Category Archives: Sci Fi and Fantasy

LBC Dystopia – The 5th Wave – Write Up

LBC DYSTOPIA

Date:  Tuesday 22nd of July 2015
Time:  6pm – 8pm
Address: Harper Street, LS2 7EA
Tel: 0113 246 9405

DISCUSSING

THE 5th WAVE

RICK YANCEY

 
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *

BLURB

THE 1st WAVE
Took out half a million people.

THE 2nd WAVE
Put that number to shame.

THE 3rd WAVE
Lasted a little longer. Twelve weeks . . . Four billion dead.

IN THE 4th WAVE,
You can’t trust that people are still people.

AND THE 5th WAVE?
No one knows.
But it’s coming.

On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs.
Runs from the beings that only look human, who have scattered Earth’s last survivors.

To stay alone is to stay alive, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope.

Now Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

THE 5TH WAVEREVIEW

Well.

We liked the idea.

And we really *wanted* to enjoy it. 

Once again, it was so lovely to gather together and have a natter about our recent reads. As is usual for our optimistic band of readers, we had approached this book with an open mind. We’ve read quite a bit of YA fiction previously and have found it to be a mixed bag – particularly in the saturated dystopia/SFF genera. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of us, before we ever started the book, we encountered those oft terrifying words ‘the first in an exciting new trilogy…‘ and our collective hearts sank.

So we indulged in a little whinge about how fiction isn’t designed to just ‘tell’ a story any more. It’s all about creating a world and re-visiting it over and over again. Which is fine, as long as it’s a world populated by interesting characters who fall into crazy exciting circumstances that sustain interest. Too often however, we’ve found that the sequels have more to do with successful branding than a need to flesh out more aspect of the plot.

So, before the vast majority of us even started the book, we were weary. And apprehensive. And there was a 50:50 chance that this book would prove to be better than we could ever have expected. As it happens, the coin landed on the other side.

In the main, we found the plot to be very predictable. As each character arrived, we guessed with near unerring accuracy what was going to happen to them. Again and again and again. One of us joked that they were starting to feel quite psychic. Oh how we laughed (actually, we did have a proper guffaw when they killed Kenny. *snigger*).

kenny dancing

We did enjoy the Ben Parrish story line throughout the book. He felt like quite a flesh out character – albeit one in a slightly daft situation. We were torn between bemoaning the army as the fifth wave but secretly enjoying it and tearing our hair out that Ben seemed to be so incapable of recognising what was happening around him. Sure, it was a very stressful environment but we never felt like all the misery and horribleness and awfullishiousness was actually grounded in anything that we could honestly relate to.

Ben was positively a genius in comparison to Cassie though. She started off as this cool, confident kickass survivor that promptly turned into an idiot and a girrrl (not like a person girl, like a tv cardboard cut out of an actual character girl) the second a bloke appeared. I mean, it was so OBVIOUS – all of us who read it were stunned by how predictable the whole plot turned out to be but in this case, we were staring at the page blankly at her blind stupidity.

As for Evan – I am not sure that it’s fair to really describe him as a character. Some of his storyline were actually really interesting but the hammered in love story just ruined it. Ugh, creepy and bland but smells like chocolate? Where have I read something like that before? We did console ourselves that the hunter did in fact serve a useless narrative purpose as Cassie could not have saved her brother without him. But the honey-crumpet angle just over powered everything else. In fact, some of us ended up rooting for the five year old to become pyschotic – just to break from the norm.

We decided not to go into the secondary characters in too much detail as they were clearly only included for fleshing out in later books (which we are unlikely to be reading) and weren’t given a chance to do anything but page fill in this.

We were disappointed however in the whole alien/host aspect. One person noted that it felt like a really obvious way of getting around the War of the Worlds virus trope which lead to such a nice little nerdy chat for a moment that I now declare that person the Winner of book club. Sadly I didn’t write down who actually said it.

We also noted that the more we learned about the aliens, the less scary they became – particularly now that there are ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ battling to lead the cause. We also toyed with speculating as the aliens intentions; why they picked earth; why ships and so on but just didn’t have the interest of inclination to actually read the sequels and see whether we were right…so that petered right out.

We all agreed that this was a book structured and designed to appeal to the silver screen; hoping to occupy the same territory as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Having said that, goodly chunks are explained via internal dialogue which could be trickier to film.

So not a great read, but a very enjoyable meet up and chat!

 

SCORE

5/10

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #LBCDystopia

 
Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com
Advertisements

LBC Dystopia – Never Let Me Go – Write Up

LBC DYSTOPIA

Date:  Tuesday 22nd of July 2015
Time:  6pm – 8pm
Address: Harper Street, LS2 7EA
Tel: 0113 246 9405

DISCUSSING

NEVER LET ME GO

KAZUO ISHIGURO

 
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *

BLURB

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

never let me goFor the vast majority of us, this was a re-visit to the world of Never Let Me Go. Some had worried that the book – which we nearly all of us had enjoyed – might not stand up to a second reading. Others were curious to see if the film had influenced their opinion of the book – though we did agreed that – as not everyone had seen the moooovie – we would restrict our discussion to the book.

This turned out to be a surprisingly controversial book choice for us. There is a curiously dreamlike aspect due to the incredibly sparse world building and precision of language that lead some to question whether this should even qualify as a dystopia. Certainly, it doesn’t fit many of the classic tropes of dystopic writing. However, the vast majority of us agreed that any society – no matter how much it appeared to resemble/differ from our own – that was prepared to harvest people, rendering them redundant, was one that qualified as appropriate reading for us!

Another aspect that dominated much of the discussion was about what the metaphor of the story was. Though quite a few of us weren’t convinced that the book needed to be viewed that way – in fact some of us felt that it wasn’t really applicable at all – a great deal of time was spent pondering whether the point of the story was to attack racism or the class system, despite neither topic ever really being raised within the book. This lead one or two of us to speculate that perhaps the book affected us all on quite a personal level, which resulted in us looking for external aspects to discuss.

We found it difficult to assess the social, political or cultural context of the world that this story is set in as we are provided with very little information about ANYTHING to do with the students and the ‘service’ that they provide; and if you think that that stopped us, you’ve not been paying attention. Indeed, our only real clue is that the whole situation is regarded by everyone – including the subjects – as perfectly normal. The real question for the wider world appears to be closer to a factory versus free range issue.

We almost universally lauded the writing. Despite the minimalism  in terms of world building; we all felt that everything felt incredibly real. The characters were interesting to us because as much as we can, we know them – particularly our primary three –  but they are all limited by design. I argued that Ruth would have made a more compelling protagonist. Though not necessarily someone that you’d want to spend tons of time with; she makes things happen far more than the more passive Kathy. Though we did find it notable that in the end, Ruth has made more peace with her place in the world than Kathy appears to. We had a brief foray into the ‘is she bland or merely implacable’ but honestly, I think that we had a soft spot for her by the end of our chat. The characters are left with neither family nor regional influence. They are wholly absent and isolated from the rest of the world. As a result, we spend very little time any where else. As readers, we were also limited by our narrator. We can only know what Kathy knows. And she is restricted in so many ways. Her acceptance of that was deeply frustrating for many of us.

Structurally, we enjoyed that at first glance, this appears to follow in the tradition of classic British boarding school books; though this is no children’s tale. Well…maybe the Addams family… Halsham turns out to deviate hugely from Hogwarts/Malory Towers and their ilk. For one thing, it doesn’t appear to be much of a school at all. For another, it certainly isn’t assisting its young people to an exciting or fulfilling future (or is it – ohh how we speculated). But the final nail in the coffin must be that IT TURNS OUT THAT IT’S A BLOODY EXPERIMENT IN TREATING WALKING BODY PARTS AS PEOPLE. Just so WRONG. (I liked school, what can I say?). And it fails no less. How awful. What a bleak end.

We couldn’t help but speculate for a time on those aspects NOT really included in the text. Why didn’t they run? Could the instinct for survival really be so easily muted? Or it is a case that unlike most people; they are aware of their primary function and that they will fulfill it; leaving them with nothing more to aspire towards? Was there an underground train that saved the victims of a Death Row nation?

However, we ran out of time without the chance to unpack half of the topics we would have liked. The mark of a good book I think you’ll agree!

FILM TRAILER

SCORE

7/10

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #LBCDystopia

 
Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

LBC White Swan – Wool Review

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 11th of October 2015
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds

Discussing:

WOOL

HUGH HOWEY

* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *

* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *

* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *

Huge thanks to Riley @McCluskry for providing this excellent write up! A long time book clubber; this is his first write up! Welcome to the team, Riley!

The BLURB (AMAZON)

WHAT WOULD YOU DO
If the world outside was deadly,
And the air you breathed could kill.

AND YOU LIVED IN A PLACE
Where every birth required a death
And the choices you made could save lives – or destroy them.

THIS IS JULES’ STORY

THIS IS THE WORLD OF WOOL

woolSome of us approached ‘Wool’ with caution, put on the defensive by the sticker on the front, insisting that if you loved the Hunger Games, you’ll love this. Such marketing is, of course, a common thing in our society. After all, how many Da Vinci code inspired book covers have we seen on shelves? The statement on the front of the book tells us what we have in store for us, and such claims usually fall flat when we realize this book doesn’t compare to The Hunger Games at all (if you’re into that sort of thing!) This time, however, the fears were unnecessary. Wool stands in its own right, perhaps containing several of the so-called typical markers of traditional dystopian fiction while managing to bring its own strengths to the table.
Though this wasn’t Howey’s debut novel, we decided it had the same sort of feel, as though pieces of his style were still being developed. It felt as though he had a checklist of things he wanted to include and was so determined to stick to it that some pieces felt under-developed or shoe-horned in, a throwaway sentence without much purpose in the grand scheme of things. These downfalls though we mostly agreed were outweighed by the book’s strengths.
Wool offers a good pace, keeping the reader turning the pages in eager anticipation of what will happen next. The worldbuilding, though slight in some places (hey, there are another two books in the trilogy to get into that with, you know!) gives us the picture we need in order to understand where these characters are coming from, and the characters themselves are gripping and fleshed out, free of cliches and managing to avoid the dreaded ‘strong woman’ stereotype – that character who mouths off and is good in a fight but isn’t allowed to be rounded or vulnerable. Our main protagonist (and our third, but we’ll get to that later!) is no such archetype. She’s realistic and has believeable flaws to match her strengths. There is no chosen one in this narrative. The characters are defined by the choices they make and the chain of events that put them in these positions, and the story is stronger because of it.
We agreed that the book had a very American and political feeling to it. The kind of anxiety that comes in the wake of 9/11, of a shady government being so afraid of collapse that they force it into tiny boxes, controlling its development and structure, outlawing the free-thinkers and those who dare to challenge the status quo. This is mostly shown through the IT department. One member joked that Howey has ‘definitely had a bad relationship with IT middle management in his time.’ However, what we also noted was that although we side with our protagonist and her goals, we found that the government’s fears and anxieties came from a real place. Some of the other silos (spoiler alert!) have collapsed because of attempted rebellions, because people tried to challenge the very status quo that was put in place to supposedly protect them, and the entire silo paid for it with their lives. The distrust of government is a strong theme throughout the book, and in a candid conversation between the characters Bernard and Lukas, we agreed that good and bad aren’t so black and white in this book, and that perhaps immoral choices can be made by immoral people but with good reasons. The best villains are always the ones whose side of things you can almost understand, and that’s definitely a strength in Howey’s novel.
Another thing we found daring was that the first protagonist we meet – a man named Holston – does not last very long. In fact, we meet him almost at his end. He sets up a tension that is felt throughout the book, the attempt to uncover what the government is really up to and what secrets they’re hiding. Once Holston meets his end, we meet our second protagonist, Mayor Jahns, another female character who, like Juliette, is strong in a good way, rounded and real and interesting. We were unanimous in our affection for her and how the author made us care about her in a relatively short number of pages, some of us almost shedding a little tear for her unspoken love with her deputy, Marnes. Both meet their end and Juliette takes over for the remainder of the novel, with other chapters led by characters peripheral to her. Introducing us to a series of three very different protagonists and expecting us to care about each of them was, we agreed, a brave thing for Howey to do, but he pulled it off. It’s one of the things that makes this novel not so typical, in spite of its similarities with other dystopian fiction. Blissfully, also, our characters are not teenagers, and their love stories don’t seem like nonsensical derailment.
What we found interesting as well was the prospect of hope. The characters for the most part, we decided, don’t often move between classes. Farmers will have farmers for children. Mechanics will birth other mechanics. It’s not a hard and fast rule, and some characters to break out of these boxes, but we get the feeling these are exceptions. For the most part, this is a world where it is what it is. What you see is what you get, and maybe there isn’t rule for hope. Lukas is an oddball for looking out to the stars. He dares not only to dream, but to have a hobby. The dream is that one day, the atmosphere will allow them to go outside, and that they had better keep their society running until they get there.
Overall, this was a well-received novel, in spite of failing one reader’s hundred pages test, and several of us are planning to (or already have, damn overachivers!) read the rest of the series. Howey does what he does, and he does it well. The story may not be the most original dystopian idea in the world, but he manages to create one that we want to be in, at least in the fictional sense of things.

 

SCORE

7 out of 10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCWSwan!

From the Vaults – The High Lord Review

A mate of mine dropped me an email last week letting me know that I had sent her reviews of the Black Magicians’s Trilogy way back in 2009.

These reviews actually predate the book club (I think) and will be posted under the email receipt date in a few weeks.

Despite every impulse within me, I won’t be editing these reviews at all, except for basic tidy up to follow the usual LBC review format.  I’ve even left in the infuriating oxford commas that I now avoid like the plague!!

THE HIGH LORD

TRUDI CANAVAN

BLURB (Amazon)

“You want to know the truth.”

Sonea has learned much since she was but a penniless urchin possessing an awesome untapped ability. She has earned the grudging respect of her fellow novices and a place in theMagicians’ Guild. But there is much she wishes she had never learned—what she witnessed, for example, in the underground chamber of the mysterious High Lord Akkarin . . . and the knowledge that the Guild is being observed closely by an ancient fearsome enemy.

Still, she dares not ignore the terrifying truths the High Lord would share with her, even though she fears it may be base trickery, a scheme to use her astonishing powers to accomplish his dark aims. For Sonea knows her future is in his hands—and that only in the shadows will she achieve true greatness . . . if she survives.

Emailed to my friend on 6th January 2009.

tbm 03

Wow O wow O wow…did this ever not end up in the place that I thought it was going to!!!The book that makes the trilogy – the best of all; the biggest of all and the finale.

At times, this was an entirely frustrating read. For one thing, just as the whole school thing skips forward a year and gets interesting; it’s mixed with the wanderings of a not-entirely aimless wizard intent on digging up the past, specifically Akkarin’s.
I mean the insights into why the High Lord is such a sod are really really interesting, and your mind keeps trying to figure out ways to piece the final pieces together. But they always come at the most pivotal moments within the main plot – and when you do get back to the primary story there is an entirely plausible reason why you are not right back at the action – grrrr frustrating!!And its a big book, even for me. I knew that I couldn’t read it in one go, and with work and everything…

Well I have to read it again. I did a lot of speed reading and missed vital details along the way (though we never do find out about the third gem…never gets answered…love it).This book does so much – and like I said, its a biggie, but a goodie – for me I found that it divided into thirds.

The first – Sonea IS learning more about the magicks and the High Lord.
The second – working in the dark.
the third…well, it is a fantasy novel – its the big reveal/fight/resolution.And romance.

But not in a ‘oh-god-a-woman-writing-sci-fi/fantasy’ way. It’s understated and all the more poignant, romantic and satisfying for being so (though I have a slight ick factor with the whole ‘he was her teacher’ thing). And the ending…unforgettable.

Mind you, I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive her (Trudi Canavan). I’m reading the first book of her next series, and if it ends in a way that upsets me again three days later…I’m moving onto more Disney style books 🙂

From the Vault

The Black Magician Trilogy

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice
  3. The High Lord

From the Vaults – The Novice Review

A mate of mine dropped me an email last week letting me know that I had sent her reviews of the Black Magicians’s Trilogy way back in 2009.

These reviews actually predate the book club (I think) and will be posted under the email receipt date in a few weeks.

Despite every impulse within me, I won’t be editing these reviews at all, except for basic tidy up to follow the usual LBC review format.  I’ve even left in the infuriating oxford commas that I now avoid like the plague!!

THE NOVICE

TRUDI CANAVAN

BLURB (Amazon)

“Even if a magician’s powers surface of their own accord, he will soon be dead if he does not gain the knowledge of how to control them.”

Alone among all the novices in the Magicians’ Guild, only Sonea comes from lowly beginnings. Yet she has won powerful allies—including Lord Dannyl, newly promoted to Guild Ambassador. But Dannyl must now depart for the Elyne court, leaving Sonea at the mercy of the lies and malicious rumors her enemies are busy spreading . . . until the High Lord Akkarin steps in. The price of Akkarin’s support is dear, however, because Sonea, in turn, must protect his mysteries—and a secret that could lead a young novice mage deep into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Dannyl’s first order to resume High Lord Akkarin’s long-abandoned research into ancient magical knowledge is setting him on an extraordinary journey fraught with unanticipated peril—as he moves ever-closer to a future both wondrous . . . and terrible.

Emailed to my friend on 6th January 2009.

TMG 02

So, this was the book that I never intended to read.
The dreaded sequel…well not exactly dreaded – I did actually want to know what happened to everyone, and I had been a bit curious about the bigger picture, but in a ‘wait-for-the-tv-movie’ kind of way.The first thing that struck me was that the writing seemed so much more fluid than in the first book (I was later to learn that The Magician’s Guild had been the authors debut novel – honestly, all the pieces started to fall into place).

As the characters had grown, so too had the capacity of the plot to explore more mature elements and though while reading the book everything felt very natural and un-hurried; it was only afterwards that i realised how impressed i had been by how many different themes were intricately woven into the story.

However, I still felt like I was a bit beyond the whole bullying storyline that dominated the main plot. Again I was immersed in the larger scale story before I realised it, and I loved it! As a result, it seemed churlish to whine that too much time was spent on developing the characters!

So much was I enjoying the story that I didn’t bother to report back to the mate that had recommended the books in the first place and moved straight onto the third and final in the series appropriately excited for the finale!

From the Vault

The Black Magician Trilogy

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice
  3. The High Lord

From the Vaults – The Magician’s Guild Review

A mate of mine dropped me an email last week letting me know that I had sent her reviews of the Black Magicians’s Trilogy way back in 2009.

These reviews actually predate the book club (I think) and will be posted under the email receipt date in a few weeks.

Despite every impulse within me, I won’t be editing these reviews at all, except for basic tidy up to follow the usual LBC review format.  I’ve even left in the infuriating oxford commas that I now avoid like the plague!!

THE MAGICIAN’S GUILD

TRUDI CANAVAN

BLURB( Amazon )

Each year the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city streets of beggars, urchins and miscreants. Masters of the disciplines of magic, they know that no one can oppose them. But their protective shield is not as impenetrable as they believe.

As the mob is herded from the city, Sonea, a young street girl, furious at the authorities’ treatment of her family and friends, hurls a stone at the shield, putting all of her rage behind it. To the amazement of all who watch, there is a flash of blue light and the stone passes straight through the barrier and cracks a magican on the temple, rendering him unconscious.

After five hundred years of order, the guild’s worst fear has been realised – an untrained magician is loose on the streets. She must be found, and quickly, before her uncontrolled powers unleash forces that will destroy both her, and the city that is her home.

Emailed to my friend on 6th January 2009.

TBM 01

So a friend lent me this to read, promising that I’d become as hooked on the series as she was!!
I could completely see why she’d think so
– strong female characters – CHECK
– supernaturally / sci-fi orientated – CHECK
– drama and intrigue all the way – CHECKAnd yet, as I read, I became really depressed. It’s not that the idea isn’t great – it is and its not that I didn’t find the story intriguing, well paced and thought provoking – I did.
But I didn’t enjoy it.
I didn’t think that the writing was really up to scratch, and although I loved the story line I couldn’t help thinking that it was so unfair that all the books I would have loved as a young adult were written when I was too old to appreciate them. (LBC Present date note – Oh the pomposity of it all)Again, don’t get me wrong, the subject matter was not at fault. I just felt like it was written for a younger me. One who wouldn’t have noticed the occasionally repeated phrase or language. And the oft convenient plot twists established early in the story that were not as subtle as they thought they were.
the ‘fessing up
So, I kind of dreaded facing my friend. How awful to say that the book was a bit…bland …a bit juvenile. What sort of a pretentious twerp does that make me?!?!Ahem, anyhoo, she took it remarkably well. She shrugged, said something like “yeah i thought that too but I’ve the whole series. Here, read the next one.””No” said I.”No really, “she replied “it’s worth it.”

“No honestly.”  from me

“I said read it!” She was clearly losing patience with me.

Meekly I answered “well, OK, I mean…was always going to…never leave a series unread and all that…”

(NOTE – CHARACTERS MAY HAVE BEEN MADE MORE ENTHUSIASTIC/MEEK THAN IS ACTUALLY TRUE OF THEIR REAL LIFE COUNTERPARTS)

So…see you at the next review…

From the Vault

The Black Magician Trilogy

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice
  3. The High Lord

Severus Snape – his chronology

9th January 1960 – 2nd May 1998

 

And then read this as a reality check – Nerds Doing Stuff – Snape is not a good guy

LBC Medusa – To Ride Pegasus Write Up

Medusa LBC

 
Date:  Wednesday 14th of January 2015
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 

Discussing: 

TO RIDE PEGASUS

ANNE McCAFFREY
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
  * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *  
BLURB (from AMAZON)

The first volume in the epic saga of the Talents of earth.

They were people whose gifts were unique.For years – centuries – they had not even understood just what they could do with their minds.They had sometimes become astrologers, clairvoyants, or healers, but their Talents were undeveloped and untrained.

Henry Darrow was the first to explore the huge wealth of psychic gifts hidden amongst mankind, and it was he who formed the first Parapsychic Centre where Talents could train and be used to revolutionise the world.But their powers set them apart, made them feared, then threatened by the un-Talented.And when dangerous freak ‘wild’ Talents began to wreak havoc in the outside world, it took all their combined Talented efforts to save themselves.

REVIEW
ToRidePegasusAn excellent meeting and a great start to the book clubbing year for our intrepid band of book lovers!! We chatted for about an hour and a half before we started in on the scores – a beautifully meandering and wandering discussion, covering all manner of topics – the majority of which were barely tangentially linked to the book at hand! I’ve done my best to try and cover the main strokes, but there was just so much!!
As this was my book choice and one I have a strong emotional connection too, I was prepared to be quite defensive…just in case! It’s entirely likely that I talked too much but thankfully the Medusa set are pretty awesome…and know to speak over me; interrupt; tell me to pipe down and – should it become necessary – threaten me (see previous write up’s for the understandably effective Twilight/50 Shades/Wuthering Heights approach).
One of the first aspects that we evaluated was the surprising (to some) misogyny that was evident throughout the book. As one of our members put it, it would *almost* have been easier to understand had the book been written by a man – however, from a female author, the casual sexist references – particularly due to reproduction – were rather disappointing. However, a couple of us (including myself) had read this as a subversive reflection of the world as it was in the 60’s and 70’s and the state of science fiction writing at that point.
After all, these are a collection of short stories, with few developed characters – at least a third of whom were female and who impacted hugely on the plot (for example Molly in the first story was taken seriously by all her (male) colleagues and was in fact the one that discovered the significance of the goose egg reactions).
An additional defence could be seen that all the women (bar Ruth) were equivalently powerful Talents and had successful careers where they were regarded as being vital and irreplaceable in their roles.
We did get a giggle that Maggie O was identified as female because while a bloke might have stolen the coat and dress, only a woman would have grabbed the shoes as well.
Taken in this light, it was possible to regard Ruth – the maternal and warmest of the women and one who seemed to occupy a passive and subjugated position – as also turning a trope or stereotype on its head.
Others were a touch disappointed that the stories were so short and there were time jumps between them – just as you were getting really interested in Ruth’s genetic manipulation (really quite a powerful Talent after all) or Dorothea’s development; everything would switch and you’d not find out what happened to them! Or when op Owen found his morality shifting regarding informing Dorothea’s parents of her Talents. Quite a few were planning to read further books in the series to see if there was any continuation. Somehow, at this point, we got into a waaay over my head discussing of genes, evolutionary traits, blue eyes being a genetic abnormality from roughly 8000 -10000 years ago, dominant and recessive genes… Felt well smart till I realised I was barely following any of it! As one of the book clubbers commented (regarding We) ‘there were words, they were in English, I didn’t understand any of it’.
Oh and we had a very odd segway into the Ferrari syndrome when discussing Henry Darrow wishing he was a telepath while op Owen wished he was a pre-cog. We all seemed to like op Owen and more than one of us read his character with a Welsh accent. We enjoyed his interactions with the police chap. Henry Darrow also left a strong and positive impact. The only character that irritated me was the puppy like Sally…and even in the book, that tendency is called out.
Regarding the writing, we were most of us impressed with the fluidity and embedded nature of many of the scifi elements and wording, particularly around the use of the word Talents. As one of us remarked – it was science fiction, but you didn’t know it until you’d suddenly pick up on a word or phrase. And even then, it was all so contextually relevant that it seemed perfectly in place.
In this way, the first portion of the book managed to build up a picture of a world not totally dissimilar to our own and then in a few sentences distinguish it. Then for some reason, it became essential to discuss Doctor Who, Benedict Cumberbatch and Damien Lewis and Wolf Hall. Oh and Heroes…though at least that tied into the book, seeing as how it had a very similar premise.
heroes-hiro
One of our members, who is a bit of a fellow SF fan, found himself very underwhelmed by the book, thinking that he might have enjoyed it more if he’d read it as a younger person. However, he very much enjoyed the fact that there were people with super abilities who lived in fairly similar ways to ourselves. No one felt inspired to throw on a cloak and try to save the world. They had Talents, they weren’t superman.
tumblr_mz3lziGnME1rrecxqo1_500
It was also near prophetic in it’s handling of certain topics – the environment, over population, stretched resources and bio-engineering. Similarly, Anne McCaffrey completed read the social landscape accurately by predicting the importance of insurance and legal systems. As a book club, we have sometimes noted (complained) that young adult fiction is not up to par, not challenging enough for adults or the youngsters that it is designed for. Here, huge concepts and constructs are introduced and covered in clear language. The death scene in the first story was particularly challenging and designed to make you think. Here we wandered off for quite a while and discussed Judy Blume, Anne Frank, Flowers in the Attic and the Fault in Our Stars.
With regards to the final story – possibly the most ‘SF’ of the set, we could see many real world parallels, assuming that it was possible to cause or prevent a riot using powers of empathy. Then we got side-tracked by Fleetwood Mac. Easily done.
When it came to scoring, one of our members struggled to come up with an appropriate figure, given that this is a collection of short stories and the introduction to a series and their not having read the rest. I was brutal and *insisted* on a mark…but actually agree with him completely! He was almost cross when I told him after the chat was over with!! There are some books – like for example The Hunger Games – which were originally designed as stand alone stories and are therefore easy to score on their own merit, despite belonging to a set of books. Others – such as Divergent – clearly set out to create a world and begin a series so I personally find scoring it independently from the others very tricky.
Especially for @EmmaJehan
doctor who gif
Score  
7/10
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!
Contact the bar on @MedusaBar
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #MedusaLBC!

Lainibop Challenge – Book 23 – Mockingay Review

READ! TO GO!
23 107
The LainiBop Challenge
 
MOCKINGJAY
SUZANNE COLLINS
 
* * * * *

* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * *

Having been rescued from the Quarter Quell at the last second, Katniss finds herself holed up with the rebels in the supposedly destroyed District 13 which in fact has a well established if not very homey city underground. 
 
Unfortunately Peeta did not achieve the same fate and is being held in the Capitol. Suffering from severe shock, Katniss retreats into herself, however the rebels have other ideas. They want their Mockingjay to fight for them, or at least appear to fight in order to act as a symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol and to urge others to join the fight. So Katniss must make a decision, whether to join with the rebels or leave them to their own devices.


This to me felt like much more of an adult themed book than the previous two. We see how Katniss reacts to the horrors she has witnessed in both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Her mental breakdown is extremely heartwrenching and displays the traumatic experiences she has lived through that are finally taking their toll. I think up until now, Katniss has played a part, in the first book, she had to be strong for her sister and mother watching her and also had to pretend to fall in love with Peeta. This act continued in Catching Fire where she was forced under threat of death to make this love appear real for the other Districts during the tours. Finally the Hunger Games are over for Katniss, and because of this, her visage falls and she allows herself to react to what she has been through. Her anger and hatred show through and she no longer has any wish to put on a show for anyone. Because of this her immediate reaction to becoming a “mascot” for the rebellion is cynical, however we properly get to see her progression from this anger to a place where she realises she is not playing a part anymore, this is who she is now, she doesn’t just want to be a symbol, she wants to play an active part and get her revenge.

I was very surprised by the amount of violence in this book. Ok, I know the reader should expect some violence when the subject of the series is children being sent into an arena to kill each other, but I think this final chapter of the series takes a strange turn violence wise. There were some very graphic scenes in it, and while I enjoyed reading it, much more than Catching fire in fact, I found it hard at times to see how it fits in with the rest of the Young Adult series. On the back of that I’m not sure this book will end up translating very well to the big screen, as The Hunger Games movie was marketed at a younger audience than I would have expected. I recently saw a Katniss Everdeen Barbie doll for example. This is not the sort of film I would want a girl who plays with Barbies watching. Hopefully when they make the remaining films they will stay true to the book as I’d really like to see how they handle the topics raised.

All in all, I am giving this a higher score than Catching Fire because when I finished the final page, I had to sit back to catch my breath and take it all in. Even now, thinking about it, the book feels like it could have been a trilogy all by itself in a way as a huge amount happens, and it provoked a lot more emotion in me than the second. Great end to the series, and really looking forward to the movies.

SCORE       8/10
 

The Lainibop Challenge – Book 21 – Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

READ! TO GO!
21 109
The LainiBop Challenge
 
CATCHING FIRE
SUZANNE COLLINS
 
* * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * *

The second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, was not quite as gripping as the first in my opinion. When we left Katniss Everdeen, she had just become the joint victor in the 74th Hunger Games, along with fellow District 12 inhabitant Peeta. Now, after returning home, she and her family have been moved to the prestigious winner’s quarter where they will live a fairly opulent lifestyle until Katniss’ death.

Her previous victory however is far from complete, as President Snow visits her with a warning about her effect on the rest of Panem’s population. It seems Katniss has stirred up a bit of a storm with her actions during the games. Between her “relationship” with Peeta, her heartwarming care of Rue’s body, and her willingness to sacrifice herself at the end of the games to ensure Peeta’s survival, she has won many followers and the people of the districts are beginning to question the government and their way of life.


All this just in time for the Quarter Quell. The Quarter Quell is a very special Hunger Games, which is “celebrated” every 25 years. Though the annual Hunger Games are a demonstration of the Capitol’s control over the districts and a reminder not to rebel, the Quarter Quell is generally a more brutal and vicious attempt at this. Every one has been different, much the games themselves, but the one similarity is that they have a twist which pushes the tributes to new extremes.

In honour of the 75th year, it is announced that 24 previous winners will compete. As the only winners in District 12 are Hamish, Peeta and Katniss, the list is quite short and it is a certainty that Katniss will be returning to the arena. As Peeta joins her to protect her, can she win a second year, and is there any chance that President Snow will allow 2 winners again?


As I said, this wasn’t quite the unputdownable read as the first one…which I read in the space of about 4 hours. It was enjoyable, but perhaps the pace could have been a little faster. Maybe it was the fact that by the time I reached the second book, the world was more familiar to me, which took away from the horrific impact that parts of the first had on me. Still definitely worth a read though, if only to get to the third one.


SCORE       7/10

 
%d bloggers like this: