Tag Archives: Dystopian Future

Marissa Meyer – Cress (2014)

CressThis novel, the third installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, focuses heavily on the character of Cress, a futuristic Rapunzel who appears briefly in Cinder.

We learn that Cress is a shell, a Lunar girl born without powers, but having proven to be adept with technology is saved by one of Queen Levana’s servants and kept in an isolated satellite (much like Rapunzel’s tower). From here she is tasked with tracking and capturing Cinder, but uses the opportunity to have the crew come and save her. As expected, plans go awry and the different characters find themselves stranded in difficult situations.

Cress and Thorne are thrown together and end up lost in the Sahara desert while Cinder, Wolf and Lunar guard Jacin track down Dr. Erland in the North of Africa. The crew try and come up with a way to defeat Levana and intend to disrupt the royal wedding before traveling to Luna to start a rebellion.

We see less of Scarlet in this book as, having been captured by the Lunars is held as a prisoner on Luna. Her story is compelling however as it seems as though the Queen’s mentally unstable step-daughter shows an interest, and kindness to her. This step-daughter, Princess Winter, only appears briefly but probably has a much bigger role to play in the upcoming installment to be released in November.

There is a lot of keep track of in the book, and while I was disappointed when all the romances seem to be heading (I was pulling for Cinder and Thorn although that seems unlikely), I thought that this novel stood out from the previous two. There’s a lot of plot development and Meyer leaves the reading with a great deal to look forward to. It leaves off in an interesting place, and I cant wait to see how she resolves everything.

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Marissa Meyer – Scarlet (2014)

ScarletThis second installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles was not as good as her previous one, Cinder, but definitely sets the tone for some interesting future developments.

The Lunar Chronicles are a set of young adult dystopian future novels where earth is being threatened by Letumosis, a plague like disease as the evil Queen Levana from the moon colony of Luna attempts to take over. While the first novel focused on the cyborg Cinder of New Bejing, who turns out to be the lost Lunar Pricess Selene, this novel takes the reader to futureistic France where we meet Scarlet Benoit, an iteration of Little Red Riding Hood.

Tied up in Scarlet’s story are her grandmother, who as it turns out helped keep Princess Selene alive and spirited her away from Luna, as well as Wolf, a Lunar Operative who has a change of heart after falling in love with her. The characters were interesting, but I felt they were unnecessary to the story, although I could be wrong.

Since this is a young adult novel, I’m curious to know how romance will play a role, or if it will at all. It seemed as though Cinder was destined to be with the Emperor of the Commonwealth, but with the introduction of rouge Han Solo-like petty criminal Carswell Thorne, I’m not so sure. Aside from the Scarlet-Wolf Twilight-esque warwolf-y love story, romance doesn’t seem to have a key role to play which is refreshing.

Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles are entertaining and I’m looking forward to reading Cress, the third installment in the series.

Max Brooks – World War Z (2006)

WorldWarZThis book has been out for a while now, but having never been huge into the Zombie craze, I wasn’t dying to read it. I have always however found the premise interesting and my curiosity brought this book back to my attention. Essentially Max Brooks is inspired by Studs Turkel’s The Good War in writing this book and aims to replicate his style. As The Good War is an oral history of the Second World War, World War Z is an oral history of the Zombie apocalypse.

The story is presented through a series of interviews with various fictional characters about their experiences with the Zombie War. The book takes the reader all around the world, similar to The Good War, but a major theme is that of American isolationism, which is interesting given the climate in which Brooks was writing.

I personally didn’t love this book, but it is a fresh and interesting take on the dystopian future genre. Fans of the Walking Dead or other Zombie themed tv-shows/movies will probably love this book. As I said however, Zombies were never really my thing so it’s hard for me to fangirl about this as much as some other people have.

Recipes – Dauntless Chocolate Cake

“At the end of the hallway she turns and says, ‘Have a piece of cake for me all right? The chocolate. It’s delicious.’”

Anyone who pays close attention to food mentioned in books will definitely have made a note of the Chocolate Cake that is the “official” food of those belonging to the Dauntless faction in Veronica Roth’s Divergent. There are a number of recipes out there on the web, but I was curious about the recipe from the “Unofficial Divergent Cookbook,” by Megan Parker.

There’s a link to the book here, but I decided to buy the cookbook for 99 cents on my Kindle. I was somewhat disappointed to find that the recipe was fairly simple. It looks like a perfectly respectable chocolate cake, but nothing really makes it special; there is nothing Daunting about it.

So I decided it needed a little something. The first thing that came to mind was that the cake needed a bit of a kick, something unexpected, something spicy. I did a quick search for chocolate cake inspired by Mexican drinking chocolate and came across a number of recipes that were spiced with cinnamon or cayenne pepper. I also liked the idea of having a very rich, or moist Devil’s food cake, and did some experimenting with different levels of butter, and cocoa.

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“’Let’s go to the cafeteria,’ Will says, ‘and eat cake.’”

Lacking an occasion to serve a cake I made a small batch of cupcakes as a portable, easy to store treat. Hopefully I captured the essence of the Dauntless and especially Triss’ spirit with these cupcakes and that you all enjoy them as well.

This recipe only makes six cupcakes but you can easily double, or triple the recipe.

½ all purpose flour
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch process Cocoa Powder
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons boiling water
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less depending on taste)
3 tablespoons milk (or water if lactose)

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees
  2. Mix dry ingredients (flou, cocia powder, baking soda, sugar, and spices) together in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the egg, oil, water, vanilla, and milk
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients and divide batter between six cupcake liners in a muffin tin.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

For the icing I bought a can of chocolate icing and added ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. A recipe for the same kind of icing made from scratch can be found here.

Rory Gilmore Update – Number Two

Doing the Rory Gilmore reading challenge means reading works that are almost impossible to read, or works that you may not have a great deal to write about. Some are classics that don’t require a full page review. So here I have three short reviews of my experiences with dystopian futures from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

George Orwell – 1984 (1949)
1984I can understand the hype with this book. I get why Orwell wrote it and I get why it was so powerful and popular. Lately however there has been so much incredibly science fiction and dystopian futures published that 1984 feels like it’s lacking something. I know that it basically inspired the genre, but after reading things like Oryx and Crake I found I constantly had to remind myself that this book was published in 1949 and was a big deal at the time. Or maybe I’ve just grown desensitized to the thought of Big Brother. Don’t get me wrong, parts of this book are terrifying, namely the torture at the hands of the Thought Police, but I personally don’t find the idea of my T.V watching me to be frightening. With today’s technology, does privacy even exist anymore? Even though, I find it dated, it is likely that 1984 will remain a part of school curriculums for the foreseeable future. It is representative of a time and a place and maybe it’s time that we all concede that Big Brother has finally won and move on.

Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Farenheit451Despite the similarities to 1984 I really enjoyed this book, probably because its main message is about the importance of books. Its funny how Orwell and Bradbury, writing around the same time (1948 and 1954 respectively) have the same kind of idea of what the future looks like, both socially, but also aesthetically. The descriptive elements of houses, streets, cars, and the idea of perpetual war are almost identical in both books. As is the idea of a Big Brother type of government which watches the people’s every move. In 1984 this control is exercised through the thought police, in Fahrenheit 451, they burn books. Through his novel Bradbury reminds us of the power that books hold and the importance of knowledge in our society. Writing at the height of the Cold War Bradbury’s novel could be seen as being a critique of the Communist Witch Hunts and banning of books during the McCarthy Era. Even in our digital age, censorship remains a real concern, and Bradbury’s book is an important reminder about the power of knowledge and information.

Kurt Vonnegut – Galapagos (1985)
galapagosA dystopian future shaped and twisted by Darwin’s ideas surrounding natural selection. The narrator of the novel is Leon Trout, the son of Vonnegut’s recurring character Kilgore Trout. I like that Vonnegut does this with his characters, but that was pretty much the only thing I liked about this book. While the references made to Darwin and natural selection were interesting, I just didn’t really find the story all that compelling. Out of these three dystopian futures, this held the least amount of appeal for me.

Veronica Roth – Divergent Trilogy (2011-2013)

Divergent

(This Review Contains Spoilers)

I was a bit late to jump on to the Divergent bandwagon, but did so dutifully. I read all three books in quick succession but did not overly enjoy the series as a whole. The series is often compared to the Hunger Games, which is fair when it comes to genre and style, but the two worlds are dramatically different from one another.

The first novel Divergent was actually quite good. You meet Tris Prior, a teenage girl living in a world where you must choose a “faction” to belong to. The factions are split along personality traits, the Eurudite value intellect; the Amnity value peace, Candor, honesty; Abnegation, selflessness; and Dauntless, Courage. Tris, an abnegation girl finds herself drawn to Dauntless and leaves her family to join them. There she discovers that her Divergence, the fact that she could belong to multiple factions, and just how dangerous this is.

The Second and Third novels, Insurgent and Allegiant, were not as stellar. The plot gets murky in a scenario similar to “the Village” where it is discovered that there is an outside world that has been watching and observing Tris’ society as a social experiment. There are genetically damaged and genetically pure beings and a war between the two seems imminent. Overall the series ends a bit depressingly not only because Tris dies, but simply because she went from being such a strong character to becoming a passive witness to the events happening around her.

This is something that the Hunger Games trilogy also struggled with, as in the third book, Katniss similarly loses some of her spunk and energy. In the Hunger Games however, this is more a realistic portrayal of Revolution. Katniss can no longer control it, and she instead becomes passive in the events happening around her rather than a catalyst for them.

I can see the appeal of this trilogy for those who love young adult fiction, but personally it didn’t really do it for me.

Marissa Meyer – Cinder (2012)

CInder

Falling into the genre of young adult fiction, Melissa Meyer’s Cinder is a science-fiction twist to the classic tale of Cinderella. While written for a young adult audience, (the writing style reflects this) it is still an enjoyable read.

Meyer’s world is a post apocalyptic one where humans must co-exist with cyborgs who are viewed as second-class citizens. The story begins in modern day Japan where Cinder, a female cyborg mechanic falls in love with Prince Kaito, Crown Prince of Eastern Commonwealth. The Eastern Commonwealth is threatened by war with the Lunars, a moon colony, as well as a plague called “letumosis” that is rapidly spreading and killing the population. Unsurprisingly, Cinder ends up being more than an ordinary cyborg, and the future of the planet may hinge on her.

The story follows similar plot developments as the familiar Disney version of Cinderella. There is a cruel and evil stepmother, two stepsisters, a handsome prince charming, and a ball where Cinder loses her shoe. (Noticeably absent is a fairy Godmother type of character). Unlike Cinderella there is no happy ending, at least not yet. Cinder is part of a series of 5 books, with 3 currently available. (Book 3.5 and 4 will be available in January and November 2015)

Overall Meyer does a good job with the novel. Her character has much more personality than the Disney version that so many are familiar with. She is fiercely independent and does everything herself (the absence of a fairy Godmother explained). I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment, which focuses on Scarlett, a reimagined Little Red Riding Hood.