Tag Archives: dystopian

Book Review: Contained by S. L. Harpel

Contained is S. L. Harpel’s debut novel. It is a young adult, science-fiction tale built around a young girl, Ella, who finds herself torn between two worlds. Ella was born in the Outskirts, the barren wasteland that covers most of the planet after man has destroyed it with biological weapons. While still a small child, she is chosen by a wealthy couple and taken into one of the Communities. There are nine Communities and each is dome-protected and full of life and abundance, but very few humans have the chance to live in one.

Ella faces a difficult choice because she wants to be loyal to her sister, Beaunca, who stayed behind in the Outskirts. However, there are many, many good things to life in the Community, from good food to advanced medical care, and Ella starts to be able to see the world from two points of view.

Contained is told from Ella’s first-person point of view. The writing style allows you to feel what Ella feels and do some self-examination as you decide which choices you might make in a similar situation. The book is reminiscent of the time when social standing and civil liberties were determined on where you were born. Had she not been chosen, Ella would not have the options now before her. She must choose to support the Community, find a way to elevate the lower classes, or find a positive middle-ground between the two.

The dystopian nature of the book is a possible future that is all too likely. Seeing a glimpse of how the world could evolve if we continue to destroy the planet was both fascinating and chilling.

What I Liked

Contained has a fast pace with rich characters. Since it is told from the first-person perspective, you feel what Ella feels as she faces each choice and decision. Ella faces a struggle with not only the world she has been forced to live in but a secret that she is forced to keep hidden inside. The story does a good job of not getting bogged down in unnecessary details and tells you what you need to know when you need to know it.

The character development was also well done. Each main character is a solid and fully fleshed out individual. Well not too much time is spent describing each character, you are given enough to see the whole person and their personality.

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Where I Struggled

The only thing I had a hard time with in Contained was the abundance of characters. So many characters were described and named that I had a hard time keeping them all straight. At times, I was a little confused as to whether I really needed to know about a character or not. The plethora of characters introduced is the only reason I did not give this book a five-star review. That said, for the most part, the story sticks to the important characters and you learn who they are and what’s important about them. This minor negative did not detract from the excellent storytelling.

The Review

To me, Contained was a quick read that I had a hard time putting down. I was drawn in from the first few lines and am looking forward to reading Book Two. There were a few minor imperfections in the book, but none so much as to interfere with your reading enjoyment. The only reason I am not giving this book a five-star review is that I got confused more than a few times due to the sheer number of characters that are introduced and developed.

In conclusion, if you like dystopian science fiction and/or young adult literature, you will enjoy Contained. The book builds believable worlds that draw you in, and you find yourself invested as to which world or social group will or should prosper. There is definitely plenty of substance for this series to go on, possible through many more books. I highly recommend this book.

Final rating: 4.9/5.0 Stars


Learn more about S. L. Harpel is her author interview.

Contained by S. L. Harpel Book Review | #BookReview #IndieAuthor #SciFi #sciencefiction

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

What if zombies weren’t bad? How might the world change if they could be trained to work and be useful members of society? What would that world look like? Scott Bell’s Working Stiffs gives you a glimpse into that possible dystopian future.

SynopsisSynopsis

Scott Bell’s Working Stiffs is a new twist on the dystopian zombie genre. Rather than being created from the bite of another zombie, these zombies, called Revivants, are created by injected nanobots as a scientific solution to cheap and endless labor. Bodies of the recently deceased are reanimated to serve an abundance of manual labor tasks. The year 2051 is dark and gritty and not one you will want to live in but will enjoy visiting.

The book revolves around two characters, everyday man Joseph “Joe” Warren and Homeland Security Agent, Angel Ramirez.

Joe’s story is told from the first person. In his mid-twenties, Joe is a bit down on his luck. Due to the abundance of Revivants, he has been unable to find work for more than two years. Living in ratty government housing with his ailing girlfriend is a less than ideal life. In an attempt to better their situation, Joe is inadvertently tossed onto a whole new and often violent path.

Agent Ramirez is a corrupt and sadistic Homeland Agent. His tale unfolds in the third-person. Like most of the government, he is intent on keeping the country’s narrative away from the true happenings of everyday life and instead on what is beneficial to the government. Morally bankrupt, he is not afraid to hurt or kill anyone in the path to his goal.

The Good

The Good

The words flow easily with realistic dialogue and phonetically written accents. Though I did not always understand every word of some of the characters, I was able to hear the individual accents of characters from different ethnicities.

Many of the characters, Millie, John and Alex, to name a few, are lovable and unique. The world of the book is created with enough detail to create a clear image in your mind’s eye without so much as to be exhaustive.

If it were a person, Working Stiffs could be described as a bit of a pop culture junkie, with plenty of references from the likes of Star Wars to The Princess Bride.

The 80’s child in me enjoyed a lot of the one-liners and quips echoing the bygone decade, such as, “Rodents of Unusual Size.” Additional notations to more recent years are equally enjoyable. I guess I am a bit of a pop culture junkie myself.

Joe’s humor, though more than a bit snarky and often crude and juvenile, did lead to some laugh-out-loud moments. In the beginning, one of the zombies, named Larry, was programed with a little of a sense of humor and repeatedly says, “Braaains!” much to Joe’s annoyance. A bit later someone sarcastically refers to hiring a comedian and Joe says, “You should meet Larry.”

The Not So Good

The Not So Good

There was some difficulty on my part in getting through the plethora of expletives, especially in the first third or so of the book. In one section, I noted curse words or vulgar references in almost every line.

Every good book should have color in its dialogue and narrative, but the superabundance in Working Stiffs was a little overwhelming at time for this reader. Had I not agreed to write a review, I may have stopped reading altogether.

I also had a little trouble with many of the pop culture references. While I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, I did find it a bit hard to believe that today’s references would still be as relevant in 2051, especially to someone then in their twenties.

Rating

Rating

I enjoyed the second half of the book much better than the first and am glad I continued reading. The story really seems to find its way and smooth out the rough edges felt in the opening chapters. Joe becomes the friend you love to hate, and Agent Ramirez the malicious villain that grows worse with each chapter.

Even though there were aspects that I did not enjoy, in the end Working Stiffs is well-written and easy to read. Despite myself, I was not ready for it to end. If there is a sequel, and a big part of me sincerely hopes there will be, it will be added to my reading queue.

To rate this title on a five-point scale, I would give it 3.75.

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