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Book Reviews

The Hunger Games Book 3 * Mockingjay * Suzanne Collins

I haven’t enjoyed this one as much as The Hunger Games to be honest. While the first book was fast-paced and written well and to the point, the Mockingjay offers a pale hero version of Katniss, lifeless and placid. One that’s sick and tiring easily, one that has to negotiate with the political leaders of the revolt so that she can have a cat in her quarters, one that goes from one guy to another and then back again.

Yeah, we wouldn’t want to lose our little Mockingjay when she’s finally begun to sing.

The post-traumatic stress, the mental breakdowns, the self-pity, the self-loathing, the nearing of insanity .. all of these things are realistic, yes, but a bit tiresome and not very interesting to read when it’s all the same and the narrator is drowning herself in it in the face of much greater things to the point where it detracts from the plot.

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Book Reviews

Alis * Naomi Rich Book Review

This is one I found in the discount bin at my local library sale so I didn’t have a lot of expectations but this teen novel set in a dystopian future exceeded my meagre wishes. This was a story of growing up, questioning absolute authority, finding the path to walk on, making a choice and standing up for the core truths despite danger.

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Book Reviews

Battle Royale – Koushun Takami Book Review

I read this book when it first came out in 2010 following the success of the manga with the same name. I read the manga and I read the book an I even watched the crappy movie adaptation. I loved it all. It’s got the three key elements that make a book interesting. Sex, crime, rock&roll. And also an oppressing government trying to kill everyone in a battle to the death. Way before the Hunger Games and the capitol, way before Highlander (where there can be only one) and waaay before Fortnite, a battle to the last person standing enthralled the nation. And this year, the games had previous year’s winner amongst the students.

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Book Reviews

Find Me book review * by Laura van den Berg

After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me, her highly anticipated debut novel–a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world.

I bought this book after reading a review on the Culture section of BBC News. Find Me was listed as one of the best books for 2015 and I was intrigued. Intrigue turned to despair. I struggled to retain any real interest for the main character in the second part of the book and failed to buy into the storyline of her journey after the hospital. I left the book down and picked the book back up and it took my entire focus not to wander after a few pages read… 

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Book Reviews

The Handmaid’s tale: a story about the importance of choice for a woman and a totalitarian approach to fecundity

This essay was first published on Reading Our Way to the Revolution on May 19, 2015.

It’s no secret that The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the great Canadian novelist, took religious and right wing attempts to control women’s reproductive lives one step further and created a dystopian future. As always with good future fantasy, it was fun to watch her spin believable gold out of current dross, complete with everyday detail and made-up scholarly notes. This was the focus of reviews when the book came out in 1985, and again when it became a movie five years later.

But in the last two decades, I think we’ve learned that Atwood’s novel should be read—or read again—as a warning about patriarchy and its control of reproduction as the underpinning of everything undemocratic, from our own powerful rightwing minority to totalitarianism.

Let’s just say this novel is not exactly fiction.

I should explain that in Atwood’s future, the religious/military/economic groups among us have gradually turned the United States into the Republic of Gilead. You might say that the Moral Majority has finally lived up to its name. Powerful people are so white, religious, and universal that they are assumed to be everyone except the workers they command.

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Book Reviews

Mental Health Awareness Week May 2017 (3 books on the loneliness of the sole survivor)

Every year, thousands of supporters across the UK take part in Mental Health Awareness Week. This year the week will take place from 8-14 May on the theme of surviving or thriving?

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Surviving or Thriving in Books

Taking care of your mental health is important – especially when you’re the only survivor of a post-apocalyptic event:

I am Legend
I am Legend

I am Legend

The book (as well as the well known movie starring Will Smith) deals with severe psychological traumas. PTSD, Sole Survivor syndrome, guilt and depression.
Turning point of his sanity is when Darkseekers have set a trap for him using the mannequin as a bait: he managed to free himself, but when infected hounds attacked him, Sam tried to defend him but she was bitten by a hound and infected. Neville rushed her home and injected her with the Compound 6 in a desperate attempt to save her, but when she showed the early stages of the KV infection, he was forced to strangle her to death. Her death, and more specifically, at his own hands, caused him a severe mental breakdown, and even though he tried to go through his regular routines the next day (during which he buried Sam in Central Park), he went into a rage and angrily drove through the streets of New York at night, slamming and running down large numbers of Darkseekers until he crashed, attempting to commit suicide in Darkseeker’s hands.

Oryx and Crake
Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood has managed to create a world in Oryx and Crake where the apparent only survivor of a mass genocide is Snowman Jimmy. Jimmy deals with depression throughout the book and you can see how of the things he once took solitude in like words and sex, are not interesting to him anymore. Although his mental health has never been the best, he is slowly deteriorating and becoming more like his current self, Snowman. Perhaps it’s the negative outlook Jimmy has on life, but it just seems like he never gets a break. He gets temporary moments of happiness, but he never really can find true and lasting meaning in life.
Jimmy suffers from many diseases: an infected food, hunger from the one fish he eats a week as an offer from the people Crake has created and things get blurred in his mind as he has no-one to talk to. His extreme alienation leads him to a deep depression and bouts of inactivity.

“Men can imagine their own deaths, they can see them coming, and the mere though of impending death acts like an aphrodisiac. A dog or rabbit doesn’t behave like that. Take birds — in a lean season they cut down on the eggs, or they won’t mate at all. They put their energy into staying alive themselves until times get better. But human beings hope they can stick their souls into someone else, some new version of themselves, and live on forever.

As a species were doomed by hope, then?

You could call it hope. That, or desperation.

But we’re doomed without hope, as well, said Jimmy.

Only as individuals, said Crake cheerfully.”

Blindness

José Saramago (1995)
This novel is worthy of consideration even though it doesn’t detail a global disaster. Saramago’s acclaimed story deals with an epidemic of blindness, like Day of the Triffids, in a single unknown city and how everything swiftly falls to pieces. Turned into a movie in 2008, Blindness helped earn Saramago the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.
With few exceptions the blind characters in Saramago’s novel lose not only their sight but also their ability to tend to their most basic bodily needs, their courage in the face of intimidation, and their sense of morality and decency. When the government attempts to stop the epidemic by placing the infected in quarantine, the women are willing to be raped and humiliated in order to obtain food from a gang of thugs in Ward 3 of the dilapidated mental hospital in which the blind have been imprisoned. The men, including the husbands of the female victims, more or less accept this state of affairs and even encourage the women who protest to tolerate the brutality to which they are subjected. The reign of terror is ended, not by the blind, but by the sole sighted person in the facility, the wife of an ophthalmologist, who decides to slip into Ward 3 while the thugs are raping several other women and kills their leader with a pair of scissors.

The blind prisoners, as well as the blind residents of the city depicted after the mental hospital burns to the ground and some prisoners escape, have forgotten how to use the toilet, and they defecate in the streets, which run with filth. They also routinely walk around on all fours while navigating through an unfamiliar environment, and they either cannot, or don’t care to, wash themselves or their clothes. Except for the small group of main characters led, of course, by the ophthalmologist’s sighted wife, they cannot organize themselves or collaborate on anything other than rape and extortion.

Saramago’s portrayal of those who were born blind or have been blind for much of their lives is equally misleading. The only character born blind and able to read Braille sides with the criminals and uses his literacy to keep an inventory of their stolen goods and the women they have raped. He even leads them for a time after the sighted woman kills their leader. Aside from the Braille-reading criminal, Saramago’s other scattered references to the blind who lived among the sighted prior to the epidemic depict us as unable to cross the street without sighted help and as lacking the moral compass possessed by our sighted peers.

Do you have any books to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below

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Growing Up

George Orwell’s 1984 is now a massive hit in the book stores again.

Funny how a book about a dystopian society where the state controls how people should feel and think is hitting the book stores following Donald Trump’s election to the White House seat.

Sales: As of Friday, the best-selling book on Amazon. Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, sales have increased by 9,500%, according to American publishers Signet Classics, which this week ordered an additional 100,000 copies of Orwell titles, including 1984 and Animal Farm. According to Nielsen BookScan, which measures most but not all book sales in the US, 1984 sold 47,000 copies in print since election day in November. That is up from 36,000 copies over the same period the previous year, an increase of 30 per cent. In the first three weeks of January sales increased by 20% in the UK. The book has never been out of print since it was published in 1948, selling close to 30 million copies to date.

“We put through a 75,000 copy reprint this week. That is a substantial reprint and larger than our typical reprint for 1984,” a Penguin spokesman said.

Plot: A man crushed by a totalitarian, surveillance state – presided over by the all-seeing and possibly non-existent Big Brother – attempts to rebel.

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Book Reviews Stephen King

Stephen King * The running man (Bachman books)

There are a few Stephen King books which I read in an afternoon or two and the Bachman books are some of them. I loved “Rage” and Blaze and Thinner and also the Running man. The book was adapted into a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger but I must say I loved the book more.

running_man_arnold_schwarzenegger

In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for president, they run for their lives.

PS (the book version I had said 2005 which is long gone)

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Book Reviews

I’m starved for you * Margaret Atwood book review

I must have finished this book in about 2h or so and I must say I’m impressed. It is set in an alternate future, where all the humans, in order to have some sort of an order after an apocalyptic event (and also as a social experiment), decide to create a city where the population rotates jobs and houses on a monthly basis. Prisoner one month, prison guard the next. They even introduced real criminals into the mix to make it more authentic.

5000

Enter, ‘I’m Starved For You’, Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopian vision, this time about a privatised, modernised part time prison system for non-criminals.

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Book Reviews

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood

The handmaid of the title is Offred, one of the few fertile women in a totalitarian theocratic state. Offred serves the Commander and his wife Serena Joy. Every month she must have impersonal sex with the Commander until she becomes pregnant.

Let’s just say this novel is not exactly fiction.

The Handmaid’s Tale is considered by some to be a work of science fiction and by others as social commentary on the way a state seeks to control women’s bodies. It’s thought that Atwood was ‘inspired’ to write it after visiting Afghanistan in 1978.