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review 2019-12-03 06:08
Review: Penitence by Mark Campbell
Penitence - Mark Campbell

I am a sucker for an apocalypse novel, especially if there are killer viruses afoot. One of my favorite mobile games is about trying to develop a disease that wipes out the population of the planet, so this is something I have a dark fascination about. I am always willing to pick up a novel with that theme. Often times they disappoint, this did not.

 

We start the book with Teddy. He is our main character and I expected him to be more of an anti-hero. You don’t want to be rooting for him because he was in federal prison for doing bad things to people, but the world is ending and he’s one of few who survived so go Teddy! He was a bit of what I expected, but also came across as a really big boy scout. I mean, come on, we all know the things you did. We all know because you told us fairly quickly and bluntly. So can we please stop acting like he’s a good ole boy who just got caught in an unfortunate circumstance? I really didn’t like that about him. You don’t end up with a life sentence in federal prison because you had a bad day. But, regardless, the plot was enough to move me along despite my irritations with Teddy. In the end I just had to disregard what I thought his character should be and accept what he was and then we got along just fine.

 

Jane and Danny were fantastic. Jane is a woman after my own heart and I would like to think that in similar circumstances I could show the same resilience. I enjoyed them both immensely and I sincerely wanted to see the three of them ride off into the sunset together. They made me laugh, they made me cry, and I love it when that happens. The plot was not quite what I expected but I liked how it worked out, which is always a nice surprise.

 

I didn’t expect so much of the story to take place in the prison. But despite not expecting it, I loved it. A completely contained environment that gets infiltrated by a virus that kills nearly everyone it infects. How do you keep order and at the same time try to keep people healthy too? You’re still dealing with bad people who are violent and unpredictable in nature, add in the threat of death and things can spiral out of control very quickly. And spiral out of control they did. It was deliciously devilish. I liked how the book ended.

 

I understand that the book is expected to be a series, so it makes sense in that aspect. But if I never read the second book I would also be satisfied with how it ended. Teddy is still looking for redemption, trying to be the man that he might have become if not for the prison stint, and being put into a situation that is at once completely alien but oddly familiar. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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review 2019-11-25 04:43
The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes
The City Where We Once Lived: A Novel - Eric Barnes

TITLE:  The City Where We Once Lived

 

AUTHOR:  Eric Barnes

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2018

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DESCRIPTION:

 

"In a near future where climate change has severely affected weather and agriculture, the North End of an unnamed city has long been abandoned in favor of the neighboring South End. Aside from the scavengers steadily stripping the empty city to its bones, only a few thousand people remain, content to live quietly among the crumbling metropolis. Many, like the narrator, are there to try to escape the demons of their past. He spends his time observing and recording the decay around him, attempting to bury memories of what he has lost.

But it eventually becomes clear that things are unraveling elsewhere as well, as strangers, violent and desperate alike, begin to appear in the North End, spreading word of social and political deterioration in the South End and beyond. Faced with a growing disruption to his isolated life, the narrator discovers within himself a surprising need to resist losing the home he has created in this empty place. He and the rest of the citizens of the North End must choose whether to face outsiders as invaders or welcome them as neighbors.

The City Where We Once Lived is a haunting novel of the near future that combines a prescient look at how climate change and industrial flight will shape our world with a deeply personal story of one man running from his past. With glowing prose, Eric Barnes brings into sharp focus questions of how we come to call a place home and what is our capacity for violence when that home becomes threatened.
"

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REVIEW:

 

This novel starts of slowly and doesn't pick up pace.  The setting was developed very nicely, showing how depressing, bland and pointless - presumably the reflection of the live of the people in the North End, and the main character (narrator) in particular.  The prose is beautiful, but there is very little action in this novel and the plot is weak.  The narrator is a writer/reporter and we get to read about his observations of the North End and his personal issues.  These however, come across as irrelevant, even though they are the stuff of nightmares.  The author's concepts of how climate change, pollution and industrial flight affect a particular community is interesting, but it fades into the background.  I would have liked to have seen this idea explored a little more.  There IS light at the end of this dystopian novel.  The concept of the scavangers and how the people in the North End choose to live, as well as the gardener are all interesting ideas.  What the community chooses to do to survive, instead of devolving into chaos, is also rather different from the usual dystopian stories.  I just wish this book wasn't so bland and that the narrator had a bit more personality.

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-03-18 06:20
The Deluge by Mark Morris
The Deluge - Mark Morris

DESCRIPTION:

"It came from nowhere. The only warning was the endless rumbling of a growing earthquake. Then the water came—crashing, rushing water, covering everything. Destroying everything. When it stopped, all that was left was the gentle lapping of waves against the few remaining buildings rising above the surface of the sea.

Will the isolated survivors be able to rebuild their lives, their civilization, when nearly all they knew has been wiped out? It seems hopeless. But what lurks beneath the swirling water, waiting to emerge, is far worse. When the floodwaters finally recede, the true horror will be revealed.
"

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REVIEW:

This is an unoriginal apocalypse/post-apocalypse novel, that doesn't so much terrify the audience as revolt them with graphic descriptions of [spoiler] corpses [/spoiler], and other ... "things".  The writing was inconsistent with too much exposition and not enough "showing".  I also found the characer's reactions (or rather lack thereof) to the disaster to be unbelievable, especially in this day and age when supposed adults are having melt-downs over some internet persons differing opinions.  There were simply too many unanswered questions not to get annoyed with this book.  We never find out what caused the deluge, or [spoiler] what the slugs are or where they come from, or what happens to Max and what they find when they leave [/spoiler]. The book also doesn't end properly - the author apparently just got bored and stopped. 



NOTE:  I read the ebook which was filled with typos/spelling and grammar errors, along with missing letters, eg. "thru" instead of "through", "arum" instead of arm, "rn" merged into an "m" etc.  I don't know if the text was supposed to be like that but I found it annoying.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-02-18 05:33
Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, #1) by Jim C. Hines
Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse) - Jim C. Hines

This is a re-read before reading the second book, and I still loved it!

 

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TITLE:  Terminal Alliance - Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, #1.

 

AUTHOR:  Jim C. Hines

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From the blurb:

The Krakau came to Earth to invite humanity into a growing alliance of sentient species. However, they happened to arrive after a mutated plague wiped out half the planet, turned the rest into shambling, near-unstoppable animals, and basically destroyed human civilization. You know--your standard apocalypse.

The Krakau's first impulse was to turn around and go home. (After all, it's hard to have diplomatic relations with mindless savages who eat your diplomats.) Their second impulse was to try to fix us. Now, a century later, human beings might not be what they once were, but at least they're no longer trying to eat everyone. Mostly.

Marion "Mops" Adamopoulos is surprisingly bright (for a human). As a Lieutenant on the Earth Mercenary Corps Ship Pufferfish, she's in charge of the Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team. When a bioweapon attack wipes out the Krakau command crew and reverts the rest of the humans to their feral state, only Mops and her team are left with their minds intact.

Escaping the attacking aliens--not to mention her shambling crewmates--is only the beginning. Sure, Mops and her team of space janitors and plumbers can clean the ship as well as anyone, but flying the damn thing is another matter.

As they struggle to keep the Pufferfish functioning and find a cure for their crew, they stumble onto a conspiracy that could threaten the entire alliance... a conspiracy born from the truth of what happened on Earth all those years ago.

 

Terminal Alliance is a fast paced, humorous, science-fiction novel with an original alien cast and world building.  It's not everyday that the janitorial team ends up in the spotlight or saves the galaxy with disinfectant, so this makes for an original book concept too.  The main character is likeable, though the secondary cast are a bit flat (in this book anyway - maybe we learn more about them in following books?).  The book cover is both funny and beautiful!  This book was great fun and I'm looking forward to the next one.

NOTE:  This book is a complete story, but "what happens next" will be covered in another book.

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review 2018-08-05 17:42
The Passage: Vampocalypse Now, or at Least 2008-ish
The Passage - Justin Cronin

It's twenty minutes into the future, and an aggrieved FBI agent is rounding up subjects that no one will miss. Twelve of them are death row inmates: the thirteenth is an abandoned six-year-old, Amy Bellafonte. They are to be injected with a serum from a Bolivian bat virus to create (all together now) super-soldiers. The "virals" get vampire-y, the vampires cause mayhem, and after breaking free they overrun the United States and possibly the world. But that's only about a third of the story.

 

Once this several-hundred-page build-up is out of the way, we cut to ninety years later. In a stockade in California called the Colony, the descendants of a few survivors rely on lights to repel the virals, and the rechargeable batteries that power those lights are wearing out. Incredibly, a "walker" shows up for the first time in decades. After a fracas getting her inside the walls, the community blames the members of the Watch whose decision led to a few deaths. Before mob justice can be completely executed, a small group of companions flee the Colony, determined to find out what has happened to the rest of the world and to solve the mystery of the walker – who is none other than Amy. Not only has she survived countless viral attacks, she's barely aged in all this time.

 

The plot that ensues is hard not to compare to "The Stand," primarily because it's a story about a diverse array of scrappy blue-collar heroes who confront evil by walking across post-apocalyptic America. The characters aren't exactly the same, but the feel is vintage Stephen King. Psychic powers, unethical government experiments, maternal black women, stashes of weapons that even the odds with terrifying monsters, Biblical overtones and the infrequent nuclear blast – all these elements are King oeuvre.

 

Of course, my question when reviewing is less "has it been done before?" but "is it being done well now?" And yeah, it's not bad. The build-up to the outbreak keeps the pages turning, and the backstories of the pre-outbreak characters build some sympathy. Post-apocalypse, the dramatic moments when someone is taken by virals but *isn't* instant vamp chow make sense most of the time and lead to characterization moments. And though there are sequels, there is a reasonable amount of closure at the end of the first book. Considering it's a hefty 879 pages in paperback, I'd be angry if there weren't.

 

There are weaknesses, of course. The post-apocalyptic characters are a little more interchangeable than the well-drawn ones of the beginning. When a human encampment seems too good to be true, the twist is predictable (though the exact particulars still make for a good scene). The apocalypse feels straight out of small-town America's 2005 anti-terror/disaster preparation fantasy rather than harsh reality, or at least the impassable highways full of abandoned vehicles and degraded fuel of "The Stand." It's hard not to think of Mad Max or its South Park parody when the people of the Colony refer to "The Time Before" and use other uninspired slang. And there's a minor deus ex machina for a few characters near the end, called out in dialogue but left unanswered in this volume. (At least it wasn't the literal Hand of God setting off a nuke in Las Vegas.)

 

All that said, "The Passage" still feels like a genuine epic, one of those novels that starts out like a horror show and morphs into a battle of good versus evil. And if Stephen King were the only person who could write such a story, the world would be a drearier place. It was obviously written during the height of the War on Terror, but there's one notable quotation that still rings true:

"All this time, we were hoping the Army would come to our rescue," says Alicia, "and it turns out the army is us."

3.5 out of 5

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