“Feed” By M. T. Anderson- Review- (Spoilers)

51wto7fyuolI picked up this book for really one reason. I am always intrigued by stories set in futuristic worlds where machines and computers rule our lives. I am interested because it hits close to home in this day and age or because I like to see people fight this system. I love to see people defy an oppressive world, and even if they don’t always win I like to see them fight with everything that they have. I love dystopian type novels where people consciously fight against a system that they know isn’t right.

This story had that element of someone fighting the systems but is was more a tragic love story and a coming of age story. There is no big fight that changes the way the world works for everyone. The only real change we see is in our main character Titus. Whether he takes action after the novel ends we will never know. But a fire is ignited inside of this young man and that is what is most important. By the end this lost teenager is ready to move forward, he has a reason and drive to begin to fight.

Titus is a teenager living in a world where almost everyone has a “feed,” directly put into their head. Computers are with you at all times. In this world you can chat someone by just thinking about them. TV runs inside your head.The feeds are integrated into every aspect of your body, which is where the major conflict comes from for this story. Take your current Smartphone and have it implanted directly into your brain and you have what the feed is like.

Titus comes from a wealthy family. He has had a feed ever since he could remember. On a vacation on the moon he meets Violet. Violet is the opposite of Titus. She is poor, she has none of the privileges that Titus has come to see as routine. Her mother left her family and her father is very anti-corporation and a tad bit detached from reality (or it would seem). Violet got her feed late in life, because her parents were told she would have to have it to live in this world. A hacker breaks down their feeds for a time and leaves them vulnerable. Violet’s feed is damaged permanently. Over the course of the novel we watch as Violet deteriorates. The feed breaking is like cancer, it slowly destroys her body, leaving her helpless.

Titus is our main character and our narrator. We watch as he not only tries to deal with Violet essentially dying but we also struggle with him coming to terms with the failures of the world he lives in and trusts. Up until his trip to the moon and meeting Violet he lived a perfectly simple life. His parents paid for everything and his feed kept him connected to the world, very simple and safe. He didn’t have to do much of anything for himself.

Then he falls for Violet and she changes how he sees the world. First she shows him how to defy the feed. Violet constantly shops around, shows interested in items but never actually buys anything. She tries to keep the feed from getting a real hold on her. She doesn’t want them to be able to control her. She doesn’t want them to determine what she wants, how she acts and what she knows.

Titus finds it amusing at first but once Violet’s feed starts shutting down and her body starts breaking, it is no longer a joke. Because of this act of defiance no one will help Violet get the help she needs. Violet petitions for free repairs but is denied because the corporations (that run everything), can’t get a handle on her. She isn’t seen as a “reliable investment” (Anderson, 247). This is a turning point for Titus. He sees just how out of control his world is. Because a corporation can’t get sales from you, you don’t deserve to live (essentially).

Titus cuts off contact with Violet after they have a major fight about what they mean to each other and what is happening to Violet. Titus feels Violet is getting too serious. He tells her, “I didn’t sign up to go out with you forever when you’re dead,” (Anderson, 274). Titus is a kid, who wants to stays locked in his ignorant bubble. Violet’s life is ending and the last thing she wants to do is pretend everything is perfect. Titus can’t handle that mentality. He can’t handle knowing that the world is at war, that they are all losing their skin and are being destroyed by corporations That is a lot for a teenager to handle.

I loved how this all dealt with everything in such a real and believable manner. A teenager, especially a privileged one, isn’t going to change their out-look on life so easily. Teenagers are stubborn and the last thing they want is to be told how big and scary the world truly is. Reality about life is the last thing they want to deal with. In a world where you can escape into the feed it makes sense for Titus to hide and run away from Violet and her problems.

He ignores her because he doesn’t know what to do or say. She is right, he knows this but he doesn’t want to know it. He doesn’t want his life to be upturned and confusing. He wants to be able to move forward without having to question every move he makes. Violet makes him wonder what is real, what he doesn’t know about the world and if the feed is something that should be feared. Violet is dying because of a very broken system and he doesn’t know what to do or where to turn.

It ends with him realizing the truth about this corrupt system. He cries as he tells her their story. A story about an ignorant man meeting a woman who shows him the truth and the man realizing that he has to fight the feed. The last words are from an advertisement that says, “Everything must go.” For Titus this means moving away from this reliance on the feed and to stop letting it rule his life. He couldn’t save Violet but you get a feeling that he is determined not to let this ever happen to anyone else. His friends are falling apart before his eyes and now he has the fire inside of him to fight for them. He watched the feed destroy this girl he might have loved and he that motivated him to fight this system.

World War Z by Max Brooks- A Review

180px-World_War_Z_book_coverI picked up World War Z for really only one reason, zombies. The idea of a zombie apocalypse has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon recently. We have become a culture obsessed not only with the end of the world but the idea of the un-dead taking over. There are many different takes on what life would be like if the dead decided to get up and try to eat us. I became a fan of the idea because of the show “The Walking Dead” as well as the comics. The idea of zombies is fascinating because they can range in so many ways from fast walking, somewhat thinking, to nothing but death machines.

When I actually picked up the book and read what it was really about, I was intrigued by the “an oral history of the zombie war,” tag line on the bottom. This made me buy the book right away. I knew that this was going to be different from the variety of zombie related books and stories out there right now. Right now the stories are all about one group of people or one person trying to survive in a new world where the dead walk. They are mainly stories about survival and trying to find a cure to save the world. Whereas this book was very different. This is a book that gives a fictional first hand account of what the whole ordeal was about. It isn’t from one perspective, it is from every perspective. This gives a complete overview of how this ordeal started, how it spread, how it was fought and what life is like now.

The book is broken up into a variety of parts that starts with “Warnings,”   and move through pieces to the  “The Great Panic” all the way until “Good-byes”. It is a play by play of what happened and how it was dealt with. “Blame,” is a detailed account of who screwed up, who didn’t say what they should have and why the epidemic got out of control. “The Great Panic,” is the point where everyone loses their minds and freaks out, where no one knows where to turn or who to trust. “Around the World, and Above,” is a take on the scale of the problem, it ranged from the darkest forests to the most populated cities. Where as “Good-Byes,” is where we get to see how life is going to move on, if it can.

The most intriguing and interesting part of this novel was the way it felt so real. The voices of the people interviewed are so true to the world we know today that sometimes you forget that this never actually happened. The panic described, the blame thrown back and forth, and the attempts to justify huge mistakes; are so true to the world we live in today that it is easy to forget this book is about a zombie war. It is so easy to sit back and see that this is how a zombie apocalypse would really play out. A cover up trying to pretend that this isn’t as bad as it seems, people running from their homes not having any idea where to truly go and the military trying to find a way to fix a problem that is without any standard seen before. If we ever come up to this problem in our real lives, reading this book could truly prepare us for what we could have to deal with.

I generally don’t book mark portions of a book. I don’t fold pages to hold passages, sometimes there are quotes I’ll keep for later use, but rarely is it whole chapters or paragraphs. I found myself turning down pages in this book though, because I wanted to remember where to find this poignant passages. Such as one passage that puts it perfectly how difficult a war like this would be to fight, “They would fight until the very end because, unlike us, every single one of them, every second of every day, was devoted to consuming all life on Earth.” (Brooks, 273). This struck a cord with me, because of how true that is. Our enemies today don’t have that, they are human, they have limitations. This one part really drove home how difficult this whole ordeal was for the characters being interviewed.

Another passage that really struck with me was at the very end where the interviewer is interviewing people about how life would move on from this point. It is a passage that proves that moving on from where the dead have risen and now walk among us, isn’t something you can just walk away from. “I’ve heard it said the Holocaust had no survivors,….that their spirit, their soul, the person that they were supposed to be, was gone forever. I’d like to think that’s not true. But if it is, then no one on Earth survived this war.” (Brooks, 340). This really hammers home the point of the whole book, an account of this war that affected everyone on every continent in every race and walk of life. There was no escaping the disaster.

I liked this book because of how real to life it seemed. You could remove the zombies and have a spine shivering account of war and the horrible effects if has on the world around us. The voices are so true to life, the way the ordeal was handled and the way it reached out and encompassed everyone and everything that was in its path, rang so clear and real. You feel for the panicked people, you understand the hopelessness of failed military strategies and you rejoice as the war comes to an end.

I am curious to see how the movie is handled. This is an oral history, full of just interviews. How do you interpret that in a film? Once it comes out on DVD I will be renting to see how true to the story it really stayed. I am curious how it will translate all these voices into a film and one cohesive story.

Cuckoo’s Calling Review- Robert Galbrath (J.K. Rowling)

Booknotes-002I picked up The Cuckoo’s Calling because I love J.K. Rowling. As soon as I heard of her “secret” book I knew I had to read it. She is that one author I will read anything from, no matter the subject matter or style of writing.

Traditional detective novels have never been my favorite genre of books. I enjoy the mystery of the detective books but I generally find myself bored by the process. Unless there is some supernatural element or item of intrigue they are hunting for, I generally stay away from this genre. But this was a book by J.K.Rowling and I knew I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed by how entertained I was by the story. Like her other adult novel Casual Vacancy (also very good) this is more a story of getting into the depths of the two main characters, Strike and Robin than just a mystery novel.

Strike is a down and out detective on the verge of complete financial and personal ruin. Robin is a newly engaged temp who is assigned to be his secretary for a week. We become entangled in the lives of these two characters. Entangled in the ways they interact with one another, and those around them all while trying to get into the deep depths of Lula Laundry’s life and how she ended up in her grave.

Strike  takes the case of further investigating Lula Laundry’s, a famous model’s, apparent suicide. A suicide her brother believes is actually murder. Strike takes the case more for the money than anything else. He has no real choice in the matter. While Robin is ultimately only assigned to help Strike for a week she sticks around, wanting to not only find the solution to this mystery but also to get closer to Strike and help him get back up onto his feet.

The investigation itself is very realistic. Rowling isn’t stingy on the details of the interviews and the process Strike has to go through to find who actually killed Lula. As you read you actually feel as if you are a detective, hunting down small pieces trying to make a bigger picture. She never tells you when something is important, never has Strike run off to write something down or hurriedly hunt through files, signifying something important has happened. You as the reader pick on the subtle aspects of what the characters say and do and you begin to realize, like Strike, the truth behind this mystery.

Lula Laundry’s life mirrors Strike’s in so many aspects it gets a little bit scary for Strike. He sees himself in this case, he sees how far he could fall and what the end result could be. Though Lula doesn’t actually commit suicide, Strike sees how she could have ended up in that place. We as readers watch as he investigates this young woman’s life and we see Strike become more and more frightened yet intrigued. He has to find the answer, not only for Lula but for himself. We follow him from his lowest point in life and watch as he begins the climb up to a stable place. Rowling writes this parallel so well, holding onto the reader.

Strike is actually a very smart man, one who understands his surroundings and lives very much in the reality of his current predicament. Whereas Robin is initially more idealistic, she’s on the way to getting married to the love of her life and on the verge of finding a job to finance her new future. When she comes to Strike she has a very romantic idea of what a detective should be like and how the life should be. While we meet Strike at his lowest, we meet Robin at her highest.

We follow Strike as he begins to move up and we watch as Robin begins to become more realistic. She doesn’t fall, but she quickly realizes what reality is really like. She sticks around, intrigued not only by the case but by Strike. She wants to help him, she wants to watch him get back onto his feet. They become close, not romantically, but in a friendship that is real and strong. Both are reluctant to let the other in at first but quickly learn that they have to help one another, they become compliments for each other.

The culprit of the case is not exactly shocking, it is more the reason why they did it that makes you drop your jaw a little. The end gives us a solution to the case and hope for Strike and Robin. Strike is getting control of his life while Robin is now on the course of beginning to live the life she truly always dreamed of.

J.K. Rowling wrote characters in Harry Potter that were vivid and real, characters we could all get close to. They had true depth and lives that we became involved in, we didn’t want to watch them suffer but we rejoiced when they finally triumphed. That aspect of her writing was and always will be her strongest aspect. She writes these characters we become invested in, we want them to succeed and find themselves. We don’t want them to suffer but we understand why they have to, we see why they have to struggle. Cuckoo’s Calling shows us yet again why J.K. Rowling will be an author studied and adored for centuries to come.

Night Circus- Erin Morgenstern

9780307744432_custom-fb2e2392e384d7db77dc38d9441f430dd02cb360-s6-c30The Night Circus was recommended to me by a very good friend of mine. She believed my taste for the eccentric and the fantastic would be very well satisfied by this story. She could not have been more right, from the beginning sentance until the very last word on the very last page I was completely and utterly captivated.

There are three main parts to this story that in the end are all intertwined wonderfully. There is the love story of Marco and Celia, which is tied up in this very interesting and intriguing competition. There is the story of Bailey and his struggle to find himself at home, a struggle aided by the wondrous circus. Then there is the story of the circus itself and you the reader’s adventures through it. Each piece is so vividly written that you feel perfectly apart of each story. At the end when all of them combine, it is smooth and satisfying.

The competition and the main aspects of the story take place inside this circus. At first I had the image of a traditional circus inside my mind but that was quickly replaced by a land of imagination and dreams. Morgenstern creates this dream like world full of tents that possess some of the most magical ideas I have ever read.From the Wishing Tree to the Pool of Tears you can easily envision and feel the effects of each of these tents.

Interspaced throughout the different parts of the plot are a second person view of the circus. In these small chapters you the reader are allowed to explore the circus first hand. By the end you feel completely enthralled and captivated by this place. The last thing you want to do is leave the circus and close the book. You have to leave this dream land at the end and you find yourself very hesitant to do so.

Morgenstern creates this captivating romance tale of not just two magicians falling for one another inside this difficult and taxing competition but also it is a love story of those who have fallen in love with the circus itself. It is a story of connections people make with one another when they share a bonded love for something wondrous.

You bond with each character as they fight to find some semblance of control inside their lives and in the bigger world beyond. The vivid descriptions and beautiful images hold you captive as you watch Bailey strive to determine where he belongs; as Marco and Celia fight for each other inside the confines of this life altering competition and as Widge and Poppet fight to hold the circus, their home, together. You are an invested as part of this circus from word and page one.

It was an accident

Withering_Despair_by_lucaszoltowskiShe rubbed her arm unconsciously over and over again as she sat in the subway car on her way home. She had her canvas bag laying over the top of the mark but she knew people were getting suspicious. Anyone rubbing or hiding their arms was a call to move seats or back quickly away. Not a single person would come near her, not that she blamed them. Until today she had acted the same way, crossing to the opposite side of the street or finding a new restaurant to eat at. If they didn’t touch you, you couldn’t get it. Or so she had thought.

It had appeared during a budget meeting. Her boss had been showing charts and explaining complex numbers, she couldn’t have understood even is she had wanted to try. She had been tapping her pen in a basic rhythm on her notebook when a small black dot had caught her eye.

At first it was nothing but the dot. Just a black spot glaring up at her, a black mark silently letting her know that things were over for her now. She couldn’t take her eyes off of it for the rest of the meeting. She had waited with held breath and a nervous anticipation for it to grow and expand but for those two hours it had never changed.

By the end of the meeting she had been convinced that it was nothing more than a stray bit of ink from her flying pen. Everyone said the mark appeared and grew within minutes. One minute you were normal and the next you were a sniveling mess as the mark grew and destroyed your whole world.

Whoever had started that rumor was cruel and sadistic. After the meeting she had gone back to her desk and was surfing her research sites when she had seen the first few lines begin to grow. Her heart had sunk into the soles of her feet and she had nearly cried. She hadn’t shut off her computer or clocked out, she had just grabbed her things and run headlong from the office. She ignored every shouted question that followed her out. She never looked at the picture forming. She had just covered it up and prayed she could get home without anyone noticing her infliction.

The train finally pulled up to her stop and she nearly twisted her ankle running for the doors. She pushed aside every other person attempting to get home after a hard day of work. As she ran the two blocks home her eyes caught every passerby’s’ face. Each held a certain amount of sadness in them. Like they could see in her own eyes the fear she had racing through her veins, it was a sympathetic look. A look that said, “We are sorry you are going to be gone soon, but better you than me.”

“Madeline!” she screamed for her fiancé as she entered their home. “Madeline help!” she sobbed collapsing inside the doorway. Her legs couldn’t hold her up anymore, her heart was shattering in her chest and her lungs felt like they were on fire. She was out of things she could do for herself.

“Becca, what is going on?” Madeline feet came running down the stairs. Becca looked up as she came into view.
The sun shone from behind her, giving her a pale yellow halo. A halo that highlighted her auburn hair just right and brightened her green eyes so that they almost glowed. An angel, her saving grace, hopefully.

“I got…one,” Becca breathed out. She knew she looked a mess, her hair was probably flying all around her face and her chest was rising and falling heavily, as if she had just run miles instead of blocks. Her face was probably all taut, her eyes wide with pure panic. Normally this was her fiancé’s time to pull her down back to a calm place. A place that did not exist at the present moment.

“No, no,” Madeline sobbed. She ran to her loves side and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “Come on, into the living room. You can show it to me there.”

Becca barely got to her feet. She shuffled leaning heavily on Madeline into their quaint barely furnished living room. She fell on to the dark brown love seat. She refused to pull her hand away from the mark, if Madeline saw it, it would be real. She would be out of hope.

“Move your hand, let me see,” Madeline begged. Becca slowly pulled one finger after another from her arm. As the last finger came free she held her palm over the image for a moment longer. Finally she removed her palm and felt the tears fall and hit the hideous image before her.

At the top of her forearm were two women, hands joined but just barely. Their palms touched but their fingers weren’t intertwined. It looked as if they were about to turn away from each other. About to run off and leave each other. Becca just stared at it, sobbing harder and harder.

“Honey,” Madeline wrapped her girlfriend in a tight embrace. “I’m so sorry.”

“Make it stop,” Becca begged with a small barely audible voice. A child asking her mother to make the monsters disappear “Make it go away.” She knew what was she was asking but she was out of options.

“I”m sorry,” Madeline kept whispering over and over into Becca’s shoulder.

“Stop saying that. Fix this before I see that moment.” The lines were already extending. A new picture was slowly coming to life.

“I can’t,” Madeline replied. She sat back on her heels. “I’m not allowed.”

“Not allowed?” Becca felt her eyes instantly dry. She looked down at her other half, the one person who was supposed to fix everything for her, to be there to pull her out of danger’s embrace. “Who cares what you are allowed to do! Fix this, save me!” she begged.

“Honey, you know the rules. I have no options. My hands are tied. I’m so sorry,” she looked so sad, so upset and scared. Becca couldn’t believe it. How could she be thinking about rules and regulations now? She had options, Becca knew it, she just had to give her one.

“This is your fault,” Becca pushed Madeline back from her and got to her feet. She shuffled sideways to get away from Madeline’s reaching hands. “You started this. You are the reason everyone is terrified of every other breathing human being. You are the reason people go into full on fits of hysteria from the smallest blight on their arms! You started this. Now end it.”

“It was an accident, you know that,” Madeline replied, still kneeling, still looking so broken.

“I don’t care,” Becca shrugged. She was telling the truth. Two year ago Madeline had been working on an elixir to give to a select group of people. It was supposed to give them brief flashes of the future. Just enough to give a hint to what was coming.

The military wanted it to give them the upper hand. Madeline was a pioneer in future sciences working to solidify that knowledge. It was a dream job that was handed to her, no one else could even have had a shot at completing the task.

The elixir had worked exactly as was intended. The test group saw flashes with just enough information to give a path to the officials. The experiment had been considered a huge success, the elixir had been made in bulk and Madeline had moved on to a new experiment.

Two months later the first body had been found. One of the experiment test subjects had been found hanging in his apartment, a tattoo covering his whole inner arm. It detailed some of the worst moments of his life; the death of his son, the demise of his dream job and his own death. His body had been quickly cremated and the whole incident put into a classified file. A one time side effect nothing more.

They couldn’t hide the carnage long. Over the next three months the news was constantly clogged with reports of suicides. Suicides with mysterious tattoos detailing every horrible incident in the person’s life. Always ending with their deaths, depicted exactly how they were ultimately found.

The government went into a panic. Madeline was held for weeks, questioned and forced to work around the clock to figure out what exactly had gone wrong. Madeline who loved control was in her worst nightmare. People were dying and there wasn’t a thing she could do to help. She used her free time to get in contact with Becca, always hysterical because she couldn’t understand what exactly was happening. She wasn’t supposed to give details, but she told Becca enough for her to draw her own conclusions. It was a side effect of the elixir, that was a known fact but the elixir wasn’t being used anymore. How it was moving from person to person was the unsolvable problem.

It was a problem that was never solved. The government still researched possible cures but like cancer it was an evil that could hit anyone at anytime and was nothing but an ultimate death sentence.

Becca had watched Madeline struggle with the problem forever now. She had watched her collapse in fits of angry tears and hysterical exhaustion. Madeline still worked on the infection day in and day out. Becca knew she had to have some type of options. It didn’t matter how experimental it was, anything was better than watching herself die.

“Becca what do you want from me!?” Madeline begged, still on her knees.

“To not let me die,” Becca sobbed. “Don’t you have anything? You’ve been working on this for years! There has to be a way to delay this or stall it or something,” Two years and there was no possible cures? She could not and would not believe that.

Madeline could barely talk through her own tears. “We have something but the side effects are horrible.”

“As horrible as watching the nightmare of my last bit of life unfold in front of me?” She pushed her arm out further. A new image appeared below the one of Becca and Madeline ending their relationship. It showed Becca huddled in a ball, rocking back and forth, nothing and no one around her. Her eyes were wide, like she had just seen the end of the world.

“I.. I,” Madeline sprang to her feet and grasped Becca’s hands, not intertwining their fingers. “I can’t do this,” she kissed Becca hard, putting every bit of love, passion and despair into that one last act of love. With one more whispered, “I love you,” she released Becca’s hands and ran from the room. She left Becca with her death slowly coming to life on her arm.

Becca stood completely stunned. What had just happened? Did her fiancé, the one she trusted above everyone else, just leave her to die? She didn’t even want try to save her? The front door shut with bang and Becca collapsed like someone had punched her. She sat on the ground staring at her arm. Her brain turned off, shutting down her emotions and her rational thinking. She didn’t want to feel anymore, it was almost worse than the death mark. The last image came into better focus.

It was her alone, nothing but a skeleton outline. She laid in this exact living room wasting away to nothing but a shell.

She felt a swift calm steal over her. Her hands, feet, arms, and legs went numb. A bitter cold flowed through her chest, her breathing a constant unchanging rhythm. She curled up into a tight ball, eyes wide, complete shock taking over. There she laid, as the tattoo completely solidified.

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