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Pyrite Redux: Days of Future Past
Next up in our countdown to the Pyrite: a conversation on science fiction, dystopias, big ideas, rancid politics, and the girls who have just about had enough — girls who chart the world’s meltdown. Taking a look at a dirty and distressing near future, we’ve got A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future paired with Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Love is the Drug.
On the one hand, Glory‘s ambitious science fiction infused novel of weirdness gave me all kinds of conflicted feelings. I loved the ambition of it — King wanted to talk about big ideas (fate, art, communication, friendship), and I loved the outlandish unexpectedness of the plot (bats, dystopias, feminism, slutshaming, STDs — I COULD GO ON AND ON HERE!). But I felt that the novel as a whole didn’t quite work. In the comments, we considered the scenarios that lead to Glory’s dystopia and wondered how likely a scenario really had to be, here, in this purposefully exaggerated dystopian world. Conversation also centered on the nuance — well, actually, the lack of nuance displayed by the dystopia. I totally recognize that, but must also confess that the dystopia sections were my favorite parts of the book…so more conflicted feelings for me!
Speaking of nuance, Karyn had lots of praise for Love is the Drug. Looked at as a science fiction novel that uses elements of a thriller to tell its story, Johnson explores her own big ideas (the human condition, loyalty, evil of government, xenophobia) — but to very different (and, I would argue, much better) effect. As we look at a world falling apart through Bird’s eyes, we experience the action and chaos and tension — and we also watch Bird struggle with questions of “racial identity and identity as a member of a group for whom appearance and status are so complexly interwoven.” We see the complicated, toxic interplay of being black and assimilated in our anti-black culture. Johnson’s narrative never shies from the political (terrorism, quarentine, martial law), but very carefully and intelligently balances the personal (identity, and the brutal struggle that can be dealing with your family).
So we’ve had our say (and had a lot to say), about both of these books. What do you think? I’m ready to talk in the comments!
About Sarah Couri
Sarah Couri is a librarian at Grace Church School's High School Division, and has served on a number of YALSA committees, including Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, and (most pertinently!) the 2011 Printz Committee. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, GCS, YALSA, or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @scouri or e-mail her at scouri35 at gmail dot com.
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