Tag: dystopian

Book Review: Knight in Paper Armor, by Nicholas Conley

Image belongs to author/publisher.

Title: Knight in Paper Armor
Author:  Nicholas Conley   
Genre: Fiction, science fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

I have to say, the setting for Knight in Paper Armor was very disturbing (near-future, urban dystopia), not just because of how it was, but because it seems so easily possible from where we are now. One company dominating and oppressing the world—yep, I could see that—poverty, loss of rights and freedoms, the use of violence and murder to control people and keep them below the poverty level…Sad and depressing, but believable.

Billy was such a sympathetic character:  branded as different and raised by a greedy corporation in a lab, his family murdered in front of him, the victim of experiments and used for a weapon. All Billy wants is to have a “normal” life and help people. All Natalia wants is to help her family and to right the wrongs she sees around her every single day. Both these characters are strong and vividly drawn but have their flaws as well.

The author does an excellent job painting an admittedly dark picture, but he also showcases the glimmers of light and hope that can be found even in the dark of times.

Nicholas Conley lives in New Hampshire. Knight in Paper Armor is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Road Out of Winter, by Alison Stine

road out of winter
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Road Out of Winter
Author: Alison Stine
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter.  

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.

 This was rather dark and depressing—so the author did an excellent job of setting the tone and mood of the story. The idea of never-ending winter is sobering, at the very least. Wil is an interesting character. She’s so used to being the outcast, the one everyone shuns, that it’s a big adjustment to have people around who actually need her.

I enjoyed the character growth she experienced, but the book just depressed me, frankly. Lots of horrible people willing to steal and kill in order to get ahead, even if they don’t actually need what they’re stealing. Wil is like a tiny ray of light in a dark room in this story, and even though she sometimes flickers, she does not go out.

Alison Stine lives in the Appalachian foothills. Road Out of Winter is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Beginning at the End, by Mike Chen

a beginning at the end
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:  A Beginning at the End
AuthorMike Chen
Genre:  Dystopian
Rating:  4 out of 5

Six years after a global pandemic, it turns out that the End of the World was more like a big pause. Coming out of quarantine, 2 billion unsure survivors split between self-governing big cities, hippie communes, and wasteland gangs. When the father of a presumed-dead pop star announces a global search for his daughter, four lives collide: Krista, a cynical event planner; Moira, the ex-pop star in hiding; Rob, a widowed single father; and Sunny, his seven-year-old daughter.

As their lives begin to intertwine, reports of a new outbreak send the fragile society into a panic. And when the government enacts new rules in response to the threat, long-buried secrets surface, causing Sunny to run away seeking the truth behind her mother’s death. Now, Krista, Rob, and Moira must finally confront the demons of their past in order to hit the road and reunite with Sunny — before a coastal lockdown puts the world on pause again.

A Beginning at the End wasn’t your typical end-of-the-world dystopian novel. Apart from a few brief flashbacks, the story doesn’t spend a lot of time with the actual end of the world. Instead, it’s firmly grounded in the rebuilding phase of life after a global pandemic.

My heart went out to Rob. He’s been keeping a huge secret from hid daughter Sunny for years—and now it has caught up with him and he doesn’t know what to do, so he’s floundering. Moira has been running for so long she doesn’t know how to not run. And Krista…well, I didn’t like her for most of the book, as she’s selfish and a bit ugly to people around her, but she fortunately has an epiphany about herself that changes her. I loved that this novel left the large-scale view alone, and focused on a handful of individuals, their lives, and their emotions, as this made everything much more vivid and realistic.

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. A Beginning at the End is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour: Day Zero, by Kelly deVos

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Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:  Day Zero
Author:    Kelly deVos
Genre:  YA, dystopian
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Jinx Marshall grew up preparing for the end of the world—because her doomsday-prepper dad made her. Krav Magna, survival skills, and drills filled her days, but she thought all that was over when her parents divorced. Until the end of the world happened, and her father is accused of starting it all.

Now Jinx must take care of her little brother, her opinionated stepsister, and her cute stepbrother as she struggles to locate her vanished father, all while evading the law. But she can’t stay more than half a step ahead of the people after her, and safety seems even farther away with every step she takes.

I’m…undecided about this read. I loved the premise, but a few things were a little hard to believe:  the black-and-white nature of the politics (everyone’s either one thing or the other, with no shades of grey), Jinx’s trusting nature (which seems implausible, considering how she was raised), and her propensity to stick to a plan…even if it’s going down in flames. This was intriguing at times, eye-rolling at others, but I’d probably read the second book in the duology.

Kelly deVos is from Gilbert, Arizona. Day Zero is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Trinity Sight, by Jennifer Givhan

trinity sight
Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

Title:  Trinity Sight
Author:    Jennifer Givhan
Genre:  Fantasy, dystopian
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Pregnant with twins, anthropologist Calliope Santiago is driving when an earthquake happens, driving her car off the road. When she wakes up, she’s surrounded by abandoned cars, but no people. At home, she finds her family gone, but her six-year-old neighbor, Eunjoo, is there. With the city in flames, Calliope and Eunjoo set out for Calliope’s aunt’s home, where she knows she’ll find her family.

Instead of her family, Calliope finds Zuni myth and legend come to life. As she struggles to overcome her disbelief—she’s a scientist, so this can’t be really happening—she knows she must get to safety before she delivers her babies, but is safety anywhere to be found in this strange new/old land?

Trinity Sight is an odd book. Odd, but…compelling. I enjoyed seeing such a different and vibrant dystopian tale. I’m not sure I’ve read much connected with Zuni legend, so I found it fascinating. Calliope wasn’t the most likable character:  she’s stubborn to a fault but gives up on her husband pretty quickly, but I still enjoyed her story and the setting was captivating.

Jennifer Givhan is an author and a poet. Trinity Sight is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Echoes of War, by Cheryl Campbell

echoes of war
Image belongs to SparkPress.

Title:  Echoes of War
Author:    Cheryl Campbell
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

Dani is a Brigand:  living on the fringes of society and scavenging to survive. The Wardens, an alien race, came to Earth centuries ago and lived disguised as humans until they were discovered. Now they’ve destroyed much of humanity—and are trying to destroy the rest. Then Dani’s brother reveals she’s an Echo—one of the near-immortal alien race who reset back to a younger age when they die, but not militant like the Wardens.

Soon Dani is trying to convince the other Brigands they need to work with the military so they can defeat the Wardens. But Dani will have to learn from her mistakes if she’s to help them succeed.

Okay…it was really hard for me to write this summary, which tells me a bit about this book’s issues:  it’s a little too undefined to be completely coherent. Frankly, Dani was kind of childish, and while this is partially explained due to her nature, she never seems to learn from her mistakes and is just hell-bent on doing things her way—no matter the repercussions to other people. I did not find her very likable. And this book felt more like an unpolished manuscript to me:  sometimes there are no explanations/motivations for characters’ actions—I can’t relate to people if I don’t have the slightest idea why they’re doing things. And there are several places lacking transitions, where time passes—four months, in one case—with zero transition at all, which felt very abrupt and threw me out of the story.

Cheryl Campbell lives in Maine when she’s not being a nomad. Echoes of war is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of SparkPress via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Nothing Within, by Andy Giesler

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Image belongs to Humble Quill LLC.

Title:   The Nothing Within
Author:   Andy Giesler
Genre:   Dystopian
Rating:   4 out of 5

In 2161, the world changed. The first chimera appeared, and a year later, twelve billion people were dead. Those that remained called it the Reckoning, and as they struggled to survive in their hostile new world—the World That Is—they became different. More withdrawn. Less tolerant of anyone who was different, anyone who might harbor the Nothing within themselves, bringing danger to all inside the walls that encircle their villages.

Root is the daughter of a Weaver—a village guardian—and her blindness isn’t the only thing that sets her apart. So does her curiosity, her questions about everything around her. For the tradition-bound people she knows, that is her worst offense. Until one day Root hears a voice no one else hears, and soon she’s on a journey to find out the truth about herself, her world, and what happened in the Reckoning that shapes who she is now.

It took me a little bit to get into The Nothing Within. Dystopian fiction set in Amish country? I’ve never even considered the idea, and it kept me hooked. The world here is so unique that it kept my attention, even when I was a bit confused early on. Root is a fascinating character. Her blindness doesn’t stop her, and even gives her more abilities than she’d otherwise have. This is a great read for anyone who just wants to settle into a longer story and get to know a new world.

Andy Giesler lives in Wisconsin. The Nothing Within is his debut novel.

(Galley provided by Humble Quill LLC in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Red Labyrinth, by Meredith Tate

theredlabyrinth
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:  The Red Labyrinth
Author:  Meredith Tate
Genre:  YA, dystopian
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

As one of the unskilled, Zadie Kalver is treated like trash by the skilled. She wishes she had one tiny power—anything—to make people hater her less. Her small desert town lies in the shadow of the labyrinth—a massive maze built to protect the town—filled with death traps and enchantments, and a killer named Dax who snatches those who wander too close.

When Zadie’s best friend disappears and everyone forgets he even existed, she knows something is going on. And the only person who might be able to help her lives at the heart of the maze. Her only hope is an uneasy truce with the murdering Dex, the one person familiar with the labyrinth. They’ll have to avoid all the deadly traps inside—and keep from killing each other—if they are ever to get back the people they’re searching for.

I read this straight through in one sitting. The world, harsh as it was, fascinated me, and Zadie is a character I’d like to hang out with. I can’t imagine the strength it would take to survive what she’s been through, on top of being abused and treated like trash for being unskilled. She starts off a little naïve, but she grows quickly as a character, making this a riveting read.

Meredith Tate has a master’s degree in social work and now lives in Switzerland. The Red Labyrinth is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Soldier and a Liar, by Caitlin Lochner

a soldier and a liar
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:  A Soldier and a Liar
Author:  Caitlin Lochner
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Lai is a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager with abilities that frighten the Etioles without abilities—but with numbers and power on their side. Lai is in prison:  by her own choice and for her own reasons. Going back to the military is not what she had in mind, but when a chance to join a special team of Nytes comes her way, she decides that it might suit her own agenda perfectly, if she keeps the truth of her power to herself.

She joins Jay, an uptight perfectionist haunted by his father’s expectations, Al, whose short temper keeps her own secret hidden, and Erik, a surly amnesiac desperate to find out who he really is. Their team has a chance to stop the rising rebellion between Nytes and Etioles, but will the secrets they’re hiding destroy their team before they can?

This is a dystopian story, but without the dystopian feel. The focus is on the two groups, Nytes and Etioles, and the conflict and rebellion between them. Each of these characters has secrets, big ones, and keeps everyone at a distance to keep their secret safe. This novel is about finding trust—for yourself and those closest to you—even in the face of danger. An enjoyable read not bogged down with romance and flirting (although there is a teensy bit).

Caitlin Lochner lives and teaches in Tokyo. A Soldier and a Liar is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Swoon Reads via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Plague Land: Reborn, by Alex Scarrow

plague land
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   Plague Land: Reborn
Author:   Alex Scarrow
Genre:   Dystopian
Rating:   3 out of 5

They thought it was dead. They were wrong.

Two years ago, the virus hit London, wiping out most of the population. Leon has made it through two winters since then, and no one has seen the virus since. He lost his father, his mother, and his sister to the virus, and most of his hope as well. Until he finds a message about a rescue boat and sets out to see if the rest of the world has survived. But that’s not all he needs to worry about.

Okay, this probably wasn’t the best pick for me. Sometimes I can pick up a series book without having read the previous books in the series and be fine. Sometimes I can’t. This was one of the latter times. I didn’t have any problems following what was going on…I just had a problem caring. I didn’t have any emotional connection with the characters, so it was hard for me to get into reading this. Interesting premise with the virus, though.

Alex Scarrow currently lives in Norwich with his family. Plague Land:  Reborn is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)