“Many things led to this day, for all of us. A forgotten son, a vengeful mother, a brother with a long shadow, a strange mutation. Together, they’ve“Many things led to this day, for all of us. A forgotten son, a vengeful mother, a brother with a long shadow, a strange mutation. Together, they’ve written a tragedy.”
In Victoria Aveyard’s dystopian fantasy, the world encompasses two different types of people: Silvers and Reds. The Silvers are royalty, the rulers, maintaining their authority with the aid of the supernatural powers they possess. Reds are the working class and are treated poorly by Silvers, possessing no powers of their own to fight back. This split between people has always been this way, until a Red discovers that she possesses the powers of a Silver.
Mare Barrow, age 17 and a Red, knows her freedom is coming to an end soon. At the age of 18, she’ll be conscripted to fight in the war against the Kingdom of Lakeland because she doesn’t possess any useful talents to keep her home. She’s been resigned to her fate, however, when she discovers her best friend Kilorn will be conscripted as well, she becomes determined to find a way for the two of them to escape knowing he wouldn’t survive a war. She plans to use the skills she does possess, thievery, to obtain enough money to buy their freedom but the plan goes awry when she pickpockets, and is caught except miraculously the boy allows her to escape and gets her a job at the palace instead. It’s revealed that she possesses powers that even she wasn’t aware of, and she becomes a powerful pawn between the Silvers and the Scarlet Guard, the leaders of the Red rebellion.
The first half of this book introduces us to the life of a Red, and it’s bleak. The Silvers are painted as brutal tyrants that punish Reds for the smallest of crimes, where food is scarce, and poverty is the norm. The majority have accepted their lot in life, not being able to see any way of overcoming the Silvers. The Scarlet Guard is the heart of the rebellion against the Silvers, and its their help Mare seeks in escaping her and Kilorn’s conscription into war. The world itself isn’t described much outside of Mare’s small village, and while this may be due to the fact that the story was told from her point of view and her view is certainly limited, it would have been nice to be given some semblance of a backstory. All in all, it was still enjoyable and mildly entertaining, at least until the lovey bits were introduced.
Tropes and cliches were fairly common, yet like I previously mentioned it still managed to be an entertaining and far from painful read. Yes, there is a love triangle. Yes, there is also a fair amount of insta-love. No, it didn’t make me want to stab myself in the eye so there’s that at least. There’s the requisite special snowflake that becomes a catalyst for change. There’s constant lies and deceit and basically no one can be trusted. There was also a large amount of unlikely scenarios that required a suspension of disbelief. If you’re a fan of fantasy and capable of not taking a story too seriously, this is quite the entertaining read.
I’m always leery these days when books come with all the comparisons, and especially when those comparisons have been attached to an ample amount of books already. X-Men, Game of Thrones, Red Rising, Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. And sure, I can see the comparisons, but it never became such an obvious rip-off to completely turn me off from this story. All books are inspired by something, it just depends on the way each author spins it to make it unique and their own. Aveyard may not have completely dazzled me with her debut, however, she aroused my curiosity enough especially with the unexpected ending to continue following this story.
‘One a’ them rules is don’t go trusting another man’s path…People do it, they do what their mommies and daddies did, they make them same mistakes, th‘One a’ them rules is don’t go trusting another man’s path…People do it, they do what their mommies and daddies did, they make them same mistakes, they have them same joys and hurts, they just repeating. Trees don’t grow exactly where their momma is; ain’t no room…I weren’t following no one up through life.’
Deep in the woods of what was once called British Columbia, 17-year-old Elka is struggling to survive on her own. After what she refers to as the “Big Damn Stupid”, the two wars that demolished the world that we know, this post-apocalyptic wasteland isn’t for the weak-willed. When she was only 7-years-old, Elka was caught in a massive storm and lost her grandmother but was taken in by a man she called “Trapper”, a man that taught her everything she needed to know about surviving and became the closest thing she could call family. When Elka discovers that “Trapper” a.k.a Kreager Hallet is wanted by the law for the deaths of many, she disappears thinking that she must be next. Her plan is to finally set off to find her long lost parents who left her with her grandmother to go in search of wealth, but her days traversing the woods alone get her mind racing as to the reasons why Kreager Hallet kept her alive all these years.
Her journey takes her north for many months. Seasons change but she continues to walk towards some unseen destination. Things aren’t easy and she constantly encounters obstacles but nothing she’s not able to find her way around, even with the law that is also searching for her assuming that she’s an accomplish for the murders. She even befriends a Wolf who undertakes the journey alongside her. Elka was an extraordinary character and one that isn’t seen often enough. Resilient, resourceful, with an indomitable spirit, she constantly proved herself to be immensely capable of dealing with any situation presented to her. When she’s forced to deal with other people and society, it was baffling to her that all women wouldn’t be just like her: able to take care of themselves in this harsh world.
‘I seen women take this kind a’ help from a man with a look a’ relief on their faces. I wondered if these women knew how much easier their lives would be if they did all this stuff for themselves.’
The comparisons between The Road and True Grit are apt. The world is a desolate place lacking in any redeemable qualities and has reverted to a Western style. Considering this was once British Columbia, it makes sense that individuals still speak French but to ones like Elka that have spent their life away from the company of people, she’s developed her own dialect that is decidedly Western. The language itself is fortunately effortless to read unlike other books I’ve read where new dialects have been created. The writing itself is fluid and promising for a debut author. There was unfortunately one lapse that ultimately changed the entire story for me: it’s told in past-tense and the essence of the ending is revealed in the introduction. For me, too much was revealed and the element of surprise was spent. Yes, there were additional details to add to the ending that weren’t disclosed until the true end of the story, however, I felt that the initial reveal was wholly unnecessary and the entire story would have been far more effective and enticing at keeping the reader interested if left out completely. Nonetheless, this post-apocalyptic western proves to be an auspicious start for debut author Beth Lewis.
‘Memories ain’t no one’s friend. They show you all the good things you had, all the good things you lost, and don’t let you forget all the bad shit in between.’
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
Set hundreds of years in the future, Thomas is a soldier in a type of Civil war against the Walkin’ and all he yearns for is to go home to his wife anSet hundreds of years in the future, Thomas is a soldier in a type of Civil war against the Walkin’ and all he yearns for is to go home to his wife and daughter. When he wakes up in a pyrepit, a pit the army digs to pile the dead and burn them, he realizes that he’ll no longer be welcomed home with open arms. He decides to take his chances though and heads towards the town of Barkley. Sarah McDermott and her daughter Mary are in mourning for Thomas, husband and father, but more than Sarah fears that he will still return just not as he once was. Their rigidly religious town are very much anti-Walkin’ and won’t hesitate in cutting down any that cross their borders, even if they were once a resident when they last knew them.
I love me a good zombie novel. That said, there isn’t a whole lot of originality these days that hasn’t already been done before, but that doesn’t necessarily make the book bad per se. Kirkus says Your Brother’s Blood possesses an “unconventional premise” due to it being told from the point of view of the undead and the summary calls it reminiscent of the 19th century western frontier. Unfortunately, I’ve encountered both of those already in zombie tales. Western style + Zombies? The Reapers are the Angels. From the POV of the undead? Warm Bodies, Raising Stony Mayhall, and My Life As a White Trash Zombie… just to name a few. I wouldn’t be so apt to throw out comparisons if words like “unconventional” and “imaginative” weren’t used so effortlessly.
Fortunately, there were various other aspects that set this one apart giving it its own sort of appeal. For starters there’s the future time period, the Civil War against Walkin’, and the matter of these seemingly sensible Walkin’ don’t seem to have a taste for brains. What I enjoyed the most that I’d love to see explored further was the idea that Walkin’ is something of a genetic trait versus something that is passed on via bite or something everyone experiences following death. The author was also fastidious in his world-building and not only created a different time but something of a different language where animals/bugs had names such as crumbers, woollies, shaggies, under-mutton, red-winks, and gambirs. It was fun to try to figure out what their normal names would be based on their descriptions.
There were hints of magic existing in this desolate world and even of a wholly Walkin’ civilization. The bulk of the book may have been spent in a slow trudge through the desert, but there was enough revealed in the first installment of this trilogy to leave you curious and anxious for the next book.
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
“The contestants don’t know everything. […] They know no one gets voted off, that this is a race – or, rather, a series of small races during which t“The contestants don’t know everything. […] They know no one gets voted off, that this is a race – or, rather, a series of small races during which they accumulate advantages and disadvantages. What they don’t know is that this race does not have a finish line. […] The game will continue until only one person remains, and the only way out is to quit.”
When twelve individuals sign up for a wilderness survival television show called In the Dark, they never could have imagined that they’d actually be fighting for their lives. While the show continues, a fierce contagion of unknown origin is decimating the population of the outside world which they’ve been disconnected from. As we see through the eyes of the contestants, things begin to change in shocking ways, the clues they find and the challenges they’re given, but this is still just a game… right?
I don’t watch a lot of television in general and I especially don’t watch a lot of reality television despite its massive increase in popularity in recent years. The Last One has been recommended to fans of reality television, however, this is definitely not a requirement because I still found this to be a most curious and unique take on the typical post apocalyptic tale. There are twelve contestants but the story is told primarily from the point of view of a female dubbed ‘Zoo’ by the shows producers seeing as she works at a wildlife sanctuary. All individuals are given nicknames: there’s Biology, Carpenter Chick (originally known as Asian Chick), Tracker, Black Doctor, Waitress, Rancher, Exorcist, Air Force, Cheerleader Boy, and Banker. The names are clearly only given as an easily identifiable label without giving consideration to the fact that these individuals have actual names, but this is a reality television show they’re a part of after all. The story switches between the start of the competition and to the time when the competition was over, yet the contestants, mainly Zoo, were quite literally left in the dark. This build-up to knowing what she underwent in the competition becomes vital to understanding how it’s possible for her to have endured the things she did while still smoothing these incidents over mentally, assuring herself that this isn’t real, it’s just a prop for the show.
‘Nothing can be worse than what they’ve already put me through. I’d never choose this, not again. But I’m here and I’m a woman of my word and I promised myself I wouldn’t quit.’
Zoo is a highly developed female character despite the fact that we primarily see her from a would be position behind the lens of a camera. If the world hadn’t been ending and the show had actually gone on, she would have been my bet for last one standing. Oliva’s writing was first-rate in describing the psychological trauma that Zoo withstands in sorting through fact and fiction when the two become muddied. She convinces herself despite clear contradictions that this is still the game in a failed attempt to shelter her from the reality of her situation. Making reality television as the primary plot point as well as the inclusion of snippets of a chat forum where viewers are able to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the episodes was a crafty way of integrating a modern tale with credible post-apocalyptic elements. The story may not have delved into the origins of the contagion, however, The Last One smartly focused on the psychological aspects of a modern society being confronted with the world ending instead.
It would be easy to say that post-apocalyptic stories are overdone what with the hoards of them in existence but The Last One only confirms that it’s still a genre worth reading.
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
Yeah. That’s how this one is going to go. The expectations were high with this one. I first discovered this book when I found out it was being made in
Yeah. That’s how this one is going to go. The expectations were high with this one. I first discovered this book when I found out it was being made into a movie so of course I was all about getting the book read first. Especially when I realized this author also wrote one of my favorites of all time: The Secret of Nimh. Naturally I couldn’t find a copy anywhere but FINALLY! Some luck blew my way and my library came through. I started it immediately. I finished it within 24 hours. And now I’m sad.
First off, a few things you need to know. 1. This is a post-apocalyptic novel with not a whole lot of post-apocalyptic action going on. 2. If you picked this up based on the movie trailer, you’re going to be disappointed and/or confused because they have practically nothing in common. 3. There’s some animal cruelty that for once didn’t actually make me cry. Nah. I was enraged instead. And 4? There will be spoilers, but I’ll put them in tags.
We’re introduced to Anne who is sixteen years old and has been living on her childhood farm alone for the past year now. She resides within a valley that because of an inversion has escaped the havoc that the rest of the world has suffered. Her parents and two brothers went out searching for survivors after the nuclear war that happened that we never get any other details of besides the fact that it happened. They never returned. She’s cultivated a garden, has cows and chickens to keep from starving, and fortunately there is also a country store nearby that was pretty well stocked. Anne has done a pretty amazing job surviving all on her own but is understandably curious when she sees smoke in the sky indicative of a campfire. She watches it day after day as it gets closer and closer to her farm; closer and closer to whoever is lighting the fire to discovering her home. She retreats to a nearby cave with her dog Faro to monitor the individual and determine whether or not to let him know there’s one other survivor besides him.
John Loomis is a scientist from New York. His team was researching/developing radiation proof suits but there was only a single prototype in existence which is the only way he was able to survive the fallout from the bomb. Trudging through the remains of the Earth, he comes upon a strange sight: a green valley. After a year of walking, seeing nothing but Earth, the valley is a spectacular sight. He takes his helmet off and realizes he can breathe the air there as well. Unable to help himself, he dives into a small lake to bathe. Unfortunately, the stream that flows into that lake was still affected by radiation and he falls deathly ill.
Spoilers, ahoy!(view spoiler)[So Anne decides she can’t hide in her cave while she watches quite possibly the last man on Earth slowly die from the contaminated water. She brings him food and water and nurses him back to health. What does she get for her good deeds? Nada. Because naturally dude turns out to be a fucking creep. For weeks, Anne maintained the farm and even expands on her plans to include him in the future. And then one night he comes into her room to undoubtedly sexual assault her. She escapes and runs back to the cave that fortunately she kept secret from him. Sure, she’s only 16, but she’s taken perfectly good care of herself up till the point he showed up. In my mind, defending yourself is the reasonable response. But nah, instead Anne tries to make peace with the crazy man and still shares half of all the food and water she gathers. That doesn’t go over so well because apparently he intends to capture her so he uses her dog Faro to hunt her down. He at one point shoots her in the leg too. He’s a real pleasant kinda guy, I totally get why she doesn’t shoot his ass. At the end he finally gets Faro to follow her scent and the dog is about to lead him right to the cave. What shall we do? 1. Shoot the creeper or 2. Shoot the dog so he can’t lead him to her only home? YES, SHE SERIOUSLY CHOSE THE SECOND OPTION. Except she doesn’t get a chance to go through with it because she missed her opportunity. So she goes with her backup plan: run through the contaminated creek so that Loomis won’t follow. But of course the freaking dog follows her. “…instead of following my trail on the rocks he had plunged into the water.” What fucking dog isn’t going to just jump in the water but instead stand on the bank looking for stepping stones. Poor Faro takes his last swim and dies of radiation poisoning.
Z for Zachariah is actually an epistolary and is told via Anne’s journal entries. This style helped build Anne’s characterization and her day to day life before her peaceful valley was encroached upon, however, this style lacked in getting a proper feel on her emotions. She talks about her family that drove away, never to be seen from again, in a very disconnected almost robotic way. Even with passages she’s written immediately after shocking things happen, I still felt a disconnect from how it seemed like someone in her position would feel. It’s a post-apocalyptic book (much like recently read Blindness) which is more a study of human behavior rather than a focus on the reasoning behind the war that caused the devastation. This is all well and good but I felt the characters were very black/white with Anne being the good, wholesome girl and Loomis being the mysterious stranger that we never learn enough about to make his actions comprehensible. One could argue that his last year of surviving alone was enough to change him, however, Anne had to work just as hard to survive. The character study could have gone a bit deeper to better understand the inner-workings of these two characters since they were the only two characters in the book.
I wanted to love this one so much but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I kept thinking that there would be some final twist but I reached the final page without it happening. The ending left me feeling very indifferent and just as emotionally disconnected as Anne. All in all, it’s not the worst post-apocalyptic book I’ve read but it’s certainly not the best.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Beyond Control centers around the relationship between Lex and Dallas and holy shit, these two be crazy. We learn that Lex wasn’t always in Sector FouBeyond Control centers around the relationship between Lex and Dallas and holy shit, these two be crazy. We learn that Lex wasn’t always in Sector Four, she used to be owned and was something of a sex slave in another Sector so she has issues with submission (as can be expected). Her and Dallas have been something of a thing for years but he hasn’t made her an honest woman and collared her yet so she decides to force his hand one day and gets his name tattooed across her stomach. He responds as she expected and bestows a gorgeous temporary collar on her made of leather and chains. They finally seal the deal by having sex (without an audience either!) because even though they’ve been at it for years, Dallas wouldn’t sleep with her until she was officially collared.
Goddamn, this is some romantic shit.
As hoped, we do find out more about the state of the world (only a little though) and the politics between Sectors plays a much larger part. Overall though, this one was a bit of a rocky read for me. I never much cared for the dynamic between Lex and Dallas and his continued insistence that she wants to be owned touched a bit of a nerve when you consider her past. Once again, the consent train comes barreling in to the station to make all the crazy shit okay. I just didn’t super buy it this time. And whether it’s because of the lack of characterization or what, but I don’t actually like any of these characters. I didn’t like Noelle’s doe-eyed, innocent act, Jasper was this seemingly brainless brute that just wanted to protect the pretty lady, Lex has clearly got some mental hangups due to her past but goddamn she’s angsty, and Dallas is the king of brainless brutes. Their sex scenes were also not nearly as hot as in the prior book mostly because the domination factor was through the roof and that got old quick.
I continue to have many of the same issues with these stories but they leave me completely riveted. It almost must be said that they definitely don’t read like the self-published books that they are. I may not have any partiality when it comes to characters but I have enjoyed meeting new couples with each story… definitely keeps things interesting....more
‘The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock.’
In a seemingly normal town, ever‘The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock.’
In a seemingly normal town, everyone gathers together to conduct the annual traditional lottery. What is the lottery exactly? Well, you don’t truly discover the magnitude of its horror until the final passage. A lottery is typically a good thing but in this small town its anything but. Certain things throughout this short story hint at what’s to come: the nervous energy of the people, the implication that the lottery serves a purpose regarding the future of the crops, and the piles of stones that the kids begin to gather.
What made this story the most eerie is the whole mystery behind the lottery. No one truly knows when it actually started, why it ever started, only that it is and must keep going for traditions sake. It’s mentioned that other towns have done away with the practice and the idea is immediately dismissed as folly. Just the concept of not doing the lottery, of doing away with tradition, is enough to frighten everyone not knowing the possible implications not doing it would cause.
This patriarchal society in the unnamed village have the men draw the slip of paper that ultimately decides whether their family is the selected recipient of the lottery. The only instance where this differs is when the man is unable to attend the lottery (such as the man named Dunbar that was home with a broken leg) or if an elder son is able to draw for his mother if she doesn’t have a husband. Once selected, each individual (even women) are then given their opportunity to select their own piece of paper. Published in 1948, Shirley Jackson’s short story is a telling criticism of the powerlessness that women faced, and unfortunately still face to this day. While the idea of the lottery is clearly exaggerated, the idea of the strength and fierceness of traditions and patriarchy is extremely realistic.
‘Andy pointed upward. She followed the line extending from his index finger out into the dark distance. A single spark of brMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
‘Andy pointed upward. She followed the line extending from his index finger out into the dark distance. A single spark of bright blue, like a puncture in the black skin of the sky.’
Imagine if you had to grapple with the knowledge that there’s a 66.6% chance that the bright light hovering in the sky is headed straight towards Earth. Imagine if you were told that even if there’s a chance it won’t happen, if it does, you have only six weeks before it happens. What would you change? What would you do? How would you choose to live your final six weeks of life?
We All Looked Up centers around four high school seniors trying to find out who they are while struggling to look beyond who they’ve been defined as. Their attempts to do so take on a frantic state when the news gets out about the asteroid named Ardor. Peter is a star athlete with a steady girlfriend but is drawn to Eliza in a way that he can no longer ignore even if it means for once not doing what is expected of him. Eliza fought against being labeled a ‘slut’ but has since decided to simply be and do whatever she wants despite the names people call her. Her father is dying of cancer and her mother has abandoned them; taking pictures of the crumbling world around her is the way she finds to cope. Anita is a straight A student that has only ever done what her father has told her to do but has finally decided that for once it’s time she admit to herself that what she truly wants to do in life is sing. Andy is the stereotypical slacker that hangs with the wrong crowd and must decide for himself whether he’s able to continue following the pack or if he’s ready to finally wake up and make his own decisions.
While all four of these characters (and several secondary characters) were all stereotypical in their own way, Wallach adds an impressive depth to each one of them that I loved watching unfold. The story itself is almost stereotypical as well, with the asteroid headed to Earth and all of humanity faced with their impending doom. Dun Dun Dun. But this story managed to complete impress me with the route that it took and the ambiguous ending that will manage to leave you satisfied even when you’re still left with questions. Nothing is for certain, anything could change… you just never really know for sure about anything in life. We All Looked Up is an elegantly written and philosophical pre-apocalyptic tale that will leave you contemplating your own existence.
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
Morgan Stockhour is a resident of Interment, an island that has been separated from Earth and now floats above it in the sky. Internment possesses the
Morgan Stockhour is a resident of Interment, an island that has been separated from Earth and now floats above it in the sky. Internment possesses the ideal conditions of a Utopian society until the shocking murder of a young girl leaves everyone feeling unsafe.
‘You have all heard the warnings about the edge. We have been told its winds are a song that will hypnotize us, and by the time we awaken from the trance, it will be too late.’
The warnings to not peer over the edge, to look down on Earth’s people, have been drilled into all residents since before anyone can remember. Those that chance this danger are known as Jumpers and Morgan’s brother Lex is counted among the few to have survived, except he is now blind. Here lies my first issue. We end up meeting another of these ‘Jumpers’, a young girl, yet she ends up with a mind that isn’t “quite right” (something sounding a lot like epilepsy). No reasoning behind the differences in their injuries is given. But you’d think an island floating in the sky would have severe winds especially near the edge and you wouldn’t be able to be anywhere close to it.
The world-building is spent mostly on the culture of these people, rather than explaining the actual reasoning behind why an island just randomly detached from Earth and floated to a still livable position in the sky and not straight out into space. But basically the way the society works is there’s the evil group of leaders, a King and Queen, that seek to control all aspects of the residents lives including arranged marriages from birth. And then it goes off on a typical tangent with the evil plot being discovered and the subsequent plan to escape/overthrow those evil doers. It was hard to get a feel for the time period this is set in. The society seemed technologically advanced yet had the feel of a medieval type era with its arranged marriages and King/Queen rulers. But you would think it’d have to be set in a distant past since one would expect the people on Earth to fly up and make contact with the ‘island people’, no?
The slow, meandering pace of the introduction was an interesting first look into this strange society and could have worked were it not for the continued slow, meandering pace even after the murder mystery aspect was introduced. Even during moments when you would expect a certain level of excitement or tension were made inexplicably dull. Unfortunately, what could have been an interesting dystopian tale turned very predictable and far from original....more
Returning to the story of Morgan Stockhour, resident of Internment, who has now crash landed on Earth with no feasible way of returning home. With herReturning to the story of Morgan Stockhour, resident of Internment, who has now crash landed on Earth with no feasible way of returning home. With her is her betrothed, Basil, her best friend, Pen, her brother, his wife and Celeste, the princess of Internment who was a stowaway. Shortly upon their arrival, the group learns that Earth isn’t necessarily the safe haven they had hoped for and is actual in the middle of a war that unknowingly involves Internment.
In this middle installment, we’re given a brand new environment to understand but rationalizing won’t come easy. Here on Earth, Kings rule even though it seems like the setting is sometime in the 1920s. There’s speakeasies and silent movies but then out of nowhere, a mermaid is spotted. The worldbuilding is focused on much more in this installment but with all the descriptions given it’s still not fully explained.
The characters themselves and their various backgrounds are delved into more in this installment. Morgan still acts as narrator, but considering there isn’t much of a plot going on for the most part, her narration managed to drag this story down even more. Regarding the lack of plot, the characters spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for something to happen. Inevitably, drama gets stirred up, a love triangle develops and friendships are tested. This could have all been an interesting addition to this dystopian tale, however, that would require you to have been invested in these characters from the very beginning of this trilogy and I unfortunately was not.
Burning Kingdoms is the second installment in The Internment Chronicles and it definitely suffers from a slower pace and lack of plot. For me, it’s been frustrating with how unsatisfying I’ve found it considering the potential behind the interesting concept. The final story may provide some satisfaction but I think I’ll be calling it quits.
I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘It grows in the dark part of your head like a fungus. All the while eating holes in your brain until it’s a sponge full ofMy rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
‘It grows in the dark part of your head like a fungus. All the while eating holes in your brain until it’s a sponge full of virus […] That was what had happened to my mom. For twenty years, ever since the crisis, she’d been dying inside. A little more every day.
And maybe it had been happening to me, too.’
Finn has lived within the sheltered gates since he was born. The world outside is a complete mystery, yet the stories he’s heard has made him thankful for his safe and sheltered life. The safety is shattered when his mother spontaneously turns and he’s forced out into the mysterious world with a new tattoo; a plus sign on the top of his sign marking him as possibly infected. His only hope is to get to the military camp in Ohio where he can live out his final two years of incubation before he can be accepted back into safety. But two years is a very long time for someone who doesn’t know how the world truly is.
The way an author handles the scientific aspects of a post-apocalyptic novel is key. Some authors handle it head on and explain in minute detail and others leave their characters in the dark and simply focus on the survival side of living in the new world. Both work, but if you’re going to attempt to explain the scientific side of things, it best make sense. In this world, it’s been twenty years since the initial outbreak and no one has seen a zombie in fifteen years. Once infected with the zombie virus, the incubation period is apparently anything from twenty seconds to twenty years. So, you get bit, you might be good only for the next hour or you could be fine for the next twenty years, but nobody knows for sure. Since the outbreak happened twenty years ago, I’m not sure exactly how they’ve been able to successfully test that theory. It also isn’t explained how the outbreak happened to begin with, so the science of Positive was definitely lacking for me. One specific line about killing a zombie by stabbing him in the liver also had me baffled. Come on! Zombies don’t give a shit about their livers.
Also lacking, was the character development. Our narrator, Finn, is an extremely naive individual when we’re first introduced. Positive acts as his coming-of-age story in a world falling apart at the seams. He’s forced to figure out quickly how to survive and how to adapt his mind to the concept of how things truly work outside of the gates of New York City. In that regards, this story reminded me a lot of Ashfall with our young, male narrator forced to adapt to the new world around him. Obviously, all that was missing were the zombies. Similarly was the fact that both stories focused on the part where humans turn into a whole other type of monster as well. The issue with Finn was how quickly he managed to shed himself of his naivety. It could be said that the things he was forced to experience could speed along that process but it just didn’t feel like genuine progression.
The portrayal of female characters was pretty appalling as well. Positive has two main female characters for the most part; one played the role of enemy and the other was meek and submissive (there was one strong female that made a brief appearance but it wasn’t enough to satisfy me in regards to the way the rest of the females were portrayed). The submissive one, well, I suppose it could be argued that she was strong in her own way and got Finn and the rest of their party out of a few sticky situations. It could also be argued that being a victim of abuse led her to this mind frame and that it couldn’t be helped but... (view spoiler)[even when she turned on her ‘master’ and I was praising her strength for finally standing up to the abuse, she instead turns around to the next male in the room and basically accepts him as her new master without any hesitation. I mean, serious? Come on. I understand the survival instinct to ally yourself with a strong individual but Finn couldn’t save his own ass let alone everyone else. (hide spoiler)]Was it really so much to ask that we couldn’t get one strong female main character in this giant 450 page story?
Unfortunately, even setting aside the issues I personally had with Positive, what really lessened my enjoyment of this story was the fact that I have read so many stories in this same genre that were simply so much better. Positive didn’t manage to bring anything new to the genre and didn’t have much in the way of originality, but newcomers to post-apocalyptic stories will likely find more enjoyment than I did.
I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘The North Atlantic Drift is cooling and Dylan MacRae has just arrived in Clachan Fells caravan park and there are three suns in the sky. That’s how i‘The North Atlantic Drift is cooling and Dylan MacRae has just arrived in Clachan Fells caravan park and there are three suns in the sky. That’s how it all begins.’
The North Atlantic Drift is a wind driven current of warm water that is responsible for the warmer climates in Europe. The ongoing thaw of the polar ice caps result in massive amounts of fresh water being released in the oceans, vastly changing its salinity. Changes in salinity have the potential to unsettle ocean currents and thus our weather. A decrease in salinity would cause the North Atlantic Drift to slacken, subsequently changing Europe’s climate slowly over time. We’re experiencing this subtle climate change now and have been for many years, but in The Sunlight Pilgrims, Fagan brings us to the year 2020 where the worst case scenario has finally become a reality. It’s November, before true winter has even arrived and the weather outside is -6°F. By the end of January temperatures will have dropped to -38° and a small village in Scotland is struggling to endure.
‘Dark is following them. It’s coming to cloak everything. Each day it will eat a little more light until they will wake up one morning to find the sun won’t rise again.’
The alarming Ice Age chronicled in these pages never quite becomes the focal point for this story. It’s the aura surrounding the true story. The dire circumstances help to establish the characters and showcases their most base natures, but at center stage is twelve year old Stella Fairbairn, who thirteen months ago used to be referred to as ‘he’.
‘Cael Fairbairn has ceased to exist. Thirteen months ago the girl that wore his body got up and told everyone to quit calling her by the wrong pronoun.’
Stella has finally found some form of peace after no longer having to show the world one person when the person she feels she is on the inside is completely different. She’s headstrong and determined to find her new place in the world amidst all the appalling bullying she’s forced to deal with from her classmates who she used to call friends. She resorts to finding people with similar stories on the internet to make her feel less alone and to find people that will accept her for how she is. Meanwhile, her and everyone else fights to stay alive in the rapidly changing climate. And at heart, that’s what this story is all about: surviving. Whether it’s surviving growing up in a society that refuses to accept you for who you are or whether it’s surviving in a harsh and unforgiving climate, it’s all the same.
Stella isn’t the only enticing character in the book; its chock-full of them. Constance, Stella’s free-spirited, survivalist mother, Dylan, the giant of a man who arrives in the village carrying the ashes of his mother and grandmother, and their neighbors which include a porn star, lesbian school teachers, some Satan worshipers, and a guy determined to prove the existence of aliens. While their descriptions alone would seem to guarantee a most quirky read, The Sunlight Pilgrims was a surprisingly subdued and almost peaceful read about the possible end of the world as we know it. Fagan has once again placed the spotlight on individuals that would typically be relegated to darkened corners. The Panopticon gave juvenile offenders the spotlight and now The Sunlight Pilgrims displays the marginalization of individuals undergoing a gender transition. Between the doctors that suggested anti-depressants to her instead of the hormone blockers she requested and the majority of the community that looks on her with nothing but disdain. All while this is happening, the Ice Age is still coming on slowly but surely. It all seems so insignificant that these individuals are still able to maintain their scorn and self-righteousness while there are more important things going on outside; like the world ending.
Fagan’s writing is almost restrained yet still remains vibrant and descriptively lush. She aptly describes icicles growing to the size of narwhal tusks, “…the long bony finger of winter herself.” While the world around them is being encased in ice, there is still a remarkable beauty to be found.
‘Sun spirals down through treetops showing up sediments of silver and amber dust. A frozen pond. Curls of ice make a frost flower on a fallen bough. Each iced petal is perfectly curled and see-through. Winter has been hand-carving them overnight. Placing them here.’
‘A flock of birds fly low overhead. Mossy greens and purples and red-golds have faded to brown. Sleet billows off the mountain. Treetops disappear in one blink as the white owerblaw races over the mountaintop and drifts down thicker and faster, painting everything white until within seconds the whole landscape is utterly changed.’
While the mere concept of negative double digit temperatures is horrifying, Fagan manages to make it a poetic experience. There’s even a pinch of magical realism added to this most realistic world, when Dylan first sets eyes on Constance, “…she reaches up a pale arm up into the sky and polishes the moon.” It was a frivolous addition to the story, however, it added a touch of magic to the existing beauty and I loved it.
When I sat down to write this review tonight, I was distressed because I didn’t have any idea what to say about this story or if I’d even be able to successfully explain what made it so special. I spent over an hour researching salinity and the North Atlantic Drift so that I could understand just how something like what happened in this story could actually happen. My research took me right back to how this story made me feel: aghast yet somehow sanguine. Survival is always a possibility, no matter the circumstances.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more