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review 2018-01-16 22:44
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere 1) - Meg Elison

This book hit just the right note with me at just the right time. It was one of those rare books that made me want to drop everything I was doing just so I could read - in fact, I finished this book in my car after work because I couldn't wait until I got home to read the last ten pages. So yeah, it was that kind of a read for me. That said I can see this book not being to everyone's liking. It has the same sort of grim and violent outlook you find in something like the Walking Dead, which will put a lot of people off. This is not a feel good story. There is a lot of graphic sexual violence depicted, so know that going in.

 

At its core I read this as a book about gender roles and sexuality. With the world's population drastically reduced, women a rarity, and pregnancy a dangerous and fruitless prospect, how does that effect the way we behave? How does this free people, sometimes in very dark ways, and how does it bind them? With a cultural breakdown, and women so vastly outnumbered, humans become sexually "liberated" in the way other mammals are liberated - with no social constructs this changes the dynamic. Some men use this as an excuse to rape and hold women as property. Some women use this as a way to collect harems, trading sex for protection. Some people feel free to choose their partners as they see fit without the societal judgement they might have previously experienced. Some people hide their gender in order to walk through the world unhindered. It's an interesting meditation on how the human animal might adjust gender roles, sexuality, and morality if society, balance, and pregnancy are removed from the equation.

 

In addition to having some interesting themes to chew on I quite liked the character and world building. All the characters felt distinct from one another, and their voices felt unique. The representation of bisexuality was some of the best I've ever read, and I really appreciated that as well. The world felt both real and terrifying, the feeling of constant threat looming in every encounter. This book scared me in the same way as White Horse by Alex Adams, or Children of Men. At the same time it had some hope and beauty sprinkled in (sparingly), to offset the horror of the world. For me it was meditative, haunting, frightening, and a little empowering.

 

If you're looking for a great read about the end of the world with a feminist bent this is a rare jewel. If grim futures, violence, or sexual trauma put you off of a read don't pick this one up. For me the food for thought far outweighed any of the ugliness.

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review 2018-01-12 04:00
Unwind - audiobook
Unwind - -Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged-,Neal Shusterman,Luke Daniels

 

In a not-so-distant future, the pro-choice and pro-life forces went to war. The compromise that ended the war was The Bill of Life. Under this bill, human life is protected from the moment of conception until the age of 13. Between the ages of 13 & 17, parents can choose to have their children "unwound". Unwinding is a process that harvests ninety-something percent of the body and then transplants the parts into other people's bodies. Supposedly, this means the child doesn't die but lives on divided into the bodies of other people.

 

Three children selected for unwinding for various reasons come together in this story, Connor, Risa & Lev. The reasons they became unwinds vary as much as their outlooks on life, but they are thrown together by circumstances and must find a way to survive together.

 

WOW. I loved this book. The plot is complex and exciting, the characters are flawed (in other words, human), and the circumstances are believable. The idea of unwinding is just terrible, but somehow it is common practice in this world. There are a lot of details I won't mention because I wouldn't want to spoil this book. But, the most intense and disturbing are the moments the reader witnesses an unwinding - chilling. And all the more so in the audio version. The voices and the technique the narrator uses fit the situation perfectly.

 

I love the story, the narration, everything about this book. I purchased the next 3 books in the series and have already started listening to book 2 - UnWholly.

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review 2018-01-09 00:46
Unutterably brilliant dystopian SF
Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe) - Neal Shusterman

Disclaimer: review based on an uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley.

 

Guys. Guys, listen. This was ridiculously good. I feel like the first time I picked up a Scott Westerfeld book (it was Uglies, btw). One for the record books.

 

Ok, yes, Scythe was brilliant and I loved it and it got one of my very rare 5 star reviews last year, but it just KEEPS GETTING BETTER. This is dystopian SF at its best; insightful, natural, emotional, relatable, engaging, stress-inducingly tense, original, shocking . . . how many more adjectives can I cram in here?

 

The technology and vision of a utopian AI-controlled future feels like a plausible extension of our current moment. And how many authors can make an entire series about death and still make it readable? The way the Thunderhead explores a Judeo-Christian vision of a personal god is also fascinating.

 

Book 1 scythe apprentices Citra and Rowan have graduated to next-generation leader and antihero respectively. I can't get over how great newcomer Greyson's progression is, too. And the way the Thunderhead AI has a character arc? What? The twists and reveals in this are gonna kill you. And if they don't, that ending just might. I CAN'T wait a year for more!! TToTT

 

Ok, so Citra is now Scythe Anastasia, and is rocking the boat by giving her (victims? gleanees? um.) time to come to terms with and define the method of their deaths. Rowan's gone rogue as an underground vigilante scythe murdering all the corrupt scythes. Greyson's an isolated loner that the Thunderhead brought up when his parents abandoned him. His dream is to become a civil servant out of appreciation for it. The Thunderhead's just trying to help everyone and keep them from destroying themselves and their world, dammit. Everyone's hopes and dreams get twisted around and undermined and melted and there's betrayal and shock and horror and lots of murder and also grand conspiracies and sacrifice and emo teen rebels and some mostly offscreen romance and the ending is brutal and I can't wait for more.

 

So pardon me while I go and binge-read everything Shusterman's ever written. BRB.

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review 2018-01-05 19:07
The Difference Engine / William Gibson & Bruce Sterling
The Difference Engine - William Gibson

1855: The Industrial Revolution is in full and inexorable swing, powered by steam-driven cybernetic Engines. Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine and the computer age arrives a century ahead of its time. And three extraordinary characters race toward a rendezvous with history - and the future: Sybil Gerard - dishonored woman and daughter of a Luddite agitator; Edward "Leviathan" Mallory - explorer and paleontologist; Laurence Oliphant - diplomat and spy. Their adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose. Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for...

 

As many others have pointed out, this book is one of the first in what we now know as the Steampunk genre. It explores the question of what would happen if the Industrial Revolution and the development of the computer had coincided—what would Victorian society have looked like?

It’s a complex novel, with a lot of layers. I read most of it in airports and on planes and didn’t have the best circumstances to be able to concentrate on those details. On the other hand, if it had been really riveting, I wouldn’t have noticed my surroundings, so I apparently didn’t find it all that compelling.

I appreciated the re-structuring of British society, from being run by the blue-blooded to being administered by the scientific. It was nice to see paleontologists and poets being recognized for their skills and not just dismissed as soft science or whimsy. And there must always be a resistance movement, which was well realized and sported realistic details, in my opinion.

The story frequently got bogged down in the details, however, and then just eventually petered out, leaving me disappointed. After a strong start, the weakness of the ending was a let down.

Book number 269 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading project.

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review 2018-01-05 16:40
The Soultakers - Review
The Soultakers: (YA Dystopian Scifi Horror) (The Treemakers Trilogy Book 2) - Christina L. Rozelle,Christian Bentulan,Kimberly Grenfell
"I've learned...fear does sometimes have its place in the grand scheme of things. If we let it, the Universe can make right from wrong, light from darkness, life from death" (Rozelle, 340). 
 
The Soultakers starts off where we left off in the Treemakers, in the safety of Zentao. But things turn awry quickly as secrets are uncovered and the safety of their newfound paradise is gone forever. Forced to evacuate, they fall into the depths of hell and struggle to make it out alive. 
 
Typically, the middle book in a trilogy is pure filler. The events between the beginning of their adventure, and their happy (or terrible) ending. While the story IS in between those two events, Rozelle made it its own adventure. 
 
There was so much new information revealed leading to the big ending that is The Seeker's Keys, the last book in the trilogy. The incredible events and exciting story never ceased to surprise and amaze me, and even scare me. 
 
The character development shown for Joy was astonishing. We are with her through so much in this novel and we get to experience what she goes through. Rozelle doesn't lack in suspense or surprise when it comes to what happens to this girl. 

We also get to explore some of the other characters a bit more, like Johnny, and Serna, who we finally get to know a little better. 
 
The theme of never giving up and pevailing against all odds sticks with us through this novel. It is ever present and constantly brought up, keeping up hopes of readers as to the fate of the beloved characters we have fallen in love with. 
 
Rozelle did an incredible job at involving so much content without making the story seem cluttered and unnecessary, all while keeping suspense present and preventing things from getting dull or obvious. 
 
As before, I look forward to reading the next book, namely the final book in the Treemaker series, however sad I might be when it ends. The story has evolved so much in these past two novels, and I can't wait to see what the next one brings. Again, Rozelle did a fantastic job with this novel. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. 
Source: www.hayleysreviews.com/single-post/2017/01/07/The-Soultakers---Review
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