Munmun by Jesse Andrews

Munmun.jpgTitle: Munmun

Author: Jesse Andrews

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th March, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 416

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A pointed, amusing and highly-original story set in an alternate reality wherein every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth, by the best-selling author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers. Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute – and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter – there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small.

Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them?

From the bestselling author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes a brilliant, warm, skewering social novel for our times in the tradition of Great Expectations, 1984 and Invisible Man.

~*~

Munmun is a satirical, tongue in cheek story about wealth, and the privileges that come with it. As littlepoors – the smallest on the scale of wealth, Warner and his sister (consistently referred to as sis throughout). Prayer, have no power. They’ve got no way of working their way to a higher scale. But when an opportunity arises for them to leave where they have lived their whole lives, and start a journey to scale up, they take the chance, and traverse the strange country that is the Yewess, with places with names like Wet Almanac, and two different worlds – LifeandDeath World – Day and Dreamworld -Night. It is a world where wealth, education and opportunity is proportionate to size, an alternate world much like our own, but also a bit of a dystopia, where no matter how much some people have, it will never be enough, mirroring some of the attitudes in the world today, and where the bigrich look down on the littlepoors for not trying harder, even though those higher up on the scale don’t try to help them, but rather, blame them for the situation life has put them in.

it is narrated by Warner, and we see the world of each scale level through his eyes, from the littlepoor to the highest rich scale and beyond – and his journey to getting Scaled Up so he can make something of himself, but he thwarts every opportunity those in the middle present him with – or so it seems, on his quest to better the lives of those like him.

At times reading this, I wondered where the story was, and where the character growth – other than physically Scaling Up was. The mashed together words and the way Warner spoke worked at first, but once everyone, even those who had more education in the book than him did it, I began to wonder if that was the way Warner heard them, or whether the entire fictional nation spoke like that. For Warner, it worked, as it was him telling the story – though having everyone else speak exactly like him left little room for character growth and development, which would have added to the novel – which has the promise of being amusing whilst still being an allegory for the greed in the world today.

It is definitely a satirical allegory of society today – and that aspect worked really well, showing how greed affects people and what some people are willing to do to have it all, and the lengths they will go to. I did find the consistently mashed together words distracting if I put the book down, so I read whole chunks in a single sitting because that ensured the flow of the way the characters spoke and spoke about their world – putting it aside meant I needed a few pages to get used to it again, however, I feel for the purposes of the satire, it has worked – even the misspellings worked and were mostly understandable, as most of them were related to cities or countries, and it was as though we were reading Warner’s thought patterns and the way he understood spoken words as opposed to written words.

At times, the mashed together words worked, and at times, they didn’t – perhaps allowing other characters to not do this would also have been an effective way to show the differences in speech patterns for classes in society.

Overall, it was a rather strange book, not quite what I usually read. The premise is interesting, and the plot seemed to be rushed in places, especially the end. Whether this was intentional or not, I’m not sure – but in a way it worked because whilst the first few parts related Warner’s struggles, the last part was focussed on how munmun had made him greedy – and the implications of this in a society where it’s okay to Scale Up, but shh, don’t Scale Up too much, that’s too greedy, which felt reminiscent of some of the things said today by politicians, which is why this works as a political allegory because it shows there is no perfect life and no perfect ending, which for a dystopian novel that also reads as a satirical allegory, works well.

It’s marketed towards the higher end of the YA market, and can be a little dark. Not my favourite read of the year, however it is an interesting one that might provoke some interesting discussions.

Booktopia

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King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Title: King’s Cage  kings-cage

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

Published: 7th February 2017

Format: paperback

Pages: 512

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The highly anticipated new novel from New York Times Number One bestselling author of Red Queen.

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal.

Now a king, Maven continues weaving his web in an attempt to maintain control over his country – and his prisoner.

As Mare remains trapped in the palace, the remnants of the Red Rebellion continue organising and expanding. As they prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows, Cal – the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart – will stop at nothing to bring her back.

In this breathless new novel from the bestselling author of the Red Queen series, blood will turn on blood and allegiances will be tested on every side. If the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

~*~

King’s Cage starts with Mare Barrow in the prison of Maven, and at the mercy of the Silvers. The third in the Red Queen series, it continues the story that began in Red Queen, of the battle between Reds and Silvers, and how the Newbloods – those with special abilities – fit into the war. The ongoing war, and forced conscription ahs led to rebellion and infiltration, with Mare’s undercover position in the castle where Maven lives now undone, with her in prison, and under the influence of Silent Stone to suppress her lightning powers, but also Maven, and his obsession with her, and with using her. Set in a dystopian world where magic and technology work together, and where royalty has replaced politicians, this series is gaining fire as it moves towards the war that is coming, and threatening their world.

Starting a series mid-way through is not something I ordinarily do, however, I am tempted to go and read the first two books now – to get the full story, even though I could understand what was going on and work out the characters. I did enjoy it – it was a different take on the fantasy/science fiction/dystopian stories and tropes that abound in Young Adult literature. As the rebellion works away, Mare must suffer the indignity of being paraded around as Maven’s pet to his court, and journey to collect his bride, and unite two Houses against the rebels. It is on this journey that everything Mare has feared comes to a head, and the world she knows, and the people she knows – her family, her friends, and Cal, Maven’s exiled brother – will never be the same again.

Being introduced to a series in the middle can be confusing – at first it was, which is why I hope to read the first two, and it is not something I recommend, however, I was sent a review copy, and at first, did not realise it was part of a series. That said, I did enjoy this – any romantic relationships were there but weren’t as important as the rebellion storyline, and uniting everyone against a common enemy. As a reader, I enjoyed this because they had just enough focus to be enjoyable and gain insight into the characters and motivations, and at the same time, didn’t take over what I saw as the more interesting aspects to the novel – the rebellion and coming together from various places to take on the other side.

Even though Mare is the main character, a few other characters get to tell their story – each chapter is told in first person, with the name at the top, making it easy to identify who is telling the story. Each voice is different too – with varying emotions and views that ensure each character’s chapter is identified easily from the others.

A great read for fans of the series, and Young Adult fans. I am looking forward to trying to get the first two as well.

Booktopia

Book review of Division by Lee S Hawke

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Book Title: Division: A Collection of Science Fiction Fairy Tales
Author: Lee S. Hawke
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

I was gifted a copy of this book for an honest review

Featuring 7 original, fairytale-inspired science fiction short stories, this collection explores the division between mind, body, technology, and humanity in Hawke’s trademark haunting style.

Inside:

A chronically ill civilian discovers that his immune system may be the key to human survival

A schoolgirl tries to escape her demons through levels of virtual reality

A data analyst falls in love with a software coder during a forced government assignment

A young boy is confronted with a horrifying truth about his constructed world

A jaded medical technician rediscovers the meaning of beauty

A girl scrambles to escape a horrifying alien invasion in a futuristic dystopia.

And a spaceship engineer struggles with the death of her only daughter.

Metaphysical and visionary, this collection of fantastic fiction combines humor, wonder, horror and humanity to create an enduring anthology of fairy tales for adults.

~*~

I am a lover of fairy tales in all their forms, so this book appealed to me. Where most fairy tales will being with once upon a time, in a far away land, these ones did not explore that ancient and ambivalent land far, far away, that is in the old tales, a vague time and place, but rather, Lee. S Hawke’s fairy tales look towards the future of Earth and what it may be. The worlds of technology and humanity collide, and through this, we witness the characters trying to maintain their humanity through the integration of technology into life and how it can impact them, and change things. The fairy tales explore death, destruction and vanity – and of course, what it means to be human in a world of technology that can do anything people will it to. I think tale seven was my favourite, but each one of the seven, though fantastical and science fiction, dealt with significant themes that we deal with in today’s world. Just as we deal with illness, so do these characters, but with a twist in the first tale, the main character realising he could save humanity, or that in the second to last tale, science might be able to fix aging, to reverse it to the extent that people possible cease to exist. It explores the very real death of children and the breakdown and reconstruction of relationships that occur when a child dies through a couple on a spaceship over a thousand years from now. Technology and science have made an impact on the world. But people are still human, they still feel happiness and joy, pain and suffering, and they still mourn. They still get sick. Children still die. There are no happily ever after endings here, nor are the stories always completely resolved but that is the magic within. Happily ever after is a construct of Disney and of sanitising and rewriting the fairy tales so much that their true nature is no longer evident. If anything, these tales are more akin to Snow White’s mother dancing herself to death in red-hot iron shoes, and I love it. There is something real about the lack of closure and darkness, because in life, we don’t always get the happily ever after or closure. A great read, and one I would recommend if you enjoy dystopian stories.