Book Review: Blight by Alexandra Duncan

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Title: Blight
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: August 1, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks // Amazon
Indiebound // The Book Depository

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Blight
Alexandra Duncan
Greenwillow Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-239699-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When an agribusiness facility producing genetically engineered food releases a deadly toxin into the environment, seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres races to deliver the cure before time runs out.

From the author of the acclaimed American Booksellers Association’s Indies Introduce pick Salvage, which was called “Brilliant, feminist science fiction” by Stephanie Perkins, the internationally bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss. This stand-alone action-adventure story is perfect for fans of Oryx and Crake and The House of the Scorpion.

Seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres has lived on the AgraStar farm north of Atlanta, Georgia, since she was found outside its gates at the age of five. Now she’s part of the security force guarding the fence and watching for scavengers—people who would rather steal genetically engineered food from the Company than work for it. When a group of such rebels accidentally sets off an explosion in the research compound, it releases into the air a blight that kills every living thing in its path—including humans. With blight-resistant seeds in her pocket, Tempest teams up with a scavenger boy named Alder and runs for help. But when they finally arrive at AgraStar headquarters, they discover that there’s an even bigger plot behind the blight—and it’s up to them to stop it from happening again.

Inspired by current environmental issues, specifically the genetic adjustment of seeds to resist blight and the risks of not allowing natural seed diversity, this is an action-adventure story that is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake meets Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.

Genetically modified food is kind of a sore subject these days with some appreciating the enhancements and others being diametrically opposed for a number of reasons, not least of which are the known and unknown health risks. In Tempest’s world, not so very far in the future, such food has become the norm and a subclass of people has developed , those who can’t afford this food and must resort to stealing it or distributing contraband. Tempest has found her place in this agriculture-driven reality as a security guard and she’s very good at what she does. She knows herself and what she wants for her future…until the day disaster strikes and she has to make unexpected choices.

Tempest is an intriguing character and has a toughness about her that comes to stand her in good stead. When we first meet her, she seems to be quite focused and, in fact, she has been raised with very little softness or sentimentality. Inside, though, she’s not nearly so self-assured and the many facets of her personality begin to come to the fore; it’s especially interesting to watch her come to terms with some unhappy truths and figure out her place in an uneasy future. Essentially, this is kind of a coming-of-age story and getting to know this girl is what makes Blight a story to remember.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

About the Author

Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian. Her first novel, Salvage, was published April 1, 2014, by Greenwillow Books. Her short fiction has appeared in several Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

You can visit her online at http://alexandra-duncan.com/

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Follow the tour:

Week One:

7/24/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

7/25/2017- The Autumn Bookshelf– Interview

7/26/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Excerpt

7/27/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Review

7/28/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Interview

Week Two:

7/31/2017- Buried Under Books– Review

8/1/2017- The Bewitched Reader– Guest Post

8/2/2017- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

8/3/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Excerpt

8/4/2017- YABooksCentral– Review

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Giveaway

1 winner will receive a signed hardcover of BLIGHT
plus a set of the gorgeous prints in the photo, US Only.

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: Jupiter Winds by C. J. Darlington

Jupiter WindsJupiter Winds
C. J. Darlington
Mountainview Books, May 2014
ISBN 978-0-9891621-3-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal—to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government’s city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn’t kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she thought she knew about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

What could have been a straightforward science fiction tale is really a blend of science fiction, mystery and action adventure, the very hallmarks of one of my favorite kinds of crossgenre fiction. Plot and characterization carry equal weight in Jupiter Winds and I’m really not sure I can say which appealed to me more.

Grey and Rin are young sisters who have learned how to survive on their own in a harsh world although they do have a little help from a few friends. Grey, being the elder, takes her responsibility towards Rin very seriously but, at the same time, she values Rin’s contributions to their partnership and I found that really refreshing. I expect siblings in this kind of story to care about each other but to see them respect each other in equal measure is not so common. These two girls understand how important it is that they work together towards the common goal of staying alive no matter what the dangers might be—and dangers there certainly are.

Revolution against a tyrannical government is a common theme but Ms. Darlington adds her own touches with technology and with the disappearance of Grey’s and Rin’s parents. I particularly loved that, in the girls’ smuggling business, books are hot ticket items. Printed books, that is, and anyone like me who’s hanging on to the belief that printed books will still be around in the future can take a small bit of comfort here. Anyway, when the girls are dragged into the middle of this revolution, they find themselves surprised at every turn but no surprise is bigger than finding out what happened when their parents disappeared years ago. Then again, a certain Mrs. March has a few tricks up her sleeve, so to speak, and her place in the sisters’ lives is probably my favorite plot point of the entire story.

As you might expect from the title, the planet Jupiter plays a big part in the story but Ms. Darlington has also woven in a Christian theme that, to my way of thinking, makes for a more well-rounded tale than much of science fiction. The author uses a light touch with this and I never felt the slightest hint of proselytizing but Jupiter Winds can be recommended to anyone looking for inspirational fiction. Having said that, I should also stress that the term “inspirational fiction” shouldn’t scare anyone off because it’s done so well and so unobtrusively here.

In short, I finally have to say I can’t decide whether the plot or the characters appealed to me more because they’re equally strong. And have I mentioned worldbuilding? Jupiter Winds ranks right up there with the best speculative fiction I’ve read. Grey and Rin, Mrs. March and a fellow named Jet, and both Earth and Jupiter in Ms. Darlington‘s imagination will stand out in my reading memory for quite some time to come.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.