Feb 272012
 


Author:
Frederik Pohl

Pages: 347

Publisher: TOR

Release Date: 2011

Genre: Science Fiction

Characters:

Brad Sheridan- Indentured worker at various places including Pompeii.  Family from Kansas, but displaced after Yellowstone Volcano eruption in 2062.

Professor and Piranha Woman-Two anti-terrorism agents at Pompeii

Maury- Water engineer and friend of Brad’s.

Gerda- Volunteer and romantically involved with Brad

The Bastard- Brad’s boss at Pompeii.  He earned his name very well.

Synopsis:  Brad Sheridan’s family fortunes changed dramatically in the 2062 explosion of the Yellowstone Volcano as well as the United State’s economy being buried under a food of ash.  For a time the world is thrown into chaos  but many places start to recover by the 2000th anniversary of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the burying of Pompeii in 2079.

Brad switches through a series of jobs that take him from selling counterfeit scrolls in Egypt to doing laundry in the newly renovated Pompei.  The people putting on the anniversary celebration have spared no expense to attract the richest people from around the world.  Parts of Pompeii have been rebuilt, but others have had holographic facelifts including animated Roman citizens.   Other characters are played by human workers and volunteers, including Brad  who sells wine to tourists.

As Brad is seduced by and eventually falls in love with one of the volunteers, an older lady named Gerda, the celebration is put in jeopardy by terrorist attacks.  Hoping that the horror of their attacks is multiplied by the world’s attention of the event.  Despite wanting to keep his nose clean and not make waves, Brad becomes a terrorism suspect.  and must struggle to clear his name and uncover the truth before the celebration is ruined and many people die.

Pro: Frederik Pohl is a legendary and award winning Science Fiction writer and is best known for his excellent Heechee Saga that begins with the 1977 novel Gateway.   All the Lives he Led is not on the grand scale of some of his other novels, but is more mellow and polished.  This is to be expected, because he was 92 when this was published.   I think that this book has some very strong aspects though;

  • Very believable and possible dystopia with terrorists attacks, extreme wealth, and poverty and debt.
  • The technology isn’t far fetched and things like the holograms are already becoming a reality today.
  • Brad reminds me of a the earthbound Robinette Broadhead in the Heechee series.
  • Some of the interrogations actually made me sweat.
  • Interesting view of gender issues.

Con: Even thought there was much to recommend the novel I had a few issues with it;

  • The love story doesn’t add up 100% because it seems a bit rushed, but that might be explained by youth and hopefulness.
  • All of the bad guys seem to be living alternative lifestyles and nobody else seems to.  This doesn’t seem to be a comment on those lifestyles, but is just a thing.

Conclusion: I  enjoyed this novel.  It is great to see that Pohl has developed into an even more nuanced writer in his later years and  I hope that he will continue writing for some time.  Maybe some of the technology he has written about will come to be and help prolong his writing years!

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 4
Plot 3
Imagery 4
Read Again? 4
Average 3.75
Feb 212012
 

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 374

Publisher:  Scholastic Inc

Release Date: 9/14/2008

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Future, Teen

Characters:

Katniss Everdeen-  16 years old and  lives in District 12 in a future North America, Panem. She helps her family and community to survive harsh times by hunting in forbidden areas using her skill with the bow.

Peeta Mellark- 16  years old, and more well of than others in District 12 because his parents are bakers.  He is an artist and is skilled at decorating cakes.

Gale Hawthorne-18 years old is another District 12 hunter and he and Katniss have undefined feelings for each other.

Haymitch Abernathy- Former District 12 champion of the Hunger Games.  He becomes a mentor to Katniss and Peeta despite him being a very large fan of drinking large quantities of alcohol.

Prim Everdeen- Katniss’ younger sister.

Rue- 12 year old girl and tribute from District 11, and she reminds Katniss of Prim.

Cato, Clove and Thresh- Trained from a young age to compete in the Hunger Games.  They are ruthless and band together to have a great advantage over less organized competitors.

Synopsis: In the semi-distant future all that remains of North America is Panem, consisting of the Capitol, and 12 areas called Districts.  The Capitol has a very high technology but forces the other districts to live in poverty and sacrifice the resources they produce so the citizens of the Capitol can stay fat and happy.  Each district must even sacrifice two of their children to fight to the death against children from the other districts in a gladiatorial battle called The Hunger Games.  Katniss Everdeen lives in the coal producing district, District 12,  with her mother and sister, Prim.  She learned basic folk healing skills from her mother and hunting skills from her father before he died.  She is able to provide extra food for her family by hunting game outside of the barrier fence and sells or trades extra food with the community.

When the yearly lottery is held to pick the 74th Hunger Game competitors for District 12, sadly Katniss’ sister, Prim, is picked to compete.  Unselfishly, Katniss takes Prim’s place.  Along with Peeta ,the baker’s son  and Haymitch, the town drunk and winner of a previous Hunger Game, are sent to the Capitol to prepare for battle.  Haymitch is designated at their mentor.  The cruel Capitol states that their can only be one winner, so Katniss and Peeta must fight to the death even though Peeta has convinced the public that he and Katniss are in love.

Since the story has some twists and turns, I will not go any further and spoil the ending, but suffice to say, Katniss must use all of her skills and intelligence to try to win the game and at the same time retain her humanity.

Pro: I really didn’t know much about this series when I picked it up earlier this year, but I had heard that it was similar to the novel Battle Royale. That intrigued me since I liked the idea of gladiatorial battles for survival in novels but the fact that it was for younger audiences made me wary.  The Hunger Games ended up being a pleasant surprise for me.

  • I like some of the future technology like some of the genetically altered birds and some of the things later in the novel.
  • The relationship between Katniss and Prim is very touching and believable.
  • I really liked the audition scene where Katniss really shows her abilities and her spunk.

 Con: There wasn’t much lacking in the novel considering that it is written for a younger audience, the language isn’t very complex and the themes are kept at a simple level.  I am left with some general questions though;

  • I really never got a good grasp of the size of Panem.  At times it seems small, but others pretty large.  I know that it is the remnants of the whole United States and some of Canada, but it seems like District 12 only has one town even thought it supplies all of the coal for Panem.
  • I would also like to know more about the history of the games and if the rules were always very strictly followed or if they could be changed depending on public sentiment.

Conclusion: I read this book very quickly and then went out and bought the two sequels because I enjoyed it so much and needed to find out how it ends!  I almost wish I had known ahead of time and bought all of the books together in a pack, but then I would have had to wait longer.  I highly recommend it and also am looking forward to what they do with it in as a film in 2012.

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 3
Plot 3
Imagery 3
Read Again? 4
Average 3.25