Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Science Fiction or YA Dystopian?

I had several YA dystopian novels on my review list last weekend. Having plenty of time to read, since my husband was out at a chess tournament, I supplemented the list with a few dystopian novels I'd received for Christmas too. The result was 6 novels read, three of them collected in one larger e-library, and a really enjoyable holiday from real life.

This morning my husband asked me about the books. I think he was wondering if any of them might be things he'd enjoy. After all, he's always loved science fiction, and isn't dystopian fiction a branch on the same book tree? So I talked about plots and premises and why they intrigued me so much. We agreed that science fiction places people in alien environments then asks that magical "what if?" But what is the difference between scifi and dystopia?

Of course, this revived all our old "discussions" about where fantasy fits into scifi. If there's no science, can it be scifi? And if there is some science, does that make it automatically scifi?

We pondered, drank coffee, and pondered some more. My conclusion was that my husband's tastes lie more toward "hard" science fiction. Science drives the change in the environment, and man lives with, or tries to scientifically alter its results. Fantasy's more likely to have non-science and altered histories driving the change. And dystopian - or at least, modern dystopian - fiction has an altered social science behind it's difference. Do I have to believe future history would send us that way? Not really, or at least, no more than I have to believe we'll really land on a planet of talking trees, or in a bowl-shaped asteroid of enormously altered gravity.

Old dystopian fiction included some great post-apocalyptic novels, which were maybe scifi; but the books I read last weekend were new, and my husband seems to have decided they're not for him. But are they for you? I certainly enjoyed them, so grab a mug of coffee, sit down and read on.

The e-library I mentioned above is called What Tomorrow May Bring. It's a fantastic way to find new authors, or cheap copies of novels by new favorites. You'd need an awful lot of cups of coffee to read it all though, so here are reviews of some of the individual novels.

Open Minds (Book 1 of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn, is built on the premise of a changed society where (nearly) everyone can read minds. The story is set after the time when mind-readers were locked away. Now it's all perfectly normal, and the author convincingly creates a society that's built around this new skill. But what about the zero who can't read? How will people who are different be treated? Enjoy some bold, dark intense five-star coffee as you read this intensely absorbing tale.

Prison Nation, by Jenni Merritt, looks at a dystopian American future where prisons have expanded to the size of towns. But what kind of change in society would result from having so many people incarcerated? And how would the rest of the world react. In this America, those in power really don't care about the rest of world, or anyone else it seems. I wish this one were part of a trilogy because I'd like to know what happens next, but it's an intriguing tale, despite a slightly oversimplified ending. Enjoy with some more bold dark intense five-star coffee.

Daynight, by Megan Thomason, is also in the collection. In this novel, a scary coorporation has discovered a way to perform social experiments on small-town communities, resulting in a world where sexual activity in teens results in immediate and permanent cleaving. The background to the premise is a little unconvincing, but the social results pull the reader in quickly, making for a fascinating read. Enjoy some smooth full-flavored three-star coffee as you read.

Tony Bertauski's the Annihilation of Foreverland is in this collection too. One to enjoy with some complex four-star coffee and a thoroughly enjoyable novel that I'd already read.

And then are the books I got for Christmas, starting with Unwind, by Neal Shusterman. The premise may wound weird - a world where babies aren't aborted anymore; instead they're cared for until they become teens, then unwanted teens are given the privilege of serving the community as spare parts. Okay, it's more complicated than that. But I really wanted to know what the author would make of it, and the result is a truly compelling novel, filled with startlingly authentic details, deeply thought-provoking, truly enthralling, and a really really good read. Enjoy it with the some really intense five-star coffee!

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, is aimed similarly at young teen readers. It never quite reveals the premise behind its strange world, but it pulls readers in to experience that sense of dissociation, uncertainty and danger along with its teen protagonist. Why are we here? How will we escape? Who is in control? And more... a thoroughly absorbing adventure, complete in itself but a great start to the series too. Enjoy this with some richly elegant four-star coffee.

Of course, I had to ask for Veronica Roth's Divergent for Christmas, even though I've not been to the movie. The blend of virtues and vices offers a fascinating commentary on modern society, and I really enjoyed the novel. Drink some dark five-star coffee while you read.

And then there's Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Actually, I read that ages ago (a fact I'm very proud of - I read book two before book one and I was so hooked we had to collect the set, even pre-ordering book 3!), but no list of modern dystopias can be complete without it. Drink some more dark five-star coffee with this.


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