Showing posts with label post-apocalyptic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label post-apocalyptic. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Boy on the Bridge by MR Carey

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'd read two novels by this author prior to starting this one, and he was batting a .500. I really liked The Girl With All The Gifts which I reviewed back in May of 2014, but I really didn't like Fellside which I reviewed in November of 2016. This one, I'm afraid, fell on the same side and delivered no gifts despite evidently being the second volume in The Girl With All The Gifts series. This is why I don't like series, generally speaking. Instead of plowing a new furrow, a series typically sticks in the same rut that's already been plowed.

I think writers choose this fallow ground because it's easy to navigate - just write between the lines! It's a lot simpler and less work to warm-over existing characters than to set forth against a sea of plots and by embracing, write them. I certainly wasn't expecting a zombie apocalypse novel and if I had been, I wouldn't have requested to review this. Zombie apocalypse stories are low-hanging fruit appealing to the lowest common denominator and they make absolutely no sense whatsoever. The blurb, which writers admittedly tend to have little to do with unless they self-publish, delivered nothing on the topic: "Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived." That doesn't say zombie apocalypse to me! It really doesn't say much at all.

The author never actually uses the word 'zombie'; instead, he calls them 'hungries', which is a cheat, because the name wasn't natural. Even people who can't stand zombie stories, such as me, for example, are familiar with the basis of them, and if this really did happen as it's told here, no one would ever call these things 'hungries'. They would call them zombies. Or flesh-eaters, or cannibals, or something more commonly known. 'Hungries' simply isn't a natural word that would have come into common use, so suspension of disbelief was challenged early and lost quickly.

Even so I might have got into it had the story not been so slow and pedantic, and made so little sense. Despite it being an apocalyptic story of disease run rampant through the population, largely turning it into mindless flesh-eating 'monsters', it was far too plodding and it failed to convey any sense of adventure or danger, or even offer any thrills. The main character was flat and uninteresting and the story plodded painfully and simply did not draw me in at all. The 'science' they were supposedly doing made no sense.

It began with a handful of scientists and a handful of soldiers on an expedition in the zombie wilds, picking up test materials that had been left out there by a previous expedition. The method of making this journey - in a vehicle rather than a helicopter - made no sense either and was apparently designed merely to put these people into conflict with the zombies. What the hell this trip was even supposed to do wasn't really ever made clear, and whatever it was quickly became lost anyway in the endless detailing of people's activities and mindsets including the tediously irritating politics between members of the expedition. The painful, story-halting sorties into each character's psyche was totally uninteresting and did nothing to move the story along. It was like the author was much more interested in holding the reader's hand and spelling everything out instead of relating the kind of story where we would see what was going on without having to be told, and want to read more.

This was yet another apocalyptic story which took place in complete isolation from the rest of the world. When Americans write these stories, only America matters. The rest of the world not only doesn't matter, it also doesn't exist. It's the same thing in this story except that this writer is British, so only Britain exists - this septic isle, the only nation on planet Earth - which again destroyed suspension of disbelief.

I had thought this was a new or relatively new novel, so imagine my surprise when I saw this in audiobook form on the shelf of the library! I picked that version so I could listen to it instead of reading it, and the voice of the reader, Finty Williams (aka Tara Cressida Frances Williams!), made the story almost bearable, but in the end, even her determined and earnest reading couldn't hold my interest, so I DNF'd this novel. Life is too short to have to read books like this one, and I cannot recommend it. It's nowhere near the standard of The Girl With All The Gifts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

War Mother by Fred Van Lente

Rating: WARTY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This volume collects War Mother Vols 1-4 and 4001 AD: War Mother Vol 1. I felt the art was pretty decent except in the occasional back-busting pose the main character was put into for no other reason than to show off her curves. So once again we're back in an adolescent world of male-oriented comics created for males by males, and wherein women are depicted as unnaturally anorexic and preternaturally pneumatic. This story is supposedly set two thousand years into the future, but both mindset and technology are surprisingly unchanged from our present. Evolution, contrarily, seems to have sped-up beyond the bounds of what's reasonable into outrageously fantastical humanoids, all of which, as is typical in this kind of story, seem hostile.

Ana, the titular War Mother, with the emphasis on tit, is for reasons unexplained here, the Scavenger-in-Chief. She lives in a tribal "village" called the Grove, where they can pretty much provide everything for themselves except for technology which for some reason thay cannot master. This flies in the face of the comic's blurb which defines this village as the "last known repository of scientific knowledge." I saw no science here, just vague hints at growing food, which, in a place as lush as this one appeared to be, didn't seem to require much knowledge other than planting seeds and harvesting fruit! It's not like these guys fed millions! It was only a village after all.

War Mother goes on scavenger hunts for things they can use, repurpose, adapt, and trade. Why this technology is so needed goes largely unexplained. That was one big problem with this story: without any backstory, none of this made much sense. During these excursions, Ana often runs into hostiles which she has to despatch using her talking rifle. I never did get why the rifle talks. it was too gimicky for me - like one of those annoying little talking pets in children's cartoons. And why was the talking rifle male? Why even an electronic rifle in a world where electronics were evidently as much at a premium as they were prone to failing? Wouldn't an AK-47 be a better tool in a humid jungle?

The biggest problem though, was once again the main charcter who was far less like a real woman than like a male fantasy - the man-with-tits syndrome which isn't remotely appealing to me. Worse, the author seems to be conflating bad-ass with psychotic. War Mother's only tactic is to dispatch anyone she doesn't like including the leader of her village community who she kills remorselessly and without even much of a preamble.

I didn't really understand why this happened. Rather than try to work with him to resolve their dispute, she simply takes the male anger route and shoots him, and that was the end of that dispute. In doing this, she very effectively destroys the community, so how is she in any way heroic? How is she any better than the villains she takes down? I didn't see any difference. Certainly there was nothing to root for or admire in her.

I didn't see anything edifying or fulfilling here, and nothing truly enjoyable. If it had not been so short, I would have DNF'd it. I was hoping for a lot more than I expected, but I got a lot less than I feared. i cannot recommend this.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Great Divide by Ben Fisher, Adam Markiewicz

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a post-apocalyptic story that really had no story, let alone a beginning, a middle, and an end! It's set in a world where the trope 'comet hits the Earth and humanity goes haywire' is called upon. The result in this scenario is that when one person touches another, one of them has their head explode and the other gets their memories.

The idea is absurd. If their head explodes, how do the memories, which were just destroyed, get transferred? What memories?! But this wasn't the only issue. It didn't help that even on a decently-sized tablet computer, the text was rather small, and in some instances literally impossible to read even when I swiped the screen to zoom in.

At intervals there was what looked like it was supposed to be an image of a computer screen, but the text was so blurry that it was a nightmare to try and read, and I quickly took to skipping those pages unread. The odd thing was that I didn't feel like I'd missed anything for skipping them. I will welcome the day when graphic novel writers recognize that you cannot continue to short-change the ebook format unless you want to irritate your readers at best, and piss them off so much that they refuse to read any more of your material in future, at worst.

The one who gets the memories is supposed to also get their skill-set, but this isn't explored, and it doesn't work. The trope fails because just knowing how to do something isn't the same as having had the experience of doing it. This is where The Matrix fell down, when Neo said, "I know Kung Fu". You might know the moves in your head, but your body sure as hell doesn't know how to execute them, and your muscles and limbs are simply not up to it without being properly trained. It's what's often referred to as 'muscle memory' although there's actually no such thing.

But that wasn't the problem here. I would have been willing to let that go as I was in The Matrix, but in this case, there was no story! It was one all-but endless road trip punctuated with random stops to pick up random people who themselves made no sense and who contributed nothing to the story which was, despite the road trip, paradoxically going nowhere. It made no coherent sense and the end simply fizzled out with no explanation and no resolution. I cannot recommend this one.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tank Girl Carioca by Mike McMahon, Alan Martin

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusingly irreverent graphic novel with decent, if rudimentary artwork, and indecent text. It has a nice look to it from the coloring. Tank Girl, aka Rebecca Buck, is the feisty, criminal owner of a tank. She was originally invented by artist Jamie Hewlett who illustrated the first Tank Girl comic. TG lives in a post-apocalyptic Australia, although the novel has a much more Brit feel than it does Aussie due to author Alan Martin's origins. TG's boyfriend is a mutant kangaroo named Booga. In this volume, she has three other girls in her "gang", which are Jet Girl (who flies a Harrier jump jet and who at one point early in the series was certifiably insane, although in this volume she seems like the only one who isn't insane), and Boat Girl. In this edition there's also a foul mouthed critter of indeterminate species who is randomly dismissed as a lemming (a bitter lemming, in fact!) and a rat, both of which are rudely dismissed by the critter himself.

In this story, Tank Girl and Booga are at a game show and they get a chance to compete. They get all the questions right, including the last prize-winning one, but the show's host, who has taken a distinct dislike to them, lies about the answer and they lose everything. TG, who cares less that she lost than she does about the host's whispered insults aimed at her, decides that nothing less than hanging, drawing, and quartering will deliver adequate justice for this. She concocts an elaborate Heath Robinson plan to achieve her aim, but afterwards, she's overcome by remorse, and starts her own religion, named after the Carioca bar she frequents. Her changed life is doomed to failure, though, as you might guess.

I thought this story was hilarious. It reminds me of the ridiculous ideas I came up with as a kid and the even more ridiculous ones I came up with as a teenager. If you like Monty Python you might like this one, but don't expect a soup to nuts story or even logic! I recommend this.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer

Title: A Matter of Days
Author: Amber Kizer
Publisher: Random House
Rating: WORTHY!

This is a post-apocalyptic novel by the author of a separate trilogy (Fenestra) which I've read and enjoyed, but which wasn't what I consider really great. I wanted to read this to discover how she fared in a different milieu, and the answer is: not bad; not bad at all.

The set-up here is that of a run-away viral plague. A bio-weapon developed by the Chinese got out of the lab and swept the globe so fast that no vaccine could be created. However, the US military had been working on a generic vaccine to protect the president and important people, and this miraculously worked against this virus, preventing it from duplicating itself in the host's body.

One man managed to get doses of this vaccine to his niece, nephew, and their mother. Moron mom refused to take it until it was too late, thereby orphaning her children. Now Nadia, 16, and "Rabbit" (whose real name is Robert), 11, are alone and embarking upon a road trip to try to reach their uncle, 3,000 miles away. I have to say that 'Rabbit' is a really stupid name for a kid and it irritated me throughout this novel just as much as their having an uncle named Uncle Bean irritated me, but their mom's stupidity irritated me more

Anyway, their father was a military man who conveniently trained these two kids in using weapons, and in survival techniques, advising them to 'be the cockroach' in terms of surviving. Their uncle left them instructions on how to reach him. Why he otherwise abandoned them goes unexplained. I guess he thought their mom wouldn't be such a dumb-ass. I have no time for people who don't get vaccinated, and I especially despise parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids. That's nothing but child abuse, and it's sheer cowardice when they hide behind a sorry-assed and ignorant religion as an excuse.

It was their uncle's team which estimated that the Chinese virus would kill some 98% of the human population, which it appears to have done. Why it seems to have killed only decent people and left a preponderance of villains alive remains a mystery. Why it seems to have completely wiped out all military and emergency services personnel is another mystery. How that estimate was arrived at goes unexplained, as does the question of why any nation would want to create a virus that would effectively wipe out their own population!

We join the siblings as their mother dies and they're setting out on their journey from Seattle, heading to West Virginia at a point where we're 56 days into the viral attack. They're driving a jeep across country, through miles of abandoned towns, abandoned cars, people-less terrain, trying to stay alive, to find food and water, to avoid any hostile humans remaining, and to get to what they believe will be the safety of their uncle. It's going to take them a matter of 44 days to find out if he's still there.

They overnight in the snowy mountains in a luxury hotel which they have to themselves, and leave as soon as the weather eases up. They have an unpleasant encounter at a walled village, the inhabitants of which fire upon them out of panic that they're plague carriers. They're almost taken advantage of by an elderly women set up as a decoy, and almost run into an execution squad composed, it would appear, of the escapees from a nearby maximum security prison, but this is nothing when compared with the gang they run into in a shopping mall - a place where they acquire yet another passenger in the form of a little girl who's been hiding out and surviving in the mall ever since her mother, the mall director, died. She reminded me of 'Newt', the girl from the movie Aliens

Somewhere in the mid-west, they run into Zach, an out-of-work drug dealer from LA who has wandered there from LA to get away from the insanity and to find a place to live which he can learn to make self-sustainable in this new world. After some initial reservations, they settle with him for a couple of weeks and when they move on, he travels with them.

Don't worry - kizer is a smart writer, smart enough that this doesn't turn into a sad-sack of a teen trope romance. She writes it beautifully - not too little, never too much, and that's a good guide to the tone for this whole novel. It's never too much. There's no dramatic "Hey I'm fourteen and I'm destined to save the world". All Nadia has to do is save herself and her brother, and that's enough on anyone's plate.

Having championed Kizer as smart, I do have to qualify that by calling her out on a couple of really dumb things she wrote. She's yet another author who thinks there's such a thing as a "bicep". Nope, it's biceps (and triceps). A professional writer has no excuse for not knowing that.

The other issue I had was with her representing homeopathy as some sort of viable medical treatment. It's not. Homeopathy is outright fraud, and that's all there is to it. It's all bullshit and quackery and that's a scientific fact. And no, I won't entertain any commenters who try to say that they know someone who.... That's not how science works. Medical science works on the demonstrable, the repeatable. It doesn't work on folk tales and anecdote, so if you want to come after me on this, then bring the published mainstream science which supports your claims, otherwise I'll continue to hold to my supported position that homeopathy has no scientific standing and is therefore fraud, period.

That aside, this novel was great. There's no big drama here, although there is plenty of small dramas and some hair-raising encounters. The story is matter-of-fact, but realistic, entertaining, and interesting. Nadia is the kind of character which I'm delighted to find in YA stories, because she's a strong female character in every sense of the word. She's smart, although she's sometimes a bit dumb, she's strong, although sometimes she's weak. She's buoyant, although sometimes she's down. She's interesting and careful, reckless and fun, engaging and powerful, and well-worth reading about. I have no problem in recommending this novel.