Tag Archives: Dystopia

The Territory – Truth

And here we are at last, the end is nigh, but what sort of end? Noa and her few surviving friends are about to do the impossible; break out of the Wetlands and back into the real place, where people actually have a chance of survival, if they do not go against the ruling politicians.

Sarah Govett, The Territory - Truth

But they are not just trying to get back to where they came from; they are doing it in the hopes that what they are planning might put an end to the uploads of propaganda into the minds of their peers. And that way perhaps their world stands a chance of returning to some kind of normal.

Sarah Govett’s third instalment of her Territory trilogy does not disappoint. It’s as gripping as the other two books, and while you feel you ‘know’ things will go well – maybe – you find it hard to believe, and you don’t see how it can work. Even if they do return, and even if they do that thing they have planned, it doesn’t deal with what started the awful situation in the first place.

Some of the means could even be said to have been well intentioned, but then what happens to politicians happened, and you can imagine the rest. They always go crazy, to a greater or lesser extent.

There are deaths here too. Ones you’d rather not had happened. And our group of young heroes do stuff they’d rather not have done.

And still the conundrum remains; how to solve all of it.

Let’s just say that there was one aspect to the sorry state of things that I completely overlooked.

The good news for anyone who didn’t read the earlier books is that now you can read all three in one fell swoop, with no long waits. I was about to offer no nail-biting, but realised that that would be going too far.

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At the World’s End

At the World’s End by Catherine Fisher is a short, but intense, book.

Catherine Fisher, At the World's End

Set in the near future, something dreadful has happened, and 14-year-old Caz is one of a few survivors who took refuge in a shop when whatever it was happened, and she has lived there for nine years. They believe the air outside is not safe and it’s so cold no one can survive.

But how can you be sure?

Caz and her friend Will are the next sacrifices to be sent out there, when food gets – even more – scarce.

You are literally on your toes as you read, and with a title like this, I wasn’t sure how gruesome an end it was possible to go for.

Read, and you will find out.

Cracks

How many dystopias featuring a girl named Kyla can a witch take?

As long as they are as fantastic as those written by Caroline Green and Teri Terry, then you can keep sending them my way. I have belatedly come to Caroline’s second novel Cracks, and it’s the sort of book I’d happily give to anyone. I defy any young (-ish) reader not to devour this book in very few sittings.

Caroline Green, Cracks

What made me so content was the fact that it wasn’t just like every other book. Some are. This one was ‘itself’ and all the better for it.

14-year-old Cal thinks he’s going crazy. He isn’t, of course, but while I wondered if he was about to be abducted by aliens, the truth is far, far weirder. Most interesting, in fact. Different.

Set in the not too distant future, the world is terribly different from the one we know. But as with any good dystopia, you can see how easy it’d be for us to end up there.

So far Cal has led an unhappy life, but pretty normal. Soon this changes to strange, confusing, and almost hopeful.

I believe there is a sequel, so there’s plenty of scope for more developments. You don’t have to read further, but you will probably want to.

The Hit

Life affirming. That’s what The Hit is. And trying to kill yourself. You hear about this; how it’s only when you’re about to die that the importance of life hits you.

Melvin Burgess, The Hit

At first the concept of this new book by Melvin Burgess put me off. Like many of Melvin’s topics tend to do, before you get stuck into the book.

The Hit is set in a future Manchester, at a time when our ‘bad things’ have got much much worse. Only the very rich have proper lives. Or so it seems. If you are ordinary you work hard at staying alive. But then this new pill turns up. If you take it you will die, exactly one week later. But during that week you will feel things so much more, so much better, that for many it seems the way to go.

17-year-old Adam is poor, and his  girlfriend Lizzie is rich. They talk about this new drug, and discuss what they’d do if they took it. Because – of course – they will not take it. Except, things have a way of happening, and before long they have lost control of what they do.

Adam has the typical list of a dying teenager; sex, more sex, violence, money, fast cars. That kind of thing. And into this personal problem of whether you live or die, come the street riots, where people are showing the government just how unhappy they are about the state of affairs. And, there are the crooks who produce the drug that kills.

I am too old and sensible to be able to identify with Lizzie and Adam, but I can see how young readers would. The fact that life is much like it is today, but worse, and the fact that they play out this final scenario in the familiar streets of Manchester, makes it so much more real.

It’s not scary, so much as you despair because Adam is such a fool. But that’s a teen thing. I guessed how it must end, but you just can’t be sure. Exciting, and satisfying.

Melvin Burgess knows his teenagers better than most. Perhaps he still is one, deep down.

Fractured

Teri Terry, Fractured

Fractured is at least as thrilling as Slated was. I knew it would be good to return to, but I always have last minute fears that I’ll be disappointed. I wasn’t. Teri Terry has written more of the kind of book you just read and read.

We’re back with Kyla, the girl who was slated for crimes she had – supposedly – committed. And unusually for a sequel, the book races headlong into more plot, instead of chewing over what went before. There wasn’t much of an end to Slated, and you don’t want to hope for an end to Fractured, either. It is simply the – very exciting – middle bit of a trilogy. You will need more.

The dystopian society from Slated has not changed. It’s still really bad. Probably. Maybe it’s that the alternatives don’t look marvellous, either. A world where they kill people for having the wrong thoughts is not good.

Kyla’s beloved Ben is gone, but in his place she seems suddenly inundated with young men, who all like her. Or do they? As with Kyla’s new parents, it’s hard to tell who will turn out to be OK, but you just know someone has to be bad. Really bad, even.

She finds her own resistance group past, and is overwhelmed by not knowing quite where her sympathies (should) lie. Some people turn out to be less bad than Kyla previously thought and not everyone who seems good is. The anti-government group has an agenda, and Kyla has a role to play. But how to keep people close to her safe?

There’s a lot of double-crossing. My suspicions about the young men proved right, for the most part. Kyla’s past and her dreams/nightmares are still confusing, but growing clearer.

I know what I want to happen in the third book. But I can’t see how it will be possible.

Troublesome cats and other airborne coincidences

I own two books bearing the title Cat’s Cradle. One is Nick Green’s soon to be published final Cat Kin book. The other is by Julia Golding, in her Cat Royal series. No, I lie. I believe I also have a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle somewhere.

I don’t mind. If there are only seven original plots, it stands to reason there are only so many book titles as well. Obviously more than seven, but anyway. I doubt Nick or Julia are about to sue each other.

Nicola Morgan has told us about her first novel, Mondays Are Red, which features synesthesia, and its main character Luke. It was published almost simultaneously with Tim Bowler’s Starseeker. Same topic. Same character name. They didn’t sue, either. But when both proceeded to write novels with the fabulous title Apocalypse, one of them changed it. Great minds think alike.

Adèle Geras wrote an adult novel with a similar plot to one by Marika Cobbold. I asked if she knew Marika’s book. She didn’t. It was another of those ‘it must be something in the air or the water’ coincidences. Happens all the time. It’s not plagiarism. Zeitgeist, maybe? (We have to keep in mind the number of plots available in this life.)

When I read Lee Weatherly’s Angel I half thought that she might have been after ‘the next Twilight’ by going for angels instead of vampires. But Lee had the idea 15 years ago, before the world was gripped by vampire fever, and well before all the other angel books we now see in bookshops.

Some writers do jump on bandwagons, because it’s what publishers want. The next wizard, another vampire. And now it’s dystopias. Julie Bertagna barely got the OK for Exodus, because back then dystopias weren’t in. Now they are. And not all of them could possibly have got the idea from reading someone else’s book first.

It takes time to make a book. From author’s idea to bookshop is usually a lengthy process. People don’t plagiarise on a whim. Coincidences happen. Recently I mused about the number of wolves I had reviewed in a short time. There are also several books out now with the name Grimm somewhere in the title.

Coincidence.

What I am working towards here, is a troublesome cat. He is causing considerable concern for Debi Gliori. She has a picture book soon out, featuring a cat in Tobermory. The title will be Tobermory Cat. At least it will be if someone in Tobermory stops being unpleasant about it. Debi, who is one of the kindest and most fairminded people I know, has been accused of all manner of things by the ‘owner’ of the name. Not the owner of the cat, mind you.

The links to this public argument can be found on Wikipedia, so I might as well add them here. Link 1. Link 2Link 3 with a reply from publisher Hugh Andrew of Birlinn. TC even has its own facebook page, but I don’t recommend a trip there if you value your blood pressure levels.

I am really, really against bullying.

Apart from the books and coincidences above, I am reminded of another touristy cat at the opposite end of the country, in another picture book; The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley. I imagine that book has not exactly damaged the tourist business for Mousehole. I also imagine this was the idea for Tobermory. The new book could have been called something else. And then the tourists could go there instead.

Co-operation is a good word here. Not that I’d want to co-operate with TC’s ‘owner’ if I had a choice, but before this argument began, just think of the effect they could have had together, for Tobermory.

Could there be more than one Bookwitch? Unfortunately, yes. There are. There were some before I went public, and more have popped up over the five years you and I have known each other. But the point about it is that I sat down and thought long and hard about what to call this blog, and once I’d arrived at the answer, I went online and found I wouldn’t be alone. But I am a Bookwitch, so couldn’t – wouldn’t – have picked another name.

I can co-exist.

Will leave you with one more cat. In fact, I give you a book idea for free. Here is the Linköping Lynx. At this point I must point out I’ve not checked* if there are any other LLs out there.

Linköping Lynx

The more the merrier? Surely one of the seven plots must fit? It’s my firm belief that Lynxes are the next big thing. Remember that some time in 2014 or 2015.

*Oops.

Slated

Slated is the kind of book you need to get back to quickly after a break in reading. Teri Terry has thought up a really unpleasant future England, where they slate (mind-wipe) young people. (Except not enough things are sufficiently far removed from what the future looks like today, if we were to allow certain people to get their way.)

Officially it’s those who have committed crimes that need to be rehabilitated. They are neutralised and then sent home to a new set of parents with a new name, and a smile on their lips.

Creepy.

Teri Terry, Slated

We follow 16-year-old Kyla as she’s released from hospital and see her getting used to ‘normal’ life as a slater. Her father seems nice. Her mother less so. Her new older sister, Amy, is very friendly. After some time her father seems more menacing, while her mother appears friendlier. Amy is mostly smiley.

As for the nurse and the personal helper at school, Kyla doesn’t know what to think. There are new friends to make, and enemies too. There are too many watchful eyes everywhere, and walls might even have ears. This is bad, because Kyla can remember things. She’s not meant to, but she does. Who was she? What crime did she commit?

Slated is a most chilling read about a society that has ways of dealing with delinquents, whether they are slated or terminated (it could be a kindness).

Unfortunately there will be a sequel. It’s unfortunate in that I don’t have all the answers I want yet. You want to believe it’s going to work out, but it’s actually quite hard to feel it will. This book is scarier than it seems at first.

I hope it will set readers thinking critically about what we value. And who gets to decide for us.