Tuesday, January 29, 2013

YA Reading, Round 10: Sci-Fi

This is one genre I definitely thought would be the least interesting, but it actually turned out to be one of my favorite weeks of reading. I really enjoyed these two books, but I'm still don't think I can apply that reaction to all of sci-fi. Maybe it's only coincidence that I happened to like both of these, so I'm going to say jury's still out on me and sci-fi...

Scott Westerfeld is the author of a few well-known YA series, Leviathan being one of them. The series is steampunk in aesthetic, taking place in a semi-fictional society leading up to World War I. A lot of the history is there—the leaders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire have been murdered, but its prince has escaped and is on the run. Meanwhile, Britain's Air Service has an intruder—Deryn is our heroine, disguised as a boy, because all she wants to do is fly...and she's brilliant at it. Naturally, our two protagonists meet and are thrown into an adventure as the world itself is on the verge of chaos.

There's no Allies versus Central Power in this war; rather it's the Austro-Hungarian/German Clankers, with their mighty steam-powered iron machines, versus the British Darwinists, who have employed fabricated animals to do a machine's work. This is what's so fascinating about this book—it takes these schools of thought from a real point in history and just runs with them, creating this big what-if scenario. It's based on enough factual history to keep the reader feeling realistically connected to this fictional world, but it let's imagination run free to consider a new way of thinking. Leviathan is the first in a trio, and I, myself, can't wait to keep reading, because this one ends without much resolution.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is definitely not a book I would have thought I'd like. Even for the first couple of chapters I wanted to put it down, because it starts off a bit slow. Ship Breaker is dystopian in style and is set in the Gulf Coast region sometime in the future, when hurricanes have pounded the area to the point that cities have been ruined and civilization is primitive at its best. Nailer, our main character, is a light crew worker, meaning he hops aboard shipwrecked boats and oil tankers, stripping them for copper wiring to make quota. This is the work-driven society he lives in—just trying to survive, scrapping metal for an unknown boss somewhere up the line, wishing and hoping for his big break.

By chance, Nailer may have hit his jackpot when he finds a beautiful clipper ship (essentially, a yacht) beached by a recent hurricane. As he hops on board, he finds the entire crew killed...except for a beautiful, wealthy girl who may be worth more to him dead than alive. This is where the character of Nailer really begins to shine, showing signs of humanity, as he becomes a person rather than just a scavenger like the rest of them. Ship Breaker is an adventure with a main character who faces a moral dilemma, and the reader is presented with scenarios that demand consideration.

One of my favorite things is the descriptions of the world "as it was," or, as it currently is now. Reading a fictional future that so clearly links to the past makes you feel, as I mentioned above, so connected to the story and setting. This book is also the first in a series, though so far, there are only two. Recommended to dystopian fans or readers looking for adventure or uncertainty.


Aarti said...

I had a very similar reaction to Ship Breaker. I think I want to read the companion novel, but I haven't yet. I agree with you that it was slow going at first, probably because I had no real idea what was going on :-) But then it clicked!

Kari said...

It WAS hard to totally grasp the setting at first! I think that's why it was sort of hard to get into. I look forward to seeing if you read it; you'll probably beat me to it!