“It dawned on her that she breathed more freely in the midst of the dangers of the wild Forest than in the familiar and crushing structure of society.” (Scali-Warner, pg. 131)
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Cover blurb (from Amazon): “In a not too distant future, a nuclear war has decimated mankind. Three centuries later, survivors live barricaded in cities controlled by the Human Empire, while the inhabitants of the countryside have been mutated by radiation and live in the forests surrounding urban settlements, waging war on the humans. When both her parents die in a fire, Julia is left to cope alone with a highly bureaucratic and regulated system, with very few select allies. As her loyalty undergoes increasingly harder tests, Julia draws attention to herself with her cold blood and fierce resolve in battle. Constantly on the edge between independent spirit and military discipline, Julia will have to decide how to use the power that has been granted her.”
I received a free copy of Julia Dream in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.
What I liked:
Julia Dream is fast paced and an easy read. The narration is straightforward and I read the entire thing in one sitting. This book revolves around a militaristic society and I think the writing style reflects that. Poor Julia is thrown into challenge after challenge. The action moves quickly and the reader (like Julia) hardly has time to reflect on what has happened. Bureaucracy and power are the driving force of this world. As a reader, you feel that acutely.
Parts of this story reminded me of other dystopian series. The 100 and Hunger Games both came to mind. Julia reminded me a bit of Katniss, but without the whining. I was also super glad to see a sci-fi story about a female protagonist that didn’t rely on a love triangle (or a love story at all, for that matter). Julia is pragmatic and stoic. She accepts her responsibilities and makes her decisions based on family and necessity.
I like Scali-Warner’s take on the future of technology and society. In Julia’s world, there’s a trend among the aristocracy to follow a “natural pregnancy” instead of using an artificial uterus. Such a thing is seen as totally bizarre and backwards. There are a number of little details like that. The world looks fairly similar to today, with a few well-placed jabs at society.
What I didn’t like:
Personally, I found the entire story a little underdeveloped. The world has great potential, but Scali-Warner doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the history or society. There’s enough information for the reader to assume but I would have preferred more concrete explanations. The characters would have been improved with more depth as well.
The structure of Julia Dream wasn’t my favorite. The author interjects bolded action sequences in the middle of narration. I think this is an interesting idea but I found it distracting. On a similar note, the flow of the story felt a little stilted. It felt more like a collection of short stories than a novel. Each event is compelling but they weren’t cohesively tied together.
Would I recommend this book?
That depends on your reading preferences. If you enjoy books that are character-based, Julia Dream isn’t for you, but if you prefer stories with more action and less exposition, I think you’ll enjoy it.
**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** This book includes scenes of violence and psychological torture. Overall, I thought it was pretty tame.**
Julia Dream is very woman-centric, which I appreciated. Most of the main characters, including high level military and government officials, are women. They are a little bit one-dimensional, but I think that was true of all the characters. Race isn’t discussed much, nor is sexuality or health status. At one point, Julia’s sister says “It’s actually possible that some were socially discriminated because of their biology, at least this is what I remember from my history books” (pg. 12). The implication is that such discrimination no longer exists in their society.
Additionally, religion no longer exists for the sake of the Empire. “Terrorist” has become a synonym for “enemy.” All arguments are decided by a ceremonial duel. Scali-Warner’s society is so similar to our own, yet taken to it’s extremes.
Final thoughts: Julia Dream is filled with interesting ideas but the execution of those ideas is a little rough.