When Nick Guan is 11 years old, everyone in the world loses their hair overnight. What comes to be called the Great Baldification marks the beginning of a massive wave of change in every aspect of life, from personal relationships … Continue reading
NEVER LET ME GO
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Paperback; 288 pages
Growing up at an English residential school called Hailsham, Kathy and her classmates are told that they’re special, that they will have an important role to play later in life. However, dark rumors and half-understood offhand remarks lurk beneath the surface of their idyllic childhood. As Kathy, her friends Ruth and Tommy, and the rest of the ubiquitous cliques grow up in their sheltered environment, the prospect of the “donations” they will someday face is always faintly present in the background of their lessons.
Now an adult, reunited with Tommy and Ruth many years after leaving school, Kathy reflects on their time at Hailsham. She remembers the odd incidents, complex childhood politics, friendships and rivalries, and questions about their future and the importance of the art the students constantly create. Knowing, now, the truth about what awaits the students after they leave the school, she questions the way they were brought up: the withholding of information and the subtle allusions. Continue reading
by Mary Doria Russell
Paperback; 364 pages
In 2019, a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up a transmission that confirms the existence of extra terrestrial life. The otherworldy music is coming from a planet near Alpha Centauri, which comes to be called Rakhat. Secretly, the Society of Jesus launches an expedition to Rakhat to make the first contact with the Singers.
A team of eight, both Jesuits and non-Jesuits, land on Rakhat and make contact with a village of peaceful vegetarian Runa, who allow the aliens from Earth into their society. The explorers are fascinated by the culture they have found, although they quickly learn that the Runa are not the ones who made the music transmitted to Earth; the music came from a larger city populated by the Jana’ata, a group the Runa seem to fear. Eventually, the explorers make contact with the Jana’ata, but they unwittingly cause a lot of damage between the two dominating species because of their inability to fully grasp the complex societal structure on Rakhat.
THE WORD EXCHANGE
by Alena Graedon
Doubleday; April 8, 2014
Hardcover; 384 pages
Source: Received from publisher for review
Set about a decade in the future, The Word Exchange portrays a world in which paper books and newspapers are a thing of the past, libraries and bookstores have shuttered their doors, and most people rely on handheld Memes for everything from communicating with friends to ordering food in restaurants to looking up hard-to-place words in conversation.
Our story opens shortly before the launch of the third edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), which will be the last edition to be published in print. Ana works for the Dictionary under the direction of her father Doug, its Editor in Chief. The third edition has been his life’s work, and its publication will be the triumph of his career. However, one night Doug vanishes from the NADEL office, leaving a single written clue for Ana to find: the word “Alice,” a code word they had agreed to use if either of them were in trouble. Continue reading
THE HANDMAID’S TALE
by Margaret Atwood
Anchor Books, 1998
(Originally published 1986)
Paperback, 311 pages
I’ve written briefly about this book before, but after re-reading it with Rebecca of Love at First Book recently, I decided to dedicate a full-length post to The Handmaid’s Tale, which has become one of my absolute favorite books.
This novel, a dystopian piece of speculative fiction, takes place in a not-so-distant future in which an extreme right-wing Christian faction has taken over the U.S. government and drastically re-shaped society. In a cunning — and scarily realistic — maneuver, they infiltrate the government and quietly take power during a moment of national crisis. They then proceed to impose patriarchal, Biblical law upon the people of the new Republic of Gilead and take away women’s rights to employment and property. Continue reading
Looking back over my list of books read this year, I realized that there are quite a few books that I read and loved but, for whatever reason, did not review. I would hate to end the year without saying anything about these books, so I’ve written a small series of posts containing mini reviews of some of the books I didn’t write about in depth this year. This post includes mini reviews of books written by and about women.
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht When Natalia, a doctor, finds out that her grandfather has just died in a village near the war-torn Balkan town where she is temporarily working, she sets out to discover the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. She looks to the stories he told her of the Deathless Man for answers and discovers the story he never told her: the story of the Tiger’s Wife. This novel is deeply rooted in the Balkan story-telling tradition, and I loved the folklore aspect. Similar to magical realism, The Tiger’s Wife blurs the lines between myth and reality. I thought the writing was lovely and the story was intriguing. I look forward to reading whatever Obreht writes next! Continue reading