Tag: Margaret Atwood

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Posted June 2, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Gap of Time by Jeanette WintersonTitle: The Gap of Time (Goodreads)
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
Published: Hogarth, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I have not read many of Shakespeare’s plays. I remember in high school I did do Romeo and Juliet and all I remember is watching the movie. Since starting my reading journey, I have now read Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. Hogarth have announced that they will be releasing modern retellings (they are calling them cover versions) of Shakespeare plays in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his passing. This will be including books by Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson. The first novel in this series is Jeanette Winterson’s interpretation of The Winter’s Tale called The Gap of Time.

I had to read The Gap of Time for book club and I will admit I was nervous, having never read the original play, but was happy to finally check out something by Jeanette Winterson. I am not sure if not reading The Winter’s Tale, put me at a disadvantage but I approached this book as a new story, not knowing what parts are influenced directly from the original text. I noticed many themes of identity, jealousy, forgiveness, parenting, power, race and sexuality but unsure if this was the work of Winterson. I know Jeanette Winterson often explores sexual identity in her novels but that does not mean William Shakespeare did not have an interest in the topic.

I read this book more like a coming of age story, exploring the idea of family in a modern day setting. There are elements of romance but for the most part it was a story of discovery and identity. It was playful (with quotes from Shakespeare in the text) and at times tragic. I think this is a balance that Shakespeare does really well in the plays I have read and Jeanette Winterson seemed to capture this really well in The Gap of Time.

I found this to be an enjoyable novel even if I could not compare it to the original text. I am impressed with Jeanette Winterson but I would be more interested in checking out what she can do without being constrained to a pre-set plot. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Sexing the Cherry are both books I would love to read in the near future. As for the Hogarth cover versions, I am not sure how many I will read. There are some great authors being selected but I think reading the original text beforehand would be a huge advantage. Only problem is, I have a huge reading list already and not sure when I will get a chance to read more Shakespeare.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Posted November 29, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Dystopia / 0 Comments

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodTitle: The Handmaid's Tale (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published: Vintage, 1985
Pages: 324
Genres: Classic, Dystopia
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Most people would be familiar with Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale; a Christian totalitarian theocracy has overthrown the US government and are controlling reproduction. Set in the not so distant future, this dystopian society serves as a platform for Margaret Atwood to explore some real issues. Written in 1985, it is surprising to think that these themes and issues are still relevant thirty years later.

When I read this novel about four years ago, I think I missed the point, saying “I felt like Margaret Atwood spent too much time trying to explain the dystopian world in which The Handmaid’s Tale is set rather than the story itself.” I obviously was reading this book for its plot rather than trying to understand what Atwood wanted to say. To be fair I recognised this, citing “I understand she was trying to create a world that was a metaphor of a totalitarian society and explore the issue of women’s right” but even that makes me sound naive or stupid. One reason I like rereading books is for the fact that it shows me how much I have improved as a reader. I gave The Handmaid’s Tale three stars when I read it in 2011, but it is now clear to me that this is a brilliant novel and needs a much higher rating.

Looking at this dystopian society; the government wants control over reproduction. To do this, women become a political tool, rather than humans. This government was created due to a dramatic decrease in birth rates. Women become the property of their husband or the state. Women are not allowed to vote, have jobs, read or anything else that might make them have individual thoughts.

“There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore, not officially. There are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that’s the law.”

This one quote really summed up this novel for me; the whole idea that women are only useful for one thing. Women are considered subhuman and their only use involves their ovaries and womb. Even the main character, Offred reflects in one scene that her body was an instrument of passion and desire but now she has only one purpose; reproduction. She does not consider it rape, because she signed up to be a Handmaid; but what other choice did she have? In fact rape is severely punished and the government believes the women are protected. Yet would it not be considered rape if we take away the women’s rights, including their right to give consent?

There are many layers that could be explored within The Handmaid’s Tale, I would like to explore the novel deeper. I think looking at this book from a religious angle would be interesting as well, and I think I will need to give it a reread before considering that. I am glad to give this book another go; rereading this was eye opening and really highlighted just how much I have grown. One thing I found humorous was that Margaret Atwood set this book in the United States of America and references escaping to safety in Canada. This is an iconic novel and Atwood is an author well worth exploring; having said that, I have only read The Handmaid’s Tale and the MaddAddam trilogy. Lucky for me, I have so many more Margaret Atwood novels to explore.


Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Posted October 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

Station Eleven by Emily St John MandelTitle: Station Eleven (Goodreads)
Author: Emily St John Mandel
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2014
Pages: 333
Genres: Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Emily St John Mandel’s new novel Station Eleven begins with a performance of King Lear; everything was going smoothly until the lead actor Arthur Leander dies on stage. A new strand of the flu known as the Georgia Flu sweeps the world. It “exploded like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth” and wiped out 99% of humanity. This all happens in the first 30 pages, the rest of the novel focuses on a group of performers known as The Travelling Symphony, who travel America putting on Shakespeare plays to those surviving colonies.

The post-apocalyptic novel has been a popular topic over the past few years. There are millions of YA novels on the topic and in the world of literary fiction it books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Passage by Justin Cronin and the Maddaddam series by Margaret Atwood dominate. Recently I have read some post-apocalyptic novels that have failed to satisfy me in the way that books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy had in the past. Both California by Edan Lepucki and On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee had potential but just did not get there. Luckily Emily St John Mandel was there to restore my faith in the literary post-apocalyptic genre.

What I look for in a post-apocalyptic can be difficult to pin point. I want a dark but glittering novel that is both intelligent and audacious. It needs to do something that is different so it will be set apart from others. Station Eleven did this for me; this is not a novel about the aftermath of a global pandemic, this is about the power and importance of art. Not so much the survival of art but the importance it plays on a more personal level.

Mandel wrote a roving novel that follows a group of people struggling with life in a desolate time. This is a stylistic and complex novel told in a non-linear way to explore both the present struggles like the rarity of food and water and the disappearance of all technology. This is an exploration into individuals rather than a collective destiny. Each character has their own story to tell and the non-linear format allows their backstory to be told. They are struggling with memories, loss, nostalgia, solitude and yearning from some stability.

Canadian author Emily St John Mandel is one of those authors that receives high praises for her novels but still manages to fly mostly under-the-radar. I hate to use this term, but with all the praise from other authors she comes across as a ‘writer for writers’. Based on my experience of her writing from Station Eleven this a sad situation, her skills deserve to be realised by the reading public.

I am glad I picked up this novel; I was a little hesitant but I had heard so much about Emily St John Mandel that I just had to find out for myself. To begin with the story of Shakespearian actors was what made this different but I soon found the haunting and complex plot  full of subtleties that worked in the books favour. I am still hesitant of all the new post-apocalyptic novels to come but now I know not to overlook Emily St John Mandel in the future.


Monthly Review – December 2013

Posted December 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

and then there were noneThis is the end of 2013 and what a great year we have had. Let’s have a quick look back at the year for the book club on Goodreads and our books of the months. For me some of the highlights included; The Bell Jar, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Lolita, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, The Fault in our Stars and The Shadow of the Wind. We seem to consistently get great books to read, including this month’s book And Then There Were None. I wasn’t sure what to expect, this was my first Agatha Christie and while I had some issues, I will read her again.

Next month we are reading an espionage novel, which will be Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. I’ve read this novel and really enjoyed it, so I’m excited to see what others think; the movie is pretty great too. I hope everyone had a great holiday period and look forward to the great things to come in 2014. If you’re not aware, the book discussion and everything else will be happening over on the Goodreads forums, so feel free to join in there.

This has also been a great year for this blog too, which spawned last year from the Goodreads book club. I originally hoped this would be a source for all things book club related but turned into a book journal of my life as a literary explorer. I’m glad it did turn into what it is today; I’ve had so much fun book blogging and sharing my bookish thoughts. For my favourite books of 2013, check out the post but I wanted to share some of my favourite posts.

As always this month lead me to discover some great books including The Explorer and The Echo by James Smythe, Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood, Careless People by Sarah Churchwell and a reread of Frankenstein. I thought maybe James Smythe (he made my top books of 2013 list twice) or even Frankenstein would be the highlights of the month but it was actually a non-fiction book; 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. It’s only a collection of letters between a book lover and a second-hand book store but for any book lover, it reads like a love letter to books.

Read More


Maddaddam by Margret Atwood

Posted December 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 2 Comments

Maddaddam by Margret AtwoodTitle: Maddaddam (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #3
Published: Bloomsbury, 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

A man-made plague has swept across the earth and wiped out most of humanity. Few survived, along with the Crakers (a new bio-engineered species). There may not be much hope for humans to survive but the Crakers have a chance. Toby and Zeb tell the story of just what happens next, in the conclusion of this great epic post-apocalyptic trilogy.

This is the final instalment in the Maddaddam story; a trilogy that I binge read over the past few months. Just a quick recap; Oryx and Crake tell the story of these two as well as Snowman, the destruction of the world and the creation of the Crakers. At the same time The Year of the Flood tells the story of Toby and The Gardeners (a religious cult). Those two books run in parallel and lead us to Maddaddam, where the two stories meet.

I’m not too sure how I feel about the final novel in this trilogy. On one hand this is a rather upbeat finale that ties everything up into a nice little bow and on the other, I much prefer bleak and I feel this novel was unnecessary. Not to say it was bad but both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood worked well as standalone novels, they both interconnect but you could probably read one or the other without confusion. When it comes to Maddaddam you really do need to have read the first two books, there is a “previously on the Maddaddam trilogy” moment at the start of the book but this is a novel to fill in the gaps. I don’t mind gaps, I like leaving questions unanswered but I can understand why Margret Atwood would choose to wrap things up.

Maddaddam is a novel about renewal Oryx and Crake focuses on the destructive nature of science, and The Year of the Flood looked at religious fanaticism; I’m a little surprised this book was more positive. Atwood writes really thought provoking novels and Maddaddam is no different, though this does feel more optimistic. This novel focuses heavily on science and politics, two of Margret Atwood’s favourite topics and she does leave the reader with plenty to think about.

One thing I found in this novel that surprised me was the dark humour; I don’t remember Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood being this funny. The dark post-apocalyptic themes were evident within this book, I was just thrown by the outlook and ending; it felt almost joyous. In the end it did wrap up the series in a nice way, despite my feelings toward this novel, it was a great read and the whole series is worth checking out.


What Books Have Been Trending – July-September 2013

Posted September 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book Trends / 0 Comments

Hard to believe the year is almost over and it’s time for a quarterly post that I really enjoy doing. There are always great books out there and I love to just highlight some books that seemed to have been trending in different circles for the past three months. Like always this is not accurate, I had to use my own judgement to culling most books so we can cover more genres.

July

The White Princess opens as the news of the Battle of Bosworth is brought to Princess Elizabeth of York, who will learn not only which rival royal house has triumphed, Tudor or York, but also which suitor she must marry: Richard III her lover, or Henry Tudor her enemy.

 

A chilling and intense first novel, the story of a solitary young woman drawn into an online world run by a charismatic web guru who entices her into impersonating a glamorous but desperate woman. An ingeniously plotted novel of stolen identity, Kiss Me First is brilliantly frightening about the lies we tell—to ourselves, to others, for good, and for ill.

The final book in The Original Sinners Series; The Mistress follows Nora Sutherlin as she has being held, bound and naked. Under different circumstances, she would enjoy the situation immensely, but her captor isn’t interested in play. Or pity.

 

Who is A. N. Dyer? & Sons is a literary masterwork for readers of The Art of Fielding, The Emperor’s Children, and Wonder Boys—the panoramic, deeply affecting story of an iconic novelist, two interconnected families, and the heartbreaking truths that fiction can hide.

 

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She’s undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her. But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys.

 

August

Brilliant, haunting, breathtakingly suspenseful, Night Film is a superb literary thriller by The New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster debut Special Topics in Calamity Physics. A spellbinding new novel by the dazzlingly inventive Marisha Pessl, will hold you in suspense until you turn the final page.

 

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

 

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

 

Dust is the final book in the Solo series by Hugh Howey. Jules knows what her predecessors created. She knows they are the reason life has to be lived in this way. And she won’t stand for it. But Jules no longer has supporters. And there is far more to fear than the toxic world beyond her walls. A poison is growing from within Silo 18. One that cannot be stopped. Unless Silo 1 step in.

Never Go Back is an epic and interrupted journey all the way from the snows of South Dakota, former military cop Jack Reacher has finally made it to Virginia. His destination: a sturdy stone building a short bus ride from Washington D.C., the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP. It was the closest thing to a home he ever had.

 

September

Fangirl is a coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . . But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland expands the range of one of our most dazzling storytellers, seamlessly interweaving the historical and the personal across generations and geographies. This masterly novel of fate and will, exile and return, is a tour de force and an instant classic.

 

Doctor Sleep sees Stephen King return to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

 

Told with wit, dizzying imagination, and dark humour, Booker Prize-winning Margaret Atwood’s unpredictable, chilling and hilarious MaddAddam takes us further into a challenging dystopian world and holds up a skewed mirror to our own possible future. An unexpectedly finish to the trilogy.

 

More Than This tells the story of a boy called Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks.

 

Now it’s your turn, let me know of the books that you are surprised that didn’t make this list (there were heaps of them). What have you read and enjoyed and what do you expect to trend next quarter? I’m expecting Goldfinch by Donna Tartt will be trending next month, do you have any predictions?


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR List

Posted September 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in of this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR List. I’ve already done a post similar here but I’ve already read two of them, so I can recycle three of them and pick another seven more.

10. The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner
A new psychological thriller in the tradition of Before I Go to Sleep and Memento, P.D. Viner’s debut is looking like it might be an interesting read. Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered, the killer was never found and the case is now cold. Her parents’ marriage fell apart as a result of it, but now a new lead has been found and rekindles an obsession for revenge.

9. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Nathaniel Piven is a rising star in the Brooklyn literary scene, after several years of learning he now has his pick of assignments and women. Debut novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of the modern man and offers up a literary romance that is both intelligent and witty. I hope this book is a novel of struggles, discovery and anxiety that comes with romance and the literary scene.

8. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Sixteen-year-old Nao decides she wants to escape the loneliness and bullying of her classmates. But before she ends it all she decides to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Across the pacific Ruth finds some artifacts washed ashore from the 2011 tsunami that pulls her into Nao’s drama. Ozeki explores relationships, the past and present, fact and fiction in this contemporary novel.

7. Skinner by Charlie Huston
Growing up, Skinner wasn’t like other boys. Appearing to have no emotions, he seemed to be powered by reason alone, a robot that could be programmed to do whatever its master wanted. No surprise that as an adult he didn’t seem to fit it. Until he came to the attention of the CIA, and they realized they had stumbled across the perfect assassin. His speciality: protecting human ‘assets’. His method: ensuring that the price a rival agency paid for acquiring the asset always outweighed the asset’s worth. In other words, he killed everybody involved, and then some more, just to make the point.

6. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

5. The Explorer by James Smythe
When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers. But in space, nothing goes according to plan. The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

4. Harvest by Jim Crace
On the morning after harvest, the inhabitants of a remote English village awaken looking forward to a hard-earned day of rest and feasting at their landowner’s table. But the sky is marred by two conspicuous columns of smoke, replacing pleasurable anticipation with alarm and suspicion.

3. The Never List by Koethi Zan
For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

2. NW by Zadie Smith 
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners — Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan — as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.

1. The Siege by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Cadiz, 1811. Spain is battling for independence while America is doing the same. But in the streets of the most liberal city in Europe other battles are taking place. A serial killer is on the loose, flaying young women to death. Each of these murders takes place near the site where a French bomb has just fallen. It is the job of policeman Rogelio Tizon to find the murderer and avoid public scandal in a city already posied on the brink.


Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Posted September 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Speculative Fiction / 12 Comments

Oryx and Crake by Margaret AtwoodTitle: Oryx and Crake (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #1
Published: Bloomsbury, 2003
Pages: 378
Genres: Dystopia, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Jimmy was a member of a scientific elite, living in isolation, suffering through bitter loneliness. Then an unnamed apocalypse came along, now he is known as Snowman and he may be one of the few survivors. This post-apocalyptic hermit resides near; what he refers to as Crakers—strange human-like creatures. In flashbacks the story develops, the Crakers, Wolvogs, Pigoons and Rakunks are assorted life forms that are the products of genetic engineering.

Oryx and Crake are the symbols of a fractured society, which Jimmy was once a part of. This is where trying to explain this novel can get complex. There are two different worlds within this book the post-apocalyptic world but then there are the flashbacks. The dystopian world was far more interesting for me. Much like Super Sad True Love Story. this is a dystopian world that I can see coming, corporation’s rule the world and pornography has become mainstream. It is normal to watch live executions and surgeries, nudie news (apparently watching the news when they are fully clothed is just weird), even child pornography.

I love novels that deal with the dangers of corporations having too much power; Super Sad True Love Story is a prime example of it (I should re-read that novel) and Oryx and Crake is another example of this (need more examples). Science and marketing techniques leave the public as powerless consumers and there is nothing to stop the unprecedented corporate greed.

Genetic engineering is a slippery slope; I seem to find myself attracted to novels that deal with science going too far. Oryx and Crake is a great example of this; Crake is a scientist working in the biotech project that created the Crakers. Genetic engineering progress continued to advance and eventually lead to a complex and sinister project called Paradice, but when that collapsed it caused this global devastation.

Oryx was a girl Jimmy and Crake found on a child pornography site that eventually was hired by Crake as a prostitute and to teach the Crakers. Oryx obviously had a difficult past, and Oryx and Crake attempts to deal with this issue as well. This is not an easy issue to deal with, the majority of the world would say they are against child pornography and yet it continues to happen and we see no signs of it ever being truly dealt with. Margaret Atwood doesn’t have a problem with trying to deal with difficult issues and this novel has plenty to say.

Moving away from the dystopian world and into the post-apocalyptic one, we have a whole new set of themes and issues. While this is a direct result of the corporate destruction, now we have to deal with survival. The Crakers are like little helpless children that Snowman tries to help; so now we have parental responsibilities as a major theme as well as our social responsibilities. He also has to protect them from the Wolvogs, Pigoons, Rakunks and whatever might disrupt their civilisation.

This is the second Margaret Atwood novel I’ve read and I’m starting to see a familiar theme coming through in her novels. I believe she wants the reader to have a look at civilisation and what we are doing that is beneficial or harmful. I’m sure the rest of the Maddaddam trilogy will deal with this; I’m not sure if all her books have a similar theme but I suspect they might.

I love a novel that tells a great story but is also loaded with different themes and symbolism. I feel so fulfilled reading a book like Oryx and Crake and spending time digesting the words and examining what Atwood wants to tell us. I was meaning to read this novel for so long and now I’m left with intense desire to read the next two in the series. Thanks you Bloomsbury Australia for pressuring me into reading this book, I have no regrets.


Monthly Review – August 2013

Posted August 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

death in the afternoonAs we come to the end of August, it is time once again to have a look at the month’s reading. This month the book club read the non-fiction sports/travel book Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway. While I am against bullfighting, this was an interesting dip into a sport I had no idea what was happening. Next month we are reading one of my wife’s favourite books; The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

I feel very proud of my reading this month; I read some great books and hope this trend continues. Fifteen books read and some of my highlights include Fadeout, Oryx and Crake, The Third Man, The Unknown, Kiss Me First and We Need New Names. There was just so many great books and I feel like I didn’t have any wasted reading time (with the exception of The Suite Life) but the biggest thrill for this month was The Machine by James Smythe a wonderfully dark and complex novel that really deserves more attention.

My Reading Month


Dystopian Fiction; A Brief History

Posted September 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Literature / 0 Comments

This post was originally a guest post that appeared on blahblahblahtoby; big thanks to Toby for allowing me to get involved in his Dystopian fortnight and for letting me share this post with my readers too.

Dystopian fiction has been around for a long time; interesting enough, it was an offshoot of utopian fiction which started growing in popularity in the 1900’s. I’m a little surprised that utopian fiction seemed to be the predominate genre but if you look at the history of dystopian literature you can see why. The spikes in popularity seems to have started from the lead up to the world war two and the cold war and then as a result of 9/11 and the war on terror. Escapist fiction; as a way to substitute the problems with the world with a more nightmarish world.

I thought it might be nice to have a quick look at the genre over time and highlight some essential reads (which stick out to me) for people that haven’t experienced all the joys of this genre. While there were dystopian novels before my first choice, I thought I would start with the one book that may be called the first purely dystopian novel.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)

A highly influential novel based on the authors experience of the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the First World War.  While this book is considered to be an influence for Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or even Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano (1952), it’s one book that is unfortunately often overlooked.

 
 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Huxley refers to this book a “negative utopia” and looks at the idea of the government making a world so perfect and controlled that it really has the opposite effect; or does it? Are you really unhappy if you don’t know you are unhappy?

 
 
 

 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

No dystopian list would be complete without this novel; actually these three novels could make up the definitive influences of every dystopian novel to follow. Big Brother is watching.  Orwell writes a satirical novel of what he sees as the dangers of totalitarianism.

 
 
 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

It’s a pleasure to burn; this novel looks at book burning, mass media censorship and the importance of books. Fahrenheit 451 is set in an unspecified time in a hedonistic anti-intellectual America.

 
 
 
 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

Set in the not too distant future this brick of a book has a look at the disappearance of innovators and industrialists and a collapsing economy. I’m not going to lie, I’ve not read this book but I couldn’t give a list of essential dystopian novels without this book.

 
 
 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

In a culture of extreme youth rebellion and violence, how can the government gain back control? Mind control and the removal of free will seems like a good idea, right?

 
 
 
 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

In this dystopian novel Atwood takes a look at a totalitarian society and the issue of woman’s rights within it. While I thought this was more like a social critique than a novel, it is still an essential read.

 
 
 
 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)

Sheltered from the outside world these children were brought up to believe they are special and need to be protected, but they are only protected from the truth. This is more a book of love and friendship set in a dystopian environment.

 
 
 

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (2010)

Super Sad True Love Story is a novel set in a very near future—oh; let’s say next Tuesday—where the world is dominated by Media and Retail. The story is centred on a thirty nine year old Russian immigrant, Lenny, and what could likely be the world’s last diary. The object of his affection, Eunice,  has her side of the story told by a collection of e-mail correspondences on her “GlobalTeens” account.

If you look at this list you can see the changing of the dystopian genre; what started as satirical looks at the fears of the world gradually changed to lighter stories of love and friendships. This brings me to the rising popularity of Young Adult Dystopian fiction. This seems to deal less with the social aspects made famous in dystopian fiction and more about friendships and endless love triangles. The lack of freedom, obsessive governments or biological issues have been replaced with post-apocalyptic romances. Not that there is a problem with this new wave of dystopian fiction (I’ve read a few good ones), I just find that the books with more social aspects offer so much more than a good read.  What are your thoughts and what would you call essential dystopian reading?