Books shelved under “Utopia Dystopia”

46 reviews found

  1. Book cover for Lizard Radio

    Lizard Radio

    by Pat Schmatz

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Lizard Radio is a lovely, messy, very queer book with queer characters. I enjoyed it and also didn’t, if you know what I mean—I’m glad I read it, but reading it was a bit of a chore, because Pat Schmatz’s style is quite distinctive. This feels more like a novella than a novel to me, despite its length, because it doesn’t quite have the narrative completeness I desire, personally, in my novels. Nevertheless, Kivali’s journey…

  2. Book cover for Killer of Enemies

    Killer of Enemies

    by Joseph Bruchac

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I was excited to read a YA novel with an Indigenous protagonist, because there aren’t enough of those. Killer of Enemies is an action-packed dystopian thriller from Joseph Bruchac. Yet what it gains from tense action sequences it loses in sloppy writing elsewhere.

    Lozen is the eponymous Killer of Enemies, a post-apocalyptic job position that involves being sent on hazardous missions away from the haven of Haven to kill dangerous beasties that might otherwise threaten…

  3. Book cover for Waterdown

    Waterdown

    by Anastasia Slabucho

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Why does AI always end up being the bad guy? Because we love to explore evil in the form of the Other. Also, it usually turns out that the bad guy was us, the creators of the AI, all along! Anastasia Slabucho’s Waterdown retreads these ideas but within the context of the climate change crisis we currently face. She posits that someone might have the right combination of drive, ingenuity, and wherewithal to create an…

  4. Book cover for Vox

    Vox

    by Christina Dalcher

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    So many mixed feelings about this one! The cover caught my eye while at Chapters shopping for books for my Dad. I read the first few pages and, honestly, was kind of hooked by Christina Dalcher’s writing. So I bought it and kept reading. Vox asks us to consider what it would be like if we used technology to literally silence women (at least in the United States).

    Dr. Jean McClellan is our first person…

  5. Book cover for The Unit

    The Unit

    by Ninni Holmqvist

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The kind of dystopian novel I’m often lukewarm about, The Unit has a blurb on the front cover from Margaret Atwood, which really tells me all I need to know. It’s science-fictional but also hangs on to that notional “literary fiction” tag, as if it doesn’t want to stoop too much into the genre ghetto. Whereas Kazuo Ishiguro’s dive into organ donation is a meditation on personhood, Ninni Holmqvist is more interested in the value…

  6. Book cover for Santa Olivia

    Santa Olivia

    by Jacqueline Carey

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It was only three weeks into knitting my SEKRIT PROJECT that has left me high and dry for reading time that I remembered audiobooks are a thing … good job, Ben.

    Santa Olivia is some dystopian SF from Jacqueline Carey, whom I better know from Kushiel’s Dart and its umpteen spin-offs, as well as the Agent of Hel urban fantasy series (damn, I still crave more of those). In this novel, Carey turns her hand…

  7. Book cover for Gnomon

    Gnomon

    by Nick Harkaway

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Yes, Gnomon is a behemoth of a book, one I am glad I saved for the beginning of March Break. Even then it took me several days to get through it. Nick Harkaway’s story is intricately layered and nested, and while I wasn’t sure about it at first, the more time I spent with it, the more I came to appreciate and enjoy its construction. Gnomon is a lot of things, and a simple summary…

  8. Book cover for Genesis

    Genesis

    by Bernard Beckett

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I love it when a book leaves me feeling so deeply ambivalent. I mean, I would prefer it if I could just outright love Genesis, no ambivalence necessary. But I would rather ambivalence than apathy. Bernard Beckett has clearly put a lot of effort into crafting this deep, philosophical dialogue. It’s a beautifully constructed piece of literature.

    But I also didn’t really like it that much.

    Anaximander, or Anax as she is called, is…

  9. Book cover for Want

    Want

    by Cindy Pon

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    What a gutsy way to title a book! Another book that I took some time to warm up to, Want is a YA dystopian thriller that reminds me a little bit of William Gibson’s work. There’s an edge to this book that I wasn’t expecting. Cindy Pon’s plotting and characterization results in a tight-rope–walk of suspense. At times cinematic, other times somewhat shallower than I wanted, this is a really intriguing adventure.

    The year is…

  10. Book cover for Walkaway

    Walkaway

    by Cory Doctorow

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Cory Doctorow is Doctorowing it up again, by which I mean writing intense polemics thinly veiled as science-fiction stories that give you a hell of a philosophical rush. Walkaway is about the decline of capitalism after we can print most of the things we need. It’s about people attempting to check out of “default”—but what if default is more like the Hotel California? As with all of Doctorow’s books, this is dense and steeped with…

  11. Book cover for Everything Belongs to the Future

    Everything Belongs to the Future

    by Laurie Penny

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It’s difficult to overstate how much I loved Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things. You should read it, full stop. So when I heard she had a novella coming out, of course I pre-ordered it right away. Whereas some science fiction speaks so optimistically to the potential for technological innovations to make our world better, Everything Belongs to the Future falls decidedly on the opposite side of that scale. The dystopian world that Penny imagines here…

  12. Book cover for Excession

    Excession

    by Iain M. Banks

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Finally, the Culture novel I’ve been waiting to read since I started the series. Everyone told me not to start with Excession, so I didn’t—and honestly that was pretty good advice. I can see why people wouldn’t enjoy this novel, and even though I think I would have liked it with no previous Culture experience, reading other books has given me a deeper appreciation for what is happening here.

    Excession reminds me of children’s…

  13. Book cover for The Heart Goes Last

    The Heart Goes Last

    by Margaret Atwood

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Shall we have a discussion about how, at this point, no one, not even Atwood herself, is pretending she is not writing science fiction, yet libraries and bookstores are still going to shelve these books in the “literary” or “general” sections because genres are bullshit marketing labels?

    What, you just want me to skip all that noise and go to the review? Fine, fine. Don’t say I never listen to you, reader.

    Also, you’re looking…

  14. Book cover for Perfect Ruin

    Perfect Ruin

    by Lauren DeStefano

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Meehhhhhhhhhh?

    I’m not sure what prompted me to grab a book so obviously in the dystopian YA camp. I guess it’s that bad habit of reading widely—I mean, it’s great in the sense that I discover books I love I might not have read otherwise. But it means I tend to read a lot of books that I find mediocre even when I know others are going to love them. It’s one thing to rip…

  15. Book cover for Split Second

    Split Second

    by Kasie West

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I wasn’t sure how Kasie West could follow up Pivot Point. The dual, parallel narrative structure of the first novel was neat, but I didn’t think it would be as interesting a second time. Fortunately, West approaches the story differently. This time the narrative is split between Addie and Laila.

    Since I found Laila an interesting character in the first book, I welcomed the opportunity to get inside her head and learn more about…

  16. Book cover for Scored

    Scored

    by Lauren McLaughlin

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Growing up in Canada and watching American TV shows, one becomes familiar with Americanisms that nevertheless are not applicable in Canada. For instance, two initialisms that are a big deal to American students and have no bearing on Canadians (unless we want to go to an American university): SATs and GPAs. Don’t exist here, for the most part. (Some schools require SAT-like tests for admissions, and most universities calculate a GPA statistic—but it doesn’t have…

  17. Book cover for Always Coming Home

    Always Coming Home

    by Ursula K. Le Guin

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Why is it Ursula K. Le Guin always makes my life as a reader and reviewer difficult? Her books can’t be nice, straightforward stories—no, she has to create lyric, moving pieces of experimental literature that transcend our ordinary definitions of form and genre. I have a problem with Always Coming Home, but that problem is entirely independent of the book itself. It is, rather, a result of me and my particular biases…

  18. Book cover for Archetype

    Archetype

    by M.D. Waters

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Huh, so it appears I’m not the only one to liken this to The Handmaid’s Tale. So there goes that idea for a review.

    I guess I’ll just have to talk about young adult literature and dystopian fiction and how not liking this book means you hate women.

    Just kidding about that last part.

    Sort of.

    In addition to reminding me of Atwood’s novel about fertile women being the property of men who believe…

  19. Book cover for The Unincorporated Man

    The Unincorporated Man

    by Dani Kollin

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Do you have a brick wall handy? Because hitting your head against that would be a more productive and more enjoyable experience than listening to The Unincorporated Man as an audiobook. This was the only format in which it was available through my library. Audiobooks are not my preferred format for reading. They can definitely be great if you have good material and a good narrator. The narrator here, Todd McLaren, wasn’t bad—but even he…

  20. Book cover for When We Wake

    When We Wake

    by Karen Healey

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    One of the pleasures of reading often and reading widely is the capacity for books to surprise me. A book I think I’ll enjoy turns out to be rubbish, while other books exceed expectations. This book delighted and invigorated me. I didn’t expect much from When We Wake. It’s not because it’s YA. It’s because it’s set in Australia.

    I’m totally kidding. It’s totally because it’s YA. Specifically, dystopian YA. I’ve been burned enough…

  21. Book cover for Ready Player One

    Ready Player One

    by Ernest Cline

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Whoa, this came out in 2011? It’s already three years old? I knew it wasn’t a new release, but I thought it had only been a year or two. The hype is so fresh in my memory…. Well, that goes to show how unreliable one’s memory is.

    Whether you agree with the hype or not, it’s understandable why Ready Player One has received so much attention. With its supersaturation of 1980s pop culture allusions, it…

  22. Book cover for The Phoenix Cycle

    The Phoenix Cycle: Would You?

    by Bob Collopy

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    So, it’s the future, and on your 18th “cycle” you can apply to ascend into the upper echelons of society, where you will no longer labour in an ash-filled purgatory of dreary hopelessness.

    Why? This is a good question. The Phoenix Cycle doesn’t specify, so for all we know, the mysterious General does it for the lulz.

    Last month I received a message from Robert Edward asking me to read his story. As far as…

  23. Book cover for Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 71

    Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 71

    by Neil Clarke

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The novelette offers an opportunity to experiment in a way that short stories and novels don’t often do. You have much more room in which to create a world than a short story, where a glimpse at the larger picture is often all that you can afford. On the other hand, unlike a novel, there is no requirement to have a lengthy plot. With “Fade to White”, Catherine Valente depicts a world torn apart by…

  24. Book cover for Cloud Atlas

    Cloud Atlas

    by David Mitchell

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Cloud Atlas is not as difficult to read as some of its reviews led me to expect. I suspect they did this because it is difficult to review (and I’m even going to be employing spoilers, though few and far between, those who have only a minor aversion to them will be happy to know). I’m going to ramble for a bit about my reactions to the book versus the movie and ruminate on the…

  25. Book cover for Muse of Fire

    Muse of Fire

    by Dan Simmons

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Whereas delaying reading A Case of Exploding Mangoes for four years didn’t improve the experience, I am glad that I waited until now to read Muse of Fire. I recently read Much Ado About Nothing for the first time, in order to teach it to a Year 9 class, and being familiar with that play’s plot and characters definitely improved my comprehension of this Shakespeare-infused novella.

    Dan Simmons banks on the continued popularity of…

  26. Book cover for Counting Heads

    Counting Heads

    by David Marusek

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I’m not a connoisseur of Coen Brothers films, but there are two I love: Fargo and Burn After Reading. Both of these bleak-yet-comic films have in common their stellar ensemble casts and strong, interwoven stories. Neither has a single, clear protagonist following a simple, linear plot. That would be boring! Instead, each film presents a complicated set of narratives in which everyone is the protagonist of their own life even as they antagonize others.

  27. Book cover for Snow Falling

    Snow Falling

    by Robert Harken

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Full disclosure: I received a copy of this story free from its author. Loves me the free short stories.

    At the time I write this, I have 196 followers on Twitter. I’m pretty sure most of them are bots of one kind or another, because that number seems rather inflated. I have 147 Facebook friends. I have 97 followers on Goodreads, though again, many of those may be automated people attempting to profile me or…

  28. Book cover for Brave New World

    Brave New World

    by Aldous Huxley

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    One of science fiction’s most enduring traits is its ability to ruminate upon the ways in which science and technology allow us to manipulate and re-engineer society. In this sense, the distinction between soft and hard science fiction disappears—all science fiction is inherently social, for no matter how much detail goes into describing the technological advances that populate possible futures, the meat of the story is always the effect these technologies have on the people…

  29. Book cover for Pure

    Pure

    by Julianna Baggott

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    So what if someone set us up the bomb, or several bombs, and instead of nuclear winter and all the survivors dying of cancer, they got fused to each other and bits of glass and animals and broken doll heads? Pure is a horror story about atomic detonations gone wrong. Yeah—if that isn’t a terrifying thought, I don’t know what is. Julianna Baggott postulates a post-apocalyptic world that is the fevered vision of a…

  30. Book cover for Moxyland

    Moxyland

    by Lauren Beukes

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Corporations are legally people—how long before they become nation-states? Some of them own islands, or indeed, virtually entire countries. I’m not as pessimistic as some about our short-term survival odds in the coming century. Sure, we have problems, but we’ll muddle through—somehow. Yet if I had to pick which chilling dystopian vision of the future I feel is most likely, the corporations-own-us-all future is the one I’d choose. It’s feudalism all over again, baby—party like…

  31. Book cover for Mockingjay

    Mockingjay

    by Suzanne Collins

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Oh, Mockingjay, I’m just not sure what to do with you.

    I suppose that at this point the trilogy has taken on a certain trajectory. Katniss rebelled against the Capitol, inadvertently started an uprising, and now finds herself the face of that revolution regardless of her desires in the matter. It seems inevitable that the third and final book will feature the climax of this uprising, an assault on the Capitol, and one last…

  32. Book cover for Catching Fire

    Catching Fire

    by Suzanne Collins

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Two years, almost to the day, have elapsed since I read the first book in this series. Since then it has gone from trendy young adult sensation to international book series phenomenon. My second student-teaching practicum is in a Grade 7/8 environment, where it seems like every student is reading one of these three books. I even got to accompany my Grade 7 and 8 classes to watch the movie when it came out in…

  33. Book cover for Amortals

    Amortals

    by Matt Forbeck

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Whole brain emulation and mind uploading are science-fiction concepts that I love, because they raise really complicated questions related to philosophy of mind, a particular field in philosophy that I find very fascinating. Moreover, it’s scary how close we might be to achieving these in real life. Some critics have made very compelling cases for why this isn’t possible—but no one has been able to prove it, one way or another. Where scientists cannot yet…

  34. Book cover for Triton

    Triton

    by Samuel R. Delany

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It’s been almost five weeks since I did this, so let’s hope my skills haven’t atrophied too much! My student teaching practicum was awesome, but it left me little time for reading and no time for reviewing. Now I need to catch up. So please forgive me if the details in this review are sparser than ordinary; there is a very good reason why I write reviews as soon as possible after finishing a book!

  35. Book cover for The Handmaid's Tale

    The Handmaid's Tale

    by Margaret Atwood

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Margaret Atwood looms large in that particularly Canadian part of my literary subconscious, the part that natters at me to call stuff "CanLit" and berates me for having never read anything by Michael Ondaatje. Atwood is Kind Of A Big Deal, but so far I have managed to avoid reading any of her novels and have read, as far as I can recall, one of her short stories. Already, though, I have a bone…

  36. Book cover for Liberation

    Liberation

    by Brian Francis Slattery

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    When confronted by the uncertain future, we look to our past. We look to it for answers, for enlightenment, for inspiration. Mostly we look to it because we have nowhere else to look. This is natural, but it's also dangerous, for we have a tendency to romanticize the past: everything was better before we had electricity, urbanization, automation; life was simpler, slower, satisfying. Sometimes we get caught up in that idyllic illusion of a pastoral…

  37. Book cover for Fahrenheit 451

    Fahrenheit 451

    by Ray Bradbury

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Every science fiction fanatic, especially one as young as myself, has a list of classic science fiction books that he or she has yet to read. One's definition of classic can vary; it's not the content of the list that matters but its existence as a personal measure of our "SF street cred." I have read Dune and Starship Troopers, and plenty of Asimov pre-Goodreads. Until now, however, Fahrenheit 451 has eluded me. Today…

  38. Book cover for Pretties

    Pretties

    by Scott Westerfeld

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    My review of Uglies stands for Pretties, because they are pretty much the same book.

    Scott Westerfeld further fleshes out his post-apocalyptic adolescent dystopia. We get to see New Pretty Town from "the inside," because Tally Youngblood is now pretty—and vapid, at least until a letter from her past self jogs her memory that there's more to life than flash tattoos, parties, and cliques. Yeah, sounds like high school.

    So Tally embarks on a…

  39. Book cover for Uglies

    Uglies

    by Scott Westerfeld

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    With Uglies, Scott Westerfeld creates a creepy adolescent dystopia where "pretty" is decided by committee, and everyone at sixteen receives an operation to become pretty. Until then, one exists as an "ugly," good only for learning and playing pranks, banned from the parties and glitz of New Pretty Town. Of course, being a dystopia, there's more sinister workings afoot. Being pretty isn't all it's cracked up to be.

    In many ways, Uglies reminds me…

  40. Book cover for The Hunger Games

    The Hunger Games

    by Suzanne Collins

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The perverse, contrary part of me enjoys panning books that receive wide acclaim. It's a calling (in the same way that being a creepy funeral home director is a calling). Giving a wildly popular book a bad review is almost as fun as giving a bad book a bad review. I'll be honest: it's an ego thing, a sense of smugness that comes from not succumbing to the hype.

    So when I like a book,…

  41. Book cover for Kilimanjaro

    Kilimanjaro

    by Mike Resnick

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    When I first began Kilimanjaro, I was worried it was just Kirinyaga, Take Two. I enjoyed Kirinyaga but felt no need for a repeat performance. It turns out that I was right but for the wrong reasons. Kilimanjaro stands apart from Kirinyaga, with different themes even if it has a similar setting.

    The main character, David, seemed just as arrogant about the superiority of Maasai ways over Kikuyu ways as Koriba was…

  42. Book cover for Woman on the Edge of Time

    Woman on the Edge of Time

    by Marge Piercy

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I'm ambivalent about this book. The best way to describe my reservation with Woman on the Edge of Time is that I was never comfortable suspending my disbelief. I tried to make myself willing to go where Marge Piercy was taking me but never quite got there. Although the book steadily improved from its chaotic but very dull beginning, it never involved me in the way I require to get much satisfaction from reading. In…

  43. Book cover for The Giver

    The Giver

    by Lois Lowry

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The world of The Giver, Jonas' world, is one without sunlight, without colour, without anger or love or indeed any strong feelings at all. Sexual urges are a suppressed by a daily pill. Jobs are assigned by the community's Council of Elders. The only one who remembers—whose job is, in fact, to remember—what life was like before humanity went to "Sameness" is the Receiver of Memory. And Jonas is the lucky new recruit for…

  44. Book cover for Haze

    Haze

    by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Haze reminds me of a Heinlein novel, with a receptive but clueless protagonist immersed in a society he doesn't understand only to have that society explained to him, usually on socioeconomic terms. The end result is polemical and usually dry, and this book is no exception.

    There's actually two stories going on, both featuring Keir Roget as their protagonist. One is the main plot as advertised by the title; the other occurs a few years…

  45. Book cover for The Dispossessed

    The Dispossessed

    by Ursula K. Le Guin

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The success of The Dispossessed lies in Le Guin’s presentation of two distinct visions of utopia. Each feels that the other is an aberration. Both are superior to the contemporary government of Earth, which at this stage has just barely managed to avoid destroying Earth's biome. Yet both are dysfunctional, have strayed from whatever utopian ideals may have founded them. They are not failed experiments, but they are not entirely successful either—owing to human nature—and…

  46. Book cover for Kirinyaga

    Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia

    by Mike Resnick

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga is an example of how science fiction isn't necessarily a genre; it's just a setting. Kirinyaga is technically science fiction, because it involves colonizing another world (the eponymous planetoid Kirinyaga, named for the mountain upon which the god of the Kikuyu, Ngai, lives). However, Kirinyaga isn't about spaceships or combat with high-tech weaponry or vast, evil empires. It's a collection of fables, and an extremely well-written one at that.

    The narrator of