Posts Tagged ‘Dystopian’

gildedcage

“Understanding slid into Luke’s brain and lodged its sharp point there…

‘We’re all going to do our slavedays.’

About :

Luke and Abigail Hadley live like normal teenagers all over Britain until their parents suddenly commit the whole family to their “slave days.” Every British commoner is forced to devote 10 years of service to the magically “Skilled” elite class that rules over Britain, a caste known as the “Equals.” At least the Hadleys manage to score a cushy group deal: all five will serve the richy rich Jardine family on their legendary estate of Kyneston.

At least, that’s what they’re told.

But when the bus arrives, Luke gets marked as “surplus” and sent instead to Millmoor, “Manchester’s filthy, unforgiving slavetown.”

Because in a “state of non-legal personhood,” you have no rights.

You are now chattels of the state.”

Gilded Cage was authored by Vic James and will be published February 14th 2017 by Del Rey Books.

Thoughts :

I requested Gilded Cage mainly hoping to read about the cool “Dark Gifts” of the series title (and based on Vic James’ exciting bio). But the meat of the first 50% focuses instead on the challenges you might find in a British drama. Maybe more like Downtown Abbey? With cruel lords and ladies making life miserable for their butlers, maids and slaves. (I haven’t actually seen much Downtown Abbey, as I don’t watch a lot of tv beyond Cops and 48 Hours, so this guess could be somewhat off.*) The publisher is clearly marketing the book to people who enjoy this sort of story, and I think the target audience would enjoy it more than I did.

I read to 50% before deciding to set it aside.

Why DNF?

The title Gilded Cage perfectly encapsulates the majority of narrative perspectives in this book: Abigail Hadley tells us of life Kyneston; her new masters, the Jardine men, also share their perspectives with us in the first 50%. The “Gilded Cage” refers mainly to a magical wall that surrounds the Kyneston estate, keeping slaves locked inside, although it may also refer to the British society at large that cages its commoners into servitude. So we spend a lot of time in this cage, reading the thoughts of both captors and captives.

This is unfortunate for two reasons: (1) The Jardine men are a largely despicable lot, and (2) Abi’s plot mainly consists of developing feelings for one of them. The plot summary suggests more to her plot, later in the book—she discovers the Jardine family secret and must decide whether to reveal it or not—but I didn’t get that far because I just couldn’t get into the story. The focus stays mainly on domestic and political troubles rather than magical, during the first half, and I had a feeling the focus wasn’t going to change.

But my main problems with Gilded Cage relate to the characters. First of all, I thought there were too many narrators for such a short novel. The first 50% cycles through enough narrators that I don’t remember who they were or how many I met. More importantly, none of the characters feel like authentic people (with the bare exception of Abigail, who feels like a legitimately moony teenaged girl). The Jardine men especially fell flat for me. I had a difficult time buying Silyen’s antisocial brilliance and everyone’s fear of The Young Master. I especially couldn’t believe that the violently angry Gavar cared most in the world about his baby daughter. No amount of Gavar’s POV could convince me of that, after he shot the mother while she held the child in her arms during the prologue. No caring father would do that. The unrealistic psychology and motivations of the Jardine men left me bored and unconvinced.

Luke Hadley is also unfortunately a very wooden character, although his scenes in the slave town of Millmoor are the most exciting to read. Luke takes part in a slave rebellion, and I enjoyed the action scenes in his perspective. Little things in his perspective did make the narrative lose credibility, though, such as when one character gets harnessed up and steps straight off a rooftop, instead of carefully lowering herself down. Ouch! That would give you quite a jolt and likely smash you into the side of the building. I would definitely not recommend doing it thataway.

Overall :

Unfortunately, Gilded Cage doesn’t appeal to the “Fantasy,” “Alternate History” or “British Mystery” parts of me and I couldn’t get into the characters. Very little surprised or interested me about the first 50%. The author focused on Abi’s romantic ambitions or the proceedings of the court of cruel lords when I was hoping for something more magical.

Recommended To :

Readers who like both YA and British dramas. From what the positive reviews are saying, readers appeared to most enjoy the “Britishness” of it. It does feel very British. Lots of class warfare. I can see the Dickensian influence, as another positive review remarked—but only in the class structure and relations. That particular comparison makes me a feel a little sick; Dickens is known for his characterization and this book has terribly un-lifelike characters.

Thank you so much to Vic James, Del Rey and Netgalley for this e-galley!

*In the comments, Maddalena @ Space and Sorcery kindly corrected my misconception about Downtown Abbey: apparently the house staff doesn’t get abused, which is a relief!

futureshock

“No one wants to hire an underage, inexperienced, tatted-up Mexican girl. Even McDonald’s turned me down.”

About :

Elena Martinez has slipped through the cracks of California’s foster care system. Desperate for money and a future, she signs a contract with the corporate tech giant Aether in exchange for money and a college scholarship: time-travel to the future for 24 hours and bring back info about future technology.

The only catch? She can’t look into her own future. It might mess with her mind or keep her from returning safely home. If she just gets the technology and gets back through the time portal, she’ll be set for life.

Elena signs up and, of course, ignores the prohibition on researching her fate. But she doesn’t expect to find herself enmeshed in the mystery of a murder: her own. Future Shock is a ya science-fiction novel authored by Elizabeth Briggs and published April 1st 2016 by Aw Teen.

Thoughts :

Future Shock is perfect for romantic sci-fi junkies, and I flew through it despite a few worldbuilding and research goofs.

It starts off a little rough, even helped along by Elena’s strong, captivating voice. The problem is Elizabeth Briggs’ outdated description of the current foster system in California. To give Elena strong motivations and high stakes for accepting Aether’s offer, Briggs puts her in a desperate situation:

In two months I’ll be kicked out of foster care, forced out of my current home, and most likely will have to drop out of school…Once we turn eighteen, they’re done. The instant checks stop coming, we’ll be out on the street.”

Thankfully, I happen to know that this is no longer the case, although it used to be true. My husband works as a juvenile probation officer and he deals every day with kids who’ve been raised by the CA state system. They do have access to financial and college aid, now, after they reach the age of 18. Elizabeth Briggs is describing the system of a decade ago, in Future Shock.

But, hey, this could easily have been set a decade ago, and thankfully the story moves fairly quickly into more plot-relevant terrain. I raced through the story, from here on out, because the pacing never slows and the mystery just gets better and better.

After Elena signs on the dotted line, she and four other teens prepare to travel one decade into the future. They will arrive in the future Aether headquarters and have twenty-four hours to gather as much technology as they can. Sounds almost too good to be true…and Elena knows it. She’s a street-smart Latina and she asks good questions: Why teenagers? And why foster teenagers, at that? I very rarely found myself ahead of the technical thriller plot.

And within the first forty pages, we’re in the future! The teenagers are extremely, entertainingly proactive—wandering into shops and exploring the tech—and I love how Briggs imagines the future with lots of cool goodies and sharp edges. Driverless cars rule the road, and they appear to be a government monopoly, as other types of cars were made illegal several years before.

Unfortunately, a few notes ring false in this future world, such as the fact that prostitution appears to be legal, but cigarettes are banned. I think a future that legalizes prostitution will likely legalize more drugs instead of criminalizing more, although I could be wrong about that. CA did just make cigarettes illegal under age 21, so perhaps Briggs’ future LA is spot on, in this regard.

A few other sketchy points jumped out at me. For one thing, [Highlight to read SPOILER: a big plot points involves a cure for cancer. It’s a nice thought, but I sincerely doubt it’s medically feasible that we’ll find a generic cure for every kind of cancer. There are too many different kinds.]

Also, the author has apparently never watched Cops. In several action scenes, her cops seem to lack knowledge of basic police training and strategy. For example, in one instance, the police shoot at teenagers who are running away from them. This would be a major exception to police training, which teaches cops not to shoot at suspects who are running away. In several other instances, these teenagers escape situations in which police could have easily radioed in backup to contain the area. These oversights definitely neutered the action scenes, for me.

I was also hoping that Elena’s eidetic memory would play a larger role in the book. Considering how the whole first scene is built around her amazing memory, I was expecting more from that angle. Maybe book II will deal with it more.

But even when I hit hiccups or areas that could have used further development, I never wanted to stop reading Future Shock. The tech elements are a lot of fun, the pace stays in high gear and the mystery just gets better and better. Every chapter ends with terrific motivations to keep reading.

Overall :

If you just read fast and don’t look too hard at the deets, I guarantee you’ll have a good time with Future Shock. I do have high hopes for a high-concept series or trilogy. I loved the premise, the mystery, the Latina narrator, the lightning pace, the imaginative setting of a futuristic LA…I hope this series continues. It’s a good thing. I’ll probably pick up book II, at some point.

***3/5 STARS

Recommended To :

This can be a great, fast read for romantic-sci-fi junkies. For someone who has stuck mostly to Fantasy, this YA sci-fi thriller could be something really new and fun.

Thanks so much to Elizabeth Briggs, AW Teen and Netgalley for this e-ARC!

therains

“It began with a hard, slanting rain. And soon there was fire, too, but it wasn’t fire. Not really. It was the piece of Asteroid 9918 Darwinia breaking up above Earth, flaming as they entered the atmosphere.”

Teenage brothers Chance and Patrick Rain know something is wrong when they hear screams coming from the farm next door. Their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. McCafferty, appear possessed—with what, the Rains have no idea, and the terrified young McCafferty children don’t have any answers, either. But the problem only grows more serious.

A kind of parasitic spore is turning the adults of their rural hometown, Creek’s Cause, into—dare we use the “z” word? And the stream of spores is headed toward town. No one can stop it. The Rain brothers are determined to try, but the closer they get to adulthood, the closer they are to becoming part of the problem.

And the problem ain’t pretty. YA Sci-Fi Thriller published October 18th 2016 by Tor Teen. Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers.

The Rains combines the alien vs human and zombie mythos and adds in a dash of horror. Narrated in an epistolary format by Chance Rain, the book focuses on action with a strong, fast-moving plot. The rural setting is the most original aspect of the book and definitely my favorite part.

Thoughts :

Page one dumps readers into an atmospheric moment of suspense before the real fun begins, but Chance’s second entry quickly transitions to a bare-bones kind of backstory.

I should probably introduce myself at this point.”

I rolled my eyes several times at hokey lines such as,

I’m fifteen. Fifteen in Creek’s Cause isn’t like fifteen in a lot of other places. We work hard here and start young.”

The teen characters do bear out this description, though, acting much more like young adults than like teenagers. It’s actually a nice change that the Rain brothers, Patrick and Chance, get along so well. Their strong partnership and friendship lets us focus on the action, instead of angsty drama that can sometimes characterize YA.

In fact, this novel is almost all action, with quick pacing and plenty of fight.

I reached for the blackened handles sticking up out of the forge and ripped the tongs free. As Bob came at me, I raised the glowing yellow tips up to the level of his eyeholes and let Bob’s weight carry him onto them. He impaled his face on the tongs, the membranes popping, the hot metal sinking deep, winding up somewhere near the middle of his head. I clenched the tongs hard, cinching the tongs inward toward his brain.”

Isn’t there just something deliciously creepy about using hot tongs, ripped straight from the forge, to clench someone’s brain to jelly? Yes. Way creepier than slugging someone with a bullet.

In fact, the rural atmosphere—especially the perfectly realized setting of Creek’s Cause—is what make The Rains stand out. Feral sheriffs, baling hooks used as weapons and canneries repurposed as factories of death? Please and thank you.

And I love that we have ourselves some cowboy heroes! I’m a country girl, myself. The majority of the characters feel fairly “standard country mettle,” but that doesn’t bother me.

It’s the love triangle that’s kind of…awkward. I might enjoy a love triangle, if it’s done well, but this one is a little weird. Two brothers and a girl who can’t seem to decide? It’s not serious, yet, thankfully, and I’m hoping it stays a puppy love kind of thing. But at least it’s different than most YA specimens; for once, the story is not being told by the girl who can’t decide.

Besides the love triangle, I have very few complaints. I do have mixed feelings about the speculative element. The zombie transformation—while it has a clever basis—manifests too quickly to feel remotely believable.

Then a blackness crept across his eyes until they looked like two giant pupils filling the space between the lids. And then the blackness crumbled away like ash. The breeze lifted bits of black residue out of his head. The lights of the house behind him showed in those two spots.”

This happens in seconds? Eh…I dunno. But! The aliens show some promise—what we saw of them, anyway. Book I addresses the zombies; let’s hope book II develops the aliens.

The only other problem is the CLIFF HANGER! Gah! Hurry it up, Hurwitz. You can’t just leave it like that!

Overall :

Everything about this book is pretty average—except for the setting, which rocks. I am interested in seeing where book II goes with the aliens, though.

Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Worldbuilding: 4/5
Writing: 3/5

***3/5 STARS

Recommendations :

The book is fairly gory, but that probably won’t stop most readers who pick up a book like this. Recommended to big fans of sci-fi thrillers, especially with elements of horror. It’s more similar to The Maze Runner than to The Fifth Wave—it’s The Fifth Wave for action-fans instead of character-driven readers. Similar to the feel of Shusterman’s Unwind. Give to all the boys!

“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.”- James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

“I’m not pretending to be a hero anymore, he thought.”

When teen gamer Loki woke up in the mysterious Dystopian world of the YA serial ReMade, he got a second chance at life—with a few strings attached. There are no parents, no video games and no modern conveniences. Instead, there are wild animals, robots and space elevators.

And while Loki can aim a gun pretty well, adapting his gamer skills to this new terrain will take every bit of his imagination. Remade 1.4 by E. C. Meyers. Published October 5th 2016 by Serial Box Publishing.

Thoughts :

In this episode, like the others, we get to know the narrator and learn about his death as he finds a place for himself in this new world—and in this case, Loki finds himself among the leadership of the teens as they battle a predator that has been stalking them. As with all of the previous ReMade narrators, Loki is phenomenally drawn and totally sympathetic; but the scenes set during his previous life (and death, although we don’t get the details in this episode) trouble me even more than the other episodes have. I won’t spoil anything for you, but wow! This kid needs a hug.

Also like the other episodes, there is action, but the plot crawls. There’s almost no real forward movement and we still have no answers about why the teens are here.

Plot: 1.5/5 Stars
Characters: 5/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 1.5/5 Stars
Writing: 3.5/5 Stars

Overall:

I’ll round up to 3/5 Stars. I really want to see some plot progression. I understand the need to introduce characters to the serial, but I’m not enjoying the world enough to make up for the mysterious lack of information.

Recommended To :

I’m not comfortable recommending the serial until I start getting some answers. Thankfully, I suspect the next episode, narrated by Umta (the only adult among the ReMade survivors), will give us some of those answers.

Thank you to E. C. Meyers, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy of ReMade 1.4!

Remade

“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.” – James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

Honestly, the situation might be confusing and everyone else was freaked out, but it was the best thing that had ever happened to her.”

remade3Premise :

Nevaeh passes from her old life as gracefully as she enters her new one, in the third installment of Serial Box Publishing’s ya dystopian serial, ReMade. Unlike the other disgruntled teen characters, she’s grateful for a second chance to live, and she works to make a home for her companions in the strange wilderness.

But when a mistake with the food supply causes the group to branch out their foraging and hunting efforts, a hunting accident shows Navaeh where her talents may lie in the new society. YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian serial installment #3, authored by Carrie Harris. Published September 28th, 2016 by Serial Box Publishing. Reviews of installments 1 & 2 can be found here & here

Thoughts :

This third installment, like the second installment, drew me into the character’s narrative right away. Navaeh’s story will resonate with any teen who has struggled with long-term illness.

She had time—time! Imagine!—and now she had the strength to help Cole.”

I found myself admiring and sympathizing completely with Navaeh; her perspective is unique among the others we’ve enjoyed so far.

We also get a few clues about the elusive worldbuilding:

…the woods around them were full of animals and berries and fruits that looked kind of like things you might see in the supermarket back home, only…different…. It was tough to tell what was safe to eat, considering how much had changed.”

My theories about the world of Remade are so ridiculous, I’m not even going to try sharing them! But I’m definitely curious.

However, this third installment, like the others, primarily concerns itself with rehashing the death of the narrator. I found it refreshing to get the inevitable flashback out of the way quickly, but I’m starting to tire of this pattern. The series is rapidly becoming a collage of character sketches set against the background of some mysterious place. It’s similar to The Maze Runner, but with less action and more character-building. I feel like I’m still waiting to be introduced to the other characters—and their deaths—before anything exciting happens.

So I’m crossing my fingers for some plot movement and real problem solving, soon! I’m actually really excited to read #5, Umta’s installment, because I have a feeling she knows more than she’s saying.

Overall:

Great characters; overly mysterious mysteries.

Recommendation :

I’m definitely reading on, at least to Umta’s story; so until then, I’ll still recommend the series to teens and dystopian-addicts, but I’m going to hold off on other recommendations until I see where this is going.

***3/5 STARS

My thanks to Carrie Harris, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy!

Remade2“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.” – James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series.

“ ‘Good job saving the day!’ Jing-Wei beamed. May smiled back, then ducked her head. Never expected she’d get a turn at being an action hero. She didn’t like it much, it turned out. Not if it involved near misses with getting crushed to death.”

Premise :

May never expected to be an action hero. Allergen-sensitive and ever cerebral, her success comes from her work ethic. She’s an Ivy-League-or-bust kind of girl. Even her parents don’t seem to understand her drive.

“You don’t get to be the first Chinese-American Supreme Court justice by watching cartoons, Mom.”

Duh, mom.

But one day, despite all of May’s careful preparation, she can’t protect herself from a medical emergency, and somehow she ends up among the teenagers consigned to the mysterious apocalyptic world of Serial Box Publishing’s serial YA Dystopian adventure, Remade. Published September 21st, 2016. Available now on the Serial Box Publishing website. The pilot episode 1 is also available for free on the website! My review of episode 1 is available here .

In this second installment, written by Andrea Phillips, we meet several new characters of the story’s fairly large cast, and we get to know May in particular.

Thoughts :

May is such a great character. How is an allergen-sensitive SAT kid supposed to survive in a post-apocalyptic world? Well, basically, she never gives in; that counts for something, in this sort-of-afterlife. I love everything about her perspective—the drive, the humor and the pain. I’m definitely invested in her story.

And thanks to the great characterization by Andrea Phillips, the large cast is also coming into focus. We already know Holden and Seyah, from the first installment by Matthew Cody, and now we really get to know May. The adorable little Mormon Boy Scout, Hyrum, is easy to keep track of, as is the pseudonymous Loki. Everyone seems to dislike Wesley, right now, so that marks him out fairly well. Several other characters remain unimportant, so far, but I assume we’ll be getting to know them better later on: Cole, Niveah, Jing-Wei and Gabe.

Although I enjoyed the characterization of this second installment, the plot doesn’t progress much, and the majority of the episode feels like setup. I want more answers and more plot movement. I’m hoping for more of that in “Remade 1.3.”

Overall :

This was a short stop in the journey and so far, I’m quite intrigued.

Recommended To :

Dystopian-addicts and adults who YA. Teen readers, including boys, will love this fast-paced adventure. An audio version of the season is available on the Serial Box Publishing website, and don’t forget to check out the free pilot episode, “Shadows and Dreams”!

Many sincere thanks to Andrea Phillips, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy!

****4/5 STARS

Praise :

“An ongoing YA adventure told by a team of talented authors and set in a promising future world. ReMade brings to the (e)page the kind of compelling serialised storytelling made popular by TV.” – Philip Reeve, author of Mortal Engines andRailhead.

“A thrilling, diverse, character-driven adventure—a little bit of Lost, a little bit of The 100, and a whole lot of fun.” – Cassandra Rose Clarke, author of The Assassin’s Curse.

“ReMade is like the revved-up, feral lovechild of The Maze Runner and Under the Never Sky with a sharp injection of Lost. Gripping and addictive!” – Delilah Dawson, author ofWicked as They Come.

Remade

“The next time he opened his eyes there were monsters. They surrounded him, poked at him with spindly metallic arms. He saw himself reflected in their glassy eyes, multifaceted like prisms. A dozen Holdens all screamed at once, but someone had turned his voice off…

‘He’s awake,’ said a voice near his ear…’You shouldn’t do this to him while he’s awake. It hurts him.’”

“ReMade will premiere on September 14th, 2016. It will unfold across 15 episodes, be available in text and audio forms, and is presented by Serial Box Publishing.”

And I am so excited for more.

About :

ReMade is a serialized YA that took me completely by surprise. I originally discovered this publisher of serialized fiction because I had heard that Max Gladstone, author of the awesomely original Three Parts Dead, was writing an urban fantasy serial about magical librarians, or something. That particular serial is deep into season two.

But then I noticed that Kiersten White, author of And I Darken, a YA Historical which recently blew me away, was contributing to a brand new Dystopian/Adventure YA serial called “ReMade.” So, what the heck, I figured I’d give it a shot.

This first episode is written by author Matthew Cody.

The Opening :

It starts with this episode’s protagonist, Holden, living a relatively normal teenaged life. Or maybe not. He’s playing the only male fairy in the school play to impress a girl. Is that normal?

At any rate, I found him and his situation endearing. As he changes out of costume in his makeshift dressing room, a broom closet:

“Holden could just picture that door accidentally opening onto a crowded roomful of teenagers and their parents, and him standing there in his boxer briefs and eye shadow. It would be a Holden moment to remember.”

*snicker* I enjoyed the humor of the opening scenes.

And then things go crazy. The apocalypse. You know.

Here’s the publisher description:

“You live. You love. You die. Now RUN. ReMade.

Every minute, 108 people die.

On October 14th, 2016, from 9:31-9:32 p.m. EDT, 23 of those deaths will be teenagers.

Now they are humanity’s last hope for survival.

Awakened in a post-apocalyptic world and hunted by mechanical horrors, these teens search for answers amidst the ruins of civilization. Fate, love, and loyalty face off in this adrenaline -pumping YA adventure.”

Overall:

Standard YA Dystopian fare? Maybe, maybe not. It’s too early to tell, after reading this 45 minute episode, but there are some nice sci-fi touches that I don’t want to spoil for you. Episode one doesn’t reveal a lot of answers, but I’m hoping the next episode will. I really enjoyed Holden’s voice, and I know I will love Kiersten White’s writing, in her episodes.

That’s good enough for me to move on to episode two.

I can’t wait!

Recommended To :

Thus far, plot-driven dystopia addicts. Sci-fi lovers. Adults who YA.

Thanks to Matthew Cody, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my review copy!

little brother

Premise: When terrorists attack San Francisco, killing thousands, the city becomes a police state. Techy teenager Marcus and his equally savvy friends are caught in the middle, interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security for crimes they did not commit. When Marcus is finally released, he decides to show the DHS why their invasive tactics fail.

About: I was super excited to read this book, having recently heard a lot about Rand Paul’s filibuster on civil liberties. I confess, though, when I first read this book, I rolled my eyes at all the talk about a “police state.” But a few days later, the San Bernardino shooting rocked my state and this book became a little more relevant.

In this book, Marcus argues that terrorists are only getting better at avoiding our counter-measures. And unless we are improving at the same rate or more quickly, how can we expect to stay ahead of the game? We can’t. So when US-loving hackers like Marcus, the thoroughly teenaged rebel protagonist, find ways around security, we should be grateful that they pointed out the loophole before a terrorist did. This is one of the points Marcus tries to make to the DHS. They don’t appreciate this work, however—they bully him for making their jobs more difficult.

Overall: I honestly found Marcus more than a little obnoxious, but, well, my husband is in law-enforcement. Other than the lack of character sympathy (character-development took a backseat to worldbuilding and thematic development), this novel sports great techno writing, a believable (and foreseeable) Dystopia and an unusual take on civil liberties, hackers and whistleblowers. There’s nothing else out there like this book, for teens, that’s for sure.

Recommendation: YA, Adults-who-YA, Dystopia-addicts.

***3/5 STARS for uniqueness

Awards: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008), Locus Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Book (2009), Golden Duck Award for Hal Clement Award for Young Adult (2009), Sunburst Award for Young Adult (2009)

John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009), Emperor Norton Award (2008), Prometheus Award for Best Novel (2009), Sakura Medal Nominee for High School Book (2010), Florida Teens Read Nominee (2009),Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013), White Pine Award for Best Canadian Young Adult Novel (2009)

AtlasShrugged atlasshrugged4

Adult Fiction; Dystopian (Sociological Sci-Fi); Published 1957

Premise: The world is falling apart around Dagny Taggert and Hank Reardon as they struggle to save their beloved industries from their strangely powerful, pervasive enemies. But who, exactly, is their enemy?

About: Part of what makes this book so interesting is that it’s part novel, part philosophical treatise. I really enjoyed the novel and learning about Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. While I don’t agree with the moral part of her philosophy, I agree with a lot of the economic part. However, I can’t say that even the economic portion was quite thorough enough or correct enough to say, “Yes, I approve.” I hear that her non-fiction work is more thoroughly developed, as far as philosophy and theory, although I haven’t read any of it for myself, yet.

BEFORE YOU READ ON: I generally try to avoid spoilers, in my reviews; but this review is going to contain a lot of spoilers about Ayn Rand’s political position and the point she makes in Atlas Shrugged because it’s pretty much impossible to critique these things separately from the book. (It is a VERY political, VERY polarizing book.) I really hope that if you’re considering reading this book, you’ll skip the “What I Liked” and “What I Didn’t Like” sections until you have read the book for yourself. Discovering Rand’s perspective was a huge part of the fun—for me, at least. Do please, however, skip down and read my “Overall” and “Audiobook” sections of the review, if you’re interested.

SPOILERS!!!

What I Liked: (1) This novel kept me up at night. It’s a study in slow-burn tension. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. (2) It introduced me to libertarian thought, something I was almost completely unfamiliar with. (3) It breaks down the idea of economic centralization and shows, with examples, why it might harm an economy, if implemented as irresponsibly as the Jim Taggarts of the narrative did. It also strongly conveys the conservative argument that socialism takes incentive away from businessmen, inventors, workers, etc. (4) It interested me in politics by giving me a new perspective on the confusion that is contemporary American politics. I didn’t know where to begin, before reading this book, so I have to thank it for helping me forward. (5) It provides a very pro-American viewpoint that is lacking in the public schools I attended. I had absorbed a very negative view of America by the time I went through public high school and my first two years of college. But this book—among other things—showed me that things aren’t as black and white as my teachers (or other people in my life who would disagree with my public school teachers) would have me believe. (6) The book is just so…triumphant. A lot of the book feels like the best moments in other books, when your hero kicks the antagonist’s booty. Oh, here’s a slightly spoilery Catching Fire example: when Peeta drops the baby bomb on live television, and the capitol citizens end up calling for a halt to that year’s unpopular hunger games. At that moment, you’re just like, HAH TAKE THAT, PRESIDENT SNOW! GO PEETA!! That’s what reading Atlas Shrugged felt like, to me. There are so many great moments, particularly from Dagny and Hank.

What I Didn’t Like:

(1) Its portrayal of socialists is flawed. It simply is. I don’t believe all socialists are like Jim Taggart. I think a lot of self-described socialists honestly believe that economic centralization is the answer to world poverty. That doesn’t make them evil, bloodsucking moochers. It means they are compassionate people who, I believe, rely too heavily on the government for social salvation. In fact (just to throw in one ideological disagreement I have with this novel’s message), I like some “socialist” practices and policies because I think (a) the policies can work to benefit the poor, if done right, and (b) that individuals do have some obligation to the community. To give one small example: free lunch for underprivileged school kids. I would vote for that, in my community, as long as the policies made sense. Why? Because, using my brain and heart to think this through, I decided that these kids are doing their part by going to school and it will only help the community to have them being properly fed, if they aren’t getting the right nutrition at home. I wouldn’t vote for laws about this on a federal scale because I think the specifics of the policies should be kept local–the local communities know what their kids need better than the federal government does. It’s simply of matter of “Which way does it work better?” But I don’t think that’s a bad tax on our community’s hard workers, as long as the majority of voters approve. (And yes, I realize that unions and other organizations passed important standard-of-living controls on corporations.) So basically, my complaint is that Rand does not honestly portray the protests of her opposition, in this book. Either that, or she just didn’t understand her opposition. I would have to read her nonfiction to know whether or not she understands the heart of socialist thought.

(2) And, for another ideological disagreement with the novel: Unlike Rand’s heroes, I don’t think that all taxes should be abolished. I believe the government needs some taxes to keep running and doing its primary job of protecting us from our enemies and ourselves. I don’t think a completely free market would provide safe service in every realm (such as law enforcement. I don’t see how law enforcement could safely and successfully be privatized, although I admit I’m new to libertarian thought and haven’t read all of their ideas on the subject). (3) Another thing: making money is not the highest virtue. Sorry. Frugality and hard work certainly are virtues, but making money is not the highest of callings. I truly believe that some Americans—e.g. wounded veterans, physically and mentally disabled, and many mothers, who work more often than not on unofficial “jobs” like keeping house, keeping children and keeping sane–cannot and/or should not have to be monetarily self-sufficient, as Rand seemed to believe. (4) The marriages. Marriage, in this book, is a horror zone. That’s not surprising, considering Rand’s ridiculous string of affairs, but I’ll leave it at that 😉 (5) ALL HUMANITY MUST WORSHIP THE HEROES OF INDUSTRY OR THEY SHOULD JUST DIE (nope, sorry).

END OF SPOILERS!!!

Overall: Fabulous novel with some flawed philosophies and portrayals. Despite my qualms with it, it’s been a long time since I loved a book this much.

Audiobook: Scott Brick is freaking fantastic. Great narrator. Loved the audiobook.

*****FIVE STARS

SPOILERS!!!

Characterizing Quotes:

“I want to be prepared to claim the greatest virtue of all—that I was a man who made money” (a hero of the book, 96).

“No one’s happiness but my own is in my power to achieve or destroy” (798).

“Accept the fact that the achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness—not pain or mindless self-indulgence—is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and result of the loyalty to the achievement of your values” (1059).

“If you choose to help a man who suffers, do it only on the ground of his virtues, of his fight to recover, of his rational record, or of the fact that he suffers unjustly; then your action is still a trade, and his virtue is the payment of your help. But to help a man who has no virtues, to help him on the grounds of his suffering as such, to accept his faults, his need as a claim—is to accept the mortgage of a zero on your values” (1060).

I volunteer during my local library’s Teen Summer Reading Program (and have since its inception, five years ago). Here are the books popular during summers 2014 and (so far) 2015–straight from the mouths of the teens!