Tag Archive | Dystopia

Under Siege by George R.R. Martin

18586183Source: Own collection
Format: Hardback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I read this as part of The Time Traveller’s Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

I’ll be honest. At first, I was a bit ho-hum about this story. Don’t get me wrong. The writing is beautiful and vivid, the story compelling. But for a while, I didn’t get the end. And then, late at night, two days after I’d finished reading it, I suddenly realised what may have happened *spoilers*. And that graduated this story from 4 to 5 stars.

The story is of a mutant from a dystopic future who timerides into the past – his consciousness joins with a ‘local’ man’s, one Bengt Anttonen – in an attempt to change the course of history. The occasion: the siege of Sveaborg in 1808. The aim: to prevent Cronstedt surrendering to the Russians.

It kind of saddens me that I could not discover the name of the mutant who timerides to the past. It’s as though he’s meant to be a sympathetic, but unknown, individual. What we know is that he is ugly, but that he has emotions, feelings, and a sense of humour. Oh. And he plays chess too.

An excellent story with a surprising conclusion, I did enjoy reading it.

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The Kill Order by James Dashner

Kill-Order-Classic-669x1024-669x1024Source: Own collection
Format: Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

This is the story of Mark and Trina, two teens who were in New York City the day the solar flare hit Earth, baking it. Rescued from the subways by Alec and Lana, they left New York City, and we find them in the forests of North Carolina one year later, which is where the story begins. Mark and Trina are still trying to overcome the trauma of the day the solar flare hit, and it seems to be a good day, until a Berg (akin to a helicopter or heavy-transport plane with VTOL capability, from what I can gather from descriptions) arrives over their camp and begins shooting darts at them. Those who are hit die, but it soon becomes apparent that a vicious virus is spreading amongst survivors. This, then, is the inception of The Flare, a virus that attacks the brain, and which the Maze, the trials and the variables of the three later books are aiming to find a cure for.

I really appreciated reading this book. It was good to see when and how The Flare started. This book also sees the introduction of both Thomas and Theresa (named Deedee), though it mainly centres around Deedee. Like the rest of the books, fast-paced action and relentless challenges face the main characters, including The Flare.

The Death Cure by James Dashner

The Death CureSource: Own Collection
Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Thomas knows that Wicked can’t be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they’ve collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It’s up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.

What Wicked doesn’t know is that something’s happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can’t believe a word of what Wicked says.

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.
Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

******SPOILER ALERT******

And so now I’ve read the final book in the main trilogy of the series.

I’ve seen too many people lose the plot by this point in the series, so some spoilers may be in order here to give some of my thoughts on what happened here.

First up, Thomas, Newt and Minho choose to not have their memories returned to them. They no longer trust WICKED, something that Thomas’s memories indicate to him. He may have revived the organisation after the original people running the experiment had killed themselves (due to having the Flare) but he knows that he was never happy with the methods being employed to try and find a cure for the Flare.

We learn early on that most of the teens are immune to the Flare, but that some were controls. Newt is one. He has the Flare, and early on in the book its effects begin to show. Then unfolds a scenario that I still haven’t decided was a set-up or was simply how events unfolded. Theresa and the other teens flee the WICKED base, but apparently of their own accord, and head to Colorado. Thomas, Newt, Minho, Barbara and Jorge (the latter two characters working for WICKED who were introduced in The Scorch Trials) head for Colorado too, because there is apparently someone there who can remove the devices in Thomas, Newt and Minho’s brains – but Thomas’s in particular.

On reaching Colorado, they soon learn of a faction called the Right Arm from Gally (who we last saw at the end of The Maze Runner), who has left WICKED to join them. They’re intent on taking WICKED down.

I won’t go into much more detail except for one thing. Towards the end, Assistant Director Janson is intent on studying Thomas’s brain structure – a process that will kill him (the “death cure” of the title – apparently going through dying might give them the missing piece for the cure) – and is thwarted by the Chancellor, who tells Thomas where to find the new unwilling participants in a “repeat trial” (dubious because of the sheer quantity placed in the maze), and also how to get out of the WICKED headquarters. The impression that I got from this part was that whatever Janson is up to at this point, it is certainly not finding the cure for the Flare. My view is that Janson has a personal vendetta against Thomas (for whatever reason) and simply wants him dead, cures be damned. It is the only real explanation for his sheer doggedness – right up to the last – and also for why the Chancellor works to circumvent him and save as many immunes (Munies) as she can.

This was an excellent book. I really enjoyed all the action and the pacing was once again spot on. Some very sad bits, but ultimately a satisfying end to an excellent trilogy. Still kept me asking questions, and thinking about it afterwards. Especially the real question of the whole series: does the end really justify the means? I think that Thomas would argue “NO!”

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch TrialsSource: Own collection
Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety… until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim… and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

I picked this book up hard on the heels of The Maze Runner. I still had unanswered questions, given that The Maze Runner (the book) gave as many answers as the movie had – pretty much none. So reading the next book was a necessity.

To my utter satisfaction, The Scorch Trials began to fill in some of the blanks, particularly as Thomas begins to remember some of his life before the maze. But thankfully, Dashner doesn’t hand the answers on a platter. One still has to connect the dots and make a few educated guesses.

What I really loved about this book – and The Maze Runner too, really – is that Dashner employs some ingenious (and vicious!?) tech that is pretty unique to his books. Very refreshing. And yet again, this one is a rollercoaster ride as events just do not let up on Thomas and his fellow Gladers. The challenges they face in this second book are even greater than the first – kudos to Dashner for achieving this!

And I was particularly chuffed with myself to figure out one event near the beginning of the book that the teens never work out for themselves – probably due to the fact that they’re constantly being thrown with new threats, so never got to really think about it.

Onwards to The Death Cure. Post Haste.

The Children of Men by P.D. James

The Children of MenSource: Own collection
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

The year is 2021. For 25 years no child has been born. Nor will there be any more children, for infertility has spread like the plague and the human race is facing extinction. Amidst the riots and the horrors a group of dissenters face the choices that may change the future of humankind.

I picked this book up because I saw the movie some years ago, and had enjoyed it. Well. Reading it was a revelation.

Firstly, different to the movie, the book is primarily set in Oxfordshire, something I really appreciated, having lived in Oxfordshire for the last seven years. And James even put some events in areas very close to some of my favourite spots – including a real village I didn’t even know about, right on the doorstep of where we used to live. I loved that.

Secondly, the reason for the title of the book, when it was revealed, was very ingenious, and a delight. Not something I would have thought even possible, but at the time of reading it, it totally made sense to me.

One doesn’t really get into the characters in this book. The emotional involvement of the reader is somewhat detached. But nevertheless, this was a compelling read – but also gentle, with atrocities being painted with a hazy stroke – and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. This being my first PD James novel, I will definitely read more of her work.