Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Genre: YA historical
Secondary genre: scifi
Format read: audiobook
Series: The Madman’s Daughter vol 2
Rep: chronic illness, autism coding
CW: graphic violence,
Rating: planchet-4

The second book in the series, you can find my review of book one here.

After fleeing her fathers secret island laboratory as it burned, Juliet is back in London. She has, surprisingly, found a new family for herself, and is beginning to build a life, though the struggle of keeping her mysterious illness and her “oddities” to herself is beginning to wear.

But when murders begin happening in London, Juliet begins to see a pattern the police have missed: all the victims are people who have wronged her in one way or another. Chilled to the bone, she begins to suspect she’s not the only one who escaped the island.

But when Montgomery turns up in London, too, things begin to look up. Surely the two of them can solve the murders and save her life if they work together, can’t they?

Drawn from Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this book continues Shepherd’s retelling of dark, classic literature with a scifi twist.

I really enjoyed this book, though I did have a few things about it that bothered me, as with the first volume. It is definitely problematic in more ways than one, but I still find myself looking forward to the third book, which I believe is the conclusion of the series.

Have you read this series yet? What are your thoughts?

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Genre: Scifi
Format read: audiobook
Content warnings: racism
Rating: planchet-3

This novel from 1932 is somewhat disturbing to read today. No, scratch that. It’s definitely disturbing.

It depicts a near-future scenario in which all humans are bred in labs and genetically altered for their specific role in society. The family has been erased. So has religion, romance/love, and pretty much all intense emotion. Disease and poverty are eradicated. The “perfect drug” has been created that eliminates anxiety, stress, and depression with zero side effects.

The story flips back and forth between several different perspectives which makes it difficult to follow in the beginning, but it does provide a lot of necessary background and worldbuilding. Because this is technically a classic, I don’t want to get too much into the plot, since it can easily be found with a quick google.

I don’t know anything about the background of this book or what the author’s intent was. It can be take one of two ways: the “Brave New World” is an inevitable, utopian ideal humanity is working toward, or–and I think this more likely–it is a criticism of “modern” life (circa 1932), and takes the changes happening in society to an extreme. It reminds me of the arguments I heard against marriage equality prior to the federal ruling here in the states– “What’s next? People marrying dogs?” “They’ll force it on us eventually. We’ll all have to be gay!” (Yes, those are real statements I heard.) It’s a logical argument taken to an illogical conclusion.

It reads like a handbook of child abuse, brainwashing, and classism as young children are “trained” for their roles, including such techniques as depriving fetuses of oxygen and using electric shocks to teach those destined for “lower” ranking jobs that books are bad.

In addition, there is a “savage” reservation (roughly overlapping with the Navajo, Apache, and Hopi reservation currently in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah). In this book, however, “savage” does’t refer specifically to native populations (though they do make up the majority) but to any “undesirable” populations that refused to accept the new world order. To this end, the reservation is a melting pot that combines many cultures that no longer exist elsewhere in the world. It’s also the only place where people can still get sick and children are still conceived and born (as opposed to “decanted”).

And no one leaves.

Tourists are allowed in to observe the “strange and mysterious” behaviors, but those who live on the reservation will be killed if they attempt to leave.

I can’t go into too much detail here because it will set me off on a rant. This book disgusted and angered me. I hated reading it. I would almost call it traumatizing.

At the same time, I think the message it contains, particularly in the current international political climate, is something that deserves consideration.

Did I enjoy reading it? Absolutely not.

Was it important? Hell yes.

This is not a book to enter into lightly, so if you are having mental health issues, especially regarding anxiety, I would say to skip this. But if you think you can handle it, it does bring up a lot of good points.