Title: The Sowing
Author: K. Makansi
Date of Publication: August 19, 2013
Genre: YA dystopia
Remy Alexander was born into the elite meritocracy of the Okarian Sector. From an early age, she and her friends were programmed for intellectual and physical superiority through specialized dietary regimes administered by the Okarian Agricultural Consortium. But when her older sister Tai was murdered in a brutal classroom massacre, her parents began to suspect foul play. They fled the Sector, taking their surviving daughter underground to join the nascent Resistance movement. But now, three years later, Remy’s former schoolgirl crush, Valerian Orleán, is put in charge of hunting and destroying the Resistance. As Remy and her friends race to unravel the mystery behind her sister’s murder, Vale is haunted by the memory of his friendship with Remy and is determined to find out why she disappeared. As the Resistance begins to fight back against the Sector, and Vale and Remy search for the answers to their own questions, the two are set on a collision course that could bring everyone together—or tear everything apart.
Why Write Dystopia?
You’ve all heard the news: Dystopian books are over. Done. The trend is on the downswing and, just like vampire novels, readers and writers are tiring of the endless slew of dystopian novels.
Or so they say. I don’t believe it for a minute. Writers have been exploring dystopian situations since at least the mid-19th century, and dystopias aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Want proof? Here are three reasons dystopia isn’t on the out and out:
3. North Korea.
These are real-life dystopian situations. Seen the photos from the current upheaval in Ukraine? The city square in Kiev is burnt to a crisp, much like District Twelve in Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay. Heard about the government isolationism, state-run propaganda, or lack of health care or proper nutrition in North Korea? Does any of that sound like George Orwell’s classic dystopia 1984? How about the three-year-long civil war in Syria, resulting in the displacement of over two million citizens and entire cities destroyed? Have you seen photos of the refugee camps there, or heard about the use of chemical weapons or barrel bombs on civilians? That’s a real-life dystopia if I ever heard of one, but it might also remind you of the movie Children of Men, one of my favorites, or The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s modern classic.
Dystopian stories, whether movies or novels, will always be relevant and important pieces of our culture. They help us to explore different political and social situations, to better understand the way that human beings react to crisis and to injustice, to learn how to change our own political structure. Dystopian novels give us hope that there will always be a chance to start over, even in the most evil of circumstances. They show us that there is a way out of oppressive situations through bravery, conviction, and principle. They show us what the world could be like, and how to potentially avoid those situations. And most importantly, they show us what the world really is like in other parts of the globe. As citizens of politically stable nations, with plenty of leisure time to read and enjoy our stories, it’s easy to forget that in other parts of the world, people are living out real-life versions of the situations as we curl up with our Kindles and Nooks.
But it’s not just about the politics and the social experiments like Divergent and Brave New World. Dystopian settings are the perfect opportunity to create brilliant characters and then push them to the limit of what they can handle. Divergent, The Hunger Games, and Battle Royale, the Japanese dystopia, are great examples of this. Each story takes a few well-developed characters and, through the dystopian world, pushes them to their absolute limits. Katniss Everdeen goes to the arena not once, but twice, is forced to celebrate a horrific spectacle of death, and then is helpless when her entire hometown is destroyed. Tris Prior’s struggle with guilt and helplessness over the deaths of her friends and her family leads her to self-sacrifice in the hopes of saving everyone else. And in Battle Royale, we see what happens when so many young people are thrown together and forced to kill each other. We see how some deteriorate almost into animal versions of themselves, while others cling to their humanity, their principles, and care for one another.
As K. Makansi, we chose to write a dystopian novel because sometimes the future—and often the present—is a scary place. We wanted to talk about some of the issues we’re passionate about, and even a little bit afraid of, but we also wanted to write an amazing story with complex and compelling characters and a well-drawn world. In short, we wanted to talk about real issues while having fun at the same time. Dystopian novels are uniquely suited to do both: to address real-world problems while offering readers engaging characters and an “unputdownable” story.
About K. Makansi
K. Makansi is the pen name for the writing triumvirate consisting of Amira, Elena, and Kristina Makansi. Two sisters and their mother, the three women developed a passionate interest in science fiction as a way to write about issues of food sovereignty and food justice. Elena is pursuing a degree in environmental studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, and will graduate in May of 2014. Amira was a history student at the University of Chicago whose day job working in the cellar of a winery (and constantly being splattered with wine) keeps her busy when she’s not writing. And Kristy owns and operates Blank Slate Press, an independent publishing company based out of St. Louis, and is a partner at Treehouse Publishing Group, a company providing editorial and design services to aspiring authors. When not writing or reading, the three can be found having animated discussions around the dinner table, sharing a good bottle of wine, or taking long walks in the park eagerly plotting out their next book.
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