Dystopian Challenge book review - Life as we Knew it

Friday, February 26, 2010

The first book that I read for
Parajunkee's Dystopian Challenge was Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer.
The book didn't really fit into the Dystopian genre, and was more of a straight up apocalyptic novel, but I enjoyed it anyhow.

About The Book
The novel is written in journal form, and the narrator is a 16 year old girl named Miranda. The first few journal entries focus on things that an average teenage girl would be worried about: school, homework, friends, boys. We learn that she has an obsession with an ice skater from her home town, that she is finding herself at odds with her best friends, and that she's annoyed with all of her teachers for giving out too many homework assignments that are all due on the same day. Everyone is excited about an asteroid that is about to hit the moon, excited because the asteroid is so big that you should be able to see the impact with your naked eye. But something goes wrong. The moon is knocked out of its natural orbit, pushed closer to the earth. And, as you can probably imagine, this causes some serious problems.


Jon was making himself a can of green peas for lunch when all of a sudden he turned to us and said, “How come none of you eat lunch?”

It’s funny. We haven’t in ages, but Jon was always outside with Matt and I guess he figured Matt ate a big breakfast or something. He didn’t know what Mom or I were doing…

I eat every single day. Two months from now, maybe even one month from now, I might eat only every other day.

We’re all alive. We’re all healthy.

These are the good times.

My Review

The Good
Life As We Knew It is a compelling read. The journal format really pulls you into Miranda's head and places you right in the middle of her situation. You know her heart, you see her inner turmoil, and it all feels very honest. There are some heartbreaking moments, and I often ached for this poor girl that had to grow up so quickly, and found myself terrified by the possibility that she would have to watch her family die around her, or starve herself to keep her younger brother alive. Reading this book gave me an urgent desire to stock up my own pantry.

The Bad
The 'science' of the situation calls for a pretty serious suspension of belief. I didn't find it all that difficult to let myself be pulled into the story, but some people might have a problem with it. I was, however, perplexed by the fact that somehow mail was still being delivered. The world is in turmoil, gas is at a premium, people are having a hard time crossing state borders... but somehow they kept the Post Office running. Of course it wasn't exactly reliable, but still.
Another thing that surprised me was that there was never a real portrayal of the violence and rioting that I'm sure would accompany such a massive disaster. The scene at the grocery store was quite a bit tamer than I would have imagined it, and no one ever tried to break into Miranda's house to take her family's food, or anything like that. The only glimpse of violence that we see is some people breaking storefront windows and stealing plywood.

The Ugly

I was put off by the author's portrayal of Christians and Republicans. It irked me that she didn't try to balance her view a bit. Granted, I'm sure that the crazy, fanatical sects of Christianity would be pretty vocal in a time of disaster, but it would have been nice to see some balance.

My Rating
All in all, the book was enjoyable, and I look forward to starting the second one, which I just picked up from the library today.

The Dystopian Challenge

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I've decided to join my very first blog challenge!

Dystopian novels are my favorite, and I just can't resist a good post-apocalyptic story. Some of my all-time favorites are The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. So I just couldn't resist the urge to join this challenge.
I'm going for level 3 - Junkee , so my goal is to read 20 books by August 24th, which is the release date for the 3rd book in the Hunger Games trilogy. (And if you haven't read The Hunger Games, I suggest that you do it!)
Here's my (tentative) list for the Challenge

1. The Knife of Never letting Go – Patrick Ness
2. The Ask and the Answer – Patrick Ness
3. Genesis – Bernard Beckett
4. How I live Now – Meg Rosoff
5. The Declaration – Gemma Malley
6. The Resistance – Gemma Malley
7. The Dead And the Gone – Susan Beth Pfeffer
8. This World we live in - Susan Beth Pfeffer
9. Bones of Faerie – Janni lee Simner
10. The Maze Runner - James Dashner
11. The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
12. Battle Royal – Koushun Takami
13. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary Pearson
14. Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
15. Uglies – Scott Westerfield
16. The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan
17. The Dead Tossed Waves – Carrie Ryan
18. The Children of Men – P.D. James
19. Gone – Michael Grant
20. Hunger – Michael Grant
21. Neuromancer – William Gibson
22. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

This list is subject to change, as it depends on whether I can find many of these books at my local library, or borrow them from someone. But I'm pretty sure I'll be able to read 20 books without too much problem.
Good luck to everyone that's joining the challenge!

Audiobook Review - Stonefather

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stonefather is a novella by Orson Scott Card that I didn't even know existed. I ran across it while I was browsing my library's collection of audiobooks, and since I have been a fan of Card's since high school, I picked it up.

About the Book

Stonefather is the story of Runnel, the ninth son in a family that doesn't care much for him. His father is abusive, his mother barely notices him, and his siblings show him only disdain. They live in a tiny mountain village, and Runnel knows next to nothing about the world outside of it. One day Runnel decides to leave his mountain home, and he sets off without a goodbye to his family, without a plan, without any inkling of where he might be headed. Eventually he comes to the town of Hetterferry, which lies across the river from Mitherhome, where the great Watermages reside.
Here Runnel is lucky to meet an affable servant girl named Lark, who helps him to find a job in the unfriendly town.

My Review

After I finished the book I did a bit of research and found out that this novella is meant as a precursor to a Fantasy series that Card is planning called Mithermages. I think this is important to note, because the novella itself seems to be mostly about backstory, exposition, and education (of the hero as well as the reader). He introduces the system of magic, teaches the hero what he needs to know about himself, and then ties the book up with a nice and tidy victory for the good guys.

The Good
The characters are likable, the magic system is interesting, Runnel is someone that it is easy to be sympathetic towards. This is a quick, pleasant read.

The Bad

It really isn't anything more than 'pleasant'. I think this is one novella that could have done with a bit of fleshing out. The plot is predictable and rushed. The ending is too pat, too easy. I would have liked to watch Runnel grow slowly into his own rather than becoming the hero (literally) overnight. There is a bit at the end that feels as though it was tacked on, unceremoniously, to tell us what happened to Lark. I was ultimately disappointed. But I'm hopeful that the forthcoming series will give us something akin to the world of Alvin Maker, as these are problems that are easily fixed within a standard length novel.
The audiobook was read by Emily Janice Card, who, I believe, is Orson's daughter. I can't say that I loved her narration, but she wasn't bad. I don't know whether she has any other experience with audiobook narration, but I thought she seemed a little stiff. Not terrible, not a voice that's going to make me abandon the book... but not great.

My Rating