[Book Watching] Upcoming Movies – New Divergent trailer

The official Divergent trailer has hit the internet last week, and the canaries are all a-twitter. Set to hit the big screen in March 2014, we still have a bit of a wait, made only slightly more bearable by the upcoming October 2013 release of the Allegiant, the third book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series.

The trailer has that Hunger Games/Distopian vibe, so I look forward to seeing what director Neil Burger will bring to the table. You might recognize his name from his fantasy-real-world crossover thrillers like Limitless and The Illusionist. The cast features the largely unknown lead actress Shailene Woodley as Tris, Kate Winslet as the ruthless Jeanine Matthews, and Theo James as Four, everyone’s favorite love interest.

More to the point, I want to see how the book’s impossible premise – all people are just one specific personality – plays out in the movie medium. Veronica Roth will also be speaking at this year’s National Book Festival, so I look forward to hearing about her upcoming novel and the movie.

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[Book Review] I can’t tell if the dystopian socio-economics here are better or worse than in the first book

Meg’s Review of Insurgent by Veronica Roth

This review will contain spoilers for Insurgent.

The Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 are in, and Insurgent by Veronica Roth was crowned top YA SciFi Fantasy book of the year. I’m sort of baffled by this – by the fact that it beat out this whopper of a list:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
  • The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  • The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore
  • Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass

I mean come on – beat Cassandra Clare and the wonderful new comer Cinder? Mostly I’m surprised because I read Insurgent and started this review post in July and could never get up the gumption to actually write it because I was just that unimpressed by this follow-up to Divergent.

Insurgent opens more or less immediately after the chaos of the previous book. A quick refresher about this whacko world (you can read more about it here): In some sort of post-apocalyptic Chicago, the city’s population is split between five factions: Dauntless (courage), Erudite (knowledge), Candor (honesty), Amity (friendliness), and Abnegation (selflessness). Well, Abnegation is pretty much not there anymore because of a revolt that led to all of them getting offed (long story), and the Candor and the Erudite are now in this epic pissing battle standoff, while the Amity has shut their doors and poopooed on the whole lot of them. Oh, and most of the Dauntless are mind-controlled zombies. Continue reading

[Small Chirp] The importance of a socio-economically viable premise in dystopian world-building

Disclaimer: CanaryTheFirst was a pol-sci major. She did the title.

When SciFi loses the ‘Sci’

When the pull to finish a book is siren-song strong, I usually think it’s because I’m truly enjoying myself. That’s how the first Twilight book tricked me. Now I know that when I finish a book that quickly, putting some distance and time between me and it are the only way to tell whether the book was actually good (like The Hunger Games) or if my brain was so engaged in the train-wreck of a narrative that I couldn’t look away (like with Twilight). And now I find myself in the same predicament with Divergent.

On the one hand, I can’t stop talking about it. I just kept telling people about the premise. My roommate. My mom. Sometimes the cat when there was no one else around to listen. But I get the same reaction each time (even from the cat): that world just sounds stupid.

As I explained in my review, the world of Divergent is split into five factions, each favoring one aspect of human nature: Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (courage), Erudite (knowledge), Candor (honesty), and Amity (friendliness).  And that’s not to say that they tend to defer to that personality when times get tough. They eat/sleep/breathe it. To pick a faction, members of the Abnegation only wear grey, default to the other person in conversation and opinion, and are in charge of feeding and clothing the homeless. They display no other traits in public (or in private).

Mreeowl, said our cat at this point, and I had to agree. It’s a great and unique idea for a world.

But it is also flat-out untenable.  Human beings have a wide range of emotional potential by nature–and consist of every trait imaginable. That idea that we learned to live as single-emotion cells for generations on end? That we willingly chose to repress all emotions but one? In a world that’s otherwise almost exactly like our own? No, that’s a stroll too close to the far-fetched line.

On the other hand, Canary The First thinks I’m being elitist. Surely, if a book is an enjoyable read, then it is a good book on some level—you shouldn’t have to put time and distance between the read and the analysis.

To some extent she’s right. Divergent was certainly enjoyable; I’ve already recommended it to several people. But just because something is pleasant does not mean that it won’t nag at my mind until even the initial enjoyment is gone (I’m looking at you, Inception). If my brain has to shut down completely to enjoy the fun factor, then the book probably isn’t achieving on all levels.

So what about you, Canaries? Do you ever find yourselves wondering whether the author had done any thought experiments before writing a world? What other universes have dipped too far to the unbelievable for you?

[ Book Review ] Almost like the lovechild of Twilight and Shakespeare

Meg’s Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

The reading experience of  Divergent fell neatly into the ‘like watching a train wreck’ category. I could not look away, not even though I was way, way too close to the tracks. When the train flipped, surely it was going to take me out as well.

My Nook went everywhere with me in hopes that I might be able to sneak in a few pages during lunch breaks and line waits. Because I had to know–had to know–whether or not the world was simply going to implode on itself by the final chapter.

In post-apocalyptic (or at least future dystopian) Chicago, the city’s dwindled population is split between five factions, each devoted to a certain positive characteristic of humanity. Beatrice was born in Abnegation–the faction devoted to selflessness. But as that would make for an amazingly boring book, on her Choosing Day, she selects to transfer to Dauntless–the faction that believes that courage is the order of the day. She must go through their abrasive and violent initiation–and, in the process, discover what the hell to do with herself. Because she doesn’t belong in just one faction. Her aptitude test shows that she is the most dangerous of all citizens: a Divergent with traits of more than one faction. Continue reading