a highly unlikely scenerioIn the not-too-distant future, competing giant fast food factions rule the world. Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, the Pythagorean pizza chain, in a lonely but highly surveilled home office, answering calls on his complaints hotline. It’s a boring job, but he likes it—there’s a set answer for every scenario, and he never has to leave the house. Except then he starts getting calls from Marco, who claims to be a thirteenth-century explorer just returned from Cathay. And what do you say to a caller like that? Plus, Neetsa Pizza doesn’t like it when you go off script.

Meanwhile, Leonard’s sister keeps disappearing on secret missions with her “book club,” leaving him to take care of his nephew, which means Leonard has to go outside. And outside is where the trouble starts.

A Highly Unlikely Scenario is a dazzling debut novel wherein medieval Kabbalists, rare book librarians, and Latter-Day Baconians skirmish for control over secret mystical knowledge, and one Neetsa Pizza employee discovers that you can’t save the world with pizza coupons. (description from publisher)

A list of excellent things about World War Z:

  • Author Max Brooks (progeny of Mel Brooks) uses the word “decimate” appropriately – it means to kill one out of every ten people, usually as a show of force or intimidation and it is NOT a synonym for rampant destruction. The grammar nerd in me squealed with delight when I read that!
  • Interview-style storytelling means a focus on plot that’s both exciting and quick to read (Corollary: if there’s a chapter that you don’t like, it’s over quickly and the next one won’t be about the same person, the same event, or even the same country)
  • Rapid pacing keeps you on the edge of your seat. I couldn’t put this down!
  • Plausible and thoroughly reasoned geopolitical scenarios and global reactions to the zombie apocalypse
  • It’s the zombie apocalypse. So it’s awesome.

There are only two “bad” things about it, really. First, there’s a hefty helping of military action and associated jargon; if that isn’t to your taste, be prepared to skim or skip those paragraphs. Second, the interview-style format means that there is 0 character development, so if you rely on relatable characters to draw you into a narrative, that’s not going to happen here. But these aren’t really weaknesses as much as they are features of the book – for every reader who hates those features, there’s one who finds them fascinating. If that’s you, this book is sure to please.

Hillary Jordan’s novel When She Woke is often described as a new dystopian take on The Scarlet Letter.  It is set in a future where an epidemic has left the majority of women sterile and abortion has been made illegal to prevent a declining population.  Prisons are also wildly overcrowded, so to remedy this, criminals who aren’t considered dangerous to society are not locked up but are instead “melachromed”: their skin is dyed so that their crime is instantly recognizable to the population.

The novel’s main character, Hannah Payne, is a very religious young woman who broke the law by having an abortion in order to protect the baby’s father, world-famous Reverend Aidan Dale.  Hannah is caught and tried, and she wakes up a the beginning of the novel with scarlet red skin.  The book flashes back to how she ended up in this position and how she deals with entering society as a an outcast due to the color of her skin and the nature of her crime.

This book was very compelling, so much so that I found it a little painful to have to put it down at times.  It’s a very interesting take on a futuristic society; it’s unique, but not so out-there that you can never imagine it happening.  This might even be a fun pick for a book club because its controversial nature could bring up some very lively discussion!