It seems for a while now books have been tended to be more on the dour (dare I say grimdark?) side of things. Which, hey, I get it. I'm all for it. Bo...moreIt seems for a while now books have been tended to be more on the dour (dare I say grimdark?) side of things. Which, hey, I get it. I'm all for it. Books where everyone (except the bad guys) are pure and good and always do the right thing get boring pretty fast. But you know what? The opposite is just as boring. Nobody is good, everybody is selfish and and any niceness is just masking everybody's true despicable core. That seems to be the message of Jeff Carlson's Plague Year.
An interesting and well executed premise is let down by the unrelenting dreary and selfish actions of the characters. Unlikable characters can be just as fun, if not more, to read about as likeable ones. But they have to have something going for them; wit, charisma, intelligence... Hell, in a pinch I'd settle for at least attractive. But all the characters here are just selfish in a petty, everyday kind of way. Thet are not interesting to read about, and each new low they reach is just draining, and not in a good way.
I'm sure having almost the entire human race wiped out by a rogue nano bot plague would bring out the very worst in some people, but I refuse to believe that others wouldn't also rise to the challenge of survival. Carlson's cast lacks balance, the only vaguely likeable characters are the ones who have had it relatively easy in the face of the plague. The message seems to be that faced with serious hardships they to would be just like their paranoid, dishonest and unpleasant cast mates. The plot is not bad, and it keeps the book readable, but I have no desire to slog through another book in the heads of these people.(less)
I feel like Gillian Murray Kendell wanted to create a grim, darkly realistic take on the already massive young adult post apocolyptic genre. A young a...moreI feel like Gillian Murray Kendell wanted to create a grim, darkly realistic take on the already massive young adult post apocolyptic genre. A young adult The Road if you will. Which would have been pretty cool, but unfortunately Kendell misses the mark here.
The problem, the main one at least, is that she constantly pulls her punches. Maybe she was just too attached to her characters, I don't know, but she was constantly putting them in threatening situations and then pulling them out at the last minute.
Early on a little girl is stabbed, seemingly fatally. I was impressed. I thought, ok, this author is really going to look at what life would be like for kids in an adultless, post epidemic world. But no the kid turned out to fine, and was up and about in a few days.
This happened again and again. The characters would fine themselves in a terrible, dangerous situation but right before anything permanent could happen the author would pull back. After a while I stopped worrying that anything bad was going to happen. No matter how bad everything looked I know everything would be fine. Boring.
Add to this kids that do not act like like kids at all. A thirteen year old can apply stitches and diagnose meds. A fifteen year old cheerleader quotes shakespeare. A seven year old constantly sprouts philosophic hindu musings. It's not even slightly believable. The stereotypical, one note main bad guy is barely worth mentioning and the ending is just ridiculous.
Overall it wasn't bad enough to stop reading but it was pretty meh.(less)
I found this to be a genuinely, and refreshingly, creepy read. I finished it over a month ago now but I still find my thoughts drifting back to this n...moreI found this to be a genuinely, and refreshingly, creepy read. I finished it over a month ago now but I still find my thoughts drifting back to this novel, and some of its more disturbing scenes, all the time.
The premise is simple but clever. Mysterious beings show up on earth, and catching even a mere glimpse of one will drive mad and make you kill yourself. So if your number one hate about movies like the Blair witch is that they never actually show the witch, then this would be a very frustrating read for you. But I'm of the school of what don't see is scarier than what you do, so the fact that because of the plot the "monsters" could never be described was right upon my alley.
Plus it's just so creepy! Like clarice stumbling around in the dark while buffalo bill is almost right there touching her face the characters in this book must stumble about blindfolded most of the time, knowing they are amongst the monsters. I just found the horror aspects of this novel to be unique (at least in a narrative format) which allowed it to get to me in a way horror fiction hasn't for a while.
I also liked that this gave me things to think about. Do the small group of survivors have an obligation to help any one else they find? What rights to humans have over the lives of animals? What's more important, being a loving mother or making your children strong enough to survive? The book avoids dolling out easy answers and this elevates from just another clever horror story to something special. And creepy. Seriously.(less)