I've mentioned a few times that I do almost all of my reading on my Kindle now days, and there is definitely no shortage of post-apocalyptic books atI've mentioned a few times that I do almost all of my reading on my Kindle now days, and there is definitely no shortage of post-apocalyptic books at my disposal in that format. But every so often, I come across a book that I really want to read that's just not available in any kind of electronic format; What Niall Saw by Brian Cullen was one such book.
I first heard about What Niall Saw from my buddy Fear, of the Cosy Catastrophe blog. He said it was bleak, maybe even on par with The Road or Threads, and that I had to read it. So I found an original paperback on Ebay, and even though it was in the UK and the shipping cost more than the book itself, I grabbed it.
Published in 1985, What Niall Saw is the story of a family living in Ireland, in the days following a nuclear strike on Great Britain. But it's not your standard cold war-era WWIII story; because Niall is a seven year-old boy, and what he saw is written as if we're reading his diary, complete with spelling and grammar mistakes, and more importantly, a seven year-old's perspective.
Late one night, Niall and his four year-old sister are awakened by the shaking of their beds, and the sky going "an orange lumpy colour". His parents quickly grab a few meager supplies and seal the entire family, including the dog, in the cupboard beneath the stairs. With little outside news, and knowing that fallout is a very real danger, they remain in that closet until forced out by thirst and hunger, with Niall chronicling all that they're going through.
Given that it's the whole point of the book, I found it interesting that the fact that the narrator was a child was what I considered to be its biggest drawback, for two reasons.
The story is definitely bleak, I won't argue that. They're trapped in a confined space for weeks; it's cold and dark. They've got the runs, and bedsores, and they know that it's worse outside because they can hear the sounds of violence in their neighborhood. I imagine that "horrible" would not be a strong enough word to describe their experience.
But the problem is that you do have to imagine it. Because the story is written by a young boy who doesn't fully realize what's happening, or what could happen, you don't get the full impact of how bad their situation is.
If it was a movie where we could see their misery, or written from the parents' perspective where we would be able to know their agony at seeing their children suffer, it would be much more hard-hitting. But Niall describes what's happening as facts, and he's not able to understand that no matter how bad things are, they're likely to get worse.
My second problem with the childish narration is actually another literary device that the author utilized on purpose. As the book progresses, Niall's health begins to fail, and so does his ability to keep a journal. While the writing in the early parts of the book is mostly understandable, by the end it was so disjointed that I had a hard time telling what was going on.
Again, the thought of a child so ill from radiation sickness that he can't write is heart-breaking, but if you have to guess at what's happening, it doesn't convey the same impact.
So overall, I'm glad I read it, but mostly just because it satisfied my curiousity; if I would have left it sitting on my shelf, I would have always wondered about it. I won't say I actively disliked it, but it definitely didn't live up to my hopes and expectations.
So ironically, I guess you can say it's a good thing I read it, if only because now I know that it wasn't really worth reading in the first place, at least for me....more
After slogging through Stephen King's 11/22/63 (starts strong, ends weak), I was in the mood for something a little lighter. I wanted crazy mutants, rAfter slogging through Stephen King's 11/22/63 (starts strong, ends weak), I was in the mood for something a little lighter. I wanted crazy mutants, radiated landscapes, and lots of action. Not as guns and ammo as Deathlands, but more like Gamma World in a book, and after some looking around, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are in fact a couple of Gamma World novels, both published just this year.
So I bought them both and just finished the first one, Sooner Dead by Mel Odom, and it turns out it was exactly what I was looking for.
Now it's been a long time since I cracked open a Gamma World rule book, so I forget what the mythology said about the cause of the apocalypse, but in these books it was a mishap with the Large Hadron Collider. It tore apart the world, and opened ripples, gateways to other worlds and dimensions, bringing all manner of strange creatures into ours.
Having the plot device of rampant inter-dimensional wormholes means that you can introduce basically anything you want into your story, and Mr Odom certainly took advantage of that. This book has human-animal hybrids, cyborgs, nanobot-enhanced humans, alien creatures, and more kinds of psionic abilities than I could count, all set in what 200 years before was known as Oklahoma.
The story follows Hella, a bio-engineered young woman with a mysterious past, and her bisonoid companion, Stampede, as they serve as guides for a group hunting for a lost object in the ruinous wastes of the American southwest. It's a fast-paced adventure chock full of gun fights, raiders, mutant creatures, mystery, loyalty, and betrayal.
I really enjoyed it, and if there's ever a sequel following the same characters, I'd be sure to pick it up.
Overall, I can definitely recommend it, at least if you're the right mood for it. ...more
I honestly can't remember the last time I read a non-post-apocalyptic book. I think it might have been last summer, but it may have been the summer beI honestly can't remember the last time I read a non-post-apocalyptic book. I think it might have been last summer, but it may have been the summer before that. It's not that I hate anything that doesn't involve the end of the world, far from it, but I just have so many PA books in my collection, with more being sent to me all the time, that I feel like I have to get through those first.
So when I checked my email the other day and found that the folks at Permuted Press had sent me a copy of Quarantined by Joe McKinney for review, it turned out to be kind of a surprise in two ways.
First of all, I was in-between books, and found myself in the mood for a plague story, something at the outbreak stage, and Quarantined sounded like exactly what I was looking for.
Quarantined is set in San Antonio in the months following the reappearance of a particular strain of the flu, a strain so virulent that the government takes the drastic action of surrounding the city with 190 miles of wall, sealing the surviving citizens in with the sick, and the dead. It's when one of those dead doesn't look exactly right that Homicide Detective Lily Harris and her partner start an investigation that leads them to answers they were never expecting to find.
That leads to the second sort-of surprise; the book isn't really that post-apocalyptic. Yes, we're told that this deadly new flu is killing about 25,000 people per month, schools are closed and public gatherings are prohibited, and the population lives in constant fear of infection, rioting at the lack of basic supplies, believing they've been abandoned by the rest of their country.
But even so, all of that isn't so much the focus of the book as it is the backdrop; the story is really kind of a classic murder-mystery-leads-to-a-broader-conspiracy cop novel. The story is narrated in the first person by Detective Harris, and as I was reading I kept wondering if the author was a female police officer, because all of the details felt spot on, and it turns out that I was half right.
Joe is definitely a guy, but he is, in fact, a Homicide Detective with the San Antonio PD, so he was really able to fill his story with authentic details about the procedures involved in a murder investigation. And as he is himself a member of one of the agencies that are portrayed in the book, he has a good feel for the kinds of competition and infighting that goes on in the real world, and that when combined with a deadly super-flu could lead to the deaths of thousands.
So overall, although Quarantined didn't turn out to be exactly the kind of story I thought it was, that wasn't a negative at all. It was cool to be able to read the kind of book that normal people read, but have it have just enough spice to keep a PA nerd like me entertained. And Quarantined is definitely entertaining, whether you're looking for a read that includes the end of the world, or not....more
Originally published as Los Caminantes in 2009, The Wanderers is one of Spain's top selling apocalyptic novels, and is now available for the first timOriginally published as Los Caminantes in 2009, The Wanderers is one of Spain's top selling apocalyptic novels, and is now available for the first time in an English translation.
It starts out with a dead body washing up on the beach, a body that proceeds to do its best to eat the police who come to investigate. We then follow a few different groups of survivors through the early stages of a standard zombie apocalypse as they watch their city fall apart around them.
At first I had some trouble keeping track of the characters, in part because I wasn't used to their names or the place names, but after I got used to them, I found the characters likeable, and believable. They really felt like regular people, mostly young, who were caught in a desperate situation. But luckily I didn't have to try to remember all of them for very long, because, spoiler alert, people die in this book, usually with spurting, gushing, or even fountaining of certain vital bodily fluids.
The story progresses with the survivors slowly consolidating into larger groups while they hole up in various buildings around the city, watching their reserves dwindle, wondering if there is anyone out there who can help them.
But as it turns out, there is another survivor out there, one who helps to set The Wanderers apart from the usual zombie fare. He is Father Isidro, priest of La Victoria Church, and it is his fervent belief that the rising of the dead signals the judgement of God upon Man, a judgement that must fall on everyone, even if it means that he has to be the one to lead the dead to the living.
In most zombie stories, the zombies themselves are the primary threat, or maybe there are agressive groups of survivors competing for the same resources, but I can't think of another one where the shambling hordes are actively prodded toward the living, particularly by someone with such a religious zeal. And it surprised me that a novel written and set in Spain, which Wikipedia tells me is 75% Catholic, would feature a Catholic priest as it's primary villian, but that may have added some of the shock value that made the book so popular over there.
The character of Father Isidro, and his raving lunacy, definitely adds something to the story, and that combined with believable characters, interesting locations, and plenty of gory action makes The Wanderers a book worth reading.
PS Just a quick note on the translation. Generally, it's very good, but I would guess that whoever did it is not a native English speaker. Some of the language or vocabulary used isn't what I would have expected; for example a phrase like "The scene was splattered with blood and screams" which isn't exactly correct. But at the same time there was never a case where the language was jarring, or failed to get the point across, and most of the time it read as any other English novel would, while giving the book a style of its own....more
It still surprises me that all of the early reviews or blurbs that I've come across make the book sounds like it's a current day thriller, a la The StIt still surprises me that all of the early reviews or blurbs that I've come across make the book sounds like it's a current day thriller, a la The Stand. About a third of the way in, there's a major shift, and then the majority of the book has basically nothing to do with an apocalyptic urban viral outbreak.
But even so, the story turned out to be one of my favorite types of post-apocalyptic fiction, so I still found it highly entertaining, though I did have some questions about it.
I'm now reading it through a second time, and have chosen it as the next selection of the Online Post-Apocalyptic Book Club at www.PostApocalypticForum.com.
Forum registration is not necessary to participate in the discussion so anyone is free to come join the conversation.
We have the Book Club area set up to accommodate those who've finished the book, but also those who have just started it, and want to discuss it as they read through it....more