Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. ★★★★
Trigger warning: Sexual assault
Parable of the Talents somehow manages to be even darker than the first book, Parable of the Sower. Of course, I knew it’d be dark. Octavia Butler’s work is always intense. But even prepared for it, Parable of the Talents was difficult to read in places.
Like it’s predecessor, Parable of the Talents follows Lauren, a young woman driven by her religious revelations of something she calls Earthseed. At the end of Parable of the Sower, Lauren had formed Acorn, a small community based around Earthseed. Six years later, the world is a less chaotic place than it was during Parable of the Sower. Things are still bad, but they’re bad in a different way. Mobs of arsonists and looters are no longer the main threat to Acorn. The danger is instead in growing religious intolerance and the rise of a far right Christian group, Christian America, that wants to make “America great again.” And by “great,” they mean their type of Christianity.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. ★★★★
I’ve heard a lot about Parable of the Sower. I only narrowly missed out on reading it in high school — the freshmen English teachers began teaching it when I was a sophomore. I’ve also heard people say that it’s eerily accurate to the United States after November 2016. I’ll come straight out and say it: I was scared to read Parable of the Sower. Octavia Butler’s books are always intense, and I didn’t know if I had the emotional fortitude to deal with Parable of the Sower.
Lauren’s gated community is an island of safety in a sea of chaos. Her father is a minister and college professor who mostly works from home — venturing out beyond the gated walls is dangerous. A wrecked economy and exorbitant prices for food and water have left many people poor and desperate. To make matters worse, a new drug that compels its users to start fires is gaining in popularity. Lauren’s community may have walls, but they are far from wealthy. They are the remnants of the middle class, and they are struggling to get by. And Lauren knows that it can only get worse. Eventually, their walls will fail and the hoards of impoverished thieves and drug addicts will descend on them.
The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★1/2
In Chameleon Moon, RoAnna Sylver introduced the dystopic city of Patrol, who’s citizens lived a precarious life above eternally blazing fire, governed by the nefarious Eye in the Sky. Oh, and most of these citizens also had some form of superpower – the reason they were trapped within Patrol.
In this sequel, Slyver takes us outside the city of Patrol. But as it turns out, the world beyond isn’t all sunshine and happiness. A poisonous wasteland named Tartarus has infected much of America with noxious fumes and eerie ghosts. Three teenagers will have to brave this danger zone to bring hope to Patrol.
Gilded Cage by Vic James. ★★★1/2
Gilded Cage is a compulsively readable YA fantasy dystopia. I’ll admit, I was wary of picking it up. I haven’t had the best experiences with the YA dystopian genre, and at this point it feels like there’s a certain sameness to most of the books. But when Imyril over at x + 1 gave it a positive review, I reconsidered. As it turns out, I am glad I did.
Gilded Cage takes place in an alternate version of England where the ruling segment of the population, the Equals, posses immense magical skill. The vast majority of the population are commoners, who are utterly without magic or power. They have to give up ten years of their lives to serve as slaves for the Equals, a modern update on medieval fiefdom. Abi and Luke Hadley are commoners, and they’re about to begin their slave years. But due to Abi’s genius and hard work, she’s gotten their family a place at the Jardine estate instead of the sweatshops of the slave town. But as the day arrives, something goes wrong and Luke instead finds himself being sent to Millmoor, the aforementioned slave town. There he finds something entirely unexpected: revolution. Meanwhile, his sister Abi begins to wonder if she’s made the wrong choice by having the family serve the Jardines, for she soon finds that they can be heinously cruel in their power.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★★
I loved Chameleon Moon so much, and I think it would hold a strong appeal for fans of Welcome to Night Vale.
Patrol is a true dystopian – a city where the sky is chocked with smoke and ash and the ground is just one step away from crumbling into the fires below. And above everything the helicopters of Eye in the Sky survey the super powered citizens, making sure no one can escape. But within this hellhole, the citizens of Patrol have found love, families, and the will to resist. Among them is Evelyn Calliope, a singer with a sonic voice who is the heroine that Patrol needs.
The Swan Riders by Erin Bow. ★★★1/2
The Swan Riders is the sequel to the YA dystopia novel, The Scorpion Rules. I highly suggest reading the series in order. While I’ve been finding most of the YA dystopia genre pretty derivative, this series manages to be among the better half of what I’ve read, and it takes some turns in the road from the standard formula for the genre. Forewarning, this review will contain some inevitable spoilers for the previous book.
R/evolution by Tenea D. Johnson. ★★★
R/evolution is a novella that takes different short sections on different characters to present a dystopic view of the future, where America has been subsumed by race and class problems and genetic engineering is the norm.
Dystopians often take a current problem within our society and push it to an extreme. For instance, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale does this with gender issues and patriarchy. R/evolution takes America’s current race issues combined with the possibility of genetically engineered children, “designer babies.”