Tag Archives: Dystopian Fiction

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is a fun and thoroughly enjoyable romp across the world both real and virtual in the year 2044.  For those of us that grew up during the 1980’s, it is also a very nostalgic romp full of references to things such as Rubik’s Cubes, Pac Man games and 80’s movies. In addition, if you are a fan of the Canadian rock band Rush as I am, you are in for a treat!!!

Ready Player One is set in the not so distant future. It’s the year 2044 and the world isn’t a good place. Reality is so bad for most people that they experience their lives mostly through their avatars in an online virtual world called OASIS. A unique opportunity arises when James Halliday — the 1980’s obsessed computer guru that created OASIS — dies and lets the world know that he has left a series of puzzles that lead to an Easter Egg in OASIS. Whoever solves the puzzles and finds the Easter Egg first wins the ultimate prize…Halliday’s massive fortune and control of his corporation.

In Halliday’s video will that was released upon his death, he left a clue:

“Three hidden keys open three secret gates

Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits

And those with the skill to survive these straits

Will reach The End where the prize awaits.”

Halliday also left a clue in a book he wrote that contained a puzzle to help people know where to begin hunting for the first clue.

“The Copper Key awaits explorers

In a tomb filled with horrors

But you have much to learn

If you hope to earn

A place among the high scorers.”

Our hero — Wade Watts, AKA Parzival — is a student and like countless others, has been obsessed for years with trying to solve the puzzle that Halliday left. The ‘gunters’ (shortened version of egg hunters) teach themselves about 1980’s movies, pop culture and video games to better equip themselves for solving the puzzles. It has been years since Halliday’s death and still no one has solved the first part of the puzzle. Parzival suddenly makes a connection and figures out the location of where to begin the quest. As he solves the first puzzle and gets the first key, he appears on the Scoreboard which attracts the attention of the whole world. He embarks upon a deadly, epic quest to solve the puzzles along with many others who are close at his heels.

Will he get there in time? Read and find out!!!

— Review by Marci, Fairdale

The Six by Mark Alpert

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In the not too distant future six teens, each with a fatal illness, have transfered their “memories and personalities” to Pioneer robots, eight-hundred pounds of metal and neuromorphic electronic circuitry.  Leaving their human shells behind is only the beginning for these adventurers.  At first, there is pain and anger at losing their human form.  Then, the fear of losing their memories, their humanity, or of simply disappearing.

They must learn to harness the technology, as well as come to grips with the power and strength given their robotic forms.  This second chance at life comes with a very high price as The Six must confront Sigma, a highly developed artificial Intelligence, and stop it.  Sigma has escaped human control and is out to rid the world of what it perceives as its greatest nemesis, humans.

Adam, Jenny, Zia, Shannon, Marshall and DeShawn are the Six.  Adam is a geek, who has spent years writing computer games. Zia has street smarts and is tough as nails. Jenny is a debutante who had everything. Shannon, a classmate of Adam’s, is a wiz at math. Marshall never let his deformity label him. And DeShawn has a wicked sense of humor.  Each distinct personality demonstrates you can still be unique even when housed in identical forms. One of the most difficult tasks for these teens will be learning to work as a team, caring about each other, fighting together, and just plain getting along.

Full of adventure, heartache, and intriguing scientific facts, this tale is a roller coaster ride of emotions as well as a rousing battle for control of the Earth.  The Six face painful losses, death, and decisions many adults couldn’t handle.  And while they don’t come away unscathed, they command respect for who they are and how they handle what life throws at them. The final pages will have you searching the skies, or at least the Internet, for the next installment to hit the streets.

Mark Alpert takes us into our scientific future and asks if can we hang on to our humanity, compassion, knowledge and understanding of others if we no longer hold a physical human form.  Can we handle being given great strength and almost unlimited power to control the world around us?  I had a hard time putting The Six down even though at times I was slowed down a bit by where Mark Alpert was going with his scientific knowledge.

I could hear the teen’s voices clearly in the characters, right down to the misbehavior antics and lack of emotional control at times.  The commander was a stereotypical military leader of the “my way or the highway” mold but fit in with the storyline. There was plenty of high adventure, strife, just a hint of romance, and enough battle action to make me feel like I was watching a World War II movie.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

neptuneprojectGlobal warming has ravaged the planet in this dystopian tale of dwindling land and water needed to grow food and a government with little care for its people.  Nere is a young teen whose world is falling apart around her, even faster.  The supply of a rare medicine needed to help her breathe on land, is running out. Two years ago she lost her father in an accident, or so she thought. Then her beloved brother left after an argument with Gillian, their mother. Cam, her best friend, is involved with smugglers that could cost him his freedom, if not his life.  Her only escape from all the chaos around her is the time she spends in the water training and communicating, telepathically, with a family of dolphins.

Then the day comes, when the Western Alliance, the world’s rulers, have decided to move the people of the village away from sea. For three young teens Nere, Rory, Cam’s little brother, and Lena, an old school friend time has run out. In a final act of desperation, Gillian reveals the secrets she has been keeping. Nere and the others are part of an experiment; their genes had been altered so they could live in the world’s waterways and they must take the final steps that will make living on the land impossible.  James, her brother, had been part of the experiment too, but something had gone terribly wrong. The three teens must now set out on a journey to find the underwater settlement her father has been building for years, thousands of miles away. Gillian, Cam and Lena’s parents gather to say goodbye and give them instructions when soldiers show up to prevent them from leaving. A fight breaks out. Not everyone escapes.

The surface world is dying and humanity’s only chance for survival may be life under the sea. The journey is more than just the miles the teens will have to travel. They must face the reality that they will never be able to live on land again and while life under the sea is beautiful it is also deadly.  While, not all the danger they face comes from the marine life. The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke is the first in a trilogy.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

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It’s the year 2788.  Through space exploration and terraforming, other worlds now have become home for many humans.  Freedom to travel (“portal”) from one world to another within a cluster of settled planets, each with its own culture and distinctive life styles, have caused prejudices that are hard to overcome.  For those living on Earth, it has become a world that exists for only two reasons.  One is to study our past history in search of knowledge lost during wars, the Exodus, and solar storms that wiped out thousands of databases.  The second is as home to those who are handicapped.

Jarra’s eighteenth year is coming up, she has just completed school and is looking forward to entering college to become an archeologist studying pre-history.   Jarra, an Earthling, is one of the handicapped.  She is what off-worlders call an “ape,” a throw-back.  Because of her faulty immune system, leaving Earth would be a death sentence.  Over the years, vids have been a window into other worlds and their inhabitants.  She has learned the hard way that many “exos,” those who exited Earth for other worlds, see the handicapped as lesser beings.  In turn  Jarra has set up defensive walls and has difficulty overcoming her  hard feelings towards the off-worlders when she has to interact with them.

Since she was eleven Jarra has worked on excavation digs, crumbling ruins of cities left behind hundreds of years ago.  She has gained much knowledge and skills needed to excavate artifacts of old Earth, its history, environment , the ruins left behind.  It will be sorely needed in the months to come.  Jarra is tough, smart and wants to prove that she, an “ape”, is just as good as those who can move freely from one planet to another.  Living and working side by side with a group of “exos” shows Jarra that seeing only one side of a person doesn’t tell the whole story.  This dystopian world has friendship, romance, interplanetary exploration, action and adventure all wrapped up in a burlap sack of tolerance towards others.

Earth Girl gives us some background for this dystopian world and a smattering of what it might be like to search out and live on other worlds.  It’s a coming of age sci-fi tale with characters that can get under your skin and make you wonder what you would do in a particular situation.  It is an older teen book with some sexual content, not graphic, and verbal abuse, name calling mostly.  Conflicts don’t just completely go away but you can see how changes might take place. There is some repetitiveness in the story but it captures teen viewpoints well and points out adults can learn, too, if they take time to talk with teens.  All in all a good read for older teens and some adults.

This is the first in a trilogy, followed up by Earth Star and Earth Flight.

The author, Janet Edwards, has written several short stories about the characters in the books that you might also want to read. They are all free at her website.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

A Belated Review of Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

“Those who live by electronics, die by electronics. Sic semper tyrannis.” — Ed Finnerty, Player Piano

The following is a selection of articles recently published in well-known publications:

When it is neither possible nor practical to perform an experiment to either prove or disprove a hypothesis or question, one still has an option at his or her disposal: the thought experiment, which involves the theoretical examination of a situation and the use of logic to determine the accompanying results that are possible or even likely.

playapiaNO

In 1952, Kurt Vonnegut published his first work of fiction entitled Player Piano that employed the method mentioned above.  Specifically, Mr. Vonnegut imagined a future for the United States in which labor has been replaced entirely with automated machines, a situation that certainly would have required the power of imagination at the time of its publication.  In this imagined future, consumer need for the entire country is determined by a central computer that directs industry accordingly, thus producing the supply that matches the calculated demand.

American society finds itself divided in to two classes: the engineers and managers, a patrician minority that oversees the machines, and the remainder of the population consisting of a plebeian majority that is in the paid service of the government performing menial work.  For the plebs, life has become meaningless and pointless, since they are unable utilize those innate skills and talents that they would so desperately like to use; disillusionment and despondency is universal.

However, although a sequestered elite, all are not true believers among the engineers and managers.  Dr. Paul Proteus, the son of the chief designer of this Second Industrial Revolution that had relegated so many to listless lives, cannot quash his qualms about the state of society and its division of class.  Through acquaintances both new and old, Proteus navigates the ruthlessly competitive world in which he finds himself a part and becomes involved with the “Ghost Shirt Society” and the rebellion that is brewing.

Despite having been published in 1952, Mr. Vonnegut paints a disturbing and visionary picture of what life could resemble in a world dominated by machines, and when one considers the ever-evolving role of technology in every aspect of life today, there is a good deal to consider.

“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.” — Dr. Paul Proteus, Player Piano

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Shades of Dr. Moreau: Inhuman by Kat Falls

Before Delaney (Lane) McEvoy was born, the Ferae Naturae virus ravaged the United States causing millions of humans to mutate into an animal/human form. Many died within days but those who did not succumb went crazy and cannibalistic. With just a single bite from an infection creature the bitten is turned into one of the infected. Now these creatures inhabit the Feral Zone.

Fast forward to Lane’s world almost 20 years later where a 700 foot wall was erected to section off the East – the Feral Zone – from the West. To go beyond the wall is forbidden, punishable by death. Even so, there are” fetches” who are willing, for a price, to chance death slipping past the wall to bring back valuables left behind in the exodus two decades before.

Lane was never sure why her father made her learn survivor skills but she is very grateful for them when she is sent beyond the wall to find him. Lane is on a desperate mission to save her father; she must go into the Feral Zone find her father, collect a photo for a high ranking official and come back free of the virus. Along the way she joins forces with two totally different young men, each with his own reasons for helping her. One is of her world, Everson, an up-tight sentry guard; the other, Rafe, is a rouge hunter who seems right at home in the wild environment of the Feral Zone.

Once beyond the wall Lane struggles with her own notions of humanity, faces death square in the eye, learns too late that you don’t have to be a human being to be human, and faces her fear of the unknown. She also grapples with her growing feelings for both young men.

Inhuman by Kat Falls is fast paced with a world fully realized and drawn before our eyes. It has fantastical creatures, romance, adventure, horror, intrigue and mystery in a world that pits man against beast and begs us question our treatment of the beasts of this Earth. This book had me smiling, crying, biting my nails, and looking over my shoulder into the shadows.

And this is just the beginning of Lane’s tale. Falls intends to write a trilogy and is half way through writing the second book. The release date of the next installment is rumored to be sometime this fall.

-Katy-