Category Archives: dystopia

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

all rights reservedSpeth was nervous about giving her Last Day speech.  She had to do it right or her sponsors could back out on her, or maybe even sue her.  Another lawsuit was the last thing her family needed.  Her parents were already sent into servitude because of the National Inherited Debt Act and the Historical Reparations Agency when it was “discovered” that one of their ancestors had illegally downloaded a song.  And now that Speth was turning 15, she would be given a Cuff so that she could be charged for every word she spoke and every gesture she made — or have her eyeballs shocked if she couldn’t pay.  Speth knew it would be tough to scale back on what she said after 15 years of free speech, but she had no idea she would be tested so soon, or so horribly.  As she was walking across a bridge to give her Last Day speech, her best friend, Beecher, jumped and killed himself.  She literally could not react before giving her Last Day speech or she would be in breech of her contract.  She couldn’t imagine how she would give that speech after what she had just seen, so she decided she just wouldn’t talk.  Ever again.

But how could Speth possibly keep her vow?  She didn’t really consider how she would finish her education.  Get a job.  Or even communicate with friends and family.  It was clear that the corporations and lawyers had taken things too far by copyrighting words, gestures, and even physical likenesses… But how could Speth fight back, let alone lead a revolution, without speaking?    Much like MT Anderson’s Feed, this story challenges readers to consider the consequences of giving corporations and technology too much control over our daily lives.  I can’t wait to see what happens next in the Word$ trilogy.

Happy Reading!

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Finding You by Lydia Albano

finding-youIsla was only trying to say goodbye to Tam. She just wanted to see him one more time before he went off to join the army.  But, while she was calling out to Tam on that crowded platform, she was kidnapped.  After being trafficked out of the city from which she was stolen, she and the other girls who had been taken were stripped, cleaned, and given new clothing.  Uncertain of if and when she would ever see Tam again, Isla made every effort to hide and protect the locket he had given her and stuffed it into her mouth.  And it was a good thing she was able to keep it hidden, since that locket provided a modicum of comfort and the strength she needed to survive the harrowing ordeal.

Although Isla was held captive with a bunch of other girls, that did not bring her any comfort.  They were all just as scared as she was, if not more.  And aside from being trapped in the small cell of a dungeon with awful slop for food, they were also very aware of the fact that they had been kidnapped and sold in order to be “used” by a rich man and his guests.  No one really knew what happened to the girls after they were taken away and “used,” but it was easy enough to see that their numbers were dwindling.  Isla would have to come up with some sort of a plan if she ever planned to escape — and she would have to do it sooner rather than later if she wanted to save the other girls, too.

I would recommend this book to fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and the Chemical Garden Trilogy.

Happy Reading!

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

renegadesContrary to popular belief, heroes are not always perfectly behaved and villains are not always evil.  In fact, heroes sometimes act out of spite or self-interest, and villains sometimes act selflessly to help other people.  In this story, both the Renegades and the Anarchists are comprised of prodigies — people with special powers, much like the X-Men — but their vastly different ideologies have placed them on opposite sides of the hero-villain spectrum.  The Anarchists honestly believe that society would fare better without so much governmental oversight and interference, i.e. with anarchy.  The Renegades, on the other hand, think that they are doing society a favor by overseeing everyone and bringing back law and order.  Though both sides think their way would be best for the greater good, neither side seems capable of seeing the other side’s point of view.

Enter Nova, aka Nightmare.

Nova was raised by her Uncle Ace [the leader of the Anarchists] after the Renegades failed to protect her family.  Nova has been consumed by a desire to avenge their deaths for as long as she can remember, but none of her plans seem to work out.  Luckily, the Anarchists have an alternate plan that just might work.  Because the Renegades don’t know Nightmare’s true identity, the Anarchists decide to send Nova to Renegade try-outs so that they can use her to gather intel and take down the Renegades from the inside.  Of course, it doesn’t take long for Nova, who takes on the Renegade name of Insomnia, to start to feel conflicted.  Not only does she start to fall for a guy who is a part of the Renegades, but she starts to see *why* the Renegades operate the way they do and that their methods actually have some merit to them.  What’s a girl to do?!?

Happy Reading!

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

eye-of-mindsBecause I enjoyed Dashner’s Maze Runner series, and am not-so-patiently waiting for the theatrical release of Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline), I thought this seemed like an audiobook I should probably check out.  I mean, what’s not to like about a fast-paced technological thriller, right?!?  Much like in Ready Player One, a lot of this story took place in a virtual world.  Rather than just using goggles and gloves to connect to that virtual world, though, the people in this story use “coffins” that provide their bodies with physical sensations to make it feel as if they are actually experiencing the sensations (both pleasure and pain) of the VirtNet.

Michael is a gamer who spends more of his time in the VirtNet than in actual reality.  And, who can blame him?  Most of his friends are people he has never met in real life, and his hacking skills mean that he can be better, faster, and stronger with only a few lines of code.  Rumors begin to circulate about a “bad” hacker who is using his skills to trap people in the VirtNet against their will, which causes the victims to suffer brain damage and memory loss in real life.  Shortly after meeting a girl who claimed to be a victim, Michael was contacted by someone from the government who asked him to use his hacking skills for good by tracking down the perpetrator.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Yeah…  Definitely not!  If you want lots of action and adventure set in a high-tech virtual world, you’ll definitely want to read this one.

Happy Reading!

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

one-safe-placeDevin never knew life before the Earth got too hot.  All he knew of that time was what his grandfather told him.  But, despite the fact that he grew up in the “after,” he wasn’t really aware of the hardships that affected most people.  Growing up on the farm, he learned how to make due with what the animals and the land provided.  As long as he and his grandfather worked hard, they had all they really needed.  When his grandfather died, though, it became too much for a single person to manage.  So, Devin set off to the city to see if he could find anyone to help him work the farm.  For the first time in his life, Devin experienced true thirst and hunger.  He was also exposed to the darker side of humans when he encountered people who were willing to hurt others and steal in order to survive as well as those who ignored the suffering of others.

After settling in with some other orphaned children who taught him to scam and scavenge enough to get by, Devin began to hear rumors about a special home for children.  If the rumors were to be believed, it was a place in which children would have more than enough food and toys for all.  Even better?  There was a chance that the children could be adopted by families that could provide for them!  Some of the orphans believed in this place, but others thought it was a mere fairy tale.  When Devin met an older boy who promised to bring him to this home for children, though, he decided to take a chance.  As it turns out, this home really did exist… but something was not quite right.  This book is technically “middle grade” fiction, but teen and adult fans of dystopias should definitely check it out.

Happy Reading!

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

divided-we-fallDanny Wright signed up for the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old because he felt compelled to both serve his country and to honor the memory of his father, who died while serving in the Army.  At first, he was proud to wear his uniform and excited to get to train with high-powered guns… but that all changed only a short time after he finished bootcamp.  Why?  He was called in by the Governor of Idaho to help with protests in Boise (about a proposed new federal ID card) and things got very out of hand very quickly.  One accidental shot turned into a firefight in which civilians were injured and killed, and people started making comparisons to the Kent State shootings that took place during a Vietnam War protest in 1970.  Knowing that he fired the shot that started it all, and seeing how quickly people snapped to pass judgement when they did not have all the facts, he was glad that the Governor pledged to protect the identities of the guardsmen who were involved.  But, how long would the Governor be able to protect them when the President of the United States of America was demanding answers?

I especially appreciated the way Reedy worked in both extreme news coverage and polarized social media reactions.  I was impressed to see a YA novel tackle the very complex topic of federal government/federal laws vs state government/states’ rights, but the audiobook impressed me even more.  Much like Countdown, this audiobook uses a variety of sound effects and multiple readers to create sound bites that mimic news broadcasts and to set apart the non-narrative portions of the book.  The only “down side” to listening to this audiobook all at once (on a road trip) was that the “near future” setting seemed entirely too plausible and actually made me feel a little anxious as if I were really listening to the news.  :-/

Happy Reading!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home.  All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on!  I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES.  I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school.  I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend.  It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did.  For real…  If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!

Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life!  Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses.  Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling.  Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system.  When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children.  By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade.  So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune.  Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS.  Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt.  When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…

Happy Reading!