I love all things Alice, but that’s doesn’t mean that all Alice adaptations hit the mark for me. And unfortunately – despite the amazingly atmospheric book cover that had me drooling in excitement – this take on Wonderland missed all the marks. Definitely do not judge this book by its cover, the outside far exceeds the inside. But oh how I wish it didn’t.
Splintered suffers from many problems, the first of which is the ridiculous portrayal of its heroine, Alyssa Gardner. Alyssa is desperately struggling to separate herself from her insane mother Alison who claims to be under the Wonderland curse which causes the sufferer to only eat things from a tea cup and to wear blue dresses, white aprons and headbands. You would think a family who believes in and fears said curse wouldn’t name all their female children after the Lewis Carroll heroine. Just saying.
Alyssa strikes away from these conventions (despite herself being under said “curse” and hearing the whispering of bugs and plants) by skate boarding in a rink called Underland, putting false brightly colored dreadlocks in her hair and wearing obsessive amounts of “goth” makeup which includes silver lipstick. Oh my God you guys, Alyssa is so alternative. Her best friend/love interest Jeb lovingly calls her skater girl, making this entire novel Avril Lavigne’s wet dream.
One would think that being the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice Liddell would be a point of pride, but for some reason Alyssa is taunted by her schoolmate’s for it. One such jab: she’s referred to as the “Mad Hatter’s love slave”. Of course, the fact that Alyssa kills bugs and then makes them into art doesn’t help her stigmas as that weird, Wonderland girl. It also makes her a tortured Mary Sue of the worst kind.
And if you thought Alyssa sounded like a painful protagonist, wait until you meet her love interest: Jeb. Despite being a “punk” kid with a labret piercing and long flowing hair that he keeps held back in a ponytail, and ignoring the fact that he fondles his bestest bud Alyssa in a sexual way on a regular basis, he is dating the most popular girl in school, Taelor. Yup, Taelor, who is cursed with an awful name and a bitchy personality that Howard tries to explain away by giving her a tragic “daddy doesn’t love me” back story. The. Worst.
To make things even more painful, Howard tries to enmesh us in Alyssa’s world with stunning dialogue like, “Those dreadlocks are wicked tight,” “pinky swears are forever,” and the so bad it’ll make you throw the book down: “Oh, fark.” Yup, “Oh, fark” which is how the teens curse these days. Or so the author leads us to assume.
The entirety of the plot hinges on the fact that Alyssa needs to go back to Wonderland and break the family curse to free her asylum ridden mother from getting electroshock therapy the following week, which Alyssa helpfully adds used to be done with eels. Did I mention Alyssa has pet eels named Aphrodite and Adonis and a boss named Persephone, BECAUSE SHE DOES. She’s so punk.
Thankfully, Alyssa is able to quickly solve her problem and finds a website about “netherlings” that leads her to clues in Lewis Carroll’s books that allow her to get to Wonderland Da Vinci Code style. Thanks Google, you’re the best for helping protagonists find out about their deep dark past and figure out how to deal with humans being impregnated by vampires. This is coincidentally Google’s new tagline.
When Alyssa and love-interest Jeb get to Wonderland, you think the plot would get better, but it doesn’t. Instead, Alyssa begins to unlock memories of her childhood and she is helped along in all her tasks by the disembodied voice of her childhood best friend Morpheus. Morpheus. Who happens to look just like Brendan Lee from The Crow. And no, that’s not something I construed through context clues, we are literally told that he looks just like the actor in The Crow. Except Morpheus’ face paint is his skin. His skin.
Wonderland is not the place we understand it to be, having been told to Lewis Carroll through the lens of a child who got everything slightly wrong. For example, the White Rabbit is a dwarfish skeletal creature actually named Rabid White. The Queen of Hearts is Queen Red, the March Hare is March Hairless and the Mad Hatter is really Herman Hattington. Pretty much, Howard took things from the awesome video-game American McGee’s Alice, added them to the painful Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (which she loved), filled the book with her OCs and called it a day. To much failure. She even ends the story with a plot that revolves around killing a nasty beastie with the vorpal sword.
Inside this much-altered Wonderland, Howard contrives many impossible tasks and pratfalls to bring Jeb and Alyssa closer together to help them express their undying love. This includes Alyssa accidentally falling into Jeb’s lap, injuring herself so he has to carry her Bodyguard style, doing seductive dances after falling into a pie that makes her crazy, and tripping onto his penis. Well, that last one might not have actually happened, but it might as well have.
Add in a convoluted plot that is incredibly complicated for no reason, time travel, magical matching birthmarks and ruining the only good character Morpheus by making him suddenly a neutral chaotic for no reason and you have one of my most painful reads of the year. It’s so bad it’s bad. And not even in that fun, guilty pleasure way that so many supernatural young adult books I often come across are....more
The Age of Miracles follows 11-year-old Julia through the end of days as the world goes through a process referred to as the slowing. Basically, the rotation of the world has begun to slow and the days begin to get out of whack. On October 6th, the days have an additional 56 minutes. In response, the tides stop functioning and earth’s magnetic field wreaks all kinds of havoc. As daylight and nighttime change, it gets harder to grow food and electricity has to work overtime to feed humanity. It’s the end of Tumblr forever. FOREVER.
Gravity also gets effected, as it becomes harder to kick a ball or throw objects, birds begin walking on the ground and pilots have to be retrained to fly. Even worse, there are astronauts are trapped in space, afraid to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. People begin getting diagnosed with gravity sickness, which includes nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Also they become bat shit insane. Probably because the world is ending and they’re eating bat poop.
Two factions quickly break out in the world: real-time versus clock time. Clock time is mandated by the government and still follows the typical 24 hour day that we’ve known all our lives. Real timers go against this convention and instead follow the new days, rising with the sun and sleeping through the night. This is particular difficult as days stretch out to 40 hours and the earth continues to slow. Of course, people in Hollywood latch onto this fad and begin practicing real time because they become convinced you age slower on real time. ::facepalm::
Regardless of the environmental changes, Julia finds the most changes to be taking place within her own family. Her obsessive mother and workaholic father start to fracture and her grandfather is convinced a conspiracy theory to distract from the Middle East is at play. Meanwhile, Julia is desperately trying to get the attention of her high school crush Seth Moreno. No: this is not a young adult novel.
The world may be ending, but life continues as always. Schools still have hierarchies, people fall in love, families are weird, there’s just a little bit more apocalypse. It’s more about life than death, and just how hard people fight to continue their lives. Most importantly, to leave behind the message: “We were here.”...more
Whelp, the Matched trilogy is finally over and I’m kind of apathetic about the whole thing. I loved the first book in the series: Matched, and was pretty much disappointed by its sequel Crossed but still had high hopes for the finale. I don’t think all those hopes were satisfied. I didn’t hate the way it ended, but I certainly wasn’t gripped by it either. In the immortal words of Stephanie Perkins: sad face.
Where Matched focuses on the Society, which regulates the lives of its citizens down to their jobs and spouses and Crossed is about the outsiders who oppose the society, Reached centers on the rebellion itself. A rebellion which begins and ends in the first 80 pages. So don’t expect much excitement there. Rather than focus on how main characters Ky, Cassia and Xander got placed where they did and how, things merely jump extremely far forward between the books and we are given flashbacks to explain some of the gaps and jump in time. Yay. Flashbacks. Awesome.
Condie also gives us a brand new POV: Xander. Since the last novel which features very little of the X man, he has become a Medical Official, collecting final samples from the old (who are killed when it is their time) and giving babies their tablets (which will make them immune to disease) on their Welcoming Day ceremonies. Unbeknownst to the babies or their parents, the Rising has replaced the Society approved tablets, which will make them immune to the red tablets they are given when they come of age.
As we learned in the other books, the red tablet erases your memory, and are used by the Society to control its citizens. Ky and Xander are both immune, having been selected by the Rising for immunity when they were born. How? Why? Who knows. I was under the impression that the blue pill allowed you to stay in the Matrix and the red pill sent you down the rabbit hole. But what do I know?
Meanwhile, Cassia is a mole planted by the Rising who sorts data for the Society and Ky is literally a pilot. As in piloting planes. This is especially confusing because the head of the Rising is named the Pilot and could be anyone but ends up morphing into a preachy, metaphorical God stand-in who helps resurrect people from an illness called the Plague. Jesus is in us all guys.
In order to start the rebellion, the Rising releases a live Plague virus into the population. This Plague causes people to go still (basically living in a state of suspended animation) until the Rising can swoop down from the sky, cure them and take over from the Society. Thus winning over the hearts of its civilians. Unfortunately for them, this plan backfires when the virus mutates itself and they must desperately find a new cure. Whoops, good plan.
Even more religious mumbo jumbo is brought in when people start going still, and their bodies travel to a strange heavenly place that’s all white and people are able to communicate with the dead while they’re unconscious. Thankfully they do not play harps and sit on clouds, it’s much more symbolically painful than that.
It is this plot that the novel focuses on rather than the rebellion itself, which is what I believe makes the novel so draggy. And not in the good Pandora Boxx kind of way. Again, more of a focus on the Rising itself, how the insurgents came to be where they are and less a race to find a cure for a mutation/let’s see how people adjust to a brand new way of life.
The main point of this finale seems to be to tie up all the loose ends Condie created in Matched and Crossed. This is all well and good except that these seem so contrived that I hated each and every single one of them. Like the previous book, the majority of the revelations feel forced and disjointed and kept giving me the feeling that Condie didn’t have a plan from beginning to end but merely wrote and added to the narrative as she went along. Or maybe I just expect so much because J.K. Rowling was dropping hints for Deathly Hallows since The Sorcerer’s Stone.
In addition to these problems, Condie makes the initial love triangle even more complicated by turning it into a love clusterfuck. The first two novels had a much more formulaic girl one must choose between boy one and boy two, but in Reached, it becomes girl one must choose between boy one who is now starting to get interested in girl two in order to make girl one’s decision easier. Meanwhile, boy two is being stalked by girl three and if things were different you know they would make a great couple. Phew. Did you get all that?
Don’t worry you guys, despite how it sounds, you’ll never guess who Cassia picks to spend the rest of her life with. Just kidding, you’ve known since book one.
Perhaps the strangest point in the novel comes when Ky, Xander and Cassia travel outside of what was once the Society to find a cure for the new Plague mutation which the Rising brought about by using the Society’s own weapon against itself. That’s what you get for sinking to their level. Random aside: there is a whole lot of, “What’s best for humanity as a species?”/choosing between the lesser of two evils, but it would take a whole different post entirely to unpack all that, although it is a pretty intriguing concept. Just read the book if you want to hear more about that. But really don’t, just read Matched so you’re ready for the movie.
Anyway, the Pilot brings the trio to their home base to try and discover a cure. Ky is chosen because he’s the best literal pilot and they need someone to fly them there, Cassia is brought along to help sort for possible ingredients in the antidote, and Xander goes to help check on the patients and work on mixing up a cure. The three most important people chosen by the Pilot and they’re all teenagers who are the best out of anyone in their respective field? I find this highly suspect.
I know it’s a common trope (more accurately called Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World) to have teenagers be the salvation of the planet but they usually have Watchers or friendly Headmasters to help them along. These three kids are basically on their own (especially when everyone they need help from keep mysteriously dying). Off page of course, no one dies on page in this series. Literally no one. It’s your grandma’s version of The Hunger Games.
Thankfully, there is a gorgeous last line and everything is happiness and butterflies and rainbows. This is tedious, but Condie throws us a bone and gives us some gorgeous prose to make it all better. “There is ebb and flow. Leaving and coming. Flight and fall. Sing and silent. Reaching and reached.”...more
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil held a wishbone between them. And its snap split the world in two.”
Initial thoughts: OH MY GOD! Or rather, OH MY LAINI TAYLOR! This is how you write a sequel.
Taylor’s writing is still as crisp as in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, her characters just as inventive and the situations they find themselves in just as gripping. You cannot even begin to understand the pleasure I had reading this series- especially after muddling through another young adult sequel right before this that was extremely disappointing. The whole thing reads like a new-age fairytale and I loved every second of it. LOVED!
I apologize in advance that the only coherent thoughts I can seem to make are in caps lock or include exclamation points.
The great thing about this sequel is the entire world is in on the action. Karou is filmed on the bridge (see: Smoke & Bone) fighting angels and now the whole world knows that magic is real- or thinks there are some pretty impressive illusionists out there. The supernatural exists and “the Girl on the Bridge” is a worldwide celebrity. She also later becomes known as “The Tooth Phantom” and “the face of the Apocalypse” for various other reasons. If only we could all be Karou, the girl with the peacock blue hair. Just because. Because I want to be able to fly so bad! Also: immortality.
Zuzana continues to be the best secondary character, she’s a blend of fun and adorableness. Fundorable if you will. In the opening of the novel, she and Karou exchange emails (complete with Monty Python references that actually work – I’m looking at you GRRM) from @email@example.com. How does this domain name not already exist? Snatch that up Laini! Anyway, these two have the cutest friendship ever, especially when Zuzana tells Karou about a day she had with boyfriend Mik saying, “It was the best day of my life. Until the one when you come back.” FUNDORABLE!
Of course Akiva is given his page time, and he has his own adventures (which I grew to appreciate eventually), but it is Karou’s story which held most of my attention. Possibly because the political intrigue is turned down. Still there, but not as intricate as the world of the angels. Without giving too much away, I will say that Karou is forced to deal with the fact that the ex-love of her life killed her whole family and as a result is helping to restore the chimaera race.
If you loved the portion of the last book that dealt with Karou’s back story in Eretz, then you will love each time you get to a Karou section of Blood & Starlight. Taylor takes the excitement of that part of Smoke & Bone and adds in even more world building. Although with more pain and bloodshed and less splendid parties that involve dusting yourself in sugar....more
This is one of those books you need to read all the way through, starting with the hilarious multi-page disclaimer full of every warning already known to mankind. Konrath apologizes for “Resemblances to actual persons living, dead, or undead…” makes note to readers that, “This book should not be considered a legitimate historical document,” and that it “Mentions chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer.” Also it may cause “nausea” or “vomiting”, is not a toy and should not be used as fuel and most importantly it, “Does not protect against HIV … Or other sexual transmitted diseases.” Just in case you thought it did.
The chapter/story titles give you a hint of the insanity and depravity to come, with half of them sounding like “Big Bang Theory” episode titles and all of them making you wonder just what could possibly happen in a story with a title like: “Tesla Motors Doesn’t Have a Blowjob Referral Program”. Other noteworthy story titles include: “The Gamecube Junkie Abortionist’s Revenge”, “The George Washington Buttplug” (no relation to The Baby Jesus Butt Plug), “Art Garfunkel is my Copilot”, “Fifty Shades of Napalm” and “With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemas?” Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical.
Despite being a short story collection, they all feature the same narrator (at least I’m 90% sure they do) a struggling writer with sleep deprivation problems and his insane group of friends. Specifically: Fat Mike, Alex, Rocky, Odin (who has a grudge against Thor) and Marshall. Although the stories aren’t linear, they are still set in the same world whether it be the past in a community called Bighikistan, the present in New York City or the not so distant future. Or maybe not future, I’m honestly not entirely sure, this collection is a mind-fuck of epic proportions.
In this collection, we are also given a set of works laden with pop-culture and set in a world strangely similar to yet certainly not our own. For example, Bighikistan, is a fictional place full of red-necks who believe in high school demolition derby teams, a reliance on energy drinks and herbal supplements, and “mandatory religious literature condemning science”. We are never told if these stories are taking place in an alternate version of America or if our untrustworthy narrator just sees the world differently thanks to his inability to sleep properly and every story found within is just a dream or paranoid delusion he witnesses while awake. Or a little bit of both. Although this is bizarro, so an explanation might not really be required.
Our nameless narrator (possibly a hyper-exaggerated Jon Konrath, maybe not) lives in an America struggling to rebuild after the fast food wars and the tooth whitener market crashes. On the plus side there are time machines (some of which are in USB adapters) just don’t buy the cheap ones that only allow you to travel forward and backward 10 years in alternate universes only. I’d still buy it, who wouldn’t want to visit their alternate self and see how much better their life could be? Wait…
And of course there’s the satire on our consumerism and fame obsessed America. A world in which Bill Gate’s lifelong dream was to, “Write really shitty software that always crashed” (which he unfortunately achieved), people purchase exercise bikes that beat you in the head with sticks, the franchise Uncle Kenny’s Sex Dungeon can be found inside every Barnes and Noble in the country and even time machines make you watch five minutes of advertisements every two minutes. Then of course there’s the carcinoma fad in which celebrities make cancer cool so everyone is standing out in the sun and watching microwaves so they can have leukemia just like their idol Brad Pitt. Ugh, this is so close to reality it makes me want to stab myself in the leg. With a Kardashian endorsed knife of course.
Children don’t have things much better, in a world where Goofus and Gallant have been replaced with Highlights Extreme (which features BASE jumping and serial-killers) and Pixar is making animated snuff films, although they still have “moralist plots” for the parents. They’re also forced to watch cinema masterpieces such as the 3-D Lion King sequel Godzilla Versus the Lion King with voice over work by Samuel L. Jackson. Okay I take it back, most of these things are awesome and I kind of wish they were real.
That’s not to say just the world is weird, the people who populate it aren’t the most normal citizens in the multi-verse. Retired ex-wrestler Terry Funk teaches an honors calculus course (very poorly), the narrator’s friend Alex’s dad runs a “profitable prepaid colostomy card business” at a kiosk in the mall and Alex himself quit school to deal drugs and raise a pod of dolphins in the pool of his apartment complex. As the narrator makes note of, “Every place I ever leased would give me shit about the most miniscule things, like mixing paper and metal recyclables… Or leaving a severed foot in the front lobby,” yet in this magical world one can raise dolphins in a chlorinated swimming pool!?!
My absolute favorite story (“Fifty Shades of Napalm”) is the one in which the characters break the fourth wall and discuss the spelling of words so that the reader of the story can understand the difference between ball sac and Balzac. Or the inclusion of a scene integral to the plot but so heinous that it would scare publishers away at the same time: enter Vietnam, masturbation and children engulfed in flames. The chapter ends with a plea to us (the readers) to like the book so much that we tell everyone to buy it so, “It becomes as popular as those vampire romance teenage wizard books, but not so popular that someone buys it and edits it into a god damned Julia Roberts movie.” I’m a sucker for meta....more
When I heard there was a new collection of fairy tales being rewritten by Philip Pullman I practically wet myself in excitement (I seem to do that a lot for the sake of these reviews). This collection combines two of my favorite things: classic fairy tales- particularly of the Grimm variety- and incredibly well-written fantasy, which is where Pullman comes in. If you have yet to do so, I highly recommend checking out the His Dark Materials series. It will amaze and break your heart simultaneously. Please don’t judge a book by its movie.
The collection opens with a lengthy introduction discussing the nature and tradition of oral stories (their prominence in the middle class) and how anyone could have ended up being the well known collector of fairy tales, the Grimms just happened to beat everyone else to the punch. Fun fact: the brothers also worked together on the first German dictionary and it was their interest in the nature of language that led them to collect the oral and written fairy tales in one place. I never thought I’d say this, but thanks linguistics!
There are 210 stories that the Grimm’s found and Pullman, “Set out to tell the best and most interesting of them.” He specifically states that the way in which he wrote the stories was the way he would tell them if he wanted to pass them down orally. No double entendre intended.
Furthermore, in this (did I mention it was lengthy?) opening, Pullman discusses the conventions of fairy tales. Characters have no ulterior motives, they’re explicitly bad or explicitly good, there is no “regret or doubt or desire”. Characters often don’t have their own names and are rather known by their profession: king, giant, shoemaker, kid who repeatedly drop golden balls into wells, etc. What happens to them is more important than who they are, and for that reason fairy tales rarely have any detail. It’s not the setting that matters, it’s the actions. This is why fairy tales are awesome. Minus the moralizing.
Within are some recognizable fairy tales: “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” (obviously the original version where the frog is thrown against a wall and transforms into a man), “Cinderella”, “Rapunzel”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Snow White”, “Rumpelstiltskin” and a whole bunch that are not as known to the majority of the population. For example, “Hans-my-Hedgehog”, “The Girl With No Hands”, “Thousandfurs” (a “Cinderella” variant with incest) and “Farmerkin” (an amazing trickster story) are not as well known in popular culture. Although they should be.
One story in particular, “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers” is particularly intriguing. It stars a dimwitted boy who may or may not grow up to be a serial-killer who is non-plussed about everything and is unable to shiver when scared. As a result, he goes on an adventure to get the shivers. On his journey he hangs out with dead people, turns skulls into bowling bowls, wrestles corpses and is generally ridiculous. Favorite line: “Oh, that’s a pity. The ghosts have killed him. Such a handsome young man, too.”
“Faithful Johannes” is about the love and loyalty between a king and his servant. It also features bewitching portraits that are kept around for no reason, kidnapping, love based on royal power, nonsensical prophecies told by talking birds, boob poison, a double case of filicide and people who turn to stone. This is why I love fairy tales. They don’t have to make sense.
Finally of note (with the exception of “The Twelve Brothers” which is based on Juliet Marillier’s amazing Daughter of the Forrest) is “The Three Little Men”, a story that contains some shades of “Snow White” minus any huntsmen. In the story, a kind girl is sent into the woods by her stepmother to die when she stumbles across a cottage where three little men live. In exchange for being nice to them and helping with the housework, they gift her so that every time she talks a gold piece falls out of her mouth. This of course makes a prince fall madly in love with her (because that’s not distracting). Favorite quote (when the stepsister sees the gold pieces falling from her sister’s mouth): “Look at her showing off… I could do that if I wanted.”
While reading through these fairy tales, a lot of the same conventions kept popping up, particularly plots of revenge, child murder and the rule of three (not to mention evil stepmothers and stepsisters). While the rule of three- events and repetitions occurring three times for oral storytelling purposes- is a common convention in all fairy tales, it can get a little bit grating when encountered over and over again. CURSE YOU RULE OF THREE! ::shakes fist at the heavens::
Thankfully, the inhumane deaths more than make up for this. From characters who are put into barrels filled with snakes and boiling oil, girls left in the woods to be eaten, people who have their eyes pecked out, women forced to dance in hot iron shoes until they die and people being nailed into barrels and drowned in rivers (what’s with all the barrels?) there is no shortage of violent deaths in fairy tales. Damn middle class, you’re sick.
In addition to the stories themselves, Pullman ends each fairy tale with some helpful, occasionally humorous and always interesting commentary. He also has a tendency to launch into what could have made the tale better or possibly to just point out plot holes/other nonsensical additions, but his best moments are when he attacks the interpretations of fairy tales which he refers to as “sub-Jungian twaddle”. As Pullman explains, “What does that show? That the meaning preceded the story, which was composed to illustrate it like an allegory, or that the story fell accidentally into an interpretable shape? Obviously the latter.” Oh Mr. Pullman, I love you....more
This sequel to Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament (S.G. Browne’s first published novel) is every bit as wonderful- if not more wonderful than its predecessor. I could read a whole series of books set in the Breather‘s universe! Set one year after the first book, I Saw Zombies contains some spoilers to the original including the fate of its main characters. But, if you merely want to read a, “… Holly-jolly- zombie Christmas” story about a girl and her zombie who spreads Christmas cheer you don’t necessarily need to read the first book. But you should.
The novel and the novella are both set in a world where resurrections are a semi-regular occurrence, but beyond researching on the undead and locking them up in pounds, not much structure is in place to deal with them. Having been officially labeled dead by the government, all zombies are stripped of their social security numbers and their rights. They are literally the living dead in the eyes of the world. It’s enough to break your still beating heart.
Main character Andy is the former poster boy for the zombie rights movement, but due to the events of Breathers, he is being held in and quickly escapes from a local research facility. The novella itself opens on a body farm where research for Reanimant Forensics are done on the most unlucky zombies in the bunch. Since Andy has a giant hole in his head, the the narrative pieces together the missing bits of his memories, from his research facility escape all the way through his Christmas antics to how he wound up surrounded by decaying peers. Just another day in the life of the undead.
Inside the research lab, zombies are tested on. They have their mouths sewn shut, have horrible tests performed on them and are basically treated like animals. Not that animals should be treated in such a manner either. Ugh. Don’t worry, there will be a PETA satire that I’ll discuss a little later.
The silver lining is that through reading about these inhumane practices, Browne teaches us a little bit about the zombie science in this alternate US of A. In the lab, researchers are looking into the Resurrection Gene which only a small section of the population has present in them. This gene allows them to regenerate after death and might hold the key to curing disease and reverse the effects of aging. Through the pain of zombie test subjects of course. Worst catch-22 ever. You can be immortal, but we have to torture your resurrected relatives to do so! ARGH!
A new addition in this novella is that POVs are given to characters outside of Andy, and they’re female! In all the other S.G. Browne works I’ve read (Fated, Lucky Bastard, and Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel) this is the first time he’s given us a female narrator. That I can remember- there were a lot of wonderful short stories in Shooting Monkeys and I certainly don’t remember the gender of that shampoo bottle.
Anyway, female narrators. Yes, that’s where I was. Browne gives narrative power to one of the researchers, specifically Shannon, a bald headed lady with a heart of gold and a secret weakness for RC-1854- reanimated corpse 1854 (Andy). It’s through her that we get to learn all about the Resurrection Gene and the attitude by the researchers toward the zombies. The are not people, they are not even their genders. They are its. It’s a testament to Browne’s character building that you learn to care for these characters, they’re not rotting and dismembered its they’re people. Albeit smelly people. Zombies are people too!
The second POV is given to a young girl with a not too cheerful childhood (a dead father, an alcoholic absentee mother) who gets a little Christmas cheer from her new zombie Santa friend. The ways in which they help each other deal with their inner pain will warm your heart. D’awwwww. Just the perfect touch of love you want out of your Christmas reads. Plus brain eating, although these two plot lines don’t necessarily go hand in hand, or brain in mouth.
As with S.G. Browne’s other works, this novella is chock full of satire. First is the appearance of PETZ (People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies) on obvious play on PETA, who arrives to release the zombies from their cages but don’t actually help them beyond that. Sounds about right, helpful but not necessarily effective. PETA, you have your hearts in the right place but that doesn’t mean you always accomplish anything helpful. What do you plan to do with those 20 rabbits who have been testing lipstick!?!
My favorite parody however would have to be Andy’s rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain”, retitled to the appropriate “If I Only Had Some Brains”.
I could gnaw away the hours Delightfully devour Digesting John and Janes And my mouth I’d be fillin’ While my hands were busy killin’ If I only had some brains
Finally, to indicate the changing zombie sentiment since Andy’s capture we are given a glimpse into the zombie reality television choices available for the masses. When Andy last watched television Dancing With the Undead dominated the airwaves, but things have changed since then. Once he’s returned to the land of the living however, people are entertaining themselves with World’s Wildest Zombie Chases. Ruh-roh. Looks like there needs to be a third book in this series (SURPRISE TRILOGY!) to track Andy’s efforts in reversing zombie animosity again. ::puppy dog eyes::
Less zom-rom-com (zombie-romantic-comedy) than Breathers and more a satire on the animal testing industry and the importance of connections with family (read: the true meaning of Christmas) I Saw Zombies is the perfect addition to your Christmas/Halloween cross-over collection, right next to The Nightmare Before Christmas! It’s a niche market, but one that has double the potential because it can be enjoyed twice a year. Love it....more
Everything Matters is told from multiple perspectives of the Thibodeaux family: worrisome mother, workaholic father, drug addicted brother, insane uncle, savant Junior, the love of Junior’s life Amy and the omnipresent 2nd person narrator(s). I have yet to find a second person perspective so well written and so relevant to the narrative style since this book. Although Junot Diaz comes a close second, particularly in his newest short story collection This Is How You Lose Her.
Junior is the only person in a good deal of the novel who knows the world is going to end when he turns 36. He discovers this in utero when an omniscient voice tells him all about it. Did I mention this book is also slightly unbelievable in terms of plot? Well it is, there, I told you. The government eventually catches on and super genius Junior is brought in to help save the world. Like you do.
Even though it’s less realistic, Everything Matters has an incredibly uplifting if depressing message: everything matters. You probably got that from the title.
There are poignant points scattered throughout the novel where the omniscient narrators explain how the smallest thing could have the biggest impact. Think the butterfly effect, but on a more social level. This happens to person A which effects person B who does this to person C, etc. These were perhaps my favorite moments. I could have read a whole novel with this singular narrator, but it was an interesting change of pace to read the other POVs as well. Especially because if one sucked you didn’t have to read it for very long (coughBRANCHAPTERScough).
The main focus is on the importance of family over the end of the world, as in the end of the world should conceivably put what’s important into perspective. Junior ends up (without giving too much away) doing everything for his father, working to save him. In a giant plot twist toward the end of the novel (no, Junior is not Dan Humphrey), and a spectacularly depressing conclusion the whole purpose of the novel finally comes into perspective.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… Just kidding, you’ll cry out all your tear ducts and you won’t laugh unless you’re a horrible, horrible person. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. The whimpering of you as you cry yourself to sleep.
Just remember, in any apocalypse: Keep calm and carry on my wayward son....more
Ah, post-apocalyptic radioactive wastelands created in an alternative history America. You gotta love them. This novella is all about the end times in Suckhole, which occurred “eleventy thousand years” ago when dinosaurs and cars lived side by side and the North declared war on the “harmless” South. The war, which destroyed the population, revolved around the North turning the slaves against their masters with evil science, global warming and abortions! It’s easy to figure out who’s telling this story.
Unfortunately for the nation, the North, led by Abraham Hussein Lincoln (their words, not mine) escalated to nuclear war and Suckhole was created from the ashes of the devastation as a land of freedom for Southerners. Due to radiation, crazy mutated animals formed and took over the world. Like they do. One would hope that it would be sterility considering what was left behind of the population to breed, but that was sadly not the case. Instead lizardhounds, jackalopes, bear-sized mosquitoes and werepossums took over the landscape. Hopefully they at least help with population control.
In addition to crazy animals, the story is peppered with crazy characters who live in an even crazier world. There’s Mayor Crockwallop, the deceased Skeeter John Whorley (whose death starts the murder investigation the plot revolves around), Sheriff Bledskoe, the truck hat wearing idiot and his deputy/son Jescoe. The town is populated with gangs like the Hill Bills and the militia, and is full of trailers stacked on top of one another to form towers and a cityscape. Names like Smackdab Street, Foxworthy Square, Fleabit Street and Blue Tick Boulevard are the best the townsfolk could come up with. No surprise from a place with no schools because they’re, “breeding ground[s] for soulless Commies”.
Besides the basic Southern folks you would expect to live in town, there are the upper-class hillbillies who wear gator-skin overalls and rhinestone suits, hipster hillbillies, and the Haulers. The Haulers are revered members of society who bring scraps in from outside Suckhole (i.e. the wreckage of the old world) to use in the community. These scavengers are considered heroes of Suckhole for their trash sorting abilities. The “American Pickers” would be proud. Of course they have nothing on the sentient moonshine stills who demand hats in exchange for booze. Yeah, I have no idea.
Out in the swamp is Dexter Spikes, a mutant animal/human hybrid that the people of Suckhole consider to be an abomination against “Jeezus” according to the “Byble”. No one ever said the people of Suckhole were literate. Despite being a monkey-lizard-man creature, Dexter is the smartest member of the town even though he lives on the outskirts of it. Semantics. For this reason and possibly a whole slew of others, he is brought in to figure out why the townspeople- men in particular- are being murdered and literally dismembered. That is having their members removed. You just don’t send a boy to do a lizard man’s job.
As if this wasn’t a strange enough world, there is also a tangential story dealing with the Daughters of the Confederacy, a disbanded coven of witches who are working toward a goal of Southern Genesis. There’s the android Succubosa, her sister Sluttenstein created from animals and the skins of fallen Daughters, and their oldest sister Syphilia. The rule of three is alive and well even in bizarro fiction!
Since this story is set in the South, the characters and the occasional omniscient narrator have very distinct accents. On the one hand, it puts you in the mood of the story and gives it a distinct authentic flair- albeit one bordering on parody. On the other, it can get grating and take you out of the story if you can’t get adjusted to the dialogue. For me, it was oftentimes annoying. My brain just didn’t like the improper use of the English language. It was like the cast of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was living inside my head.
Despite being a bizarro novel not everything is fun and games. Instead, through the extremely intelligent “monster” Dexter Spikes, Barbee explores the South, their missteps in history, and how the people of Suckhole worked their way around these problems to continue living their simple little lives. It was nice to see him put a little weight on American history in particular, the atrocities we have caused and the ways in which our country deals with them through the scope of Suckhole. You can have your bizarro and explore meaningful historical imperatives too....more