I did not deliberately select my sample reading for simplistic high concepts, but wow, did I get a lot.

A high concept is a plot which can be easily and representatively summarized in a short sentence. If doing so would misrepresent the actual experience of reading the book, then the book does not have a high concept. “Snakes on a plane” gives you a good idea of Snakes on a Plane; “A bus is wired to explode if it drops below 50 mph” gives you a good idea of Speed. Those are high-concept movies. If you like the concept, you’ll probably like the movie. “Nine people go on a quest to drop a ring into a volcano,” though technically correct, does not give you a good idea of the experience of reading Lord of the Rings.

The majority of the opening chapters of YA dystopias I’ve read have been so monomaniacally focused on their high concepts that they reminded me of the panel of the “Life in Hell” comic strip about the nine types of college professors which depicted the “One Theory Explains Everything Maniac” as a rabbit shaking his cane and shouting, “The nation that controls magnesium controls the world!”

Individually, some of them show promise. Collectively, they are tedious and one-dimensional. I was not especially impressed with the worldbuilding in The Hunger Games, but the first few chapters did show a world in which people had problems and apart from the Hunger Games, committed small crimes and often got away with them, and had personalities and relationships dictated by personal concerns rather than bizarre socially mandated rules.

In most of the books I’ve sampled, the first chapters are about little but the one-note concept, the characters think about little but the concept and speak about little but the concept, and the government is absurdly fixated on peculiar things, like the food individuals eat and the colors they’re allowed to wear, and, except for the obligatory Resistance, completely effective in controlling every moment of every person’s day. The heroines are naïve but spunky girls, unconvincingly ruminating at great length about how their societies came to be and how they function. It’s a paper world, sketched on the back of a sermon.

The Water Wars, by Cameron Stracher. Dystopia is drought. Water is strictly rationed, and the Water Allocation Board runs everything. Everyone is always desperately thirsty. The heroine is fascinated by a hot boy whom she sees… shock horror! …wasting water. Not badly written, but it didn’t grab me.

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy), by Lauren DeStefano. Dystopia is all the men dying at 25, and all the women at 20. (Why such exact ages?) This is attributed to a virus, though it seems more likely to come from genetic defects, as this occurred to the children of the first post-genetic engineering generation. The result, which I don’t think logically follows, is that girls are at constant risk of kidnapping and forced marriage. I would think it would be much more likely that people would simply start marrying in their mid-teens. Not badly written, but it didn’t grab me. I was also a little put off by two separate vomiting incidents in two chapters.

Bumped, by Megan McCafferty. Dystopia is enthusiastically encouraged teen pregnancy. This one is different: it’s a satire, and it’s actually kind of funny. None of the others had any deliberate humor whatsoever, so this came as a very pleasant surprise. The targets are more wide-ranging than “teen pregnancy,” which suggests that it may be able to sustain itself for the length of a book. The slang is believable, and there’s a plausible teenage voice. I’ll probably read this one eventually, as the first few chapters were nicely written and amusing.

Birthmarked (Birthmarked Trilogy), by Caragh M. O’Brien. Dystopia is the government confiscating a percentage of all babies born. In the chapter I read, about a teenage midwife, it was not made clear why, or if she even knew why. Something about the writing style and storytelling of this one did grab me – while still closely focused on baby-snatching, it allowed a small amount of breathing room for individual relationships and emotions. I’d try this from the library.
I did not receive any of the Harlequin titles, which I note all actually exist. Nor did I receive The Very Virile Viking or The Vampire Queen’s Servant, which also exist. I already own Clan of Death: Ninja, and have it reviewed somewhere under the tag genre: ninja.

Sadly, I am unaware of the existence of Knives Chau plushies. Cthulu plushies exist, and I waaaant one.

In-To-Me-See does not exist. Thank God. It was a fictional book on Sex and the City.

Nobody has ever sent me a head or a fetus (yet), though [livejournal.com profile] oyceter emailed me an article about a found fetus in a jar.

[livejournal.com profile] tool_of_satan sent me Spock, Messiah! It is even worse than it sounds: sexist, Islamophobic, profoundly stupid, abominably written, boring when not offensive, and did I mention sexist? The original cover is hilarious, though, with a strangely-proportioned Spock looking paranoid, insane, and constipated.

The Federation has the bright and totally ethically unobjectionable idea of infiltrating an uncontacted planet by hooking up the landing party’s brains to the brains of unknowing locals (via a long-distance telepathic thingummy), so that the landing party will react in-character as their local telepathic doppelgangers. THAT couldn’t possibly go wrong!

A repressed female ensign deliberately takes a nymphomaniac persona to see what it’s like, but her repressed crush on Spock manifests and so she hooks him up to a mentally deficient and insane local religious fanatic with a high sex drive so he’ll want to fuck her.

The possessed ensign “ruts like a bitch in heat” with Spock. Spock goes insane and takes over everything. This would be much more fun if we cold see Leonard Nimoy playing a different character, but since we can’t, it’s pretty dull. There’s more rutting and attempted rutting, and it’s STILL dull.

I did not expect this book to be as bad as its title indicates. Amazingly, it is.

Thanks Dan!

View on Amazon (with less hilarious cover): SPOCK, MESSIAH! (Star Trek)
I did not receive any of the Harlequin titles, which I note all actually exist. Nor did I receive The Very Virile Viking or The Vampire Queen’s Servant, which also exist. I already own Clan of Death: Ninja, and have it reviewed somewhere under the tag genre: ninja.

Sadly, I am unaware of the existence of Knives Chau plushies. Cthulu plushies exist, and I waaaant one.

In-To-Me-See does not exist. Thank God. It was a fictional book on Sex and the City.

Nobody has ever sent me a head or a fetus (yet), though [livejournal.com profile] oyceter emailed me an article about a found fetus in a jar.

[livejournal.com profile] tool_of_satan sent me Spock, Messiah! It is even worse than it sounds: sexist, Islamophobic, profoundly stupid, abominably written, boring when not offensive, and did I mention sexist? The original cover is hilarious, though, with a strangely-proportioned Spock looking paranoid, insane, and constipated.

The Federation has the bright and totally ethically unobjectionable idea of infiltrating an uncontacted planet by hooking up the landing party’s brains to the brains of unknowing locals (via a long-distance telepathic thingummy), so that the landing party will react in-character as their local telepathic doppelgangers. THAT couldn’t possibly go wrong!

A repressed female ensign deliberately takes a nymphomaniac persona to see what it’s like, but her repressed crush on Spock manifests and so she hooks him up to a mentally deficient and insane local religious fanatic with a high sex drive so he’ll want to fuck her.

The possessed ensign “ruts like a bitch in heat” with Spock. Spock goes insane and takes over everything. This would be much more fun if we cold see Leonard Nimoy playing a different character, but since we can’t, it’s pretty dull. There’s more rutting and attempted rutting, and it’s STILL dull.

I did not expect this book to be as bad as its title indicates. Amazingly, it is.

Thanks Dan!

View on Amazon (with less hilarious cover): SPOCK, MESSIAH! (Star Trek)
Note to helpful commenters: Please at least attempt to explain what is incomprehensible, even in brief (I realize this is inherently difficult.) For example, "I understood it until Dave turned into a giant space fetus, unless that was supposed to be metaphorical."

If the series/movie/whatever is still running or is very recent (like Tsubasa) please black out or rot13 spoilers! (Go to rot13.com to encrypt and decrypt, it's easy.)

I did not find Angel Sanctuary that hard to follow once I got past the first few volumes. On the other hand I am still not sure what what happened to God, Lucifer, or the flying cannibal angel embryo armada, so I think it qualifies. It was probably just comprehensible in comparison to, say, Fairy Cube.

I still have no idea what happened at the end of Akira, except that I think it involved destroying Tokyo.

My further nominees: The Quiet Earth: A mysterious event leaves Earth depopulated except for three people. I am not sure what happened at the end or why, but it's possible that one of the men was mysteriously whisked to a moon of Jupiter.

Was Altered States the movie in which William Hurt watches a trippy light show for twenty minutes, then turns into a chimpanzee?
Note to helpful commenters: Please at least attempt to explain what is incomprehensible, even in brief (I realize this is inherently difficult.) For example, "I understood it until Dave turned into a giant space fetus, unless that was supposed to be metaphorical."

If the series/movie/whatever is still running or is very recent (like Tsubasa) please black out or rot13 spoilers! (Go to rot13.com to encrypt and decrypt, it's easy.)

I did not find Angel Sanctuary that hard to follow once I got past the first few volumes. On the other hand I am still not sure what what happened to God, Lucifer, or the flying cannibal angel embryo armada, so I think it qualifies. It was probably just comprehensible in comparison to, say, Fairy Cube.

I still have no idea what happened at the end of Akira, except that I think it involved destroying Tokyo.

My further nominees: The Quiet Earth: A mysterious event leaves Earth depopulated except for three people. I am not sure what happened at the end or why, but it's possible that one of the men was mysteriously whisked to a moon of Jupiter.

Was Altered States the movie in which William Hurt watches a trippy light show for twenty minutes, then turns into a chimpanzee?
A boarding school has a day class of ordinary students, and a night class of glamorous vampires. The headmaster's adopted daughter Yuuki Cross protects and separates the two classes, assisted by the angsty Zero, whose family was slaughtered by vampires. Yuuki's probably was too, but she has total amnesia before the age of five... when she remembers blood-splashed snow, and being rescued by handsome vampire student Kaname.

There are some dull high school hijinks, especially starting out, but the meat of the story is the tangled dance of desire, hatred, and fear between Yuuki, Zero, and Kaname, and the ramifications of their incredibly complicated and angsty pasts.

Pure teenage girl id, sure to appeal to the teenage girl inside all of us. Vampirism is danger, but it's mostly sublimated sex. The thing you fear is the thing you desire. Would it really be so bad to become a vampire or feed a vampire, when the vampire is trembling with desire in front of you, enthralled by nothing more than a glimpse of your sweet smooth throat?

The series is full of gothic imagery, ominous organ music, gorgeous credit sequences, roses, vampire-killing magic guns, and lots and lots and lots of moments in which someone says in a voice shaky with longing, "You can feed from me. I don't mind. Really. It's only because you need it so much." Or this, from a male character to a female one who is currently straddling him on the floor with her hands around his throat, "Do whatever you want with me... Anything..." (Hopefully) "You can even torture me, if you like."

And if vampirism equals sex, and it definitely does, there is canonical het, slash, and femmeslash - all drawn and shot to make it absolutely clear that this is indeed sex. Sexy sex sex!

That would be enough for me, but as a bonus, there are a whole bunch of jaw-dropping plot twists - all of them, in retrospect, fully foreshadowed. Also, FYI, Yuuki is much less gormless in the anime's second season, Vampire Knight Guilty.

I like the anime better than the manga. The supporting vampire characters are much easier to tell apart when their hair and eyes are different colors. Plus the anime has music.

Warning! Warning! This is a series which is much better unspoiled. Below are spoilers for everything, including Vampire Knight Guilty and volumes of the manga that are not out in English.

If you haven't gotten that far, do not click or read comments! If you know anything that happens in the manga that is not covered in Guilty, don't tell me!

Spoilers will lick your neck and whisper jaw-dropping revelations in your ears )
A boarding school has a day class of ordinary students, and a night class of glamorous vampires. The headmaster's adopted daughter Yuuki Cross protects and separates the two classes, assisted by the angsty Zero, whose family was slaughtered by vampires. Yuuki's probably was too, but she has total amnesia before the age of five... when she remembers blood-splashed snow, and being rescued by handsome vampire student Kaname.

There are some dull high school hijinks, especially starting out, but the meat of the story is the tangled dance of desire, hatred, and fear between Yuuki, Zero, and Kaname, and the ramifications of their incredibly complicated and angsty pasts.

Pure teenage girl id, sure to appeal to the teenage girl inside all of us. Vampirism is danger, but it's mostly sublimated sex. The thing you fear is the thing you desire. Would it really be so bad to become a vampire or feed a vampire, when the vampire is trembling with desire in front of you, enthralled by nothing more than a glimpse of your sweet smooth throat?

The series is full of gothic imagery, ominous organ music, gorgeous credit sequences, roses, vampire-killing magic guns, and lots and lots and lots of moments in which someone says in a voice shaky with longing, "You can feed from me. I don't mind. Really. It's only because you need it so much." Or this, from a male character to a female one who is currently straddling him on the floor with her hands around his throat, "Do whatever you want with me... Anything..." (Hopefully) "You can even torture me, if you like."

And if vampirism equals sex, and it definitely does, there is canonical het, slash, and femmeslash - all drawn and shot to make it absolutely clear that this is indeed sex. Sexy sex sex!

That would be enough for me, but as a bonus, there are a whole bunch of jaw-dropping plot twists - all of them, in retrospect, fully foreshadowed. Also, FYI, Yuuki is much less gormless in the anime's second season, Vampire Knight Guilty.

I like the anime better than the manga. The supporting vampire characters are much easier to tell apart when their hair and eyes are different colors. Plus the anime has music.

Warning! Warning! This is a series which is much better unspoiled. Below are spoilers for everything, including Vampire Knight Guilty and volumes of the manga that are not out in English.

If you haven't gotten that far, do not click or read comments! If you know anything that happens in the manga that is not covered in Guilty, don't tell me!

Spoilers will lick your neck and whisper jaw-dropping revelations in your ears )
rachelmanija: (Angel Sanctuary: Kira)
( Dec. 15th, 2008 02:17 pm)
I recount this exchange between me and Oyce the other night because she wanted it preserved for posterity. It is especially apropos in light of the bewilderment (mostly mine and Oyce's) going on the comments to the Fairy Cube post. The thing with Yuki Kaori plots is that they're so insane, complex, and insanely complex that even if you understand them at the time, it's hard to get them to stick in your mind later.

Possibly incorrect spoilers for the endings of Angel Sanctuary and Godchild )
rachelmanija: (Angel Sanctuary: Kira)
( Dec. 15th, 2008 02:17 pm)
I recount this exchange between me and Oyce the other night because she wanted it preserved for posterity. It is especially apropos in light of the bewilderment (mostly mine and Oyce's) going on the comments to the Fairy Cube post. The thing with Yuki Kaori plots is that they're so insane, complex, and insanely complex that even if you understand them at the time, it's hard to get them to stick in your mind later.

Possibly incorrect spoilers for the endings of Angel Sanctuary and Godchild )
This is the sort of story where one can quite honestly write, "I forgot to mention that Heaven and Hell collided some volumes back."

It also features this exchange, which I believe can be appreciated out of context, and is probably the only time in the entire series when I liked Rosiel:

Sandalphon (creepy): Once I have my own body... I will devour you! I'll devour you all!

Rosiel (deadpan): Well, I'll look forward to that, Sandalphon.

You think that lump of flesh clinging to life in that tub is my true form?! )
This is the sort of story where one can quite honestly write, "I forgot to mention that Heaven and Hell collided some volumes back."

It also features this exchange, which I believe can be appreciated out of context, and is probably the only time in the entire series when I liked Rosiel:

Sandalphon (creepy): Once I have my own body... I will devour you! I'll devour you all!

Rosiel (deadpan): Well, I'll look forward to that, Sandalphon.

You think that lump of flesh clinging to life in that tub is my true form?! )
I finished this series a while ago, but was unable to write it up because every time I attempted a thoughtful, coherent analysis, the content I was trying to analyze was so deliciously demented, so carefully foreshadowed yet totally insane, that my head exploded.

So I will not analyze. Perhaps someone else can analyze in comments. I will merely provide a highlight reel. And, in case this persuades others to persevere beyond the awful and incoherent first volume, this is the kind of series where it's not all that spoilery to mention that a fleet of flying cannibal zombie angel embryos is sent out to destroy the universe. Also, the art is jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially on the covers.

Setsuna escapes on the back of a flying whale. )
I finished this series a while ago, but was unable to write it up because every time I attempted a thoughtful, coherent analysis, the content I was trying to analyze was so deliciously demented, so carefully foreshadowed yet totally insane, that my head exploded.

So I will not analyze. Perhaps someone else can analyze in comments. I will merely provide a highlight reel. And, in case this persuades others to persevere beyond the awful and incoherent first volume, this is the kind of series where it's not all that spoilery to mention that a fleet of flying cannibal zombie angel embryos is sent out to destroy the universe. Also, the art is jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially on the covers.

Setsuna escapes on the back of a flying whale. )
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