Thursday, February 17, 2011
This is the sequel to Chains and the story begins several months after Isabel and Curzon escape from New York City. This time Curzon is the narrator and he and Isabel have separated—she to go south to find her sister and he to join the Continental Army. Curzon thinks joining the army will guarantee him food and shelter for the winter but unfortunately this is the winter that the army spends in absolute misery at Valley Forge. In the beginning I felt like the book was a vehicle for describing the awful conditions the soldiers faced at Valley Forge. But the plot picked up when Curzon and Isabel are reunited (now both back in bondage) and begin once again to plan an escape. By the end I was fully engaged in Curzon and Isabel's story and also thinking about the contradictions inherent in the founding of our country. A must-read for those who read and enjoyed Chains.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Imagine what it would be like if almost everyone in the world suddenly went blind. What would happen to society? Could human beings survive? Then add to this scenario a new breed of plant that can pull up its roots, move around, and kill people with a deadly whip-like stinger. That's the premise of this sci fi classic written in 1951. It sounds almost ridiculous but I could not put this book down. The main character, Bill, has his sight spared because he happened to have bandages over his eyes during the meteor shower that blinds most of the human race. He wakes to a strangely quiet world where no cars, buses, trucks or airplanes are operating and where people are staggering around trying to acquire food. He quickly realizes that nothing will ever be the same and that it will be pointless to try to save the lives of all the newly blinded people. He finds a handful of other people who were not blinded and together they must figure out how the human race can continue. I recommend this book to kids or adults who like to ponder what the future could bring.
Monday, February 07, 2011
I confess that I had a lot of trouble getting into this story. I listened to the audiobook and at first it was hard to follow some of the language about Clankers and Darwinists and boffins. But it did turn out to be a really good book with some extremely cool technological ideas. It is the dawn of World War I and, as in real life, the Archduke Ferdinand is murdered, which sets all of Europe on the course toward war. In this fantasy world the Archduke has a son named Alek, whose advisors try to whisk him off to safety in nearby Switzerland. They travel in a Stormwalker—a huge walking armored vehicle created by the Clankers (the German-Austrian-Hungarian faction of the war). Meanwhile, in England a young girl named Daryn is disguising herself as a boy in order to enlist in the British air force. She gets a position on the Leviathan—a huge airship made of genetically modified creatures. (The British are Darwinists and they can manipulate DNA in amazing ways.) The crews of the Leviathan and the Stormwalker meet in the mountains of Switzerland and the lines between enemies and allies blur as Alek and Daryn form a tentative friendship. The story was good and the world of Clankers and Darwinists was also pretty fascinating. If you like this kind of story (often called steampunk) you should also try Airborn by Kenneth Oppel and Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.