If “The Hunger Games” has whetted your appetite for dystopian sci-fi

Yes, I highly recommend the film and the trilogy of books, but you might also want to check out other sci-fi and fantasy novels reviewed on this blog. Here are a few of the books I have read recently.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

Aria lives in the protected dome of Reverie where much of her life is conducted in virtual Realms via her Smarteye and Smartscreen.  When she is abandoned in the outer wasteland she is certain that she will die. Then she encounters Perry, an Outsider, a savage who needs to discover a way into the dome to rescue his nephew who has been kidnapped.

The relationship between the two main characters is what makes this novel worth reading. In her quest to find her missing mother, Aria finds out so much more than she could ever have imagined, not just about the lies that those in charge have been covering up but about herself and who and what she is.

Starters by Lissa Price.

When Callie’s parents succumb to the disease that has wiped out all but the old and the young who were vaccinated against it, she is forced to live rough with her seven-year-old brother, Tyler. They have no grandparents (Enders) to look after them and must be vigilant at all times to evade the marshals who round-up those youngsters (Starters) who have no one to sponsor them and take them to the institutions.

Tyler is ill and Callie has no money for medicine or a decent place for them to live, which is why she finds herself at Prime Destinations. She can earn the money she needs, if she simply agrees to loan her body to rich Enders who wish to experience being young again. Whilst her mind is in stasis, a ‘renter’ will use her body for a few days, a week, or even a month, then her consciousness will be returned to her body.

When Callie ‘wakes up’ in a night club dressed in clothes that are not her own, her first instinct is to return to Prime Destinations to have them put right whatever has gone wrong, but a voice inside her head warns her not to. The next time she wakes, she has a gun in her hand.

Look out for the sequel Enders due out at the end of the year.

The Partials by Dan Wells reminds me a little of Blade Runner and the replicants and the question of what it is that makes us human.

A virus has killed off all but the tiny fraction of the world’s population that has proved to be immune. However, no child born since the release of the virus has survived longer than three days. 16 year-old Kira lives on Long Island. The youngest person alive is almost 14. There is no longer any need for schools and teachers have been reassigned to more useful tasks. Every female over the age of 18 is compelled under the Hope Act to become pregnant in the ‘hope’ that a cure can be found and that the human race can have a future.

Kira, a trainee medic, is devastated when she witnesses the death of yet another newborn baby and then she learns that the age limit of 18 is to be lowered to 16. She is certain that the solution lies with the Partials. Partials are genetically engineered soldiers who rebelled against their human creators, then released the virus, RM. As the Partials are not affected by the virus, Kira believes that the answer to the cure lies in their blood. Of course, the ‘truth’ turns out to be a lot more complicated.

I am looking forward to seeing how the story continues.

The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor.

It may come as no surprise to you that I am a big Star Trek fan. I loved what they did in the most recent film as the original series with Captain Kirk, Spock and Bones, despite the terrible special effects and scenery, is still my favourite. In The Repossession, a group of scientists,  funded by a shadowy, all-powerful company, is attempting to make the teleportation of human beings a reality. Anyone who saw the episode where Captain Kirk was split in two by the transporter and realised that he needed the darker aspects of his personality – such as ruthless ambition – as well as his compassion in order to be the person and leader that he was, will know that the process is fraught with danger.

At the start of the novel, parents in Spurlake are frantic as teenagers are disappearing without trace. Genie, meanwhile, spends the summer not just locked but caged in her room. Her mother, under the influence of the horrendous Reverend Schneider, claims that Genie is possessed by the devil. Then one of the missing teens appears to Genie and tells her she is next. Can Rian save her before it is too late?

If you haven’t read The Declaration by Gemma Malley, you simply must. (There is a review on this blog.) The Killables is the start of a new series by her. After the Horrors, the City was established and all of its citizens underwent an operation  – the New Baptism – to remove the amygdala,   that part of the brain that controls evil thoughts and strong emotions. Now the five thousand inhabitants of the city live in peace under the guidance of the Brother. The Great Leader is too fragile now to be seen in public so it falls upon the Brother to lead the weekly Gatherings in the Meeting House.

All of the citizens are labelled according to the level of their goodness with the As (like Lucas) being the most worthy. Lucas runs the System that controls everything and everyone in the City. Evie is a B. She is matched with Lucas but is in love with his younger brother, Raffy. She and Raffy regularly meet in secret to talk or steal a kiss.

When Raffy discovers a ‘flaw’ in the System, Evie finds out that her whole life has been based on lies. 

I enjoyed the book and will certainly read the sequel – especially as I want to see what happens to Lucas. However, I still prefer The Declaration

Pandemonium is the sequel to Delirium by Lauren Oliver. As in The Killables, strong emotions are considered dangerous. Love is a disease which must be ‘cured’. Children are taught to avoid, even fear, physical contact and affection and ‘cured’ parents can never truly love their children.

Lena has escaped but life outside in the Wilds is hard, even harder than she imagined. Only thinking and dreaming of Alex, who was shot at the end of the first novel, gives her the strength to survive without him.

The story is divided into two – Then and Now – telling of what happens to Lena immediately after her escape, and then months later when she is sent to New York where she meets Julian. Julian is being used to promote the DFA’s (Deliria-Free America) call for the cure to be given earlier. Julian himself has volunteered to be cured even though the procedure will almost certainly kill him.

As this is the second book of a trilogy we are, inevitably, left on a cliffhanger.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting and Incarnate by Jodi Meadows are a blend of sci-fi fantasy and even fairytale.

In The Pledge, Charlaina lives in a land ruled by a ruthless queen. The classes are strictly divided by language. It is a crime punishable by death to acknowledge a conversation spoken in the language of a class above your own. Charlie understands all languages – even those she has never heard before.  If she is to survive she must keep her ability a secret even from her friends especially now that the queen is becoming increasingly desperate to hold on to her throne.

In Incarnate for thousands of years the same one million souls have been reincarnated over and over again in different bodies, keeping intact their memories and experiences from previous lives. Then the unthinkable happens – a soul is lost and a baby – Ana – is born with a completely new soul. Her mother, Li, takes her away to live in isolation and tells her that she is a nosoul and has no worth.

When Ana is eighteen she sets out for the city of Heart to find out who and what she is. On the way she is attacked by sylph and rescued by Sam. She, in turn, rescues Sam and together they journey to Heart to convince the people there to embrace all that Ana’s existence might mean for their community.

The novel raises lots of questions, not least our acceptance or lack thereof of those who are different. Would we live our life differently if we knew we would live over and over again, in a different body each time, as a male or a female, and with the memory of each and every death intact?

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