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Book Review: This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Series, #3)

December 9, 2014 1 comment

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Series, #3)Summary:
Miranda and her mother and brothers have barely survived the long winter that came right after the moon was knocked out of orbit by an asteroid, bringing an apocalypse.  She’s been wondering for months what happened to her father and his pregnant new wife.  She’s thrilled when they show up on the doorstep when her newborn half brother, but she’s not so sure about the three extra people they’ve brought with them — an adult man and a teenage boy and his little sister.

Review:
The third book in this series reverts back to the Miranda’s journal format of the first.  While I appreciate bringing the diverse characters from the first two books in the series together, the use of Miranda’s journal exclusively in telling the story renders the tale a bit less interesting and strong than it could have been.

It should come as no surprise that a YA series featuring a girl in the first book and a boy in the second will bring the two together in the third.  I must admit that although when I finished the first book I was very eager to read more about Miranda, when I finished the second I was intrigued at the idea of a series that saw the same apocalypse lived out in different places by different people throughout.  That said, getting to know the extensive background of the love interest is appreciated and different but it is a bit jarring to go back to Miranda’s diary after getting to know Alex so thoroughly in the second book.  The book could have been much more powerful if Miranda’s journals were interspersed with chapters from Alex’s perspective.  Getting this perspective would have helped make their love seem more real, as opposed to just convenient.  (Alex is the only teenage boy Miranda has seen in a year).  Additionally, in spite of Miranda falling for Alex so fast, he mostly comes across as cold and overly religious in this book, whereas in his own book he was much more empathetic.  Certainly the need for survival will make him come across stern, and we know that Alex has a tendency to say important things in Spanish, which Miranda cannot understand.  Both of these facts means it would have worked much better to have alternating perspectives, rather than just Miranda’s.

The plot, with the exception of the instant love between Alex and Miranda, is good.  It brings everyone into one place in a way that seems natural.  The addition of new characters also breathes new life into Miranda’s situation.  Plus, Pfeffer does a good job of forcing the family out of their stasis in the home, something that both makes logical sense (these people were not preppers, they are not equipped to stay in their home forever in the apocalypse) and also keeps the plot interesting (one can only read about people holed up in a house for so long).  The plot developments also make more sense, scientifically, than in the previous books.

Religion is handled less smoothly here than in the previous two books.  Everyone but Miranda’s mother and Miranda has church on Sunday (Protestant or Catholic), and Miranda doesn’t have enough of a reaction to or thoughts about this.  She doesn’t really think about faith or spirituality.  Church is just something some other people do.  This is unrealistic.  A teen who has just gone through a disaster and sees her father suddenly take up faith would definitely at the very least have some questions.  Given that Alex has a very strong faith and they are interested in each other, one would think they would have some conversations about religion that go beyond whether or not they can have sex before they get married, yet they don’t.  The first two books sets a great stage to talk about faith in its many forms, as well as lack of faith, yet the book backs away from actually tackling this issue.  If it had, it would have offered something truly thought-provoking in the read.  Instead it’s a post-apocalyptic survivor romance.  Not a bad thing but not what I was expecting based on the first two books.

Overall, this is an interesting next entry in the series that brings Miranda and Alex back to the readers and moves the plot forward.  However, it dances around the issue of faith vs. lack of faith brought up in the first two books, eliminates Alex’s voice from the story, and suffers from some instant romance.  Those already invested in the series will still enjoy seeing what happens to Alex and Miranda, although skimming for plot points is recommended.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Previous Books in Series:
Life As We Knew It, review
The Dead and The Gone, review

Book Review: Feed by M. T. Anderson

June 15, 2010 1 comment

Back of a bald man's head.Summary:
Titus is your typical teenager of future America.  He lives in a suburb where his parents program the weather.  He drives an upcar.  He’s got a feed–a microchip in his brain that allows him to chat silently with people, shop, look up anything he wants to know more about, etc…  He’s also got a lesion, but a lot of people have those now.  He is quite ordinary.  But he meets a girl on a trip to the moon who is anything but ordinary.  A girl who got the feed late and dares to question it.

Review:
This book has a great concept, essentially exploring what the world would be like if twitter was implanted into our brains.  This is rather extraordinary given that twitter didn’t even exist yet when Anderson wrote it.  It explores losing our individuality to machines and consumerism.  Ceasing to care about important information due to being bombarded by inane information at all hours of the day.  I just wish Anderson had taken this concept a different direction.

I immediately connected with Violet, the girl Titus meets on the moon.  She’s quirky, is homeschooled, and really is a bit of a nerd who just wants a chance to try out hanging out with the popular kids and doing what they do.  Titus is a complete and total asshole to her.  I suppose I could forgive him for that if he showed that he learned anything from coming into contact with a person as powerful as Violet, but he doesn’t.  He ditches her when she needs him most because she’s making him uncomfortable.  He wants to stay in the cocoon of his feed-driven life, and nothing she does or says can change that.  He clearly goes from girl to girl, using them up like paper towels or tissues, and then on to the next one.  Maybe that was Anderson’s point–that the feed has dehumanized the people who have it–but it made for a less powerful book than if Titus had learned something. Anything.

Similarly some questions just aren’t answered simply because Titus doesn’t care, so we aren’t allowed to know.  In particular the lesions are set up as some sinister mystery, but then we never find out why they are occurring.  Nobody even really speculates as to why they’re showing up.  They’re just there.  I seriously doubt there’d be zero speculation over such a phenomenon, even in a future where people are obsessed with consumerism.

Overall, the concept and writing on a sentence level are good, but the story as a whole left me feeling empty and disappointed.  There’s telling a bleak story, and then there’s telling a story that’s sympathetic to a jerkwad.  This is the latter.  If that type of story is something you enjoy, you will enjoy this book.  Everyone else should look elsewhere, perhaps to The Hunger Games if you’re looking for a YA dystopia.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Swaptree

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Movie Review: Moon (2009)

February 1, 2010 6 comments

Man in space suit holding helmet in front of a circle.Summary:
In the near future, a corporation has figured out how to harvest energy from the sun via a station on the the moon.  Sam Bell accepted a 3 year post as the sole human being in the station.  His only company is Gerty, a computer who is faceless save an emoticon that expresses the emotions behind his statements.  It starts to look like three years may have been too long of a stint for Sam.  Is he going crazy or is there something more sinister at work?

Review:
This movie largely consists of just one actor performing–Sam Rockwell, who plays Sam Bell.  This is not an easy task to pull off while maintaining audience interest, and he does a wonderful job.  Kevin Spacey, who voices Gerty, strikes just the right combination of mechanical and human sounding vocalizations.  He does a splendid job being creepy.

The concept of a future where one corporation provides most of the energy used by the planet is a great scifi concept to base a film on.  The technology and sociology necessary for this to occur are both believable enough that not too much effort is needed to suspend disbelief.  On the other hand, the movie never really explains how exactly the energy is harvested.  This struck me as a moderately important plot element to be missing.

The special effects were surprisingly good for a low budget film such as this.  In fact, I kept forgetting that it wasn’t a big blockbuster release.

I can’t say too much more without ruining the movie for you.  I will tell you that at first I thought it was just average, but then I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after watching it.  Particularly when I saw a bus with an emoticon on it that looked just like Gerty’s.  I love it when a movie affects you in a sneak attack way, and I highly recommend Moon if you enjoy scifi or thought provoking films.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Redbox

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