Nov 27, 2009

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen may be one of the weirdest books I have ever read. It was compelling, creative, and at times completely out of control.

It's not inconceivable that humans will destroy themselves. This concept has been a staple of science fiction for more than a hundred years. The possibilities are many; enviornmental, social, astronomical, and possibly most disturbing nuclear.

For me, nuclear annihilation is particularly unsettling because of the inability to predict and prepare for such and attack. If the world was coming to an end, how would you spend your final moments?

In The Compound, a very wealthy family rushes underground to a secret compound created by their father. The family lives over a stretch of days that do not differ one to the next. Living by going through the motions and feeling little joy. They wonder about the conditions of the world and the loved ones that got left behind.

The main character's sense of loss is particularly intense because his twin brother is inadvertently left on the outside. He is overwhelmed by guilt at losing his best friend and other half.

The unique story tells this story of this family and the overbearing and erratic father who controls them.

The Story Siren did a fantastic interview with S. A. Bodeen, be sure to check it out.

SS: How did you get the idea for The Compound?

S.A. Bodeen: Actually a
dinosaur show my husband was watching on Discovery. One breed of dinosaur did
this odd thing to raise their offspring and I wondered what would happen if a
human tried that.

This book was so different there were times I was completely taken out of it. It just didn't seem to exist within reality, but it has so many interesting and thought provoking ideas. I definitely think this book is worth reading if you are looking for something different.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of this book since the library didn't have a paper copy. I put a link to an excerpt at the bottom of the post.

Have you read this book? Tell me what you think!

Nov 25, 2009


Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is a middle grade steampunk novel. It has some great ideas but the ideas just weren't enough for me. I was so excited to read this book and see what Westerfeld with do with this speculative alterate history genre. There are two opposing forces in the world. The Clankers and the Darwinists. These groups of people live in opposing ideologies so intense they verge on religions. The Clankers believe in things that clank or machinery and the Darwinists believe in the more environmental idea of genetically altering living things to serve their needs.

The story is told by two perspectives. Deryn, (aka Dylan) who is pretending to be a boy in order to be part of the military, and Alek, who is an actual boy whose parents have just been assassinated and is trying to escape the same fate. Both narratives move too slowly towards any kind of point. There is quite a bit of action leading towards nothing. The world begins to be explained too late in the story.

In the afterward of the novel Scott Westerfeld explains, "So Leviathan is as much about possible futures as alternate past. It looks ahead to when machines will look like living creatures, and living creatures can be fabricated like machines" (439). Although I am engaged by thinking about alternate histories, the over use of language to force the historical perspective annoys me. Steampunk is like science fiction for those who love historical fiction and I am not one of those people. Language, slang, and dialect is about perfect balance and Leviathan definitely does not achieve it.
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