#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests, Young Adult

The Grace Year @Kim_Liggett

This summer has been the season of feminist books for me and I have loved each and every one of them! Adding to the latest feminist reads is The Grace Year by Kim Liggett. I have to admit that it was labeled as a “young adult” book but everything about this book is geared toward women of all ages. It is phenomenal!

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In this dystopian novel, the women live very subjugated lives along side men who rule with an iron fist. They are not allowed to gather and talk with one another in public, not allowed to hum or sing believing that they are using their “magic” to seduce or trick men – because we all know that men are easily seduced or tricked. Yes, we do. When they sixteen years old, the girls are sent away to a camp far in the woods to survive on their own for a year in order to rid themselves of their “magic” and come back pure and ready for marriage. The woods surrounding them are filled with “poachers” who are waiting for the girls to make a wrong move so they can skin the women alive, capture their magic and sell it back to the men in the county. There are outcasts and usurpers and these girls know that they do not want to become either of those women. Only a few will survive their “grace year” and those who do never breathe a word about what transpires in the woods. Until now. Tierney is determined to survive this year and prove there is no magic at all. As the girls become more insane and more of them are dying and being killed by the poachers, Tierney is targeted as one who much be cast out. Survival  becomes her only goal – will she succeed?

The Grace Year has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power but in all truthfulness I found The Grace Year far more interesting and realistic. We live in a world where women who once were gaining ground, marching on the road to equality, suddenly find themselves at the mercy of very angry, emphasis on very, men. Not just in the US but in so many countries all over the world. We now are marching backward with no say over our own bodies, no say over the world in which we live as we watch strong, intelligent women being mocked by those with half of their intellect. We are, literally, just shy of the ignorance that the males portray in The Grace Year. Sadly, we women are allowing this to happen without whimper.

However, what I found most refreshing was the end of this book. Without giving away what transpires, the women who were raging against one another form a bond. They begin making subtle changes to themselves and toward their group as a whole. They discover that there are men in their county who are willing to stand up for them, who help them and those who have been outcast. While the story itself is extremely dark, horrifically brutal – this really is a story of hope. If only we, as women, could or would bond together as a whole, stop tearing one another down, just imagine the power that we would have and the good that we could do for the world. That is the essence of this book: Hope.

This is a long-ish book and I thought, at first, that perhaps it needed editing to make it more palatable to those who no longer read longish books. However, there is nothing to edit. This book is perfect as it and well worth the time it takes to read it. In fact, I stayed up all night to finish it because I had to know the ending. It was beautiful! If you do not read another book this year, I encourage you to read The Grace Year and then follow it up with Athena’s Choice by Adam Boostrom. We’ll make a good feminist out of you yet.

My thanks goes out to #netgalley, @WednesdayBooks @StMartinsPress and #KimLiggett for allowing me to read and review this incredible book on sale October 8, 2019.

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#NGEW2019, Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Fiction, Tags and Challenges, Women's Fiction-Interests, Young Adult

Athena’s Choice #AdamBoostrom

The year is 2099 and all of the men are gone…

In a near future world, a Y-virus has killed all of the men and a smattering of women. In the aftermath, women have built what appears to be a utopian society. Through scientific breakthroughs and frozen sperm replication, they are still procreating, have quite nearly eliminated maternal and fetal deaths and have found cures for nearly all diseases. The female population discovered that, when using technology for good rather than for empire building and war, there were amazing discoveries just waiting to be had – and so they did create them. It is a world that is, quite literally, at our fingertips today except, well, you know. Men. And war.

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Athena is a 19 year old young woman who is at the heart of a mystery. There are some women who wish to bring back men – their sons, brothers and husbands – not literally, of course, they just miss the male presence. These women have initiated the Lazarus Project but someone has “stolen” the genome and for a mysterious reason to be explained throughout the book, Athena is at its core.

This is a bit more YA, perhaps because of Athena’s age and narration, but never the less, I found the story completely captivating. The Science Fiction portion of the story was mesmerizing and, upon further research, I discovered that nearly everything mentioned in the book, we are on the cusp of having – if only funds weren’t diverted elsewhere, namely WAR. This is very much (!) a book about feminism. At my age, through my experiences, as an American living with a president who is gunning for yet another needless war, who has humans trapped in a concentration camp in hellish conditions where children are dying, who believes that Twitter rants are more important that dealing with mass flooding in one-third of our country, where newborn and maternal deaths are on the rise for the first time in over 100 years… I’m not so sure that living in a female utopia would be such a bad thing. Every war, every disease, every horrific thing in our world’s history has been the result of male ego. So I found it completely enjoyable to read a book where there was none of this. None.

I loved that the book was enriched with so many different fonts and inserts. Throughout there were advertisements for various products that Athena was seeing or thinking about purchasing. It was a method to introduce the world building without going through the entire world building introduction in the beginning. I appreciated this because I often do not read sci-fi or fantasy because the world building part is quite boring for me. There also were throw-backs to Athena’s school work and, if you paid attention to it, you were being given clues to how the book would end. I suspect that some of the other reviewers skimmed over these and missed key parts of the story. They were hidden gems.

In the end, we are left with Athena’s Choice. Men or No Men or ….. you’ll have to read the book to know the other choices. There is no answer in the book. The choice is one for us all to think about. I know what my choice would be, without any doubt at all!

Winner of the 2019 National Indie Excellence Award for Visionary Fiction.
Winner of the 2019 Maxy Award for Science Fiction.
Finalist for the 2019 NIEA for Science Fiction.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough! Thank you to #Netgally and especially to the author, Adam Boostrom, for such a remarkable, thought-provoking, visionary tale!

Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Fiction, Science and Climate Fiction, Thriller

The Line Between @ToscaLee

Wow! Rarely would I begin a review with just “wow” but rarely have I read a book this amazing! Wow! The Line Between is a seamless marriage of dystopia meets thriller that will have you on the edge of seat from start to end which, if you’re like me, will be a day of non-stop reading!

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Wynter Roth had lived in a doomsday cult since her mother entered New World when Wynter was 7 years old. It was a cross between apocalyptic fear mongering meets vegan preppers with a lot of male chauvinism thrown into the mix. The cult leader was “Magnus,” a former scientific researcher who developed seeds. Now Magnus is attempting to bring about the end of the world to prove his prophecies are true. Wynter, for reasons you have to read to know, is kicked out of the cult shortly before a pandemic begins sweeping across America. Only she knows who is behind the deadly disease and only she can stop it.

Wynter is one of the best written characters I have read in ages. She’s vulnerable, yet strong; naïve but keenly intelligent. Most of all, she is fearless. All of these qualities will be needed in order for her to trek across America in an attempt to bring the knowledge that she has in her possession to a researcher who can find a prevention or antidote for a virus that is creating madness in the human race.

Tosca Lee is a masterful story-teller. At no point throughout the book did I doubt the plausibility of the characters or their actions. Lee takes time in the beginning of the book and through a “flashback” dual timeline, to allow readers to truly know Wynter, the cult members and their lifestyles and, through her eyes, we are able to watch as her disbelief begins to grow as well as her struggle with her faith as doubt creeps into her thoughts. I also thought that way Lee described Wynter’s post-cult re-integration was deftly written. However, the writing toward the end of the book was brilliant and breath-taking! The ending itself is nothing short of perfection – except, I WANT MORE!!

The Line Between is an amazing thriller, an even better dystopian novel and an absolute must read for 2019! You can pre-order your copy today for a January publication.

A million thanks to #Netgalley, #ToscaLee and #HowardBooks for my advanced copy of The Line Between.

Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Science and Climate Fiction

Sunlight 24 @merritt_graves

A genre that I’ve lately found intriguing is “near-future” fiction. It’s not always dystopian in nature, nor does it fall into the realm of sci-fi, or perhaps it does. Regardless, I like books that take an event or scenario happening currently and run it to its natural conclusion. If you think about it, that is basically what Orwell did with 1984, or was done in Brave New World. The authors viewed the effects of the Industrial Revolution and allowed their imagination to see the ultimate end-game: and they were too accurate for comfort. Sunlight 24, a young adult/new adult thriller, does exactly this using nanotechnology and gene splicing as well nootropic supplements and their effects on the human brain. (see this link if you are not familiar with nootropics)

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Sunlight 24 is a fast paced, roller coaster ride and one heckuva a great read! Set in the near future, in a world where the climate and robots have completely altered the daily lives of humans, man has found ways of making themselves less redundant: Revision. Simply put, they are altering their DNA using gene therapy, nano-bots and nootropics to make themselves faster, stronger, and definitely smarter. The drawback is that only the most wealthy can afford these “revisions,” creating a world where the haves and have-nots are clearly separated with only the “haves” succeeding. Enter Dorian whose family is barely getting by and cannot afford revision. Without revision, Dorian cannot get into a good university and without a degree in Nano-technology, he will be shackled forever by his limitations. But, Dorian has a plan to steal from the wealthy in order to afford smaller increments of revision. Each revision influences his next choice of revision until, ultimately, he realizes he is losing a bit of his own self, what makes him Dorian. He also does not suspect that his brother, a psychopath, is doing the same revisions as Dorian, also funded by nefarious means. The ultimate conclusion is explosive – literally – as well an eye opening look at the monster we are creating.

Merritt Graves, author of the cult thriller “Lake of Mars,” has created a brilliant look at the future where genetic mutation and nootropics rule the day. As someone who already takes nootropic drugs, I found the ultimate conclusion of this book to be frightening as well as enlightening. In the end, I was questioning what we already are doing, what we could do and what will remain of our own humanity when we do. If this sounds confusing, it isn’t really. Graves is a masterful story teller and, although the tale became a little over the top toward the end, Graves deftly keeps the story on track to its horrifying conclusion.

Admittedly, the book is a little too long and could use a good bit of editing. There were times when I felt parts of the story weren’t necessary to the overall story-line. It also helps to remember that this is told from a high-schooler’s point of view because it is a young adult thriller. As such, you aren’t going to get the thoughts and concerns of the parents, teachers, scientists, etc. This is, ultimately, Dorian’s story and is told from his point of view only. That didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book in the least and I heartily recommend it for those who enjoy this type of genre.

Thank you to #Netgalley #merrittgraves for my copy of Sunlight 24.

 

Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Noir, Crime and Dark Endeavors, Thriller

Penitence @MarkDCampbell

A deadly influenza pandemic. An escaped convict. 
A single mother desperate to protect her only child.  Dystopic fiction at its best!

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This is me reading outside of my comfort zone again – no, wait, I think apocalyptic/dystopic fiction may actually be something I like. The Stand, The Road, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale…. yeah, okay, I really like this genre just fine. And I like it even more after reading Mark Campbell’s new book, Penitence. 

Set in the near future, Penitence opens with a scene from anyone’s worst nightmare: a poultry farm worker is exposed to a new strain of avian flu, one that can jump species. It is fast moving, fast acting and deadly! Within a week the nation is in crisis, although the government does a fine job of lying to the people about the severity of the outbreak. Marshall Law is declared and the nation goes into panic mode. Well, almost the entire nation. A population that is forgotten resides within the prison walls. It is here that we meet Teddy Sanders, a lifer who stays alive by sticking to his routines and keeping his head down low. For Teddy, whatever is happening on the other side of the prison walls couldn’t be nearly as bad as what is happening on the inside. As chaos erupts in the prison. with an unprecedented mortality rate wiping out both prisoners and guards, Teddy realizes he has to make an escape or die of thirst and starvation. In an epic “battle” scene, Teddy fights his way to freedom only to discover a world that has collapsed. For Teddy, survival is second nature but is he willing to do anything to survive in this new world order?

From the moment I began reading until the very last page, the action never stopped. With the exception of the beginning scenario, Penitence is told exclusively through the eyes of Teddy Sanders: a killer, bank robber and convict. We learn of his fears, regrets, hatreds, disgust, and, ultimately his love. Sanders is one of the best drawn anti-heroes that I have come across since The Man in McCarthy’s, The Road. His story is heartbreaking and compelling, violent and good-hearted and, ultimately hopeful.

Campbell has worked inside of the US prison system and his experience shows throughout the book. The prison scenes are graphically drawn, horrendous, horrifying and action-packed. I’m not sure I’ve ever read of a prison scenario this well told. However, what I loved best about the book happens after Teddy leaves the prison. In a world that is dying, this section of the book could quite dark and depressing – and it is – but Teddy manages to find a woman and her son and the interaction between these characters is golden. Their relationship will rip your heart out and leaving it on the ground. It is stunningly beautiful.

I also appreciated Campbell’s knowledge of FEMA and Homeland Security. He not only gets their “official” line correct, he creates a world that is very much as most political analysts have described the future – FEMA and DHS are the new world order and Marshall Law strips away every last one of your perceived rights. Campbell could have taken this into a realm similar to King’s The Stand, where virtually no one is left alive and those who are alive are divided into Good vs Evil. Instead, this world is full of gray areas – good people doing bad things; bad people doing good things and a whole lot of government enforcers keeping “the peace” at any cost. Campbell, however, keeps an underlying feeling, just a tremor at times, of hope. In a world that is dead and dying, rather than being left depressed at the end of this book, I felt hopeful. The ending is absolutely amazing and it is worth reading the entire book just to get to the final scene. I shouted, “I want MORE,” and I was thrilled to discover that there is at least one more book to come – HURRAY!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book regardless of the genres in which you normally hang. It is a book for the masses but especially for those who love speculative fiction, dystopic fiction and post-apocalyptic tales. If I could give this book 10 stars I would! Now go… find your copy here and read it.

 

 

 

Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Fiction

The Machine Stops

“Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element – direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine – the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought Lafcadio Hearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution.”
― E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops

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The first thing you will notice when reading E.M Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” is how eerily real it seems for a Science Fiction novella. You may even ask yourself “what is all of the hype about machines when they are all around us?” That is because you are reading this book today, 2018, but it was written over 100 years ago! While many hail Wells and Bradbury for their insightful vision into the future, here is Forster describing with inexplicable accuracy a cell phone, the internet, holographic imagery, 3D printers and, most frightening of all, the destruction of the earth due to climate change. Remember, this is prior to the ill-effects of the Industrial Revolution. Ahhh, if only people had read and learned.

In the story we find Vashti, who is sealed in a square room where all of her needs are met with the touch of a button. Air quality, nourishment, entertainment and, most telling of all, communication. Not that she is often bothered with real communication because she doesn’t have time for it. She is too busy punching buttons, moving her information around, reading all that The Machine provides. There is no need for religion any longer – the Machine provides the answer to everything. Long Live the Machine.

Of course, as with anything that man has created, man must also maintain and that includes The Machine. But man, having to do nothing, where even lifting a real book is too strenuous for the atrophied arms, also becomes a bit atrophied and the machine glitches. What will happen to this perfect world then?

While many who read this book are astonished at the degree of technology that Forster created, I was mesmerized by the clarity in which he “predicted” human behavior. People no longer traveled for pleasure – there was no point when pictures on their screens were better, clearer than real life. They no longer actually read books but read what others wrote about the books – aaaahhh, not too different from here, wouldn’t you agree? In the end, they no longer relied on the “truth,” but rather another person’s version of the truth – even yet, the more interpretations of an event, the better. After all, an eyewitness to an event might actually be too easily influenced by the event itself. Perhaps the politicians of today actually did the novella and that is where they got the idea of “fake news,” for what is Facebook and other social media outlets if not the re-telling of the story through multiple sources?

Sadly, the story – like real life – does not end well. I cannot help but wonder if anyone who reads the book today sees the reality of their own fate on these pages. What happens to mankind when The Machine Stops?

This is a short novella; it took me a few hours to read at the most. I encourage you to download it – it is available for free from multiple sources. It truly is remarkable.