Science Fiction

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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readyReady Player One
Written by Ernest Cline
Published by Broadway Books on June 5, 2012
Genre/Topics: Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
384 pages
 

The year is 2044 and the world isn’t a pleasant place. Extreme famine, war, homelessness, and energy shortages are just a few concerns. Teenager Wade Watts’ only escape is when he’s connected to the virtual world OASIS. When he’s in OASIS, Wade can be whomever he desires, attend high school virtually, form friendships, and most importantly is in a utopia-like world.

His poor living conditions may change when he learns about an OASIS contest to win billions of dollars. James Halliday, the founder of OASIS, creates a virtual treasure game to win the billions. The prize is far from an easy task to find. It is hidden within clues and puzzles. Halliday was obsessed with everything about the 1980s, so all the puzzles somehow connect to the 1980s. Wade masters all the arcade video games, movies, television shows, and anything about Halliday’s life growing up in the 1980s. Wade is the first to find a clue, but there are now challenges. He learns that some players are out to kill in order to win the prize and control the OASIS. The only way for Wade to survive is to continue playing the game. Is his 1980s knowledge enough to win? How does the real world connect to the virtual OASIS?

Ready Player One was a very fun and entertaining read! If you enjoy video games, movie and television trivia, and a look back into the 1980s then you’re sure to enjoy this book. I didn’t play video games, but the terms were easy to follow. The OASIS in 2044 really doesn’t seem that far away as today in 2014. We often hide in our own ‘worlds’ behind Facebook, constant web searching, dating sites, and texting to name just a few. There’s a balance between the real world and virtual world. Wade has this same problem in Ready Player One. Let this book remind you that it’s okay to unplug ourselves from the virtual world and enjoy each other in real time.

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Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

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giver2The Giver
Written by Lois Lowry
Published January 1, 1993
Genre/Topics:Dystopia, Science Fiction
Ages: 13+, 240 pages
Awards: Newbery Medal & others

Jonas lives in a perfect community. Everyone’s spouse, occupation, and children are carefully chosen for each individual. People in the Community do not know pain, war, or even love. They live in a world of Sameness where nobody gives others attention, positive or negative. In the Community, individuals feel safe and this world is all they know.

When Jonas turns twelve he attends the ceremony to determine his role in the Community. He’s signaled out and chosen to be The Receiver who gains all memories, pain and pleasure, from The Giver. He now receives special training as The Giver shares all memories only to Jonas. Jonas now learns the truth about what occurred in the Community’s past.

I read The Giver way back in middle school and disliked the book. Recently, someone was shocked and wanted me to read it again. I read The Giver again and loved it. I don’t think I fully understood the book’s story and message. I suggest The Giver for older ages to have a good discussion. I think The Giver is much more than a standard dystopia that’s so common today. The Giver is the first book in the The Giver Quartet Series. Later this year, The Giver will be released as a motion picture. I’m not sure the movie can match the book, but isn’t that always the case? I recommend The Giver.

 

 
 

Book Review: Among the Free (Shadow Children #7)

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Among the Free (Shadow Children #7) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on April 25, 2006 
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Adventure, Dystopia, Political
Ages: 10+, 208 pages 
 

*potential spoilers*

Among the Free is the final book in the Shadow Children series. At first I thought the title itself was a spoiler, since it states  that individuals are ‘free’. However, the title isn’t at all a spoiler. In this previous books of the Shadow Children series, the reader gains insight into the hardships of third children remaining hidden and who exactly to trust when actions take place. Also, there are different lead characters to gain perspectives. I was very pleased that Luke was the focus character just as it started in book one, Among the Hidden. It was as though the series came in full circle. In Among the Free, Luke is still in the Population Police as he attempts to remain out of sight however they select him for a group activity where he closely works with the Population Police. Events occur when Luke defies orders and runs away from the Population Police. Eventually, Luke stumbles into a village where he soon learns that the Population Police are no longer in power and everyone is free. Luke is skeptical and doesn’t believe the freedom that he views on television, so he travels to the headquarters himself. He indeed does find individuals rejoicing and chanting about freedom. However, conflict and disagreements occur when individuals cannot decide how to reform the government. There is chaos when individuals overuse their new freedom. Are the individuals truly free from the Population Police? What do people desire in their government? Is it possible for citizens to even agree?

I thought Among the Free‘s main plot tackles major political issues. It shows how citizens react to drastic government changes. This book can be used in social studies classrooms while teaching about real life situations in the news with government power conflicts. Unlike the previous books, there’s really no violence in Among the Free. The plot is quite complex and younger ages may not fully understand.

When I first read the Shadow Children series I wasn’t expecting to write a review for each book. I enjoyed the new story idea  and how the characters handled their situations. I’m actually surprised that Amazon lists this series ages eight and up, because the concepts are complex and there is some violence in the books. However, age isn’t a defining factor for whether a book is appropriate for a child. I suggest to read this series.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

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Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

Science Fiction,179 pages

I thought Fahrenheit 451 was a good book to start Banned Books Week. The story describes a future society where books are forbidden and firefighters are required to burn all books they encounter. The title refers to the temperature that paper burns. People don’t have their own ideas and don’t discuss what they feel, instead their life revolves around picture walls (television screens) that become their family. One firefighter, Guy Montag, begins to question what are inside the books and why others want them burned. He meets a girl who tells him in the past books weren’t burned and people weren’t afraid. He also meets a professor who tells him about a time when people think. Montag’s fire captain states that without books there are no conflicting thoughts, so it keeps people happy. Montag joins others in the hopes to preserve knowledge and ideas in books.

A futuristic society where books are forbidden is scary and unfortunately it occurs. Perhaps not as bold as burning a house that holds books and written material, but just the act of challenging or banning a book creates a threat that individuals cannot think freely. It’s not possible to make everyone happy, since we all have different ideas. When you shut books you are then shutting minds that creates ignorant people in a society where they can’t think fully for themselves.

Montag’s viewpoint at the start with burning books:

   It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. …He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparking whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

– Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)

Montag’s viewpoint gradually changes after meeting the girl and witnessing a woman stay in a burning house with her books.

     There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

– Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)

Professor discusses the power of books with Montag.

     There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

Reasons for being challenged:

Fahrenheit 451 was never exactly banned, but the book itself was censored into different editions to please others. Words, such as hell and damn were eliminated. Another incident changed a drunk man into a sick man. An interesting twist occurred in 1992, students at a school in Irvine, California, recieved Fahrenheit 451 with blacked out words that others thought were inappropriate. Parents complained and the censored copies were no longer used in the classroom.

References:

Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds by Dawn Sova

100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature by Nicholas Karolides, Margaret Bald, and Dawn Sova