I’m sort of a sucker for apocalyptic stories (right long with dystopian stories), so I grabbed Monument 14...moreOriginally posted at The Wandering Fangirl.
I’m sort of a sucker for apocalyptic stories (right long with dystopian stories), so I grabbed Monument 14 the moment I saw it at the library. It seemed so promising: fourteen kids stuck together and trying to survive in a Walmart-like super store as the world crumbles around them. That story never goes well, does it?
The plot certainly starts off with a bang — or a few hundred of them, as a school bus carrying our hero and other characters is caught in the midst of a huge hailstorm. A kick-ass bus driver rams her bus straight into the super store and saves as many kids as she can (which is, unfortunately, only the fourteen in our title). From those opening moments on I was totally engrossed with the plot as it unfolded – for better or for worse.
Mostly for so-so.
The first person narrative focuses on Dean, one of the older teens as he tries to work through the insanity: a shell-shocked class mate, a crush, his little brother, a bunch of kids who are barely eight years old, and yeah, the apocalypse going on outside. Things go as smoothly as they can make it, but things continue to fall apart, and eventually the kids have to barricade themselves from the outside world. This is when it’s all supposed to get interesting, but it doesn’t quite get there.
There’s a sort of fantasy in living in a super store like these kids do. You’ve got everything you could need to ride out the apocalypse, but the store only seemed to serve as a sort of constant deus ex machina for the kids. Need to make food? There are microwaves! Need to seal off every window and door? Tarp and duct tape and nail guns and comforters! Need beds? Air mattresses, of course. Entertainment? Just head on down the next aisle! It was fun, but after a while it started to drag, and the relationships the kids develop and work through just weren’t enough to pick up the slack.
The only characters I really remember are Dean himself, who didn’t seem to have much of a personality beyond scared (and horny) teenage boy, his little brother the oh-so-helpful tech genius, and the boy scout leader type whose name I don’t even remember. The ups and downs the group experience didn’t mean a single thing to me, and I got tired of the drama after a while. I wasn’t truly moved until the very ending, and even that was so obviously manufactured to move me that I rolled my eyes even as I was tearing up. (Just a teeny tiny bit.)
The Immortal Rules is everything I wanted and didn’t get out of Julie Kagawa’s popular Iron Fey series.
In a post-apocalyptic, vampire-ruled future, we’re introduced to Allison Sekemoto, a human fighting to survive in a city where starving is just as popular a death as being drained by a vampire. She’s incredibly fierce and strong from the word go, willing to do anything to keep herself and her crew alive. Which leads to a decision that gets them all killed (bad luck there, girl), and while Allie is on death’s doorstep, a vampire offers to help her by turning her. Though she hates vampires, she fears death even more, and accepts.
I knew from the very moment she admitted she’d rather be a thing she hated than face her fear of death that I would love Allie. While she’s very strong and incredibly principled, she still has a vulnerability to her that’s easy to relate to, and she doesn’t overdo the “I’m a vampire, woe is me” angst too much. Julie Kagawa struck the perfect balance here.
Also perfect is the pacing and action. While we do spend time with Allie as she learns what being a vampire entails, everything still moves at a whip crack pace; the seeds of vampire politics are sown, and when she’s suddenly thrust out on her own into the unforgiving world at large, it makes sense. From there it’s scene after scene where everything’s always moving at the perfect pace — slow enough for characterization and tension build up, but fast enough that you’re never bored and keep the pages turning.
The secondary characters were drawn nicely, though some more than others. Zeke turns out to be a wonderful romantic foil for Allie, though he did seem a little too perfect at times. Jeb, the leader of the wandering humans Zeke belongs to, is just as strong a presence as Allie is. Also great is Allie’s sire, Kanin, who leaves a strong impression with what page time he has. The rest of the characters sort of blend together, apart from the one catty girl who hates Allie just because she’s in love with Zeke, too. It’s the one aspect of the novel I hated, simply because it didn’t need to be there.
All in all, The Immortal Rules is an explosive start to a vampire series, with a main character who holds a ton of promise. Everyone should check this one out.(less)
Though labeled as the sequel to 2010′s Ship Breaker, The Drowned Cities is more a novel that takes place in the same universe as the first, and includes one of the minor characters from Ship Breaker to great effect.
The Drowned Cities is not an easy novel to stomach. It’s a story of war, and what that does to a world, from the top of society all the way down. We follow the story of Mahlia, a girl who’s seen the worst of war in the past, and her friend Mouse, a young boy who gets caught in the great war machine. Then there’s Tool, a genetically created half-man, half-animal that somehow has broken free of his training. Between the three characters, there isn’t much to the ravages of war that isn’t touched.
Mahlia is an incredibly strong character, someone who is hard to stomach but easy to root for. She knows what it means to be an outcast, to survive on the outskirts and in the middle of a war when she needs to. Scrappy, independent, hard, she forges her way through the drowned cities of a future war-torn America to save her friend. Mouse is a little harder to take as a character, and it’s the sympathy of his storyline that got to me. He gets caught up in the war, becomes a soldier boy, and watching his initiation and bonding with his fellow boy soldiers is painful. And it’s real.
Then there’s Tool. Tool, who is such a great force that he overshadows Mahlia and Mouse. He’s got such an amazing presence that it’s hard to pay attention to anything else. Mahlia has her moments to shine beside Tool, but he’s the real star of the novel, in my eyes. He embodies the questions of genetic manipulation, of what it means to have humanity, what it means to be free of your own accord. The fact that he’s a terrifying killer on top of it all seems to be just another aspect of Tool’s personality, which is something I have to applaud Bacigalupi for. He’s created a character so realized, you can’t help but cheer him on and be repulsed by him at the same time.
The Drowned Cities explores what it means to be human, and what horrible things we can do to ourselves and to others if we keep going down the route we are. It’s such a great, great read.(less)
I do a huge amount of my e-reading in bed at night while my boyfriend sleeps, which is the wo...moreOriginally posted at The Wandering Fangirl.
I do a huge amount of my e-reading in bed at night while my boyfriend sleeps, which is the worst idea when reading something that involves zombies. As much as I love the zombie genre, I know how to terrify myself when it comes to the creatures, and This is Not a Test fit the bill.
However, This is Not a Test doesn't entirely focus on the zombies themselves. Most zombie fiction these days focuses on how the humans try to keep on living through the end of the world, and we follow Sloane, who doesn't want to live. Not really. She's stuck in a school with five other teenagers, who try to figure out how to survive - the only question is what surviving really means.
The book explores the relationships between each of the survivors, how they react to each other, how they begin to find themselves or crack under the pressure. Being stuck in a school with only each other, surrounded by the undead brings out the best and worst in them, and it's fascinating to read. Each of the characters seemed well thought out, and though I disliked one or two, I felt as though I was meant to -- and it's not as though they're entirely bad kids. They are what the apocalypse made them.
This is Not a Test is a fantastic, heartbreaking entry into the zombie genre, and I totally recommend it to anyone. (less)
What would you do if your town slowly began to fall to a plague? Would you hide? Would you do your best to...moreOriginally posted at The Wandering Fangirl.
What would you do if your town slowly began to fall to a plague? Would you hide? Would you do your best to help others? Our hero Kaelyn has to face the life she's known falling apart when a plague takes most of the people she knows, and the fear that comes with facing death day after day.
The journal format was a little hard to get used to at first, but I really came to love Kaelyn and everything she goes through. She tries so hard to be a good person even though she's slowly being torn down with every day and death that passes. A great start to a series I'll definitely be looking forward to.(less)
Honestly, I wasn't so blown away by Partials. I love me some post-apocalyptic dystopian YA, and it's even b...moreOriginally posted at The Wandering Fangirl.
Honestly, I wasn't so blown away by Partials. I love me some post-apocalyptic dystopian YA, and it's even better when cylons human-looking androids are the ones who destroyed the world. RM is a virus that killed most humans, and kills babies days after they're born. The human race is dying off, and Kira, teenage medic and doctor in training, decides she's going to cure it. By kidnapping a Partial, the robots that destroyed humanity. Kira was a strong protagonist, I can't deny that, but it mostly felt like she was off doing what she did because she was incredibly stubborn and couldn't even consider the fact that maybe, I don't know, she was being crazy. It would have helped if all the adults in the novel weren't written as roadblocks for Kira or totally eeeeevil~ conspirators. (less)
Angelfall has been getting tons of good reviews as Goodreads users discovered in the last few months, and...moreReview also posted at The Wandering Fangirl.
Angelfall has been getting tons of good reviews as Goodreads users discovered in the last few months, and for good reason.
It's a post-apocalyptic, survival of the fittest, angels are killing everyone paranormal story, something darker than most paranormal romances flooding the market these days. Penryn is a great heroine, with skills that are actually explained as she does her best to fight her way to finding her little sister, Paige, who was taken by angels for nefarious purposes. Along the way, she rescues Raffe, an angel whose wings are cut off in a battle, and she saves him from near death because he's her only chance of getting Paige back.
This seriously has everything going for it, and while we dive straight into the action from the start, Penryn's narrative is the emotional core of the book. She's smart, she does what she needs to, but at the same time, she's still a young girl in a world where the freaking apocalypse happened.
And then they get to San Francisco and the last third of the novel turns into something bizarre. Delightful, intriguing, interesting, unique, horrifying...but bizarre all the same. I can't say more at the risk of spoiling the entire end of it, but take my word for it. This is not your typical paranormal romance/urban fantasy novel, and it's a breath of fresh air (well, for the most part, I'm not sure post-apocalyptic air is good for you...) in a crowded genre. (less)
Blood Red Road is an epic adventure from start to finish. While I count it in the dystopian and post-apoca...moreReview also posted at The Wandering Fangirl.
Blood Red Road is an epic adventure from start to finish. While I count it in the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genres, it feels much more like a real western. I kept picturing the TV show Firefly as I read, minus the tech.
Our heroine is Saba, who starts her journey when her twin brother is kidnapped. What I love most about her is that she starts off as a determined, no-nonsense, almost unlikeable person. And what I love more, is that she doesn't change entirely. She's still determined and no-nonsense, but she can kick more ass and is a bit more likeable. She changes for the better in the areas that she needed to grow, but she's still the same girl at the end of it all. Everything she does and says as the book moves along always makes sense, even if they're the sorts of things you don't want to see from a heroine.
The secondary characters are great as well, from Saba's little sister Emmi, to the group of warrior girls she (reluctantly) befriends, and Jack, the love interest. I can see why Jack would be an appealing interest, but this was where the novel lost me for a bit, because it's one of those 'destined to be together because our eyes met and I feel warm about it all the time' sort of romances. I still enjoyed the sort-of flirting and their back and forth feelings for each other as their friendship grew, but the start of it bothered me.
Also fun was the writing itself. It was a little jarring at first ("would/could of" is one of my biggest pet peeves), reading Saba's mispronunciations and misspellings, but once I got going it made picturing Saba and her world that much easier.
I really enjoyed Blood Red Road for the departure from most teen dystopian/apocalyptic novels these days. It's a fun ride from start to finish, and, joy of all joys, it wraps up at the end despite this being the first in a series. (less)