Saturday, March 28, 2015

Prey: a Novel by Michael Crichton [CD Edition], Book Review by Sharon Powers. Today, we take a look at Michael Crichton's book, as we ask, "Is one form of listening [CDs, Kindle, Audio] better than another?"

This edition of Prey is the downloadable edition from Audible. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     We were on the road headed to my daughter's house for my grandson's fun- eral. The radio was- n't working because all around us were hills. Everyone in the car complained that they were bored... apparently no one had thought to bring along a book to read or a CD that we all could have enjoyed. 

     Finally, not able to take any more complaining, I stopped at a roadside super service station. First, I got out of the car and filled it up with gas. Then I went inside to see what I could find to still the complaining.  
This is the box I purchased--except
the cellophane wrapper has been
removed. I paid $14.95
for the book. [2]

     I poured over the CD racks  looking for a few that had enjoyable music (I knew I would need more than one) until, that is, I found the section with books on CD. Then I was almost immediately disappointed since it looked like all the good books were gone. Still, I decided to browse through them quickly to see if anything interesting might be there. 

This is what it looked like as I pulled out the CD binder. [2]
     Eventually, after spending more time than I had planned to--isn't that the funny way it always seems to go?--anyway, I found a Michael Crichton book, Prey: a Novel. I wasn't sure if I should get it because I had never read anything by Michael Crichton. Since I read, a lot, I had heard of him. I remembered that some of his notable books included: 

The CD case is only a little larger than your average CD.
As you can see, multiple discs can be fit into each page
of the CD wallet. [2]
Here is the number 1 CD of the book. The book publishers
have thoughtfully included the size of the swarm of the
nanobots. Of course, the dots are meant to represent the
mysterious nanobots. If you look at the other CDs you might
notice that each disc seems to represent the growing cloud
of nanobots. [2]
The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Congo, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and, of course, I had heard of his work on Coma, Westworld, and Rising Sun (a movie I had watched with my family). Still, I wasn't sure. It wasn't normally the type of book I would pick for myself..."Wait a minute," I thought, I'm not buying this for me but for everyone in my

car. I just couldn't come back empty-handed. I bought the CD book and we were back on the road. Before I tell you how my passengers and I liked the book, I think we should first take a quick look at the synopsis. 

Are you ready? OK. Here we go....

This is a dust storm over Phoenix. [3]
     Michael Crichton sets his novel in a dry Nevada desert--a barren landscape, empty, and lonely. Even as the wind howls through isolated landscapes we cannot escape the foreboding that something else inhabits the dust clouds of desert dirt.  Maybe this dust cloud is more than it seems. You see, a mysterious cloud of nanoparticles (microrobots) also calls the desert home. The really ominous thing about the dust cloud is that it is looking for be its PREY!

This image accompanies the magazine article,
"Will Artificial Organism with Advanced Group
intelligence Evolve?"
     How can these nanobots have come to be in the desert? And, why are they the predators and we the prey? The mysterious cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing, but what is really scary is that the nanobots are very intelligent and learn from every experience. With every passing minute the nanobots learn and grow, and then they evolve into something... more...continually changing and growing bigger, stronger, more intelligent, and deadly. What has caused this horrible disaster for humans? You will be shocked to find out!

     Interestingly, as I was looking for a photo to use in this post, I came across an article from an on-line magazine called The Daily Galaxy. The article, "Will Artificial Organism with Advanced Group Intelligence Evolve? appeared on January 9, 2009, and referred to Michael Crichton's book. Here is what they said:
Remember Michael Crichton's science-fiction novel, "Prey"? Well, researchers at the University of York have investigated large swarms of up to 10,000 miniature robots which can work together to form a single, artificial life form. The multi-robot approach to artificial intelligence is a relatively new one, and has developed from studies of the swarm behavior of social insects such as ants." [4]
     You can read more of this interesting article by clicking the link (above) to read the entire short article in The Daily Galaxy. They have some interesting theories you might enjoy exploring.

     I have to have a little disclaimer, here. Since I listened to a book on CD, I couldn't remember where my quote came from in the book (i.e. what page, or how much time into the book). By necessity, I had to type in the quote on-line, as well as I could remember it, to get it exactly right. These two very short quotes relate to each other, as you shall see:
We think we know what we are doing. We have always thought so."--Michael Crichton, Prey.
They didn't understand what they were doing. I'm afraid that will be on the tombstone of the human race." --Michael Crichton, Prey.
     See what I mean. These two independent statements are about "knowing" and "understanding" what we, as human beings are doing. I love how Michael Crichton can embody both concepts so neatly in one book. Well-done, Michael Crichton!


"Future Effects of Nanotech on Health Care." [7]
    Michael Crichton's ability to choose a critical topic on the world front that also appears on the pages of newspapers and maga- zines on which to write seems uncanny. I found a number of articles just by bumping into them. Here's    one,   for example,   from     the CDC on nanotechnology: Nanotechnology - 10 Critical Top Areas that you may wish to take a look at. [6]

     My point, here, is that nanotechnology is on the forefront of importance in being assessed not just as a possibility, but in the "determining [of] the physical and chemical properties...influenc[ing] the potential toxicity of nanoparticles," in evaluating the effects of nanomaterial in organs (long & short-term); and assessing possible hazards. These topics are just a few of the issues scientists, politicians, and the global community are examining as we begin to realistically face the imminent future, just on our doorstep, concerning nanotechnology. With this kind of far seeing eye, maybe we should ask Michael Crichton to step up and advise the world leaders on a few other critical topics in the world, today.

One aspect of nanotechnology. See the article listed under References/
Sources [#8], below, for more information on what's being done
in this area of research and development. [8]
     Therefore, with all this information about the burgeoning growth in nanotechnology, the importance becomes apropos to Crichton's story. This means that utilizing critical topics to make the plot a little more dramatic, per- haps scary for some, can only add to the drama that Crichton uses in his book, Prey. The writer must be abreast the fields that can give him those potential topics and lead, who knows, to a best seller.

    Another appealing aspect of Michael Crichton's book is his use of the adorable children he has given our lead character, Jack Forman (former manager/lead at MediaTronics [adv. computer algorithms]) and his wife, Julia Foreman, Vice President of the Xymos Co. Together they have three beautiful children: Eric, their son, Nicole (a preteen girl), and Amanda (a baby girl).

Doesn't this loving little family
look so very idyllic? They are:
Jack Forman, Julia Forman,
Eric, Nicole, and Amanda. [9]
     Crichton puts this adorable family into the story, undoubtedly, not only to be appealing, but as an object of fear. Fear, because we almost immediately begin to fear for the children and adults that something is terribly wrong; something, not yet explained at this early point of the story. Crichton is starting to build the tension. He will build the tension layer upon layer until the tension is almost palpable.

     Then we begin suspecting something dark and mysterious is going on with the Julia, the children's mother--the one person who loves her children more than life, itself. We see her acting strangely, and then she disappears into the night with an unidentified man in a car. Jack watches as the two make their escape--he suspects infidelity, now. But, the real truth is far more shocking than any infidelity.

     Crichton just keeps layering the tension with each segment of the story. Now, we have a mystery behind Julia's behavior and her leaving in a car with another man.

     At first blush, looking at the book cover (and CDs), we see a swarm of something that looks terribly dangerous. As we read, we eventually acknowledge that since science and technology is part of the story, as well as a strange type of non-human "alien" life in the nanobots (alien meaning "strange," not alien from outer space). We think, "Yes." this is SCI-FI[11]

     I have already told you, above, how Crichton has layered the story with one tension-building situation after another in order to build tension and anxiety in the reader. I'm sure most of you know that a story with tension or conflict between characters expressed in action, tension building and some sort of conflict equals SUSPENSE. In this story, Crichton creates tension among people, and also with the swarm of nanobots (e.g. like Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds.). But is this enough to categorize it as a suspense novel? I don't think so. You see, in suspense novels the reader knows things the protagonist doesn't know. I think that places Prey, outside the category of suspense. So, no to this category. [12]

     Now, what about MYSTERY? Well, when we say, "mystery," our minds conjure up a protagonist who tries to solve some kind of problem, goes on a quest, of sorts, ferreting out clues until he is able to ascertain who did the action (like stealing the maltese falcon) and why. In a mystery novel, the reader takes the trip with the protagonist and only learns of the clues when the protagonist does. The reader doesn't have any special insight like other types of novels (Thrillers). The protagonist is seldom in any danger--he is, after, trying to solve a puzzle. After all, puzzles aren't very dangerous...think Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie. In Prey, Jack Forman IS in danger. . . Hmm. Where does that put us, now? [12]

     Usually, the mystery is told in first person, like our story, today, Prey. The result of utilizing first person also helps the author to get the reader involved in the story, to create empathy for the protagonist, and, in the end, sympathize and care about their hero. Involvement. It creates an investment by the reader in the story. [12]

     The HORROR genre, as stated by The Horror Writers Association (HWA), firsts looks to Webster's Collegiate Diction- ary for a start. HWA says that the dictionary gives the basic definition of horror as, "a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay." Further, HWA reasons that "horror fiction" is a fictional work that "elicits those emotions in the reader." And that by accepting the Webster's definition, it means that horror can encompass natural or supernatural, the fantastic or the normal. HWA further states that the essential "requirement is that it elicit an emotional reaction that includes some aspect of fear or dread."

Here, The Slaughter of the Innocents. All boys under two yrs.
old were slaughtered. Rachel would not be comforted.
The Bible. [16]
     Many examples can fill this definition. The examples cited by HWA include not only Salem's Lot (by Stephen King), but also includes such books as The Lovely Bones (by Alice Sebold), and Tim Lahay's, Left Behind Series; surprisingly, The Holy Bible, would also be included because, "where else can you find fallen angels, demonic possessions, and an apocalypse absolutely terrifying in its majesty, all in one volume..."[15] 

     Finally, THRILLERS: Thrillers are pretty easy to spot. Look at the word, thrillers--try "thrill." Yes, these stories are full of action (e.g. car chases), violence, fighting or running away from the bad guy(s)--our hero, or our protagonist is in all kinds of danger.

     Additionally, the reader watches the bad guy from the beginning, see him do the crime (e.g. murder), and, therefore, knows who the killer is, unlike the protagonist. A sub-genre of this could include technological aspects, like our book, Prey. The fact that our protagonist knows who the killer is and has information about the crime/murder, alone, could put Prey out of the thriller running, since Jack has no information at the beginning of the book about what is going on; instead, Jack has to get information and put the pieces together. [12]

This table includes the results of readers' assessment
of what genre they believe the book, Prey, fits into. [18]
     So what have we decided? Science Fiction seemed to fit. In the suspense genre, we placed it outside of the genre category. The mystery category, also, seemed to be outside the genre, as well as the thriller category. We seem to have a Fictional novel in the sub genre of science fiction.  Also, we seem to have narrowed the other genre's down to...what? none of these, except sci-fi?

     Well, here's the problem. Some genre's have crossovers. What we see, here, is that each of the categories have SOME of the elements belonging to that category. Moreover, we don't want to just say, the genre is a sci-fi/suspense/mystery/thriller. The conceit generally allows for two names only, so it appears we can only have two. To answer this question, we must look to what the publishers and author intended the book to be. Publishers have listed Prey, as being SCI-FI, and of the TECHNO-THRILLER/HORROR genres. There you have it--it looks like most of us were probably wrong in assessing the genre (above, left). [19]

     One thing I really liked about the book is Crichton's easy-going style of writing. It made me feel at ease with the writing, and I enjoyed, very much the way he put words and sentences together.

     I have to acknowledge that the science part of Michael Crichton's book falls far short of reality. The science is patently wrong in some areas of the book. Even though I acknowledge the erroneous parts of the book, really, who cares (Except science oriented persons, of which I am not one.)? As I see it, a work of fiction is "fictional." So what, then, if parts of a book aren't realistic. Addressing this and Michael Crichton's book, the co-founder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, Chris Phoenix, writes about "evolutionary learning and emergent behavior," among other things. Take a look at this informational article (see below) that sorts out all sorts of issues surrounding Prey. [20]

     I also had a problem with how slow the beginning of the book was. I do understand that Crichton was setting up the reader to understand what a "normal" life looked like, and how he was allowing the doubt and fear to creep in, but it still seemed a bit slow. Later in the book, though, Crichton gave the characters (and our protagonist) a frenetic pace right up to the end of the book. Because of the science errors, you might hate this book; if you enjoy the plot you might love it.

     First, I am not an audiophile, and I have not made a study of sound. What I do know is what I am pleased to hear, and what I am not pleased with. The CD book that I purchased was read by Robert Sean Leonard with an introduction to the book read by Michael Crichton. Mr. Leonard is a professional actor, appearing not only on Broadway in Brighton Beach Memoirs and The Iceman Cometh, but starring in the very popular Kenneth Branagh production of Much Ado About Nothing and Dead Poets Society.I very much enjoyed the professional reading, and must remark that Leonard added a lot to the enjoyment of the story. [2]

     Second, with a Kindle reader or other brand of e-reader device, often the reading is mechanical sounding, and since it is so, it is not nearly as enjoyable as a recording professionally read. I have so many books, however, that to purchase for an additional cost to the book itself, a professional recording, would be cost prohibitive. With some books, however, when I am exceedingly busy, I may turn on my kindle reader while I am cooking dinner or working quietly in my office. Sometimes, I turn on my reader for ten or fifteen minutes before bed to help relax me, and I get the added bonus of hearing an enjoyable story, too.

     And...when I am getting ready for work, listening to my e-reader helps me relax and not feel stressed as I begin the day--I especially enjoy listening to a book while I am putting on my cosmetics. Then in the evening or on weekends, I can pick up my Kindle and read it just as I do a paper book, turning one page at a time. I read books in many different locations, so I must be flexible and read how and when the type of reading works best for me. For example, sitting in my doctor's office waiting room, I read my Kindle as a book, but when cooking, I listen to it.

     Third, with the audio downloads, you purchase the book with the professional narration included. With these audio books, you can download to your listening device (I have an iPod and a nano that I download my music and audiobooks to.). The professional readers who read the book can be really wonderful, or they can be really terrible. The talent of every reader varies, but the purchaser of the book has the opportunity to listen to a sample of the book before they purchase it, so the risk is cut down that the reader will end up hating the book because it sounded so terrible. I have an "Audible" account, and was quite pleased when Amazon and Audible became one; now, I can purchase professional reading quite easily for my Kindle without going to the Audible website (Of course, I still go to the Audible website for the cool sales.). I like these type of audiobooks for when I am driving in the car on long stretches of road--it is quite easy to attach the device to my car's radio speakers, and voilá, I'm in business. When I exercise, I wear headphones.

     I think that with every book that you listen to, the quality and enjoyment may well depend exactly who is the reader. I've listened to some books where the reader was quite terrible, and I tended to not enjoy the book so much. The way to fix that predicament is to listen to the sample reading if you are at Amazon or Audible (or some other vendor of audio, CD and e-books).

Which will it be for you? Will it be CD? Will it be
Kindle? or Will it be Audio download? [24]
THE VERDICT: I think part of the process is what you prefer for reading devices. I like flexibility, so I use all three ways of listening to recorded books. If you prefer an e-reader (whatever brand) you should feel free to purchase a book with a professional reader if you desire. That is my biggest piece of advice for all three types of listening devices--sample the book you are going to purchase. The winner, though I pick is the audio book download. It has a great added feature of being able to have a ton of audio books and also of being able to download the book multiple times; whereas, with CDs I have storage issues. While the Kindle as an e-reader is good, the downside there is that in addition to purchasing the book to read, you must in addition purchase the audio version if you are to listen to it without the "mechanical-sounding" narration. Hands down, the downloadable version has the most good attributes and the least negative points.

     Since the target audience appears to be adult readers who enjoy sci-fi, techno-thrillers and horror, I will, obviously, recommend the book to those readers. However, young readers and those who are sensitive should give thought to its contents before reading this book.

     I loved reading the book, or rather...listening to it on my drive north. My family found the book as intense and gripping as I did and we all give it a thumbs up. So, given the positive and negative points I have given you above, and also on the amount that I enjoyed the book, I rate this book 4.0 stars out of 5.0.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we got to look at a book that has been "out" for a while, but is, nonetheless, an exciting and "thrilling" book. Next week we will be looking at a book that will be released on April 14, 2015, The Horse Healer.  This exciting new book is a NetGalley book that I am proud to have had the privilege of reading, and will be reviewing for you. Thank you for taking time to read and consider my book review of Prey, by Michael Crichton.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [26]
...many happy pages of reading.

Remember to be kind to one another... never know what kind of pain is in another's heart.

My love to you all.


[1] "Prey: a Novel." [Audible Edition][Michael Crichton] Retrieved 03-26-15.
[2] "Prey: a Novel." [CD Edition] [Michael Crichton] Retrieved 03-26-15.
[3] "Dust Storm Over Phoenix." [25 Wednesday, July 2012.] [Wilson Wyatt Jr.] Retrieved 03-26-15.
[4] "Will Artificial Organism with Advanced Group Intelligence Evolve?" [The Daily Galaxy, 01-09-09] Retrieved 03-26-15.
[5] Image from Microsoft Office Professional 2010. Text box and text added by author of this post.
[6] "Nanotechnology - 10 Critical Top Areas."  [Workplace Safety and Health Topics] Retrieved 03-27-15.
[7] "Future Effects of Nanotech on Health Care." [Ryan Winter, 10-21-09] Retrieved 03-27-15.
[8] "U.S. Develops Robotic Mosquito, Any thoughts on This?" [AnComm, &AnComm] Retrieved 03-27-15.
[9] "Parents With Three Children (1 boy and 2 girls)." Retrieved 03-27-15.
[10] "Sci-Fi." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[11] "Science Fiction." Retrieved 03-27-15.
[12] "Mystery, Suspense, or Thriller--What's the Difference?" Retrieved 03-27-15.
[13] "The Suspense." [Yor Ryeter] Retrieved 03-27-15.
[14] "Mystery Solved: Sherlock Holmes is in the Public Domain." Retrieved 03-27-15.
[15]  "What is Horror?" Retrieved 03-28-15.
[16] "FrightFall Read-a-thon." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[17] "Polars and Thrillers." Retrieved 03-27-15.
[18] "Genres." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[19] "Product Details." [harpercollinspublishers] Retrieved 03-28-15.
[20] "Don't let Crichton's Prey scare you--the science isn't real." [Chris Phoenix, co-founder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology; January 2003.] Retrieved 03-28-15.
[21] "Twenty of the Worst Science Jokes Ever." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[22] "Kindle 8.9 HDX and Finti magenta case." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[23] "Apple iPod nano (6th Generation with Touch Screen)." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[24] "Dominate the GMAT." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[25] "Final Verdict & Rating." Retrieved 03-28-15.
[26] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 03-28-15.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Insurgent: The Divergent Series, Book 2, by Veronica Roth--An Eagerly Awaited Book-to-Movie!

Book Review by: Sharon Powers.

     Last year on March 21, 2014, the movie, Divergent, came to the big screen; this year, in just a few short weeks, on March 20, 2015, Veronica Roth's second book in the Divergent series, Insurgent, becomes a book-to-movie, and will open in theaters.

     For fans of the Divergent series, as the date for the opening draws near, the long-awaited movie promises to satiate desires to see the book come alive on the big screen. And, although one can never tell whether or not an adaptation of a book to a movie will be a good one, at least fans know that book one's adaptation was successful. This means that hopes are high for a repeat of success and that the movie will be as exciting as their enjoyment of the book.

     Let's begin our look at Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, by garnering a look at the synopsis. This a good place to begin, so everyone will know what the book is about.

     At the end of Divergent, we learn that Tris, Four (Tobias Eaton), Caleb (Tris's brother), Marcus (Four's/Tobias's father), and Peter (from Dauntless & Tris's enemy) jump on a train headed towards the "Amity" section of the city. Tris mourns her parents who died sacrificing themselves for others; Four confesses to Tris that he, "might be in love with [her]" (Divergent, p.485). After this, Four confesses that he really does love her, not just, "might be in love with [her]." And then, in the last couple of paragraphs before the end, Tris spies Marcus "greedily" eying the hard drive in her hands. Tris thinks that they are all like a leaf separated from a tree--having left everything behind, that they, too, are like the factionless.

     In the opening pages of Insurgent, the reader is back on the train heading towards the Amity compound. Having nodded off to sleep, Tris sees Will "crumple to the pavement, again. Dead. "Then, waking her, Four (Tobias), tells Tris that, "[they] have to jump" (p1). They jump off the train, one-by-one and then make their way to Amity headquarters.

     For a fun read, see the article by Jonah Lehrer entitled, "Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything." After clicking on this link, make sure you are on the tab at the top of the page that indicates "Science." Then, go to the bottom of the page and hit the page right arrow until you get to August 10, 2011. You will find the article there. [3]


Psychologically, Tris suffers from
both grief and guilt over the death
of her friend, Will. She doesn't under-
stand what's happening to her, and
she won't talk to anyone about her
problem. When  Tris unrealistically
takes on the responsibility for killing
Will (when it was really self defense);
in a way, Tris takes on this responsibil-
ity to maintain the illusion of control,
AND as an excuse to take life-
endangering behavior. [5]
     It is at the beginning of Insurgent, then, that we discover that Tris is haunted by the death of her friend, Will. She keeps seeing herself shoot Will, and then, him crumpling to the pavement. Her grief and guilt threaten to overwhelm her; unable to cope with Will's death at her hands, she acts recklessly, putting her life in danger, time after time. Then, because of those reckless choices to endanger herself to the point, her relationship with Four is damaged to the extent that he threatens to end their relationship if she continues choosing life-endangering behavior. Grief and guilt is, indeed, a dangerous combination.

     It seems as if the group had hardly arrived at Amity when Erudite raided the compound, and the Dauntless group fled. This time their flight for safety leads them to the factionless area of the city [It is with the factionless, that one of the book's big shockers happen!], and Dauntless agrees to an alliance with the factionl. Seeking the Candor faction's help and an alliance with them, a trip is made to Candor HQ (headquarters) where Tris and Four are arrested.

     After Four and Tris are arrested as traitors, they are put on trial. To prove the two were not traitors, they are injected with truth serum and then they undergo interrogation in front of everyone. You know, of course, that secret things come out here--both for Four and Tris. The interrogation by Candor representatives adds to the already strained relationship the two are having due to Tris's identity problems, loss of her parents, and the grief and guilt that went along with Tris's killing of Will. This section of the book has real heartbreaking moments for readers to explore.

Dauntless Traitors who sided with the Erudite faction,
wear the Erudite color blue to show allegiance to Erudite.
The armbands are stitched onto the jackets and
cannot be simply untied and taken off. [7]
     Not long after the trial, another shocking scene explodes onto the pages of the book--the Candor compound is attacked by the "Traitor Dauntless" who are loyal, now, to Jeanine (and Erudite). The attack team is lead by none other that a former Dauntless leader, Eric. During the attack, shocking incidents occur. It is during this raid that Eric is captured. Since new Dauntless leadership is needed, Tobias, Tori and (an unknown character) Harrison, are voted-in; the three take over the leadership roles. Eric is interrogated and put on trial--you will not believe what he reveals and what happens after his interrogation is completed.

     Shortly after, the Dauntless grab their few possessions and flee the Candor compound. Returning to their former home at the Dauntless compound, they discover that many of the Dauntless were marked with a kind of tracker (during the attack by the Traitor Dauntless at Candor's HQ). The tracker was created so that any given individual's tracker could be activated and those controlled would do whatever nightmare sim (simulation) they are called upon to do.

The above graphic image is a gif showing
Marlene after she "delivers" Jeanine's message to the
Dauntless--she jumps off of the roof in the horrible
"nightmare" sim and dies. [8]
     Action comes fast and furious, now. The Dauntless make allies of the factionless (since none can be made with either Amity or Candor); nonetheless, Tris doesn't trust the factionless leadership. Then, Jeanine activates the new nightmare-like sims among a few selected Dauntless; in fact, Marlene (a Dauntless), delivers a message to the Dauntless from Jeanine, that every two days more Dauntless will be selected to die unless one of the Divergent surrender themselves to Erudite HQ. Marlene, quite suddenly, jumps to her death from the top of the roof--unable to get out of the nightmarish sim Jeanine sent the the selected Dauntless.

     Other secret alliances are made--who aligns with whom--will shock you! And, as far as the open alliance with the factionless, Tris harbors her own secret reasons why she doesn't trust the new alliance with the factionless, while Four insists in trusting them. With all the secret alliances that are made and keeping the truth from one another will impact everyone, but just how it will, only time will tell.

Jeanine Matthews [9]
     An assault is planned on Erudite HQ with Dauntless and Factionless participating; it seems as if everyone wants the data on Jeanine's computer and many would kill Jeanine if they could get their hands on her. Tori especially would like to exact revenge for her brother's murder at the hands of Erudite leadership (i.e. Jeanine).

     Tris, accompanying another, more clandestine group, makes her way to Amity, from which they head out with taser-like weapons toward the Erudite HQ. Meanwhile, the official group with Tobias and many others, including the factionless also head to assault Erudite HQ. Both groups succeed in getting in, and race to Jeanine's secure office where the data is kept.

Evelyn and Edgar. Evelyn is leader of the factionless--she
takes over leadership after the assault on Erudite HQ,
essentially ousting the Dauntless faction (by collecting
their guns and leaving them without any way in which to
either defend themselves or to fight back to regain their
leverage). What will the Dauntless and Divergent do now?
And...personally, when I read the book, I never saw Evelyn
like a beautiful Naomi Watts. For me, Naomi Watts just
looked too young and beautiful for her to portray Evelyn. [10]
     Tris fights her way through a room where she is ensnared in a difficult sim; finally making it through the sim, Tris enters Jeanine's office as Tori is about to kill Jeanine. Tris tries to stop Tori from killing Jeanine so that Jeanine can retrieve the encrypted files of data from her computer. Tori refuses and then, Tris and Tori fight--Tori winning. In only a moment, Tori stabs Jeanine to death.

     Tori has Tris and her companions arrested as traitors and set to be tried as such. The group are all taken down to the lobby to sit on the floor in a group, under armed guard. Feeling dejected because they didn't get the data, Tris is faced with another heart-rending death that unfolds right in front of her (might I say, "again"?). The group continues to wait in the lobby with others (captured Erudite faction members) being held there, when suddenly, a video recording is played to everyone in the lobby, up on the wall. What? The missing data concealed from everyone by Jeanine? Who is playing the vid?

     The data that is revealed indicates that the Divergent are the key to saving the world. And then...another bombshell as the person on the vid reveals a shocking secret--everyone in the lobby is stunned to silence....Suddenly, everyone in the lobby starts yelling! End of Insurgent.

     If you've read the book, you know that this is a real HUGE cliffhanger! What the heck was revealed? What will happen, now? Only by reading, Insurgent, and Allegiant: The Divergent Series, Book 3, will you know.

I've often heard the analogy about
people's personalities being like an
onion, and you have to peel away the
layers to get to know them. Also, as
regards secrets, it can be said that
used as a metaphor, and following
the quote, "People...are layers and
layers of secrets," that the metaphor
seems to be apropos. [11]
People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them. (p.510)
     This quote was sandwiched (pardon the pun) in between a discussion about Tori, and a discussion about their sentences when the court convened and found them guilty. The consensus was that "...they're going to force us to eat lots of cake and then take an unreasonably long nap" (p.510) OK. I think we can agree that this is black humor (you know, eating cake and being executed--i.e. "forced...[to] take an unreasonably long nap").

You may have seen this simple, but
effective art work around on the net.
The very simplicity and stark color
changes really make the image work.
The artist is a ten-year-old boy. [12]
     I'd like to address a common writing technique and how it impacts the story. "Which one?" you ask? Well, that would be how the Dystopian genre impacts or predicates certain parts of a story.

     In a previous blog post I gave you a kind of "nutshell" version of the dystopian society. If you like, you can see that post by clicking here. I can better explain how I feel about Insurgent by addressing what a dystopian society embodies. To start with, we should know that a dystopian society is one that is undesirable in some way or harmful or unpleasant. Dystopian stories may end in an unsatisfying manner or the goals of the protagonist may be achieved, but the protagonist dies. Moreover, the unpleasantness is usually due to a dramatic decline in society, for example, an apocalypse. These unpleasant side effects usually center around the following:



  • In Roth's first book in the trilogy, Divergent, she created a strata in society of individuals based on the innate abilities and inclina- tions of those individ- uals: Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation, and Candor. The grouping is very similar to Aldus Huxley's dys- topian novel, Brave New World where Huxley also stratified society into five groups: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The stratification of society makes it easy to exert CONTROL over individuals.
  • [14]
  • CONTROL OF INDIVIDUALS THROUGH VARIOUS TYPES OF PROPAGANDA: By breaking society into strata, the government or controlling body can keep people from communication, it can have the effect of causing one set of individuals to dislike other groups and make the group feel their group is the best and the others are _________ (bad, evil, strange, sick, poor, etc.). Control of the population may be exercised in different ways. Here are the main ways propaganda is used to control society:
CORPORATE CONTROL: One or more large corporations control society through products, advertising, and/or the media. Examples include Minority Report and Running Man.

BUREAUCRATIC CONTROL: This kind of control utilizes a mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape, endless regulations and incompetent or corrupt government officials. An example of a movie with these aspects is the movie, Brazil.

POLITICS (THE GOVERNMENT) AND ECONOM- ICS: This one may cross over a bit with some of the other methods of control, for example, "Bureaucratic Control." An example of this type would be, V for Vendetta and The Hunger Games. The same can be said about (about crossing over):

VIOLENCE: Creating a war, schism, or some other issue that causes society members to take up fighting, war, or other type ofppression. See, Judge Dredd, Mad Maxx, or The Running Man.

TECHNOLOGICAL CONTROL: Control of societal members is accomplished through technology like, computers, robots, and/or through scientific means. Examples of these woud be, I, Robot, The Matrix, and The Terminator

PHILOSOPHICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, OR RELIGIOUS CONTROL (ALSO, BY CREAT- ING FEAR): Control of individuals through these philosophical, psychological, or religious ideologies will often see the control going to either a theocratic government or a dictatorship. An example of this would be: Brave New World; A Canticle for Liebowitz; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and (control through creating fear, say, of our bodies) The Handmaid's Tale.

Citizens are required to conform to uniform expectations. In Divergent, and Insurgent, each faction must live by a set of standards of behavior and even types of clothing, styles, and customs. Pressure is exerted by family, friends, government, and at work, to follow the expectations and rules. This could be any number of books, but how about taking a look at another dystopian novel I reviewed on 
 The outside world is perceived as dangerous, deadly, and to be FEARED. In fact, in The Divergent Series, the wall is to keep individuals in as well as to keep out the unknown dangers beyond the fence. The fences is tall (as you can see from the movie, Divergent) with a huge concrete base, metal and wire atop the base, and it is patrolled by armed guards. I would believe the dangers were severe and , of course, this fence would be needed to keep out the "horrible threat(s)" beyond the fence.This is effective indoctrination, but who, exactly, was the person or group who gave life to  it? [17]

Through indoctrination, education, and training, members came to believe that the natural world (outside the fence in Insurgence) is hostile and dangerous, engendering FEAR of the outside world. The fenced-in-city (Chicago) is very much like a prison where information, freedom, and independent thought are restricted. Also, by utilizing propaganda, the powers that be can control dissemination of information, hide secrets, and make individuals conform to societies rules. Other examples include: Nineteen-Eighty-Four, and Fahrenheit 451. (14)
"I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined
by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now
have discrimination down to a science," explains
Vincent. (Gattaca, the film.) [17] I love the DNA
below the ship on the poster. This a great poster for the
movie, as an example of CONTROL THROUGH
, AND SCIENCE. Gattaca [the novel],
was written by Frederic P. Miller, and
Agnes F. Vandome. [18]

If you've seen the movie, Gattica, you know that the ability to move up in society depends almost entirely on identity--as verified by DNA (so this control could also fit in technological or control by science, too. [19]


This type of control can be identified by the amount of pollution tolerated, not having sufficient supplies, including food. Examples of this control would be: Avatar; Soylent Green; Logan's Run; and Wall-E


Control of individuals may also be obtained through use of either ethics, and/or science. A couple of great example of this type would be, Blade Runner and I, Robot.


I left "Control Gained Through Family" until last because it is one of the most important, critical aspects of dystopian society. The government seeks to destroy or control social interaction by exerting rigid controls on the family. Take a look at what happens in our book, Divergent Trilogy. If a coming-of-age person chooses a faction alien to their family of origin, they lose their family. And if they fail their "initiate" stage of training, they are, likewise, thrust of into a factionless world without family or support of loved ones. The family is broken apart.

     So, the faction (The Divergent Tril- ogy) now serves as a substitute for the family unit. Because of the decline of socie;ty before the present time, due to war, death, fighting, rampant diseases, etc. Also, because the people of that time had so desired the unpleasantness to end that they merely traded one kind of unpleasant- ness for another. Therefore, instead of war, diseases, etc., they would have peace, stability, and oneness--but at a cost--very restrictive and unpleasant side-effects. The individual accepted CONTROL over his or her life to obtain the peace and oneness that they so desired. [20]


Some of the aspects of the dystopian protagonist can also be found in Joseph Campbell's, Hero's Journey. For example, Luke Skywalker felt trapped on the farm and looked for any reason to leave. We can find another example from the Star Wars story where the hero's journey meets at the crossroads with the "Dystopian Protagonist." Young Anakin Skywalker suffered in slavery with his mother and often questioned the wrongness of enslaving people--ironically, as an adult, renamed Darth Vader, Anakin used mind control to exact FEAR and obedience from others. In other words, you must look closely at the protagonist to see if he or she was written with the Dystopian or The Hero's Journey in mind. [20]

"Foreshadowing . . . Literally!" [Here, we see young
Anaken Skywalker with a "foreshadowing"
of his future self. [23]
     So, if the two examples I gave you in the, above, kparagraph are similar to each other in both the "Dystopian Protagonist," and in The Hefro's Journey way, what is it that's different about a protagonist in a dystopian novel that makes them different from one who is on a Campbell's-style, hero's journey? In addition to feeling boxed-in and wanting to escape like Luke Skywalker, consider the following:

(1) The protagonist has a feeling, though he/she cannot prove it, that something is terribly wrong with the way society is being run;

(2) The dystopian protagonist also questions the political or social system in which he/she lives;
(3) The protagonist's reaction to the imposition of controls by the political (or social system) helps the reader to recognize the "wrongness" of society and its systems.
(4) The dystopian protagonist is often seen breaking rules or questioning authority that has been placed or her/him. This one may be difficult to identify because it is also seen in other NON-dystopian novels--like the quintessential "coming-of-age" novels;
(5) Character development is important, too. The protagonist's struggle to be free, independent, and to know oneself is essential; but, just as important is the protagonist's internal warring needs to come to terms with inner desires, needs, and identity;
(6) The protagonist is likely (but, not always) to be an anti-hero;
(7) Do you see any foreshadowing in the story? Here, you should think about the themes, motifs,  and symbols, that you read in the story to help identify foreshadowing. [24]

     Undoubtedly, since novels and movies following dystopian themes are so popular and very prevalent in society, right now, assuredly we will be seeing more from this genre, again. Because the dystopian genre is seen in everything from television shows, like The Walking Dead, video, console, or online games such as Fallout or Fallout New Vegas, and movies, like The Book of Eli, we may be able to reliably identify what a "Dystopian" genre is. Don't jump to conclusions just because a story is after a war and call it dystopian. Many books are mislabeled as dystopian in nature  when, perhaps they are really a coming-of-age story or a "Hero's Journey" story. Don't be hasty in your judgment. Take your time, think about it, and if you need to, just refer back to the list I have given you. [25] You can ask yourself the nutshell version, if it helps:


(1) STRATIFICATION of society;
(2) CONTROL of Individuals (through one of the methods listed, above);
(3) FAMILY is under scrutiny, closely monitored, and broken apart at least in some way; ask, if society or another public entity takes the place of the family (just as it does in Divergent and Insurgent);
(4) PROTAGONIST: Can you identify a "Dystopian Protagonist"?

     Even though this has been a rather long blog post, I still did not cover all that could be covered in depth. For example, I very much enjoyed the trope of "choices" and "consequences." Do you remember this quote from the book? "One choice can transform you,"? and, what about, "You die, I die too"? Tobias looks over his shoulder at me. "Iasked you not to do this. You made your decision. "These are the repercussions." Choice and consequence are seen throughout Insurgence--so pay attention to this (and other things that are often repeated); examen repeated things to see if they are part of a theme, symbol, or motif, or even perhaps, foreshadowing.].
     First, this book is for adults, or young adults fitting into the category of YA readers. The book is appropriate for all readers who fit into these categories, but for those who are considered sensitive, those individuals should think about the themes before they read. By that, I mean, violence, bloodshed, guns, shootings, knifing, conspiracy, post-apocalyptic settings, suicide, murder, graphic executions, imprisonment, torture by psychological means, etc.

MY RATING: I really enjoyed reading this book because Ms. Roth had me hooked when I read Book one (Divergent). So, for all the reasons I have stated, above, I award this wonderful book a rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars. Congratulations to Veronica Roth for all her success, and also for her excellent writing in the series. I look forward to reading more books by Veronica Roth.

     Thank you for joining me today and hanging in ther through this long blog post. I offer you a heartfelt thank you for taking time to be with me today. Please join me next time as we will be taking a look at a brand new book--very different from this one.

Until next time . . .
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [30]

...many happy pages of reading!

My very best to you all.


[1] "Insurgent: Divergent Series, Book 2." Retrieved 03-07-15.
[2] "I might be in love with you." Retrieved 03f-07-15.
[3] "Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything." Retrieved 03-08-15.
[4] "Spoiler Alert." Retrieved 03-17-15.
[5] "Day 22: Grief and Guilt." Retrieved 03-07-15.
[6] "Truth Serum." Retrieved 03-08-15.
[7] "Dauntless Traitor." [robynnkittyy] Retrieved 03-08-15.
[8] "Marlene--Insurgent; Veronica Roth." [heather] Retrieved 03-08-15.
[9] "Jeanine Matthews." Retrieved 03-08-15.
[10] "Evelyn Eaton and Edgar in Insurgent." Retrieved 03-08-15.
[11] "Red Pepper - Red Onion - Feta Pate - Dip." Retrieved 03-09-15.
[12] "Utopia Dystopia." [dylan, 10] Retrieved 03-10-15.
[13] "Social Stratification as Explained Through Rock Stratification." Retrieved 03-10-15.
[14] "Thought Police: Divide-Distract-Deceive." Retrieved 03-10-15.
[15] "V for Vendetta." [DragoNegro] Retrieved 03-10-15.
[16] "The Handmaid's Tale." [atwood] Retrieved 03-10-15.
[17] "Film Friday: Divergent (2014)." [fence] Retrieved 03-10-15.
[18] "Embracing Gattaca...." [movie poster] Retrieved 03-11-15.
[19] "Gattaca." Retrieved 03-11-15.
[20] "Common Elements of Dystopian Novels." Retrieved 03-12-15.
[21] "Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics." Retrieved 03-07-15.
[22] "Me Against The World." [Dystopian Protagonist] Retrieved 03-12-15.
[23] "Foreshadowing." Retrieved 03-12-15.
[24] "Dystopian Literature Primer." Retrieved 03-12-15.
[25] "Dystopian Fiction: What is it Really?" Retrieved 03-11-15.
[25.5] "Fallout New Vegas." Retrieved 03-12-15.
[26] "Insurgent: Divergent Series, Book 2." [hardcover edition] Retrieved 03-07-15.
[27] "Choices Have Consequences." Retrieved 03-12-15.
[28] "Veronica Roth." [photo] Retrieved 03-12-15.
[29] "Review: The Wolf of Wallstreet." Retrieved 03-12-15.
[30] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 03-12-15.
[31] "Big Brother is Watching You." Retrieved 03-11-15.