This was a short, angsty, precious gem of a story. I just wanted to hug the poor guy. I loved Ollie's brief appearance in Mr. Monopoli's full-length n...moreThis was a short, angsty, precious gem of a story. I just wanted to hug the poor guy. I loved Ollie's brief appearance in Mr. Monopoli's full-length novel The Painting of Porcupine City, and can't wait to read more about him.(less)
Ho-ly sh… Okay. Wow. I need to first say that The Survivors is absolutely not for the f...moreNote: This review originally appeared on Reviews by Jesse Wave.
Ho-ly sh… Okay. Wow. I need to first say that The Survivors is absolutely not for the faint of heart. This is primarily a science-fiction book, but can easily fit right in with horror. Mr. Eads has a distinctly vivid way with words and pulls zero punches, whether he's laying out his characters in all their flawed glory, or describing the way they handle the ultimate us-versus-them scenario. There is violence, there is gore, there is the darkness brought to light by the fear of a desperate race, and there is absolutely zero fluff.
The storylines for such films as War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Cloverfield might come across as cheesy to some. I, however, find them ridiculously intriguing because I automatically put myself in the character's place, wondering how I would behave in such a situation. How would I handle the enemy? How would I protect my family? How would I survive? I'm not entirely sure I would have done things differently than the way Craig Mencken did.
This isn’t your typical alien invasion. The aliens don't wish to make contact with humans, they don’t come out of their ships with guns blazing, they don't appear hostile at all. They ignore the human race on a grand scale—they don't seem to even know humans exist even when direct, physical contact is made. Having no apparent sense of propriety, they move right into people's homes, eat their food and occupy any space where they can fit—they're basically a bunch of huge, ugly cats that refuse to use a litter box. The aliens cannot be controlled or forced to move or leave, and many American citizens don't appreciate the seemingly lax approach the government has taken with its new citizens, which is to live and let live, and good luck getting them to stop making a God-awful coital mess in your bedroom… that means exactly what you think it means.
The planet's visitors have been coming to Earth in waves with ships landing in random places. It's so commonplace that new arrivals don't make the news anymore. They’re just relegated to a news ticker at the bottom of the television screen. Everything changes when bigger ships start to arrive with dozers and wrecking balls. That's when people start to truly panic, and that's where this story takes a turn from awkwardly humorous to downright scary. When militia groups start forming, Craig finds himself torn between an allegiance to the man he loves, an allegiance to his country, and an allegiance to himself, and he's sickened and terrified of what he's become. In a situation that is anything but black and white, when one has to choose between morality and mortality, it doesn't really seem like much of a choice.
If you're looking for Mac and Me meets M/M romance, you won't find that here. If you want a realistic portrayal of a regular guy trying to survive frightening circumstances where all hope appears completely lost, I absolutely recommend The Survivors to you. It is an engaging, disturbing, five-star read.(less)
After his parents’ passing, Aaron becomes a ward of the state, and ultimately ends up i...moreNOTE: This review originally appeared at Reviews by Jesse Wave.
After his parents’ passing, Aaron becomes a ward of the state, and ultimately ends up in the care of Tiffany and Shaw White, two people who only take in foster children for the stipend they receive in return. At the age of five, Aaron is left to wander the neighborhood alone, and is often left to fend for himself come mealtime. Throughout the story, Tiffany and Shaw cast Aaron aside, chastise him, and threaten to put him back into the system because they just don't want to deal with him, and Aaron is left heartbroken, wishing for a real family who loves him.
When he sees James, a boy sitting all by himself atop a wooden fence, Aaron is excited to meet someone new. He's nervous, though, about how James will feel about being friends with a "loser foster kid" who wears torn, dirty clothes and has no fancy toys to play with. Despite these concerns, the boys become instant friends, climbing trees, checking out small animals, and chasing each other through open fields. It's merely a curiosity to Aaron that James shrugs off questions about his name, family, and school.
That curiosity turns into concern when Aaron realizes that no one—not even the town busybody, Mrs. Sullivan—has heard of "the new kid". What's worse is that nobody can see or hear James, and they begin to think Aaron is crazy. While Aaron is worried about the fact that nobody believes his friend is a real person over the course of several years, he's most worried about Tiffany and Shaw wanting to send him away because they "don't want a crazy kid in the house." He doesn't want to end up with different—and potentially worse—foster parents, but more than that, he doesn't want to be separated from James.
From the very first page, my heart broke for Aaron. He's an adorable, sweet boy who can't catch a break, and I wanted nothing more than to smother him with love and affection. No child should experience the pain of losing their parents at such a young age (or in a perfect world, at all), let alone be shuffled around from house to house because foster parents don't want to deal with him. At such a vulnerable and impressionable time in his life, Aaron needs someone to love him, to care for him, and to want him to be there. Instead, he gets a set of foster parents who look at him solely as a paycheck; who don't care if he eats, has clean clothes, or has any positive interaction whatsoever. Tiffany and Shaw clearly don't want to be parents and have taken Aaron in just so they can make ends meet—and they often discuss this right in front of young Aaron. As a mother to two young boys, I want to do unspeakably painful things to these people, and it hurts my heart all the more that foster parents like Tiffany and Shaw are very common.
James is a delightful, energetic boy who, like Aaron, is just so easy to love. They both share the same curiosity (their discovery and examination of the warren of baby rabbits just made my teeth ache), the same zest for life, and the same desire for something real. Aaron wants a real family, and James wants others to believe he's a real boy.
The one thing that is typically expected to be an angsty issue between gay characters is the fact that they're gay. This is not the case in Imaginary. Aaron and James's attraction and love is something that easily develops and naturally grows and is so captivating in its purity. The way James expresses his feelings of loneliness when Aaron's not around makes the emotion a very tangible thing. How he insists, despite what everyone tells Aaron—and what Aaron often fears himself—that he is not a product of Aaron's imagination made me clutch at my chest many times. You can't help but fall in love with these kids and want to embarrass them in front of everyone by showing them just how much you adore them. Does anyone remember having their Mom drop them off at school in sixth grade, refusing to leave without a few dozen kisses, hair fixings, and "I love you"s? Yeah. I want to embarrass both of these boys so much.
I suspected a resolution for Aaron and James's situation similar to the one that actually happened in this story, though I was delighted to be just slightly off the mark (I know. Way to be vague!). I'd hoped the ending would have included more vindication, but I realize it would have been very out-of-character for Aaron otherwise. That small bit aside, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Imaginary was the most endearing, charming, heartfelt story I've read in a long time, and I highly recommend it.(less)