There’s an immense amount of praise to be said for an author who can transition from writing horror geared toward adults to horror aimed toward the yo...moreThere’s an immense amount of praise to be said for an author who can transition from writing horror geared toward adults to horror aimed toward the younger generation. It’s definitely no easy feat, having to, quote unquote, ‘dumb down’ the violence, mature themes and suggestive aspects that make the genre what it is, but I have to say, Rhiannon does it with such skill and finesse, it doesn’t even feel dumbed down.
The novel starts with what most readers will believe to be the zombie apocalypse. Bat raised, a zombie approaching, young Josh Rondell (our main character) waits for the creature to approach as his friends cheer him on, sweat coursing down his face and unease trembling through his heart. It seems as though he’s about to face down with one of the horror genre’s most fearsome creatures, but it isn’t until he hits the zombie in his head that it cries out, saying he’s hit it too hard.
Thus begins THE LIVING DEAD BOY AND THE ZOMBIE HUNTERS, a story that, while seemingly innocent in the beginning, becomes so much more as the story progresses. Shortly after the Zombie Hunters leave and Josh returns from training to eat dinner with his family, a news report comes on detailing what the media is calling ‘terrorist attacks.’ Josh knows better though—he knows that the ‘terrorists’ aren’t actually terrorists, but zombies, the hungry dead whose sole purpose is to devour flesh. However, his father isn’t pleased and his mother doesn’t want to hear it, so Josh is forced to sit down and eat dinner, much to his displeasure and worry.
Things seem to be perfectly fine the following morning at school. However, when the principal announces over the intercom that the school is to be evacuated, all hell is about to break loose. It’s only when Josh sees the first zombie running toward the bus he’s on that he knows that everything is about to go wrong.
I’ll be honest—I normally don’t read young adult novels, mostly because I find the aspects of the story to be contrived to suit the perspective audience and the writing too flat for my taste. However, it quickly became apparent that Rhiannon set out to write this novel not just for young adults, but for readers of all ages. It didn’t take long for me to become immersed in this story. I read it in a short three sittings and would be surprised if others didn’t read it in a shorter amount of time.
Without dredging on about my personal experience, I’d like to point out the things that make the novel great.
The pacing is undoubtedly the best thing about this novel, next to the well-drawn characters and the plot. From the very first page, we’re thrust into a world of childlike games which, though innocent, speak of a greater truth, and when the world starts to crumble around the children, we’re pulled along at a breakneck speed. Pacing is unarguably the most critical part of the book, because if a story drags on, it’s going to get boring quickly. I can easily say that this story does not stop. Once it starts, it keeps going right up until the very end. Each character—from the youngest toddler to the oldest teenager—is created with their own base personality and their own little quirks. From Drake’s crying, to Josh’s displeasure about having to watch out for his younger brother, to Roger’s intellectually-judgmental views on the situation, all the children have their own distinct personality that makes them really fun to read about. The tight space of the plot also makes it an extremely fun read. It’s hard to write a story in such a brief location, but it’s done very well. I especially liked it when the tree house came heavily into play, but you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself.
Before I wrap this review up, I’d also like to give Rhiannon major kudos for keeping the book so well-oriented to its theme. Death isn’t glossed over in the slightest. I can imagine how hard it must have been to write about the death of not only children, but of their parents and the friends around them. It’s incredibly ballsy to even mention a graphic death in a young adult novel, but to describe it in enough detail to give it emotional impact? That’s something to be admired, young adult writer or not.
With its amazingly-lifelike characters, tight, well-structured plot, its fast story, unrelenting pacing and direct approach to the theme of love, life and loss, THE LIVING DEAD BOY AND THE ZOMBIE HUNTERS is an amazing novel. Don’t hesitate to pick it up just because it’s labeled as a young adult book. I may be echoing previous sentiments, but it’s a book anyone can read. (less)
This book is amazing. Gargantuan, breathtaking, incredibly-power and at the same time totally frightening--the human nature is shown to be true under...moreThis book is amazing. Gargantuan, breathtaking, incredibly-power and at the same time totally frightening--the human nature is shown to be true under the most stressful of situations, and in this novel, King does just that. Like looking at a small, miniature world, UNDER THE DOME takes you to a place you could only begin to imagine: Chester's Mill, Maine, which is now UNDER THE DOME.(less)
Witty, smart, intelligent, well-rounded and tied together beautifully. In reading this classic, I can understand why some people wouldn't like it. Giv...moreWitty, smart, intelligent, well-rounded and tied together beautifully. In reading this classic, I can understand why some people wouldn't like it. Given its nature and how it basically leads from point A, to B, C, then back again, it's no wonder why people absolutely love the book or hate it. However, with that said, I have to say that ANIMAL FARM tells an amazing story, one of not only rebellion, but of servitude, loyalty, justice and, some may say, tyranny. (less)
One of my favorite all-time King books. Though it's slow buildup is something most people don't enjoy and have criticism about, the end result is wort...moreOne of my favorite all-time King books. Though it's slow buildup is something most people don't enjoy and have criticism about, the end result is worth the effort. Beautifully-literary and haunting.(less)
I’ve been taking some time after reading this novel in order to culminate my thoughts on it. It’s not because I’m lazy in writing reviews (because tru...moreI’ve been taking some time after reading this novel in order to culminate my thoughts on it. It’s not because I’m lazy in writing reviews (because trust me, I try to write a review for each and every small press/independent book I read if only because I want to support them,) but it’s because I wanted some time to think about the story in whole. There’s a lot to think about, considering its first print run was somewhere near the five-hundred page mark, so without further ado, here’s my review.
The Tale of the Vampire Bride isn’t what many people would make it out to be. Violent, brutal, heartbreaking and above all else, tragic, it begins with a young Englishwoman’s family traveling to meet a count that has requested to meet our heroine of the story, Lady Glynis Wright. Far ahead of her time and more than against the idea that she should marry what she believes will be an ‘old, fat count,’ our main character is instantly introduced to us in a way that only begins to solidify her personality from the start. As with past experience with Rhiannon Frater’s work (As the World Dies, Pretty When She Dies, The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters,) the reader quickly learns about their character through minute, seemingly-unrecognizable things that some readers won’t immediately pick upon. The way Glynis pouts, stamps her feet and shows a strong relationship with her father immediately introduces us to a young woman who is, by all means, a feminist, and proud of the fact that she should be able to be an independent woman even in the face of her set-upon adversity. This, I will say, is one of the great trademarks of the novel, as it shapes the character so early on in the story that you can’t help but want to get to know the her more.
However, like all of Rhiannon’s stories, things seem to take a darker turn. When a boulder blocks their path, forcing them to go an alternate route that their guides say will lead them to a place that is ‘evil and foreboding,’ Glynis’ father insists that they continue on the other path. To the grief of the guides, they continue on, but soon they are pursued by a pack of wolves directly to an old, seemingly-run-down castle.
Here, she meets the count that has so inspired unsurety within her life: Vlad Dracula.
There is little I can say at this current time to describe this book without fully giving it away. The Tale of the Vampire Bride is, by all means, gargantuan—not only in forms of size, but story. It begins with a meeting with the count and quickly turns into a terrifying visage of horror as Glynis sees everything stripped away from her, then quickly translates into a tale of survival, perseverance and fear, that of which is bestowed upon our main character not only due to her captor, but her fledging powers and just what it means to have your entire life upended.
Now, to say that it took me a while to read this book would be an understatement. I began reading it nightly and then quickly began to read it more fervently while on a plane ride. I tore through this book like a madman, because one of Rhiannon’s great qualities about her writing is that once you start reading something, you can’t stop. Thus makes the book a compelling read, which eventually leads to the finale—which, I should say, is perfect beyond any means.
Without spoiling too much for you, I’ll simply say this: The Tale of the Vampire Bride is a novel that returns to the old formula. You won’t find vampires sparkling, shimmering or glowing in any sort of way within this novel, nor will you see trivial pursuits of the heart like some books use to overly romanticize them. No—these vampires are monsters, despicable creatures who are either forced to become what they are or fall into it by necessity, who feed on the blood of innocents in order to remain alive and sometimes end up taking life in the process. They are not, however, heartless, at least not in the case of Glynis, the female protagonist which quickly shows what it means to be a powerful young woman. In the face of all odds, she emerges in order to become a strong, independent creature. By the end of the novel, I was so overwhelmed by just what had transpired that it instantly left me wanting more.
As of the date of posting this, a sequel is in the works, one of which I know will instantly launch The Tale of the Vampire Bride and its eventual saga to new and even more exciting heights.
Epic, gargantuan, a return to the old folklore and traditions of the vampire, The Tale of the Vampire Bride is a novel that any vampire fan would love to read, one that should be read, preferably, with the lights down and in a very muted room. You won’t be disappointed when you crack this tome open and begin to read.(less)
Another one of my favorites. An abused housewife, a relentless husband and a mystical painting--what more could you want in a dark, brooding tale from...moreAnother one of my favorites. An abused housewife, a relentless husband and a mystical painting--what more could you want in a dark, brooding tale from King?(less)
CONTACT begins with the greatest idea of them all—that somehow, someway and somewhere, life exists beyond the small blue world called Earth. It is in...moreCONTACT begins with the greatest idea of them all—that somehow, someway and somewhere, life exists beyond the small blue world called Earth. It is in these moments of the beginning of this novel that a grand adventure begins to be spelled out. In that adventure rests none other than Doctor Eleanor Arroway, a woman whose intelligence and drive magnifies her far beyond those of her peers.
It is one day, after an extremely-difficult line of work and a declaration that her SETI project will be shut down, that an unknown message begins to come from the Vega star in distant space—a message bearing, what appears to be, schematics for something far greater than anyone could ever possibly imagine.
As a reader of speculative fiction, and a fan of the science-fiction genre as a whole, I jumped into this book with excitement shortly after viewing the movie adaptation that features Jodi Foster and Matthew McConaughey. Thinking that it would be vastly different than the original movie, I ventured forward believing that the book would be something different—something that, regardless of its genre’s tenants, would absolutely blow me away. To say that I was underwhelmed would be an understatement, and for that I sadly have to say that I did not enjoy this book as much as I could have.
With science-fiction, there is always a bridging line between the actual science and the fiction itself that can either make or break a book for a particular sub-sect of readers, mainly those who enjoy the idea of far-off worlds and alien civilizations but are not, in the least, intelligent enough to know specifics details about astronomy, radio waves and other technological jargon. Being a reader following into that sub-sect, I have to say that much of the time, I found the book doing just what it was I feel many science-fiction novels do in order to make up for the fact that there seems not to be enough ‘science’ and too much ‘fiction’—mainly, of course, making the science much too heavy a role in the story. While I don’t necessarily feel that this book lacked the essentials needed to make this a realistic story, I do feel as though the book (and its now deceased author) went to strong lengths in order to make this as set in stone as possible. For that alone I found myself cringing over three-page-long descriptions of certain scientific actions, theories and equations, and while that may have been beneficial to the story, I feel as though CONTACT could have done without so much of the science and more of the fiction itself.
To say that the book is bad would be wrong. The writing is, at times, beautiful; eloquently strung together and written in a way that marks Sagan as someone who also, along with his astounding intelligence, had the ability to write. While reading certain passages, I found myself blown away at how they were strung together, worded, and ultimately assembled to create the overall mood of the science in the story. To say this is a smart book would be like comparing an apple to a seed, and while the scientific endeavors that line this book is great, I have to say that I felt little emotion connection to the characters—particularly Arroway, who, as our main character, should have had a stronger focus within the overall story—that dealt a huge blow to the fictional connection between reader and main character.
While I would not recommend the novelization of CONTACT to most everyone, given its scientific-slant, I can honestly say that the writing itself is beautiful and, if only for a few chapters alone, should be given a chance. While I may have felt a bit disappointed with the novel, that doesn’t mean others will follow my path.(less)
I’ll start right now by saying that I’ve never really been much of a comic book fan. Save the few Pokemon comics I’ve read and the various Japanese ma...moreI’ll start right now by saying that I’ve never really been much of a comic book fan. Save the few Pokemon comics I’ve read and the various Japanese mangas (mainly Yu-Gi-Oh! and such,) I have barely touched a comic book in my life. That isn’t to say that I’m not a fan of them, because comic books are indeed a medium that are treasured and sacred among all sorts of literature, but I consider myself more of a text-driven kind of reader than a visual one.
BIRDWATCHING FROM MARS: THE GHOST OF THE WORLD, the debut comic in a soon-to-be-thriving series, tells the story of three different people: two survivors and a senator whom is trying desperately to keep control of an underground security bunker in Utah after the world, essentially, ends after the ‘sky falls down,’ as it was so eloquently put as asteroids fell from the sky. Several hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people died; and in the United States alone, most of the survivors outside of the bunkers have succumbed to cannibalism, as food sources have all but depleted. Our main narrator, Frank, has been desperately walking cross-country from Texas to Utah in order to join the survivors—not only fleeing from the cannibals that now ravage the land, but also in fear of a new kind of creature that has arisen from the depravity humanity has now fallen in.
BfM is not like what I expected it to be. In the past, the majority of comics I’ve read are usually balanced or off-kilter between one of few factors: too much text that’s too hard to read, too many images that don’t go well with the story, and not enough images which essentially leaves the reader to their own devices to imagine what’s on the page, something that I feel comic books shouldn’t strive for in any case. However, when I began reading THE GHOST OF THE WORLD, I found myself instantly drawn in by Barry Napier’s crisp, clean writing—a fact that I have learned to love over the few short years I have known him. Coupled with the mainly black-and-white art by Luis Puig, it made for an exciting read that drew me in instantaneously and had me reading each of the twenty-six pages in this debut issue like a hallucinogenic drug. Never in my life have I been so captivated by a comic book like this, and while my experience may be brief in the matter, I have to say that Mr. Napier’s quick-cut selection to the form has instilled within me a sense of longing for the comic book genre that I have never had before.
While I cannot review the comic as a whole, since it is only the debut issue in a series, I will start by saying that the crisp, clear writing and the easy-to-decipher images make this something to watch out for, especially if the apocalyptic, creature-feature scenario it seems to be building holds up to what has been built up (which I believe it will.)
BIRDWATCHING FROM MARS: THE GHOST OF THE WORLD is a great, exciting start to a new series, one of which I hope to collect in print format within the coming months (and, hopefully, years.)(less)