3/17/14

Dystopian Pause

Over the course of a year, I read six dystopian trilogies, and while I had favorites (will share later), the reading experience overall made me think more generally, more globally, about our current society, our current existence on this fragile planet which we have treated so abysmally.  It's not a pretty vision.  We have made a far-reaching, endlessly deep mess of the gift we as a species were given.  Whoever gave it, whatever you personally call it, has got to be pretty ticked off at this point, whether that's Evolution, God, Mother Nature, or simply Chaos.  And who could blame Him, Her, It, Whatever?  Okay, chaos is probably fine with how everything is going.

**Warning--major plot spoilers of many books if you haven't also finished myriad dystopian trilogies of late.**

I went on a tear in the last year or so and read in their entirety or finished six dystopian trilogies, and that doesn't even count Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games set.  Let me say before anything else that I preferred the span of her Underland Chronicles, with the moody setting below New York City rife with more drama than Shakespeare could have dreamed.  While I liked Katniss and company, I thought that they were good in descending order, meaning I liked the first one best, and the third one least best, way least best.  Why?  Not because of the classic Peeta versus Gale debate, though for the record I much preferred Gale for Katniss but could see that she might not be able to get past his blowing up her little sister in the name of the cause.  And not because I got tired of Katniss this and Katniss that, though I did; I badly wanted her to make a true mistake or just generally not be so saintly.  I didn't like the third one because by the end it was all just so dirty and pointless.  That may make it more realistic, but I like my apocalypses with a little more utopia and a little less dysfunction, thank you.

First, I finished Ally Condie's Matched set, whose titles I really liked: Matched, Crossed, Reached.  I kept thinking game, set, match.  And she scores!  If only I had liked the main character, Cassia, past about half the first one.  What kept me going here were the two guys, Xander, excellent, and Ky, not so bad, though a little too down on himself.  I kept reading to find out what would happen to Xander, and I was thrilled that he didn't end up with Cassia.  The premise here was a good one, let a computer pick our mates because the family unit has fallen apart, and it played out well in one little program essentially being the downfall of the new society.  Unfortunately I didn't care much that Cassia had made it, and I just felt sorry for Ky.

Second, I finished Lauren Oliver's Delirium set, also clever with the three titles Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem.  While I was waiting for the third one to come out, I guessed possible titles and had settled on Equilibrium, but Requiem is good, too.  Set in Portland, Maine and up into the wilds of New York and Canada, this series got points with me for how recognizable and eerily close to our present New England idyll its setting was, making the story feel right around the proverbial corner, plus I like the "love is a disease" premise.   This one, too, I liked the guys, Alex, and later, Julian, better than Lena, the girl-who-looked-nothing-like-the-covers-to-me, and I preferred many of the lesser characters in the outlaw band.  The ending also worked but not in a thrilling way.

Third, I finished Patrick Ness's the Chaos Walking trilogy, very cool titles, the only one with a central male protagonist and one who, for me, outshines his female counterpart in every way.  This set is for every reluctant, especially male, reader, because I dare him not to love Toby as much as I did, spewing his and his fabulous dog Manchee's thoughts for us like the best kind of backwash, not that you ever knew there was such a thing until he began.  I didn't care for Viola, and couldn't imagine why Todd or anyone would, but he sure liked her.  The Reverend Aaron bad guy was way over the top, comic-worthy, but Todd persevered. The ending of this one worked for me, too.

Fourth, I finished Veronica Roth's Divergent set, such a cool premise with the sects, but let me just say that I hated the third one, hated the ending, and hated the character of Tris so thoroughly by that end that I wanted to shake the lovely and lovable Four for mourning even a single day and tell him to get on with his excellent life.  I'll still watch the movie though, because I like Shailene Woodley, though I wish she wasn't also in The Fault in Our Stars, and I want to see the sets and the scenes on the Ferris wheel (I have a thing for them) and the zip line.

Fifth, I finished Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam set, with a nice upward-facing parabola here, adored the first one Oryx and Crake, eh on the second one The Year of the Flood, and applauded how she pulled it out on the third one MaddAddam, almost as good as the first.  Toby (female here) absolutely rocked.  Probably in my mind Atwood will never top The Handmaid's Tale, also dystopian, probably my favorite ever even including 1984, but all kudos that she keeps trying.  She is so clever, and she is the best writer of all of them.  I heard her speak once at MIT, and she explained that all the science that she uses to build her stories actually exists, so that is a new night terror for everyone who thinks that global warming and overpopulation and mass extinctions are just the liberal media pontificating again.

Finally, I finished Into the Still Blue, the cap to Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky set.  This one has the best matched girl-boy set, even if the final resolution isn't the one that I would have chosen, and held my interest the best across the storyline.  I prayed for Roar to have a happy ending the whole way, and I thought he and Aria were better suited than she and Perry.  But Rossi's ending still totally worked for me.  The premise of saving the few (in pods) and leaving the rest to rot (out in the open) was plausible, and the settings were cool and well-realized.  Now if only Roar and Aria had gotten together, and if only they'd used the cover image below instead of the ones of Aria in a weird unitard; okay, I'll let it go.

And the verdict, by a hair above Patrick Ness's because of Aaron and Viola's annoyingness, is...as a set...Veronica Rossi's, looking forward to seeing what she will do next.
However, for the moment, for a long moment, it is time to move on to sunnier, warmer, less depressing climes.  Classic screwball comedy, anyone?

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