Posts Tagged ‘dystopian’

14th April
2012
written by Steph
Guys! The dissertation! It is killing me! BUT. It is also kind of almost done! I don't want to jinx myself (despite being a scientist, sometimes I am oddly superstitious), but I now have about 75% of my thesis written! While there will surely be plenty of edits to occupy me, the bulk of the writing that remains at this juncture is the intro and discussion for my final experimental chapter, and then my final, general discussion chapter. That's it! Somedays I wake up thinking I am never going to slay this beast (it's like the Hydra... I never seem to have a chapter completely finished and put to bed), but I know I've been working hard and so long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other (or I guess, one word in front of the other), I'll eventually win out. I've read somewhere that writing a dissertation is largely an exercise is perseverance rather than brilliance, so luckily I have stubbornness in spades. Right now I'm hoping/planning/fearing defending sometime mid-May, and once I have, then I'll finally be freeeeeeee! And I can fling myself black into blogging's sweet sweet embrace. So yes, I'm sorry that I pretty much only update once per month around these parts when I have a new review up at BookPage, but if ya'll can give me just another month, hopefully my rag-tag blogging will be at an end as I'll have the mental real estate to properly devote to this space. Tony and I have also been making some headway on planning our big trip, and I keep saying, "Oh, I should write about this! This would be helpful/useful." And then I don't. But again, once I'm no longer writing a 100+ page document that culminates my academic career, I will also be more revealing on the trip front as well. Mostly, I want to thank all of you who commented with words of support and offered up ideas and suggestions. Right now we're just taking things one day at a time, but the earliest we'd be setting out is late August, so there's still plenty of time to get all the tips and low-downs before we head out to parts unknown!

What are these "books" of which you speak?

Anyway, back to books (like back to basics, but better). In the April issue of BookPage (which has been out for TWO weeks now... April, why you gotta go so quickly?!), I review Kiwi author Alex Adam's first installment in a post-apocalyptic thriller, White Horse. Fiction editor (and good friend), Trisha, was really surprised that this is what I chose to go with, but y'all know I need at least one dystopian fic per year. Plus, when you're writing your thesis up, it feels like the end of the world, so apocalypse lit just seemed right. I'm no stranger to "the world is dying but I must sally forth in order to survive" type novels, and to some extent, this is well trod ground, but Adams manages to make it all fresh. It was incredibly harrowing to read, and the writing was rather sublime in parts, so if you've got a hard-as-nails  constitution that can stand books that get rather explicit in their gore, then I recommend it. Check out my full review here and let me know what you think!
26th September
2011
written by Steph

I’ve been blogging here at S&TI! for nearly three years now (I kind of can’t believe that’s true… it seems like we were just celebrating our two-year blogiversary!), and save one or two titles each year, I am very good about writing about each and every book I read. Before starting this site, I simply had an Excel spreadsheet where I noted each book I finished and then jotted down whatever impressions it left me with when I was done. This blog was meant as a way of formalizing and expanding on those notes. I have a notoriously bad memory regarding books I’ve read, so it’s good for me to write about them afterwards, otherwise years later, I’ll remember that I’ve read a book, and maybe even vaguely how I felt about it, but generally that’s about it. Writing hasn’t made my memory any better, but at the very least, I now have a pretty record of my reading history, and I admit that I do sometimes go back and read my own posts to see what I had to say about certain books. In all my time blogging AND keeping my Excel spreadsheet (which I still keep), that is to say, five years now, I have never forgotten to include a book in my spreadsheet once I finished it. Never, that is, until now. I’ve been struggling with a backlog of books to review on the site for a few months now, and just the other day I was getting excited about the fact that the number of books that I need to cover was now down to less than five. I then started to re-organize my GoodReads shelves, and I stumbled across The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist as I was cataloging books for my “Books Read in 2011” shelf and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I knew I had read this book, and read it quite a few months ago, so how was I so close to the end of my backlog of books and yet I hadn’t talked about this book yet? I immediately opened my book log and scanned the entries for this year frantically. Holmqvist was nowhere to me found! I had somehow completely forgotten to enter this book into the list, something I have never done before! So now I’m in a bit of a pickle, because I really want to write about this book, but I know I finished it back in May and I have no notes on it and so I’m at a complete loss about what I’d like to say about it. I remember that at the time I had quite a lot of feelings about this book, which involves an older woman who lives in a society where if you reach a certain age and don’t have someone who loves or needs you (and no, dogs don’t count) or hold an important job, you get sent to a unit where you are put to good use. Which pretty much means you are experimented on and act as a walking organ farm, as ultimately your organs will be donated to others who are considered more important to society. I mean, with a topic like that, how can you read the book and not have some kind of reaction? I’m sure I had one, but what was it? (more…)
16th June
2011
written by Steph

If I told you that while reading The Brief History of the Dead I had flashbacks to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road AND Jose Saramago’s Blindness, would that intrigue you or make you go running for the hills? I think my instinct would be to flee, since both of those books are so harrowing, thus those two allusions might not be the best, and yet there is no denying that I kept thinking of them as I read. I suppose that on the surface there are some similarities between the two and so the vague sense of déja vu that I experienced is not so ridiculous, but I will say that to those of you who are thinking of hightailing it out of here and reading about some fluffy beach reads instead, despite the company The Brief History of the Dead might keep, it’s really not a scary/super sad/depressing/horrifying read at all. Promise! In this book, Kevin Brockmeier takes the oft-proclaimed platitude that those who die are not truly dead so long as they can live on in the memories of others and makes it real. The world that he envisions is actually split into two: there is the plain of existence that we all know, populated with those who live and breathe; and then there is another place, the City, that is filled with all the people who once walked among us but have since departed. So long as there is at least one person on Earth who harbors a memory of them, even if it is lodged in the darkest recess of the mind, these “souls” will live on in the City. Rumor has it that a place exists beyond the City, but one only transitions to that place after all who knew them has died, and no one has ever returned to report back, and besides, the City churns with new arrivals each and every day so it is hard to keep track of where everyone winds up. Suddenly, however, the City begins to shrink, its population vanishing, people disappearing never to be seen again. As the City begins to tighten its perimeters and the populace dwindles, rumors begin to emerge of a worldwide plague back on Earth… (more…)
6th September
2010
written by Steph

Tony and I haven’t done a “group read” in a while (in this case “group” = Tony and me… and sometimes our dogs), but when I finally got my hands on a copy of latest YA juggernaut The Hunger Games, we figured there was no book better to read aloud to one another. Given that we shared the reading experience together, we thought we’d gift y’all with a joint review, dialogue style. It’s rather long because we had lots of feelings, so let’s get to it. If you’d prefer, you can listen to the recording of our conversation, which involves more joking and snarking, which I mostly edited out for brevity (seriously!). Choose your own adventure!

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And of course, there are mild spoilers, though we don’t go so far as to break the book down plot point by plot point for you but stay clear if you’ve not read the book yet but are planning to. (more…)
22nd March
2010
written by Steph

I don’t write about it very frequently on this blog, but many of you know that by day (and sometimes by night) I am a PhD student in Psychology.  My research interests have fluttered about over the years as can only be expected in a five-year program, but within the expansive field of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, I’ve always focused on examining cognitive processes related to visual perception (read: how the brain processes things that we see).  The department I’m in is great for all things vision, perhaps to the detriment to the four other senses, which is something visiting speakers and researchers ALWAYS joke about… what can I say: in academia, the jokes are rarely good. Anyway, all of this preamble is simply meant to establish that when it comes to the topic of vision, I may be slightly more passionate than the average person. I didn’t know much going into this novel, other than the obvious – a mysterious plague besieges humanity, causing everyone to go blind.  Other than that, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or where the story would go, and I’m kind of glad for that, so I don’t think I’ll say much more, other than the fact that one person is saved from this blindness and it is through her eyes that we see the devastation that results when humankind is robbed of sight. (more…)
4th January
2010
written by Steph
No greyzone here - I loved this book!

No greyzone here - I loved this book!

My review of the first book in Jasper Fforde's newest series, Shades of Grey, is now up on the BookPage website and can be found in the January issue.  I'm posting this under "books read in 2009", since that's when I read it, and it was technically launched here in the U.S. before 2010 was rung in. What can I say about Jasper Fforde here that I have not already said?  I think he's brilliant and Shades of Grey definitely does not disappoint. This one was a bit of a slow boil for me as the first half of the book can be overwhelming since Fforde is trying out something completely new here and there's a lot of worldbuilding and backstory that needs to happen.  Those who have any experience with Fforde's fiction know that his writing and speculative leaps can sometimes be discombobulating, even to those who have been initiated and where their Fforde fan badges with pride.  I promise that the disorientation passes and your efforts at the beginning will be richly rewarded.  I'll always be a Thursday girl, and I know that for many fellow book lovers, that series is beloved for a reason, but I really admire the risk Fforde has taken here; whether he intended to or not, he explores new depths both in terms of content and as a writer.  For someone who characterizes his own books as silly and whimsical, there is a lot of intellectual and emotional heft in Shades of Grey that may not necessarily surprise his readers, but will certainly satisfy them.  I went from being uncertain about this series to being completely ravenous for the next installment!  I hope that fellow fans feel the same way, and suggest that those who were not unequivocally won over by The Eyre Affair may want to try this on for size and see if it's a better fit.  Make no mistake, it's still a Jasper Fforde novel, but it is different from the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series. If I were reading and reviewing it on this site, I would have given the book a 4.5 out of 5. [And yes, I received my review copy for free, but y'all know that something being free doesn't change how I feel about things!] Also, if all goes according to plan, my interview with Jasper should be going up sometime in the next week or so.  I'll keep you posted!
25th September
2009
written by Steph
My BookPage review for October

My BookPage review for October

For the October issue of BookPage, I reviewed fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood's latest novel, The Year of the Flood.  The review is already up online, so I figured I'd give all of our S&TI! readers a sneak peak; you can read it here. My past with Atwood is somewhat tortuous and fraught - I had a highschool English teacher who thought la Atwood walked on water, but my 16-year old mind stubbornly revolted.  True story: my university admissions essay was about how I thought Jane Austen was more of a feminist than Margaret Atwood. Since The Year of the Flood takes place in the same timeline and world as Oryx & Crake, I know the two will be compared to no end.  While I didn't think The Year of the Flood was a novel without flaws, I do think I liked it more than O&C.  I found Toby & Ren to be more compelling narrators than Snowman, and whether I always agree with her take or not, I think Atwood shines brightest when she focuses on women.  Write what you know, I suppose.  She weaves an interesting story in which it's easy to get invested, one that I feel was richer and more fleshed out, and I think a lot of people will feel moved by what she has written here.  It isn't my favorite Atwood (I think the childhood years of Cat's Eye get that honor), but it is an absorbing tale.  Sometimes I felt the book got too preachy for its own good, but I won't deny that it takes less than six degrees of separation to trace her world back to the one we're currently living in; what she's saying needs to be heard, so I guess mission accomplished on that front. Rating: 3.5 out of 5