Tag: Margret Atwood

California by Edan Lepucki

Posted October 11, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

California by Edan LepuckiTitle: California (Goodreads)
Author: Edan Lepucki
Narrator: Emma Galvin
Published: Hachette, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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

Cal and Frida is living in the middle of the 21st century, however it wasn’t the future we expected. Cities have crumbled, the internet has died and technology is worthless. Leaving city life behind, they now have to live in the wilderness, struggling to survive. Isolation and hardship are all new experiences; they live in fear of an uncertain future. A future that now consists of giving birth and raising a child in this post-apocalyptic world.

The post-apocalyptic back drop has been hugely popular lately and it isn’t just young adult fiction. Many literary fiction authors have tried their hand at the genre, giving them a unique world to explore real life issues. I’m thinking of great books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, The Passage by Justin Cronin and the Maddaddam series by Margaret Atwood. Edan Lepucki’s California sets out to join the ranks of the great with this overly ambitious first novel.

I will be honest, the only reason I picked up California was because of the promotion that appeared on The Colbert Report a while ago. The novel had enough to peak my interest but I had great difficulty getting a copy where I lived. Ironically I finally settled on getting the book through Audible to listen to. The premise of the novel was great; the idea of a world returning to the dark ages offered some interesting ideas. While we are never sure, the novel does allude to global warming as the underlining cause of this post-apocalyptic world.

I expected this novel to be the slow burn that The Road provided, building the characters and struggle while exploring the intended themes. However, I think this book burned a little too slowly, the flame went out halfway through and it turned into more of a chore to get through. Sure, the notions of communities, eco-terrorism and climate change were explored but for me it felt like I was being beaten over my head every chance they got. The book wanted to show off how smart and witty it was but, like many things that try to do this, the delivery never matched the intent.

California moved so slowly that as a reader, I was trapped in the wilderness of nothingness and I didn’t think I could escape. This was a real pity, everything seemed to start off so well; there was a plot arc and themes all set up and ready for execution. Somewhere on the way I feel like the author got a little lost and the readers were just following to her struggle to get back on track. I might come down hard on this novel; it isn’t too bad, there is a lot of potential and could have been a great book. For me it just didn’t work and wasn’t paced properly, I’m sure some people enjoyed it


The Year of the Flood by Margret Atwood

Posted October 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

The Year of the Flood by Margret AtwoodTitle: The Year of The Flood (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #2
Narrator: Lorelei King
Published: Bloomsbury, 2009
Pages: 434
Genres: Dystopia, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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

The Year of the Flood follows the lives of two characters, Toby and Ren. Toby is a young woman who lost her family and the corporations are to blame. She is forced work in a burger chain you would never want to eat at, that was until she met the Gardeners. Ren grows up working in a sex club called Scales and Tails. She previously dated Jimmy (Snowman) and found herself locked in bio-containment when the pandemic happened.

This is the second book in the Maddaddam trilogy and happens simultaneously to Oryx and Crake (for the most part). While book one jumped between the dystopian corporations-controlled world and after the pandemic, The Year of the Flood is more linear and set mainly in the pre-apocalyptic world. While it isn’t really necessary to read Oryx and Crake first, I think the majority of the world building was done in the first book leaving this one more open to focus on the characters and plot.

I will admit I loved the way Oryx and Crake portrayed the corporations dystopian world I love so much but I think The Year of the Flood was overall a better novel. I liked the characters more and the portrayal of a religious cult was fascinating. Margret Atwood seems to draw a lot on personal religious experiences and then build on that to create this cult. I’ve been in plenty of churches, have met many religious fanatics and it really feels like Atwood has too.

She even took the religious element one step further by adding 14 hymns; even during her book promotions and on the audio book they have performances of these hymns. I think Atwood managed to balance religious fanaticism and hostile corporation practises just right in the novel. Both never felt overpowering and allowed for character and plot development to take the foreground.

The more I read of Atwood the more I am in awe of her brilliance. I remember reading The Handmaids Tale and never really thought too much of it but now I that I know her style and the messages she wants to get across, I feel like I should try that book again. There are some other Atwood books I want to try as well so they might have to come first.

I’m entrenched in the Maddaddam world and looking forward to reading the final novel in the trilogy. Luckily I have the book on my shelf waiting and I probably read it soon. I don’t normally read a series (or the same author) so close together but I was sucked in and needed more from this world. Fans of both post apocalyptic and dystopian novels should check out the Maddaddam trilogy, there are some interesting themes through the first two books and I’m sure it will continue in book three.


The Need to Make Speculative Fiction a Genre

Posted May 25, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

twenty thousandRecently in the book club, I started a conversation on the difference between speculative fiction and science fiction, which maybe was met with a little bit of confusion but I think that was mainly due to people thinking of speculative fiction as an umbrella team that covers science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction and more genres. This is correct but I want to talk about Speculative fiction as a genre for now.

While many people thing of speculative fiction as encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, I would like to see a shift away from this definition and more towards the genre that Margret Atwood has been fighting for.  I think she said it best when she defined the differences between the two as:

“What I mean by “science fiction” is those books that descend from HG Wells’s The War of the Worlds, which treats of an invasion by tentacled Martians shot to Earth in metal canisters – things that could not possibly happen – whereas, for me, “speculative fiction” means plots that descend from Jules Verne’s books about submarines and balloon travel and such – things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the authors wrote the books.” 

I think there is a real need to separating the two as some books that are classed as science fiction don’t really fit into the general conception of sci-fi. I’m talking about books like George Orwell’s 1984, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and even Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.

This brings me to my point, and an interesting problem. While it would be nice to separate the two genres so that people don’t get the wrong impression of a book being classed as Science Fiction; how do we choose which goes where. Take Jules Verne as an example. At the time of his writing, these books would definitely be considered as science fiction, but with the progression of time, most of the technology in Verne’s novels have been realised; making the books speculative fiction. So how do we class these books, do we make them science fiction until the technology catches up or do we just class books as speculative fiction if there is a possibility that these events could actually happen? I would love to hear people’s thoughts on this.