Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Last Book in the Universe - Rodman Philbrick

Summary:

"If you're reading this, it must be a thousand years from now."

Nobody around here reads anymore. Why bother, when you can just use a mindprobe needle and shoot all the images and excitement straight into your brain? I've heard of books, but they were long before I was born, in the backtimes before the Big Shake, when everything supposedly was perfect, and everybody lived rich.

Personally, I doubt the backtimes ever existed. It's like a story you tell to make yourself feel better. As if having a past makes the future somehow worth believing in.

In real life, nobody comes to your rescue. believe me, I know. But then I met Ryter, this old gummy who had a lot of crazy ideas. Together we tried to change the world...

My review: Spaz, is a kid growing up in the future, a future that is pretty darn bleak considering the fact that earth has disintegrated into a sort of feudal system complete with mob violence, brutal crime lords and techno-drug addictions. Spaz suffers from seizures which get him kicked out of his foster home for being a Deef (defective person) but keep him from using mind probes (a sort of virtual reality injected straight into your brain via large needle) like the rest of the population. He's working as a Banger, collecting for the local latchboss when he meets an ancient old man, Ryter, who shows him something called a Book. Soon after, Spaz recieves word that his foster sister, who lives clear across the Urb, is dying. He seeks safe passage from his Latchboss and when he is denied, Spaz goes rogue, attempting to cross several dangerous latches in a desperate effort to get to his sister.

I wasn't two pages into this book before I realized some huge similarities between it and one of my favorite books Uglies (and sequels) by Scott Westerfeld. They both have the same distinctions between a lower, normal society (Mopes / Uglies) and a perfect utopian one (Proovs / Pretties). In both books the lower society lived a squalid, unappealing lifestyle and longed to be part of that "better" world. There were also similar alterations to the languages in an attempt to make them seem futuristic but still based in English.

The difference between the two books is that The Last Book in the Universe really takes these differences to the extreme. It's Uglies on steroids. The Mope society is truly horrific and not just perceived to be so in comparison with the better one. There is famine, bloodthirsty gangs, radiation, filth, and almost no written word (gasp). Young children roam the streets searching for scraps and people are "canceled" for the smallest offense. The Utopian society, called Eden in this book, is honestly that--a paradise of human, environmental, and technological advance that is open only to those who have been genetically improved before birth. I liked the premise of this book, it was interesting and fun to read, but I wouldn't recommend it for those under the age of 12 because of some of the violence towards a central and beloved character. Still, it was definitely adventurous and unpredictable and something that I enjoyed reading.

My rating: 3.5 Stars. I liked it enough to keep in in my collection for my kids to read when they get older, but I probably won't read it again myself.

Sum it up in one phrase: The guy version of "Uglies"

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