Sunday, August 11, 2013

Reached by Ally Condie

Summary:   As the Matched trilogy evolves into Reached, the final installment, Cassia, Ky and Xander all share their perspectives as the Society and the Rising fight for power.  Once again all is not as it seems and when the Rising's rebellion takes an unexpected and deadly turn, each must play a specific role in the re-organization of the system.  Together and apart, the three are faced with the consequences of their decisions and use their skills to choose the kind of people they want to be in the new world.

Dystopian Issues:  Disintegration of Society, Plague, Totalitarian Government
Part of a Series: The third and final book in the Matched series
Age of Main Character: 18
Number of Pages:  512
Year of Publication: 2012
Publisher:  Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group Inc.

Review:  When the Rising turned out to be essentially part of the Society, I was confused and disappointed.  But after some thought I realised Condie is trying to make a different point than the average dystopia.  Sometimes there is no clear cut answer about what will make things better, and sometimes what seems like the answer is actually a slightly different version of the way things already are.
     In this conclusion to the Matched trilogy, Cassia seems to come into her own.  While she began the trilogy as a naïve seventeen year-old shaken out of her comfort zone by an act of sorting she doesn't even remember doing, finally she has become aware of her decisions and their consequences and plays an active roll in the restructuring of society.
     As for Cassia and Ky, their love proves to be true, even though Ky is kissed by Indie.  Xander, who always seems to get the short end of the stick with his yearning for Cassia, ends up happy with a woman who has also lost the love of her life.  It's a little too perfect for words, especially since the only people that die and are connected to the three main characters are Cassia's dad (not a powerful or memorable character in any way) and Indie.
     What I like, however, is what I take to be Condie's main point.  Throughout the three books there is much talk about the Pilot, the leader of the rebellion.  But not only does it turn out the Pilot is unknowingly working for the Society, it also turns out that Pilot is the name for the plague that the Society created in the first place.  Thus Condie's message that anyone can be a game changer in a rebellion proves true.  Cassia, who wasn't selected by the Rising, turns out to play a significant role in the development of a democratic society.
     I do wonder why Condie chose to save so many things to reveal only in the third book though.  I suppose choosing specific characters to be narrators as opposed to an omnipotent narrator has its limitations in this case.
     While I think Condie's message is good, I felt it took her a long time to reach it through what turned out to be a very mild dystopian trilogy.  Not recommend for hard core dystopian fans.

Real Life Dystopias:  Throughout the Matched trilogy the Society is obsessed with the collection of data about all aspects of their citizens' lives believing it will allow them to predict the previously unpredictable.  To collect such data means that the Society watches and monitors its citizens constantly, at work, at play - even while they are sleeping.
     I recently read an article in Wired (August 2013 edition) called "The Glass Backlash" by Mat Honan exploring and emphasizing that the 'watcher' state people are afraid of is already here.  One only has to look to current headlines regarding Edward Snowden to realise this is true.

Memorable Quotes: "In spite of myself, I find that I am crying the Society, for its end.  For the death of what did keep some of us safe for a very long time."
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 96

     "I never wanted to see them die, but I would have liked for them to know how it felt to be afraid.  I wanted them to know that their easy lives had a cost."
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 213

     "...every now and then, if we're lucky, we have a moment to see how small we are."
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 236

     "'So we're never really safe,' I say.
     'Oh no, my boy,' Oker says, almost gently.  'That might be the Society's greatest triumph - that so many of us ever believed that we were.'"
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 320

     "My family has always believed that if you worked hard and did the right thing, you were likely to have it all work out.  And they're not stupid.  They know it doesn't always go that way.  They've seen terrible things happen and it's torn them up.  But that's as close as they've been to real suffering."
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 482

     "I believed him unchanging, a stone in all good sense of the word, solid, dependable, something and someone you could build upon.  But he is as we all are: light as air, transient as wisps of cloud before the sun, beautiful and fleeting, and if I ever did truly have hold of him, that has ended now."
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 501

     "When we fall in love the first time, we don't know anything.  We risk a lot less than we do if we choose to love again.
     There is something extraordinary about the first time falling."
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 504

     "We hold the choices of our fathers and mothers in our hands and when we cling on or let them slip between our fingers, those choices become our own."
     -  Reached by Ally Condie, pg 511

Author Website:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Crossed by Ally Condie

Summary:   The second book in the Matched trilogy, Crossed continues the tale of mistakenly matched Cassia and Ky after their separation by the Society.  Cassia uses her connections to be sent to a work camp hoping she will be able to find Ky while Ky's Aberrant status lands him in the Outer Provinces to be a target for enemy fire.  Using ingenuity and opportunity, they find their way to each other.  Rumours of the Rising against the Society continue to build and when Cassia and Ky have their chance to join, new truths come to light threatening to tear them apart.

Dystopian Issues:  Class System, Totalitarian Government
Part of a Series: The second book in the Matched series
Next in Series:  Reached
Age of Main Character: 17
Number of Pages:  367
Year of Publication: 2011
Publisher:  Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group Inc.

Review:  As the story of Cassia, Ky and Xander builds to the final book in the trilogy, I'm left with many questions along the way.  Who exactly is the Enemy is Condie's books?  Is it possible the Enemy is an elaborate ruse by the Society used to strike fear into the hearts of its citizens and keep them in line?
     I like how Condie expands the narrative to include Ky's point-of-view because I identified with him more than I did with Cassia.  I have to admit that Cassia has grown as a character since the first book, but she still strikes me as having blundered into her current life as opposed to choosing a path like Ky.
     Is Cassia's love for Ky simple the result of the novelty of having a choice, or will it stand the test of time?  I'm sure the next book will answer my questions.
     Condie uses Crossed to define the class system of the Society: farmers who remain apart, Aberrations, Anamolies and Citizens.  As one would expect, not everyone agrees with how Society runs things but the Society definitely has way of shutting those people up.
     The themes of choice, self-determination and the act of creating instead of sorting are also further developed, and Condie skillfully uses poems and legends from our past to fuel the rebellion in Cassia and Ky's present.
     Crossed contains a surprising lack of Xander though.  While he appears near the beginning of the book and provides Cassia with the means to get to Ky that is his only appearance.  When it is revelled Xander is assigned to be a medic and that he is part of the Rising, I found it difficult to believe he did not know the true purpose of the blue tablets.  Is it possible there is a darker side to Xander and he was trying to stop Cassia from getting to Ky?  Again, only book three will tell.

Real Life Dystopias:  In the Society, Aberrations are people who are classified as dissenters of the system.  I recently read an excellent book called People Who Said No by Laura Scandiffo.  In it she features true stories about people who would have been considered Aberrations of their times - during Hitler's reign in Nazi Germany, apartheid in South Africa and the dictatorship in Burma.

Memorable Quotes: "I fought because I had found peace in Cassia.  Because I knew I could find rest in her touch that somehow both burned me up and washed me clean."
     -  Crossed by Ally Condie, pg 150

     "It's beautiful and it's real, but our time together could be as fleeting as snow on the plateau.  We can either try to change everything or just make the most of whatever time we have."
     -  Crossed by Ally Condie, pg 210

     "There is something special, irreplaceable, about the first time living."
     -  Crossed by Ally Condie, pg 260

     "To go from discarded to chosen - it's all Aberrations want."
     -  Crossed by Ally Condie, pg 282

     "Good-byes are like this.  You can't always mark them well at the moment of separation - no matter how deep they cut."
     -  Crossed by Ally Condie, pg 335

     "When you first love, you look blind and you see it all as the glorious, beloved whole, or a beautiful sum of beautiful parts.  But when you see the one you love as pieces - you can love those parts too, and it's a love at once more complicated and more complete."
     -  Crossed by Ally Condie, pg 346

Author Website:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Matched by Ally Condie

Summary:   Cassia Reyes' life is completely regulated.  She is told what she will eat, who she will marry and when she will die.  In the past, Cassia has found the certainties of her life comforting in their predictability.  When an error in the system presents Cassia with two matches instead of one, the uncertainty and the possibility of choice throws her well-ordered life into disarray.  As events highlighting cracks in the Society's power structure start to pile up, Cassia begins to question the way things are with support from Ky, the match who was never meant to be.

Dystopian Issues:  Lack of Self-Determination, Restricted Access to Humanity's History, Totalitarian Government
Part of a Series: The first book in the Matched series
Next in Series:  Crossed
Age of Main Character: 17
Number of Pages:  366
Year of Publication: 2010
Publisher:  Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group Inc.

Review:  If you thought the only thing missing from Lois Lowry's The Giver was romance, then Matched is pretty much the book for you.
     Condie's cast of mild characters are the product of the totalitarian society they grew up in.  This results in a book that is the story of a gentle romance in the face of a classic dystopia.  While an interesting and enjoyable read, this first book of the Matched trilogy lacks depth and profoundness that quality dystopian fiction should exhibit.
     Despite my reservations, I did like Condie's concept of the collections of the hundred best songs, paintings, poems, etc.  I wasn't always engaged by the characters, but I was engaged by the complete and detailed totalitarian system Condie set up.  Dystopias often have a clear villain in the government, but Matched presents us with a government that appears to only have its citizens' best interests at heart.  As the book develops however, we begin to see how much of a façade that idea actually is.
     There is enough here to keep me reading the trilogy.

Real Life Dystopias:  The Match system bears some resemblance to the system of arranged marriages.

Memorable Quotes: "'Cassia," he whispers.  "I am giving you something you won't understand, yet.  But I think you will someday.  You, more than the rest.  And, remember.  It's all right to wonder.'"
     -  Matched by Ally Condie, pg 83

     " least I have the words to describe what I feel is happening inside of me: the dying of the light.
     If I couldn't name it, would I even know what it is?  Would I even feel at all?"
     -  Matched by Ally Condie, pg 158

     "All this time it's taken me to understand what Grandfather meant.  Why he didn't want to have the sample stored, why he didn't want a chance to live forever on someone else's terms.  'Because it's about making our own choices,' I tell him."
     -  Matched by Ally Condie, pg 356

Author Website:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Summary:   During Hilter's reign over Nazi Germany, Death is very busy collecting souls.  While collecting the soul of a young boy, Death first encounters Liesel Meninger, who steals a book she happens upon near her brother's grave.  Over the years, Death touches Liesel's life indirectly many times, but it is only when Death becomes a book thief himself that he learns Liesel's whole intriguing story.  In the face of the unimaginable horrow of war, Death is compelled by Liesel's kindness and by the actions of her friends and family to realise humans are more complex than he will ever understand.

Dystopian Issues:  War, Holocaust, Totalitarian Government
Part of a Series:  No
Age of Main Character:  Death's age is unknown, but Liesel is nine years old at the beginning of the story
Number of Pages:  550
Year of Publication: 2005
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books

Review:  What I need to remind myself about this book is that Death is the main character, not Liesel.  If Death is the main character in addition to his narrating duties, then I can't get mad at Zusak for ending the tale of Liesel so abruptly and insufficiently.  Instead, Liesel's story is merely a catalyst for the profound change in Death, transforming him from a passive collector of souls to a philosopher on the varying nature of humanity.
     Using Death as a narrator allows Zusak to take a non-linear approach to his tale.  Unfortunately this style often meanders and at times ruins the natural suspense of his own story.
     I have to give kudos to Zusak though, because somehow he manages to make Death not only likeable, but an angel of mercy as opposed to a villain.  Death's point of view of World War II is apt, powerful, and fresh.
     While I felt Zusak could have been more concise, I did enjoy the journey of 550 pages that he took me on.  His portrayal of Hitler as a Word Shaker and the atmosphere of Nazi Germany was insightful and gives the reader a lot to think about.
     I don't find Zusak to be the smoothest writer, but I am continually intrigues by his ideas.  For that reason, The Book Thief is definitely worth reading.

Real Life Dystopias:  I am including The Book Thief on my dystopian review site because I believe dystopias do not have to be fictional to count under the dystopian genre.  The Book Thief is an excellent example of a fictional account of the real life dystopia that was Nazi Germany and World War II.

Memorable Quotes: "Yes, often, I am reminded of her, and in one of my vast array of pockets, I have kept her story to retell.  It is one of the small legion I carry, each one extraordinary in its own right.  Each one an attempt - an immense leap of an attempt - to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.
     Here it is.  One of a handful.
     The Book Thief.
     If you feel like it, come with me.  I will tell you a story.
     I'll show you something."
     -  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, pgs. 14-15

     I do not carry a sickle or scythe.
     I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold
     And I don't have those skull-like
     facial features you seem to enjoy
     pinning on me from a distance.  You
     want to know what I truly look like?
     I'll help you out.  Find yourself
     a mirror while I continue."
     -  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, pg 307

     "The words.  Why did they have to exist?  Without them, there wouldn't be any of this.  Without words, the Fuhrer was nothing.  There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better."
     -  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, pg 521

     "I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it.  I wanted to ask how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."
     The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, pg 550

Author Website:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Exodus by Julie Bertagna

Summary:  15 year-old Maya lives on an island that grows smaller every year as the polar ice caps melt.  She and her family are forced to leave the world they know in search of a new one, a sky city made to house the refugees of diminishing land masses.  Unfortunately in the city Maya finally discovers, all refugees are not considered equal and things are more complicated than she ever imagined.  With the help of a tree-dwelling people and a collection of misfit children, Maya fights against the system for the sake of equality, survival, and the people she loves.

Dystopian Issues: Climate Change, Slavery, Class System
Part of a Series: The first book in the Exodus series
Next in Series:  Zenith
Age of Main Character: 15
Number of Pages: 337
Year of Publication: 2002
Publisher:  Young Picador

Review:  I've read Julie Bertagna's Opposite of Chocolate (not a dystopia) and I enjoyed her quirky characters and unique story.  When I read Exodus however, I did not even identify it as being written by the same author until I read Bertagna's biography.
     Bertagna is exploring an interesting subject; what will happen to the world when the polar ice caps melt and land masses shrink significantly.  If humankind does not venture out into the cosmos as suggested in several science fiction novels, movies, and tv shows, how will the human race survive?
     The answer is not all of us will.  But in Bertagna's book, some will survive on the diminished land masses and some will move to new sky cities.  Maya is a land-dweller who lives in a world of limited technology.  The internet as we know it now is in complete disarray and exists as a relic as opposed to an information superhighway.  Still Maya manages to make contact with someone who calls himself Fox, a resident of something called a sky city that no one in Maya's community has ever heard of.  When rising waters force Maya to leave her home with others from her community, they set out in search of the elusive cities.
     Other communities have faced similar problems and had similar ideas though, because when Maya reaches the city with the survivors of her community it is surrounded by a boundary designed to keep out refugees like herself.  Resourceful, determined and driven by grief however, Maya manages to find her way inside the boundary yet still outside the city itself.  I found Bertagna's descriptions of Maya's surroundings to be convoluted, but things became even more confusing when Maya discovers a gang of children without the ability to speak and then a group of tree-dwelling people who have escaped from the sky city.
    The children and the tree-dwellers have vastly unusual names that are jarring to the story.  I'm not sure why living in a tree means you have to have a weird name but it seems to be a prerequiste.  Maya finds out that not only are new people not allowed in the city, the city also takes the homeless children that live below to use for slave labour.  When one of her friends is captured and taken away, Maya feels compelled to do something about it.
     Overall, the story came off as disorganized and, at times, boring.  I didn't connect with Maya as a character, I had problems when she finally meets Fox and seems to fall in love with him overnight and I was confused while trying to understand how the sky cities ran and developed in the first place.  This is the first book in a trilogy though, so it is possible more answers are provided in later books.  The problem is this book did not make me want to read the other ones.
     What I did like wasn't even the main point of the story, it seemed to be an aside point Bertagna was trying to make about how women don't have the opportunity to achieve as much as men because they have children instead.  At the same time, women accomplish more than men because each child born is like giving birth to a living dream.  It's poetic and has truth to it in its own right, but did not contribute to the overall plot or story.
     I expected more from Bertagna, especially with such a thought-provoking preface quote, but I was very disappointed.

Real Life Dystopias:  The exploitation of people against their will is not a new thing.  North America's sordid history of selling Africans into slavery is a prime example.  Al Gore has warned us about the perils of climate change, and one only has to read a Charles Dickens' novel to know how a class system works.
     But to pick up on Bertagna's aside, another dystopia is the disparity between men and women, and the different values put on each sex's accomplishments.  Bertagna raises some good points, why aren't women valued and respected more for their ability to grow and raise the continuing generations of the human race?  And what would women be able to accomplish if they did not feel the ties and responsibilities of family?  However, where would the world be if women didn't feel such ties?

Memorable Quotes: "Now retrack to the dawn of the world's drowning.  Stand at the fragile moment before the devastation begins, and wonder.  Is this where we stand now, right here on the brink?"
     -  Exodus by Julie Bertagna, preface

     "As Broomielaw trails off into thought, Mara remembers what bothered her as she walked through the vast halls of the university, looking at the portraits of the golden names.  There were no dreamswomen.  Apart from the odd mythical figure or queen, not one of the golden names had belonged to a woman.  All the great dreamers had been men.
     Now Mara sees how it could have happened.  The women might have dreamed just as hard - as hard as Broomielaw does now - but their dreams had become all tangled up with the knit of ordinary life, with meal-making and babycare and nest-building.  Yet wasn't precious little Clayslaps more wonderful than anything dreamed up by those golden names?"
     -  Exodus by Julie Bertagna, pg 169

     "'But women grow the living dreams, the human ones,' Gorbals argues.  'A human being is the greatest creation of all.  Each of us is a new living dream.'"
     -  Exodus by Julie Bertagna, pg 175

Author Website:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Summary:  When Jinn and Phyllis recover a bottle floating in space, they discover the written account of Ulysse Mérou, journalist from Earth.  Mérou’s tale describes travelling to a distant sun only to find an orbiting planet very similar to Earth with just one main difference.  On Soror, apes rule the planet and humans are the animals.  Mérou’s and the apes’ worlds are turned upside-down as he struggles to demonstrate his intelligence and sentience in a place where humans are hunted for sport and used for science.  With the help of chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius he just might make it off Soror and back to Earth alive.

Dystopian Issues:  Superior Nature of Man
Part of a Series:  No sequel book, but there are plenty when it comes to the movies
Next in Series:  Return to the Planet of the Apes or Rise of the Planet of the Apes movies
Age of Main Character:  He is an adult
Year of Publication:  1963
Publisher:  The edition I read was published by the Penguin Group Limited in 2001.

Review:  This is my first review (to my knowledge) of a book that has a movie franchise connected to it.  Technically, the book itself is science fiction, while the movie franchise is both dystopian and science fiction.
     In my opinion, all dystopias count as science fiction but not all science fiction can be considered dystopias.  Dystopias are versions of our world, our society, gone wrong.  In Planet of the Apes, the novel, Ulysse and his two friends travel to Soror, another world.  In that world it was perfectly normal for Apes to be the dominant species over man and so it does not technically count as a dystopia.  You have to read the whole book to understand why it made my list.
     There is great beauty in an intriguing, well-expressed idea and Boulle's book was so spell-binding that it inspired seven movies and a tv series.  Watching the original five movies released in the late sixties and the early seventies made me wish I was alive when they came out, even though they grew progressively worse in plot structure and logical storylines.  I hated Tim Burton's remake interpretation that came out in 2001, but loved The Rise of the Planet of the Apes which came out in 2011 and explained how apes grew to be verbal in the first place.
     In terms of writing style, I find Boulle to be dry and philosophical.  The plot moves slowly and the ending is suprising and unsatisfying.  But at the same time, I couldn't stop reading because I was so enamoured by his idea.  What if homosapiens are not "the kings of creation" we consider ourselves to be?  If we expect to be treated with respect and dignity, then shouldn't other species expect to be treated the same way by us as well?
     Sometimes the best way to understand our society is tell a story about a vastly different society and let readers draw their own parallels.  Boulle, whether he intended to or not, does an excellent job of this.  First by writing Planet of the Apes the book which shows us how apes would form a society like ours and how they would treat humans, and second by exploring how humans would treat apes as an increasingly sentient and verbal species through the movie series.  Boulle's work can also be viewed as a commentary on the struggle for all human kind to be considered equal.
     The next Planet of the Apes movie (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is set to come out in 2014.  Can't wait.

Real-Life Dystopias:  I love, love, love in the first and third movies when Zira explains that the medical testing the apes are doing on the humans are as wrong as humans doing medical testing on apes.  Our real-life dystopia is that advancing medical science requires animal testing.  Sometimes on animals that are more sentient than we always realise.  When the situation is twisted around so that the apes are the scientists and the humans are the test subjects, it becomes easier to see how wrong it is.  Unfortunately, at times it is a necessary evil for the sake of perfecting medical procedures and medication to save human lives.

Memorable Quotes:  "Yes, I, one of the kings of creation, started circling round my beauty; I, the ultimate achievement of millenary evolution, in front of this collection of monkeys eagerly watching me, in front of an old orang-outang dictating notes to his secretary, in front of a female chimpanzee smiling with self-satisfaction, in front of a couple of chuckling gorillas; I, a man, excusing myself on the grounds of exceptional cosmic circumstances, and persuading myself for the moment that there exist more things on the planets and in the heavens than human philosophy has ever imagined; I, Ulysse Merou, embarked like a peacock round the gorgeous Nova, on the love display."
     -  Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle, pg 75

     "We were speaking french, for, as I have said, she was quicker to learn my language than I hers.  At the outset there were some difficulties of interpretation, the words 'man' and 'monkey' not evoking the same creatures for us; but this snag was quickly smoothed out.  Each time she said 'monkey,' I mentally translated 'superior being, the height of evolution.'  When she spoke about me, I knew she meant bestial creatures endowed with a certain sense of imitation and presenting a few anatomical similarities to monkeys but of an embryonic psychism and devoid of the power of thought."
     -  Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle, pg 83-84

     "'Above all do be careful not to turn on passers-by or bare your teeth or scratch a trustful child who might come up and pet you.  I don't want to muzzle you but. . . .'
     She stopped short and burst out laughing.
     'Forgive me, forgive me!'  she cried.  'I keep forgetting you have a mind like a monkey."
     - Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle, pg 89

Author Web Site:  Pierre Boulle died in 1994 and does not have an official web page.  So I'm including the link to his Wikipedia page instead.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle

Summary:  13 year-old Martin lives in a dome where babies are advertised on television and delivered by storks, window decals mark the changing of seasons and no one is allowed to ask questions.  When Martin’s six year-old sister Cassie is recalled along with all the other kids in the dome aged six and under, Martin is the only one who seems to care.  His love, loyalty, and curiosity, along with his faithful Alldog, Chip, lead him on a dangerous journey to find his sister and discover the truth behind the world he lives in.

Dystopian Issues:  Totalitarian Government, Eugenics
Part of a Series: Yes
Next in Series:  The Walls Have Eyes
Age of Main Character: 13
Number of Pages:  229
Year of Publication:  2008
Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Review:  There are so many things I love about this book.
     First, the characters.  Martin, a smart, caring thirteen year-old who promises his sister he will find her when she is taken away and does everything he can to keep his promise.  Cassie, the extremely precocious six year-old who wants to know the why behind everything and loves her older brother deeply.  And Chip, the faithful Alldog who will do anything to win Martin's affection and help him out.
     I loved specific things like when Cassie is describing an updated version of Peter Pan to her family, and how Chip, as a robot contained by a jelly-like substance, has the ability to morph into pretty much whatever Martin needs and get him into secure places.  I also love the part where Martin's friends hack a zombie video game to merge it with a SimCity type game and have the zombies take over the frightened Sims. 
     Dunkle pulls together elements from Stephen King's The Running Man (book and film versions), George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and her own unique ideas to create a world where everyone is being watched and controlled to be good consumers and sheep.  Her attention to detail and love of her characters makes this book a joy to read and not depressing, even though it contains serious dystopian issues such as living with a totalitarian government and using eugenics to create the younger generations.
     The Sky Inside feels like a cautionary tale about the dangers of designer babies and believing propaganda.  Dunkle explores what would happen to society if babies were bred in labs with specific characteristics that are not valued by a totalitarian government.  Talk about using the system to subvert the system!
     Ultimately though, this book is a moving story about the bond between a brother and his sister, and his unwillingness to simply accept that her recall is the best solution.  Martin isn't out to fix society, just save the people that he loves.
     At the end of this book I have just one thing to say.  I want to be a fourteen.

Real-Life Dystopia:  I've been reading Eugenics by David Galton and am fascinated by the increasing role eugenics is playing in our society.  Eugenics is used in in-vitro fertilization to ensure a fetus without a genetically inherited disease is implanted in its mother.  Unfortunately, eugenics has the ability to be misused quite easily, as in the case of Nazi Germany's ideas of exterminating the Jews and in India and China where ultrasounds that determine the baby's sex often lead to the abortion of female fetuses.

Memorable Quotes: "It was the distance that fascinated him first.  After a lifetime of living with a steel ceiling and a concrete floor, the vastness of the living landscape was like a drug.  He stood on the top of a hill, a concept he had known before from sandbox games, but this hill was an enormous thing, and the ground fell gradually from it for a long, long way.  The ground below the hill wasn't flat either.  It undulated, rising in curves and falling in scoops.  Off to his left, high hills like a fence seemed ready to blockade the clouds themselves."
     -  The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle, pg 144-145

     "The trees straggled down a nearby ridge and spilled into the field, like a crowd of people who had followed two or three leaders.
     Martin stood in their shade, put his hands into the ribs their bark, and felt wonder deep in his heart.  They were not tall and powerful like the I beans that ribbed the steel dome, but their branches swayed, and their leaves rustled in the wind.  He could tell that they were alive."
     -  The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle, pg 148

Author Web Site: