Oryx and Crake, Gregor the Overlander, The Maze Runner, Solstice Wood, and The Night Circus

Here’s a tip for you: if you’re stressed out and reading to unwind, try to avoid apocalyptic dystopias. Because yeah, things could be worse, but wallowing in just how much worse might not actually make you feel better. Case in point below:

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1)Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I hate to give this book a bad rating, since from a literary standpoint it’s likely a masterpiece. But it was so terrifyingly depressing that I could not finish it. Rampant genetic engineering resulting in disaster of the highest order? Check. Society rotted to the core by soulless consumerism? Check. Pandemic introduced by mad scientist? Check. Complete environmental apocalypse? Check. Murder, sexual exploitation of children, and complete extinction of humankind? Check, check, check.

I made it not very far into this one before I had to start leafing through to see if it got better, soon discovering that no, it rapidly got worse. I had to do yoga breathing and lie on the grass looking at the clouds for a while before I eventually recovered. Not for the faint of heart.

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Suzanne Collins didn’t really make it big until The Hunger Games, but Gregor the Overlander is really an astonishingly good debut novel. It’s geared a bit more toward the younger set–so much so that after reading it I recommended it to my eight-year-old, who loved it.

This book has all the elements of good kids’ fantasy: talking bats, cockroaches, rats, and other animals, a quest, a mystical prophecy, and plenty of battles and adventure, as well as some introspective, character-building moments.


Special points to Collins for actually making me feel sad over the death of a giant cockroach.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book must have hit too many triggers for me. It was way too scary. I was always afraid that something horrible was about to happen, and most of the time it did. Even though I usually like dystopian fantasy, as a recovering hypochondriac I try to avoid books with pandemic themes. I think I might be the only person I know who doesn’t enjoy the horrifying creepiness of zombies.

On the one hand, I didn’t feel like this book was particularly well-written, and on the other hand, I stayed up half the night finishing it, even though I really should have put it down after the first few chapters. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

Solstice Wood (Winter Rose, #2)Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As you can see by the star rating, this book did not impress me much. Which is pretty sad, considering that it’s the sequel to Winter Rose, my favorite book for years and years. It was in fact the book I read out loud to my husband when we were first married so that he could truly understand me. (I’m not the only one who does this, right? I mean, it’s the obvious next step in a relationship after thoroughly perusing one another’s bookshelves)

Unfortunately, where Winter Rose is subtle, poetic, and literary, Solstice Wood is, well, not. Next time I’ll skip the sequel and just read Winter Rose again instead.

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightful. This book is a confection, as delicate and impossible as spun sugar. The different points of view are artfully arranged, giving the impression of a sculpture viewed from various interesting angles. The plot emerges piecemeal, almost as an afterthought, lurking in the shadows of the opulent scenery. It’s a book that absolutely cries out to be made into a movie, or find some other visual form, and failing that, creates a series of vivid pictures in the mind.

My only criticism (and you might view this as something of a spoiler, so be warned) is that I think the effect was rather diminished by wrapping it all up so happily. Perhaps it’s sadistic of me, but it would have been so much more artistic to send it all into a crashing, melodramatic tragedy of a finale.

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One thought on “Oryx and Crake, Gregor the Overlander, The Maze Runner, Solstice Wood, and The Night Circus

  • December 11, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Your book reviews are a joy to read. You write soooo beautifully.


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