Thursday, May 5, 2016

What Have I Been Reading Lately? Dystopian!

Hello, bookworms!  

I know it's been a while since I've posted, and the reason for that is because lately I've been completely hooked on a certain genre ... well, a few very similar ones.  I'm talking the complex, gripping world of science fiction, dystopian, and apocalyptic novels.  These three - which could arguably fall under the same category of "Oh, Sh*t, This Could Actually Happen Some Day" - are some of my favorite genres to read.  They're often intense, with this corrupt other-worldly aspect to them.  So since I've been preoccupied with these genres, I thought I'd share with you what exactly I've been reading!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This is the book that first began my recent sci-fi/dystopian/apocalyptic streak.  I'd been hearing nothing but raves over this book all over Tumblr, with everyone saying this was the best book that they'd read in a long time and that they just couldn't put it down.  It wasn't merely the hype that intrigued me about this book, though.  It was the eye-popping, cosmic illustrations leaping off this book's pages.  Because what makes Illuminae stand out is that the story is told through a combination of written narrative and illustrations, in the form of instant messaging, emails, transcripts, interviews, official files, binary artwork, pictures of space, and other really cool things.  In this way, the illustrations are what make Illuminae feel so immersive, more than any book that I've read in a long time.  You're not just reading the story through chunks of paragraphs.  You're experiencing every bit of it through the visually-stunning pages that help bring you into the story (Seriously, though, this book really made me miss picture books.)  While reading this, I honestly felt like I was experiencing a high-intensity, action-packed movie.  There were times when I flipped hurriedly through the pages, eager to find out what would happen next, and times where it felt like all hell was breaking loose and I was just saying to myself, "No.... NO.  Oh, shit.  Is this really happening?  Nonono, what the f***? Nooo, get out of there!"

I want this book to speak for itself, so I won't go too much into the plot.  All I'll say is that Illuminae is an epic, action-packed account of the end of the world, intergalactic war, a deadly plague that mutates its victims into psychotic cannibals, an Artificial Intelligence system that turns against its own creators... mixed with a little love and sarcasm from our two teenage protagonists, Kady and Ezra.
Here's just a glimpse into the world of Illuminae:

Feed by M.T. Anderson

I got this book as a Christmas present earlier in December.  I'd heard of it many times before but had never gotten around to picking it up, so I was eager to read this!  Feed is essentially our worst fear with the rise in technology and humans' growing dependency on it.  In this alternate future, a large majority of the population have a "feed" implanted into their brain, with which they have everything they could possibly need, anything at all, right there in front of them.  The feed is essentially a more extreme step up from Google Glasses, allowing a constant stream of advertisements and digital content. Most would say that the feed is essential, that it only improves everyone's lives.  But at what point does it become too much?  At what point do people become slaves to the feed?

There are times when this novel hits a little too close to our current reality: computers that offer you suggestions based on other products and services you've shopped for; being able to stream TV and movies right before your eyes; and having IM conversations with your friends even though they're right next to you.  While reading through this, there will surely be references you'll read and think, "Wait... that's just like ___." You know you're in trouble when real life starts to resemble a dystopian novel more and more!

While I definitely thought this book had a compelling plot, and I loved the satirical aspect of it, this was also a pretty trippy novel, both in terms of how it's narrated by the main character, and in some of the things that transpire throughout the novel that were just... creepy.

Feed is like a cautionary tale for what could potentially be our future.  Who knows, maybe it'll be a good wake-up call and remind you to step away from social media every now and then.  Either way, this novel is worth a read! 

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

I'd heard about the Divergent series for a while but just never seemed to ever pick it up.  I knew vaguely of the film franchise, but it wasn't until the release of the Allegiant film that I found myself really drawn to it, and I thought, Why haven't I ever read this series?  I really should.  I'd probably like it.  I mean, it encompasses everything that is the definition of cool: action-packed scenes, a tough female protagonist, a futuristic but flawed society where its citizens are split into factions, and ultimately what builds into a massive rebellion.  So keeping on the futuristic path but now veering more toward dystopian, I finally began reading.

Like I said, the series takes place in a society where citizens are divided up into five factions, each encompassing a different personality type: Amity, the Peaceful; Candor, the Honest; Euridite, the Knowledgable; Abnegation, the Selfless; and Dauntless, the Fearless.  Children are born into the faction of their family, and at 16 they attend the Choosing Ceremony, where they are allowed to choose for themselves which faction to devote themselves to forever, whether it's the faction they grew up in, or a different one entirely... 

Tris has been Abnegation all her life, but as the Choosing Ceremony approaches, she wonders if she's really Abnegation after all.  Then something strange happens.  On the day of the ceremony when Tris performs the standard simulation test designed to help assess the faction best fit for each child, Tris receives unexpected results: She is a match for not just one faction but three.  This makes Tris something different, something that society fears - Divergent.  The people of this society are only meant to be a part of one faction.  This helps to establish control.  Those who are Divergent, then - who do not easily fit into just one faction - are a threat to this carefully-controlled society.  Tris must now keep this part of herself a secret as she chooses Dauntless at the ceremony.  And thus begins a series of insane, reckless, and terrifying initiation challenges as initiates prove their worth to Dauntless, including jumping from the top of a high building (Don't worry, there's a net involved), brutally fighting each other to near-death, and being forced to face their fears in the most horrifying way through scarily realistic virtual simulations. Not to mention  people stabbing others in the eye in their sleep or throwing them over a chasm in order to climb their way to the top ranks. (Seriously, Dauntless is insane.)

I personally had mixed feelings about this series.  I absolutely loved the first book, Divergent.  It's intense, there are things that happen that you don't expect, and I love Tris's unmatched determination as she proves that she is tough enough for Dauntless. But I couldn't stand Four, who is Tris's love interest.  He's just so aggressive and controlling, and I couldn't stop picturing him as this buff version of Christian Grey. Besides this, many (myself included) have felt less impressed as the series went on, and the ending is definitely one that many were not pleased with. Still, this trilogy is worth considering putting on your TBR list if you're into action-packed plots.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Yet another book that I was inspired to read because of the movie, featuring a strong female protagonist.  (Oh, come on, that trailer looked so good, and I would be lying if I said I didn't have a huge girl crush on Chloe Grace Moretz.) The 5th Wave is definitely high up on this list for me as a book that I really enjoyed. 

Okay, so imagine that aliens have come to Earth.  No, not the green, big-headed things you see on TV.  This is the real deal, and it is no game.  When they first spotted the ship, everyone thought that it was the beginning of something great, that mankind would finally be able to make contact.  But it is clear that, whatever they are, their only mission is to destroy, as everything that Cassie has known and loved gradually begins to crumble.  

Five Waves.  This is how the aliens slowly wipe out the human race: 
1st Wave: Electrical blackout
2nd Wave: Catastrophic natural disasters
3rd Wave: Mass plague
4th Wave: Invasion. (They're here, and they do not come in peace.)
5th Wave: Read this book to find out. All I can say is, trust no one...

Her mother, her father... everyone that Cassie has ever known: all gone, except for her little brother, Sammie.  The Others took him, and now it's up to Cassie to bring him back.  The Others could be anywhere, and as one of the few remaining survivors, Cassie can't afford to make a mistake.  With a rifle on her back, and making her way across abandoned highways, Cassie is determined to keep her promise to Sammie, her promise that she would come back for him.

Besides Cassie, this story is told through two other characters' perspectives, and it's so interesting to see through each of these perspectives how the alien invasion unfolds.  This is just one of those books that has a gripping plot and really great writing that compels you to keep reading until the end.

*   *   *  

So those are the alternate-world books that I've read recently.  I'm especially excited about Illuminae and The 5th Wave, which are both trilogies that have more books in store.  As of now, I'm currently reading the second book of the 5th Wave series, The Infinite Sea.  It has also recently been revealed that the second book in the Illuminae series, Gemina, is expected to come out in October 2016.  I'm so excited to continue reading both of these trilogies and see where they go!

I hope you enjoyed this sci-fi-dystopia-pocalyptic book post! Maybe you found a book here that you think you might want to read.

Until next time!
Danielle | Belle's Book Nook

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