0

Top Dystopian YA Series

It seems I’ve been swept away by that YA book craze. I really enjoy the sci-fi series called “The 100” which is all about teenagers in space and on a post-apocalyptic Earth. So, I read the books that the series was based on, and then I got sucked into more and more teenage books. This is a list of my favorite dystopian YA series.

And as a special bonus, maybe because I’m an adult reading books meant for teenagers, or maybe because I just tend to be annoyed by certain characters, I’ve also made a section for characters who annoyed me.

The 100 by Kass Morgan

Everyone's faces are always covered in paint or dirt. That's a rule on the 100.

Everyone’s faces are always covered in paint, blood and/or dirt. That’s an unbreakable rule on The 100.

The main character is a girl called Clarke, a medical student who lives on a space station along with the rest of the survivors from a post-nuclear holocaust Earth. Clarke becomes privy to some unsavory human experiments, and as a result she is thrown in space jail. However, she and the other juvenile delinquents are let loose on Earth as a kind of test to see whether it’s safe for people to go back to the planet.

Yes, it’s quite a caring and humane society, and it just gets better. The teens actually do a descent job of surviving, until the grownups come along and try to ruin everything.

The books are not as violent and extreme as the TV series that was based on them, so if you’ve seen the series, you might find the books somewhat more boring, but they’re still enjoyable.

Characters who annoyed me: Glass. She has a stupid name, and she is stupid. In the TV show, the writers made a good move by not having her in it at all. Instead, there is a character with a slightly less stupid name, Raven. But Raven is actually kind of cool.

Matched by Ally Condie

In the actual book, the girl is not literally trapped in a crystal ball.

In the actual book, the girl is not literally trapped in a crystal ball.

This is the scariest of all the dystopian books I’ve read because the dystopian world seems like it would be extremely boring to live in, and the way its boredom is described in every detail is… strangely fascinating. Drawing its inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, Matched takes place in a society called Society (you can see how fun and creative they are already), where all daily activities are regulated by the government. Its rules are enforced by a combination of science and extreme anal retentiveness. Even in the marriage ceremonies, the candidates are genetically Matched for an optimal outcome. It’s also the only time people are allowed to eat cake. That, and their final banquet on the day they die.

Oh, and there are only 100 official films that people are allowed to watch as well at 100 official poems, paintings, etc. Well, I won’t spoil it by describing how the entire society works, but it is quite amazing.

Cassia is a teenager who is about to find out who she’s Matched with. It turns out, it’s her best friend, who is an all-round great guy! But then for a moment she sees another image pop up on her screen, of Ky, the mysterious “aberration”, who is basically like a second-class citizen. Of course, trying to figure out what Ky was doing in her matching device drives her crazy with the whole mystery of it, so she starts to fall for him instead of Mr. Perfect. Actually, I’m not sure it was a good choice, as Ky doesn’t seem to have much of a personality other than being mysterious and having suffered a lot at the hands of Society. But it is a really interesting series in terms of the political world it portrays and how Cassia and her friends try to rebel against it.

Characters who annoyed me: Indie, a girl Cassia meets while in exile. It seemed like the author worked really hard to make Indie look suspicious. Even though it turned out later that she was one of the good guys, I still didn’t trust her!

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

under-the-never-sky-veronica-rossi

Alternative title: Spending too Much Time on the Internet Makes You Smell Bad.

This is a lesser-known series, but it’s got a unique world that provides a fun escape. The so-called “civilized” factions live in pods and spend most of their time in virtual reality, but they are slowly going insane. The people who live in the real world are more like medieval hunters. So when Aria, a teenage girl from the pod is exiled into the wild, she is unlikely to survive unless she get she help of Perry, a savage prince who hates the way she smells.

The people in the outside world have mutations that allow them to have extra keen senses, usually sight and hearing and smell. Unfortunately, there were no great touchers, which was odd. Touch is a sense too! Seriously, it could have been interesting to have someone who could know the molecular structure of an object simply by touching it.

Characters who annoyed me: Brooke. She gets the short end of the stick because Perry breaks up with her for no reason. I would feel sorry for her, but she has no personality aside from knowing how to use a bow and being a b*&@%.

Did you read/like some of these books? Have you ever been annoyed by characters in YA books or otherwise? If so, please comment!

9

Find a New Favorite Novel: Multi-Author Promotion

I’m running a special promotion on Dryad, and I’ve joined with several wonderful authors from around the world to bring our books to a wider audience.

promobanner

Dryad is now only $0.99 until November 22, so if you haven’t got a kindle copy, please click over to Amazon here to see what all the fuss is about!

Our whole crew of authors will all have their own special promos starting today and ending on November 22. Enjoy all the discounted books!

Barbara Monier — https://barbaramonier.wordpress.com/ — contemporary literary fiction

John Howell — http://johnwhowell.com/ — fiction thriller

Michael Fedison –https://eyedancers.wordpress.com/ — YA Sci-fi/Fantasy

Shehanne Moore — https://shehannemoore.wordpress.com/ — romance

Janice Spina — https://jemsbooks.wordpress.com/ — middle-grade junior detectives series

Luciana Cavallaro — http://luccav.com/ — historical fiction–mythology retold

Evelyne Holingue — http://evelyneholingue.com/ — middle-grade fiction

Jo Robinson — https://africolonialstories.wordpress.com/ — nonfiction publishing guide for newbies, two short stories, and mainstream fiction

Sonya Solomonovich — https://sonyasolo.wordpress.com/ — time-travel fantasy

Jennifer Chow — http://jenniferjchow.com/ — adult cozy mystery (the beginning of a new series)

Nicki Chen — http://nickichenwrites.com/ — historical fiction–WWII China

Katie Cross — http://kcrosswriting.com/ — YA fantasy

I hope you check out some of these books and let me know in the comments which genres speak to you!

0

Female Fighters as Characters

In last week’s post, I talked about female action heroes…

In my novel, Dryad, the main character, Solena, is a female who learns to fight and stand up for herself when she had been unable to in the past. Sometimes the fights are physical martial arts fights, but sometimes they take place within herself. These internal fights are what gives the character depth, and they lend an extra layer of drama to the physical action.

This is a tapir.

This is a tapir.

Perhaps most importantly, the depiction of women fighting should not merely be used as a token, but rather a reflection of character. In this scene, the billionaire Rodney Love has been transformed into an anthropomorphic tapir. Rodney is Solena’s sort-of-ex-boyfriend, and although she is still angry with him and not sure about what exactly her feelings are, she does not hesitate to come to his aid:

Solena was about to make a run for it and pursue the escaping lumberjack tapirs, but something stopped her. She realized there was one human-tapir missing. She wasn’t sure how Anastacio seemed to know them from the real ones, and there wasn’t much time for a magic spell.

“Anastacio, where’s Rodney?” she cried.

The dryad was engaged in wrestling a spear away from a hunter-tapir. At length, he pushed his foe aside and pointed to a raging tapir, careening about the hall, completely mad with bloodlust.

Solena was stunned for a moment. But she quickly gathered herself. It was no time to be indecisive. She leapt on top of the table and ran towards Rodney, who was lambasting two hunter-tapirs.

“Rodney! Rodney, snap out of it. We’ve got to go!” she yelled.

He seemed not to hear and paid absolutely no attention.

She dove from the table and tackled tapir-Rodney, knocking him to the ground. She hadn’t been sure it would work, as the tapir was in a whole other weight category, but her flying tackle was enough to knock him off his feet. She rolled away, and saw that he regained his footing and still paid no attention to her: the real tapirs were closing in on him.

She could see out of the corner of her eye Anastacio and Sir Lancelot trying to break through the mass of tapirs to reach her. The tapirs were like a living sea of grey, bulging animal flesh. Anastacio’s dryad strength made his attempts more successful, while Sir Lancelot, whose strength was incredible for a human, was failing to contend with such massive beasts. She saw a glimpse of him being knocked down by two of the charging animals, then she became too preoccupied as another spear-wielding tapir advanced on her.

She backed away slowly, trying to think of a strategy but not finding any weapon close at hand to counter the spear.

Rodney broke through the ring of his attackers at that very moment and his momentum was so great that he slammed into the spear-wielding tapir, jarring him for a split second. Solena lunged forward and seized the spear, twisting it out of the creature’s hand.

Now Solena advanced more confidently, trying to reach Rodney once again, poking at tapirs that got too close with the dull end of the spear. She approached him just as he leapt onto the table, threatening the tapir king himself. Solena sprinted over and jabbed Rodney in the ribs with the blunt end of the spear. Tapir Rodney spun around to face her, and she held her breath.

He was either going to attack her in a fit of rage or…

He froze for a moment, and she thought she saw the light of recognition in his eyes.

“Time to blow this joint,” she yelled, pointing to the exit.

Tapir Rodney nodded. With one of his hind legs, he flicked a dish at the king’s head, then leapt off the table and charged towards the exit, Solena close behind him.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt! If you like humorous satire and adventure, you can purchase a copy of Dryad on Amazon, Smashwords, or

A tale of adventure, time travel and romance, my novel Dryad is available as an e-book. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Click here to purchase Dryad on Amazon.

Click here to purchase Dryad on Smashwords.

Click here to purchase Dryad on Barnes & Noble.

Click here to purchase Dryad on KOBO.

Click here to purchase Dryad on iTunes.

8

Girl Fight! The New Portrayal of Action Heroines

lara_croft_06I spent a very large part of my childhood lamenting the absence of reasonable female action heroines. Things began to change in the 90s, but not very quickly. It was only with the appearance of Lara Croft that I was finally content with the portrayal of a true action woman. I’m happy with the current state of things, but there are still those who complain that the female heroines are not “equal” in that they are expected to be sexy or “booby,” (yes, that’s a word someone used) or that they do not get to do enough action or that they only get to fight with other women (even though fighting with other women is no small feat, I assure you!)

As recently as the early 2000’s, Stephanie Mencimer wrote:

Women are still only allowed to be violent within certain parameters largely proscribed by what men are willing to tolerate. To be sure, what men will tolerate has certainly changed a good deal. But in the old action films, at the end, the male hero always walks away from a burning building looking dirty, bleeding sweaty yet vindicated…

None of today’s action chicks come near that level of messiness.

Finally, with the arrival of the sci-fi show “The 100”, I beg to differ. In case you haven’t seen the show, it’s about a post-apocalyptic world in which humans have been living on a space station waiting for the earth to become habitable again. What they don’t realize is there are survivors still living on Earth who are led by female warriors all of whom look like teenage fashion models. These “grounders” view the returning people from the space station, the “sky people” as invaders.

In the episode “Many Happy Returns” (season 2 episode 4) the main character, Clarke has an all-out brawl with Anya, the tribal leader of the grounders, an encounter that Johnny Cash might have described as “a-kicking and a -gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.” It was as dirty and disgusting as a fight can ever get, and both women ended up with faces that resembled the palette of an abstract expressionist. Did I mention that before they commenced fighting they slathered their faces with mud?

I guess this proves that men can “tolerate” women being messy and violent. In fact, I have learned from a credible source that some men find this sexy. But, to play the devil’s advocate, does this really mean anything? Is this truly a measure of how far the women’s movement can come? Maybe instead of female characters trying to “catch up” to the men’s level of messiness, it should be the other way around, ie. the male characters should fight more neatly, politely, and gracefully?

The action genres (and to some degree fantasy and sci-fi) demand more and more gory violence, so of course the tendency is to make our female characters more violent as well.

I believe that all of these changes and more are coming. There will be “non-booby” heroines, there will be super-violent heroines, and there will be many more female heroines in general. For me, the most important change is already happening.

What do you think? Would you like to see female characters less violent, more violent, or just less “booby”?

0

Book Review: Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion

cover

Click image to purchase on Amazon

Shotgun-toting hero Ranger Martin returns for more zombie-killing mayhem in this second installment in the Ranger Martin series by Jack Flacco. This novel begins with even more suspense as we find Ranger Martin far outnumbered, his trusty truck destroyed, and his former sidekick and quasi-adopted daughter Mattie, cutting off all ties with him. Oh, and did I mention Ranger is on the run from the army since Randy, the other teen he’s taken under his wing is wanted by the government.

Warning: this review contains some spoilers!

It’s a good thing Ranger does not give up easily. Fortunately, his teenage sidekick Randy is destined to save the human race from the zombies. And of course, we know Matty can’t stay mad at Ranger for long.

There are many perks to living in the Apocalypse. Since the world is mostly taken over by zombies and all businesses have been abandoned, Ranger Martin and friends can waltz into any store and pick out any food they want. Of course, most of the perishable food has rotted away, so they’re down to canned meat and candy bars… Okay, maybe the food is not such a good perk, but they can also drive away in any vehicle they choose, free of charge, and they often do as their last vehicle is usually splattered with zombie brains.

And of course, when the world is invaded by aliens and zombies, you can always count on the government to cut off all lines of communication and round up the citizens like cattle to be zombified by creepy flying saucers.

The second book in Jack Flacco’s action-packed series provides more answers regarding this dubious alliance between the army and the strange alien race that sucks humans’ minerals right out of their bodies, turning them into zombies in the process. We also discover why Randy is so special – and why he is wanted by the government. Some sort of chemical in his blood makes him immune to zombification. However, his pre-apocalypse life still remains a mystery, hopefully to be resolved in future installments.

I liked the way Jack Flacco left the readers guessing as to the characters’ past, and I enjoyed meeting some more characters outside of Ranger’s usual group. There are other people fighting the invasion, a Resistance group hidden away behind a mine field, and a small but determined trio within the prison itself. But these resistance groups are cagey and secretive. Can Ranger Martin get them on his side? If they work together, they may have a small chance to defeat the corrupt US army general and his forces.

This second installment in the Ranger Martin series was even more suspenseful than the first (check out my review of the first book in the series), with many close calls, chases, and battles. My favorite thing about this series is that even in their most dangerous moments Ranger and his team still crack jokes and have fun. These are characters you can really root for!

To find out more about Jack Flacco’s books, check out his site, http://jackflacco.com/.

4

Cyborgs R Us: Jackson and the Professor

the-borgSome scientists are claiming that by 2050 people will be able to download their minds into a computer, just like Professor X129 in my novel Dryad. Personally, I think it’s a ridiculous idea, which is why I satirize it in the novel. But even if we look at today’s use of technology, we are already all too close to becoming cyborgs… or maybe we already are.

I’m not even talking about those few select individuals who have microchips implanted in their bodies. I’m talking about people like you and I. Our culture is becoming known as “cyborg culture” because of our intimate attachment to our devices such as computers, phones, and Google glasses. There are many people out there who admit that they literally could not function without their phones.

It sounds like an unhealthy relationship… And yet, optimistic bloggers proudly declare that we control technology and it does not control us? This is a huge generalization, but it is easy to see that the vast majority of people are controlled by technology on a daily basis. Those who refuse to use commonly accepted technology (the latest smartphone, the newest version of Microsoft Office) find themselves at a disadvantage, therefore everyone must jump on the technology bandwagon or be left behind.

Maybe this is why the predictions I make in my novel are in line with a pretty bleak view of the future…

Future Management

Roger_Taylor_Fun_In_SpaceRoger Taylor is well known as the drummer of legendary rock band Queen, but back in the 80’s he also released a solo album which reflected his own preoccupations with science fiction and the state of modern society. Even as early as the 1980s he was clued in to the dangers of technological “progress”:

Future Management

You won’t need nobody else but me…
You’ll find
I’m gonna invite you to try my machines
Program an offer you just can’t refuse
I’m gonna invite you to share all my dreams
You’ve got nothing to lose.

Recycle your thoughts

I’ll rewire your mind
I’ll punch in some new points of view
To make sure you find
You’ve got nothing to lose

You don’t need nobody else but me…

Someone from the 21st century might listen to this song and think, yes, this is a pretty accurate picture of today’s “management”. It could be the relentless technological upgrades you experience in the workplace or even as you go about your daily life, surrounded by machines, having to conform to the machines’ points of view, their “logic”. It sounds to me as if the speaker in this song are the machines themselves, trying to convince us that we don’t need other humans when machines are so much better and more perfect than people could ever be.

against the machine hidden luddite traditionJust think of the last time you tried to call your mobile phone provider and were led down telephone labyrinths in a vain attempt to talk to a human being.

It’s enough to infuriate the calmest person, yet most people don’t rebel against the machines. We have become used to them, and we accept things the way they are.

Nicols Fox, the author of Against the Machine puts it very well: “We are everything the machine is not: creatures of emotion and sensation with minds that are creative and imaginative… Generally people try bravely, even enthusiastically, to accommodate themselves [to machines]. They are not sure why they are consequently unhappy. They do not blame the machines, for we have convinced ourselves – or been convinced by advertising and promotion – of their marvelous natures and of our great need for them.”

However, in every society, there are those who rebel…

Jackson and the Professor

A 17th century pirate would not be very accepting of a machine-centered society. This is exactly what happens in my novel Dryad, when Jackson, a former slave and a French privateer suddenly finds himself in the distant future, where people no longer have physical bodies. There are only minds, housed in the hard drives of computers.

Suffice it to say, Jackson does not like this at all. He sees it for what it is, a form of slavery. Despite their differences, Jackson and the professor eventually do become friends… Maybe there’s hope that humans and machines can coexist in a healthy relationship?

Here is an excerpt from their conversation:

“Slavery has been abolished all over the world,” the professor replied, “But in a way, you could say every sentient living being, every computerized being, all are servants of the Great Sissy.”

“The Great Sissy? I like not the sound of that.”

“She is a benevolent ruler.”

“How did it come to pass that all the known world is subjugated by a woman?”

“It happened a long time ago. In the twenty-first century, Teddy Goldman was one of the most prominent leaders of the world. His values were physical fitness, improvement of the spirit, individual endeavour. But later in that century his cult began to lose followers, for war and pollution became too much a part of everyday life and people could barely sustain their physical bodies, much less keep physically fit and healthy. The Great Sissy offered them eternal life and freedom from their bodies.”

“And that is how you gained your present form?” Jackson asked.

“Yes.”

“How is this possible? How are you released from your body, yet alive?”

“My mind and everything it contained has been transferred to this machine. Of course, parts may malfunction and wear out, but theoretically, I could live forever.”

Jackson shook his head as if he had too many questions at once.

“Whither did your soul go?” he finally asked.

“Soul?”

“This is only your mind in the machine, so where is your soul?”

“I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a soul. It did not separate from my body and fly up to heaven when the download occurred, if that’s what you mean.”

“Maybe not,” Jackson insisted, “Maybe it is still inside this machine. Otherwise, how is it you are able to speak, think, and feel?”

“I do not feel,” the professor objected, “That is, I have sensors that detect light and sound and so on, but I do not feel emotions as humans do.”

Jackson accepted a tray with Jell-O and milk from a mechanical attendant who had just rolled into the room. Then he focused a penetrating gaze on the professor and said, “I don’t believe you.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from Dryad. I leave you with this low budget video of Roger Taylor’s Future Management, complete with dummy imagery (I already talked about dummies in a previous post so I don’t know why they’re coming up again.) Do you suppose these mannequins represent those who blindly follow the lure of technology?

6

Christian Grey vs. Rodney Love

For the last little while I’ve been hearing a lot about how bad Fifty Shades of Grey was, and it made me curious enough to read the trilogy. It wasn’t really that bad, and I enjoyed the chemistry between the two main characters. I did, however, take issue with Christian Grey.

His faults were many, but it would be boring to list them all. So…

I thought it would be fun to compare the character of the billionaire Christian Grey to Rodney Love, also a billionaire and one of the leading characters in my novel, Dryad. They were compared in the following categories:

1. Personal Charm

"No, I'm not creepy at all..."

“No, I’m not creepy at all…”

In this category, Rodney Love wins hands down. He is a down-to-earth friendly guy. He makes people feel comfortable, and he has a great sense of humour. Christian Grey, on the other hand, has all sorts of issues (which we will get to in a moment), and he tries to intimidate people. The narrator, Anastasia, keeps describing the way other women blush in his presence supposedly because of his attractiveness, but I think she’s biased. These women are probably just scared of Grey as he tends to make strange faces: his eyes are often “burning,” and sometimes, his eyes “blaze with anger, need and pure unadulterated lust.” Rodney: 1 Christian: 0

2. Business Success

Christian Grey is a self-made billionaire at 26. He is also a virtuoso piano player and an expert helicopter pilot… oh, and a glider pilot and a sailor. Rodney Love’s wealth is all inherited, but he works very hard in his father’s company because he wants to prove himself. Now, you would think that Christian would win in this category, but personally, I think Rodney is more likely to be successful in the long run since he is very driven while Christian spends most of his time doing S&M stuff and emailing his girlfriend instead of working. Rodney: 2 Christian: 0

3. Issues

Christian Grey was abused as a child and therefore has ridiculously low self-esteem. Also, he is so controlling, though sometimes he makes it look pretty sexy. Outside of the bedroom, however, this is not sexy at all. He wants to control everything down to making his girlfriend use the method of contraception he’s chosen for her — no, I’m not joking, he really did! All of this makes Rodney Love look well-adjusted. All Rodney has to deal with is his overbearing father who has no respect for him (waah-waah). Rodney: 2 Christian: 1

4. Being Good at Cooking

crepesIs there anything more romantic than a man who cooks a meal for his date? In this category, Grey fails miserably. He has never in his life so much as sliced an onion. Anastasia tries to teach him, but I think his heart is not really in it. Rodney Love, however, is a great cook, and thanks to his French heritage, he knows how to serve up some gourmet delicacies. Rodney: 3 Christian: 1

The Outcome

Rodney wins in most categories, and Christian has the dubious honour of having more issues of the two. I hope this post has been helpful, especially if you haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey before. Please let me know if you have any questions about Christian Grey or Rodney Love!