Survival is Insufficient

Well, at the end of BookTube-A-Thon 2018 I managed four books in the week, which I think is a pretty solid effort for a first timer. I will definitely continue with the books I chose (though I might forget about the hat challenge) and I’ll post about them as I go. For this post I’ll focus on the first two books, Station Eleven and The Giver. I listened to Station Eleven in the day time and read The Giver alongside it in the evenings. As it turns out, they complimented each other pretty well.

The phrase ‘survival is insufficient’, lifted from Star Trek, flows through Station Eleven and drives the Travelling Symphonies star actor, Kirsten. This phrase is, essentially, what The Giver is trying to tell us, with it’s dystopian world disguised as a utopian paradise. On the surface, Jonas’ little community is the perfect solution to the human tendency towards war and destruction, with everything that drives conflict eradicated, but as the story progresses it’s clear that without the things that drive us (music/colour/sex/love/anger/pain), survival IS insufficient. The interesting thing about this novel is that this is the first time I’ve come across a dystopian narrative where the controlled and orderly world that higher powers have attempted to create has actually succeeded for any length of time, with only the Giver and Receiver threatening the manufactured perfection. This allowed me to question whether Jonas’ community is as bad as it’s intended to seem. As someone who lives in a world of colour, emotion, individuality and desire, the idea of a faded and numb existence is unthinkable, but would I miss what I couldn’t remember having, if it meant a world without hunger, war, inequality and poverty? I have no idea but it’s fun to think about! Overall I’d definitely recommend this book, it’s an interesting angle on popular themes and I found Jonas’ narration simple but charming.

If anything Station Eleven has only solidified my attraction to a post-apocalyptic lifestyle. While swine flu is infinitely more realistic, and more boring, than zombies, a post-apocalypse that includes Shakespeare, airport technology museums and the odd doomsday cult thrown in for flavour is just my cup of tea. Overall, this novel is well constructed, moving between the time leading up to the outbreak and twenty years later, without being confusing. The characters are well written, though Kirsten is far and away the best character, combining compassion, a belief in the power of art and a willingness to fight and kill when necessary. Again, I would definitely recommend this book, both for lovers of the genre and those who are new to it.

Back soon with some Fantastic Beasts!


So I figured a good place to start with this would be another first for me, BookTube-A-Thon 2018! So today I went digging through the world of wonders that is my book collection in search of texts that fit this years challenges. I admit I chose short books so I’d have the best chance of getting through them, but they’re all from my to be read shelf so I’m excited to get to them. Here’s a list of the challenges and the books I chose.

  1. Let a coin toss decide the first book – My coin landed on heads so the first book will be The Giver by Lois Lowry.
  2. Read a book about something you’ve always wanted to do – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
  3. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling.
  4. Read a book with green on the cover – The Savage by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean.
  5. Read a book wearing the same hat – This is a bit of a daft challenge and Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar, illustrated by Steve McNiven, seemed as good a book as any to read while wearing a hat.
  6. Read a book with a beautiful spine – The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.
  7. Read seven books in seven days – The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan will be my seventh book.

The one that may stand out is number 2 and, admittedly, a post-apocalyptic novel does seem like a strange answer to ‘something you’ve always wanted to do’. However, I’ve often felt kind of drawn to the idea of a post apocalyptic world. Obviously I don’t truly want half the world to be destroyed by zombies, nuclear winter or swine flu, and in reality I wouldn’t survive without JustEat or the ability to waste entire weekends watching tv shows I’ve already seen three times. There is a certain appeal, though, to the idea of a world where we are stripped back to basics, where survival is based on strength or intelligence and the only reason for continuing to live is our natural desire to keep breathing. Thankfully, this isn’t the world right now and there are novels, shows and movies out there that can give oddballs like me a taste of a savage alternate reality, from the safety of the couch.

I’ll update after each book with my thoughts!

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