Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

From the back of the book:

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she cant' wait. Not for her license-for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world-and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

This is the first in another Triology. I know! What's with only being able to tell a story in 3 volumes these days? This is an intriguing futuristic society. I'm not sure exactly HOW this society came into being, with the idea that we, right now, are what they refer to as "Rusties" had become extinct through some stupidity on our part, our lack of technology and our lack of being able to get along. Not to mention our dependence on natural resources such as oil. Anyhow, on reason why they make everyone pretty is to create equal ground for everyone, more fairness. If EVERYONE is beautiful, then a bigger equality would persist. There would be no racism. We wouldn't kill people just because they looked different, because no one would look different. However, for me, this is a band-aid on the amputated limp idea. People can't-or won't-learn to get along, we will just force sameness instead of trying to teach about treating people equally. I can see how it would be tempting, but then there's that issue of freedom to choose thing. What freedoms are being taken away from these people in exchange for ultimate physical beauty? You only begin to understand when this novel ends. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rached-Ally Condie

The much anticipated finale to the "Matched" triology!

It had many, many twists and turns, but in a way it was slower than the other two. It was nice, however since the voice of narration changed between Cassia, Ky and Xander this time, and since they are all three in different places, it makes it convenient to help piece the puzzle together.

It's hard to write without giving things away, but I will say that I didn't feel like things were resolved as much as I had wanted them to be-politically speaking. Romance-wise, it was wrapped up fairly nicely. But to me, that's never as important as the political :-) As you know from my Divergent/Insurgent rant earlier. There is an element of bio-terrorism which is something that I've always been interested in (I did my senior project in Government/Economy on biological weapons and chemical warefare).

But one thing that I did get from this is that there are people who are OK with giving up freedoms in exchange for "safety" or at least perceived safety. For instance, unless they choose to somehow escape the Society, they choose to let their life end at age 80 in exchange for a guarantee that they will have good physical health until then. And that's just one of the most benign ones in my mind. But the fact remains that there are people out there who would rather be taken care of than have freedom to choose. I don't understand those people. Perhaps it's because of my religious beliefs that the fact that we as humans are agents unto ourselves and are allowed choice-and that it was so important that God Himself would reject a plan of coerced compliance in favor of one where He would have to view some of His beloved children (us) suffer because of our own bad choices or the bad choices of others. If God Himself believed that it would be better to have SOME suffering in order to be free instead of NO suffering rings very deep within me. If you have any inner conflict about that concept, C.S. Lewis wrote a book, "The Problem of Pain" that is beautiful. I'm only part way through that one, but it's not really written like a novel and it's meant to read in bits and pieces and then pondered or meditated on and is very thought provoking.

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

This book is about two friends who want to start and run a catering company in Dublin, Irland. Tom Feather and Cathy Scarlet (hence the name Scarlet Feather). Tom is in a 4 year long live-in relationship with Marcella and Cathy is married to Neil Mitchell son of the "well to do" couple whom her mother used to be employed as a maid/cleaning lady back when she was a kid.

This 538 page novel has 12 chapters-one for each month of the year and reads rather like a diary of sorts. It is a little slow. It's not a page turner type book, but it DOES bring up a LOT of talking and thinking points: how you choose to live your life, how you choose to pick your priorities, what is the subtle difference between honesty and telling the truth, the expectations we have of others-especially when in a relationship with them-and how they can change through time, misunderstandings, forgiveness, where is "home".

If you just want to be entertained by your literature, you probably won't like it much. But I found several things compelling. For instance, some relations of Neil's, two children, 9 year old twins Maud and Simon come into the story as little terrors. Turns out they just needed love, discipline and stability. Their father was 'away' on business, their grown brother (still living at home) was highly irresponsible, and their mother dealt with alcoholism. Luckily for them, when Cathy and Neil ended up caring for them, they found a home with Cathy's parents, Lizzie and Muttie Scarlet, who while of little means have big hearts. Which brings another point up-about the true needs of children and how unfortunately sometimes the system works against children and sends them back to flesh and blood  because that must always be the best place for them when indeed there are unfortunate cases where they really would be better off with someone else. So really there can't  be a blanket statement about children who through no fault of their own end up in situations like this where they are told on every side that this is "what's best" and then feel betrayed by the people they trusted. This story explores this idea from a few vantage points; the children, a grown woman and a widowed retired accountant. All with different views-going through it in the immediate, having experienced it as a child and having been on the foster parent side.

For me, it is definitely good to examine relationships in the context of careers. While I am currently at stay at home mom, I don't think it matters whether it's one person or both persons in a relationship pursuing a career. But my husband has often expressed desire to own a hearing clinic of his own; or at least be a partner. Depending on the route we take (he graduates finally in May!) it could be fairly painless or it could be a 24/7 proposition-at least in the beginning. Most businesses are-you have to give them EVERYTHING. Which could make or break a relationship based on the expectations. Even if those expectations turn out to be a little off-needs at home or work becoming more than expected, for instance. Many things went wrong despite "We talked about this! We had agreed about this! We knew what we were getting into!" But I think a lot of it was not acknowledging the other in ways that were meaningful. Kinda like the "5 Love Languages" and recognizing that what may be immensely important to someone you care about is something you need to care about also. You don't have to understand it completely, but you should try to support it.