Zombies. If you’ve been a long-term follower of The Founding Fields, then you know that I like to read anything with zombies in it. That probably doesn’t explain why I haven’t picked up Max Brooks’ World War Z yet, but I’ll let you know when I do pick it up. But, back onto Juggernaut, the novel which I received an advanced review copy from the kind folks at Hodder and Stoughton. I also have another zombie related novel from them, The Return Man by VM Zito, so that should be a fun read when I get to it.
However, I keep straying off topic so without further ado, here’s the plot for Juggernaut.
A group of mercenaries, lead by the strong female lead character that is Lucy, are searching for Saddam’s gold in the year 2005, during the Iraq War. They’re on their last mission, and look set to go in, grab the gold, and get out in a matter of hours. However, something goes horribly wrong, and they soon find themselves fighting for their lives against an enemy that they didn’t think could exist. The mercenaries soon find themselves stranded in ancient ruins, confronted not only by an army that won’t stay dead – but also the threat of greed and betrayal.
Although at first, the novel itself may seem slow, but once Baker begins to increase the tension, the pace flies by, and you’re sucked into Juggernaut and won’t be able to put it down – even if you haven’t read that much zombie-horror in the first place.
Juggernaut certainly has an original background for the novel, and after all – there aren’t many zombie horrors set during the Iraq war. The characters, both the supporting cast and the main crew, are well developed and well rounded, and provide a strong cast to the novel.
Adam Baker’s second novel is a mostly action-packed, and provides some pretty awesome set-pieces where you will soon learn that nobody is safe – so don’t get too attached to a particular character.
I’d like to talk about the zombies here, in this review for a bit. Juggernaut is of course, set in the same world as Outpost, but can be read, as I found it could be, as a standalone novel without any prior knowledge of what happens in Outpost. What I like about the zombies in Baker’s novel is that they’re quite well explained, and the author manages to achieve this without spoiling the pace or otherwise.
However, not every novel is perfect – no matter how much we wish it could be. Juggernaut’s main fault and one that I hope is only in the advanced review copy that I got, is the constant typos, words missing and grammar errors littered throughout the novel, and where they were found – they were quite off-putting.
Juggernaut however, despite the flaws mentioned above, has made me want to read more of Baker and I will probably buy Outpost sometime soon. That’s always a good thing, when you enjoy an author’s work so much that you want to get the next or previous novel in the series.
The tone is pretty much serious throughout the entire novel, there are no z-word jokes, etc, no character that’s thrown in there for comic relief, but this novel doesn’t really need any as Baker manages to pull off a fantastic read and, with one book, is quickly becoming my ‘go-to’ author for zombie horror. Not that I’ve read much zombie-horror, mind you...
Before we finish off, I’d like to say a big thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for providing me with this advanced review copy – I really enjoyed this novel.
It didn’t take much convincing to get me hooked on The Return Man, VM Zito’s first foray into the realm of the writing industry. First of all – the appearance of zombies, and as you know if you’ve been following TFF for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan. In fact, although I haven’t recently read many of zombie fiction (to see which zombie-related books that I’ve reviewed, click on the tag at the bottom of the review labelled zombies.) – I’ll read and enjoy pretty much anything zombie related. And so, when I came across The Return Man, it didn’t take me long to get hooked on VM Zito’s debut.
Set after the initial outbreak, the novel follows Doctor Henry Marco, living alone in the barren wasteland that was once western USA, known as the Evacuated States to those survivors that reside on the East coast. And, it is in these Evacuated States where Marco makes his living, hunting down the deceased and delivering peace, hired by grieving relatives. And it is here, that homeland security will enlist Henry Marco on a mission that will take him back to where it all began, and his tragic past will come back to harm him yet again.
Especially when nothing is as it seems, with twists and turns abound, this action-packed blockbuster is going to have you hooked right from the get go. I really enjoyed it, and now I’m going to tell you why.
First, let’s start with Henry Marco, the central protagonist in this very short cast of dramatis personae. Although the story isn’t told from the first person perspective of Marco (in fact, there’s no first person POV of him at all), as it jumps around from character to character, Marco is still firmly the centre of attention, the character that we know the most about, and the character who we get to really understand over the course of The Return Man. He’s flawed enough to actually be a real person, and isn’t portrayed as the next Superman. This helps make the novel great, and it ups the tension, as I believe I’m not the only one who thought that there was some situations where I didn’t quite think Marco would make it out alive.
And, of course, it’s not just Marco who we have to deal with. There’s the Chinese secret agent Kheng Wu, working under the guise of a US soldier sent to back up Marco on this mission. Wu makes a fantastic counterpart to Marco, and as we get to see the perspective from both the secret agent and the lead star himself, it really helps us understand what’s going on, and I believe that The Return Man wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if it hadn’t been told in first person.
The action is pretty fast paced, with several awesome fight scenes that will have you flicking through the pages as you’re desperate to find out what happens next. It’s unputdownable, and will have you whizzing through especially in the latter half of the novel, where the action reaches the outstanding finale and the bittersweet conclusion where Zito could even have room for a sequel, if he wanted to return to the barren wastelands of Western USA.
I hope he does, despite the fact that the novel works perfectly fine as a standalone. I, and am not alone in this opinion, really enjoyed The Return Man, and it is far from your average zombie thriller, with the zombies in question having a twist that I liked, and the inclusion of Wu to add to the tension and the stakes.
Also, there’s even some good news that a company has considered the option for movie rights, so we may be seeing a film in the future. And I don’t think that I’ll be the only one that wants to go and see it.
If you’re looking for a bloodbath, this is a novel for you. There’s lots of bloody, gritty, gore-infested violence that splatters through the pages of The Return Man, and helps make the novel more enjoyable.
“A great take on the zombie genre. One of the best.” ~The Founding Fields
Having recently read the first issue of The Walking Dead as it was free on Co“A great take on the zombie genre. One of the best.” ~The Founding Fields
Having recently read the first issue of The Walking Dead as it was free on Comixology (you can find my review here), I was interested to see where Kirkman took the series in the future. I naturally seized the chance when it was available on NetGalley, and The Walking Dead Vol. 1 became my first NetGalley title that I downloaded this year, having finally worked out how to get the files onto my IPod to read. (Despite the fact that I ended up reading this on my computer anyway). After a brief re-read of the first issue, we continue the adventures of Rick in the post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland that was once the United States. Things start to become a little clearer now, and the audience is swept along in the post-apocalyptic tale that begins to explore the characters as much as it does the zombies.
"An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living."
The Walking Dead Vol. 1 introduces us to a savage new world. The Government has collapsed and it’s up to a band of desperate survivors to well… survive. I love how Kirkman has explored the characters in this Volume as well as the world that Rick has woken up to find himself in, and what measures they will go to survive. It’s a zombie story that focuses as much on the characters as it does the walking dead, and creates a brilliant opener that will leave readers wanting more.
Told in black and white format with no colours, The Walking Dead manages to be a fast read and keeps the reader hooked. Kirkman establishes a simple storyline in these collective issues that is easy to follow, and like most zombie novels, focuses on a small group of survivors, doesn’t have a wide range of dramatis personae for you to keep track of. The pace is even, and the Volume is told in a way that just wouldn’t work if the artwork was in colour. It’s much better off in black and white.
Some of you may recognise Russell T. Davies as being the man responsible for bringing back to life the longest running sci-fi TV series ever, the British -born Doctor Who in 2005, after the original series stopped in 1989. He’s lead Doctor Who through four spectacular series, and has even gone on to create darker spin off Torchwood, which has recently completed its fourth series, Miracle Day. Being a fan of the New series of Doctor Who, and after seeing Russell T. Davies’ endorsement on the front of the cover for The Reapers Are the Angels, I craved in, and brought the novel off Amazon, and it was the first thing that I read out of a choice between Star Wars: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn and Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. And, did it live up to the hype?
You can bet it did. The Reapers Are the Angels was an awesome novel, and I loved it, despite a few minor issues that I had with it – ALden Bell has knocked the ball out of the park, and has created something that every zombie fan should read.
Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is just trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnant of mankind who have survived, at times, seem to retain little humanity themselves.
Temple has known nothing else. This is the world she was born into. Her journey takes her to far-flung places, to people struggling to maintain some semblance of civilization – and to those who have created a new world order for themselves.
When she comes across the helpless Maury, she attempts to set one thing right, if she can just get him back to his family then maybe it will bring forgiveness for some of the terrible things she’s done in her past. Because Temple has had to fight to survive, along the road she’s made enemies – and one vengeful man is determined that, in a world gone mad, killing her is the only thing that makes sense…
The first thing that you’ll notice about The Reapers Are the Angels is that it’s not your usual zombie novel. Most zombie novels start within two to five years of the original zombie outbreak, maybe even during the initial outbreak itself, and that’s what makes The Reapers Are The Angels so different to the normal post-apocalyptic zombie novel. It’s set an astounding 25 years after the initial outbreak, and what makes this more interesting is the fact that Temple, the main character, knows nothing else. She does not know what life was like before the dead walked, which is a concept that I haven’t seen explored that often in post-apocalyptic stuff before, as most zombie novels such as The Return Man by VM Zito, have the main character experience some sort of life before the outbreak. However, Alden Bell’s novel is different in this aspect. Temple doesn’t get the chance to explore the innocent-ness of childhood as most protagonists of zombie novels have in the past, and she’s thrust into this life with only one goal in mind, and that is survival. After all, in a post-apocalyptic America where the dead have risen, dying is easy. It’s living that’s hard.
The Reapers Are the Angels is also odd in the fact that the novel has no speech marks when the characters are talking. Once I got over my initial thought of that the editor or the author had been a bit forgetful, the more I started to see that with no speech marks, Alden Bell’s début novel just worked better than it would have with them. As you can tell, it’s the first exposure that I’ve had to a novel with no speech marks, but this is one of the things that the author has pulled off to make the novel flow better. You get to learn more about the thoughts of Temple, and the novel is told almost entirely from her third person POV perspective.
The writing is a masterpiece. The prose is well constructed, and Bell gets into the mind of Temple and shows us the extreme measures that she’s had to take in order to survive in the wastelands of America. This is certainly a bleak novel, and more along the lines of I am Legend than Sean of the Dead (A film, but still…), and you will come out of this novel feeling emotionally drained. It’s not an uplifting read – and it’s a deeply depressing one.
The novel is a pretty fast moving one, as Bell takes the reader on a terrific journey, not just for the character but for the reader. Temple is a memorable character, as well as being a strong heroine. The action is very much centred on Temple, and although other characters aren’t as memorable as her, she certainly leaves a pretty good impression. The Reapers Are the Angels, whilst short, is a page-turner, and you’ll get through it very quickly. I couldn’t put it down, and I don’t think you’ll be able to.
More by Alden Bell: The Reapers Are the Angels, Somewhere I have Never Travelled, Exit Kingdom (September 2012),...more
“Superheroes and zombies in one novel? Peter Clines presents a very strong and entertaining novel that will keep you flicking through the pages.” ~T“Superheroes and zombies in one novel? Peter Clines presents a very strong and entertaining novel that will keep you flicking through the pages.” ~The Founding Fields
I love any zombie fiction, and when you combine them with superheroes, I’m instantly sold on the idea. So much so that I didn’t even read the blurb before delving into EX-Heroes, as I already knew that this would be a combination of the two before downloading it from NetGalley. As it turned out, EX-Heroes was certainly an entertaining, action-packed read, and I can recommend it a lot to fans of either the masked crime-fighters or the Walking Dead.
Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes. Vigilantes. Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilites to make Los Angeles a better place. Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country. The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others. Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions must overcome their differences and recover from their own scars to protect the thousands of survivors sheltered in their film studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. The heroes lead teams out to scavenge supplies, keep the peace within the walls of their home, and try to be the symbols the survivors so desperately need. For while the ex-humans walk the streets night and day, they are not the only threat left in the world, and the people of the Mount are not the only survivors left in Los Angeles. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power. And they are not heroes.
As EX-Heroes is targeted mainly at geeks like myself, there’s a lot of references thrown to various pop culture elements in the novel, most of which I managed to spot. Whilst some people might enjoy the odd mention of other things, there comes a point when the line is crossed and it feels like too much references are being crammed into one novel and there is a chance that the reader will certainly not get all of them. (Just a quick question, for those who have read the novel – did you mind the amount of references to pop culture in here? I didn’t, but I can see that there might be a few who do).
Set in the world created by Robert Kirkman, this is the start of a standalone trilogy with new characters and new storylines.In the Walking Dead universe, there is no greater villain than The Governor. The despot who runs the walled-off town of Woodbury, he has his own sick sense of justice: whether it’s forcing prisoners to battle zombies in an arena for the townspeople’s amusement, or chopping off the appendages of those who cross him. The Governor was voted “Villain of the Year” by Wizard magazine the year he debuted, and his story arc was the most controversial in the history of the Walking Dead comic book series. Now, for the first time, fans of The Walking Dead will discover how The Governor became the man he is, and what drove him to such extremes.
I should probably start this review off by clarifying that I haven’t seen The Walking Dead on TV, nor have I read the graphic novels. However, if The Rise of the Governor is anything to go by, I will be checking them out for sure, even if I have had my eye on them for a while now.
Although I understood what was happening for the most part, I didn’t really work out what the Governor had to do with it until the very end. I had a rough idea as to who was to become the Governor, but Kirkman and Bonansinga have managed to surprise me as to his identity – I don’t know if his identity is mentioned in either the graphic novels or the TV show, but it was a constant source of mystery to me in the novel – I knew that there was going to be an appearance of somebody called “the Governor” featuring at some point in this novel, I just didn’t know who it was until the end. After some research, I’ve seen the Governor described as a villain in comic book lore that has almost as much of a reputation as Darth Vader. Now, I don’t know about you, but this novel really didn’t go into what atrocities the Governor would later commit, but I’m guessing those are covered in the graphic novel and TV show.
The story follows four main characters and their adventures across the wasteland that was once America. Phillip Blake and his daughter Penny are the main characters, alongside Phillip’s brother and two of their high school friends. They’re mostly strong characters, but a few peripheral characters weren’t strong enough to be memorable (for instance, I’ve already forgotten the names of the two high school friends and Phillip’s brother). Nevertheless, they are all key players in the story, and each make their own choices that impact the outcome of the novel. Phillip is the strongest character out of them all, and we see him develop throughout the novel.
The plot surprised me. Not only is it strong, it’s also fast-paced, and about as action-packed as you’d expect from your average zombie novel. There are constant shocks that you wouldn’t expect to find, which kept me hooked and there is never a dull moment. You won’t be able to put this book down once you get into it, that’s for sure, and Rise of the Governor proves that it isn’t just an attempt to milk the franchise, but rather a decent novel in its own right – although I can’t help feeling that if I knew more about The Walking Dead, and how evil the Governor is in the graphic novels, I would have liked this novel even more.
Maybe once I’ve read the graphic novels, I’ll come back and give this one a re-read and see if my opinion changes.
Although this novel may not be an original zombie survival story, with plenty of others like it on the market today, you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to read it. The pace is fast and it’s not too long, which you should be able to read over the course of a couple of afternoons.
While Rise of the Governor may not be as powerful or emotional as other zombie survival novels (for example, The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell), it still manages to hold its own, and given the number of zombie novels that are on the market today, that is no easy feat.
All this being said, I did have some issues with Rise of the Governor. Chief among them was the ending. Although I didn’t see it coming, I found the conclusion to be rushed, which was a real shame – particularly after the great first three quarters of the novel. This meant the novel didn’t have as much overall impact as it could, if the ending had been rounded off better. I don’t know about you, but TV/comic/videogame novel adaptions seem to be a lot better than novel adaptions of films (in my experience anyway), so I will be looking out for more like this in the future.
Whilst I can’t say that a Walking Dead fan would enjoy this or not, given my lack of familiarity with the setting, I would say that you should still give it a go if you find zombie-survival fiction appealing.
“An interesting tale that impresses, and delivers a fantastic, mind-blowing conclusion that you will not see coming.” ~The Founding Fields
When I start“An interesting tale that impresses, and delivers a fantastic, mind-blowing conclusion that you will not see coming.” ~The Founding Fields
When I started reading Chasers, the second title that I’d read from NetGalley, I had no idea what to expect. I’d never heard of James Phelan before, and the only thing that I knew going into this was that it was a post-apocalyptic zombie tale set in Manhattan, New York. And aimed at Young Adults. However, after the first few chapters, I started to get used to the idea that there were several things that were different about this novel, but also several things that were similar to other zombie novels that I’ve read. For example, there’s no speech marks when the characters are speaking. At first, I thought, as we stick with four characters throughout the novel, it wouldn’t work, and Phelan wouldn’t pull it off, like Alden Bell had achieved in the superb The Reapers Are the Angels. As it turned out, it worked perfectly, especially with the way it ended, which I’ll observe in more detail later in this review.
"Four teenagers. One destroyed city. Thousand of infected predators.
Jesse is on a UN Youth Ambassadors camp in New York when his subway carriage is rocked by an explosion. Jesse and his three friends, Dave, Anna and Mini, crawl out from the wreckage to discover a city in chaos. Streets are deserted. Buildings are in ruins. Worse, the only other survivors seem to be infected with a virus that turns them into horrifying predators…"
Lets start with the characters. The Dramatis Personae, as you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic novel, is very small with just Jesse, Dave, Anna and Mini. They’re the only characters that aren’t Zombies, or – as they’re labelled here, Chasers, that feature in the whole novel so if you don’t like how they’re portrayed then it’s tough because you’re going to be stuck with them. Whilst they may not have been particularly memorable characters, Jesse, the narrator, is a likable and believable enough character to get behind and root for.
Whilst the ending of the book is great, the rest of it is a slight let down. Despite the subtle hints dropped (try looking for them and you still won’t find them, that’s how subtle they are) as to where the ending is leading over the course of the book, the overall build-up is slow. Although the novel isn’t particularly a long one, once Jesse, Dave, Anna and Mini take residence in a large, tall skyscraper, the novel seems to drag a little bit. They don’t really feel under threat whilst they’re there, and that’s what I didn’t really like about Chasers. I just felt that Phelan should have increased the tension during the middle chunk of the novel, as I felt that nothing was going to happen to the characters whilst they were in the skyscraper. Thankfully though, this changes towards the end of the book, with the last 3/4′s of the ending being worth the read through of the rest of it.