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The second installment of my 2014 book list review centers around a genre that I’ve always loved, and is getting a lot of exposure these days with series like The Hunger Games and Divergent. We’re talking about dystopian fiction.
The Oxford dictionary defines dystopia as an imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible. The first book of this kind I ever read, or remember reading, was Brave New World in the tenth grade. I was terrified that such a place could exist, and at the same time I was hooked on the idea that there could exist a society where everyone just did what they were told. I wonder what changes would have to occur in the world to cause people to behave like sheep. Could you imagine the government today saying that everyone had to wear the same thing and would be assigned their jobs and living quarters? #Oppression would become a trending topic and Youtube would be flooded with videos titled “You are not going to believe what the government is doing now!”
All of the books on today’s list have a common thread, apart from the shared genre; they’ve all been made into movies. And before you try to correct me, I know that Allegiant hasn’t been released, but it has been filmed, so same thing. The best part about this genre is that they are usually pretty quick and easy reads, since all but one of these is categorized as young adult.
This series starts out strong. It’s got the formula as all the other dystopian novels, but there is something a little off about this one. So many weird twists and turns leave you no choice but to keep reading. Despite the fact that the lead female character is just like others we’ve seen in recent popular fiction (i.e. totally capable and awesome, but so doubtful of her own abilities that she defers to the manly man lead guy), I really liked these books and would recommend them.
The Maze Runner, James Dashner (Kindle): I read Maze Runner on the heels of the Divergent series, so it probably influenced my opinion of this book, which was that it was really similar but not as good. The series has five books in it, and I’ve only read the first. I didn’t know going in that it was the first in a series, so I got mad that there wasn’t more finality (stay tuned for book 2!). Don’t books just end anymore? Having said all that, I saw previews for The Scorch Trials movie, which is the second in the series. It looks awesome, so now I’m going to be forced to give it another shot. Stay tuned for further review, but as it stands, I give this book a “meh.”
The Giver, Lois Lowry (Kindle): A society with no emotions means no one is talking about their feelings. I know many men who would be all in on living here. The change to this new society was triggered by climate control (wait a minute, could it be possible that utopian/dystopian books are just a vehicle to deliver political messages??) and then everyone went to Sameness. I would give this one a “Read.” It’s perfect for the upcoming chilly weather and you could knock it out in a weekend.
One of my favorite quotes to pull from this book came from the author’s note: ” The man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love and truth. Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing. It is very risky. But each time a child opens a book, he pushes open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere. It gives him choices. It gives him freedom.”
I’m so glad my parents gave me the keys to Elsewhere by putting books in my hands.
And speaking of the importance of books…
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (Paperback): This one has the honor of being the first book on my list that I read in the form of an actual book – like the kind you hold in your hand with real pages that you can turn. That is significant, since this is a book about books. More specifically, about firemen whose job it is to burn books. It is eerie how much this story is relevant to our lives today. In it, people are so consumed by audience participation reality television that they lose interest in actually living their lives. Books represent a time where people felt something and thought for themselves, and so they had to be destroyed. The reason that is so unsettling to me is because Bradbury wrote this book in 1950, many years before the internet age of social media and unscripted television.
The essence of all these books is that society takes away the things that make people different and their ability to learn, because it is presumed that knowledge and differences are what cause the violence and strife. By removing the cause, you should be left with a perfect world. Obviously that isn’t the case.
There are so many quotable lines in this book, but again, my favorites come from the author’s afterward. The irony of this book about censorship, is that is not unusual for it to make it on the banned book list. Bradbury wrote about that and the censorship through editing:
“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading! Take them out and one cold eternal winter would reign in every page. Restore them to the writer – he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids them all-hail, brings variety and forbids the appetite to fail. ”
I think it goes without saying that this is a must-read.
If you missed my 2014 Book List Part I, go read it now!
The third installment of my book reviews will be just in time for Halloween! I’m going to cover all the books I read in the fantasy/horror genre so be sure to check back for that!
Don’t forget to check out my virtual library on Pinterest for more reading inspiration!