Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

When it comes to unique books I’m not sure I have read very many that really qualify as truly unique because most of what I read is rather mainstream. However, there are a few books despite that which I think are pretty unique for various reasons. I’m not sure if I can come up with a full list of ten books, but I’ll try my best.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
What makes Ancillary Justice so unique is how the author bends gender with everyone on the page being referred to with a feminine pronoun. It makes for an incredibly unique reading experience and to be honest, it makes things a little bit confusing for the first piece of the novel. You really have to force your brain to work a different way in order to make sense of the characters and their actions.

World War Z by Max Brooks
I loved this book because of its unique format. The choice to use imagined interviews with key players to create a chronicle of the events surrounding a zombie apocalypse was a fantastic storytelling device. I was glued to this book the entire time I was reading it because the interviews felt so real despite the fact that I knew they were fictional.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I’m sure there have been other books that tried the approach of featuring a player inside of a massive online game, but if I ever find another one worth reading I’ll hold it up in comparison to Ready Player One every time. Ernest Cline did a great job creating a virtual world for his characters to run around in and there was something exciting about having a fictional world inside of another fictional world be the main playground for the story to take place within.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
There is a lot of post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there in the world to consume, but very little of it is so unique that it really grabs your attention. So many of those stories follow a very limited number of tropes, but The Maze Runner does a lot of things very differently and I’m very excited to see how the general public accepts the movie version later this year because I think it’s exactly the unique YA infusion the genre needs.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Atwood
Most people might not thing Gone with the Wind is all that unique, but it was pretty unique for me to decide to read it. My wife loves the book and I’d never read it before so I took the plunge to see what it was all about. I had a very mistaken understanding of what the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was in reference to, so when I finished the book in the early morning hours one day I was very upset. I can usually accept just about anything in a book without getting angry, but this one got me.

Kraken by China Mieville
I’m not sure Kraken is unique in comparison to other books of its kind, but it was certainly unique to me when I read it. I had never read a book quite like Kraken before and it took a lot of brainpower for me to dive into that kind of writing style. I thought it was a great book and I’d like to read more of the author’s work someday.

The God Engines by John Scalzi
This is actually a novella, but I still think it’s one of the most unique things I’ve read in the past few years. There are some really interesting religious themes in The God Engines, and the end of the story is mind-blowing in not only its abruptness but in its intensity.

Legion by Brandon Sanderson
Legion is another novella, and I really liked how Sanderson took the main character and turned him into a cast of characters by having the supporting characters be manifestations of the main characters psyche. The interplay between characters is very unique as a result and it allows for some interesting plot developments. There is a sequel coming out later this year that I’m very excited to read.

Feed by Mira Grant
Zombie stories are a dime a dozen these days between comics, television, and books. The thing is, almost all of these stories deal with the actual outbreak of the zombies. What makes Feed so unique is that it deals with life after the outbreak when society has figured out how to survive and make a life in a world that has zombies roaming around. I think that’s pretty unique within the particular sub-genre.

The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez
It hasn’t been very long since I read The Daedalus Incident but I still love how it’s a wonderful mix of science fiction and fantasy all rolled into one. Most books only manage to focus on one of those two genres, but this one blends the two almost seamlessly to create something entirely new and exciting.

Look at that! I managed to find ten unique books after all!

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Top Ten “Gateway” Books/Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic involves which books or authors from my past reading I consider to be ones that introduced me to a new genre, a new style of writing, or something else. It took me a little while to think back to some of the first books I read in order to figure out which ones introduced me to new things, but I think I’ve got a decent list.

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
This book introduced me not only to Timothy Zahn who has become on of my favorite “must read” authors over the years, but to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which as of today spans well over 100 books. I’ve read them all. If that isn’t what you consider a gateway book, I really don’t know what is to be honest.

First King of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Thinking back, I believe First King of Shannara was my real introduction into the fantasy genre. I want to say I read it on a whim after seeing it on the shelf at the local library during summer vacation one year. I noticed it seemed to be part of a series, and I figured if I liked it I would at least have some more books in the series to read. It was pure happenstance that I grabbed the right Shannara book to start with.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
As I was already established as a fan of fantasy, this book served as my gateway into epic fantasy. Up until a high school friend recommended The Wheel of Time series to me while we shoveled snow in the church parking lot my only exposure to fantasy had been the Shannara books, which while epic in their own right, are not nearly epic on the same scale as The Wheel of Time.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
When I was at BYU I learned about this guy who had written a pretty decent book called Elantris and how he was one of the professors on campus. Little did I know that reading the book would expose me to my favorite author up to this point in my life.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
I’ve read all of the Twilight books because my wife asked me to so she could talk to someone about them when she was finished. That just about put me off of the entire paranormal romance YA trend entirely. Then, while visiting my family in Texas a couple of years ago I needed something to read and picked up City of Bones from my little sister’s bookshelf. Turns out, not all paranormal romance YA is terrible, some of it is actually pretty decent. This book was a gateway back into that subset of fiction for me.

Feed by Mira Grant
Zombies aren’t something I’d have expected myself to be interested in reading about, but this book and its unique approach to a zombie outbreak and the political thriller aspect it weaved into it got me thinking that more zombie books might not be the most terrible thing to read if I can find the right ones.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
These two books are my first real exposure to military-esque science fiction; at least as far as I can remember correctly. My enjoyment of these two books led me to read Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, which in turn led me to his other books. They also led me to giving David Feintuch’s Seafort Saga a try, which we all know I really enjoy. I’m very certain a large amount of military science fiction is in my near future.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Literary Fiction? Get that out of my face! That was my usual reaction to anything not written in the science fiction or fantasy genres. Then I met a girl, and I wanted to impress this girl, so I asked her while we were at a book store one evening to pick out her favorite book and I would read it over the holiday break before we saw each other again. Her choice? The Fountainhead. If there was ever a plunge directly into the deep end of reading, this was it. Good thing that girl married me.

Lethal Heritage by Michael A. Stackpole
I already knew of Michael A. Stackpole before reading Lethal Heritage and I was a fan of his work, but this book took my fandom to an entirely new level. He introduced me to the BattleTech universe, filled with dozens of books, and a myriad of wonderful characters. I want to read more BattleTech in the next year or two so I can remember those joys.

Feed by M. T. Anderson

Feed by M T Anderson

(Cover picture courtesy of the M. T. Anderson Tumblr page.)

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

So says Titus, a teenager whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his “feed,” a transmitter implanted directly into his brain.  Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends.  But then Titus meets Violet, a girl unlike any he’s met—a girl who decides to fight the feed.

Feed was fairly predictable, following the typical ‘utopia is really a dystopia’ storyline: protagonist is completely unaware of the evils of a society until a rebel (always a member of the opposite sex) shows them how bad things really are.  The only real difference is the ending, but that’s enough to hammer Anderson’s point across: technology shouldn’t be a substitute for our own brains.  When we rely too much on technology, we lose that critical thinking ability.

The latter point is really hammered across in like the whole style thingy of the like book.  It’s like woah, these kids are stupid and all.  Yes, the whole book, all 298 pages are written like that because the main character, Titus, is completely reliant on his feed.  The only saving grace is Violet, who can actually communicate and uses ‘big words’ to get her point across.  I know the poor writing is a great way for Anderson to get his message to readers, but it still gets really, really annoying.  Maybe that’s just me, though.

I can see why Feed is studied in so many high school English classes.  I never studied it, but I can see why it would be a great novel study book kids can relate to.  It brings up important questions that are more relevant today than they were in 2002 when it was first published.  The question of whether technology is making us stupid, how technology would really be used in the classroom (hint: not for educational value) and how much of a place corporations should have in our everyday lives could really start some interesting debates.  The best part of Feed is that Anderson doesn’t really specifically answer those questions, but leaves them up to the reader.

I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

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50/2012 July Update

July was the month where I decided to make my way through some trilogies instead of reading all stand-alone novels. I finished one trilogy and got two out of three from the second one, but I also snuck in a couple of other books as well. Namely I gave steampunk a try for the first time and then tried out a debut author in Ernest Cline. I have to say that July was a very enjoyable reading month for me, another solid one in terms of book quality across the board.

The books I finished in July:

Also, I did read one novella that I’m not counting towards the goal:

With the end of July I’m not at 76% of my goal to read 50 books. I can now say that I’m confident I’m going to shatter that goal by a very large margin. It’s starting to look like 50 was probably far too conservative and next year I’ll have to aim for something a little more challenging.

The books I enjoyed most in July were the Newsflesh books by Mira Grant. They kept me reading very late into the night on several occasions and I’m very glad that all three of them were available and I didn’t have to wait for the conclusion to be published. That would have been horrible. I even quite liked the prequel novella that the author added to the universe to give some more background on the virus that is featured so heavily in the books.

August is going to be my month to go back to reading bigger books. I’m currently about a fourth of the way through Leviathan Wakes and intend to finish it, plus its follow-up Caliban’s War in August. I also want to finish my re-read of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, another big book of over 1,000 pages. If I finish those three and find time for more I think I’ll take a look at Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and perhaps delve into a little more steampunk via the work of Scott Westerfield.

Further Thoughts on the Newsflesh Trilogy **MAJOR SPOILERS**

If you know me very well at all then you know I don’t subscribe to the concept of spoilers very often. I think there are far too many people who think the smallest of details should be considered a spoiler. But, today is a day where if I didn’t put the rest of this post after a jump-link I would almost certainly ruin an incredible trilogy of books for anyone who wants to read them but hasn’t found the time yet.

So, you have been warned! Follow me after the jump to see all my thoughts on a bunch of details from the Newsflesh trilogy that will spoil just about everything if you haven’t read the books yet.

*** SPOILERS FROM HERE TO THE END OF THE POST — BEWARE!!! ***

Let’s start by talking about how Georgia and Shaun Mason turned out to be much more than adoptive brother and sister. Instead, they turned out to be adoptive siblings who happen to also be lovers. Ha! I pegged that one less than halfway through the first book and the reveal by the author isn’t until near the end of the final book! I’m not sure what made me start thinking that the two of them might be more than just siblings as far as their relationship was concerned, but I do remember all of a sudden thinking, “Wait a minute… something fishy is going on here with these two.” I think if I were to re-read the books again knowing now that I was right about their relationship the entire time I could probably pick out the little hints that the author leaves along the way pointing towards it.

Shaun Mason kills his sister Georgia by shooting her in the head at point-blank range after she becomes infected with the Kellis-Amberlee virus. That sentence I just wrote describes one of the most chilling and powerful moments I’ve read in a book in a very long time. The death of Georgia is the heavy hitting moment at the very end of the first book and let me tell you, I had to take a few deep breaths to get through the text at that point. Mira Grant develops her characters extremely well throughout all three of the books, but Shaun and Georgia are definitely the shining stars of the story. Their relationship is one that burns intense and bright at all times. They protect each other, help each other, and have each other’s backs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To put Shaun in the position of putting a bullet in his sister’s head while she types out her final blog post took a lot of guts on the part of the author if you ask me.

Speaking of characters being killed, Georgia definitely isn’t the only one. It’s always a very fine line that has to be walked by an author when it comes to killing off a character. If characters are developed properly the reader oftentimes becomes quite attached to them and their eventual death can be a hard thing for the reader to deal with. George R.R. Martin is an author who takes things to the extreme and considers all of his characters expendable at any given point, but Mira Grant found a pretty good balance with the deaths she included in the Newsflesh books.

The major character deaths are as follows: Buffy in Feed, Georgia in Feed, Dave in Deadline, and Becks in Blackout. Each one of these character deaths came across as necessary for good storytelling and also rather poignant given the circumstances surrounding them. Buffy is killed about halfway through the first book and her death serves as what I felt was an incredibly effective vehicle to push the story into the next phase of where it needed to go. When Shaun kills Georgia it is a bit shocking, but it is the end of the book and about 20 pages into Deadline the reader realizes quite quickly how Georgia’s death makes the books so much better than if she were to remain alive. Dave is the victim that propels the opening sequence of the second book and allows the main characters to move toward the next big climax, and the death of Becks was simply tragic. I knew it had to happen when it did, and I was ready for it, but it still made me a little sad when she died.

Mira Grant put a lot of unique plot twists into these books and for the most part they were all rather exciting. There were an awful lot of them in Blackout, but I never got to the point that I thought, “Geez, enough with the plot twists already!” The twists were very well balanced with the rest of the action, and Grant’s writing skill helped alleviate any worries I might have been tempted to have at the number of them. The best part about the twists were that they always furthered the story instead of being there just for shock value. I also thought they were an incredible vessel through which Mira Grant showed a lot of the humanity in her characters. The flaws that real people would have if the reality of the books were ever the actual reality of the world.

Jumping around a little bit…

With Georgia dead following the events of the first book I was a little worried about what was going to happen with two books left to go. I shouldn’t have been worried. Georgia is present in all three books, in the second book as a voice inside Shaun’s head which was written so superbly I can’t even begin to describe, and in the third book as both a voice inside Shaun’s head and a clone copy of her original self. Trippy, right? The version of Georgia that exists as a voice inside of Shaun’s head was great, I loved every single time she spoke up to guide Shaun along or chastise him for doing something stupid. It was an incredibly unique way to keep the presence of the character alive and definitely something you don’t see all the time.

And that last paragraph leads us into the fact that in the third book, Blackout, Georgia is a clone. Yes, a clone. WHAT!?!? This cliffhanger as the final scene in Deadline caught me entirely off guard. As far as I could remember, there had been one mention, possibly two about the use of cloning to grow things like new kidneys or livers. That was it. Mira Grant got me good with the Georgia clone twist, that’s for sure. Even better was the fact that the clone had 97% of the memories of the original Georgia which made for all sorts of crazy situations once the clone version managed to rejoin Shaun and the rest of the After the End Times crew. Let’s be honest, dead people coming back to life as near-perfect copies of themselves both physically and psychologically is all sorts of creepy when you really start to think about it for a few minutes. Go ahead, try it. You’ll creep yourself out. I promise.

There was once disappointment for me and that was Shaun being immune to the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Well, let me clarify that. I don’t mind that Shaun turned out to be immune to the virus, but I was disappointed that it was more of an afterthought than an actual driving point of the story. From what I could gather, being immune is likely to be a super-rare situation in the universe that Mira Grant created, so it would have been nifty to see that uniqueness used for a little more, but perhaps that would have been getting a little to close to some other zombie tale clichés for all I know.

So, there you have it, my expanded thoughts on the Newsflesh books as they pertain to some details and events in the story that are far too integral not to ruin it for people who haven’t read the books yet.