Posts Tagged ‘Post-apocalyptic fiction’

Okay, after my marginally-positive (or at least optimistic for the future) take on last week’s episode, I’m backtracking hard.  I was a brief optimist, but everything that didn’t work about the show in the first two episodes, but maybe you let slide in hope of a sort-of-watchable post-apocalyptic experience, pretty much smacked you in the face in the most recent installment.  Then there was more bad stuff added on top of that.

For me, I’ll go ahead and say it is likely I won’t intentionally watch any more of this show . . . at the very least because the writers/producers seem to think anyone who would watch it is dumb enough to go along with the kind of nonsense they are coming up with.  (Seriously, a novel with these problems would never get published.)

So, forget the hedging or “hey-they-have-room-for-improvement” angles, here’s a few short takes on why this episode was so dismal:

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I may have been a little late getting around to reading this series. But the prequel is set for release in a few weeks, and Fox is working on turning the first book into a film in the near future, so I guess my timing in finishing them actually turns out to be pretty good.

The Maze Runner books were published over a period of about 3 years, beginning in 2009 with The Maze Runner, then The Scorch Trials in 2010, and The Death Cure in 2011.  The series has been favorably compared to The Hunger Games trilogy, which I think is fair, and I bet most adults who liked Collins’s books will enjoy these as well.

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Thoughts on Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake by way of wilderness and post-apocalyptic genre traditions
"Snowman wakes before dawn"

“Snowman wakes before dawn” – Oryx and Crake fan art by Jason Courtney
More images: http://www.perdador.com/f6update/illustration_f9.html

I gave a guest lecture yesterday on Oryx and Crake for a colleague’s 200-level Environmental Literature course.  My presentation was organized around the ways that the book participates in genres, challenges some of  their conventions, and updates the “classic” dystopia (WeBNW, 1984, et cetera) by moving the locus of power from the centralized state to a more nebulous net of corporations and their mercenaries.

Because nearly any lower-level survey of environmental literature will necessarily include readings drawn from the mostly-American, white male-dominated, wilderness tradition, my prep also involved looking for ways to connect what is going on in Oryx and Crake with those texts that students had recent familiarity with.  I’m not sure how well the lecture worked in setting this up, but the result was something that, in retrospect, seems quite obvious.  However, I hadn’t previously fleshed it out, which was kind of weird (I guess wilderness writing hasn’t been on my mind much recently).  My main take away point is this:  Post-apocalyptic protagonists share a number of traits with protagonists or narrators of the wilderness genre.  This has interesting implications for connecting a reading of Snowman in Oryx and Crake to both genres.

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Thoughts on Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Drowned Cities and Julianna Baggott’s Pure

I picked up these  two books in close succession and read them back-to-back (actually, I didn’t exactly “pick up” Bacigalupi’s book; I preordered it because his work is probably the most exciting world building- and idea-wise of any current author I’ve read).  I was mid-way through Pure when The Drowned Cities arrived, and I plowed through both rather quickly. The two share enough similarities, despite huge differences in set-up and execution, that I thought it was worth looking at them side-by-side

My short take is that both are strong, mature entries in the currently booming young adult dystopia/post-apocalyptic genre (to be fair, Bacigalupi’s is better defined as “post-collapse”; and Baggott’s book doesn’t seem to be tagged by the publisher as YA even if the label really fits); I’d strongly recommend both to fans of the genre.  They are both plot-driven in typical YA fashion, but the ideas behind the worlds, and the development of dark, relevant to our world themes that reflect on our own situation, stand up well enough for honest, open-minded adult readers to not dismiss them. From a ranking point of view, Bacigalupi’s book is hands-down the superior work, partially due to the amount of work he has put into developing the world in which it takes place (the same world as his earlier YA novel Ship Breaker, which shares a main character, The Wind-up Girl, and at least two stories from his collection Pump Six and Other Stories).  I’d recommend The Drowned Cities to anyone, and everyone concerned about the future should be reading his books, but Pure, as good as I think it is, may be more of a genre fan novel (its rights have, however, already been picked up by Fox Studios, due undoubtedly to the genre’s popularity; I have no idea what the status of Bacigalupi’s YA books being adapted is, but they would work very well in the hands of a good director).

So both books are arguably “post-apocalyptic,” but what exactly does this mean?  As I mentioned, The Drowned Cities takes place in the same post-peak-oil, climate change and rising sea-levels, salvage-as-capital world as his prior novels (after “the accelerated age”), and this world is fully fleshed-out, thoughtfully considered, and a downright frightening view of where we may be in a matter of decades.  Pure is more of a throwback; the destruction of civilization (at least in the post-apocalyptic North America setting) is due to “the detonations,” a missile exchange more reminiscent of cold war-era science fiction than contemporary visions of the end of the world as we know it.  If this were the extent of Baggott’s world-building, it would be a mediocre read, but she adds in two factors that make the world far more interesting than another Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior rehash.

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When the gods do it, it is horrific and epic in scale.  But when characters in post-apocalyptic fiction are driven to it by circumstances, it is almost always laughably unbelievable.

Saturn Devouring His Son (c. 1819–1823) - Goya

Spoilers for Bodeen’s The Compound, McCarthy’s The Road, and a few other things follow, if you care.  Post also contains unapologetic and practical considerations of cannibalism with no moral/ethical judgment on those who eat others to survive.

Reading S.A. Bodeen’s YA post-apocalyptic novel The Compound, I was annoyed at how poorly handled and unrealistic one of the central horrors of the story was.  It’s an otherwise decent read (though with a predictable “twist”), but it is bogged down with a central motif that just doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.

The author sketches a somewhat preposterous scenario where survivors of a supposedly apocalyptic event, confined to a well-stocked compound, eventually begin to run low on food stores and contemplate killing and eating their “surrogates” to survive.  These surrogates are genetic clones of our survivors and have been bred through in-vitro fertilization by way of the evil genius science guy antagonist and brought to term (rapidly) by a quasi-surrogate mother (she’s their real genetic mom too–the horror!).  The lurid situation and moral quandary, then, is supposedly that these surrogate babies are not just real people, but also siblings/children.

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