One of my favorite things in sci-fi is the question of what it means to be human, and when do machines cross that line into being truly alive, capable of free will, of questioning their makers, of wanting to be a part of this thing called “life”. “Urban Heroes” leans hard into that question and I love it. You have the main character, Calista, who is on the run from the uprising between man and machine she was accidentally a part of. Calista is a pilot, which means she has an almost symbiotic relationship with her ship all for the low, low price of trading her arm for a robotic one. Calista runs in with people who have more machine parts then actual machines, and yet they are offered more rights than the true robotic AI populating their world. Which is occupied by floating cities now that the world has kind of crumbled away, or something. With Calista is Axton, who pretty much everyone and their mother wants to get their hands on. Why? That is slowly teased out over the course of this very short book, and I loved the tragedy that was Calista and Axton. This book makes you think, question what is truly alive, breaks your heart, and leaves you wanting more. Maybe too much more?
I am not the biggest reader of dystopian novels, or at least, pure dystopian. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read anything in the genre mainly because I haven’t seen a lot of exciting things done in it. But, behold! Allow me to introduce you to “Reactive” and Tatum City! The world our MC, Lune, occupies has been destroyed—nuclear fallout is kind of what is alluded to but I'm not sure. Strange beasts roam the wilds, and safety can only be found in the walled cities. But some cities are far from safe. Lune is kidnapped from her loving mother, and given to the leader of Tatum City where she is constantly beaten, as everyone around her tries to break her spirit. But that never stops Lune from going for the one thing she wants more than anything else: to be reunited with her mother who she hasn’t seen for 11 years. The only way to do that is to win the three deadly Trials. Winning just one Trial means you get the right to have a better job, and additional benefits for your family, but winning all three means you are given a boon of your choosing, and Lune would do anything to win and choose her freedom. Well, almost anything.
Ok guys, I need you to suspend some disbelief with me real quick as I introduce you to this incredibly topical, but also incredibly quirky book. Meet “Threshold” the story of Ooolandia (a world like ours but with the extra “o”) where humanoids and animals all work and live together. As in the animals talk and have jobs, but also still function as animals and hunt each other. See what I mean about the quirkiness? But Ooolandia is in trouble. The population has become so fixated on changing nature to do what they want, that they have completely destroyed the ecosystem on their never ending quest for MORE. The only ones to see what the business running Ooolandia is doing is the Department of Nature, run by a monkey and a really smart mouse—more quirkiness! Plagued by what they see, and others don’t, it’s up to them to open the populace’s eyes before it’s too late. Ok so you have these smart, talking animals, plus a lot of mythical creatures, and they are all on a quest that revolves around climate change, and trying to get the people who deny what’s going on to see how everyone is connected. See how relevant that subject is to our current world? Honestly, this book shouldn’t have worked, but it does! It so, so does!
“An Honest Policy” is a satirical commentary on the American voting system that was inspired by Reddits’ Writing Prompts boards. It’s a quick novella full of snarky wit, humor and an eldritch god-like entity who has decided he—it?—has had enough of the lies and the extremes of the political parties. Qym—the god’s name is much longer, so hopefully he doesn’t kill me for the abbreviation—is running on one very honest and straight forward policy: if elected president, he will murder everyone. No foreign policies, no questions on healthcare or family values, everyone will be equally dead. Tom, the Conservative extreme-esque opponent to Qym and a seasoned politician, has only ever lied to people. He’s only ever done and pandered to who and what is necessary in order to achieve his political goals, including having a fake family. Tom may not be honest, but he’s also not promising murder, so he’s pretty caught off guard when he starts losing to this ancient deity, and badly. So the question becomes if Tom can win and “save” America, but really, the story’s focus is on the circus that is politics and the echo chamber that prime time media allows us to fall into. The commentary is not subtle, no “side” is right, no one is good. It’s frustrating, but very entertaining, and unnervingly close to home—minus the murderous god thing, of course.
“Zone 23” is, quite frankly, unlike any other dystopian novel I have ever read. Written as a satirical version of utopia, this novel follows two, well, mostly two, people who are having their eyes opened, their thoughts expanded, and are seeing the world for what it truly is—maybe—for the first time in their lives, or at least a very long time. We follow Taylor who lives out in the Zone, outcast from society as he is deemed undesirable (more on that in a minute) and Valentina, who just so desperately wants to be Normal and to have a Normal baby and to live her Normal life—there is a reason for the caps. The narrative voice of this novel is just wonderful and, really, that’s what you’d read this book for: Hopkins satirical narration. Because otherwise the plot of this book is pretty simplistic and wouldn’t necessitate the 500 pages it takes to complete this story. However, this is an EXTREMELY good read, albeit a difficult one.
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