Dan Wells Guest Post


Author Dan Wells joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about dystopias and his latest release RUINS!

What Is Dystopia?
by Dan Wells

Dystopian fiction comes in a lot of different flavors. It’s the reigning queen of YA right now, with books like THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT topping the charts, but what does dystopia really mean? I see a lot of people using “dystopia” more or less as a synonym for “young adult science fiction,” but there’s so much more nuance in our genre than that. If we lump all science fiction under the dystopian umbrella, we’re missing out on the wonderful variety that science fiction has to offer.

Dystopia, in it’s origins, was about societies that tried to create a utopia–a wonderful place–but ended up created a horrible place instead. Usually these stories focus on conformity, and the loss of individual freedom; there’s a lot of “communism is scary” tied up in these kinds of books. This category includes not just old stuff like BRAVE NEW WORLD, 1984, and “Harrison Bergeron,” but newer books like UGLIES and MATCHED and DIVERGENT. The government tries to solve one set of problems, and in doing so goes too far and creates a whole new set of problems, and then it’s up to our plucky heroes and heroines to save the day.

Another flavor of dystopia shows society screwing itself up without any help from the government at all. In these stories the world wasn’t made terrible on purpose, it just happened that way naturally thanks to evil corporations (SNOW CRASH, JENNIFER GOVERNMENT), natural causes (CHILDREN OF MEN), or our own obsession with entertainment and hedonism (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). These stories differ from the first group in that the terrible aspects of society are not enforced, they just happen and we can’t escape from them; the focus of the story is not on overthrowing the society, but on trying to find some way to live within it.

Entertainment-based dystopias became a whole sub-genre of their own, drawing on the Roman idea of using “bread and circuses” to keep the populace in line. In these stories life is terrible, and resources are limited, so the leaders maintain order by distracting us with a constant barrage of media. FAHRENHEIT 451 is one of the oldest in this category; later entries put a stronger focus on blood sport and violence (THE RUNNING MAN, BATTLE ROYALE, THE HUNGER GAMES).

Because we think of dystopia as being “a terrible place,” we have a tendency to group any terrible place or society into the same category. This is especially common with post-apocalyptic stories (A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, THE ROAD), but it gets expanded to include any old science fiction story about a place you wouldn’t want to live. Megacity One from Judge Dredd is awful, but is it dystopian? The Earth of CINDER is gripped by a terrible plague, but is their society a dystopia in any way similar to the other dystopias we’ve discussed? A genre definition that puts CINDER and 1984 into the same thematic category is a bad definition; I love both books, but for very different reasons, and they deserve a better system of classification that reflects this.

I don’t think it’s enough to say that “bad=dystopia,” because that categorization focuses solely on the props and trappings of a story, without considering what’s really going on–what the story is really about. A true dystopian story doesn’t just depict a bad society, it is about that society on a fundamental level. The characters in a dystopia are primarily concerned with surviving or changing the world they live in, and the story as a whole is intended to demonstrate how a certain idea or system or attitude can turn a society into a hell. A story like RoboCop, on the other hand, simply uses a dystopian society as a backdrop to tell a story about human augmentation, and the blurred lines between human and machine. It has a different purpose, and calling it a dystopia ignores this nuance.

So, the big question: is the Partials Sequence dystopian? There’s definitely elements of it: PARTIALS is specifically about an oppressive, authoritarian government, and one girl’s quest to change it, but after that it starts to change. FRAGMENTS and RUINS both continue to deal with questions of authority and responsibility, particularly when Kira learns the secrets behind the Preserve, but the focus of the story changes. If I were forced, I’d called PARTIALS a dystopian story, FRAGMENTS a quest story, and RUINS a…hmm. A war story? A chase story? More than anything else it’s an apocalypse story: the world ended thirteen years ago, and now it’s ending again, and Kira and her friends are trying everything they can to create a new civilization from the ashes. It’s a book about endings, but also about beginnings. I think that’s an important difference.

Whatever your tastes–dystopia, post-apocalypse, or just science fiction in general–I hope you like it.

SciFi Book Review: Split Second

Split Second

Split Second by Kasie West

Addie has always been able to see the future when faced with a choice, but that doesn’t make her present any easier. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. So when Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him in the Norm world, she jumps at the chance. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. She wants to change that.

Laila, her best friend, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want this to happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

Following the events in Pivot Point, Addie has gone back to live with her mother with some of her memories erased. And just when Addie leaves to visit her father for a few weeks, Laila opens a letter from Addie asking to restore her memories – something Laila doesn’t even know how to do. The narrative jumps back and forth between the two characters, from their points of view.

Split Second had a lot to live up to, since I enjoyed the first in the series so much. Thankfully, this was just as suspenseful and exciting – even though the mystery didn’t revolve around a killer this time. There was still plenty of intrigue, danger, drama, and double the romance this time around. This gripping sequel was impossible to put down. The tension builds to a surprising, climactic ending that doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, the short series ends with this installment, as I loved these super-powered teens and their adventures.

Lanie Bross Interview and Giveaway!

Author Lanie (Lee) Bross joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about her debut novel Fates!

Can you tell us a bit about FATES in your own words?

I think it boils down to a girl who truly believes that everything that happens in the universe is dictated by fate, and a boy who believes that he is the only one who controls his destiny, and how throughout their journey they start to understand that maybe neither of them are right or wrong.

Who is Corinthe? Can you tell us why she’s exiled?

Corinthe is one of the girl fates who live in Pyralis Terra. She was exiled to Humana ten years prior for being too curious about the Messengers that transport the marbles between worlds. Fates are supposed to exist without questions and Corinthe is paying for her one mistake.

How much does free will versus fate come into play?

In the world of FATES, the destinies of every living thing is dictated by the marbles. Most destinies fulfill on their own, but there are some that need a little help. That’s where the Executors step in to be sure they come true. Luc, one of the main characters does not believe in fate. He’s had some pretty crappy things happen in his life and is adamant that the choices he makes dictate his own future. You can imagine what happens when Corinthe and Luc meet. She doesn’t understand why he doesn’t believe the universe controls everyone’s destines, and he can’t believe how she could believe that people can’t choose for themselves.

Why is Greek mythology still so popular today? What was the inspiration for you?

Read moreLanie Bross Interview and Giveaway!

Fantasy Book Review: Defy


Defy by Sara B Larson

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

Alexa is a talented fighter who has to pretend to be a young man to stay in the prince’s guard and stay out of the horrendous breeding house. The characters are rich and entertaining. And Alexa has a great chemistry with both the prince and her best friend Rylan. While she is a strong and fierce fighter, she’s still a teenage girl with all of the heightened emotions that come with it.

Defy is a powerful story wrought with mystery, intrigue, magic, and a bit of romance. Well-paced and thoroughly engaging from beginning to end, I couldn’t put this one down. This fantastic YA debut is surprising and unforgettable. I highly recommend this fantasy adventure for teens and adults alike. The sequel can’t come soon enough.

Fantasy Book Review: A Wind in the Night

A Wind in the Night

A Wind in the Night by Barb and JC Hendee

In her quest to find the Orb of Spirit, Wynn Hygeorht is torn between two men who hate each other—her vampire protector, Chane Andraso, and the elf Osha, who has tender feelings for her. Now a strange series of clues leads them to a remote keep built on the dark cliffs of the coast of Witeny. The young duke there has been undergoing some disturbing changes—and so have the people and livestock in the outlying villages. Wynn has no idea what awaits her at this keep—an old enemy who wants nothing more than to see her dead.

At the same time, Dhampir Magiere, Leesil, and Chap continue their desperate search for the Orb of Air, still burdened with the master assassin, Brot’an, and the elven outcast girl, Wayfarer. Still hunted by a team of assassins, they escape on the first available ship only to find themselves under the power of a sadistic captain. Even if they manage to survive this voyage, there is a trap waiting for them at the journey’s end that is beyond anything they can imagine.

Magiere, Leesil, Chap, Wayfarer, and Brot’an are off in search of the Orb of Air, with assassins hot on their tail. Meanwhile, Wynn searches for the last orb. This instalment follows both parties, along their journeys. But the story focuses a bit on Wynn’s group with an intriguing mystery.

A Wind in the Night is the 12th book in the Noble Dead saga, book 3 of series 3. I thoroughly enjoyed this new story in this rich, fantasy world. Full of mystery, intrigue, and interpersonal drama – it was hard to put down. The suspense builds with in a climactic finale for Wynn, Chane, Osha, and Shade. But it leaves off in a cliffhanger for Magiere and Leesil as they arrive at their destination, with enemies lying in wait. I eagerly await the next in the series as the story comes to a head. The strengths of this long-running series are the vivid characters and complex stories. This unique, high fantasy with vampires, elves, and other magical creatures never disappoints.

Star-Crossed, Beauty and the Beast Clips

Star-Crossed – These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends Preview
The war between humans and the Atrians continues. Don’t miss an all new Star-Crossed Monday at 8/7c on the CW.

Beauty and the Beast – Catch Me If You Can Preview
Who will win Cat’s heart? Don’t miss an all new Beauty and the Beast Monday, Mar. 3 at 9/8c on the CW.

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