One of the really enjoyable aspects of this book is that it uses such an unusual narrative form. This allows it to show us a much greater range of points of view, and to explore the reactions to the plague seen in many different cultures. It makes a great deal of sense to me that the highly cooperative Japanese and Chinese would react very differently than the highly individualistic Americans, for example. I can understand why some regimes would be more likely to repress information and try to hide the truth from their citizens and other nations. I also liked the way that Mr Brooks showed us a number of ‘solutions’ to the same problem, each growing from the individual societies and their situations and each uniquely suitable to the resources at hand. He also takes us through the typical responses that we would expect, such as massing the US army at Yonkers, and shows us how they fare against this new type of enemy.
Some of the interviews have funny sections, others horrific, whilst the some will just make you see red with anger because of the attitudes on display....more
This was an enjoyable read, which moved along nicely and kept me interested. The sexual tension between Aisling and Drake was handled fairly well, and the characters were interesting and well drawn. However, there didn’t seem to be much development in Aisling’s character. Also, she seemed rather passive in her reaction to every revelation, accepting more in 24 hours than seems realistic. If she had been numb and shocked, and later ‘awoke’ to have a major screaming fit / nervous breakdown I would have felt less uneasy. This unease also extends to the first few sex scenes, which she dismisses as dreams, even though there is evidence to the contrary. However, my major stumbling block was the taxi driver, Rene, whom I found totally unbelievable. He collects her at the airport and is exceptional helpful and very, very cheap, dropping his normal business to drive her about for practically nothing. Excuse me for being cynical, but I simply cannot mesh this with my experience of taxis in major European cities. This made me believe that he had some other connection to the story, and so I kept waiting for the big reveal that he was someone important. I will try the other books in this series or some MacAlister’s other titles, but they are not at the top of my reading list at the moment....more
It makes a very nice change to read an urban fantasy that does not simply rely upon the same old Vamp-Were clichés. One of the best aspects about the world that Ms Cole creates is her use of the Valkyries. They are wonderfully funny characters, suitably ‘other’, but with an obsession with shiny gifts and a remorseless protectiveness of young Emmaline, who is only seventy years old. It is also good to see some conflict even within the Vampire race itself due to differences in ideology. Although we do not see much of the constant war between the various sworn enemies, there is a lot of potential for the future novels in the series. Plus, we have the arrival of the Ascension, a cyclic event that brings the races together in mass warfare as they struggle for survival every five hundred years or so.
The main characters are sympathetic and interesting enough to keep us engaged with them and their journey, although Lachlain’s behavior may be a little difficult for some people. Due to the years of searching for his Mate and then the endless cycle of near death and regeneration he is more than a little tactless in his pursuit of Emmaline. He is so blinded by his own needs that he verges perilously close to rape and sexual assault as his animal urges overwhelm his more reasoning side. This is only compounded by the fact that Emmaline is a very inexperienced virgin, who has been sheltered by aunts that would tear the limbs off any man who looked at her sideways. This makes the ‘seduction’ aspects at the beginning of the book somewhat non-consensual and, therefore, difficult to read. Although, intellectually, I know that Lachlain is not a raping monster, it is still difficult to read Emmaline’s reactions to his actions, and I am always going to struggle with the concept that a woman can be won over by forced sexual attention. Having said that, it did not bother me enough that I failed to finish the book, nor will it stop me from reading more in the series....more
Perhaps the most striking thing about this book is the world building. At first, London Below seems to be simply an underground society of the dispossessed and forgotten. But, as we travel further in and further down, we come across increasingly magical and fantastical elements until we almost feel as if we are in Alice’s Wonderland or Dorothy’s Oz. Many of the inhabitants of this world appear to be normal humans, but they may have amazing talents or be the relics of a previous time period. One very disturbing feature of London Below is that entering into it causes your life in London Above to unravel. Once Richard has been drawn into the world he finds that the people above have forgotten his existence and cannot really ‘see’ him anymore. This makes it a cruel and hopeless world in many ways, so that it seems more nightmare than dream.
Many of the major characters are very gray in terms of their motivation. Although we are sure that Richard and Door are the ‘good guys’, many of the other characters are much more doubtful. For example, the Marquis is a very difficult character to trust. Door trusts him totally, but throughout the first part of the book we are constantly given reason to doubt his loyalty and to suspect him of playing a double agent. We see something similar with Messers Croup and Vandemar. Yes, they are exceedingly dangerous murderers and Mr Vandemar eats raw animals, is immune to pain and has spit like superglue, but they are simply mercenaries. They do what they are paid to do, although they do enjoy it rather too much. This uncertainty about some of the characters was very refreshing and made them feel so much more real than if they had been written as the usual two-dimensional offerings....more
Amazon suggested this book to me not long after I bought some of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse titles, and there are some similarities. Both series deal with a human world coming to terms with the other species living amongst them and both have a strong, feisty heroine. However, Ms Harrison’s Vampires are even further removed from the traditional garlic-fearing undead: Ivy is a living Vampire, born that way and destined to rise again after her death. Humans can be bitten and infected with the virus, but they must depend upon an undead vampire to raise them to undeath. One other significant difference is the exploration of the magic that Rachel wields. This is an interestingly practical form of magic that involves a lot of preparation to cook up potions that can be impregnated into wooden charms and which must be activated by a drop of blood. It makes a very nice change for magic to be slightly more than just shouting and pointing. But perhaps the greatest addition to the supernatural universe is that of the Pixies. Jenks and his family are amazingly well drawn and amongst my favorite characters of all time. Jenks may be only four inches tall, but his personality is massive and his hyperactivity fills any scene that he is in. He is funny, witty, sarcastic, brave, protective . . . and looks like a blond sex-god: no wonder he has so many children!
Rachel is a strong character and given some depth, which is fortunate as the book is written in the first person from her perspective. She is fully realized and stands out against the backdrop of world building that is always necessary in the first book in a series. Not that the exposition is overt and distracting: Ms Harrison deals with the differences between our world and hers in such a subtle way that I was never jarred out of the story. This is a wonderfully detailed world, which has an interesting, and believable, history. This makes it so much easier to make the leap of faith needed to accept the presence of the supernatural in ‘normal’ human society. However, the first two-thirds of the book are a little slow, though the action kicks off after that and the last third moves at a more satisfying pace.
One thing I especially like about Rachel is that she is not perfect: she worries about her looks, sometimes makes dumb decisions and is often clumsy, but is always her own person and is willing to stand by her poor choices without too much whining. Also, she values her relationships and the friends that support her, although this can make life uncomfortable for her. The biggest example of this is Ivy, who is obviously very attracted to Rachel and who has a great deal of difficulty controlling her desire to take their relationship further. For Harrison’s Vampires, sexual relationships are closely tied to feeding because they produce a neurotoxin in their saliva that turns the pain of their bite into erotic pleasure. Ivy is a real threat to Rachel’s safety, but there is such a deep trust between them that they both struggle to make their relationship work. It is also encouraging to see a LGBT character treated as perfectly normal.
The bad guy, Trent, is nicely ambiguous: is he really evil, or not? There is a twist right at the end of the book that shakes Rachel’s belief that he is rotten to the core, so who knows? He is certainly capable of great cruelty, and has little regard for the lives of the humans and Witches that he manipulates ruthlessly. Even some the supporting characters are ambiguous: only Rachel and Jenks’ family to seem to be totally good. Ivy is more than capable of killing or enslaving Rachel, whilst Nick, the nominal love interest, seems to have a dodgy past, because he is known to the FIB, and knows how to handle demons. The book does tie up the plot quite neatly at the end, but we are left with many questions about secrets and motivations that I hope will be explored later in the series. ...more
Experienced readers of the Discworld series were first introduced to Mr Pratchett’s concept of Witches back in 1988 Wyrd Sisters and Tiffany and Miss Tick snuggle easily into that version of the practice. There are pointy hats, but that is only because people expect them; there are hairy warts, mainly because most women of a certain age get them; and there are flying broomsticks for some reason that is never explained but there is definitely no cackling. Cackling is something that all Witches strive to avoid and is a certain indication of impending madness. No, Mr Pratchett’s Witches are women who have a keen intelligence and an ability to apply hard work, excellent observation and a mass of headology (a brand of psychology only studied by Witches) to the everyday troubles of the people that they care for. Some have specialties, such as Granny Aching who keeps her Witching almost exclusively to sheep.
Young Tiffany is a great heroine to throw at a person who loves to read books, because she is so serious and bookish herself. She is not like the other children who dash about in a carefree manner: she is an outsider and observer, someone who immediately appeals to the geeky nerd inside all of us who are likely to pick up a book for entertainment. She does all the things that we wish we could have done when we were nine: she is calm in the face of danger and brave enough to trust her instincts; she is doggedly loyal to her little brother even though he is totally obnoxious and she is very, very clever. In short, she has you cheering for her within the first page of text.
However, there is no doubt that the stars of this book, and indeed the series, are the Wee Free Men of the title. Whilst Tiffany is all common sense and thoughtfulness, they are the exact opposite. They are chaotic and unrelentingly aggressive towards anything and everything unless it is a lawyer, which they find terrifying, or someone they deem a friend. Once you have become a friend of the Feegles they will watch over you until you die, whether you want them to or not. Granny Aching befriended the Feegle Clan that lives on the Chalk, and they extend their protection to Tiffany as part of that friendship. They are impressed by her fighting skills because of the frying pan incident and are awed by her ability to read and think without having to hit herself on the head. She is constantly irritated by them and their behavior, but they prove to be wonderful allies and she eventually develops a deep affection for them....more