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Goose

A Dystopian World - Ongoing Blog

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Welcome to my book blog...

 

I am fairly new to reading, I have always enjoyed it but have never really dedicated much time to it. Until last year the only books I had properly read were the Harry Potter series (multiple times), Darren Shan's Cirque Du Freak, The Hunger Games and The Hobbit, all when I was a teenager (although I am a self professed Potter-head so HP will always be a regular read for me!). I branched out last year and bought a load of books and now that I have found my genre I cant stop! I love books that take normal every day life and give it a twist, i.e. set in the future, on an alien planet, or the wizarding world! I am particularly drawn to dystopian novels, set in the near future that give commentary on current society and the potential impact of how we live (although I do not limit myself just to this genre, I will read anything that takes my fancy!).

 

I have never written any kind of blog or reviews before and mostly just want to use this as a way to document my thoughts on the books I read :)

 

I would also love any book recommendations, dystopian or not, to add to my reading list!

 

Goose

 

Reviewed Books:

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood

Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken

The Giver - Lois Lowry

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

The Constant Rabbit - Jasper Fforde

In Watermelon Sugar - Richard Brautigan

 

Edited by Goose

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Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

 

I LOVE THIS BOOK! I have read it twice since Sep 2020 and I wouldn’t say no to reading it again before 2021 is out. For me it is the perfect level of dystopia, a world not so advanced that it is difficult to relate to but different enough that it feels futuristic.

 

In the year 2044 video game technology has advanced so much that most of the world’s population spends the majority of their lives logged into an insanely realistic virtual reality called the OASIS. Within this virtual world a contest begins for complete control over the OASIS, a contest that also has very real-world implications.

 

I fell in love with Cline’s writing style, he dedicates a lot of time to explaining and describing the world that the characters live in which for me is a must in story telling, for example two pages are spent describing and explaining the gadget set up the main character uses to access the OASIS. The attention to detail Cline uses to explain how the OASIS is made to feel so realistic to its users really helps the reader to understand and appreciate the important role the OASIS plays in the lives of the characters.

 

An obvious undertone of the book is that of how the over farming of earth’s resources has led to the decline of a properly functioning society. However, another theme of the story that I really enjoyed was that although the world presented describes one where people have ever decreasing interactions with other actual human beings the story really is about friendship and the importance of forming real human connections.

 

The book is jam packed with 80’s pop culture references and although I am a bit too young to really appreciate them, I still very much enjoyed the references which helped with making the setting of 2044 much more relatable. The book was made into a film in 2018 and although I really enjoyed the movie the book is so SO much better!

Edited by Goose

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The Handmaids Tale – Margaret Atwood

 

I have mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed the premise and liked the idea of the society that the story is set in, I love the commentary on themes such as gender in-equality, social structures, and organised religion. However, I struggled a bit with how the book was written and found myself not really relating to Offred, the main character much. This is probably because we are given limited information about her and her background, I do believe this is done intentionally however as the person she currently is is not the same as the person she used to be and therefore she is no longer her true self. We share in her feeling of not knowing who she is anymore. I do appreciate how this reflects the characters within the story and their situation however I personally prefer to be given more detail and information so I can build up rich picture in my head. There is also not much dialog between characters which although again I understand as to why (Offred and her fellow handmaids are not really allowed to talk) I do prefer reading lots of dialog.

 

The narrative often switches between tenses quite a lot in order to start to give us some small insight of who Offred used to be and the world that she used to inhabit. I enjoyed these ‘flashbacks’ although I often found they came fairly randomly and sometimes with no obvious connection to what had been happening in the current timeline. I do however think that the ‘randomness’ of them helped to create an understanding of Offred and how she was trying to hold on to her past life, grappling at any memory that surfaced.

 

I think over-all I understand why it is written the way it is and that this style really helps form the over-all feeling of the environment they live in, however I just think the style is not for me. I like to be given lots of information regarding the world that the character lives in in order to form a picture whereas Atwood relies more on the development of a feeling.

 

Like I said, I really really like the premise of the book, it is cleverly and well written book, its just not for me. I am glad I read it but I probably won’t be reading it again.

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The Giver – Lois Lowry

 

Over-all I enjoyed this book. I really like dystopian books that play with the concept of living in a ‘perfect and safe society’ but which overall removes the inhabitant’s freedom of choice and seeing the characters eventually develop an understanding of this.

 

I appreciate the amount of time Lowry gives to developing the readers understanding of the setting of the story and she really evokes a sense of peace and prosperity in this world. The characters live in what is called the ‘community’ in which decisions such as their job, who they are partnered with and even who their children are, are made for them. The main character, Jonas is a seemingly ordinary twelve-year-old boy and the story follows him as he learns to truth about the past that has been kept hidden from them.

 

The story is fairly predictable however I don’t think that this spoils it over all. It is definitely aimed at a younger age group but as an adult reading it encourages you to analyse our own societies and ways of life.

 

The giver is the first of a series of four books and although I enjoyed it, it didn’t inspire me enough to continue the series. Not to say that I wont one day read the rest but I had other books queued up that enticed me more.

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The Darkest Minds – Alexandra Bracken

 

Although my genre of choice is dystopian, I do struggle a bit with stories where the characters mostly reside in and navigate a ‘wasteland’, I prefer to read about the ways in which an author has imagined our societies will develop in the future. Darkest Minds is kind of in between these two things, it is set in a world with a fully functioning society however children are outcast due to powers that they begin to develop around the age of ten. The story follows Ruby on a dangerous journey to stay alive and find hope.

 

A portion of the story line has the characters on the road and on the lookout for a safe haven but this narrative is changed up before it becomes repetitive. They discover a camp for kids like them and we learn of the society they have built for themselves to live in.

 

This book is definitely aimed at teens and YA, particularly as one of the main themes of the story is that of ‘children vs adults’, however it doesn’t feel too over the top and childish so it is not off putting for an adult to read!

 

There are four books in this series and although I really enjoyed Darkest Minds while I was reading it, once I had finished, I didn’t feel desperate to read the rest. If I had had the next three books to hand, I may well have continued but I didn’t feel I needed to read another three books to feel satisfied with the story.

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Hi Goose, and welcome to the forum!

 

If you are looking for another series with wizarding overtones, then I can recommend Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series!

 

Feel free to get stuck in and if you have any questions just ask!

 

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Hi, welcome to the forum :). I’ve looked at Ready Player One before and wondered if I’d like it. It sounds quite different to anything I’ve read before but your review makes me think I would! 
 

I also second Raven’s recommendation of the Rivers of London books! I started reading the Septimus Heap books by Angie Sage recently too and they’ve been great so far. I’ve noticed it’s compared to Harry Potter a lot in reviews, so that might be worth a look too :) . 

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Hi Goose, another rec for the Rivers of London series, also Jasper Fforde gives an alternative view of the universe too, not quite dystopian but definitely skewed, but with a literary angle too.

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Hi Goose, and :welcome: to the forum :smile:

 
I’ll by another member here to plug for Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London. They are brilliant  books.

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I like dystopian novels too.  Have you tried We by Yevgeny Zamyatin ? A wee snippet from Amazon " .........A foundational work of dystopian fiction, inspiration for both Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley's Brave New World, WE is a book of radical imaginings ........."

 

I am also enjoying The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry and will embark on the third part this year.

 

Welcome

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Thanks for the recommendation Raven, Hayley, Madeleine and Marie! It's clearly a very popular series, Ive added it to my reading list! 😊

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5 hours ago, lunababymoonchild said:

I like dystopian novels too.  Have you tried We by Yevgeny Zamyatin ? A wee snippet from Amazon " .........A foundational work of dystopian fiction, inspiration for both Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley's Brave New World, WE is a book of radical imaginings ........."

 

I am also enjoying The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry and will embark on the third part this year.

 

Welcome

Ive just looked up We and it looks to be right up my street! I've added it to my reading list, thanks for the recommendation 😊

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1 hour ago, Goose said:

Ive just looked up We and it looks to be right up my street! I've added it to my reading list, thanks for the recommendation 😊

 

You are welcome :D

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22 hours ago, lunababymoonchild said:

Have you tried We by Yevgeny Zamyatin ?

I added this to my reading list ages ago and kind of forgot about it, so I’d also like to thank you for bringing it up! 
 

If you haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury already I also recommend that. I read it last year and thought it was brilliant!

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We is a brilliant book! Well recommended here. 

I have also read and immensely enjoyed The Rivers of London series, and Fahrenheit 451.

 

Another one I would recommend is Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker. From amazon;

 

Quote

'O what we ben! And what we come to...' Wandering a desolate post-apocalyptic landscape, speaking a broken-down English lost after the end of civilization, Riddley Walker sets out to find out what brought humanity here. This is his story.

 

 

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A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

 

An obvious comment regarding this book is that it is partially written in a fictional language that Burgess created himself. The language is called Nadsat, a type of slang language used by teens, it is derived from both Russian and English. The use of this language does make the book a little difficult to read particularly at first, but once you tune into it, it does become easier. There is little to not translation of words and therefore it is left up to the reader to decipher what the words mean. I think the use of this fictional language adds to the authenticity of the story line.

 

One of the main themes that the book touches on is that of good vs bad and the element of free will. Alex, the main character is part of a violent youth gang who the government tries to force him to become reformed by using some questionable psychological treatment. This raises the question of the importance of free will. Is it okay to removes someone’s free will if it means they are no longer able to commit crimes? For the greater good perhaps? And also, whether a kind act can truly be considered as good if the person performing it has no choice in the matter?

 

There is not really any description as to the background and setting of the story, I usually prefer to have lots of description however I liked the way in which the story is told by Alex as it allows us to really get an feeling for who he is and the society he lives in. Burgess presents the topic of free will in a very creative and interesting way and it is definitely a book that makes you sit back and think. The story line is fairly dark and some parts describe violence in detail, I really enjoyed it however I think my next read will need to be slightly more light-hearted!

Edited by Goose

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The Constant Rabbit – Jasper Fforde

 

What a wonderfully unique book this is! When describing this book to friends and family I would often get an odd look, on the surface it sounds like a children’s book, but it is definitely not. It is set in the UK in an alternate world where there are 1.2 million human-sized rabbits living as part of society. The book regularly references the ‘Event’ which is when the anthropomorphising of rabbits took place and no-one really knows how it happened.

 

Fforde creates a detailed and believable setting and takes a lot of time explaining how the world has changed and integrated since anthropomorphised rabbits came into existence, things like rabbit focussed political groups, rabbit targeted TV shows and new rabbit cuisine. There were times at which I felt the book was going on a little too long and eventually when it got to outcome that the book is building up to, it is over fairly quickly. However, I did like the time Fforde spent on sub-plots of the book as it helped to flesh out the overall development of the characters and their relationships with one another. There are also little informative paragraphs at the start of each chapter as well as numerous footnotes throughout the book that help in solidifying the readers understanding of the landscape of the story.

 

Although the concept of the book is a fairly comical one, underneath the human-sized rabbit narrative, the book is really about a specific group being treated with hate and prejudice and the systemic discrimination we can observe in our own society. There is also commentary from the main character, Peter, about being a bystander and not doing enough to help create a positive change. I was also amused by how much it reminded me of Brexit in the UK and a lot of the arguments that surfaced during the debates.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes stories that take normal life and give it an interesting twist.

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In Watermelon Sugar – Richard Brautigan

 

When reading the first chapter I had reservations as to whether I would enjoy this book or not, the writing style is very minimalist and the sentences can often feel more like statements. However, as I progressed through the novel, I was pleasantly surprised and found that I couldn’t put it down. It felt very sweet and delicate and the wonderfully bizarre landscape is presented in a matter-of-fact way that just forces you to accept its unusualness.

 

The setting is that of a post-apocalyptic world where civilisation is centred around a communal-living house called iDEATH and everything is made from watermelon sugar. The sun rises a different colour each day and this determines what colour the watermelons grow.

 

There isn’t an obvious meaning to the story, I would say that each reader may interpret it differently. To me I got a sense of a distancing from emotion and feeling, when confronted with the subject of death most of the characters seemed to have little to no reaction. There is reference to ‘The Forgotten World’ and this to me indicates that the civilisation within the story has become distant from their past and what it may have previously meant to be human.

 

It is a short book, one that can be finished in just a few hours and I would definitely recommend it to those who like a touch of the weird and wonderful.

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The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

 

Growing up we used to watch the film adaptation of this book all the time and have very fond memories of it so I decided to give it a read. It was a very pleasant and humorous read and over all I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like Adams’ writing style; the reader is given lots of little insights and observations regarding events within the story that make it feel as if you are receiving a first-hand account of what happened.

 

I like the descriptions of the different planets and the weird and unusual species and civilisations Adams’ has created. There are only a few characters throughout the book which allowed for richer character development of the few that are in it and therefore I found that I developed much more of a connection with the characters than I sometimes do with other books.

 

There are more books in the series which I would quite like to read at some point, although I think I have figured out that I prefer stand alone books as I am always keen to move onto something different whenever I finish a book. However, I do think I will read the rest eventually.

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2 hours ago, Goose said:

 

The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

 

Growing up we used to watch the film adaptation of this book all the time and have very fond memories of it so I decided to give it a read. It was a very pleasant and humorous read and over all I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like Adams’ writing style; the reader is given lots of little insights and observations regarding events within the story that make it feel as if you are receiving a first-hand account of what happened.

 

I like the descriptions of the different planets and the weird and unusual species and civilisations Adams’ has created. There are only a few characters throughout the book which allowed for richer character development of the few that are in it and therefore I found that I developed much more of a connection with the characters than I sometimes do with other books.

 

There are more books in the series which I would quite like to read at some point, although I think I have figured out that I prefer stand alone books as I am always keen to move onto something different whenever I finish a book. However, I do think I will read the rest eventually.

 

 

The original radio series is still the best version of Hitch-Hikers, I would recommend tracking down a copy of it if you can!

 

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I enjoyed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy too when I read it years ago :). I'm glad you liked it! I should re-read it some time, as well as the other books (I have an omnibus with 5 books).

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