Review: 1984

This month I read 1984 by George Orwell for the Eclectic Reader Challenge, and let me tell you, it was some heavy reading.  I’m sure much of the ideological and political commentary went straight over my head, but I think I understood enough of it to at least give you a rough review.  Do understand that I cannot fully speak my mind about this book without spoilers.  Be warned.

Also, I do really hate to cut off posts like this, and I know I’ve been doing it a lot lately, but this is a super long post so I’m going to go ahead and do it. Continue reading

Citizen: Part 1

This is the beginning of that short story I wrote for a recent contest run through Scholastic (I’m still waiting on the results front).  I figured I’d share it on here, since I did make that whole category for stuff I write and there’s barely anything there.  Since this story is sort of long, though, I’m going to cut it down into multiple parts released once a week until we get through it all.

While I’m on the subject, I apologize for not posting yesterday.  I was doing a thing in a place and therefore had neither the time nor the Internet connection to write something suitably witty.

The prompt for this was to write a “dystopian story that depicts a terrifying future”. I don’t know about terrifying, per se, but I think I succeeded at creepy.  You’ll see what I mean.

Please remember that I had to fit the entirety of this story onto four pages, and so some things that would have made the writing better had to be cut to make it all fit.  I haven’t added anything here, either; what you see is what the contest people got.  Therefore, it’s not my best work, but it’s also not my worst, so I’m pretty proud of it, all told.

I hope you like it.

Continue reading

Is This A Kissing Book?

Readers, I’m proud today to be kicking off this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  Honoring Valentine’s Day and Cupid and whatnot, this time around the theme is:

What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre?  Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?

I’m not sure if I really have a typical genre, but I suppose lately the majority of what I’ve been writing is dystopian (yes, technically a subgenre, but you can’t expect me to simply call it sci-fi when dystopia is barely that).  Ah, yes, Dystopia, Land of the Love Triangles.  With such hits as The Hunger Games and Matched featuring this particular shape, it’s no wonder I’m perfectly okay with a bit of romance in my reading.  Even novels in this category that don’t favor three sides to their relationships have some sort of love story mixed into the plot.

Love is sort of hard to avoid in the future, it seems.

Writing is much the same.  When I write something like this, sure, I’ll have some romance here and there.  It’s my opinion that every great book has at least some such aspect to it.  However, just as The Hunger Games leaves its share of infatuations in the background in order to focus on the larger plot at hand, a dystopia shouldn’t just be about the kissing.  A dystopian novel, almost by definition, is about a group of oppressed people making a stand against a corrupt and unlawful society.  It’s about fighting back and being strong in the face of adversity.  It does not leave room for the main characters to be obsessing over whether their crush is going to call them or not.

Readers, this is something that must be kept in the right balance in order for it to work.  I understand that in stories, people do find each other, and yes, maybe they fall in love.  That’s okay.  A lot of times it might even be better for the overall arc of the story to put that in there.  In dystopia, though, the romance angle must be kept backseat to the larger plot, which is of course fighting aforementioned corruption.  That’s how I try to write my dystopias.

Of course, that being said, I should probably address the preferred geometric state of my characters’ love lives.  As attractive as it may seem to include one to mix up the plot a little, love triangles are a bit overdone in my opinion.  I mean, essentially they were run into the ground by the whole Twilight/Teams thing, and although that’s not even in the same genre as dystopia, it seems to me that any book today featuring a triangle will inevitably be compared with the Saga. (For more of my opinion on love triangles and Teams, see this post.)  Sure, I’ve considered a love triangle, but to actually put one in my writing would require a lot more thought and planning in order to make it seem somehow different from all the other ones out there.

I mean, really?

In the end, though, this post isn’t about triangles.  This is about how much love and romance and such I like in my dystopian writing in general.  My verdict is this: it’s all right when doled out in small portions.  Even in a terrifying future, people can get together and break up and marry each other.  However, dystopia should very rarely, if ever, feature this in the forefront.  That’s the job of the action and politics that form the core of this genre.

Most of that isn’t a problem for me, since I’m not what you’d call a romantic type.  I’m in no way a poster child (poster writer?) for a Valentine’s Day-type novel.  I do find it interesting, though, that our society seems to think that romance must be in any book that’s halfway good.  What if writers of this genre moved away from the relationships?  I’d like to see a dystopian series that has none of that kind of love in it, just to see if the story by itself can still be just as good.  Say, that gives me an idea…

Happy reading.

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What’s Your Favorite Book?

I’m asking, readers, because a few days ago I had a surprising revelation: what does a person’s favorite book, or favorite genre, say about them?  Does it even say anything at all, or is this just a stupid question?  I’m not one to read very deeply into things normally, but the possibilities of this intrigue me.

For example, my favorite genre (or, rather, subgenre) right now is of the post-apocalyptic/dystopian strain.  Don’t even ask me about my favorite book, because I honestly could not tell you.  Anyway, does my current affinity for this genre mean that I’m generally depressed about the direction humanity as a whole is taking?  Or is it that I’m hopeful that no matter how bad things are, there will be someone to stand up for the little guys?  Or maybe this means something entirely different- perhaps it indicates that I’m a bit of a crowd follower, what with the popularity of this subgenre these days.  As with most types of personal interpretation, it can mean just about anything.  Which is why I have to be a bit careful when broaching this subject, especially since I’m not sure any of those possible answers quite fit me.

I do think that a favorite novel can say a lot about a person, though.  After all, the individual who adores Gone With the Wind is going to be a tad different than he who will swear by Ender’s Game.  Someone who likes the action genre may be a bit more outgoing than someone who is more into tech novels.

There are some Web sources that explore this topic in various ways, but I want your opinions, readers.  Which is why, for the first time ever on Novel Journeys, I’m putting a poll in the post, just asking whether you think there’s anything to this personality stuff.  You can always leave a comment if you would like to elaborate on the topic, but in general I think this will be a good way of determining what stock my subscribers (or casual passersby) put in this question of mine.

In other news, I’ve been thinking lately about starting a Goodreads account.  It seems like a good way to get recommendations for new books to read, as well as a way to easily keep track of what I’ve read and what I still want to read, if and when the To-Be-Read pile is eliminated at last.  I’ve been there more than once to see the pages for certain books I’ve received over the holidays, and from what I’ve seen I like the layout of the site.

And so here is my second (and third) question to those of you who use Goodreads or a similar site (like Shelfari): how useful is it in reviewing and finding books?  Are there any good books you found through those sites that you wouldn’t have come across otherwise?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an English paper on Walt Whitman to finish (the research for which is the reason I had that quote from the preface to Leaves of Grass on my About page for a few days).

Happy reading.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to a site where the author outlines all of the major genres and what they might say about their readers.  Enjoy!

I Suppose This Post Isn’t Really About One Specific Thing.

Well, readers, it’s the weekend once more.  To be honest, I don’t really have much to talk about.  If you don’t want to read many hundred words of my babbling about books I’m going to read at some point in the future and books I’m reading now, you should probably just stop here.  I won’t be offended; I promise.

My reading is still slow going until I get onto something new, and I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I want to, so there’s nothing coming down that creative channel.  However, I made a promise both to myself and to you lovely people that I would be writing a post twice a week to the best of my ability to do so, and since I’ve been doing almost nothing all afternoon but streaming Parks & Recreation* on my computer, it is most definitely within my ability to write one today.

First off, I suppose I should hash out a game plan for the next year, seeing as how this is our last shot at actually planning out an entire year until the apocalypse (I’m kidding, everyone).  You remember the Eclectic Reading Challenge, don’t you?  Well, I’ve worked out with my oh-so-clever brain that the number of genres I have to read (twelve) corresponds to the number of months in the year (which is also twelve, wouldn’t you know it).  So, my plan is to read and review one book per month.  January’s book will be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, as per a commenter’s request (just the first one, though; I’m not really in the mood to read a five-book trilogy all at once).

On a related note, did you know the books were based off of a radio series made by the author?  According to Wikipedia, at any rate.  And everyone knows Wikipedia is the best source for factual information.

Moving on.  You can always check out all of the books I’ll be reading for the Challenge up at the page called “The Challenge.”  If you have a book to recommend for me to read next (meaning in February), please, let me know.  Help me make sense of this gigantic stack of books in my room (which will be growing again this week because The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is coming in the mail)(wow, are there a lot of parentheticals in this post).  If you’ve even read this far.  In which case, bonus points to you, good sir or madam!

So, the author's site calls it a "technothriller"...which I suppose is an adequate term.

Last order of business: Omnitopia Dawn, the book I’m hoping to finish quite soon.  I like it a lot, and I think it’s because it’s basically a computer book.  You know the type, with lots of hacker jargon and coding talk.  It’s actually a near-future tale about a World of Warcraft-type online game, in case you need the background.

My main point, though, is that for some reason I love books with lots of technical computer stuff in it.  I’m not sure why, because none of what they’re talking about makes much sense to me.  At the same time, though, I don’t need to understand to understand.  I get the gist of it.  Does that make sense to anyone here?  Another example of this type of book is Evil Genius (which is such a good book, everyone should read it) and, I’m told, Brain Jack, which I bought about a week or so ago but probably won’t get around to for a while. My main point is, do any of you like this subgenre (can I call it that?), readers?  If so, do you feel like you need to understand it, or does it not matter to you?

Well, I think this is a good enough post about nothing at all.  I really do apologize for the lack of actual quality here; apparently the creative side of my brain is taking a sabbatical.  It’s probably from all the Parks & Rec.

Happy reading.

*Speaking of the show, does anyone here watch it?  And if you do, isn’t it AMAZING?!