Tag: Dystopian Fiction

The Mask Falling (The Bone Season #4) by Samantha Shannon

Eight years ago I picked up this book with book with one of the most interesting premises I’d run across: a criminal who steals thoughts and information from peoples’ minds, and operates under an oppressive regime where people with her sorts of gifts are imprisoned and executed.

Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg for young Paige Mahoney. Over the next few years, books 2 and 3 were released with the tale of Paige’s exploits growing exponentially. After book 2, I was really convinced that Ms. Shannon didn’t like Paige very much, and book 3 pretty much cemented that.

Then came the gap. Paige Mahoney had just gotten out of an absolute horror of a situation, and book 4 was just “coming soon.”

Boy was the wait worth it. The Mask Falling opens with Paige and Arcturus (Warden), escaping England and ending up in a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris. Paige is in really rough shape, but has been taken in by the mysterious Domino Program; who want to use her abilities and skills to help subvert Scion control. While she has been told to stay put and heal, Paige also wants to leverage her position of Underqueen to gain audience with the Court of Miracles — the voyant syndicate of France — to continue her own flavor of assault on Scion, and, hopefully, learn the fates of many of her friends.

This one is a real rollercoaster, but I often found myself giving Paige the ol’ “What the hell are you doing?!?!?!?”

Paige’s stubbornness is definitely her biggest weakness. Sure, her bond with Arcturus definitely affects her judgement sometimes, but it is Paige’s unwillingness to accept compromise that really seems to put her in all the pickles in The Mask Falling. Especially when things get wacky, and, boy howdy, they get wacky.

One thing about this series that I greatly appreciate is Ms. Shannon’s boldness in worldbuilding. The Scion Citadel of Paris is absolutely nothing like the Scion Citadel of London, yet she could have used the uniformity of Scion to make them far similar. Details like this, and her amazing obsession with tweaking language (definitely read the afterword about how she tweaked Scion French) show a masterful attention to what makes each location, and subsequently culture, unique.

I dearly hope we don’t have to wait too long for book 5.

TRUEL1F3 (LIFEL1K3 #3) by Jay Kristoff

Mr. Kristoff has an uncanny ability to suck readers into his elaborate world and then leave them hanging on every word until the series is complete. He has done it — again — masterfully in TRUEL1F3, the conclusion of the LIFEL1K3 series. One thing I have absolutely loved about this series is how the character focus one-hundred percent flipped in the midst of book two (well, probably some in book one as well, but that’s going to have to be a deeper dive). For the most part, TRUEL1F3 is all about Lemon Fresh and the resolution of the unlocking of the Myriad supercomputer and the secrets of the Libertas code. Oh, there’s a corporate war getting pretty hot, too.

Let’s just say, there is a whole lot of story packed into these 480 pages.

For me, LIFEL1K3 was a roller coaster of a book, but DEV1AT3 tended to drag a little. The story was still very amazing, but it definitely feels like the bridge of the trilogy. I was a tad worried that TRUEL1F3 might fizzle, but now I see that DEV1AT3 positioned all of the pieces for the wallop that TRUEL1F3 delivered. While I very much appreciate the dynamic between the technologists, the biotech-heads, the lifelikes and the freaks; the storyline that intrigued me the most was the Libertas virus and how much the implications of it distress Cricket.

This book definitely gets far more emotional than the previous two, but I guess that was to be expected in the finale of a series with a pretty emotionally-charged core storyline. This one worked pretty well, though. More often than not, post-apocalyptic dystopian semi-cyberpunk relies wholly on the tech and confrontations rather than delve into the humanity (or meta-humanity) of the characters. For me, this entire series is about how the concepts of humanity can transcend the technology, and Mr. Kristoff has a solid track record of writing amazing inter-character relationships.

Did I imagine I would get teary-eyed about the super-emotional interaction between a girl and her giant warbot best friend? No, but that’s where we ended up.

Pick up this series. It’s a quick read and well worth it.

Heroes Die (The Acts of Caine #1) by Michael Woodring Stover

For many years this book has been put in front of me as a “You loved ‘X,’ have you read Heroes Die?” In typical me fashion, I avoided it because there was just an aspect to this book that didn’t appeal to me. This past month, I sucked it up and forced myself to overlook the things that seemed “annoying” about this book and just motor through it.

Heroes Die is the story of the renowned killer of many things in the land of Ankhana: Caine. Caine is a swashbuckling anti-hero who is best known for pretty much destroying the line of succession in Ankhana and sending the land into political chaos.

In reality, Caine is Hari Michaelson from Earth and a mega-superstar who draws massive audiences to his wild adventures via experience-share technology and broadcasts streamed from the unknowing parallel Overworld.

In this story, Hari/Caine must go into Overworld to rescue his estranged wife Shanna/Pallas Rill. Pallas Rill has gone somewhat off-grid in Ankhana (a very very bad thing), and Caine, trying to get her back in his life, dives into the mystery with violent zeal.

Arching over all of the swordplay is the weird meta-story of what is going on in the “real” world. In a 1984 meets Brave New World, society is ruled by a very strict caste system, and there is a whole heap of drama that Hari/Caine has generated/discovered, and this plays out in tandem with what is going on in Overworld.

For me, this book was a very slow starter. I almost put it aside twice while grinding into it just from lack of anything in the story that really grabbed me.

Once I started to see where the story intended to go, I became far more engaged, but I feel like entire storylines, such as Berne’s, could have been vastly shortened or even eliminated. Yes, Ma’elKoth is a ruthless and super-powerful Emperor, but do we really care about his Master Work, or is it even really relevant to how things eventually play out?

I will Give Mr. Stover this: he’s pretty masterful at world-building. I have enjoyed his Star Wars novels in the past, so I was prepared for his style of writing and how his visualizations are.

Will I read the other Acts of Caine novels? At this point, I’m just not sure.

Orange City (Orange City, #1) by Lee Matthew Goldberg

** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **

It’s been a wee bit since I delved in the world of urban dystopian fare, but Orange City delivers it in spades. Imagine Man in the High Tower (with a Stalin slant) mixed with Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Max Barry’s Syrup. That’s pretty much what Mr. Goldberg deftly delivers in Orange City.

The basic premise of the book is that there is a huge secret city ruled by “The Man,” a seemingly monstrous oligarch who leads over the corporations and keeps the citizens working and cowering in fear of being cast out into the Empty Zones of the Outside World.

Everyone in the city has a role to play, and that is where our protagonist, Graham Weatherend comes into play. Graham was snatched to the city a decade ago to be put in the position of advertising executive. When his company gets the account for Pow! Sodas, everything starts to change for him: mostly chemically.

Mr. Goldberg finds a very unique voice and builds a terribly frightening world in Orange City, and I just could not get enough of it. The absurdity of this society under the fist of a potential madman combined with a seemingly endless supply of color themed entertainment venues with all of the decadent vices you can imagine really paints a fantastic picture of a “work, play, die” ethos.

This is a city where people go from the top floors of industry to being limblessly cast out onto the streets of the Zones in a matter of hours. A city where there is not even the precept of individual privacy.

I enjoyed Orange City because of the insanity of it. Page after page unveiled new facets of what I can only describe as mild terror. Much like Graham, I can’t wait for the next flavor.

The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales by Emily Brewes

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in return for a fair review

The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales is the story of a boy and his talking dog in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by the effects of humanity on the climate.

Sounds quaint, right?

The bigger aspect of the well-woven story is that our protagonist, Jesse Vanderchuck, is a very flawed individual and has let his life be swept by routine and happenstance until he does not.

At his breaking point, Jesse sets out to find the sister who ran away from him and his mother years ago as a way to possibly regain some sense of normalcy and stability in his life. With him, of course, is his talking dog, Doggo, who pretty much kick-starts Jesse into realizing that he has just been wasting away in the Underground waiting to age and die.

Along their voyage, Jesse spends some time crafting a series of fairy tales which he tells Doggo. These tales, typical in the standard format of child in distress or magical intervention, really were the highlight of this book for me. Some are very light while some are very not. As the book progresses, the reader begins to see how all the pieces fit together as reality and fable-dom become not too dissimilar.

I very much enjoyed the journey this book took me on. Yes, it’s definitely not a “rainbows and sunshine” story, but the aspects of true joy found throughout really do accentuate their intention.

In this tale, Ms. Brewes punctuates that there is no standard by which to live one’s life, and that obstacles are ever-present. Ultimately, it is how we choose to address and deal with said obstacles that defines who we are.