Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is an incredibly interesting and, at times, deeply unsettling novel on just how far humanity will go to suppress what it doesn’t understand.

The book is set in a dystopian future- the United States has become a massively powerful republic, and all news coverage and media are centered around a single event: the “War,” which the Republic is winning. It centers around a seemingly ordinary firefighter named Montag- but in this universe, firefighters do not put out fires. They light them, burning down houses which contain contraband items, usually books.

On one such night, Montag witnesses one woman refuse to leave her house, choosing to burn with her books- and is unsettled. How important must books be if she is willing to die with them? From the smoldering wreckage of the house, Montag takes a single book home with him. On his way home, he meets a teenager named Clarisse, who is out alone, walking in the night. Clarisse expresses the beauty of the night, and how the fallen autumn leaves “smell like cinnamon.” Montag is again deeply uncomfortable- primarily because he himself never thought to look up at the night sky or focus on the smell of fallen leaves. Soon, wracked with guilt about his crime of taking a book, Montag decides he will simply read a few pages to satisfy his curiosity, and then burn the book. But what he finds will change his life forever….

I, personally, have a love-hate relationship with this book. The dialogue is clumsy, the expositions are vague, and the setup and lead-ins for the plot are often simply nonexistent. However, what makes Fahrenheit 451 so memorable is the ideology rather than the imagery. There are indeed some beautifully-written passages where Bradbury fully lives up to the term “author” and beyond- but the idea that the slow eradication of culture and eccentricity is the individual citizen’s fault as much as it is the government’s really rings true in today’s society especially.

-Vaidehi B.

Fahrenheit 451 is available for checkout at Mission Viejo Library. It is can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa: 9781101911815 | PenguinRandomHouse.com:  Books

Consider an ordinary object lying around your house – for example, a marker. Now, imagine that object being completely erased from your life and the lives of every single person you know. Not only that, all memories of using a marker vanish from your consciousness. You haven’t a clue what a “marker” is, what it’s used for, how to pronounce it – “marker” has been completely eradicated from your vocabulary. Repeat this harrowing process ad infinitum, and you have the premise of The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa.

On an unnamed island, every inhabitant fears the brutal Memory Police, a secret task force committed to ensuring that objects that have disappeared remain forgotten by the population. However, there are those who are gifted (or cursed) with the ability to recall the disappeared items, and they are in danger of being “disappeared” themselves by the Memory Police.

When a young novelist who lives in this nightmarish world realizes that her editor, only referred to as “R,” is one of the few people who are able to recall vanished items, she makes a plan to hide him in a secret room beneath her floorboards. As time goes on, and more essential items begin to vanish, the inhabitants of the island begin to lose their sense of self, and the novelist and R cling to her writing as one last way to preserve the past. 

A hauntingly surreal portrayal of the importance of memory and the terrors of state surveillance, The Memory Police is a powerful dystopian novel involving the terrifying erasure of the past, the inability to distinguish an individual from the collective, and an overall feeling of horror that slowly descends upon both the island people and the reader. 

For fans of chilling Orwellian novels that make one consider the significance of the past as well as the present and future, The Memory Police is a fantastic novel that checks all of those boxes and more, and I would definitely recommend it to all.

-Mahak M.

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson is a gruesome dystopian book about the cold and calloused scientific curiosity seeping through our world.

The year is 2086. In a bloodstained dystopian world, the ozone layer is gone, making the sun a daily enemy. Antarctica is no more, the ocean having swallowed up its icy coasts. 

Pollution. Radiation. Death.

These are normal words in 18-year old Owen Parker’s vocabulary. Headed to Camp Eden, a safe bio-dome, he worries about normal things a teenager should: how to fit in, and how to impress the cryptic and beautiful lifeguard, Lilly Ishani. But when he nearly drowns in the Eden lake, and somehow grows gills, he realizes that Eden is not what it seems. Along with the rest of the “Gill Gang” including Lilly, he sets out to investigate the mysterious death of a young girl at Eden. As Owen spirals deeper and deeper into a tale of hope and sorrow, of love and hate, of yin and yang itself, what he finds will change him forever.

This book is set in a dark dystopian world of 2086, after the ozone layer is severely depleted and Antarctica has melted, raising the sea level. The world is divided into the American Continent, the Northern Federation, and Eurasia. There is also a literal giant island of floating trash where some of the story takes place, called Floatia. The story mainly takes place inside the giant bio-dome of Eden, which is the polar opposite of the dark polluted world outside.

On a scale of one to ten I would rate The Lost Code a nine out of ten. Overall, it was an amazing, albeit scary book. It was slightly terrifying because our world is well on the way to becoming the shattered, hopeless world described in the book. This book is also for slightly mature audiences as well, which I was not prepared for. It wasn’t necessarily bad, I just wasn’t prepared for it.

-Vaidehi B.

Book Review: The Iron Heel by Jack London

The Iron Heel (Penguin Classics): London, Jack, Auerbach, Jonathan ...

The novel “The Iron Heel” is written in the form of a memoir, the author is Avis. The manuscript, which was written by Ives, was hidden in a hole in a dead tree before she died and was only found hundreds of years later. Everhard, a Socialist ideologue turned blacksmith, was a guest of Avis’s father, a liberal professor, whose revelations of the cruel exploitation of the monopoly capitalists interested her, and she went herself to investigate and prove the truth. A worker who had his hand broken trying to protect a machine lost his case in court after being fired without a pension. “The Iron Heel” continues to write about the struggle between the revolution and the counter-revolution, how the counter-revolutionary cultivated the working aristocracy and destroyed the workers’ unity, how the government and army suppressed the people’s unrest, how the revolutionaries carried out open and underground struggles, and how the masses overthrew the American bourgeois oligarchy — “The Iron Heel”.

The author foresees the day when a deadly struggle between the American proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the oligarchy known in the novel as “The Iron Heel”, will break out. Jack London gives readers a great picture of the proletarian revolution through his fictional account of the armed riots that broke out in Chicago in 1917. Such scenes were seen in Paris in 1871 and in Petersburg in 1905. “The Iron Heel” is a political prophetic novel conveying Jack London’s wish for the broad proletariat to unite in the armed revolutionary struggle. “The Iron Heel” depicts the failure of the American workers’ revolutionary uprising and the establishment of bloody rule, but the novel is full of revolutionary optimism. He is convinced of the establishment of a progressive and just social system for human beings, and also believes that the future will not be a society where people oppress and exploit people. Jack London’s moderate socialist stance has been replaced by a radical revolutionary attitude in “The Iron Heel”. He predicted that capitalism would go to extremes, to evils, and advocated its overthrow by violence. “The Iron Heel” is a literary expression of Jack London’s dissatisfaction with the right-leaning revolutionary line of the socialist party members of his day.

The novel’s main story takes place in Chicago, an industrial city that, according to Avis’s manuscript, has been the center of a storm of conflict, with brutal street battles, assassinations, bloodshed, and violence. In writing about the big themes of Chicago, writers often focus on concrete examples to support the macro level of class struggle at the micro level. Jack London focuses on the tragic experience of Jackson, a representative of the ordinary working class. Jack London, through such an example, on the one hand attacked the dehumanized industrial production, which used laborers as slaves. Once the laborers lost their labor value, they were mercilessly abandoned. On the other hand, the writer criticizes the capitalist social system and the superstructure of capitalist economic production, which conspire to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie while maintaining unequal economic distribution.

-Coreen C.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Image result for red rising book cover

The year is 736 PCE – over seven hundred years after the former colonies of Earth across the solar system rebelled against their mother planet and won. Now, the world has been divided into rigid social classes that depend on the color of one’s skin, from the ruling Golds to the slaving Reds. 

Darrow, a Red Helldiver who risks his life daily to procure helium-3 from the bowels of Mars to make its surface habitable for human life, does not suspect what truly lies above the surface of the planet. But when circumstances force him to fake his own death and join the rebel group on Mars, Darrow quickly realizes that his entire life is a lie – there is already a city of Golds on Mars, and the Reds are merely slaving away beneath the surface to provide a life of luxury and comfort for the higher colors.

Furious at this deception, Darrow agrees to infiltrate the Mars Institute for Golds as a student by changing his skin color in an arduous and painful process called the Carving. However, once the now-Gold Darrow arrives at the Institute, he quickly understands that to become the best of the best requires courses of action .that he would not have dreamed of taking while he was a Red. As Darrow progresses on his journey to become the Primus of House Mars, he unearths the deep corruptions within Gold society, as well as the horrifying truth behind the power of the Golden people.

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising holds a slight resemblance to The Hunger Games, but it is only a slight one – this novel takes the idea of colonization to an entirely new level, and questions the idea of a “perfect” society of social classes. This book is definitely recommended to fans of science fiction and adventure novels.

-Mahak M.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, written by Pierce Brown, was the last book that I finished before President’s Holiday. The story follows Darrow, a brave and loyal Red. Reds are the lowest “color” in the futuristic society of humans. The story follows Darrow’s adventures in becoming a Gold ( the highest ranking color) and destroying the rulers of the unfair Society form the inside.

Once a Gold, Darrow goes to an academy where all other Golds attend. There, they learn to fight, command fleets, etc. Darrow hopes to graduate, become a well known and trusted fleet leader, and eventually destroy the Society. At the academy, the students are split into houses, each named after a Greek god. Then all of the houses are put against each other in an all-out war; the winning house will then graduate. In the end, Darrow’s house wins, and one of the most powerful leaders of the Society decides to train him in becoming a fleet leader.

All in all, I thought that Red Rising was really good. There was a good mix of intense violence and strategy. The house wars reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Currently, I am reading the sequel to Red Rising and it seems really good! Overall, I would rate the book a strong nine out of ten and would recommend the book to any middle schooler.

-Daniel C.

The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

1984 by George Orwell

All of my previous book reviews have suggested and encouraged readers to check out that specific novel, for it appealed to me; however, this time around, while I still recommend my audience to read 1984 by George Orwell, I cannot say I enjoyed reading it. Dystopian novels have never interested me, nor have they ever made me feel good after reading. A sense of uneasiness settles in my gut as I begin to think about the messages the author is voicing about our societies and worlds. 1984 is a dystopian novel, foreshadowing the downfall of our society if we allow political authority and sovereignty to fall into the wrong hands. Orwell, motivated to write after witnessing the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, demonstrates that dictators and despots threaten to plague our governments and therefore, our societies as a whole.

In the superstate Oceania, citizens are constantly supervised by the overruling government named the Party. The face of the Party is Big Brother, a man alluding to Stalin and his dictatorship. The Party hides behind totalitarian fear tactics: installing telescreens in every home and microphones in every corner, threatening to “vaporize” those disobedient citizens who turn against the ultimately powerful Party, brainwashing children into Junior Spies who ruthlessly turn in their rebellious parents and fixedly revering Big Brother. History, language, culture and lifestyle are all dictated by the Party. Laws ban politically rebellious words and replace them with the common language, Newspeak, which aims to suppress individualistic thinking and expression. The manipulation of history and human existence serve to fulfill governmental prophecies and create the illusion that the government is omniscient. The Party enforces acceptance and belief in hypocritical statements; this concept is called doublethink. Civilization’s purpose remains to serve the Party by obeying all laws, submitting to Big Brother as a faithful member and believing all slogans of the Party, no matter how contradictory they appear to be.

Winston Smith is portrayed as an average Party member on the surface but his ability to individually wonder and question the Party’s motives lead to conflict. He realizes he is not alone in his silent fight against the Party when he meets seemingly allies. The mysteries behind many concepts and characters illustrate the theme of appearance versus reality. I will admit this novel is full of plot twists, loss and betrayal, making for an interesting read. However, I will say that the ending disappointed me greatly.

Nonetheless, Orwell presents important ideas about our future as a society using allusion and foreshadowing channeled through various characters. As 1984 in my opinion is an important read but not a captivating novel, I rate it a 3/10.

-Jessica T.

George Orwell’s 1984 is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Dystopian science fiction is one of the most popular and appealing genres to readers of all ages, especially teens. Novels such as The Hunger Games and Divergent just don’t disappoint. And Pierce Brown’s Red Rising certainly doesn’t either.

Red Rising introduces a society much different from other dystopian settings, containing social classes ranked by color, with Gold at the top and Red at the bottom. When main character Darrow, a Red, witnesses his wife’s unjust hanging by the oppressing dictatorship of the Golds, he decides to act and avenge his loved one’s death. To overthrow such a massive power, he plans to take on the impossible task of becoming one of its own Gold leaders and overthrow the government from the inside.

What will Darrow have to do to succeed?

  • Darrow must physically and mentally become a Gold – think, act, and perform as a superior, perfect human being.
  • Darrow must enroll in The Institute, a government school that teaches its students the nature of conquering others for power. It tests them with a life-sized game similar to capture the flag, where killing opponents is permitted and highly advised. There will be only one graduate from The Institute who will be granted an apprenticeship to eventually become one of the society’s top leaders.
  • Darrow must not show his true identity as a Red and failure to do so means death.

Red Rising is an astounding novel displaying how trust can quickly turn friends into enemies. The creativity and imagination incorporated by Pierce Brown makes it such a brilliant and fantastic work of science fiction. As the first book of a trilogy, the plot really captures my attention, and I cannot wait for what the next two books will bring to the series (Golden Son, Morning Star).

I would rate this book a 9 out of 10 and would recommend it to high school audiences and above. Its use of violence and romance makes it a more mature read than other science fiction novels.

-Riley W.

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem, a dystopian novel by Ayn Rand, is certainly a unique piece of literature. Described by herself as not a book, but a poem, and with a plot lasting less than 50 pages, Anthem is an ode to Objectivism. Written in 1937, imagined in the Soviet Union, Rand wrote the book in a time of political turmoil, which is reflected in her writing.

The story follows Equality 7-2521, a man who lives in an entirely collectivist society. Forbidden to think individual thoughts or exercise free will, Equality knows that something is wrong with the world he lives in. Since he was a child, he was different than his peers: he was always curious. When it is time for him to be assigned a job, he is not given the job of a scholar, as he wishes, but is sentenced to a life sweeping streets for this essential sin. However, this dark future opens up to light, quite literally, when he makes a revolutionary discovery.

Without spoiling the plot of the story, I can say that the book praises the human ego. Ego seems today to have a negative connotation, like a person obsessed with themselves. It can almost be confused with narcissism. Whatever picture that you have in your mind of “ego”, put it out. In this context, Rand praises man’s control over his own mind, man’s independence, and man’s freedom to learn, be successful, and make choices for himself. As shown in the book, ego is a beautiful thing that society falls apart without. Anthem is the perfect, short read for anybody who wants to have more food for thought than even some average length novels can provide.

-Mirabella S. Grade 9

Anthem by Ayn Rand is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Taken by Erin Bowman

taken_erinbowmanIn the small town of Claysoot, enclosed by a Wall, lives a 17-year-old boy named Gray. Today is the day of his older brother’s 18th birthday.  However, in Claysoot, when a boy turns 18, he disappears. They all do. And, everybody just accepts it.  So, tonight, as it turns midnight, Blaine, Gray’s brother, will be Heisted.  But, Gray is not ready.  He is not ready for his best friend and brother to leave him.  He is not ready to see Blaine’s little daughter’s face when she sees her father will never come back.  But, how can Gray stop fate from happening?

Well, there is one thing.  But, anyone who has ever tried it comes back blackened and burned as a result of climbing the Wall.  Gray considered climbing over it, but always thought it to be too dangerous.  Instead, Gray spends his last day having as much fun as he can with his brother.  But, it didn’t feel real.  Every moment, he would think that just at this very time tomorrow, Blaine would not be there.  He would be gone.

Forever.

But, Gray had to accept it.  So, as he walked up to the stage during Blaine’s Heisting ceremony, he said his final goodbye.  At this point in the story, I was reminded of the classic Italian song, Time to Say Goodbye made popular by U.S. singers Bocelli and Brightman.  It’s heart wrenching chorus brings alive the emotion that Gray is feeling. As Gray gave his brother a hug, Blaine did something strange. He winked. This made Gray very confused, but the time had come for Blaine to be Heisted.  The ground rumbled, there was a flash and his brother was gone.

Forever.

Or so he thought… If this were a movie, here I would insert in the suspenseful tri-tone bum bom bam! to intensify the mini cliff hanger.  Read the book to find out what happens next!  I really enjoyed it!  And, I give the first book in this Taken trilogy a 9/10 for its intriguing dystopian literature.

-Maya S., 9th Grade

Taken is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library