything you want from life. Apparently it was a big thank-you to Joss Whedon for donating a large sum to their Kickstarter project.

Illustration Love – Nick Foreman’s Futuristic Dystopias

Brilliant illustrator Nick Foreman re-imagines city landscapes as they might be in the future.

Metropolis – a futuristic Paris

metropilos_by_nick_foreman-d87hszzShipment

shipment_by_nick_foreman-dystopia trainRuins

ruins_by_nick_foreman-d821dasSee more of his work

The Atlantic on Cowboy Bebop

cowboy bebop

Alex Suskind brilliantly profiles Cowboy Bebop at The Atlantic.

“On paper, Cowboy Bebop, the legendary cult anime series from Shinichirō Watanabe, reads like something John Wayne, Elmore Leonard, and Philip K. Dick came up with during a wild, all-night whiskey bender. (As Wayne famously said, “Talk low, talk slow, and … I’m not drunk you’re drunk Elmore why’s the room spinning?”)

Set in 2071, Bebop imagines a dystopian future where earth has been irrevocably damaged due to the creation of a “stargate,” forcing humans to evacuate the planet and create colonies across the solar system. The result is a galaxy of lawlessness, where crime lords rule and cops pay bounty hunters (often referred to as cowboys) to handle some of the grunt work. People drink in dive bars. Income inequality is terrible. Everyone speaks like they’re background extras in Chinatown. The show ultimately features so many cross-ranging influences and nods to other famous works it’s almost impossible to keep track. It’s Sergio Leone in a spacesuit. It’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with automatic weapons.”

read more at The Atlantic 

Book Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

theeliteReading the Selection series is akin to watching Pretty Little Liars: you don’t know why you’re doing it, but somehow you can’t stop. The Elite is a very silly novel that replicates all the same weaknesses and limitations of the first novel, and yet is oddly entertaining despite that, mostly because there are bits of good romance.

America Singer lives in a future America dominated by a caste system. The government is not particularly oppressive, but the caste system is fixed, with every individual being born into a caste. Eights are the bottom, and do service work that no-one else wants to do; they are poor and often hungry. Ones are at the top, the wealthy, elite, and royalty. America is born into the creative caste, Five: musicians, singers, and entertainers. When her name is randomly chosen as one of 35 potential brides for the crown prince, she is ferried off the capital and a new life of glittering ballgowns and competing for the heart of the prince. 

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Book Review: The Selection

selection cvr

The Selection, Kiera Cass.

America Singer lives in a futuristic America in which, after a series of World Wars, society has been restructured as a class system. There are eight castes who each perform different duties. America is a 5, the artistic case, who earn their money by performing during national holidays and for the wealthier families. Intermarriage between castes is highly frowned upon and America’s mother hopes that she will raise their status and support them financially by marrying into a caste above her. America, however, has been in love with Aspen, the son of a family friend and a caste below her, for her entire life.

The country is governed by a regency and the state announces that it’s time for The Selection, an event in which 35 girls are chosen from a lottery and one of them selected by the Crown Prince to be his bride. America reluctantly enters the drawing at the pushing of her mother, and is shocked when she is chosen. Soon, she and 34 other girls are swept into the palace to live a life of luxury while getting to know the Prince.

This is a light and immensely readable book – I read it in two sittings flat. America is an immediately engaging heroine, mostly the story is told in first person and Kiera Cass makes America spunky and blunt but with believable fragilities and small selfishnesses that make her human. Oddly, however, it’s the first half of the book that’s the strongest – America, her relationships with the various members of her family, and her relationship with Aspen are all well-developed. The romance that develops in the second half, though….there’s exactly enough good romance in this book to make one compelling relationship, not too.

Cass attempts to set up a love triangle between America, Aspen, and Prince Maxon, and several of the scenes with Aspen and Maxom, respectively, are very compelling – but wholistically Aspen and Maxon each feel like half of a fully-rounded character. Aspen is too simple to be completely interesting – the two main drives of his life appear to be to survive and to be with America if he can, and he doesn’t have the complexity to grapple with the changes in America while she lives at the palace, or the broader social and political forces in the country. While Maxon adheres too closely to that “white prince/knight in shining armor” pattern – he’s painfully nice, formal, and innocent for much of the novel. Both male leads would have been more interesting if they had more bite to them, a little more of a rough edge.

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All the Videos You Need Today: Maze Runner 1st Trailer, Veronica Mars Movie Videos

The Maze Runner first trailer premiered last night on Teen Wolf, and why did no-one tell me it starred Dylan O’Brien??? I spent the weekend marathoning Teen Wolf, which I’d never seen before but found immensely addicting, and have a HUGE crush on whipsmart fast-talking Stiles played by Dylan O’Brien.

Gorgeous shots from the VM movie.

One of the best Veronica Mars fan videos I’ve seen, perfectly capturing the essence of the petite private eye dripping in snark and wisecracks

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