I recently finished reading Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat. Published in 1956, this story is both adventurous and exciting. Set in the north of Canada, it tells the tale of two young boys stranded in the wilderness.
Editor’s note: To accurately describe the content of Lost in the Barrens, this review references terms for Aboriginal Peoples used in the book that were in common use at the time of the book’s publication.
Awasin, an Indian Chipewyan, has lived in the north all his life. Jamie, on the other hand, grew up in Toronto and attended an expensive, private boarding school. He was sent to the school after the death of his parents when he was nine years old. But Jamie’s uncle and only living relative, Angus McNair, does not have enough money to continue sending his nephew to the school, so he arranges to have Jamie brought to the north to live with him. When Jamie arrives at Angus McNair’s dwelling in the woods, he and Awasin become good friends.
Jamie is enjoying his life in the north. But winter is coming, and an Indian camp even farther north is running out of food. This camp, led by a man named Denikazi, normally has plenty of caribou meat to last the winter. But this year, the caribou are late in coming, and the camp is starving. In a desperate effort, Denikazi and a group of hunters go searching for the animals, hoping to find enough meat to feed their camp for the rest of the year. When Denikazi and his hunters arrive at the Chipewyan beach in their canoes, looking for supplies and help, Jamie and Awasin eagerly volunteer.
Everything was going well on the hunting trip, until Denikazi and a small group of hunters decided to leave the boys behind, heading northward at a faster pace in order to hunt. But the boys get bored and want some adventure. Leaving the camp by canoe, they paddle miles downstream. After a day’s excursion, Jamie and Awasin find a rapid that they can’t traverse. It wrecks the canoe, and the boys are left stranded on the endless tundra.
This book is very exciting, and there are many times when it is suspenseful. It is also interesting to see how resourceful the boys are in their quest for survival. They build an igloo of stones, spend days making clothes of deer skin, and collect lots of fuel for fires. When winter arrives, they can be seen as courageous and inventive. After finding a small hidden valley, they construct another cabin, this time out of logs. Jamie and Awasin show incredible skill while they prove that surviving in the frozen north is not hopeless.
One of my favourite things about this book is that Jamie and Awasin’s beliefs are challenged. The Indians were traditionally terrified of the Eskimos (now called the Inuit), thinking that they were cannibals and inhospitable. The two boys were in constant fear of these men of the north. During the long, cold winter months, a short change in the weather convinces Jamie and Awasin that it is time to attempt a break for the south where they will be safe, but they travel less than forty miles when a storm rolls in. The two boys, just minutes away from death, are lucky to find an Eskimo’s igloo. After days spent recuperating, they become friends with a young Eskimo. Jamie and Awasin realize that the Eskimos are, contrary to their previous beliefs, warm and welcoming people.
One thing that I dislike about the story is that time passes so quickly. There are multiple instances when, in just one paragraph, many days pass. This makes parts of the story seem like you are just reading about the passage of time.
Farley Mowat has managed to create an extreme survival story in unbearable conditions – the endless Canadian north. Lost in the Barrens also has an amazing blend of diverse cultures and near death experiences. Overall, the book has a very strong sense of danger. At every turn, the boys are trying to solve the problem of what could kill them next – the cold, the wild animals, food shortages, or living conditions. The book is suspenseful and exciting; in every chapter, Jamie and Awasin are put to the test to survive in the barren north.
In conclusion, the read deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Intricate and plot twisting, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a suspenseful dystopian novel. The entire story occurs in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. Developed by multibillionaire James Halliday, the OASIS has everything that you need in life, from schooling, homes, food, and games, to cars, spaceships, and weapons. There is not a single person on the planet that does not use the OASIS. As a result, the Internet and OASIS have become synonymous. All you need are a pair of haptic gloves and a visor. However, when James Halliday dies, his billion-dollar fortune is the prize of finding the easter egg that he has hidden inside the OASIS. By finding cryptic clues and fighting great beasts, one user will win the fortune and the game.
Our protagonist, Wade Watts, has none of the amazing qualities of a true OASIS Gunter, the name for a person that searches for the hidden egg. With a Level One avatar and using it only for his schooling, he has no coins, points, or cool weapons. But Wade solves clues and finds himself at the top of a leaderboard after defeating one of the mythical guardians of the keys, devices that open the gates to a new puzzle challenge.
There are a few lessons that can be learned from reading this book. Early in the competition, Parzival, Wade’s avatar, races against the other people on the contest leaderboard. However, when several Gunters figure out that the IOI, an internet service provider, wants to win the game to take over the OASIS for evil, Parzival turns to his friends for help. As a result, we see that friendship and cooperation can be used to defeat evil.
The book is full of adventure as we watch Parzival battle great beasts and legends. Best of all, it is played like a videogame, so there is a lot of detail and suspense. One of the most interesting things is that James Halliday was born in the 1980’s. As a result, Gunters like Wade have read every book, watched every movie and played all of the games from the era, in the hope of finding some obscure reference or hint. Although I was not alive at the time, it is interesting to see how Ernest Cline has managed to combine those tidbits of the past with the setting of the future. This book takes a chilling look at the possibility of a dystopian future, and combines it with the era of the invention of the first 3D video game.
Overall, I give Ready Player One 4.5/5 stars.
The Truancy series, written by Isamu Fukui when he was a 15-year-old high school student, is an extremely well-written and suspenseful dystopian series. Set in an experimental city divided into 58 different sectors and ruled by forces that value education, a group of schoolchildren, known as the Truants, wants to fight back.
In the first book, Truancy, a boy named Tack is living the life of a schoolboy. Dealing with surprise tests and harsh learning ways, Tack is getting frustrated with the system. When he finds a school dropout his own age, alone in abandoned sector 19, Tack sees his life begin to change. Training under the boy, Umasi, Tack learns to fight with both words and swords. But when he witnesses the death of his sister by a Truant, Tack is devastated and wants to seek revenge.
After finding his way to one of the many Truant hideouts in the city, Tack is accepted into the rebel group. Gradually rising up the ranks, he eventually battles the leader of the Truancy for the chief role. He subsequently changes his name to Tackan and starts to realize exactly how hard the life of a leader can be.
The second book, Truancy Origins, shows us the early years of the two brothers, Umasi, the boy from sector 19, and Zyid, the future leader of the Truancy. In this book, we learn how Umasi and Zyid’s paths begin to separate.
The final book, Truancy City, brings us back to the city when Tackan is the leader of the Truants. The city’s long want of taking down the Truants might just have a new secret weapon – a boy, trained by Umasi, who is an amazing fighter and has few weaknesses. In a final all-out battle between the Truants and the general population of the city, the overarching leader of all of the experimental cities steps in, using her own troops to help maintain order. Attempting to evade the Government, the Truants try to seek refuge by leaving the city.
The series ends with a stunning conclusion at the top of the tallest building in the city, a 108-floor tower that overlooks all 58 sectors. The amazing ending shows that not all forces are what they seem to be.
This is a very well-written book with a lot of action, suspense and mystery. The character development is superb, and it is a very captivating series. It is fictionalized, yet provides a somewhat scary foreshadowing to what the future could hold.
Overall, I give this book 5/5 stars.
The Finest Hours, by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias, is a thrilling, non-fiction story that describes in detail the most daring coast guard rescue of all time. Released as a movie in 2016, this book is inspirational and has amazing character development.
Caught in a terrible storm on Feb. 18, 1952, two different oil tankers on the coast of Cape Cod split in half. Each of the four segments was left stranded. Without engine power, these tankers drifted in the 40- to 60-foot swells, in the most dangerous storm ever seen in New England.
The Finest Hours follows four different sea rescues, each one forming a different section of the story. My favourite part was the first one, involving coast guard Bernie Webber and his crew of Richard Livesey, Andy Fitzgerald, and Ervin Maske. These four men risked their lives in a 36 foot wooden lifeboat to save the seamen trapped on the S.S Pendleton’s bow.
This story is very thought provoking, and shows what a true coast guard rescue would be like. Not only did it drag me in like a boat pulled out to sea, this book captivated my attention to the very end.
— BookoftheDay.org (@bookofthedayorg) January 26, 2016
Also fascinating was the book’s epilogue, which followed the life of the CG 36500, the boat Bernie Webber used in the rescue. It explains the journey it took from the backyard of a boathouse, to huge restoration projects, to its final resting place – a museum in Cape Cod. The story also tracks what happened to the men of the gold-medal crew, an honour that each man received after this daring rescue.
Overall, I give this book 5/5 stars. I strongly recommend it.
The Insignia trilogy by S.J. Kincaid is a fast-paced science fiction adventure series that has been nominated for numerous awards. The trilogy takes place in the future, in the midst of World War III. In the first book, Insignia, we are quickly introduced to the two duelling sides in the war. North America, allied with Europe, Australia and Central America, is now at war with the Russo-Chinese alliance.
A failing student living in poverty, Tom Raines has no hope for a bright future. While at a casino one night with his father, he is approached by a member of the U.S. military who persuades him to be trained as an interstellar combatant. The opportunity to fight in the war using virtual reality is just the break that Tom was hoping for.
Tom begins his training in earnest after receiving a neural processor (brain implant) allowing him to think at a much faster speed than the typical human brain. He soon realizes, however, that unlike the other cadets, he seems to have a special power: the ability to interface with machines. Using only his mind, he can seize control of any computerized device.
In the second book of the series, Vortex, Tom and his fellow combatants rise up the ladder to become mid-level cadets, also called middles. Here, Tom’s loyalty is tested and he is introduced to coalition executives who will decide whether or not to sponsor him. One can only become a true combatant in the war with a corporate sponsor.
The third book, Catalyst, provides a suspenseful and action packed conclusion to the trilogy. A complex plot involving the creator of the neural implants leaves Tom and his friends alone in a very new world, desperate to devise a plan to defeat a ruthless enemy.
The character development in this trilogy is excellent. Throughout the story, the reader sees Tom grow as he learns astonishing secrets about the war. The plot is well developed, and at numerous turns, our protagonist is forced to think big about the world around him. Consequently, readers wonder what the future will hold and whether computers are getting too advanced.
This series has a lot of action, but also incorporates interesting thoughts and concepts. The plot is unique. I also liked the fact that the story takes place in the future, one that could become realistic very soon, given our fast-changing society. One of the few things I don’t like about the series is that each book did not end with a cliff hanger; rather, it simply ends. The reader wonders what may happen next but it does not spark an instant need to read the next book. Still, the trilogy has a novel plot line, one that entranced me. I would recommend these books to anyone who likes adventure, fantasy or science fiction.
My overall rating is 4.5/5 stars.
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