Tag Archives: genre: dystopia

After the End by Damien Angelica Walters

After the End by Damien Angelica Walters

Published by: Daily Science Fiction on June 10, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

What would it be like to be a child in the aftermath of an epidemic that wipes out most of the population? For something so devastating to happen while you’re still in your formative years? It seems like it would be a tough way to learn about the ways of the world. And learning the hard lessons about humanity can make one grow up way too fast.

But one can’t change their circumstances. All we can ever do is try our best to live within them, make the most of what we have. And at some point, we all have to leave childhood behind…

This was an interesting and sobering first-person account of what it means to be a young girl in what followed after a deadly epidemic that wiped out most of the population. And it was not one of those stories of an epic journey and fight to survive. It was the reality of living without having access to everything you need. It showed that the struggle doesn’t always lend itself to glamorous action shots that can be filmed for the big screen. And that makes it an incredibly powerful short story.

The Rescue by Derek T. Cole

The Rescude

The Rescue by Derek T. Cole

Series: The Harden City Chronicles, Book 1
Published by: Offhand in July 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

In Harden City, there’s a stark divide between the social and economic classes. The rich have the run of things; the poor are confined to the worst parts of the city. And for someone living in The Penn, it’s unlikely to ever get out.

Garth sits comfortably in the middle. He’s a Hunter, and his job is to hunt down some of the city’s worst criminals. His job puts him in the middle class, with a place of his own and a comfortable life.

While on a job to rescue an informant, Garth comes across Dean. Dean has lived in The Penn all his life, and he knows nothing else. But to save him, Garth needs to get him out. And he temporarily brings him to his own home. Garth’s world is completely new to Dean, but Dean seems like he’ll be able to adapt. And Garth could certainly use a friend…or maybe something more.

There’s one problem: the rich who run the city aren’t keen on same-sex relationships. To act on his feelings or to keep Dean with him would be a huge risk. And it might not be one he’s willing to take.

This is a fast-paced, action-packed story. The writing and the pacing really work well to keep the reader engaged. And the world where this story takes place is rich and vibrant. There are many layers that present themselves as one reads along.

That said, I was really disappointed with how this one ended. I know it’s part of a series, but it just seemed to stop. There wasn’t even the semi-resolution I would expect even from a cliffhanger.

But the ending aside, this is a dynamic and engaging story with some real conflict that digs at you as much as it digs at the characters.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Series: Red Queen, Book 1
Published by: HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Mare Barrow is resigned to a bleak fate. She’s a Red (meaning she bleeds red and has no magical abilities) and has no skills to offer, aside from being an adept pickpocket. She is able to provide for her family using that tactic, though she knows her mother isn’t exactly fond of who she gets the things she brings home. But it doesn’t matter, since she knows it will be less than a year before she is conscripted and will go to fight a war being waged by the Slivers (the ruling class, who, yes, actually bleed silver and possess magical abilities) with Reds as their (often unwilling soldiers). But after Mare chances upon an odd young man one evening who gets her a job at the palace, everything changes. It is here that she (and the Silvers) discover that she’s no ordinary Red. In fact, she’s so extraordinary that her mere existence could threaten the entire balance of their society. Mare quickly finds herself wrapped up in the world of the Silvers, still clinging to her Red heritage, and not really knowing which way to turn. But in a power-based society where people will step over each other to get to the top, there may not be any direction that is entirely safe.

Although there is the female-YA-protagonist-with-some-romantic-subplot syndrome going on here, I did enjoy this book. The world that’s been created here, the major players, and the sharp twists and turns this one takes made it difficult for me to put this book down. It’s easy to get lost in Mare’s world. The writing is excellent, and I find myself looking forward to the next book in the series. This would probably be a five-star recommendation from me if it wasn’t for the subplot mentioned above. While it didn’t overtake the story in the ways it often does in YA lately, it’s overdone to the point that its existence in a book gives me pause at this point. If you are like me and put off by that trope, I still suggest giving this a chance as I think there are more enough redeeming qualities to make up for it in this one.

Red Queen at the HarperTeen website

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades

Book Info

Title: City of Blades (The Divine Cities, Book 2)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Published: January 26, 2016
Pages: 464
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★


The city of Voortyashtan was the home of Voortya, the goddess of war, death, and destruction. It was her followers who, after unleashing as much death as possible, were transformed into the sentinels who terrorized the Saypuri slaves. And they were the first people who were promised an afterlife by a Divinity. Thankfully, with the death of all of the gods and goddesses and the Blink, the Divinities and their miracles are a thing of the past. But the recent discovery of a mysterious ore near Voortyashtan, while not Divine in nature, has some people concerned.

Among those concerned is Prime Minister Shara Komayd. But her political position leaves her with few options to investigate. So she enlists Turyin Mulaghesh, retired general still trying to live off the grid after her victory at the Battle of Bulikov five years earlier, to go into the city and investigate. It’s not something that Mulaghesh would willingly sign up for, but Komayd is persuasive. And before she knows it, Mulaghesh is thrust into the investigation of a mystery that brings up just as many ghosts from her own past as it does ghost of Voortyashtan. And in the process, she learns that sometimes we can be held to promises and oaths we take long after we expect–and what it truly means to be a soldier.

I have been looking forward to this book since I finished City of Stairs back when it was released. The world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created is one where I am willing to spend as much time as he can make possible. The rich history, the dynamic characters, and the political intrigue add so many layers to these epic fantasy stories. And the unexpected twists along the way make them that much more interesting and entertaining.

The character development in this story is also something that I hadn’t really expected. The arc that we see Turyin take from start to finish is something to behold. And it’s rare to see a writer take a character on a journey like this in a way that feels organic and not forced at all. And as someone who puts character development and character-driven stories high up on my list of what’s important in a book, it takes this great story to the next level in my eyes.

Very highly recommended!!

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]


Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Find Me

Book Info

Title: Find Me
Author: Laura van den Berg
Published: February 17, 2015
Pages: 280
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★


A strange sickness is sweeping the country that causes people to lose their memory. The cause is unknown and any sort of cure or preventative measure is even further out of reach. But some people, like Joy, are immune. Not having much else in her life, Joy agrees to take residence in a Kansas hospital for the immune, where it’s clear some sort of study is happening. There are treatments, rules, and a number of mysterious things going on inside the hospital walls. Some patients become restless and start talking about escaping–could Joy do that? If she left, where would she go? There’s her birth mother, whom she’s always wanted to meet. Perhaps she could track her down and find the one person who can and should love her no matter what. But no journey is easy–and even less so when the country is being ravaged by an epidemic.

Gritty. Entertaining. Thought-provoking. These are all words I would certainly use to describe this book. There are some great philosophical questions raised here though a very well-written and developed story. What makes us who we are? What defines humanity? What is ethical when it comes to medical treatment, and when is it appropriate to set those ethics aside for what is perceived to be the best interest of the patient or the broader population? Do all social experiments wind up going terribly wrong? Even with these questions on the forefront, there’s nothing preachy–the author doesn’t dictate the answers, rather she gives us scenarios to consider as we, the readers, make up our own minds.

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart


Book Info

Title: Nirvana (Nirvana, Book 1)
Author: J.R. Stewart
Published: November 10, 2015
Pages: 186
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers
Rating: ★★★


Larissa Kenders is having a hard time accepting that Andrew is dead; he’s her soulmate and her everything. The circumstances surrounding Andrew’s apparent demise are also more than suspicious. And when she starts to have visits from Andrew in Nirvana, a virtual reality world, she feels even more confident that he’s still alive–and he has a mission for her. It’s a mission that she won’t be able to complete alone, and it won’t be easy.

This is an interesting and engaging dystopian novel with all of the psychological elements that one might expect. In many ways, it reminded me of Armada by Ernest Cline without the young adult aspect/elements. There is some predictability to some of the turns in the story, but I certainly wouldn’t say it is boring by any means. And the character of Larissa is strong, tenacious, and not willing to give up. She’s someone readers definitely will want to root for over and over again.

If you’re looking for science fiction dystopia that doesn’t fit the mold of the past several years, this is one to take a look at.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Four: The Traitor

18080923Title: Four: The Traitor (Divergent, Book 0.4)
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: July 8, 2014
Pages: 48
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

The final installment of the Four stories overlaps with the beginnings of Divergent. Having seemingly settled into a role within the Dauntless faction, Tobias has never let his guard down, especially when it comes to faction leadership. And these suspicions lead him to uncover a plan that both shocks and worries him, while he has little time to decide how to react…

This one was interesting because it’s the only one of the stories that overlaps with one of the original books. It provides for a more complete story and knowing what Tobias knew makes me want to go back and re-read the first book to see if there are any hints in the text. But, that aside, this is a fitting end to the series and a great way to tie these back into the trilogy itself. It feels a bit rushed at a couple of points, but I think that’s because a knowledge of the series is assumed, so there is no need to expand on the information that one should already know.

Four: The Son by Veronica Roth

18080922Title: Four: The Son (Divergent, Book 0.3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: July 8, 2014
Pages: 65
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★★☆

After getting through Dauntless initiation, Tobias works to settle into his faction. There are roles they want him to play, and he’s not sure it’s what he’s comfortable with. And when someone from his past emerges, he learns there may be something going on between the factions that could spell danger for everyone.

I continue to enjoy the Four stories, as it’s interesting to see more from his perspective and to understand how he became the person we first see in Divergent. The added depth provided through these stories makes the original series more meaningful, but because these are so full of spoilers, they really should be read after finishing Allegiant and not before. I certainly wouldn’t mind another story or two focusing on Tobias, if there’s a place for them anywhere in his world…

Four: The Initiate by Veronica Roth

18668485Title: Four: The Initiate (Divergent, Book 0.2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: July 8, 2014
Pages: 65
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Four’s story continues past his decision to transfer factions and we, the readers, get a chance to see what his own initiation was like. The challenges he faces and the way things unfold test Four in new ways and help explain how the circumstances of Divergent came to be.

The second of four prequel shorts, I feel like this one is the most telling about the Dauntless and many of the secondary characters (like Eric) and where they’re coming from by the time Tris arrives. An intriguing and engaging follow up to the end of the series. I’m definitely planning to continue with the remaining two stories…

Four: The Transfer by Veronica Roth

18080920Title: Four: The Transfer (Divergent, Book 0.1)
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: September 3, 2013
Pages: 55
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Go back to where it all begin. Before Tris transferred to Dauntless from Abnegation, there was Tobias Eaton. This short tells the story of his test, the circumstances of his choice, and his start in his new faction.

Having read this after finishing the main series, I found it to be quite poignant (as I did with all of the Four-related prequel stories). Even though they’re short, there’s a great deal of backstory and character motivation that comes out here. And since I left Allegiant feeling like it’s as much about Tobias as it is Tris, it was nice to go back and connect where he is at the end with where he was in the beginning. Definitely recommended for fans of the series, especially those who may have struggled with the way it ended.