First let me say that you should know something of Africa during this time period, at least, familiarize yourself with the central African conflicts oFirst let me say that you should know something of Africa during this time period, at least, familiarize yourself with the central African conflicts of the 60's & 70's. So this book is like that time I went to see the movie, Gladiator. I left the movie and for about two hours I was sure that Gladiator had really happened. I would have been really disappointed if I was not so pleased that the movie was so convincing that I never stopped and said, nope, that's not believable. Butcher Bird is much the same. I did not stop to separate the truth from the fiction. I got into the story (for the most part) without losing my disbelief. This really worked where the book was concerned. The fiction is written well enough to blend with history in the story. The rest of this review will be divided into what I liked and what I didn't. What I liked. 1. It was an easy read, which is good with all the language usage in the book. but the way Leslie presents it goes smoothly once you get used to it. At first, it was a bit bumpy then I quickly stepped into the flow and it worked pretty effectively. 2. I am South African by birth and lived/witnessed a small bit of the war. This proved to fill in some holes in my memories of the conflict. It's what drew me to read it. The book reinvigorated my curiosity about the Rhodesian war and I have since delved back into it. 3. I really liked the main characters and for the most part, each one was well formed as much as they needed to be with only 2 exceptions. Sion Michael and iLunga. (I will go into some detail in my dislikes). 4. The plot was entirely believable and blended into what I knew about the war/experienced to the point I never stopped while reading it to look it up or question the plausibility of the events as the story unfolded. Compared to what I have read lately, this book was very engaging. What I disliked. 1. The backstory on Sion Michael and iLunga was disappointing and disruptive. More so on the part of Sion Michael. I understand what the author is trying to do but it wasn't well executed and in the end, I didn't feel it necessary to the book. It does wrap things up nicely plotwise but I felt cheated by it compared to the rest of the book. (spoilers!) Sion's relationship with Charlie could have been left completely in correspondences throughout the book revealing smaller bits of the backstory without the awkward dialogue which I found strange given the dialogue in much the rest of the book flowed evenly and was at times, priceless. The problem with doing flashbacks like this is all the details that are totally unnecessary to the rest of the book, like physical descriptions of Charlie, her parents, the houses, etc. On their own, they might work but in context with the horrors and stress in the book then seem bizarre and foreign to stop for a flashback and go there- I felt alien to it, I could get why Sion might have felt that way- but that wasn't really shown either. For me, the flashbacks were more like commercial breaks during a TV movie (Dogs of War- comes to mind) leaving thinking it was a good time to go get a cup of coffee or walk the dogs. iLunga's backstory is totally unnecessary. I can appreciate the need to make him an explainable monster but in the end, the causality of his barbarism cheats him of his villainy and madness that makes his character so interesting/intriguing. I understand that the author felt like he needed to answer the age old question of motivation but I think the book would have been much better if we did not learn any of it. (spoilers) I would have rather liked that iLunga's true identity have been left unknown since so much of war is left with the unexplainable, unanswerable mysteries. I would have rather iLunga to have no direct connection to Sion. It would have changed the ending a bit, but I suspect only in perspective of the way it happened. I felt that the big reveal and backstory just flattened him out into the modern version of a villain. iLunga would have been best served as just being evil without needing to reveal that he was (spoilers) bullied as a kid/downtrodden/forgotten. At worst, he could simply reveal this in some dialogue rather than waste time with a flashback. Which brings me to #2 2. The POV switch from Sion Michael to iLunga. I hated it. I understand why it was there, but again it felt like cheating, know the mind of the enemy. At first, I thought maybe Sion could have read the whole iLunga POV in his journals but then I realized that it didn't really matter. I really liked not knowing what iLunga was up to or why or how better than this sudden change. Let me clarify, the scenes at the where iLunga is present are fine, it's what the victims/survivors witnessed but those preserve iLunga as the antagonist which is what he should have remained. There were plenty of opportunities to maintain this and it could have just remained so for the entire book. I realize there were other character switches, some worked better than others, some didn't but none of them were as disruptive to my reading of the book as when we are seeing the world from the monster's POV. 3. There are places in the book where the dialogue comes across as contrived rather than flowing, but mostly the worst was in the flashbacks, which I am not going into as that's redundant. Dialogue is pretty much the hardest thing to write well. The dialogue here as okay and bearable. And that's it. There some minor editing errors, some awkward mistakes, a few continuity issues, but as I said in the beginning, I had no trouble with ignoring these as I was sucked into the story and pretty much kept there despite my problems with parts of the narrative....more
**spoiler alert** I had planned to write a comparison of the things I liked about Apocalypse Orphan then follow it up with what I did not like but I d**spoiler alert** I had planned to write a comparison of the things I liked about Apocalypse Orphan then follow it up with what I did not like but I didn't get far. SPOILERS GALORE follows. This book has promise. The concept, if it were pared down to a less complex scenario, would carry far better than the chaotic mess you start with. Before I go on, though, here are some quick things that could be done to make the book better (for me, let me emphasize that this is my opinion). 1. Nomad is impressive as a world killer without the pages and pages of expositions, explanations and actions that the Earth takes to divert it/destroy it. By the end of Part I, I kind of hoped it would destroy the whole solar system - like wanting the psycho killer to win in the bad horror movie. Details: one nuclear strike is enough instead of multiple, one attempt to divert/deflect it, leaving the last attempt by Wolf as the final failure instead of going on and on until I felt like screaming at the text to get on with it. Yes, I could have just skipped it, but I agreed to read the whole book not skip to the good parts. 2. Earth's descent into chaos and destruction. This is a Kitchen sink scenario pepper with every cut scene from every disaster movie I have ever seen. Again, one terrorist attack would have been sufficient, a mad scramble for resources, the attempt of one underground ark (2012) to save humanity. Instead, the book goes on and on dragging in every terrorist group from Al Qaeda to ISIL in an act of overkill that makes me feel like someone decided to combine the Titanic movie (Cameron) with 2012 and Event Horizon. 3. We spend entirely too much time with the oncoming destruction of the Earth before stopping in our tracks and saying, sorry, this story is about another story set 50k in the future and all the stuff before was someone else's story. The book could have done the same in a few concise pages and summaries of the disaster instead of way too much detail. The scientific evidence and explanations hovered somewhere between information overload and a silly sense I was in a Dr. Strangelove Parody where the director is trying to trick me into skipping all this in order to pull a fast one over on me. By the time Part I is over, I feel like I have lived through every disaster movie made from When worlds collide to Independence Day Resurgence. I would have skipped it for something simple, symbolic, emotional, an abbreviated version of Armageddon (movie) without the happy ending.
The book suffers from way too much science. The story gets repeatedly lost while the Astronauts, or Houston or the fascinating Dr. Mason or her AI goes into so much detail that even an amateur science nut like myself decides not to google any of it if there's a chance we can get on with it. It boggles my mind that the main character, Wolf, is not scientifically literate enough to handle this in the beginning of the book yet becomes more literate by the end as a means of "character growth?" I ask because it's the only plausible explanation I can come up with. Wolf suffers from lengthy explanations of what makes him different. It damages his character in the long run. It like character development in a movie, we want to SEE why Wolf is a good man, not have it told to us in long flashbacks/dialogues/or third person omniscient narratives. The irony is that we do get to see it anyway through the course of the story, but by the time we see Wolf in action I feel like I have been flogged to death with all the reasons he is that way instead of just being shown it through action in the plot. One of the hardest things to do when writing a book is to decide on POV. How is the story told? The temptation of almost every writer is third person omniscient. It is a cheat in order to allow the narrator and the reader to know the thoughts of every character and their base motivations. It also destroys most good books completely. I really feel like this book would have been so much better if the whole story had been told only from Wolf's POV or at most Wolf and Nala's POV. Synthia is fascinating but too omniscient to make me comfortable. The story would have flowed better if we were to filter all the events through Wolf's perspective only from beginning to end. What he knew we would know, leaving him ignorant of the final fate of the Earth would carry him on a quest to learn that fate even as he starts to explore the new world and its denizens. Capitalizing and exploring why he is an Astronaut "savant" instead of a scientifically minded one would be more interesting that having to go through dialogues where he is told/we are told all that is necessary to be told. Instead, we should be forced to solve each mystery of why Dr. Mason's odd behaviors and motivations, her obsessive reactions where Wolf is concerned. It's the author having faith that we will diligently pursue the plot because we identify with an ignorant or misinformed hero as he desperately searches to find out what happened and why it is important to him. Next, Dialogue. Admittedly dialogue is very hard to reproduce since if you strive for real dialogue you have to acknowledge that most of us spend more time talking about mundane stuff that is both boring and does not advance any plot but still conveys our emotional states. Movies murder dialogue more than others all the time (if the actors are particularly good then it's less noticeable). Collateral (Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx) is a good example of this conflict. The struggle in dialogue is to make characters talk like real people but reveal enough of their inner turmoil and desires to drive the story. Notice, I say story, not plot. We, as readers, care about the story, it's why we are reading this book (usually). The plot is a framework that surrounds and directs the story. We want to understand why Hakkon goes nuts and destroys everything that is good in his life, we don't want to dredge through customs and even more expositional explanations to find out the whys of it all. Having said that, the dialogue in this book is forced at best, and at worst, it has too much exposition in the regular narrative. What follows are suggestions about the dialogue rather than criticism. As you will see (if you are really reading this) I want to like this book. The potential here is enormous. 1. It would be better for me that Wolf and Syn are not honest with each other about their feelings for each other. Syn is holding back the reasons for her actions because she feels that Wolf will not, cannot, understand, what drives her to do so because she doesn't understand the programming that Dr. Mason has input into her code. This could lead to a mystery where Wolf and Syn have to travel to the Moon base in order to learn why Syn act in seemingly erratic, random ways at certain times. Wolf can be much the same as he realizes that he is falling in love with a hologram but cannot force himself to the idea that in all essence, he is in love with a mirage of a woman, dead for the last 50k years. Through the course of the story and many dialogues, their feelings could come together as they both realize that they feel pretty much feel the same way about one another. Resolving to explore a means of being together by learning why all this attraction is happening. You can still have the flirting, the close encounters, but instead of blatant attraction; you convey desire, passion and more human emotions accompanied by the need to recklessly abandon all logic in the pull that makes all of us human. 2. Second, Wolf's dialogue with the new humans is unbelievable. I get that Wolf is a talented linguist but jeepers, there's no language barrier to struggle with. He just automatically picks it all up and misses the opportunity to experience the nuances and new meanings to old words. Instead, the transition is so quick that I felt robbed of a great part of the book as Wolf learns to communicate with the locals. He could have missed the signs that Nala is not who she presents herself to be. Hakkon is really the villain that he turns out to be, and that Onel is more heroic than he pretends. That Silvaine and Johan have more character than just flat villains who delight in being evil. That Waylan is more than the other new humans, that he is lonely, that he, not only needs Wolf, but he also needs a new mate. So many things/plot twists are missed in just a simple chance that is just there waiting to be used. The dialogue was a huge problem for me. I was constantly stopping to say "who talks like this?" My answer is no one unless you are in a bad James Bond film or comic book from the 60's. I could go on but I feel like I am close to nitpicking. I am going to bring up 3 epic heroes and what sets them apart from Wolf. AND why Wolf could be all three of them. 1 Gilgamesh is the first superhero of literature (for me). He is invulnerable, super strong, practically immortal (demigod) and wise. But he is also foolish, egotistical, and almost two-dimensional, in many ways, as a character. That is until he meets and befriends Enkidu. Through his relationship with Enkidu we see Gilgamesh stop being super and become heroic even as he loses the only other person he really cares about. His struggle to rescue his friend from death and his eventual acceptance that he is not as god-like as he thinks he is; it makes him understand what it is to be human in accepting the consequences of life and death. All this makes Gilgamesh a great hero, it even makes his story worth reading and rereading. 2. Achilles. The consummate ideal of the warrior, nearly invulnerable, who like his predecessor is vain and proud but falls for a mortal man who he takes to be his best friend. He loses his friend because of his own ego, he loses his life because he cannot get over that loss (there are other reasons but I see them as minor to this central one). It is not so much that Achilles is betrayed and slain by an arrow to his ankle as he betrays himself to death. He goes through a distinct change transforming into an even greater hero by becoming mortal (for all intents and purposes). I really like what Brad Pitt did with the role in Troy. The idea of Achilles is growth, the hero stops being perfect only to realize he is far from it. 3. Sigfried (or Sigurd) and there are many stories about him, but as it pertains to Wolf, I will keep this short. Sigurd is also almost invulnerable, he is armed with nearly invincible weaponry and even rescues/courts a Valkyrie (shieldmaiden) to his side, yet he fails her in the end. I see the parallels here. This could well be Wolf and Syn. My point is that while Wolf does prove to be vulnerable it is less a character flaw than an unfortunate side effect that is almost immediately remedied (0r at least it seems to be). Wolf should take elements from each of these heroes, throw in a little of the Native American Spirit, Coyote and top it with the Bushido Code of searching for perfection and instead of a superman with some kryptonite, you find a tragic hero who must struggle as we all struggle to overcome the obstacles in the story. Finally, I have major issues with the prophecy. It's okay to have it, but it's only brought up when we have a clear idea of the role Wolf has in it. I mean there is no discrepancy- none- it's Wolf without a doubt. I would rather find out that everyone thought Waylan was supposed to be it, or Johan started out as the hero of prophecy before he was turned to evil. That Wolf falls into being the prophesized hero more than just shows up and some kid goes "hey, you are the hero of prophecy" and Wolf goes "no, I am not," but he really doesn't resist it. And I go, "of course!" In conclusion. Okay, maybe not. One more thing keeps bugging me. It's the or rather all the Deus Ex Machinas that are thrown out here. It's back to overkill. The shuttle on its own is an overpowered device but as the story continues it gets bigger and bigger with way too many rooms to fit in any shuttle and comes out feeling more like the Defiant from DS9 that a NASA variant. It also goes from a Scientific vessel to a Star Destroyer...and, I have to ask why in the hell would you build a star destroyer when there are no aliens in this book? Nomad is a big hunk of ice/rock. Nuclear missiles don't scratch it so why would you hand a star destroyer to the guy who is going out to study it? Nope, I got no answers. Then there's the laser gun and mack-mini. I don't see us having either in 10 years. They're are way too convenient, plus that are plenty of conventional firearms that would be more likely. What the hell is an astronaut doing with such ordinance when there is no threat unless you need laser guns to counter the terrorist threat (pick one of them, the books got them all -well not the IRA but almost all of them). Okay, I am done. In closing, I would rewrite this book as something simpler. There is much potential here but mainly it suffers from mass overkill and too many details that the story, which I am pretty sure it has, gets lost in all the chaos.