Tag Archives: dystopian

Solstice, by Jane Redd

There are four ways to get banished from the last surviving city on earth: 1. Cut out your emotion tracker, 2. Join a religious cult, 3. Create a rebellion against the Legislature, 4. Fall in love. Jezebel James does all four. Jez is on the fast track to becoming a brilliant scientist, with one goal–save her city from total extinction. But the more Jez learns about the price of a fresh beginning, the more she realizes that carrying out the plan will lead to few survivors, and among the dead will be those she cares about the most.

It has been said that all stories are just derivative of about five plots. It’s also been said that every story has already been told, and what makes new works of fiction special is the author’s unique way of telling the same old story. The problem arises when the author just tells another rehash of the same old story. It’s not to say that writing to genre is a bad thing, it’s just not refreshing.

Solstice follows a common trope in young adult storytelling: A young person, controlled by parents/state/ability must save the world/city/universe by overcoming his or her contemporaries and several obstacles that prove to the young adult, his or her contemporaries, and the parents/state/ability that he or she truly is the only one that can save the world/city/universe.

Believe me, I get it. Many young adults see the world in black and white, and often feel the pressure from peer groups, and stifled by their parents/school/job. It’s fun to escape into a world where young adults have a say in their own destiny, and that they can absolutely save the world.

We stopped teaching our children that they can do anything, and instead we teach them that they are equal to their peers. We teach them that everyone deserves a chance, and then being really good at something is somehow a detriment. (Except sports, of course.) So it’s no wonder that young adult fiction shows what initially appear to be ordinary young characters achieving great things. It’s a classic empowerment story.

And who doesn’t want to feel empowered? Unfortunately, Solstice is a rehash of the young adult genre. Sure it’s got a dystopian world controlled by a totalitarian government, and there is a clear division of wealth. There’s class warfare, albeit on a small scale. It’s standard fare for a young adult story. There isn’t excessive violence or sex. There’s no cussing. There’s a cliffhanger to get you reading the next book.

I think I’d call Solstice “popcorn dystopian.” It’d make a decent movie. Young actors and actresses would likely make this story akin to Maze Runner or The Fifth Wave. Sometimes you just want to turn your brain off, and follow a narrative. It doesn’t matter that early in the book, you can tell who the villain is, and who the hero is. The pratfalls are easy to spot, and the outcomes are predictable. But I don’t always want to spend my reading time thinking deep thoughts.

Solstice is that book. Not a lot of thinking – just follow the story to its conclusion. This review may seem overly critical, but Solstice is well written – no typos or clunky sentences. The plot was easy to follow, and there were no plot holes or otherwise weirdness. The characters are believable within the narrative. It was just predictable. I saw that the sequel, Lake Town, is already available. I’d read it. I’ll award Solstice three and a half stars. If you want a quick dystopian YA read without a lot of executive-level thinking, then this book’s for you.

Writing under Jane Redd, Heather B. Moore is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than a dozen historical novels set in ancient Arabia and Mesoamerica. She attended the Cairo American College in Egypt and the Anglican International School in Jerusalem and received her Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University. She writes historical thrillers under the pen name H.B. Moore, and romance and women’s fiction under the name Heather B. Moore. It can be confusing, so her kids just call her Mom.

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Atmospheric Pressure, by Aaron Frale

Olson lives in a city that has been sealed from the outside world. He’s an Eleven Year and close to citizenship. His life is upended when one of the few adults who cares about him commits suicide – or so it appears at first. While investigating, Olson meets a girl named Natalie snooping around his school. He soon learns that one of her friends died under similarly mysterious circumstances. Together, they start looking for answers, and end up discovering the city’s darkest secrets.

Atmospheric Pressure, by Aaron Frale, reminds me of the Silo series, by Hugh Howey. The storyline is reminiscent of The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell.

Dystopian fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction seems to resonate with readers in today’s political climate. Overreaching governments, class division, and a planet that will kill those pesky humans is all the rage. I love reading these stories.

One of the things that I appreciated about Atmospheric Pressure, was that the portrayal of youths match this type of closed society – age, responsibilities, and indoctrination. The story and dialog is believable, and many of the situations the protagonists encounter, I can imagine them happening in real life.

While the story is not original, (two youths from opposite social classes team up to defeat a totalitarian regime) It’s a great read, and I look forward to reading the sequel in 2017 or 2018. Atmospheric Pressure is a great dystopian read, and an easy four stars.

Aaron’s first novel is Playlist of the Ancient Dead. He also co-wrote a no-budget comedy flick called Hamlet the Vampire Slayer. The University of New Mexico gave him an MFA in Dramatic Writing. Screaming and playing guitar for the prog/metal band is one of his pastimes. He lives with his wife Felicia, two cats, and a small dog who thinks he’s a large dog.

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The Final Trade, by Joe Hart

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Zoey is not the woman she once was. She’s watched her friends die at the hands of their captors, been hunted, and returned from the brink of death. Now she must find the truth about who she is. In search of the family she never knew, Zoey learns of personal records stored in an Idaho missile silo that may contain the information she and the other women seek. With the help of her group of newfound friends, Zoey travels to the missile facility, but among the records, they uncover information that leads to an insidious and horrific new foe: the Fae Trade, a macabre carnival of slavery and pain. Zoey’s journey into the darkest parts of the human psyche brings her perilously close to the ever-thinning line between good and evil, and the final cost in her quest for justice might be her own humanity.

I had high expectations when I saw Joe Hart’s The Final Trade on NetGalley. I had picked up its predecessor, The Last Girl as a Kindle First promotion. I was critical of the ending of The Last Girl but other than that it was a great read. Everything I enjoyed in the first book, I enjoyed in the second book: Situational writing, depraved dystopian society, etc. The pace moved along nicely, and there wasn’t anything that stood out except the ending.

Just like book one, this one ends with a lot of the themes introduced in the story resolved, but the overarching story behind Zoey remains unresolved. I was more enamored with the back-stories of the supporting characters and felt that Zoey took a step back as a developed character in this story.

The main villains in The Final Trade were, as so many villains are, one-dimensional. They seemed to do the bad things simply because the author and/or story needed them to. I felt no sympathy for them and had no investment either.

I liked The Final Trade more than I liked The Last Girl, but I continue to be unimpressed with the story. It may seem harsh, but that’s the way I feel. I’ll still pick up the third and final book in the series, and I’d wager that stand alone books from Joe Hart are probably going to be good reads.

Three-and-a-half stars is my rating for book two, and once all three books are available, I highly recommend picking them all up for an interesting read.

joe-hart

Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota, where he still resides today. He’s been writing horror and thriller fiction since he was nine years old. He is the author of five novels and numerous short stories, including the books The River Is Dark, Lineage, and The Waiting. When he’s not writing, Joe enjoys reading, working out, watching movies with his family, and spending time outdoors.

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The Last Girl, by Joe Hart

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A mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women. Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away—told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population. Captivity is the only life Zoey has ever known, and escaping her heavily armed captors is no easy task, but she’s determined to leave before she is subjected to the next round of tests…a program that no other woman has ever returned from. Even if she’s successful, Zoey has no idea what she’ll encounter in the strange new world beyond the facility’s walls. Winning her freedom will take brutality she never imagined she possessed, as well as all her strength and cunning—but Zoey is ready for war.

I’m a fan of the dystopian genre. I’m a fan of stories in which society is collapsing. I love situational writing. The Last Girl has all three. I even appreciated the weird cult religion that kept the girls locked up, and mentally abused. The parallels found in our society have been the subject of many a newscast. The premise is promising, and I fully grasped the severity of the situation presented in the book.

The writing had an interesting tone to it, and I gave the author credit that this was done intentionally to illustrate the “lost in a world not her own” of the protagonist. The writing also moved along at a steady pace, each chapter leading to the conclusion of this first book. There was more than one twist I didn’t see, and I enjoyed the read overall. I’m glad I chose this for my February Kindle First book.

Now on to the one thing that really bothered me about this book: There’s no satisfying ending. The story reaches a logical conclusion, but there are too many threads left dangling. Now, I can appreciate that this is the first book in a series, but I just feel cheated by the ending. I won’t go into detail as to not spoil anything, but it left me unsatisfied.

The ending has made an otherwise four-star read into a three-star read. If all the books in the series were readily available, then I wouldn’t be so harsh, because I would like to continue reading the series. It looks as if I have to wait until September 2016 for book two. I just hope I don’t lose interest by then.

joe-hart

Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota, where he still resides today. He’s been writing horror and thriller fiction since he was nine years old. He is the author of five novels and numerous short stories, including the books The River Is Dark, Lineage, and The Waiting. When he’s not writing, Joe enjoys reading, working out, watching movies with his family, and spending time outdoors.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.joehartbooks.com
Twitter