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text 2020-03-26 16:16
Doomsday Anthology
Doomsday - Samie Sands

edited by Samie Sands

 

Fourteen stories all on the theme of the world coming to an end. Of course such an idea intrigued me! I had never read any of the authors before but part of the idea of anthologies is to discover new voices. Like most anthologies, some stories appealed more than others. It's well edited and I don't remember tripping over any typos at all.

 

There were just three of the dreaded present tense stories and a couple of others where the writing wasn't up to scratch or the plot went nowhere, but also a few notable stories with interesting ideas stood out.

 

We had aliens, zombies, vampires eating zombies, people who melt, mythological gods, dystopia, dead people who stay animate long enough to testify against their murderers, WW3, immortality whether you want it or not and a fairy world dying. Quite a variety of approaches!

 

The stand out stories IMO are From Strange to Indifferent by Katie Jaarsveld and Nightmare Rising by McKenzie Richardson. Both of these are well written and explor some interesting ideas. The latter will be of particular interest to Fantasy fans.

 

Not too bad as such collections go and it's given me two more authors to pay attention to.

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review 2020-03-12 05:52
Review: Day Zero by Kelly deVos
Day Zero - Kelly deVos

To sum it up in one sentence, this book wasn’t very good but wasn’t completely without redeeming qualities. The writing was solid. A bit too much tell versus show at times but the narrative was engaging enough that it didn’t bother me. I liked the introductions to all the characters and felt that those early chapters gave me a really good handle on who everyone was. Except Toby, for the first few chapters I kept forgetting who he was and I am still not sure why I couldn’t remember him.

 

Jinx was a terrible main character. I could tell that she’s supposed to be smart but she really enjoyed acting like she wasn’t. Her father prepared her for the apocalypse for years, she knows what she should do in the situations presented in the book. She just decides not to do it. And then regrets it once everything goes horribly wrong. Just once I wanted her to follow the lessons of her father and go along with the disaster plan. But, alas, she did not. I tried really hard to like her as a character but I just couldn’t do it.

 

Charles was an absolutely delight as a character, which was completely unexpected for me. I did not expect to like him but he stole my heart. I wanted to protect him in his anxiety and fear. And to quite frank, he was a lot smarter than his older sister too.

 

My biggest problem with this book however was the political overtones. I don’t mind books that are commentaries on the current political climate. But, is it really so hard to disguise that a tiny bit? Somehow the current political parties have been replaced by The Spark and The Opposition. I have no idea how that happened because the author didn’t bother to tell me. The Spark is basically the Democrat party. Socialist, popular with “educated” folks who majored in political science, and the goal is take rich people’s money and spread it around so that everyone has a mediocre existence. They have been in power for about 10 years according to the book. Their leader is Rosenthal. Everyone in the book repeats the party catch phrase ad nauseum “Everyone’s for Rosenthal.” And if anyone in the book even hints that they might not be for Rosenthal they are immediately attacked with “so you just hate people? you just want to hoard your stuff instead of take care of people?!” Yawn. Boring. The Opposition is the Republicans, allegedly. Led by Ammon Carver, an enigmatic billionaire who owns the largest bank in the country and since “Everyone’s for Rosenthal” he obviously cheated in order to win. Is this sounding familiar at all? Oh yes, everyone in The Opposition wears red hats, carries shotguns, has a poor command of the English language, has a pickup truck, and obviously wants the world to descend into anarchy so they can keep all their stuff. Oh and every other character immediately labels them a Neo-Nazi seemingly without any evidence of that at all. Is this sounding familiar now?

 

I didn’t mind the political themes at first because after the first 20 pages or so they seemed to largely move on to other things. But then it comes back at the end in such a heavy handed way that I wanted to scream. It felt like the author was beating me over the head with a MAGA hat screaming “I’m talking about Trump and 2016!!!” I get it. Okay? Honestly. I get it. I am not so stupid that I didn’t see your glaringly obvious theme. I was so tired of it by the time we got to the big twist at the end that I mostly just wanted the book to end. I don’t mind politics in my books, but please refrain from beating me over the head with your own opinions. I don’t need the brain damage.

 

And then we come to the twist. It wasn’t that good either. I started figuring it out about halfway through the book. I was completely sure that I knew what was going on shortly after. It was so blatantly obvious that even another character basically says to Jinx, “Hey isn’t all this stuff weird and suspicious? Do you think there might be something odd going on here?” And Jinx just laughs and says “Of course not!”. Then she is oh so shocked when the traitor is revealed. Um, that other character literally told you all that stuff about 40 pages ago. Are you really that dense?

 

Overall, not a good book. I won’t be reading the next book but it gets some credit for the exciting middle portion and for Charles.

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review 2019-12-18 15:47
Two to disappoint
Three to Conquer / Doomsday Eve - Eric Frank Russell,Robert Moore Williams

This was the most disappointing pair of Ace Double novels that I have yet read. The main point of interest is that they both shared a common theme of sci-fi "supermen," albeit in different circumstances.

 

The first one I read was Eric Frank Russell's Three to Conquer. In it, a precision instruments maker in the near future who happens to be telepathic stumbles across an alien plot to take over humanity. The idea of an alien virus being able to take over terrestrial life forms is pretty sinister, as it is virtually undetectable by humans, but in the end it serves mainly to give Russell's protagonist the ability to serve as the hero by telling cops and FBI agents how to do their job. It's suspenseful, but the ending is disappointingly anticlimactic.

 

By contrast, Robert Moore Williams's Doomsday Eve is anything but gripping. His story begins with soldiers fighting in a futuristic third World War encountering frequent interventions by "new people" who demonstrate remarkable superpowers. An intelligence officer assigned to investigate them finds out about their mission to save humanity and the impending effort by the "Asiatics" to destroy the continent. Williams telegraphs his ending practically from the book's early pages, leaving much of the book feeling like a wheel-spinning exercise as a result.

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review 2019-11-09 03:23
Kolakowski Gets His Crime Fiction Chocolate in this SF Peanut Butter
Maxine Unleashes Doomsday - Nick Kolakowski

The author also participated in a Q&A with me

---

“You know the trick to surviving? The one thing you got to do?”

 

“What’s that?” Maxine asked.

 

“You got to treat every day like an adventure. Like it’s fun, or a challenge, even when everything’s crappy. Especially when it’s crappy. Because otherwise, it’s all going to crush you.”

 

“I feel like I spent my whole life being crushed.”

 

“Well, that’s your fault. A normal job, trying to live a normal life, it’s just inviting people to stomp you. And they do.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“But at least in my line of work, sometimes you get to stomp back…"


In case the author's name looks familiar to you, yeah, you've seen me use it a few times this year—3 novellas, 1 short fiction collection, and now this novel, Maxine Unleashes Doomsday. It occurs to me now, that he was the first author I read this year, and he did a pretty good job setting the tone for 2019's reading. This book is his first step out of Crime Fiction and into Science Fiction—dystopian SF, to be precise (that really should be obvious to anyone familiar with him, I don't think he's got a utopian novel in him).

 

That said, there's enough of a Crime Fiction flavor to this SF novel, that fans of either genre will have enough of their drug of choice to be satisfied.

 

This is set in the near-future, at various points along the fall of the US/Western Civilization. While there are plenty of other characters to keep an eye on, our focus throughout is on Maxine. After a rocky start to life with a drug-addicted mother, and an unsuccessful academic career (although she tried for a little bit), she tries to follow her uncle's example and become a criminal. She has some success in that, but a large failure resulted in life-threatening injuries to a friend and the loss of one of her arms. Following that, she tries to live a non-criminal life, she gets a job, settles down with a guy and has a kid. But her heart's not in it, and she ends up dabbling in thievery. At some point, she abandons that life and sets her eyes on a criminal career.

 

Maxine is one of my favorite characters this year—she's flawed (not as flawed as she thinks), she's a fighter (not as good as she thinks), self-destructive, optimistic, and driven. She takes a lot of (metaphorical and literal) punches, and while she may not get up right away after them, she doesn't stop moving forward. Ever. I love reading characters like that.

Her uncle, who goes by Preacher, is one of the most significant criminals in the New York area—and has some cops dedicated to taking him down, and any number of civilians supporting him. Off and on throughout her childhood, Preacher tried to get Maxine's mother to leave her addictions behind to provide for and care for her kids. Between his power and influence on the one hand, and being just about the only adult to look out for her and her brother, it's no wonder that Maxine will want to be part of his life. Readers of Kolakowski's Main Bad Guy will enjoy playing a compare/contrast game with Preacher and Walker.

 

There are a number of other characters that greatly influence Maxine's life and desires, but none so much as her uncle. And to get into them would just push this post beyond the length I want (and would end up spoiling stuff to really talk about).

 

By and large, this is the story of Maxine's journey from a struggling public school student to being a wanted criminal (and beyond). But that's not everything that's going on. For the first chapter, you get the impression you'll be reading a book about rival groups fighting for supplies in mid-apocalyptic New York. But then you'll realize that's not it at all, it's a story about how Maxine became the tenacious gun-fighter and would-be criminal mastermind that she is. Eventually you discover that yeah, both of those are true, but Kolakowski's really writing a different story—and boy howdy, you feel pretty clever when you suss it out, and it's such a brilliant way of telling this story that you don't mind being wrong about what the book is trying to accomplish. But even then, you won't really understand everything until the last line of the book (I'm not sure I actually pumped my fist when I read it, but I probably thought about it pretty hard).

 

Yes, it's a pretty violent book (this too, should really be obvious to anyone familiar with Kolakowsi), but most of the truly horrible stuff happens "off-screen," making it a lot easier to take. The prose moves quickly and assuredly, the writing is sone with a strong sense of style and savoir faire. Frankly, it's too lively and enjoyable to keep the most readers who aren't into gunfights, etc. from being turned off by the violence.

 

It's a well-realized dystopia, one that's easier to imagine happening than say, Panem. Kolakowski does a wonderful job of littering this book with little details that tell you so much about the world his characters live in and entertain the reader. Hitting both of those notes regularly is a difficult task. For example:

“Someday I want to go to California,” Michelle told Maxine. “Did you know it used to be a state?”


and

This far north, the concept of local government grew teeth and claws. If you stuck to the highway, you would cross into territory controlled largely by the New York Giants, which had expanded beyond its origin as one of the nation’s most consistently mediocre sports teams to control a big swath of towns northeast of Buffalo.

One of the conceits of the book is that the material is a result of an academic study about Maxine. It's one of the best moves that Kolakowski makes in this book (and it's full of great moves). Don't skim over these notes, you'll be rewarded for your attention.

 

Oh, I should warn you: This book might put you off popcorn for a while. I'm just saying...

 

Rob Hart wrote one of the endorsements for this: “Take one of Richard Stark’s Parker novels and throw it in the blender with DVDs of Mad Max and The Warriors. Guess what? You just broke your blender. Find solace in this book, which is what you should have done in the first place.” I repeat that for a couple of reasons—1. I love the last two sentences. 2. He's right, and says everything in 4 sentences that I tried to above. You should listen to one of us. Kolakowski has outdone himself with this one, it was a pleasure from end to end. You really need to read it.

 

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this novel by the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. My opinions are my own, and weren't influenced by this.

 


LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

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review 2019-10-31 14:49
The Handmaids Tale
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

by Margaret Atwood

 

My first impression of this book was that it reminded me of Anne Frank's diary, writing in journal form about an oppressive situation in which the person writing must survive. Considering it was first released in 1985, the present tense writing that continued caught me off guard. It was unusual before the self-pub explosion in 2010.

 

The tale shows a future society where the freedoms we take for granted have been removed and women in particular are assigned roles and expected to conform to them, including providing babies for couples in more privileged positions but unable to produce their own. Citizens spy on each other and dissention makes people disappear.

 

We are never given the main character's real name because women are referred to by their captain's name; Offred, Ofwarren, etc. She has flashbacks to how life was 'before' that identify this as a society that took over what we would recognise as modern Western life. She misses a lover whose fate she does not know and a child they had together who was taken from her. There is occasional mention of a war, but details are slow to be revealed.

 

I found the story continually depressing. Obviously the whole point is that no one would want to live in such an oppressive world and it was interesting to see how some women managed to adapt, though many didn't. The change is still first generation and those in charge insist the next generation will find the new society perfectly natural, as they've never known anything else.

 

I saw some parallels with American black slavery in that children were taken away from parents with no sympathy for the mother's sense of loss. Also in that deviating from what was considered accepted behaviour resulted in physical punishment or even death.

 

What I found most interesting is that the men weren't enjoying the restrictions on themselves either. Human nature was never meant to be regimented.

 

I found the ending... tedious. An attempt by the author to be clever that fell flat and some essential unanswered questions. I'm glad I've read this now, but even more glad that I don't have to read it again.

 

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