Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois

Resurrection Day mixes two of my favorite genres: Post-apocalypse/speculative history with crime/mystery.

It is the story, set in the 1970s, of a reporter, Carl Langly, a veteran working for a moderately respected Boston newspaper who meets a high-class reporter from the London Times who encourages him to chase down a lead that uncovers a conspiracy so unbelievable it jeopardizes his life and the lives of his friends/acquaintances.

The 'hook' is that the setting is an alternate history: in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis escalated into the Cuban War and ended after the complete annihilation of Russia and the total collapse of the United States. New York, Washington DC, Miami, Omaha, San Diego, and 8 other sites are utterly destroyed by nuclear bombs, JFK and the rest of the Senate and House are obliterated in the first bomb. Great Britain and Canada are supplying the US with relief (troops, supplies, etc).

The Pesthouseby Jim Crace

The Pesthouse is a story of love and circumstance set in a post-apocalyptic America. Cities, roads, and much of the Midwest and East Coast are destroyed, crops will not grow and mechanical objects such as cars are seen as relics, metallic sculptures scattered along the broken and destroyed roadways. Enter Franklin and Mags, they have an unlikely meeting and their fates are intertwined as they make their way to the coast, searching for a promiseland. The parallels between their journey and the tales told in Europe to those emigrating to America during the 1900s are haunting (they dream of European cities with streets paved with gold).

Type of story: Character Study, Love Story, alternate future

Wiki: mediocre, though this book is not so much about the setting as it is a tale of Franklin and Mags, together against an uncertain world

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood is a creepy tale of humanity's end. It follows the narrator, who believes he is the last human on earth, through a series of flashbacks of his childhood and adolescence through to the 'end of the world' bringing the reader to a future without 'humans.'

It is inferred that the story is set in Canada, and chronicles a time in human history when genetic engineering and cloning enable the creation of hybrid animals and humans. The disparity between rich and poor culminates in the creation of security-laden 'compounds' where the scientists and corporations live and operate.

Wiki: The Wikipedia article for Oryx and Crake is well written and extensive.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2007)

I admit it, I am a sucker for Oprah's Book Club. She hooked me back in the early 90s with Now I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and I have been faithful every since (except for her non-fiction selections, that girl has some serious issues!!)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is the isolating tale of a father and son, traveling alone along 'the road' to an unknown better place in the years following an apocalypse. It is inferred that this apocalypse was in the form of nuclear war, though it is not clearly stated. It is obvious by the events in the book that this war occurred years perhaps even decades prior to the events in the book. The novel itself is written more like poetry than prose and reads very nicely. The characters suck you in and by the end you will have cried at least once or twice.

I was able to read this book in one day, it is a quick read but will leave you contemplating the events for weeks to come.

Cormac McCarthy also authored No Country for Old Men my favorite movie of 2007.

Wiki: The Wikipedia article for The Road is well written and extensive.

Rating: 9/10

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale is a post-apocalyptic (though some would describe it as 'dystopian') memoir set in the near-future as told by a Handmaid. Women in this society are cast into unchangeable roles, women of childbearing age are trained as Handmaids and sent to live with a rich 'morally fit' husband and wife who are either to old or too sterile to bear children of their own. There are elaborate 'ceremonies' to reconcile this forced slavery with the strict religious views of the bourgeoisie couples who 'employ' the use of Handmaids. Women who are older or who have 'proven' that they cannot bear children and are therefore ineligible to become a surrogate are cast out to perform 'clean-up' work (women in this position rarely live more than a year), or are relegated to the role of a cook or a housekeeper.

Throughout the tale, the Handmaid recalls her 'normal' past and outlines how this mono-theocratic society came to be. The overall theme of the book is hope and strength under otherwise oppressive conditions.

This book specifically targets women, and is written to draw empathy for the main character, a woman who before the 'end' had a husband and child and a job and lived a very normal life. Margaret Atwood creates a believable yet surreal rendering of a future that is not that hard to imagine.

Too busy to read the book? It was also made into a cheesy movie: The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

Jenny's Book List

The Writer's Guild strike has severely limited the number of enjoyable TV programming. Lost, I turned to my old friend, the book.

Here I will be posting reviews of the books I am reading. Please post other books you have enjoyed in the comments section.