Parable of the Sower

I’ve had Octavia Butler on my radar for awhile. Several friends have recommended her. And, at some point, her books were really cheap on Amazon, so I stocked up on some ebooks. So when I had to read a book written by a person of color, I immediately though of her and chose Parable of the Sower, knowing absolutely nothing about it.

The story is in my favorite genre, dystopia, and even though I’m a bit burned out on these books, I still appreciate a well written one. Butler isn’t a YA writer, but her book falls mostly into this category. It doesn’t explain how the world is the way it is (takes place in the years 2025-2027) but the world has fallen apart and life is hard. She makes some adjustments to the world by creating fictitious illegal drugs. One drug makes people obsessed with fires. Another leaves people with hyperempathy. Lauren, our main character, has this ‘sharing’ because her mother took the drug while pregnant. Lauren feels others’ pain. When a person is shot, it feels like she has been shot.

Lauren’s family lives in a cul-de-sac in California, and even though they have a gate and guard their property, one night, several homes are set on fire and all the homes are robbed. Lauren is lucky to escape, but most aren’t so fortunate. She and a few survivors travel north, looking for a place to resettle and gather other travelers along the way. Lauren, even though she has never lived outside her cul-de-sac, is very street smart and knows not to trust others. However, the people she meets along the way prove just how desperate they are for help as well.

Lauren sees God as Change. And through her religious teachings, her God evolves into something not good or evil, but as simply the natural process of the world. She calls this new belief Earthseed. While traveling, she tells her group about Earthseed and her beliefs.

Butler skillfully tackles important issues like gender, feminism, sexuality, and motherhood with such creativity and honesty.¬† Every decision the characters made felt authentic and sensible, given their situation. There is a sequel to this book, and I’m really excited to revisit Lauren and her fellow travelers.

Borne

It’s rare these days that I read a book as soon as it is published. I usually wait awhile, grab it from the library when I can, and go from there. However, when Jeff VanderMeer publishes a book, I will be first in line. And thankfully my library already had it on order and I was first in line to reserve it. I’ve read book the Southern Reach trilogy (fantastic) and the Ambergris trilogy (not so great), so I was curious to see where Borne fell within my judgements of his work, and wouldn’t you know, I’d say it is smack dab in the middle, maybe leaning a little closer to Southern Reach.

Rachel and Wick live in the Balcony Cliffs in a world that is governed by a giant flying bear named Mord. Yep, you read that right. However, when Mord sleeps, Rachel can climb on him and scavenge for things. And one day she found Borne. The size of her fist, appearing to be plantlike or some sort of anemone, she names him Borne because, although she didn’t give birth to him, he was “born” under her watch and care. And of course Borne doesn’t stay small. Rachel soon noticed that he’s growing quickly and never producing any kind of waste. Eventually Borne begins speaking and learning and their relationship is pushed to the limits. Wick doesn’t approve of Borne because he has no idea what Borne truly is (neither do we, but Rachel accepts him) and tensions arise.

There is a side story about the Company which is a, well, company that created Mord and assorted biotech. There is also a woman named the Magician who unofficially rules the lands where Rachel and Wick live. I promise this book is easy to follow; I’m just not good at explaining how crazy the world is.

Overall, I liked the book. It was compelling and you really get sucked into the world, even with its implausible giant bear. There are definitely remnants of Area X in this world, unintentional I’m sure. At one point, Rachel and Wick are traveling a long dark corridor and I kept wondering if some crazy language would be written on it, like in Annihilation. I feel like this world and Area X reside next to each other in alternate realities. I definitely recommend this book, especially because it’s just a stand alone book and well written, but if you really want his best work, go with the Southern Reach trilogy.

1984

This is my all time favorite book. I read it years and years ago and knew it was a book to change the mindset of people. There are certain books that are important because they  bring attention to the plight of people. There are certain books that are important because they highlight issues in our society. But very few books can alter the entire perspective of a person. When I read this book originally, I was blown away. Mostly because George Orwell saw our future perfectly. And when I read this book over a decade ago, it scared the crap out of me, but I never really thought I would see these changes take place in my lifetime.

But here we are.

We are in a world where “fake news” and “alternative facts” are readily believed. We are in a world where people no longer believe in modern science. We are in a world where people lead hypocritical lives on a daily basis and are blissfully unaware. We are in a world where we are asked to spy on others, where our Internet history can be used for profit, where the general thought process is looked down upon. We are in 1984. Not to the extreme in the book, but we are headed that direction. Unless we RISE UP and take a stand.

It’s odd to say this is my favorite book, considering it’s the most depressing book I’ve ever read. It’s also the most horrifying, especially today. However, I still love it because it moved me the first time I read it, the second time, and finally this third time. My heart broke every chapter even though I knew exactly where it was all heading.

This is simply the most important book ever written. It is a must read for each and every person.

After the Cure

I get free books daily. Some aren’t really worth reading, but I download them anyway, because maybe someday someone in my house will read them. But ones that sound mildly interesting, I keep on my Kindle to read at some point. If you remember, I’m using a lottery system to pick my books right now since I have so many that I’ve been meaning to read for years. And the lottery selected this one.

I really liked the premise. Most zombie books are about the initial outbreak and how people survive. But this one takes place after the Infected are cured. The world is divided into two halves, the Cured and the Immune. The fun twist is that the Cured remember what they did while they were Infected. And many can’t live with their actions, even though they couldn’t control themselves. Many of the Immune shun the Cured and refuse to interact with them.

The main plot line involves a trial involving the scientists who created the virus and are now being held responsible for the aftermath. Our main characters are an attorney (a Cure) and a psychologist (an Immune) and their relationship, the discovery of some secret information, and how to handle said info. The story was a bit disjointed (at one point a character is near death and in the next scene the character is up and chatting), but overall, the premise was worth the lack of cohesion. Some of the dialogue was a bit cheesy for my taste, but that’s just my personal preference.

There are 5 books in this series, but only the first is free on Amazon. The others are reasonably priced, though, and I plan on reading the rest at some point. I enjoyed this book and its unique premise.

The Moon Dwellers

I might have hit the wall with YA dystopian. Not necessarily because of this book in particular, but I just don’t really enjoy it anymore. Stuff is too watered down and predictable. The two of the three series (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games) that revolutionized YA and opened new doors for writers are worth reading. I hated Twilight, but I admit that it did shake things up in the paranormal romance dept. And each series just has so many spin offs (some worth reading, most worth skipping) and I feel like I’m done with this particular one. Maybe because I’m not a young adult.

The Moon Dwellers isn’t anything new. Set in the future, a young girl doesn’t know what has come of her family, but she has an electric connection with a young man who is the president’s son, but the son doesn’t want to be like his dad, so he runs away to find this mystery girl, so on and so forth.

A few YA dystopian books come to mind that *are* worth reading: The Legend series, The Chaos Walking series, and the Red Rising series. Other than that, the rest are just mediocre spin offs that are good for quick mindless reads. There is a place for these kinds of books. Sometimes I just want something simple to escape into. And, again, I’m not a young adult, so maybe the appeal of this kind of book is different for the target audience.

I have the rest of this series on my Kindle, as well a few other YA books, but for the most part, I think I’m on a YA break for awhile.

We

When I had to read a dystopian book for my 2016 book challenge, I knew I would have a problem. I’ve read them all. Well, obviously not them all, but when I scroll down the Goodreads list of popular dystopian books, I have read 19 of the top 20. So finding one that wasn’t a series (I enjoy a good series, but I just don’t have time to invest in one right now) was going to be a challenge. Then I remembered We. I’ve had it on my list for awhile. Published in 1924, We is one of the earliest dystopian novels of the modern literature.

I was first introduced to the genre with The Giver, then by 1984, both works affecting me greatly. 1984 is still my favorite all time favorite book, mostly because Orwell was a brilliant writer and could truly see our future. It is the scariest book I’ve ever read, mostly because it is coming true every day. And reading We was very reminiscent of 1984. It is clear Orwell got his inspiration from this book. However, Huxley says he wrote Brave New World before reading We. But all three books are clearly aligned, not only in subject, but also in writing style.

We is very sparsely written. It’s more of a stripped down version of a story. Granted, it was originally published in Russian, but the English version is really streamlined. There isn’t a big focus on why, or how. But just of what is happening right now, told through journal entries. Where 1984 adds in the emotion of the time period with the “Two Minutes Hate” and the relationship between Winston and Julia. However, Brave New World ramps it up even more with all the sex and Soma.

Even though I didn’t love this book like I do others in the genre, it was a really interesting book to see where the genre (mostly) originated.

The Murder Complex

I’m a big supporter of my local library. I live near a bigger city, so we have multiple branches to get books. And they are so nice that they will order a new book if you request it. I am also a fan of ebooks and my Amazon wish list. I add books on there constantly and check it daily. I finally discovered the “sort by lowest price” feature so now I can easily find books on my list that have been deeply discounted. So, when a book on my wish list drops to .99 or 1.99, I usually snatch it up. This is how I obtained The Murder Complex. But the second book in the series is full price (usually) and my library didn’t own it, and I’m just too cheap to pay full price for books, so I requested the library order the second book. And they did!! They already owned the first, so it made sense for them to buy the second one. Big thanks to my library support!

I’ve owned The Murder Complex for a year or so, but just never wanted to read it until I had access to the second. I feel like I have exhausted the YA dystopian genre. Most of it is fair. A few series stand above the rest, The Hunger Games, The Legend series, the Book of Ivy series come to mind. There’s also a great series that I got for free from Amazon called The Starborn Uprising series that I thought was really good. But most are just mediocre. Sadly, this one falls into that category. I’m so used to reading a trilogy, that when a series is just two books, it feels a bit lacking. Book of Ivy, aside, because that’s a very fleshed out couple of books. This one, however, felt rushed. I never bought into a character’s motivation. None of them, really. It all felt very disjointed. Oh I hate you, no wait, I want to kiss you even though I barely know you, oh wait you’re going to kill me, wait I still might want to kiss you. Huh?

The book was also really predictable. I knew certain characters were either not dead or involved in a double agent situation. Ultimately, I gave this book 3 stars because I did want to keep reading, but I just wasn’t overly impressed with it. I felt like it was needlessly bloody and murderous (and have zero issues with meaningful violence in a YA books). The overall plot was just too farfetched.

Maybe I just have high expectations for this genre, or maybe I’ve just read so much of it that it takes a lot to impress me. But I am going to read the second book and see if it fares any better.