Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year! The Future is Now!

My children laugh when I am amazed by cell phones ("I can call from this field! And send you a picture of it!") and I am amazed by these things in the way that my grandmother was amazed by the microwave oven. She never locked her doors until she got one at the age of 90 (in 1983); she didn't want anyone to steal it!

So if "the future is now", why are so many science fiction books dystopian? Why not something happy, with hover cars and food pellets? Someone get right on that, please. And miniskirts for anyone but me. That always makes the economy improve, right? Well, here's to a happy 2012. No matter how bad that year might get, at least it won't be as bad as these two sequels to dystopian novels!

Condie, Ally. Crossed. (Sequel to Matched)
Cassia and Ky are both in the Outer Provinces, working their way toward each other and dealing with horrific circumstances in the desolate canyons outside Society. Both manage to make some alliances to help them survive, find out some secrets about the Rising, and eventually come together again. But there are still secrets, some of which Xander might know, and some of which Cassia might uncover when she is sent back to Society to try to destroy it from within.
Strengths: This is sort of The Hunger Games meets Uglies. Decent adventure, changing allegiances, fomenting rebellion.
Weaknesses: Matched set up an intriguing dystopia that I could actually see coming to pass, and the pull that Cassia felt between Xander and Ky added an edge of romantic suspense to the book. For whatever reason, I had trouble getting through this installment. The wandering in the canyons felt aimless, too much of what we already learned was repeated, and the relationship between Cassia and Ky no longer felt fresh or relevant. I would have blamed this on nascent cold or holiday break, but other reviews I read were tepid as well. Still, I am interested to see what happens when Cassia heads back to Society, and certainly this has been an avidly awaited book at my school.

Hall, Teri. Away. (Sequel to The Line.)
Rachel has gone across the line to get medicine to Ms. Moore's son, Malgam. Once she is at the camp with Pathik and the others, she realizes that her father (who was reported killed in action, but was probably killed by the government) is alive but being held captive by a rival group, the Roberts. This group has long terrorized Away, but has steered clear of Pathik's group because of Indigo's power to kill people just by envisioning them having brain aneurysms. Once Rachel's father is recovered, the group heads back to Ms. Moore's to reunite everyone. Unfortunately, Rachela and Pathik sneak in to town and are discovered. Indigo gives himself over to the authorities instead. This puts a big crimp into plans, since Rachel, her mother, and Ms. Moore were all going to head out into Away. Now, Ms. Moore is staying with Jonathan, who works for her and is sweet on her. The others head out, planning on going to an island that is free from the authorities. They make it there, but without modern medicine or technology, their survival will be difficult.
Strengths: I like to give The Line to younger students who desperately want to read The Hunger Games, since it is a kinder and gentler dystopian book. I also find both of these books to be easy to follow and gripping; so many dystopias are so convoluted that I get lost. Any good book is about relationships and personal growth, and this series has done an excellent job with both of these.
Weaknesses: I forgot why society had dissolved, so more of a recap would have been nice.


  1. Just stopping by to wish you and your family a Happy, Joyful and Healthy New Year. May 2012 bring all the you desire and more.

  2. I have often wondered the same thing about the "science fiction" that is being written for young adults. I grew up on science fiction and Star Trek. I am used to the hope of a wonderful future. You might want to track down these YAs by science fiction authors for a more hopeful view of the future - Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi and A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber. Both men are well known authors of adult SF who have given the YA market a try. Neither book is bright and cheerful but at least humanity survives and goes out to visit the universe. Happy reading!

  3. Remember Back to the Future? I really thought we would have flying cars right already or at least skateboards that hovered.

  4. Oh gosh your comments about Away hit home for me--I am rather fond of "easy to follow" myself. The Line was in the middle grade sci fi/fantasy Cybils group when it came out...I don't remember if it was ever clear why society dissolved. But maybe, sometimes, it doesn't need a Reason. My house dissolves into chaos all the time with no one agency fully responsible.

  5. You are so right about science fiction now - the future is bleak! I'm not a fan of dystopian stuff and so I'm really not reading much YA these days. Looking forward to the flying car? Those were the days.