Category Archives: dystopias

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

book coverI wasn’t ever going to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on the assumption that, like many books written as late additions to an already stellar series, it wouldn’t hold up. I decided to give it a try and this book is a wayyyy better end than Mockingjay. I 100% recommend this book to anyone who liked the Hunger Games, since previous knowledge gives you more of those “omg I get what’s happening!” moments, but honestly you could read this as a solo book as well. Totally gripping and creepy.

Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: YA with diverse cast of characters

Clade by James Bradley

book coverClade follows one family in a radically changing world, marked by global warming, civil unrest, catastrophic floods, and oh yeah, a pandemic. This book was published in 2015 and it was pretty eerie reading it as we are still in the midst of a pandemic ourselves. The structure of the book is at times a little hard to follow. The story starts with Adam, a scientist in Antartica, and his wife, Ellie, who is an artist in Australia trying to conceive a baby through IVF. The resulting chapters begin in the midst of an event and it takes time before we as the reader figure out how much time has passed between this section and the one previous, and sometimes we don’t know how the character we are currently reading about is connected to the two main characters until later. But despite the at times chaotic quality of the book, it ends on a note of hope, something many of us are just starting to feel ourselves as life begins to slowly get back to normal.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Kaylie Jasinski, class of 2014
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Book with a one word title

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleI began reading The Handmaid’s Tale simply because I wanted to watch the Hulu series, and I found myself quickly captivated by the plot. Atwood’s carefully constructed setting was what I found to be most interesting; is this taking place in the past or future? Such a disorientation of what we thought we know about the world and our freedoms as women was both compelling and disturbing to me, and the parallels to the current continual litigation about what rights and limitations women’s bodies are subjected to were strong. A definite recommended read if you are ready to think about upsetting futures, which maybe aren’t so far out of the realm of possibility.

 

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Review Submitted by:  Lisabeth Stewart
Rating: Recommended
Challenge:  Book to TV

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451This was the first time I actually read this book, although I vaguely remember discussing it in a history class before. Ray Bardbury’s novel is set in a dystopian society in which books are burned to save society from radical and unhappy thoughts. Firemen no longer put out fires; they start them to burn down homes where books are hidden. Guy Montag was one of these firemen, who found pleasure in burning books. Until he met one of his strange new neighbors: a young girl named Clarisse McClellan. Clarisse and Montag begin to converse with one another, leading to Montag gaining a new perspective. He then begins to question everything about life and society, including the book burning policy, and undergoes a huge transformation.

I listened to the audiobook version from Hoopla. Holy cow, it was so good! Tim Robbins did such a fantastic job narrating this book If you enjoy audiobooks, I highly recommend you check out this one.

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Review Submitted by:  Marissa Christensen
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film, audioook

Blackfish City by Sam M. Miller

book coverAfter the world has ended due to climate change and the resulting wars over resources and housing, several countries ban together to build a city, Quannaq, on platforms in the Arctic Circle. The story follows several people in the city; a politician’s assistant, a fighter, a messenger, a young gay man suffering from a new disease called the Breaks. These seemingly random, completely separate stories connect in a very satisfying way against a very unique and creative backdrop. The story also covers issues that are particularly relevant today including the mistreatment of minorities, housing crises and the manipulation of the masses by the rich.

Availability:  COSMOS,
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended

MaddAddam by Margret Atwood

book coverWhat struck me the most about the final book in Margret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy was how it managed to feel like it ended so certainly, yet while still fraught with uncertainty. Unfortunately, I felt that this final part of the trilogy was the least enticing of a read for me. Atwood worked to effectively end this trilogy, while still leaving readers wondering about the future of the world, and critically thinking about our own roles in it. Again, the ties to our current worldwide pandemic are unsettling at best, and frightening at worst. Overall, though, the MaddAddam trilogy was one which I immensely enjoyed and has gotten me excited to continue reading other novels by Margaret Atwood, as well as considering the genre of climate fiction as a whole.

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Review Submitted by: Lisabeth Stewart
Rating: Highly recommend
Challenge: Book with a one word title

 

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

cover artUpright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, is a novella which centers around Esther, a young girl who runs away from home after her friend and crush, Beatriz. Esther hides herself in the wagon of a group of queer women librarians who travel the American Southwest distributing reading materials. The book is very short but features well rounded, queer characters. It also touches on anti-fascism and the importance of staying true to oneself in the face of adversity.

Availability:  COSMOS,
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book published in 2020

The Year of the Flood by Margret Atwod

book coverInitially, I found Margret Atwood’s novel The Year of the Flood much less compelling than its prequel Oryx and Crake. I was disappointed about being introduced to two new characters and the telling of this second novel through their points of view instead of continuing at the end of Oryx and Crake. I was disoriented and initially confused by the setting and timeline for this novel and how it tied into the first book of the trilogy. Around 100 pages into the novel I finally became invested in the characters, and began to see how Atwood was connecting the two novels.

Something to note was that this story was one I found to be both interesting and unsettling due to the parallels to our current state of worldwide pandemic. The book alludes to a “waterless flood” which we learn to be a deadly virus designed and set loose on the world. The only humans who have survived were ones who stayed in their homes, away from the sick and dying masses who had the deadly virus. Additionally, we learn that people are rejoicing “How much clearer the air is, now that man-made pollution has ceased!” (Atwood, 371) which is strikingly similar to those currently rejoicing about the clearing up of smog and pollution in China, and the waterways of Venice as a result of the worldwide shut downs we are currently experiencing. I believe these parallels beg one to ask the question of how are we to respond to the emotional repercussions of finding ourselves in a pandemic. How do the characters respond to their human and emotional needs, and what does The Year of the Flood suggest that we do to preserve our own humanity and care for others in a time such as this? I would consider this book to be a must read, yet I would caution one to be prepared for the emotional toll of continually finding parallels to our own pandemic experiences currently.

Availability: SMCM, COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Lisabeth Stewart
Rating: Must Read

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and CrakeMargaret Atwood’s story Oryx and Crake describes the future of humanity after Earth has been ravaged by disease, human greed, and exploitation. Through the story, we follow the actions of the protagonist, Snowman, and slowly learn about his past life as Jimmy, and his two friends who brought on the majority of the destruction on Earth, Oryx and Crake. Atwood’s world-building within this story allows one to become immediately immersed in the new way of life. I found this method of immediate immersion into the futuristic world to be compelling and effective in order to immediately interest me in the dystopian world of Atwood’s creation. I also enjoyed Atwood’s incorporation of science and genomics within the book. The scientists within the book are more preoccupied with if something is possible, and not if it should be done, a question we still see scientists to this day grapple with.  I would consider this to be a thoughtful and page-turning must read!

Editor’s note: Oryx and Crake is the prequel to The Year of the Flood.

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Review Submitted by: Lisbeth Stewart
Rating: Must Read

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm
Although Animal Farm was written 75 years ago, it’s warnings and morals are timeless. This book could very well have been written today. I can see why this book is so popular, I recommend everyone read it at least once. You’ll discover something new every time!

Read previous reviews of Animal Farm.

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Review Submitted by: Kristina Howansky
Rating: Highly Recommended

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

cover art

Nothing to Envy is an inside look at life in North Korea which is revealing, fascinating & a compelling read. Only wish it were updated for this decade.

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Review Submitted by:  Catherine Pell
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

Bonus comment on The Handmaid’s Tale,

A must read – especially if one is intrigued by the subsequent television series, this book is well worth the time to read.

Availability:  SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Catherine Pell
Rating: Must Read
Challenge:  Book to TV