In the future, the end of the world rests in our very mouths.
What started as a vague, unexplained illness among couples with children has morphed into a global epidemic where language itself—in spoken and written forms—is lethal. Sam and Claire are among the first victims of the new plague, having contracted the illness from the words of their teenaged daughter, Esther. Comprehension blockers and white noise machines are losing their effectiveness, and the streets are filling with clouds of salt and the deadly sounds of orphaned children. Even Sam's experiments with homemade medicines cannot stop the increasing lethality of his own words…
With Claire nearing collapse, it seems their last means of survival is to abandon Esther and set out for the silence of the countryside. However, on the evening of their escape, Claire disappears into the woods, and Sam, determined to find a cure for the new toxic language, sets out alone to raze our old alphabet and create a perfect language from its ashes.
The Flame Alphabet had the perfect grouping of keywords for me: pandemic, language toxicity, "intellectual horror story", and so forth. Yet, I found the ideas fuelling the work were lost in its novelized form. Given its focus on the pitfalls of language and the ineffectiveness of communication, The Flame Alphabet became a linguistics essay rendered in fiction as opposed to a novel. Ben Marcus does introduce some compelling ideas, though the novel had few plot points and I often found myself wondering when the actual story would start.
Last, I found Sam's first-person narrative detracted from the panic surrounding this language-targeted illness. Sam spends a great deal of time explaining the revulsion and the nausea that hits whenever Esther speaks, and he details the lethal properties of words rendered in text—and yet, he's telling his narrative from his own voice. And I am holding a written record of this testimony. About halfway through The Flame Alphabet, I realized its own form—an English-language, first-person novel—undid its own premise. Weird moment, indeed.
I suppose I had a different novel in mind when I picked up The Flame Alphabet, which might explain my reaction to the work. As it stands, the book has a cool idea behind it, but the follow through left me wanting....more
Welcome to the future, where the apocalypse is a fixed point in the past. Most North American cities have beFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Welcome to the future, where the apocalypse is a fixed point in the past. Most North American cities have been wiped out by Malaspina, the Roving Glacier of Death, who unleashed its fury in the aftermath of global warming. Medical care is supplied by networked nanotechnology called the Bionet, and human nervous systems can now be hacked and re-programmed at the whim of underground DJs. And we haven't even touched on the Newman armies and human clones who aided the downfall of humankind…
In this post-FUS era, mysterious forces are drawing together an unlikely group of survivors for unknown ends. Abby Fogg is an anachronistic digital film archivist sent to recover an interview transcript from an aging pop star's personal collection. Al Skinner is a former mercenary of the Boeing Army and a recent "forgetfulness junkie, a man who's downloaded his memories to external hard drives in order to forget—but the past never stays silent for long. Woo-jin Kan is a gifted dishwasher with the Hotel and Restaurant Management Olympics medal to prove it. He lives with his foster-sister, Patsy, an obese "pharmer" subsidized by the government to grow various drugs and human tissue transplants within her fat. After Patsy's suddenly air-lifted from his life, Woo-jin is given the task to write a book about how to love people—but where to start?
Over them all hovers a mysterious man named Dirk Bickle who puts people in the right place at the right time—and all of it culminates in a full-scale replica of Manhattan under construction in Puget Sound. Just an average tale from the End of Days, no?
Blueprints of the Afterlife is bursting with plot and, sometimes, even calling it "surreal" seems an understatement. I loved the hard science behind the Bionet, the sinister edge to DJing, and the capabilities of downloading memories; however, I almost bailed on the book due to the first chapter. Dick jokes and excessive cursing can only take one so far. I worry that many readers would jump ship on this book after that intro, despite the fact that second chapter— Part One of Luke Piper's interview transcript—offers a fascinating, well-written antidote to Woo-jin's crass narrative. Also, gotta love the CanCon, even if most of it focuses on the nation's destruction by a sentient glacier. Nice to get a shout-out in a genre where few examples exist.
Overall, quite the tour-de-force when it comes to science-inflected, "End is Nigh" literature, though I do warn readers to proceed with caution (and not just because of the polar bears…)
Ideal for: Post-apocalyptic fans in need of an acid drop; Readers keen on discovering the space where hard science and surrealism collide; CanCon-aholics; Dystopian fans who like their narratives epic....more
Evan Munday adds new weight to the dreaded quarter-life crisis. Harper and Aaron Yung face staggering odds after the end of the world—the two brothersEvan Munday adds new weight to the dreaded quarter-life crisis. Harper and Aaron Yung face staggering odds after the end of the world—the two brothers live in the rundown box over the former OCAD, and both men spend their time scavenging copper in Toronto's shattered downtown core. An unknown apocalypse annihilated all people twenty-five years or older, and the few survivors have splintered into warring gangs fighting to stay alive; however, the Yungs are intercepted (and saved) by two loners much like themselves, and the gents must decided whether to fight for their new friends, or to eke out a meagre existence in the shadows.
Quarter-Life Crisis: Only the Good Die Yung offers an excellent re-imaging of the Toronto landscape, complete with Bay Street thugs on mopeds, archaic androids quoting Keats, and a thriving scene in Koreatown (the last of which exists even in pre-apocalyptic Toronto). Readers will find the comforting snark of current twenty-somethings set against the burnt-out shell of Canada's largest ubran landscape. As a reader standing on the precipice of her twenty-fifth birthday, Munday's work invites a new nervousness over the quarter-life benchmark.
Ideal for: Apocalypse junkies with a sound survival plan; Toronto enthusiasts who don't mind seeing their city shattered; graphic novelists and artists interested in completing their own projects; my friend who is the doppelgänger of Harper Yung—I am quite serious....more
Chilling, unrelenting, and a damn good read. Readers be warned: The Road should not be picked up at late hours unless one is prepared to spend the nigChilling, unrelenting, and a damn good read. Readers be warned: The Road should not be picked up at late hours unless one is prepared to spend the night with a head full of dark dreams. Cormac McCarthy writes from the edge of human reason with this apocalyptic exploration, delving into subject matter ranging from the bitter lengths of survival, a brittle father-son relationship, and the constant presence of death on the road.
McCarthy pits sparse, naked writing against the human imagination and allows his readers to fill in the details more often during fearful scenes. Some issues were taken with his tendency to use incomplete sentences and the sometimes stagnant dialogue between the man and the boy. Though, in his defense, it is hard to imagine survivors having much to talk about between each other.
Ideal for: dapplers in dystopias; survival guide enthusiasts; folks who speculate over the end of the world/apocalypse scenarios; readers not squeamish over the presence of cannibalism in their fiction....more