I've long heard the name Hugh Howey without having read any of what seems universally praised as quality fiction. I recently had the opportunity to reI've long heard the name Hugh Howey without having read any of what seems universally praised as quality fiction. I recently had the opportunity to read a few short stories by him in the wonderful anthology series, The Apocalypse Triptych. As it turns out, the stories he writes for that anthology series are a sort of prequel to one of his most widely lauded books, Wool. Add in the wonderfully-timed sales on the ebooks, along with the accompanying audiobook narration, and all signs were pointing to READ NOW.
Wool is a post-apocalyptic story of people who live in an underground Silo, protected from the poison atmosphere aboveground. Engineers from the distant past have created the silo to be a fully self-contained ecosystem, capable of providing food, water and shelter to the many inhabitants. It's essentially the Old West, represented vertically. There's a mayor, a sheriff, and all the different and myriad support roles that would be needed to live for an extended period of time underground.
But something is afoot - no one is permitted to discuss what is outside or aboveground. To do so is to immediately be sent out there to die. So why all the secrecy? And that's the crux of the story. People start to wonder, and that has to be stopped.
The story is really well-thought out; there's probably some scientific discrepancies, but who cares? The story is engaging and believable, with characters that are flawed heroes and misunderstood villains. The layout of the silo necessarily creates factions (administration in the higher levels, IT in the mids, supply and mechanical in the down-deep) and breeds mistrust, but also forms the foundations for alliances.
Wool is the first in a series of three books, and while it has a very satisfying conclusion, there is plenty of groundwork laid to continue the story, which I definitely plan to do.
One note: Two of the three Apocalypse Triptych stories are prequels to Wool, but the story in THE END HAS COME (In the Woods) is a sequel to book three of the Silo series. As such, it definitely contains spoilers. If possible, don't read that one until after you've read the whole Silo series.
Audiobook note: The audiobook is capably read by Amanda Sayle, though I honestly didn't care for her voice characterizations. Her omniscient narrator voice was fine, but most of the secondary female voices were variations on "squeaky" and her male voices were overly bass-y, which made them sound unintelligent, or over-the-top villainous, which came across as whiny. The second and third books in the Silo series are narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, who also did Pierce Brown's Red Rising and Golden Son, so I am hopeful to have a less-distracting listening experience with those....more
This was one of the most exciting stories I've ever read. I was introduced to this book by way of the excellent webcomic XKCD (http://www.xkcd.com/153This was one of the most exciting stories I've ever read. I was introduced to this book by way of the excellent webcomic XKCD (http://www.xkcd.com/1536/), in which Randall Munroe describes the book as ideal for fans of a particular scene in the movie Apollo 13. Check it out.
Anyway, this concept intrigued me, so I plunked down my cashola for the ebook and audiobook combo and took off running. This story grabbed me from the start and didn't let go. There's a lot of hard science in this book, which may come across as kinda boring. I also don't have any idea whether the science is sound or not, cuz let's face it - I'm not smart enough to know. But the storytelling is gripping; the overly complex and detailed explanations of what is happening is wonderfully wrapped in the conceit of log entries, during which our intrepid hero is trying his best to preserve an archive of what he's done and is doing, in anticipation that someone, someday may read his entries when they return to Mars and find his frozen body.
The audiobook was wonderfully narrated, with the appropriate amount of snark and sarcasm nicely represented. The storytelling style (mostly through log entries, except for the parts that take place outside the realm of the Mars) keeps the story moving along, and the likeability of the never-say-die-even-though-you're-about-to-die botanist/engineer drives the story through some of the drier science-y parts. You just can't help but like the guy, and root for him.
If it was possible to give this book 10 stars, I'd do it....more
Dead Ends is a short horror anthology with a number of new and previously-released stories from a variety of horror genre authors. Some of the storiesDead Ends is a short horror anthology with a number of new and previously-released stories from a variety of horror genre authors. Some of the stories are really cool, and some fall a little flat on the premise, even of their own story. The proceeds from this book benefit the Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization behind National Novel Writing Month and other programs geared towards helping kids interact with literature. For that reason alone, it's worth it to plunk down your wares for this entertaining book of horror. Just don't let those same kids read it!...more
The Good Lawyer is an exciting tale of what seems to be a mundane and thankless job. As a non-profit public defender, the main character has to earn hThe Good Lawyer is an exciting tale of what seems to be a mundane and thankless job. As a non-profit public defender, the main character has to earn his lawyering chops by serving the needs of criminals who are entitled to a defense. But when a series of crimes push him in the direction of a few clients that deserve better than a public defender, his skills come to the fore and he attacks the case with fervor and all the resources his limited means can muster.
Based on events that happened when the author was himself in the position in which he places his main character, Benigno shows a very intimate knowledge of the public defense system in New York. A lot of the goings-on that are portrayed reminded me of a long take through a newsroom, with the camera following a reporter through an office filled with busy, productive, overworked and dedicated personnel. His personal experience in this venue allows Benigno to write casually about something quite complex and intricate, yet still keep the terminology down to an explainable level for the rest of us.
There are some distracting grammatical and simple copyediting errors throughout the book, which can be distracting. And a lot of reviews criticize the large number of characters that contribute to the story and need to be tracked. For some strange reason, there are countless highlights in the Kindle book of each introduction of a new character. I'm not sure what point these highlights are trying to make, but I didn't find the number of character to be too unwieldy. Especially as regards the intricacies of the judicial system, it's astounding how many different people and organizations are involved. I don't doubt that it is like that in real life as well.
Benigno writes with a smooth, fluid style, which is peppered with very poetic descriptions of scenery and character. Unfortunately, every so often, a real confused sentence rears its head and I found I had to read it over and over again to try to understand what he was trying to say. Those sentence misconstructions and the incomplete copyediting kept the last star from what would otherwise be a wonderful book. I found myself having a hard time putting the book down.
Red Rising refers allegorically to the low-caste Reds working to overcome their Gold overlords and get a slice of life deliberately denied them. Set iRed Rising refers allegorically to the low-caste Reds working to overcome their Gold overlords and get a slice of life deliberately denied them. Set in the future on Mars, Reds mine the deep core of Mars to provide precious gas used in the terraforming efforts so that someday a colony can exist on the surface.
Our hero, Darrow, toils away as a specialist in the mine until circumstances force him to re-evaluate his position in society. The rest of the story follows his efforts to undermine authority while secretly pretending to be above his actual station.
At times, Darrow's immersion into duplicity seems complete. He becomes so caught up in the role he plays, he begins to forget why he's doing it in the first place. He constantly struggles with remembering his roots and agonizes over decisions he needs to make.
There are some wonderful twists and turns in the story, and the entire tale is told at a pace that keeps the reader engaged throughout. I was aware going into the story that it was the first in a trilogy, but the ending was gratifyingly conclusive, while still leaving me wanting to pick up the next book.
Audiobook note: The Audible edition was wonderfully narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, an Irishman. His accent really put an oppressed-Irish slant on the production, but listening to the actual narrative's words, it seemed natural and organic, as though the Reds of Mars are actually Irish. ...more
Z-Burbia is a novel by Jake Bible that focuses on a gated community's efforts to exist and subsist during the Zombie Apocalypse. Whispering Pines is aZ-Burbia is a novel by Jake Bible that focuses on a gated community's efforts to exist and subsist during the Zombie Apocalypse. Whispering Pines is a safe facility with nice homes, wifi and fresh water, and a Homeowner's Association that keeps a tight eye on resources and work assignments. Jason Standford is the idea-man for the community, using his cleverness to solve all sorts of problems with defense, resource management and anything else that may come their way. As is often the case, cleverness clashes with authority, and Jace finds himself on the other side of a fracturing line in the community.
Familiar group-survival themes are present throughout the story, but they are a fresh and exciting take on the same concepts. The fuse burns a bit too quickly in my opinion, with allies and enemies presenting themselves a little too quickly. There's some fun new concepts that I've not seen before - all I'm gonna say is "Cannibal Savant" is one of my new favorite things, and there are plenty of the stereotypical players as well.
All in all, Z-Burbia is a fun, quick romp through the apocalypse, and I'm looking forward to more in the series. ...more
There is a common horror setup involving a small group of people stuck in a confined space, battling against a horrific entity. This setup has been usThere is a common horror setup involving a small group of people stuck in a confined space, battling against a horrific entity. This setup has been used to great effect in such films as The Thing, Alien, Jurassic Park, Feast, Quarantine, The Evil Dead, Descent and many others. The Black fits nicely into this genre. Isolated on an exploratory oil rig, the crew discover a deposit of oil so pure it's sure to make the company insanely wealthy. But nothing comes free, nor is anything what it appears. And when crew start disappearing, the deadly reality starts to sink in for everyone else.
Cooley's tale is set in an environment with which I am not familiar - an exploratory oil rig. There's lots of terms I didn't know, but he does a great job of providing context to the unfamiliar, explaining what things are and how they work - but does so without lecturing. He keeps the pace going at a stimulating rate that made it hard to put the book down. He really drives home how isolated everyone is; there's some nasty stuff going on, and you can empathize with how the unfortunate souls feel abandoned by a company who is trying to brush everything under the rug. But even the company has to bow to government intervention, so they can't be completely vilified.
The Black already has a sequel planned, and I'm looking forward to seeing where else Cooley can take this. There's a very obvious part that seems to be either completely left unresolved, or is the basis of the next book. Hopefully it's the latter, because it could have all kinds of cool repercussions if it is....more
The Champion, the long-awaited Book 5 in Scott Sigler's GFL series is - to be brief - well worth the wait. After the cliffhanger of Book 4 (The MVP),The Champion, the long-awaited Book 5 in Scott Sigler's GFL series is - to be brief - well worth the wait. After the cliffhanger of Book 4 (The MVP), the action of Book 5 picks right up with another grand adventure for our upjumped hero. Over the course of the series, we've seen the orphaned miner Quentin Barnes overcome his own racial prejudices in order to gain success on the Galactic Football field, where he becomes a celebrity and a star player only through the efforts of accepting races he grew up despising. The series starts when he is 19 years old - seflish and immature. Now he's about 23 years old, and while still young, each season in his career presents him with opportunities for personal growth and education.
As a 23-year old, Quentin may be one of the older Young Adult protagonists out there, but make no mistake - this is a Young Adult book at its core, but the shackles of YA don't hold the story back.
In his latest adventure, QB is once again thrust onto the main stage, put in an impossible situation that he must deal with. As with his other impossible situations, there is peril and danger. Thankfully, not everyone makes it out unscathed or even alive. This is a wonderful part of the GFL series - like George R.R. Marin, Scott Sigler does not shrink away from killing his characters or putting them into situations that change them fundamentally.
At this point in his life, Quentin has grown quite a bit intellectually, though he still remains unconvinced about his own supposed role in the universe. The groundwork has been laid in the previous books, and in The Champion, more pieces start to fall into place. We can start to see how this grand epic is being played out.
As with the other stories, the drama unfolds around football. The seasons march inevitably on, and the upcoming seasons are constantly in the mind of our heroes, as they struggle with finding their place in the universe while still trying to make a living and do the thing they love best. Personal relationships are built up and torn down; constant adjustments are required to deal with the consequences of decisions that are made during the off-season.
Step back from the story and you can see how the entire series plays itself out as a football game. As the quarterback on the field, Quentin Barnes has to constantly observe all of the things going on around him, and make adjustments that will help him win. His ability to focus on ever-shifting variables and make decisions during a football game is well-suited for him to apply to his galactic adventures, making decisions that affect his life and those lives around him while constantly being inundated with inputs from all directions. As he bobs, weaves and calculates on the field, so does he off the field as well.
Those who are around him are his family, both genetic and adopted. He is a beloved friend and teammate, and he uses that ardor to enlist assistance from anyone he can, whether consciously or not. As with any family, there are ups and downs - some of which play out within a book, and some of which play out between books. Either way, the realism of his relationships help lend credibility to his internal struggles.
With only two more books planned in the series, it's interesting to try to figure out how the rest of the story is going to play out. I'll be anxiously awaiting the next book....more
There's nothing too mysterious about what this book is about - the title, the plot summary all reveal that this is a story about a poor unfortunate soThere's nothing too mysterious about what this book is about - the title, the plot summary all reveal that this is a story about a poor unfortunate soul who is plucked from her life and kept against her will as a prisoner. It's a familiar plotline, and a crime-drama staple. This novella is a quick read, mostly because the pace is so frenetic and engaging. I burned through it in two days, but it could have easily been a one-day read.
During her captivity, more background about our hapless victim comes to the fore, and we learn some awful and shameful truths about her that engender our sympathy and fury. Though the story is short, it packs a mighty force in its punch....more
The concept of a prehistoric-era shark in modern times isn't a new one, but Jake Bible's twist on the tale is a more modernized version of the classicThe concept of a prehistoric-era shark in modern times isn't a new one, but Jake Bible's twist on the tale is a more modernized version of the classic tampering-with-nature theme that is so prevalent in supersized monster stories. Mega almost feels like two stories in one. The first is a story of a modern-day Captain Ahab trying ot find his literal elusive whale (a comparison to which he bristles in the story), who decides it is in his best interest (for a variety of reasons, not all of which are fiduciary) to team up with another person who is looking for a supersized shark. The second is the team of ex-navy SEALs that Mr. Moneybags hires to provide security for this mission, but who first must go through an "interview" process rescuing prisoners from Somali pirates.
Wait, wait. Mystery whales, navy SEALs, Somali pirates and giant sharks? For real? Yes. All in one story. As absurd as it may seem, the four items combine for a pretty gripping and suspenseful tale that is very cinematic in its reading. The scenes appear to be set up very much with an eye for film and cinematic suspense. There are some very tense open-sea terror moments that no doubt borrowed from other tales of deep sea monsters. But the aspects of modern tech that are shoehorned into the plot, along with the firepower and tactics of navy SEALs, all combine for an exciting tale that keeps you on the edge of your diving board.
I burned through this book very quickly; it was pretty hard to put down. The beginning seemed a little odd. The chapter construction felt a little helter-skelter, but the turbulence only lasts for a little while, and the ship levels out fairly quickly....more
Rob Reid's Year Zero is a fun little irreverent story about the long-term and far-reaching implications of copyright infringement. Reid takes a savvyRob Reid's Year Zero is a fun little irreverent story about the long-term and far-reaching implications of copyright infringement. Reid takes a savvy mid-level copyright lawyer and thrusts him into the center of a galactic spectacle, in which aliens and other higher-evolved species are stuck in their own morass of legal interpretations. The galaxy owes earth all of the money in existence. Therefore, to cancel the debt, one organization is coming to earth to help cancel that debt.
The whole concept is silly, but very fun to read. Tongue is firmly in cheek throughout the story, and it's a quick read of eye-rolling inanity. There's the sexy compatriot, the carnivore parrot, celebrity impersonators and other crazy caricatures supporting the story as both allies and enemies.
The whole thing ended rather abruptly for me, but it was still nicely wrapped up and complete. There is a special bonus at the end revealing a dark and sinister hand that is guiding our technological innovation through distraction. It's a great a-ha moment that suddenly makes a lot of things make sense.
Ig Parrish wakes up with a hangover and a new set of horns growing out of his head. He quickly discovers that the horns evoke unexpected and mostly unIg Parrish wakes up with a hangover and a new set of horns growing out of his head. He quickly discovers that the horns evoke unexpected and mostly unwelcome responses from those who view them. These revelations are all provided in the context of Ig being "the guy who got away with" killing his girlfriend. No one believes his innocence, and is compelled to tell him so when they see his horns. The horns continue to grow as his relationships deteriorate.
The story is told in a few main sections that establish the present, the past and how the two are connected. Enough backstory is provided along the way to gradually give clues to what is happening and everything unfolds quite nicely as a horrific whodunit. It's hard to cheer for a devil, but it just feels right in this story.
I very much enjoyed this story. It's well told, and though the back-and-forth timeframes are a little unsettling at first, but it settles into a nice rhythm that drives the story forward....more