Thursday, January 30, 2014

This and That Thursday: Books with Places You'd Never Want to Live

Every Thursday, Terri Bruce discusses two books with something in common as part of This and That Thursday. Come join the fun! Of course, this week, as we visit places where you'd never want to live, it may not be so much fun.

This week, I'm picking The Speed of Winter and Wither as books with settings where I'd never want to live. Both books are science fiction, but take place on different worlds. The Speed of Winter is the first in a five-book series exploring the fates of four spaceships sent forth on missions to colonize various planets. However, in this book, it turns out that the planet this ship is sent to is too cold to be habitable. (If I recall correctly, some of the colonists attempt to terraform or grow plants, but none of their efforts succeed.) With no way to return to Earth, the colonists' lives lack purpose. Even a child can't bring hope to these people; in fact, she makes the situation even worse. This novella was such a depressing read I don't want to read the rest of the series.

I thought The Speed of Winter did a decent job of world-building, but I wouldn't say the same for Wither. In Wither, there are actually two main disasters, and I'm not sure if they're related. (If it says in the book, I don't recall it.) All of the continents except for North America have been destroyed, along with the ice caps. Yet people still lead fairly normal lives in Florida, and the rich have no problems getting whatever they want. (With the world this messed up, production and transportation should be messed up too.) As if that's not enough, genetic engineering gone awry a few generations back causes women to die at twenty and men at twenty-five. They don't actually wither; instead, they seem to develop something similar to tuberculosis. Because lifespans are so short, teenage girls are pressed into becoming mothers. They can be kidnapped and sold as wives to rich men, who marry several women at once. (However, those that aren't bought are immediately killed, which doesn't make sense from a business perspective: why not sell them to brothels or other rich men?) Yep, this setting is an anti-tourist trap, and again I didn't bother reading the rest of the series.

Do you like reading about dystopias? Why or why not? What makes a fictional world someplace you'd never want to visit?

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