Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

red queen

Take all the future society, dystopian fiction books you have read and you will see a piece of them in this book. Strong heroine living a crappy life in a crappy town who is plucked from obscurity after meeting a mysterious person (she may or may not find him attractive!). She discovers she has this amazing power/ ability and this makes her dangerous/ awesome. Sound like anything you have read? Well, yes.
Mare Barrow has a collection of brothers who are fighting in the Silver army. They are Red foot soldiers, expendable cannon fodder for the powerful elite. Silvers have silver blood running through their veins, and super powers. There are super strong ones, one that can read and control your mind and a variety of other powers which mean that they can control the Red working classes. She meets a woman who tells her there will be a rebellion, a Red army (the Scarlet Guard) is working to overthrow the Silver Elite and her brother has joined. She must too. Her father is crippled after his stint in the army and life is pretty hard in the Stilt village where they live. Then she meets the mysterious stranger and he offers her a job working at the palace. She needs the money so she says yes; that’s where it all starts to go wrong. She is forced to show that she has a power as well. It is unheard of for a Red to have a power, it shifts societies thinking and the Silvers cannot afford to let that happen. So, they pretend that Mare is a Silver and get her engaged to the second prince, Maven. Even though she is in love with the first prince and future King, Cal.
There are some clichés in this; love triangle with brothers, annoying girl tormentor who likes bashing things, helpful adults who try and sort things out. It was well written and goes along at a pace. I likes Mare although I felt she could be expanded a little, maybe this will happen in the second book. The twist at the end was pretty shocking, I was expecting things to not be as they seemed but the scene in the throne room was really out there.
In short, if you like books like The Hunger Games and Divergent you will like this; it does have a good plot and some twists and turns that will keep you guessing and I am looking forward to the next book to see what happens – I can guess though!

Echo Boy – Matt Haig

This is the third book I have read by Matt Haig and after The Radleys and The Humans I had high hopes. The idea of the book is a good one; it’s set in the future and a robot has been developed that looks like a human but is not. They’re made of flesh and blood but have a chip implanted in their brain which switches off emotion and makes them able to process information at an amazing rate. Most Echoes are modern day slaves; people use them in their homes to cook and clean, educate their children and do all the menial tasks that they don’t want to do.

The main character is called Audrey Castle. Her father is a journalist who writes articles and books about the dangers of the Echoes. If they are able to develop and gain control of their own minds then they could be dangerous. Her uncle is Alex Castle, a multi millionaire who has developed the echoes and controls a huge proportion of them. He is in direct competition with a Japanese company who are also making and developing the ‘echo’ technology. Her father and her uncle don’t get on.

After a car accident that has badly effected her fathers health, Audrey’s mother decides that they should buy an echo to help them round the house – her father is against this and gives Audrey the deciding vote. She agrees that it would be useful to have one and, instead of buying a Castle Echo they purchase one of the Japanese ones. Within weeks, while Audrey is having a lesson in her pod, the Echo brutally murders both of her parents and then tries to kill her. She manages to escape and is fleeing the house in her parents’ ‘magcar’ when her uncle coincidentally rings her and directs the car to his house. Chaos ensues.

At her uncle’s house she meets an echo called Daniel, he is a prototype that her uncle has had developed by his main developer, a Spanish lady called Rosella. Rosella has lost a child in infancy and decides to implant Daniel with a tiny speck of his DNA to see whether he will be any different. Daniel, although able to do all the things that an Echo can do (like count how many hairs you have on your head) can also feel emotion and empathy, and immediately tries to tell Audrey that something sinister is going on.

I enjoyed this book, it was fast paced. I liked the characters and the intrigue. Although it wasn’t difficult to figure out what had happened I liked the way in which it was drawn out.  Daniel was a sympathetic robot and although you did wonder how it was all going to end you still want them to have a happy ending. The section in the zoo is well written and quite harrowing, and the description of the colony on the moon really felt like it could happen. The end is also left hanging so you could write a sequel, and the film would definitely be a hit. Haig writes books that really make you think about what the future could be like, they are believable and although a little scary, almost make you want to get there and experience it!

The Giver – Lois Lowry

I decided to read this book because it is shortly to be released as a film. I read a review of it on goodreads and was surprised to find that there was a lot of stuff written about it. The book was written in 1993 and follows the life of Jonas. He lives in a community where everything is the same. Children are given to ‘parents’ and brought up following a very strict system. When they are 12 they are allocated their positions within the community and work until the can join the old. The old are then looked after until they are no longer useful and the ‘released’. It is pretty easy to work out what that means but Jonas thinks that  they have this wonderful ceremony where they recount all the marvellous things that the old person has done and then set free…. Set free to where?

Jonas is allocated as the position of ‘receiver of memories’; a special job that is unique within the community. He has to meet with a man called ‘the giver’ who will pass along memories to him. It becomes clear that the community has given up things like this. They are given tablets to repress their sexual appetite, do not have relationships and feel no emotions. Jonas is given the gift of all these so that he may pass them along in his turn. There is an interesting section where he asks his ‘parents’ if they love him, their response is  alarming. Jonas’ father is a Nurturer. He works at the Nurture Centre looking after the newborn children until they are ready to put with a ‘family’. There is a sinister feeling to this, the child they look after in their home, Gabriel, is obviously cared for, but only in a practical sense. If he does not shape up, he will be ‘released’ too.

I can see why this book has been so talked about. They study it in American schools and it is easy to pigeonhole it as utopian/ dystopian fiction. What starts off as an idealistic portrayal of  society quickly deteriorates into a controlled regime where mind control and chemical suppression is normal. As with most dystopian fiction the main character realises the danger that they face and tries to escape it, you will need to read the book (or watch the film!) to see if he makes it…..