Category Archives: Dystopia

Defender, G.X. Todd – Book Review

I received Defender in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to read this debut as the author lives quite local to me, something I don’t come across often. But, in the end, I took a while to get round to it and when I finally did, it didn’t blow me away. Maybe someone from Birmingham in the UK just wasn’t able to conjure the dry, empty landscape of a post-apocalyptic Texas which I wanted. Or maybe, it’s to do with the plot. Either way, I know this book worked for a lot of people, but I struggled to connect with it the way I’d hoped to.

Defender, G.X. Todd

The premise of this novel is great – a blend of your typical post-apocalyptic theme with a touch of some more supernatural science fiction thrown in. It’s an ambitious tale, touching on themes of sanity, grief and survival. Continue reading

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The Last One, Alexandra Oliva – Book Review

I received The Last One in exchange for an honest review

I’ve had my eye on this book for months; the plot alone sounds so intriguing, so different and such an amalgamation of things I love, I had to give it a try.
The Last One

Based around a reality TV show called ‘Into The Woods’, the novel follows ‘Zoo’ (a nickname given to the main character by the producers due to the fact that she works with animals) and eleven other contestants as they journey across woods and countryside. The contestant have to complete challenges and overcome obstacles, living off the land, building shelters and skinning animals in order to eat. But there’s a twist to this survival game, and it takes on a dark reality when, unbeknownst to the contestants, a real-life pandemic breaks out wiping out a large amount of the population and leaving every citizen fighting for survival. It’s a clever, original concepts which acts as a spring-board, allowing the author to explore both the staged drama of reality TV shows and the fear-inducing landscape of a post-pandemic world. Continue reading

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The Fireman, Joe Hill – Book Review

I received The Fireman in exchange for an honest review.

My first experience with Joe Hill was when I read NOS4A2 late last year. I thought that was great, and gave it five stars. The Fireman is on another level. This bold, emotional, epic read sees Hill firmly stepping out of his father’s shadow (if he was even in it before?) and into the limelight, cementing himself as a sheer genius in creative writing.

The Fireman

First things first, this book is long. I didn’t realise when I blithely requested it on Netgalley and immediately started reading upon acceptance, but it’s almost 800 pages. But I actually think it benefited from that. The length gives the reader the chance to become fully immersed in the post-pandemic world and – most importantly – in Harper, an incredibly well-drawn and authentic character, one of my favourite protagonists in a long time. Continue reading

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The Last Of Us, Rob Ewing – Book Review

I received an advanced copy of The Last Of Us in exchange for an honest review

On a remote Scottish island, five children struggle to survive alone in a post-pandemic world. The narrator is nine-year-old Rona who, along with Alex, Elizabeth, Calum Ian and Duncan,  lives in a village which has been wiped out by a virus. They are the only survivors. Under the leadership of Elizabeth – the eldest of the group and daughter of two doctors – the group get by, forming routines in order to survive their new world and retain their memories of the times that came before and those they have lost.

The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us left me with some mixed feelings. One one hand, there’s something unique and affecting reading about a desolate, post-apocalyptic land from the frank, unflinching point of view of a nine-year-old. But Rona’s narration feels somewhat fragmented; her childish thoughts don’t flow easily and as a result I had some difficulty connecting with her character. The plot is quite slow-moving at times too, but there’s something  haunting about the the children’s day-to-day activities; dealing with situations no children should have to face. Continue reading

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Flawed, Cecelia Ahern – Book Review

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Cecelia Ahern has always had a knack for weaving unique, heartwarming stories with humour, charm and – on occasion – a touch of magic. For me she reinvigorated the genre of ‘chick lit’ or romantic comedy, so when I heard she was taking on a new genre – and a very popular one at that – I was so excited to see what she could do with it.

Flawed

Flawed is the author’s first foray into YA dystopian. The society she creates is one striving for perfection; one where not only crimes are punished with imprisonment, but those who make moral or ethical mistakes are also held accountable and have to present their cases to the Guild. Making one error of judgement can lead to being deemed Flawed – painfully branded with an ‘F’ for all to see, and forced to live a minimalist life of isolation complete with curfews, meagre rations and judgement from others. Continue reading

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Glass Sword, Victoria Aveyard – Book Review

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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The YA dystopian genre is a busy one, but when I read Red Queen last year I really felt Victoria Aveyard had bought something new and a little different to the market. Unfortunately, reading Glass Sword, I didn’t feel that as much.

Glass SwordGlass Sword feels very different to Red Queen, and the disparity between the novels took some getting used to. Red Queen is spent mainly in the confines of the palace – a setting I loved – as Mare learns about her abilities and the reader learns about the disparities of the dystopian world. Glass Sword takes place all over the fictional world Aveyard has created. There’s very little prelude and  the reader is thrown straight into the heart of the action. Mare has been betrayed and cast out by the silver royalty, and so sets out to build an army of ‘newbloods’ like herself – people with red blood and powerful silver abilities. She travels with exiled prince Cal, her childhood friend Kilorn and captain of the Scarlet Guard Farley to recruit members from the list given to her by SIlver trainer Julian. Continue reading

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The One (The Selection #3), Kiera Cass – Book Review

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I’ve been quite judgemental when reading and reviewing this series, but this one I read over a lazy weekend and it was perfect for what I needed. Yes, some of the characters are extremely frustrating and some of the plot developments seem a little too convenient, but it’s fun. I feel the writing has improved some since the beginning of the series, and having got to know the characters over the first two books I was excited to get back to Maxon, America and the other Elite.

The One

This book picks up the ante as both the Selection process and the unrest from the rebels are coming to a head. America can still be obnoxious, but she’s finally beginning to calm down and realise want she really wants. Her character has definitely developed in this book; she’s learnt to hold her tongue a little more and consider the bigger picture rather than her own self-centred view. Or maybe I just got used to her, and enjoyed the story regardless? The rest of the Elite are also fleshed out a little more – with a certain girl making a complete 360 change of personality – and there’s a sense of a real bond being forged between them all, which was nice to see.

While there is a little more action, at its heart this series is definitely all about the romance, and this one really doesn’t let us down in this regard. Yes, it’s a little bit cheesy but it’s just so adorable. I couldn’t help but smile, as the couple I’d been rooting for all along finally sorted out their issues.

“I want everything with you, America. I want the holidays and the birthdays, the busy seasons and lazy weekends. I want peanut butter fingerprints on my desk. I want inside jokes and fights and everything. I want a life with you.”

It’s quite a short review from for this one as I just don’t have that much to say about it, but this series is the perfect indulgence; it’s not particularly memorable but in the moment it sweeps you into the fairytale romance and leaves you with a smile. This ending to the trilogy which follows America’s selection is a predictable in places but wholly satisfying – I really did enjoy it.

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Death Is A Welcome Guest (Plague Times Trilogy #2), Louise Welsh – Book Review

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Death Is A Welcome Guest is the second novel in Louise Welsh’s new Plague Times trilogy, although it can be read completely independently as a stand-alone. The only things the novels really have in common for the majority of the story is that they are set in a present-day London at a time when an unknown pandemic, nicknamed The Sweats, breaks out wreaking havoc on the population. This one also has that perfect blend I mentioned in my last review, of post-apocalyptic drama and murder mystery thriller.

Death Is A Welcome Guest

The two novels in the series so far focus on completely different characters, and the protagonist of this story is Magnus McFall. Magnus is a struggling comedian on the cusp of a big break when, after a heavy night, he attempts to stop a rape and becomes embroiled in a brawl which lands him thrown in jail without trial. This is just as the disease is starting to take hold of London; Magnus is jailed immediately without bail as part of emergency procedures and thrown into a prison full of dying men.

Like with the first novel, Welsh wonderfully conveys the tension and brutality of a city on the brink of collapse, but this time in the more confined, almost claustrophobic, environment of a prison. “It was how the place made you feel, like it was alive and biding its time before it crushed you.” In the face of a national emergency, the men are abandoned without food or information surrounded by the dead, to the point where those who aren’t already dying or dead from disease are beginning to starve. Through a lack of other options, Magnus befriends his cellmate Jeb, and the two hatch a plan to escape the desolate prison.

As the two venture back out into the world, Welsh paints a bleak picture of the city seized by virus; first the abandoned jail, then the journey through the halted underground, where their only company is the piles of dead bodies fallen where they were awaiting trains, and the rats which have claimed the rails as their home.

As we follow Magnus and Jeb out of the city the pace of the story does feel a little slow, but this gives Welsh more time to build up the bleak, desperate atmosphere. This novel has a more contemplative feel to the first, exploring the emotions associated with the collapse of society, the survivors’ guilt and the desperation to find loved ones safe and well. Welsh explores how the devastating loss could affect those which remain; the idea that the disease could be followed by an epidemic of suicide and even murder. “Life is cheaper than it was before. Who knows what effect it will have on those of us who remain?” Plus, there’s the complete loss of everyday technologies, and the realisation that those remaining have no idea how to replicate it; “It was civilisation, and none of us know how it worked.”

The delicate relationship forged between Magnus and Jeb is intriguing; having met in extreme circumstances, it’s a tentative friendship laden with with suspicion on both sides and the two have no idea how the other really landed in jail and what their intentions are. Welsh draws out the lingering mystery, offering sporadic details gradually as the drama unfolds.

The story takes a turn and the pace picks up when they arrive at Tanqueray House, where a small settlement has formed; a community headed by a gun-toting priest. The two are pleased to get some relief from their journey, but then bodies start turning up, and they realise that being part of a community may be no safer than being alone on the road.

This trilogy is shaping up to be something really quite brilliant; I love the way the first two novels work both together and as standalones, as they explore different sides to the disease and corruption that follows. Although they follow very different characters, right at the end of the novel the authors delivers a twist which begins to bring the seemingly unrelated strands together. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for the final instalment.

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Station Eleven, Emily St Mandel – Book Review

“Survival is inefficient.”

Station Eleven

I’ve seen some bloggers writing lists of books that changed them, and wondered what that meant. Has a book ever changed me? I wasn’t sure. Now, it may be too soon to say, but I think this book might be the one. It’s changed me, or at least my outlook. This book made me appreciate the life I have, and wonder what things would be like if everything we take for granted was lost.

Told through varying perspectives, spanning a time frame of over 30 years, Station Eleven shows what the world is like before, during and after a fatal flu outbreak wipes out most of the population. It’s brutal, but it’s also beautiful.

The story opens in the last night of the ‘old world’; famous actor Arthur Leander suffers a heart attack on stage; eight-year old actress Kirsten watches on whilst a member of the audience, Jeevan Chaudhary, races to the stage in a futile attempt to perform CPR. The events seem dramatic enough, and yet they pale into insignificance as the night develops; a deadly flu grips the nation, and panic and chaos ensues.

“Jeevan was crushed with a sudden certainty that this was it, that this illness Hua was describing was going to be the divide between a before and after, a line drawn through his life.”

From there, Mandel goes on to explore the twenty years following the outbreak, seamlessly zooming in and out of narrative, jumping between a myriad of characters and timeframes. Each chapter moves rapidly between characters and times, but every word is perfectly placed; there is no filler here, and I didn’t lose interest for a second. The thread that binds the seemingly disconnected characters together as they each fight their own battles is for survival is Arthur, who never got to see the new world, but has still left his footprints on it.

Station Eleven

It was such an unfamiliar concept to picture a new world where modern technology – things we take for granted like cars, planes, telephones and internet – were a thing of the past. The children born after the outbreak struggle to even comprehend that these things could exist, and there’s even an impromptu Museum Of Civilisation set up which house items such as iPhones, high heels and credit cards – things which seem essential, but soon become meaningless artifacts with no purpose but to remind mankind of the world they have lost. Pages and pages of the book are dedicated to marvelling at those wonders of the modern world – and airports and aeroplanes take a particular significance – and it really served to help me realise how lucky we are.

“We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.”

One of my favourite things about the book was the Travelling Symphony – a group of travelling performers who Kirsten falls in with soon after the collapse of society. Despite the bleak nature of their circumstances, this band of passionate individuals believe that “survival is inefficient”; humans need more than just to live, they need something to live for. They travel around the small settlements, performing Shakespeare and music for anyone who wishes to watch. It’s just one of the many ways which Mandel manages to capture the strength and enduring nature of humankind.

Station Eleven is classed as science fiction, but it never once felt like that to me. For me, this beautiful novel is more about people; through the web of characters Mandel encapsulates what it to be human, and what it is to hope. Because even when all is lost, those who remain will find a way to persevere – and there will always be tomorrow.

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The Elite (The Selection #2), Keira Cass – Book Review

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I was a little bit wary going into this book as it seems to have really split reviewers, even those who loved The Selection. I’ve seen many comments saying that readers felt that the competition; the Bachelor-style element of this novel was lost in favour of focusing on the love triangle, but I have to disagree. If anything, the competition is more fierce – okay, it’s lost some of its formality, but that’s because all of these girls have begun to build real relationships with Prince Maxon. It’s tense, and the stakes are getting higher every day each girl stays in The Selection.

The Elite

There were some questionable metaphors here which made me chuckle; “she was always put together…but today she looked as if her body was full of sand”. But then I put my judgey-reviewer hat away and I realised that this series is fun. It’s such a light, easy read; I’m generally a relatively slow reader, taking around a week to finish a book, but I read this in less than two days. It is a little fluffy in places but, still, it’s so entertaining and there were plenty of points that I didn’t want to put this book down. There’s a little more world-building in this second installment; the introduction of a diary which belonged to Gregory Illea gives America an insight into the history of the world she lives in, and the present danger of rebel attacks and war becomes more prevalent.

But, I did have one big issue with this book. While the writing was fun and the plot was well-paced, the main character completely threw me. There were times when she behaved incredibly selfishly; wrapped up in her own problems with no consideration for the world around her or the people she claims to care about most. [POSSIBLE MILD SPOILER] There’s a point where Maxon has to travel to New Asia with his father to placate the potential war going on, and America runs straight into Aspen’s arms. She tells the reader; “Maxon has gone. This changes everything.” Erm, he hasn’t abandoned you? He’s putting himself in danger to try to help your country. I was so perplexed I thought I must be missing something, as I don’t understand how she didn’t show an ounce of compassion or concern for the man she’s supposed to be falling for. [END OF SPOILER]

The only saving grace here is that America does eventually begin to realise the error of her ways near the end of this novel; “Oh. Wow. After everything he’d done for me, had I really never done anything for him in return?”. So I can only hope that this is a deliberate plot device for the author. Perhaps she’s simply trying to show that America is young and flawed – no one likes picture-perfect characters – but if that’s the case, she takes it a little far.

Either way, this book is light, entertaining and quite addictive. It’s flawed, but I still want to know what happens next.

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