baby, now we’ve got bad blood.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (2015)
 
Mare Barrow (or Bone Marrow as my brain called her) is a common Red girl biding her days until she has to enlist, just like her brothers had to. She lives in a society where the colour of your blood determines what kind of life you will have. Silver means that you have some sort of superpower and you are the ruling class. Red means that you have no power and are worthless.

Mare is helping out her family as she can, mainly by being a pickpocket. Then one day she steals from the wrong person, but instead of being punished, she is offered a job as a servant for the Silvers as they will find the new queen. Then she suddenly stumbles and falls over the banister, but instead of dying, she survives and it’s discovered that she beholds a superpower.

How will the society react to the fact that a common Red girl has superpowers? And who is she?

The kids are currently reading the Hunger Games and I decided not to read it for the third time, but instead to read some of the ya novels in my pile. I told them that I expected Red Queen to be quite similar to the Hunger Games, and in some ways I was correct and in others very wrong. I really liked the idea of the superpowers despite it being one of those things that I usually find boring. It was a good read even if some things were totally predictable. I’m eagerly waiting for the sequel! 

performing Shakespeare at the end of the world.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
 A pandemic has wiped out most of the world’s population and has left the towns and cities desolate. The Traveling Symphony is a troupe of performers travelling through a vast area around the Great Lakes. Kirsten was a child actress in a production of King Lear in Toronto when the pandemic broke out, but doesn’t remember much of the years before she found the Traveling Symphony. But what she does remember, is that an actor, Arthur Leander, died on stage that last night, and ever since she has been obsessed with him; and searches empty houses for magazines and other memorabilia. 

The post-apocalyptic world is a dangerous place, and the town St. Deborah by the Water has really changed since the last time they were in town. A Prophet has taken over and banished all non-believers. When they leave the town, they discover that a young girl has sneaked on board, and they find themselves in danger as the villagers are trying to get the girl back as she is to be married to the Prophet.

In addition to follow the Traveling Symphony, the book also has flashbacks to the world before the pandemic, and it especially focuses on Arthur and his wife, Miranda, but also on the man who tried to save Arthur on the night he died. I think the most interesting part is the difference between the now and the then, and how quickly everything we are used to just vanished. I had a burning question all through the book and I’m glad it was answered at the end and that it was the answer I was hoping for (and no, I won’t tell you what it is as it sort of spoil things). The only person I would love to get to know better is the Prophet, what happened in between his childhood and becoming the Prophet?  It is a really interesting read, perfect for long sleepless summer nights.

the cabin in the woods.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (2015)
“’Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.’ He picked me up and spun me around, laughing.’Our days will be endless.’” 
Peggy is 8 when her father takes her from her home in London to a remote cabin in Germany. He tells her that the rest of the world is destroyed and that they are the only ones left. They barely make it through the first hard winter, and Punzel, as she now calls herself, has to survive on roots and insects. She spends 8 years in the cottage before going back to London.

I absolutely loved the idea of this book, but the way the plot was structured ruined it for me. I wish that it would have been chronologically instead of flashbacks, because then it would have been more exciting. When you already know in the beginning of the book that she makes it back after eight years, it’s not really exciting.

I do understand that it is meant to be more about the mental aspect of being kidnapped and brainwashed than a thriller, but it didn’t really work for me. And the real shocker in the book came way too late to make a real impact on me. But yet, I still think of Peggy and that awful cabin.

Of bees and men

the Bees by Laline Paull (2014)
 Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, the lowest of the low in the hive. Flora surprises the priestesses when she can speak and produce Flow, so they give her a job in the nursery. Accept, obey, serve is the slogan of the hive and they all work hard so the Queen will rule and give birth to their beloved sisters or brothers. The Queen is the only one who is allowed to produce offspring and those who disobey or mate are instantly killed by the Fertility Police. Flora is very devoted to the Queen and does her best to follow the strict rules of the hive, but then she produces an egg.

 The book is promoted as a mix between A Handmaid’s Tale and the Hunger Games. The latter part worried me, but thankfully there’s only the same desire of survival. But there’s the same feminist message in the Bees as in A Handmaid’s Tale. I really enjoyed those parts where they hailed to the Holy Mother and danced around with penises in their mouths.

It started as a slow read for me, especially because I felt like the chapters were written poorly, but fortunately the writing got better the further I got, and I ended up really enjoying it. I was definitely fascinated by the story and the lives of bees. Another part I really liked was the dancing routines, which is supposedly something bees do.

I’m hoping this will be translated into Norwegian because I think this will be the perfect book for my sister. And if you want to save the bees and have a garden, here’s a list of plants they like.

fifty.

the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
“I almost gasp: he’s said a forbidden word. Sterile. There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore, not officially. There are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that’s the law.”
The republic of Gilead is a strict religious society where the women are divided into groups. The Wives, dressed in blue, are on top of the chain, while the Daughters dress in white. The Econowives are married to men of lower statuses, and wear multicoloured dresses. The Handmaids dress in red and are surrogates for the infertile Wives. Then you have the Aunts in brown dresses who teach the Handmaids how to behave and the domestic servants, Marthas dressed in green.
Offred is the narrator who tells her tale while living in a house of a Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Her daily life is a routine, and the only joy is the shopping round with an other Handmaid. But although she has been taught this new life, how can she forget her old life, when she was free, and had a man and a child? She doesn’t know if they are dead or alive at this point. 
I think this is one of the most provoking books I’ve read. The society is so anti-women that it made me quite mad. And of course it made me feel grateful for my freedom. It is brilliantly written, but to be honest, the end really disappointed me; I wanted more answers. I never seem to get enough answers when I read dystopian novels, I’m really fascinated with the societies and histories. 
I think this is the best Atwood book I’ve read. And it has placed her very high up on my list of favourite authors. Read it! This was also October’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading challenge.

forty-five, forty-six: maddaddam

Oryx & Crake (2003), MaddAddam (2013) by Margaret Atwood

 ““What if they get out? Go on a rampage? Start breeding, then the population spirals out of control – like those big green rabbits?”
“That would be a problem,” said Crake. “But they won’t get out. Nature is to zoos as God is to churces.”
“Meaning what?” said Jimmy. He wasn’t paying close attention, he was worrying about the ChickieNobs and wolvogs. Why is it he feels some line has  been crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far?”

Jimmy, or the Snowman as the Crakers call him, is the only man left after the human population has been wiped out due to a virus. The Crakers are a specie designed in a gene-lab by Crake; they are perfect and lack the destructive tendencies of mankind. Snowman tells them stories about how Oryx and Crake made the world. But although the world is free of men, there are other human-made dangers, like the wolvogs and pigoons – enormous pigs with human organs and cells.

While telling the story in the present day, we also get a glimpse of what Jimmy’s life used to be, and who Crake is. The second book in the trilogy, the Year of the Flood, happens at the same time as Oryx & Crake, but at a different place in the same city, and with Ren and Toby as the narrators. MaddAddam starts when Jimmy meets Ren and Toby and then finally takes the story forward. You also get to learn the story of Zeb. The stories of the characters are really fascinating and definitely my favourite part of the trilogy. I also like how MaddAddam is built-up like a bible for the Crakers, and I just adored the Crakers, especially Blackbeard.

I read the trilogy as a critique of how the humans are abusing the planet’s resources and how the technology will destroy us all if we aren’t careful. And it is (of course) set in a totalitarian state. I have read a couple of dystopian novels and this trilogy is high on my list of favourites. Thanks to a week on the couch, I read them all in a couple of days and they turned into some pretty vivid dreams.

I read Oryx and Crake when it was published 10 years ago, but I felt that I needed to reread it after reading the Year of the Flood. What I really like is that it doesn’t matter which one you read first. And I found it easier to read the Year of the Flood first, then Oryx and Crake. Although MaddAddam has a recap of the two other books, I strongly recommend to read them!

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors, and I’m glad I still haven’t read her most famous works, so I have something to look forward to. She’s also one of my favourites for the Nobel prize.  

forty-three.

the Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (2009)
 “As the first heat hits, mist rises from among the swath of trees between her and the derelict city. The air smells faintly of burning, a smell of caramel and tar and rancid barbecues, and the ashy but greasy smell of a garbage-dump fire after it’s been raining. The abandoned towers in the distance are like the coral of an ancient reef – bleached and colourless, devoid of life. There is still life, however. Birds chirp; sparrows, they must be. Their small voices are clear and sharp, nails on glass: there’s no longer any sound of traffic to drown them out. Do they notice the quietness, the absence of motors? If so, are they happier?”

Year 25 in the Gardeners’ calendar; the year of the waterless flood. The year which wiped out most of the human race. Toby is a survival at a spa, where she lives off the organic food and the rooftop garden. Another survivor is Ren, who has been locked in an isolated room at the sex shop where she works as it is suspected that she is unclean. Both women have been members of the Gardeners – a religious eco-cult. 

This is the second book in the MaddAddam-trilogy, and it’s almost a decade since I read the first book, Oryx and Crake, which I barely remember, but remember as difficult to grasp until the end. And that’s probably why it has taken so long before I started on this one (and because the final book has just been published). the Year of the Flood is a lot more easier to read. Im really curious about how the trilogy is going to end. But first I’m going to reread Oryx and Crake.

sixty-one.

12.21 by Dustin Thomason (2012)
A prion virus that causes insomnia is being spread in Los Angeles. It was first discovered on a patient who sold an ancient Maya codex to a middleman who also gets infected. The Maya expert, and also of Mayan descent, Chel  Manu, gets her hands on the codex and is also used as a translator for the dying patient. Together with the prion expert Dr Stanton, they try to find a connection between the Maya codex and the virus.

As probably most people are aware of, the Maya calendar ends on the 21st of December 2012. And some people interpret it to mean that the world is going to end. Needless to say that I just had to read this before that happens.

The plot is the same as always in the genre: a problem – man and woman try to solve it – man falls for woman – throw in a few obstacles along the way –  then saves her and the world before they live happily ever after. The writing is the same too: focuses on the science and action and hardly any dialogue or reflections. Just the perfect easy read I needed. And just as forgettable.
 

nine, ten, eleven: the hunger games

the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
 (the Hunger Games 2008, Catching Fire 2009 and Mockingjay 2010)

the Treaty of Treason gave us the new laws to guarantee peace and, as our yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games. The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.”

Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl who volunteers to be the female tribute from District 12 instead of her little sister, Prim. District 12 is a relatively poor district, but the Peacekeepers turn a blind eye to the mild lawbreaking done by its inhabitants. Katniss and her best friend, Gale, have kept their families and others healthy with their illegal hunting, and Katniss is superb with a bow and arrows which gives her an advance in the Games. The other participant from District 12 is a boy, Peeta who claims to be in love with Katniss. And their crazy drunk mentor, Haymitch, tells them to play the love card for the audience. But only one of them can survive the Games.

Set somewhere in the future, USA has broken into 12 districts, governed from the Capitol under the name Panem. The people in the districts are poor and working their arses off so the Capitol may prosper. And the Hunger Games is the one event that brings all the people together in front of their tvs.
 
Three days and nights with little sleep, or at least little sleep where not the Hunger Games was present, and I finished the trilogy. And what’s the verdict? It’s bloody good!

I was worried that the killings would be too much, but this is a book for young adults, so it’s never violent and it’s more about surviving than killing. Although the Hunger Games was interesting, I really liked reading about the everyday life in the districts and Capitol. I really enjoyed the second book until the second Hunger Games, and I also liked the third book because of the lack of the Games. And oh yes, my tears were running at the end.

The film is out in a month or so, and it is going to be interesting to see the books played out on the big screen.

This trilogy reminded me how much I need to reread Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

seventy-five.

Afrodites basseng by Gert Nygårdshaug (2003)


This is the final book in the trilogy about Mino and his eco-terrorism. Jonar, a biologist, who lives isolated in the Norwegian forest with his eight year old son is having some very strange dreams about a young woman walking around in the desert. The only contact they have with the outside world is through Mino who operates the small fire-fighting plane on the small lake next to their cabin. Jonar receives a mysterious beautiful small chest from Mino, but no key, and the next day a very fast growing forest threatens their existence. Are they the only living humans?

I love Nygårdshaug and his amazing stories. They are thought-provoking, I love the characters and I’m almost reading them too fast with a smile on my face.