Monday, January 18, 2016

Dystopias Near and Far

Books 1 and 2, How Do You Do?

So over the past couple of weeks I have listened to two audiobooks and I shall review them now! 

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Tag line: 

It's Enders game meets Brave New World meets Harry Potter if all of those were no fun at all and you hated the protagonists. 

But what would the book jacket say?:

Darrow likes his life on Mars, living underground, as a pioneer. He has a beautiful wife, great family and friends, and the elite job as his clan's hell diver (mining resources so the people of Earth can one day leave their dying planet and live in Mars in harmony). Sure, the rules by the upper class humans are very strict and brutal, and food is scarce, and they live as slaves, but Darrow figures if he just does his part, all will work out. But when tragedy strikes, Darrow's narrow perception of the Galaxy is questioned, and he's thrown into a dangerous game of rebellions and elites, sheep and wolves. Darrow must play this game (where he doesn't know the rules) and he must win because if he doesn't, it means death. Death for him and everyone he loves.

What I liked: 

The main character's moral dilemmas are complicated and his journey to become a leader is winding with many setbacks and mistakes. Though written for young adults, the book does not shy away from tough subjects nor is it afraid to kill off main characters. This led to the stakes being higher as anything seemed possible. I found some of the strategy as he tried to become powerful, and his confusion (and the readers) over rules, alliances, who to trust, and who the enemy was, compelling. 

What I didn't:

This book was no fun for me. It is brutally violent. Name it and it's described in graphic detail: rape, body part maiming, cannibalism, scalping, murder etc and there was little joy or relief for me. The moments of excitement and joy come from battle victories, of enslaving and hurting the enemy, again usually pretty graphically. I'm sure there is a demographic who would enjoy that but I'm not in it. It's hard to like the main character-he seems especially stupid in the beginning of the novel, he eventually becomes smarter, and more powerful but I'm at a loss as to when we are supposed to like him as a person, I guess we're supposed to like that he's better at things, but it doesn't wash for me. It makes me care little for a Mars slave rebellion when our only entry to the people is Darrow. 

Would I recommend?: 

I wouldn't NOT recommend. I mean it's okay and probably for the right person would be considered very well done. I appreciated the dystopic world building and there were definitely multiple twists I didn't see coming. But I didn't enjoy reading it nor do I care what the main character's ultimate outcome is 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I HAVE already read this book but in my defense, it's been many years. 

Tag line:

A world created entirely from notes Donald Trump doodled in a notebook entitled, "My Life Goals". 

But what would the book jacket say:

A woman remembers important moments of her life and tries to cope in a future where a fundamentalist Christian group has taken over control of the United States. In beautiful, haunting prose, this novel asks the question: In a society in which women are completely subjugated and controlled, used for the bodies and kept from knowledge or choice, how does one woman stay herself? Can they really take everything away including her own thoughts and identity? 

What I liked: 

Everything, all of it. Every single line. 

What I didn't:

That it ended. 

Would I recommend?

I would stage a coup and take over the government as its dictator just to make this novel is required reading for every citizen. 

Bonus: boy is this book scary to reread in the current climate. Atwood predicts so much. 



  1. Oooo You kind of got me intrigued by The Handmaid's Tale. I might have to pick that up :)

    Thanks for the honest review of Red Rising.

  2. It's so good! You won't be disappointed.

  3. I read an interview with Atwood in which someone congratulated her on the accuracy of her predictions in that book, and she basically said, "They weren't predictions. Every single thing I wrote about had already happened somewhere in the world." Which makes it even scarier.