The third book in Atwood’s post-apocalyptic trilogy (after Oryx and Crake, 2003 and The Year of the Flood, 2009) returns readers to the terrible trials faced by the handful of survivors of a bioengineered plague which swept the world. The survivors are an uneasy mix of the peaceful God’s Gardeners eco-cultists and the more militant MaddAddamit bioterrorists—whose leader Crake not only unleashed the global pandemic, but led these scientists in bioengineering humanity’s replacement, a quasi-human vegetarian species now called Crakers. The surviving humans face a variety of threats to their continued existence and peace, both from tensions within the group and external dangers. There are other survivors, and some of these are the violent subhuman criminals known as Painballers. In addition, bioengineered animals have escaped their pens, and the huge Pigoons—pigs which have human prefrontal cortex tissue and are preternaturally intelligent—are not terribly picky about where their next meals come from. Alternately narrated by former God’s Gardener Toby as she attempts to explain the world to the innocent and strange Crakers in a way they will understand—which increasingly approaches a sort of semi-religious dogmatism as the Crakers build new myths from the truth—and by her lover Zeb as he relates the course of his life before and after the pandemic which finally ended their already decadent and dying civilization.
Inventive, colorful, and fascinating, Atwood’s vision of the future is both terrifyingly plausible in its foundations and grippingly creative in its execution. A fitting end to a remarkable trilogy.
Selim, a rather retiring and comfort-loving member of the Turkish Janissary Corps, finds his calm and uneventful existence entirely upset when the swashbuckling English adventurer Delilah Dirk winds up in the Agha’s prisons. A larger-than-life figure who has nevertheless accomplished every one of the wild feats attributed to her and then some, Delilah escapes with ease and Selim, through a series of misadventures, ends up her unwilling accomplice. Their wild journey is at first an inconvenience and a terror to the mild-mannered and tea-loving Turkish Lieutenant, but he soon finds that the adrenaline and uncertainty of Delilah’s lifestyle suits him far better than the comfortable but dull life he once led.
Fast-paced and elegantly illustrated, this is a graphic novel which will hold appeal for a wide variety of age groups. Humorous banter, hilarious scrapes and vivid characterization contribute to this unabashedly enjoyable romp of a tale.
Namima and her sister were close as children, but when Kamikuu the elder sister is taken away to train as the next Oracle of their small island’s tribe, Namima is told she herself is “impure” and her role is to serve Kamikuu. Years later, when the old Oracle dies, Namima does not succeed her sister as the Oracle in training, but is now told she is to be the next Priestess of Darkness—the priestess of the dead, who is kept isolated from all others and who watches over the tribe’s burial ground. Namima, however, has a secret—she has fallen in love with and become pregnant by handsome young Mahito. The two flee and have nearly reached safety with their newborn child when suddenly—Namima awakens in the Realm of the Dead, a victim of Mahito’s strangling hands. Now the death goddess Izanami’s Priestess in truth, Namima does not want the position and craves only to know what has occurred in the land of the living in the meanwhile—and later, revenge.
Japanese crime author Kirino draws upon the Japanese creation myth of the original god and goddess, Izanami and Izanaki—whose union created the Japanese islands and all the creatures therein—to tell the story of a wronged woman whose story mirrors that of the goddess Izanami herself. A lyrical and tragic story which combines elements of myth, magic, and mystery with grace and skill.
It had been over forty years since Lucille and Harold Hargrave’s son, Jacob, died on his eighth birthday in 1966. They had gotten used to living without him. But when he shows up, alive, on their doorstep with a government agent, looking exactly as he did the day he died, everything changes. It is not just happening to the Hargraves’. All over the world the “returned” are re-appearing and families are forced to deal with the trauma of accepting, or in some cases, turning away loved ones they have already mourned. Chaos begins to erupt and the world’s governments are forced to come up with a solution for the multitudes of “returned”, who are now being looked upon with suspicion and fear. They are rounded up and forced to live in temporary camps, supposedly for their own safety. Harold refuses to let his son fend for himself and so, together, they watch from their prison as the complexities of the phenomenon ravage the once tight-knit beliefs of their community. Mott explores this “what if” scenario with great emotional depth. Through the experiences of the Hargrave family and their community, The Returned will make you question what it means to love and be human.
The following are the National Book Award Winners for 2013:
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
Incarnadine: Poems by Mary Szybist
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
It you are a fan of Maisie Dobbs or Downton Abbey, you will greatly enjoy this mystery--the first in a series.
Bess Crawford, a British army nurse during World War I, is asked by a dying soldier to take a message to his family. She tried not to get too attached to her patients, but this particular soldier holds a place in her heart and she is driven by duty to see that his wish is fulfilled. The family’s reaction to her message spurs her to delve deeper into the family’s affairs, and little by little she discovers that this family has many dark secrets, including murder.
Charles Todd is exceptional at period atmosphere, and you will experience both the English countryside and the effects of war in this well-written old-fashioned historical mystery.
In Sakey’s newest alternate-history thriller, he tackles a scary question: what if one percent of the population was born with super human gifts? Reading body language to your advantage, becoming invisible by moving where people aren’t looking and recognizing patterns that nobody else can see. These “gifted” citizens, who began being born in the early 1980’s are now a threat to the government, called terrorists, and hunted by a secret agency. If they are unwilling to use their skills to help the government, they are imprisoned or killed. Nick Cooper is one of these agents. He is also “gifted”. After a horrific bombing on the stock exchange believed to have been organized and executed by a radical “gifted” leader, John Smith, he decides to go undercover in order to prevent the potentially explosive civil war that is brewing between his kind and rest of the population. However, he slowly begins to discover some very troubling information about the government and their relationship with the “gifted” that makes him question his allegiance.
Much of the story is set in Chicago and Sakey does a great job of creating this mind-bending story against a familiar backdrop. He explores the concept of what it means to be “gifted” in a society that sees it as a threat and the connection to our own time. You will begin to wonder if perhaps, in some ways, we are not too far removed from the near-future he portrays.
Anais is fifteen and headed to the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. This time she beat a police officer into a coma and even though she can't remember the details because of the pills she was abusing, her clothes are covered in blood. She has spent her entire life in foster car and learned quickly that she can only trust herself, that the "experiment" is plotting against her and anything could be a trick.
However, Anais becomes part of the dysfunctional "family" of misfits at the Panopticon, looking out for each other and fighting against the adults and the people in the watchtower that constantly monitor them. Written in Anais' unique and troubled voice, this story often has the reader wondering if her experiences are real or the creations of a paranoid and drug-ridden mind. This is a book worth reading because of the amazing and fierce voice that Fagan has created with this heartbreaking heroine; Anais will stay with you long after you finish reading. The author is being praised for this magical debut.
The Readers' Roundtable met in October to discuss books that they've recently enjoyed. Below are some of their favorites.
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
Local Souls by Alan Gurganus
The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
The next Readers' Roundtable meets at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26. Please join us for a lively discussion.
The Shining by Stephen King
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatt
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories by Richard Matheson