Tag Archives: dystopia

The 5th Wave

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The 1st wave sends darkness, the 2nd wave destruction and death. The 3rd is pestilence and more death. But they aren’t done yet. The 4th wave is insidious and unknown and more terrifying than the any other. It comes from within. And after the 4th wave, the enemy can be anywhere, and anyone. Trust no one. What will be the 5th?

The first book in The 5th Wave series will shake your belief in reality.

Six months after the ship appears, it is the dawn of the 5th wave. The aliens have become human, or at least, taken over humans, so there is no way to tell. They roam the earth, looking for survivors, looking to wipe out the last vestiges of humanity. Except for the children; the children are shipped off to safety. Or so everyone is led to believe.

16 year old Cassie thinks she might be the last human on earth. She hasn’t seen another  since the aliens shot her father and wiped out their refugee camp with an out-of-this-world green bomb. So she runs, toward the one place she believes she might be safe, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where the children were sent.

She has to stay alone, she can’t trust anyone, it is the only chance she has to survive. But one of Them, a Shark in her mind, makes it his mission to take her down, and she narrowly avoids being shot to death on a lonely stretch of highway. Rescued by a mysterious boy, Cassie has to choose between trusting someone and accepting help, or going on alone, to her certain death. 

The characters are odd in this story, perhaps because the reader never knows if the character is a human or one of Them. But the cast was varied and interesting, and the children at the Air Force base are perhaps the most intriguing, as they train to fight the alien war. My feelings for Cassie went back and forth; some scenes, I really liked her, and found her kick-ass and strong. Others, she came across as whiny and weak, and just annoyed me.

The romance was unbelievable after Cassie spent months alone and trusting no one. She doesn’t actually trust him. It seemed random, as if author Rick Yancey (or his editor) was checking off a box. He has a pretty odd idea of what girls think and how they behave, and don’t give me this crap she’s alone and in a war zone.

Let me get this straight. I trust no one. I think I might be the last human on earth. I saw my father murdered by what appeared to be a human but was an alien. I can’t tell by looking if someone is an alien. I killed someone who might have been human because I don’t trust anyone. I found dead bodies on the highway, was shot in the leg, and almost died. But oh! You’re hot, and hot boys don’t usually look at me, so please kiss me. Seriously?!?!??

Aside from that, the psychological themes that run through the novel are well developed: Who can you trust when the enemy looks exactly like you? As a soldier tasked with saving humanity, when do you start questioning orders, and just follow your instincts? And the idea of likening the alien invasion to the colonization of North America is an intense comparison.

Fantastic world-building. Yancey perfectly captures the atmosphere of distrust and fear and loneliness and horror. Stretches of isolated highway with piles of vehicles, burning cities with no humans in sight, looted and abandoned homes and stores really drag the reader into the story.

The idea of birds as a delivery system for a destructive virus is awesome. They are EVERYWHERE on earth. There is no escaping birds. Excuse me while I go outside and chase the little buggers from my feeder right now. Friggin’ little traitors.

The story is a bit repetitive in places, but is good for those with a love for sci-fi and aliens. There is creepiness and gore and violence and a good, solid punch to the brain.

The 5th Wave was published May 7th 2013 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

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Taken (series)

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Echoes of The Maze Runner and Hunger Games. This three book dystopian series follows a familiar formula, but brings in a unique premise and riveting world building to set it apart.

In the small community of Claysoot, behind the Wall, boys vanish at midnight on their 18th birthdays. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends, and young men are Heisted.

Gray has one year to accept his fate. But after watching his only family, his brother Blaine, disappear only weeks ago, he isn’t sure he can face it so calmly. While dealing with his grief, he comes across a small clue that leads him to believe that there is more to the Heist and the Wall than the town believes. Is the Wall actually worse than the Heist? What could possibly lie beyond it that scares people more than disappearance into nothingness?

This series ran hot and cold for me. On one hand, I tore though it, and really wanted to know how it ended. But on the other hand, it seems to drag in many places.  I seriously think three books was too long for it – author Erin Bowman could have made one longer, standalone novel, and it could have been incredible. The premise is unusual, but the execution falls just short.

Gray is well-developed; smart but undisciplined, unable to make a decision without second guessing everything. He is a believable teenage boy, likeable some times, other times a complete ass who I could cheerfully toss off the Wall myself. Impulsive and selfish, but consistent throughout. He does grow and mature a bit through the series, but remains the same person at heart.

The secondary characters were a mix. Blaine is the annoying perfect big brother, but I actually found him to be quite a weak character.  Granted, he is not present throughout the entire series due to various circumstances, but he seems a bit vanilla when he is there. Bree and Emma, Sammy, Clipper, Harvey and Frank all have good roles, and are well drawn. Although Bree and Emma both annoy me. A lot.

Love triangles can be good, but this one seems unnecessary and predictable, and takes all three books to resolve.  MAKE. UP. YOUR. MINDS. Sheesh.

The plot is good.  The idea of a central power controlling lives and fighting rebels is not a new one, but Bowman gives it a few twists. The Forgeries are terrifying. The cloning and experimentation and mind-control coding are reminiscent of the Third Reich. Yet it is not fast-paced; a lot of time is spent walking and thinking and planning and analyzing and navel-gazing, and slows the action. When the action does happen, it is vivid and descriptive, akin to taking a walk, with the occasional sprint here and there.

Bowman’s world building is without fault. Detailed and distinct, Claysoot, Taem, the Rebel HQ, Burg, every site is clearly imagined. Running through the forests, trekking the frozen plains, breathing in warm salt air, everything comes alive on the page.

While the third novel did a good job of wrapping everything up, I also felt a bit spoon-fed throughout. The reader does not need to know every detailed thought that goes into every decision. The ending feels too neat and tidy, the right people changed sides at just the right time, which does not add to the tension, but rather makes it seem forced.

Even though I do feel it could be a standalone, the series is an enjoyable, quick, read, with enough surprises to keep you on your toes throughout. There is rebellion and war going on, so expect some blood, but it works.

The Taken series is published by HarperTeen.

Red Queen

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In a world divided by colour of blood, 17 year old Mare Barrow is a professional pickpocket, and a  Red. She fears her 18th birthday and her conscription into the century old war, fears for her three brothers’ lives who went to battle before her, and fears for parents. Their one hope for a fairly safe life is their youngest daughter, Gisa, a talented embroiderer.

The Reds are impoverished slaves to the Silvers, who rule over them with their supernatural powers. Whether it be power over the earth, over metal, over water, or even incredible strength, the Silver live in unbelievable luxury, while the Reds starve.

After a chance meeting with a Silver, Mare is hired to work in the Palace, saving herself from conscription, but putting herself at the Silvers’ mercy. Or lack thereof.  Until Mare discovers, against all odds and in spite of her Red blood, that she possess abilities greater than those of the Silvers. Her mere presence could change the balance of power.

Let’s get this out of the way. You know I can’t help it. WHAT A FANTASTIC COVER!

Ok.  Moving on. The main characters – Mare, Cal, and Maven – were inconsistent. But that does not take away from their story. In fact, I think it was why I warmed to Mare, specifically. She has lived a life of poverty and fear, does not trust easily, and without preparation, is offered everything. But everything can also be taken away on a whim. She is constantly off balance, has no idea whom to turn to or trust, and that includes her own instincts. Her biggest fault is her inability to commit, either to a friendship or an ideal. She believes she does, but waffles back and forth with her decisions, unable to totally accept the consequences.

Princes Cal and Maven are alternately brothers and foes. They love and mistrust each other at the same time, are each others’ best allies and yet, underneath it all, rivals. And a not-really-love-triangle with brothers?  I’m pretty sure that’s an off-limits competition. Oh, and gross.

The other characters were a bit hit and miss. Farley, Kilorn, Gisa, Evangeline, Lucas and Julian, were, I felt, underdeveloped and a bit forgettable. Hopefully they will be more fully addressed in the coming sequel.

I did not find the plot to be anything earth shatteringly new, but it is good.  Fast paced, action packed, electric (no pun intended); the scenes fly by, leaving small clues and cliffhangers throughout.

The world building is underdone, but, like the secondary characters, hopefully will be fleshed out in Glass Sword. The radiated area has been done (hello, District 13), and it feels  unnecessary to the story. The abandoned subway tunnels would have been sufficient headquarters for the Red Guard. Mare’s home village of Stilts, the Silvers’ city Summerton, the Hall of the Sun, Archeon, Gray Town – all have the potential to be incredible backdrops, but are never quite thoroughly drawn.

I will smugly say I figured out the bad guy pretty quickly. In the interest of honesty, however, that was more luck and wishful thinking than actually knowing definitively. Victoria Aveyard does a good job of keeping you on your toes, and changing your mind with each page turned.

For all my nitpicking, Red Queen is a total page turner, a lot of fun to read, and I really had trouble putting it down! It is appropriate for any age; although there is some violence and gore, it is not graphic.

Red Queen was published February 10th 2015 by HarperTeen.

Chained (Cage of Lies)

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Book one in the Cage of Lies series, Chained, has pretty much everything you look for in a post-apocalyptic YA novel. Annihilation, oppression, survival, kick-ass heroes and heroines. But the execution will surprise you.

The Wall is the saviour of humanity after the epidemic that decimated the world. Leaving the protection of the Wall means certain death by contamination, and the Guardians serve to protect the population. Or so 16 year old Maya believes. Until the day she is sentenced to the SubWar, the brutal prison system used to keep the population in check, as punishment for an unintentional blunder that put her city at risk. After weeks of survival training, she is forced to make a choice – enter the wasteland, or be hunted down and killed. And she discovers that not everyone outside the wall died. Some live a life of freedom, and some are less than human.

Chained is creative. And unexpected.

The plot is twisty, exciting and inventive. It moves along at a great pace, slowing down about two thirds of the way in, but then rushing right back through to the end. There is no cliffhanger, just the promise of more to come.

The world building is incredibly imaginative; our world turned upside down due to cataclysmic events that play on some of our current fears about science and genetic manipulation. Vast towers of glass and steel, behind a great Wall that soars so high it blocks out the sun, house the population, and retinal scanners and CCTV keep tabs on everyones’ movements and schedules. Life is controlled and regulated for everyones’ protection. Outside the Wall is an endless wasteland, poisoned and useless.

The world that Maya escapes to is less defined, in more ways than one. A collective maybe? While there does seem to be a hierarchy of sorts, there is little explanation of how the society functions. But they do have a mission: free the cities, let the population know it is safe to leave the Wall.

The characters I found to be likeable and relatable.  Maya, Laurie, Alicia and Coal are all distinct individuals, with strong personalities. They stood out, as they should. The Creepers are vile and disturbing. Sort of a cross between a wild animal and a zombie.

That said, they are all a bit too gullible for me to completely believe in them. Although we do find out what happened to shape the world into its present condition, the information isn’t detailed quite enough for me to accept that everyone just fell into line, blindly and unquestioningly following protocol and orders.

How was everyone herded into the cities less than 100 years before? How was the city prepared without raising suspicions? Even as Maya catches a glimpse of how the elite live, she does not stop to wonder at the inequality. Further exploration into the control of the population would be great. Was it just fear of the unknown?

The shock and wonder that Maya and Laurie feel as they enter the outside for the first time is believable, although they seem to deprogram a bit more quickly than I would have expected. And Taylor, so important to Maya, did disappear a bit too conveniently for most of the story.

These issues do not take away from what is an excellent story. The second book in the series, Linked, will hopefully answer some of the questions.

Appropriate for any teen.

The Cage of Lies series is published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Endgame: The Calling

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Here is a novel for those who love puzzles and cyphers, and aren’t afraid of having their heads explode. Book One in the Endgame series, The Calling, is not for the faint of heart. And it isn’t a book you will read in one sitting.

One day, across the globe, twelve meteors hit Earth simultaneously, wiping out entire cities in some instances, remote areas in others, but all causing worldwide panic and terror. Unbeknownst to nearly everyone, these celestial warheads are the signal for Endgame to begin. They are The Calling.

Millennia in the past, humanity was created and enslaved, and a game was set that would determine their future.

The twelve original lines of humanity have existed in secret for all these millennia. Each must have a Player, boy or girl, between age 13 and 19, prepared at all times. Generation after generation of Player has been trained as the ultimate weapon. These Players will determine the fate of not only their own lines, but also of humankind. These Players good, evil, kind, deceitful, generous, stingy, lovely, lazy, smart, stupid, sons, daughters, friends, teenagers. Killers. Human.

The only rule of Endgame is that there are no rules. Whoever finds the keys first wins the game. The Calling is about the hunt for the first key. It could be anywhere on earth, and to win is to survive.

Told from twelve different perspectives, the reader gets inside the players’ heads, but the story is written in the third person.  Which I loved. The players are from all over the world, so different cultures influence the rise of each of the Players.

Holy crap.  The world building is INCREDIBLE. With the thoughts of each of the Players, the reader is transported through time and space.  There is magic and mystery and evil and despair and competition. The book is dark, twisted, mind-bending.

After reading the synopsis of  the book, written by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, my first thought was The Hunger Games. Great. A copycat. But once you are inside the book, it is SO different.

And another awesome feature?  This is an interactive book. Just as the book tells the story of the hunt for the hidden keys, written within the story is a puzzle for the reader. Solve the puzzle, join the hunt, and possibly win the prize. Marketing genious.

Book two of the series, Sky Key, has just been released, and it is definitely on my pile to be read. But I need a break first. Anyone can read this one, just be prepared for descriptive violence. And your head to explode.

Endgame: The Calling is published by Harper Teen.

The Book of Ivy

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Nuclear war has almost obliterated the United States. After continued conflict, family against family, survivors  eventually found ways to work together to survive. Control over political structure and power went to the victorious Lattimers, over the defeated Westfalls.

For fifty years of an uneasy peace, order is shakily preserved by the marrying of the Westfall daughters to the Lattimer sons. And it is time for 16 year old Ivy Westfall to take her turn.  She will be married to the president’s son, but it is not as simple as pledging vows to each other; Ivy has a previous oath to uphold. She has sworn to kill the young man, and return her family to power.

Of course it could never be that easy.

The characters are good.  Ivy is very likeable. She does, in typically dystopian fashion, start to question all that she has been raised to believe, and look at her family differently.  Where before she blindly followed and believed, now she questions and wonders. She was very torn between her loyalty to all she had ever known and her new life.  Her indecisiveness and constant questioning of “is this right, is this wrong” drove me crazy at times, but I would have to say it seemed fairly typical of a 16 year old girl in unfamiliar circumstances. (I say that with all the accumulated wisdom of my advanced years, conveniently forgetting my own annoying traits at that age).

Bishop is, as expected, not what she expects. He is not the personification of evil; rather, he is kind and generous and considerate and handsome, and wants to develop a relationship over time with Ivy, rather than just taking what he has been taught he is owed. So much for falling for the bad boy.

I liked all the secondary characters; author Amy Engel did a great job developing their traits and personalities. They definitely added colour to the story.

The world building is a bit weak, which is unusual in a dystopian novel. We know there was a devastating war that destroyed the country, but not really explained why, or how it happened. While politics are central to the plot, the different factions are not really explored. But it is a minor detraction from the overall story.

In some ways, this debut checks off every box in the “YA dystopian” category: warring factions, teens married off young to help save the species, falling in love with the enemy, etc. But wait. It is so much better than that. It is the ending that turns the story on its head, and raises it to the next level.

Book two in the series, The Revolution of Ivy, is slated for release in November.  I will be reading it!

The Book of Ivy is published by Entangled:Teen.

The Marian

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The Marian is a wild, post-apocalyptic pirate adventure.  How much more do you need to know?

Ethan Denby doesn’t know how he got on the Marian. He went to sleep, age 15, in his home in Dallas, and woke up inside the body of the ship’s much older captain, Duncan.  Hundreds of years in the future.  In a world completely unfamiliar to him. A soulswap.

And the Marian is unlike any ship Ethan has ever seen. It crawls on long, metal legs over dunes of salt, all that is left of the world’s oceans. Due to a cataclysmic bomb in the not so recent past, water on earth has all but disappeared, and what remains is distributed by a corrupt corporation, HydroSystems, which tightly controls every drop. The Marian is a pirate ship, and the treasure it seeks is water.

Character development in this novel is excellent. Ethan obviously gets the most attention, with the reader being privy to his thoughts, while the secondary characters are discovered through their action and conversation. All members of the Marian’s crew have distinct personalities, and the twin mercenaries that join them will. Freak. You. Out. Jackie and Bonnie were great teens; in a world where their lives were at risk every day, they still managed to sound authentic as they bickered at one moment, then looked out for each other the next.  Tucker and Percy and Lester and the Navigator made believable shipmates, while the pale skin and intensity of the HydroSystems crews was just fantastically creepy.

The world building is FLAWLESS. If you don’t feel fingers of fear crawling up your neck at the images of endless salt dunes, dehydrated, sun-baked skin and the mysterious Cloud (Ground Zero for the bomb) where reality is ever-changing and fluid, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

The pace of the novel is a bit slow in the beginning, but that quickly changed a few chapters in. Once the characters were firmly in place, the action picked up, and the plot’s many twists and turns were edge-of-your-seat suspenseful.

There is violence, fairly graphic, but all in service of a really good story.  Appropriate for all teens. It is the first book in what promises to be a gripping trilogy.

The Marian is self-published, I can only assume.  I cannot, for the life of me, find any information about the publisher.  My apologies if it is incredibly obvious; it is quite likely  I’m still suffering from post-summer brain sludge.