Friday, June 29, 2007

Brave New World

I finished my latest book for the Dystopian challenge, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Very good. My review is found here on my blog.

I've finished The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World.
Still to read: Never Let Me Go, either The Road or Cloud Atlas, and I borrowed Uglies, so that will be read as well.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Michelle's List updated

1. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
3. 1984 by George Orwell
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
5. Uglies by Scott Westerfield
6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
7. Jennifer Government by Max Barry
8. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

I think this challenge came about just at the right time for me. As you can see from my list, I'm in the mood for dystopian literature! Apart from the three books on my list I haven't yet gotten around to reading (I own 1984 which is why I keep putting it off, I've just renewed Oryx and Crake from the library, and I'm having a hard time getting a copy of Uglies) I've also taken out from the library The Day of the Triffids and Feed. Based on earlier reviews, I'm trying to get copies of the Lois Lowry books as well as possibly giving Cloud Atlas another chance. Will I finish all these books before November? Possibly. I hope so. I'll keep you posted.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

On a whim, I took out We from the library the other day. I wasn't sure I'd read it. I had this idea in my head because it's originally written in Russian and because I'd found it in the classics section, that it'd be difficult and dense read. I was mistaken. I finished this book in maybe three sittings and quite enjoyed it. It makes for a good precursor to reading 1984 which is still on my challenge list. I think the back cover says more about it than I can...

Set in the twenty-sixth century AD, Zamyatin's masterpiece describes life under the regimented totalitarian society of OneState, ruled over by the all-powerful "Benefactor." Recognized as the inspiration for George Orwell's 1984, We is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-Utopia: a great prose poem detailing the fate that might befall us all if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jennifer Government by Max Barry

I finished Jennifer Government last weekend. I wanted a title on my list that was sort of light-hearted and fun. My husband had read this book previously and he'd said it was funny and even though I know his reading style and mine are very different, I gave this book a chance.

I do like the premise of it... it's set in a near-future where America has taken over half the world and consumerism and marketing campaigns have gone wild. People take on their employer's company name as their surname and nearly everyone is employed and tax has been abolished which means public institutions like schools and the police have become corporate and reliant on funding either from a big business or on an individual basis.

It all begins rather grimly with a Nike marketing campaign for a new brand of trainers which sets off a complicated and sad group of events which really illustrate how little value is placed on human lives, on relationships and how greedy and self-obsessed this future has become.

Though I did find some parts disturbing in its accuracy, I found that the novel was a bit over-the-top, that none of the characters were likeable and the whole feeling of the book was that it was written by a man, for a man. I found there to be lots of unnessary violence and I wasn't too impressed with the dialogue. I struggled to finish the book but I don't regret the time I did spend with it.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

1984 - Pamela's Review

1984 by George Orwell

Finished May 18th, 2007

Rating: 8/10

Dystopian Challenge Book #2

My review for 1984 can be found here.

The Giver - Pamela's Review

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Finished April 28th, 2007

Rating: 9/10

Dystopian Challenge Book #1

My review for The Giver can be found here.

Pamela's List

It has taken me awhile to post on this blog so apologies for the delay. My name is Pamela and I recently started blogging in February and have been broadening my reading by joining all the great challenges. My book list for the Dystopian Challenge is:

1984 by George Orwell [completed May 18th, 2007]

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Giver by Lois Lowry [completed April 28th, 2007]

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

I have finished 2 of the 5 books and will post my reviews shortly.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dystopian Completion

So I already knew I might not read Children of Men right now and now I definitely know in my gut that it's not my time to read The Road. That's the hard part about challenges. Reading is an organic process, I think, for most people, and often I can't just plan out what I will read ahead of time and stick with it. I never know what I really want to read next until I finish the current book. Anyway, this challenge goes until November 6 so I'll probably pick up my last two books this fall.

Dewey kindly pointed me toward an extremely interesting article about Ray Bradbury's intentions with Fahrenheit 451. (Thanks so much, Dewey!) It's not about banned books or government censorship as so many people seem to think. And, if you read the book, you will see that there are pages of explanation by one of the characters telling how the book burning came about. It was society's choice. Books began to be shortened little by little and anything contentious was eliminated until the point where books were little more than footnotes. By "anything contentious" I mean anything that could possibly offend anyone. And that brings me back to my fascination with Ray Bradbury's insights into the society of the future. Not only did he foresee the prevalence of television and the disconnect between nature and human society, but he also predicted hyper-political correctness.

"You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these."

"Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it. Someone's written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. "

"Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, topheavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals . . . Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. . . . Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."

I just finished this book and already I want to read it again.

Here is Ray Bradbury's website. There are video clips of him explaining, among other things, how he feels about television, censorship, and Fahrenheit 451.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Camille's List and Plans

Here's my list to date:

1. A Canticle for Leibowitz
2. The Postman
3. The Handmaid's Tale (in progress, can't put it down)
4. The Road
5. Fahrenheit 451
6. maybe Children of Men because I didn't like the movie and figure the book must be better

So Children of Men was a maybe and I'm taking that off the list. And now, I'm just not so sure about The Road. I might have to bail on that, too, and call it a day on the Dystopian Challenge. The thing is, I don't trust Cormac McCarthy. I know he can be extremely disturbing and I know there are elements of this in The Road. But so many people have read it and loved it. And it's an Oprah book! I feel silly not being able to read an Oprah book.

But if I say I like dystopians and post-apocalyptic books so much, I should be able to read the hardcore ones, too, no? I have a plan to read, well, all of the Pulitzers. As of now, this is the last on the list. Maybe I'll read it when I get to it chronologically on the Pulitzer list? That would give me a lot of time before I got to it and by then I'd be in a different state of mind, different stage in life, etc., and maybe more ready for it then. I did buy it the other day. But the more I think about it, the more I'm leaning toward not jumping on the bandwagon and reading this book along with everyone else.

Fourth Book: Fahrenheit 451: Camille's Review

I know I had read this book before, but I didn't remember a thing about it. Also, I had it mixed up in my head with a short story from The Martian Chronicles. (The one where the last person in the town hears the phone ring and tries to figure out where it's coming from. That's all I remember.)

So Fahrenheit 451 is about a fireman named Montag. You can't call him the politically correct firefighter because he does exactly the opposite. He starts fires. Firemen, in Bradbury's "future" society, set fire to homes for which they've gotten the alarm or a tip-off that there are books on the premises. Montag, at first, enjoys his job. His wife stays home, drugs herself, and watches TV all day, except that the TV is huge and takes up whole walls and you can interact with it. After Montag meets a strange and different teenager on his block, he begins to see things in a different light and realizes that there is more to life than what his society has become.

I agree that this book has earned its status as a classic. But what truly amazes me is Ray Bradbury's extremely insightful portrayal of the future. For instance, the book was published in 1953. TV had only really gotten off the ground 5 or 6 years before. I think only about half of the American population even had TVs in 1953, and 1953 was also the first year that color television was available. I think it's just amazing how he was able to foresee the power and influence that TV would gain over the years. Of course, we don't have TVs on all four walls in a room BUT-- we do have ever-increasingly larger screens available, some people do spend all day with it, some people are obsessed with certain shows or actors. It's a big part of almost everyone's lives.

The people in the book are so out of touch with the natural world, human emotion, art, or any kind of deep thought. Everything is supposed to be vacuous and fun. In a conversation between two of Montag's wife's friends about how their children are, one of them says she has no children and the other says she had two by Cesarean even though her doctor told her she didn't need to. She said something along of the lines of it being easier to have had the surgery. (Then she puts the kids in front of the TV when they're not at school.) Again, in light of the current issue of unnecessary C-sections, Ray Bradbury was spot on.

Our society is not like the one in Fahrenheit (although the book takes place sometime in the 90s.) But it could be. So everyone, keep reading! Love your books and keep them alive.