Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Young We Were, And Far From Free

Teen suffering round-up!

(Note: I will not include Rose Under Fire in this post, even though Rose is a teenager and Roza is even younger.  It just wouldn't feel right.)

Ashfall, by Mike Mullin, is a process dystopia book, about how civilization comes to an end via the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, and how Alex, one boy right on the edge of the disaster zone, survives.  Most of the book is exactly what I want from my post-apocalyptic YA: clever people figuring out how to get food and stay alive.  It's really well done in that respect, and there are some very nice bits of altruism and the acknowledgement of the limits of altruism.

There's a chunk that takes place in a relocation/concentration camp, and that's much less enjoyable.  Not only is it very unpleasant, it's just so ugly--I know there's no reason to think that Americans wouldn't act like that in the months after a devestation, but seriously, it's pretty much Blackwater being hired to deliberately imprison and starve American citizens.  I know it's not implausible, but it doesn't feel like it makes sense.

That part was relatively short, though, and there are some great sections about what community looks like in this world--trade, and good fences, and also small towns being all self-reliant.  There's definitely some love for the Midwestern farming ethos here.  Alex's journey from spoiled teen to self-sufficient young man and across the barren state of Iowa (accompanied by his too-good-to-be-true mechanical genius girlfriend) is gripping and readable.  Yay!

Then you have a very different kind of end of the world: Maggot Moon, by Sally Gardener.  In this oppressive, North Korea-style regime, Standish Treadwell is living with his grandfather, since his parents and best friend's family have been taken away.  They are struggling to survive in a place where there isn't enough food and people inform on each other.

This unnamed nation is about to launch a spaceship to the moon, to prove to the world that they are superior.  Standish finds out secrets about the launch and finds himself facing decisions that are bigger than himself.  The book does an amazing job with the oppressive ignorance and horrible isolation of the world they live in.  And yes, I was crying a little at the end.  But there were some plot holes, and more places where the book has a tone of winning that maybe should be more like triumph of the human spirit in spite of horrible events.

And then you have Stupid Perfect World, which is somewhere between a novella and a short story.  Slight, slim, gauzy, but Scott Westerfeld can write distant future teenage society with flare.  Kieran's taking Scarcity class, for which you have to spend two weeks suffering something that people used to suffer way back in the day.  Someone picks the common cold, someone else gives up teleporting, Maria chooses normal teenage hormones.  Kieran picks sleeping, and he and Maria both find that these individual physiological changes have huge effects. 

I like Scott Westerfeld's books, mostly for his writing and world building.  They're very teenaged, though.  Passions, rebellion--like Maria, there are a lot of teenaged poets in his books. I don't have a lot to say, except not bad.

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