Thursday, September 11, 2008

Generation Dead, Gifts, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox

I tend to go through book phases where I read the same genre of book over and over again. It's like I get an itch that needs scratching and the only thing that will do is to overdose on it. Sometimes I'll go through murder mystery phases that will last for years, but thanks to this blog, I have more motivation to pull out of my zone and try something different. For a little while there, it was sci-fi/fantasy geared towards teenagers. What's sad is that I'm such a slacker about reading these days is that I read the following books weeks and even months ago and I'm just getting around to writing about them. Also because I haven't cracked a book open in a month. A month! My brain is atrophying! Lest I forget even more plot details, I better get writing.

I don't know about you but I love a good zombie story. "Generation Dead" by Dan Waters takes the idea that for no apparent reason, teenagers all over the country are coming back from the dead. It's only teenagers and it's always within a few hours of death. Some of these "living impaired" kids are almost as functional as when they were alive while others just shuffle around and moan. But none appear to have the need to eat human brains (darn) or other scary stuff from the movies. There are theories about why it's happening. Maybe all the preservatives in food? Chemicals in the water? The story follows Phoebe, a Goth girl who is fascinated by the zombies and in particular, a boy named Tommy. Her friends Margi and Adam (who also has a secret crush on Phoebe), are baffled by her interest, but get involved with Phoebe in a club that promotes understanding and awareness for the undead.

What I found interesting was the parallels between this situation and the civil rights movement in the 60s. The zombies are hated, reviled, abused, set on fire, beaten with baseball bats, and feared by the general public. Very few people want to give them any rights and oftentimes, their families will have nothing to do with them after they come back from the dead. The zombies stick together and while some of them want progress to be made peacefully, there are others who think they need to resort to violence. The age group this book is geared towards is a generation who has never really experienced such potent prejudice. Heck, neither have I! It's no longer socially acceptable to hate and shun. Well, openly at least. This is a pretty good allegory to situations that have existed and raise questions that maybe a 15-year-old today have never had to think about. My only beef was the ending and after grumbling for a few days, I read somewhere that it was setting things up for a sequel. That made more sense, but now I have to wait around for Waters to write a second one, which just makes me grumpy.

With "Gifts" by Ursula K. LeGuin, I was having major deja-biblio-vu. You know, where you have the sneaking suspicion that you've read a book before, that you might already know the ending, but you don't want to skip ahead and check in case you haven't? Well, yeah, I had read this one before, but it was worth a second read. This book is more in the 10-12 year-old range of readers, with lighter ideas and a bit easier language. This is pure fantasy, a story of a race of people who live in the mountains and have terrible gifts, like being able to call animals from the wild in order to be slaughtered, or twisting people's limbs with a thought, or erasing memories, or destroying with a word. Orrec is a young man who refuses to use his gift of "unmaking" and upsets the basic tenets of their society. His friend, Gry, is a gentler spirit as well and joins him in refusing to use her gift for killing animals. Because they are disturbing the balance, conflicts arise and Orrec has to find a way to protect his clan. Riveting good stuff and a very satisfying ending.

"The Adoration of Jenna Fox" by Mary Pearson is my favorite book of late and I probably could have done a whole post on it alone. I like good science fiction and this was very good indeed. Jenna Fox wakes up from a coma after two years and finds out that she had an accident and also can't seem to remember anything that happened before waking up. Also, she doesn't have any pictures of herself or anybody else and not even so much as a get well card. Oh, and by the way, they moved across the country while she was in a coma. Huh? That's what she thinks too. And she has these strange compelling needs to do certain things. And her parents are kind of fuzzy on details. And have I mentioned that her grandmother hates her and won't stay in the same room as her? Sounds like an episode of "Lost", I know. It was an awesome book. Made me wonder, as a parent, what I would do to save my child. Hmm, insert thoughtful nod of my head here.

Did you notice that all three books have very cool covers? I showed the whole cover for "Generation Dead" because I think it looks rad. Ahh, feels good to have that post out of the way. Now, if I could just find something to read.


  1. Those books sound so interesting, I just got on my library page to reserve them, and they don't have them! I'll have to be patient and wait for a few months until the library catches up. By the way, Brandon Sanderson is making an appearance at our local library next month to talk about the new Mistborn book that's coming out, and also his work on the Robert Jordan book. Pretty exciting!

  2. I've heard of Generation Dead, but I assumed it was a social commentary on the shallowness of our materialistic society. Interesting that it tackles weightier themes like prejudice and tolerance. All three sound like really interesting reads.

  3. I love LeGuin's Wizard_of_Earthsea. And I hereby command you (with benevolence) to get that Mistborn review written!

    Okay, can peaches first. (Humming song by The Presidents of the United States)

  4. I just finished reading this. I liked the sci-fi aspect, but was really drawn in by the ethical questions. Thanks for sharing. As always, Red Hot Eyebrows never fails to deliver!