A deeply allegorical and powerfully thought-provoking dystopian must-read.

We, The Watched

From the We, the Watched series , Vol. 1

Debut author Bender offers an Orwellian thriller about an amnesiac’s struggle to understand his place in a fascistic country.

The embattled nation in Bender’s novel has recently created the Department of Purity, a new branch of government dedicated to “national unity and security.” When the protagonist, who calls himself “Seven,” wakes up in a forest with no memory of his life, he makes his way into the capital city and soon finds himself immersed in a society where political propaganda plays a monumental role in daily existence. Residents are either called “Patriots” or “Heretics,” and the president’s primary goal is to rid the country of supposed revolutionaries bent on ruining the unity of the general public: “a great cleansing has begun.” Seven goes on to befriend a young man named Adrian at a youth hostel who helps him get a job and find a sense of stability in his largely blank existence. But after Adrian is senselessly murdered by an Elite Guard and Seven kills the government henchman, he turns to the Underground for safety and support—and learns firsthand just how insidiously tyrannical the government has truly become. Fueled by a brilliantly nebulous backdrop, this briskly paced, action-packed novel is undeniably a page-turner of the highest order. Also, many readers will draw immediate comparisons between the Department of Purity and the real-life passage of the USA PATRIOT Act after 9/11. The only criticism of the book comes in its depiction of women; Seven refers to them as “broads” and unapologetically objectifies them throughout. Such sexism notwithstanding, the novel engagingly explores themes such as invasive governmental surveillance and mind control, which makes for a highly entertaining and enlightening reading experience.

A deeply allegorical and powerfully thought-provoking dystopian must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4348-3274-0

Page Count: 194

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more