Tag Archives: conspiracy

“The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart


A group of extraordinary children infiltrate a boarding school run by a genius scheming to take over the world via mind control.  Hilarity a somewhat mediocre adventure ensues.  (Yeah, not really target audience, I get it…)


“The Family Trade” by Charles Stross

Miriam was found as a baby next to her murdered mother.  She knew nothing of her birth family until much later.  Turns out she is from, and can travel back and forth to, a parallel universe.  The geography is the same and the history has some vague similarities, but it is much different.  The alternate world is stuck in the middle ages.  The Clan, a mob-style organization, controls import/export between the worlds — there are only a select few in the Family who possess the genetic trait that allows world-walking.  They are fabulously wealthy by selling our technology on the medieval side, and smuggling drugs on our side.  There are some very complicated politics going on that I (and Miriam too!) don’t fully grasp; unfortunately for Miriam the likely outcome is a violent end since several factions want her out of the picture, as she had been for 30+ years.  She is the heir to a major line of the Family.  Also we discover there is a THIRD world that nobody knows about; they have been sending assassins after Miriam too.   It’s almost comical that there are so many people gunning for her that we can’t tell who is behind what scheme.

This is definitely the start of a trilogy (or more); many strings are started and none wound up in the end.  Miriam needs to evade assassination and figure out what’s going on; also she is determined to bootstrap the medieval economy of the other world by finding some more legitimate way for the Clan to use their powers for good and still come out on top.

Kind of a cool scenario.  I wish I could world-walk.  But not if people would kill me because of it, I guess.

“Uglies” by Scott Westerfeld

Hot on the heels of reading “The Hunger Games“, here’s another tale of a future dystopia.  Only this time the dystopian elements are not so overt.  Humanity has overcome the final obstacle to true equality – each individual’s looks.  At the age of 16, everyone is given “the operation” which transforms them from an “Ugly” to a “Pretty,” conforming their body to the pinnacle of beauty according to the standards of evolutionary biology.  Pretties then live a life of non-stop fun and excitement.  Sounds good, but the Smokies, a group of runaways and defectors, have decided that they want to live on their own terms.  The secret police, “Special Circumstances,” Does Not Approve and uses Tally, the main character, to infiltrate the Smokies.  She eventually becomes converted to the Smokie ideal (falling in love with their leader doesn’t hurt) and learns that the operation changes more than just outward appearances….  I won’t get into the plot any further; suffice it to say that all is not happily ever after once Tally joins the Smokies.

I couldn’t help but comparing the book to “The Hunger Games” since I just read it.  I enjoyed “The Hunger Games” much more than “Uglies.”  I thought it had more believable characters and was more exciting and suspenseful.  The future it presented was more interesting as well.

I think that “Uglies” missed out on being a commentary on what equality really means.  I kept expecting it, but it never materialized.  (It’s more a book about not being so willing to believe everything you are told.)  Even still, it made me think about what it means to be equal.  In the “Uglies” future, (at least on the surface) equality is achieved by making everyone equally beautiful – bringing everyone up to the same high standard.  Contrast that to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” where everyone is made equal by bringing them down to the lowest common denominator – the beautiful must wear masks, the intelligent are drugged so they are dopey, the strong must carry heavy weights, etc.

The first way is the better alternative, but probably impossible – how can you make every equal in not only beauty, but everything?  The second way is more doable, but stupid – you’ll end up with a society of morons and weaklings.  Perhaps the best way is to overlook our differences, realize that everyone is trying the best they can, help when needed but just don’t be so critical of each other.  Easier said than done I guess….