Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Category: 45. Read a book labelled as a Satire or Allegory
This is almost certainly my favourite book of this year. Way back at the start of the year I read 1984 and quite enjoyed it, but The Circle is like the modern version of 1984 as far as I’m concerned.
The basic idea of The Circle is a company that is slowly taking over the world with technological advancements that take away privacy in a way that is both believable and subtle to those experiencing it.
Mae is the main character and we meet her on her first day working at the Circle. The job she starts in sounds a lot like my worst nightmare but that’s not really the point. We get to watch Mae as she slowly gains more screens and responsibilities until it seems like she couldn’t possibly have enough hours in the day to get it all done. We also watch as she slowly gives up her privacy to become part of The Circle.
I won’t spoil this much more, but don’t take the reviews of the movie as a reflection of the book.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian
Category: 10. Read a book labelled as young adult
Date Started: September 5th 2017
Date Finished: September 13th 2017
Set in the same world as Bacugalupi’s earlier book The Windup Girl, this novel is the first in a series aimed at young adults. Taking us back to America somewhere around New Orleans we get to explore the world of ship breaking through young Nailer’s eyes.
His job is dangerous. He crawls through the innards of big old ships, the kind we’re used to seeing photos of today huge iron ships that haul cargo all over the world. His job is to pull them apart though, just the small bits, copper wiring and such, then the so called heavy crew will come in and pull the ship itself apart.
One day he almost dies but he doesn’t, so he becomes known as Lucky Boy. Then he really does get lucky when a storm shipwrecks one of the new clipper ships just off shore and he is the first one to find it. There’s more wealth than he’s ever seen before. And then he finds something else that changes everything. Maybe he could even get out of this place and make it somewhere better.
Unlike the Bangkok we saw in the Windup Girl, New Orleans is completely underwater aside from the occcasional tip of a high rise building to be seen at low tide. Nailer and everyone he knows survives in tiny huts along the beach and everyone he knows works on the ships. He can only dream of what’s away from there. He dreams about the clipper ships that they see in the distance and wishes he was on one but his little corner of America has been forgotten by the rest of the world.
Rating: 4/5 stars (definitely be reading the other books in the series)
Title: The Windup Girl
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Science Fiction
Category: 35. Read a book labelled as dystopian
Date Started: August 1st 2017
Date Finished: August 15th 2017
So this is the second book by this author I’ve read this year and the two books really couldn’t be much different if they tried. At least on the surface. This is actually the first novel he released way back in 2008. His novel Shipbreaker released in 2009 is kind of a companion book to this one aimed at a slightly younger audience. But it’s only when you consider these two in conjunction with his more recent novel The Doubt Factory that many similarities begin to emerge.
The Windup Girl (and Shipbreaker) are set in the not too distant future in a world that has suffered from both a rise in sea level leaving many major cities submerged, partially submerged or in the case on Bangkok (pictured above) surrounded by a huge sea wall. But this is only the start of the world’s problems. In bioengineering food horrible diseases have emerged killing many people and leaving many starving as well as many species of fruit and vegetables completely removed from the ecosystem.
The novel follows a white man in Bangkok trying to get access to the Thai seedbank under the guise of a factory owner. The novel switches between his story and that of his Chinese assistant, as well as government officials and a windup girl from Japan. A windup girl is essentially an engineered human who is highly prized in Japan but not so much in the streets of Bangkok where it is a struggle just to survive.
Slowly the stories of the characters converge leading to a huge climax. Though for me it was not the story that was a s compelling as the setting. Beyond the bioengineering and sea level rise there is also a huge step backwards in technology with the characters relying not on cars or fossil fuels but on the burning of calories. Though you’ll still see guns and ships as well as factories all of it is powered by people or animals rather than the traditional fossil fuels.
But to step back to the Doubt Factory and the similarities between the two. Doubt Factory took place in a society almost identical to our own but explored the dangers of huge companies telling lies to consumers and hiding behind ‘doubts’. For me, and I have to assume for Bacugalupi as well, this is like a precursor to the world we’re introduced to in the Windup Girl and Shipbreaker. What could happen if we don’t question companies and governments and engage with the world we live in as a whole. In essence, Bacigalupi’s works are a call for all of us to take responsibility for how we live and what our ambivalence could do to the world for our children and grandchildren.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Title: The Girl With All the Gifts Year: 2016
Director: Colm McCarthy
Date Watched: March 3, 2017
Category: A book adaptation
Let me start off by saying that if you have not read this book then go get it right now and read it. It’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. Oddly enough, I picked up the book originally because I saw a trailer for the movie and thought it looked very cool. I was not disappointed by either the book or the movie.
The story is that of Melanie who lives in a post apocalyptic society, the movie doesn’t specify but from memory it begins outside of London with the group eventually travelling through London. It’s unclear exactly how old Melanie is but my guess would be around 12, and she’s never known anything outside of cell, corridor and school room that she grown up in. Her and the other children live a life full of routine, transit, school, and food in the bathroom on Sundays.
But what happens when Melanie finds herself outside? What happens when she begins to realise what she is? What happens when she tastes human blood for the first time?
That is the story that get to see here. While the film is not quite as complex as the book and some parts are omitted or altered (such as food being given in their cells rather than in the bathroom), it is still a well crafted film. While there are changes, I would argue that in this case they do not detract from the story or omit anything of too much importance.
I don’t want to ruin too much of what happens but I will say that the acting is incredible from the well established Glenn Close to the young Sennia Nanua as Melanie. It’s a bit dark and a little graphic in places but the scenery is beautiful and it’s well worth the watch if you’re at all interested in post apocalypse films.
Rating: 4/5 stars