Bleak but gripping apocalyptic tale

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City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun

The unnamed narrator is known for his talents as a rat killer.  The extermination company he works for has given him what many consider to be a promotion and is sent to Country C.  However, when the man gets to Country C, he finds its streets are overrun with rats and piled high with rotting garbage with horrible odors.  There’s also a deadly rampant virus going around and men walk around in hazmat suits.  When he finds out that his new job has been postponed, he thinks things can’t get any worse.  But his world completely caves in when he contacts someone from home and finds out that his ex-wife has been murdered and he’s the prime suspect.

Wow, this author surely knows how to write a gruesome story and keep her readers on edge!  Her imagination knows no limits and the world she has created in this book in a bleak, horrendous one.  I was very impressed with her book, “The Hole”, but this one is even better with a more involved plot.  The book has many layers and I think different people will read different meanings into it.  I see that “The Hole” has won the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award and I can see why.  Her work does remind me of Shirley Jackson’s plus it has that unique Korean touch that I’ve grown to admire.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

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A “Stepford Wife” society

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Vox by Christina Dalcher

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

There have been some rather extreme changes made here in the United States.  Women must wear a bracelet-type counter that allows them only 100 words a day.  If they go over their quota, they receive a horrendous electrical shock.  Even the written word or sign language is punishable.  Women can no longer hold jobs and girls are not being taught how to read or write but only are taught how to cook and sew.  Dr. Jean McClellan is the narrator of this book.  She’s a mother of four and the wife of a man who she believes is too passive about the whole issue.  She regrets not taking action before this all started.  She no longer has a voice with which to fight.

Before all of these changes, Jean was a cognitive linguist working on a cure for aphasia, the loss of the ability to understand or express speech caused by brain damage.  All of her research stopped when women’s rights were taken away.  But now the President’s brother is suffering from brain damage and Jean is asked to resume her work.

The only fault I had with this book is that at times it felt too much like “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  There are so many similar restrictions.  But I felt that the writer does a very good job in telling this story and Jean is a very believable narrator.  The added interest comes from Sonia, Jean’s 6-year-old daughter, who doesn’t remember what it’s like to be able to speak freely.  There’s one terribly frightening scene involving Sonia that really made the whole book seem so real and possible.  It’s one thing to have your own rights taken away but entirely another when it involves your innocent child.  The way the schools were now teaching young girls was so tragic.

Interesting story told in a realistic manner.  Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

 

A new nightmare for motherhood

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The Completionist by Siobhan Adcock

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

In an America in the near future, there is little natural water and most is artificially engineered.  The people have technological portals embedded in their skin, which keep track of their every movement.  There’s a fertility crisis and those women who do become naturally pregnant are considered miracles but their independence is taken away from them and they’re fined for every small thing they do that isn’t within a certain code that has been set up to ensure the safety of these babies, a code that is practically impossible to adhere to.

Carter Quinn is a marine who has fought the battle to protect the engineered water and now has come home after 2 and a half years.  He’s obviously ill from the “triggers” used in battle.  His sister, Fred, has miraculously conceived and now has permission to wed.  She’s frantic due to the disappearance of their sister, Gard, a Nurse Completionist, one who helps women through their pregnancies.  Carter sets off on a quest to find Gard.

The author has created a unique and horrifying future world, yet doesn’t explain how we got to this point.  Apparently, the problem was in the water and therefore there is now a need to engineer water.  The main characters are each have their own distinctive voices and you can tell who’s telling the story or writing a letter just by their written voice, which I believe shows the author’s talent.  The characters are very realistic and down to earth and believable, except for Carter.  While I liked the guy, I found the character to be very frustrating.  Granted, he was ill from whatever was being used as a weapon in the war and was not thinking clearly.  But he was constantly drunk which just didn’t seem to go with his determination to find his sister.  The thought “you can’t be that stupid” came to mind too often.

The most problem I had with this book was that I found it to be very repetitious and far too drawn out.  Also it seemed to be very unrealistic that such a ridiculous child care code would be set up, which defeated the purpose of protecting these treasured unborn children.  But it was an interesting concept and I found it to be a horrifying world for women to live in.  Just the fact that women’s independence was so jeopardized by this situation compelled me to keep on reading.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Fascinating feminist fable

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The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Grace, Lia and Sky have been taught by their parents to fear men.  Their father, King, has taken them to an isolated location and has surrounded the area with barbed wire and has put buoys out in the water.  He doesn’t want anyone to enter, nor does he want his daughters to leave.  The world outside of their safe haven has become a violent one, with men turning against women.  The women in the outside world are growing ill from the toxins of that world and sometimes make it to their shores where the sisters’ mother gives the ill women the water cure.  Grace, Lia and Sky all undergo therapies to keep them safe.  Their father and mother are obeyed without question.  But when King disappears, two men and a young boy wash ashore.  The sisters have no way of knowing whether they will survive this new threat.

I’m amazed that this is the author’s debut novel.  She has the heart of a poet.  This book reads like a fairy tale, the kind that sends chills up your spine.  The life of these sisters just broke my heart.  The rituals and therapies they were forced to endure were without doubt cruel ones and it’s unclear as to their purpose throughout most of the book.  The author creates an atmosphere of constant tension and unease.  While some of the ending didn’t come as a surprise to me, there were points when I was quite taken back by revelations.  All questions aren’t answered but that didn’t matter a bit to me.  It’s a book that I will long remember and I’m sure it’s headed for quite a few literary prizes.

Hauntingly beautiful and most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Poetically written dystopian novella

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The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

A mother gives birth to a baby. However, the parents’ happiness is marred by the floodwaters that are rising all around them. They’re forced to evacuate with the newborn infant. They need to keep moving to find land above the flood levels. The news that is coming to them is not encouraging. Panic has spread and the world is no longer a safe place.

What a contrast – the beauty of the birth of a child and his discoveries of the fascinating world around him against the harsh reality of a planet that may soon be covered in water. This is a hauntingly beautiful novella that I was totally captivated by. Just the author’s brilliant capture of early motherhood is enough to make this one a winner. But the suspense of the ongoing flooding adds such a touch of horror that I was dismayed at the prospect of these lovely people. The author has managed to pack an enormous amount of emotion into such few words. This is an amazing accomplishment and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead from Ms. Hunter.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

A comic look at a world gone mad

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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

I’ve read that Ms. Atwood prefers her dystopian books to be called speculative fiction rather than science fiction, since her invented worlds could actually happen.  And while the Positron Project isn’t a fantasy world, it’s a strange world indeed.  A couple struggling to survive in a manic dangerous world are given a chance to live at Consilience where they will live one month in a lovely “normal” neighborhood in their own home and alternate months as slave workers in a prison.  Of course, all is not as it seems.

This is a lighter book than I expected from Ms. Atwood, though there are certainly undercurrents of horror and evil.  I was pulled into the story in the beginning but it began to turn me off a bit with the Elvis sexbotics.  But then again as mentioned, I hadn’t expected such a light hearted book about such a dark subject.  There is a very suspenseful moment about three quarters of the way into the book and I had no idea which way it would go – will she or won’t she – will love triumph.  The author expertly directed that section of the story.

She has made many social and political statements with the writing of this book and I think a book club would enjoy hashing over the meanings.  This book will alight much literary discussion.  I can tell through each page what fun the author was having writing this book and I also had some fun moments.  I’m glad I read it as I wouldn’t have wanted to miss anything Ms. Atwood wrote.  But personally I prefer the drama of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Alias Grace”.  Due to the excellence of the writing and social commentary behind the humor and the fact that I’ll still be thinking about this book for weeks to come, I will give it 4 stars.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.