Tag Archives: apocalypse

Review: Red Hill by Jamie McGuire

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (October 1, 2013)
  • ISBN: 9781476759524
  • Source: Personal copy

When an outbreak hits without warning, everyday people are forced to do the extraordinary if they are going to survive.

Scarlet is a divorced, single mom to two girls. After sending her daughters to spend the weekend with their father, she’s off to work at the local hospital. She is one of the first to see the outbreak when it hits. Initially, they believe that an outbreak of rabies is responsible for the strange behavior. Then, when the dead awaken with an insatiable hunger they realize it is so much more.  Scarlet barely escapes the hospital unscathed, desperate to be reunited with her daughters.

Nathan hears of the outbreak and rushes to pick up his daughter from school. His marriage is a failure, becoming even more obvious when he returns home to find that his wife has left him.  Determined to protect his daughter, he flees town in search for a place of safety.

Miranda is a college student traveling with her sister and their significant others. Her VW may not be much, but it saved them from the attacks of the hungry walkers.  She’s desperate to reach Red Hill, site of her father’s cabin and hopefully, salvation.

These three individuals converge at the cabin at Red Hill. Individually, they are quite different. Yet one goal is common: to stop at nothing to save and protect their loved ones.

I know, I know. Another zombie outbreak novel. Yet Red Hill has the qualities of a novel much more than “just” a zombie novel. Yes, there are zombies, but they aren’t the focus of this novel. Instead, the concentration is on the survivors and how they react to a horrifying and traumatic experience:

Scarlet is a fierce, no-nonsense woman. Despite all odds, she’s determined to be reunited with her daughters. She willingly risks the lives of those around her, including her own, on this mission.  It was easy for me to connect with this character. Having two children myself, nothing would be able to stop me from finding them.

While Nathan has his daughter beside him, he’s still searching for something in life. His marriage wasn’t a loving one, so the outbreak gives him a reason, an excuse, to seeks something more out of his life.

Miranda is a bit more complicated. She’s accustomed to taking what life throws at her, taking control, and dealing with it. Since the outbreak, her lack of control is devastating and she must adjust to her new life in a completely different manner.

I’ve owned a copy of this book for some time now. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that I buy a book, put it on my shelf, and forget about it for a while. This is exactly what happened in this case.  I discovered it again when I was planning my posts for Murder, Monsters & Mayhem. What better excuse to give it the attention it deserves? I’m thrilled to know that it exceeded my expectations. We all know I’m a huge fan of zombie fiction & movies. Not for the gore or the killing, but because they, like so many other pieces of horror fiction, are about far more than the monsters that inhabit them. In most cases, they are an exploration of our society and how we, as human beings, respond to unbelievable situations.

Red Hill is the perfect example of this. Yes, there are zombies. Yes, there are killings. Yet they are minor in the overall outlook and intent of this novel.  The character study McGuire provides is intense and terrifying, yet genuine and provoking.  Honestly, I don’t know how I would react if their fate was dealt to me; I hope I have a modicum of their determination and survival skills.  Yes, there are some overly optimistic scenes, but we all need a bit of hope & happiness in our lives (especially in the midst of a zombie apocalypse)!

Red Hill is a perfect read for fans of The Walking Dead who tend to shy away from gore. The violence is minimal, never overdone or exaggerated. The people are the key to this story.  Highly recommended.

Joint Review/Discussion: The Young World by Chris Weitz

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (July 29, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316226295
  • Source: Publisher

A mysterious sickness has struck the population. The only survivors are teens; the only thing preventing their death are the hormone binding proteins that ravage the teen body but level out as they reach adulthood. Children under the age of puberty and adults who have passed this stage in life fall victim to this sickness.  The survivors not only have to deal with surviving in a post-apocalyptic world alone, but the knowledge that they too will face the same demise.

Two years later, in New York City, survivors have formed tribes under  a new social order.  Three teens, part of Manhattan’s Washington Square Tribe, decide that rather than sitting around waiting to die, they must find the cause, and eventually a cure, for the sickness. On a visit to the New York Public Library they uncover a scientific journal describing a scientific study that may explain the origins of the sickness.  The location of this study is just a few hundred miles away and the tribe leaves relative safety of their home in an attempt to save society as they know it.

When I first heard about this title several months ago, I knew it would be a book that my teen son would enjoy. He’s just branching out into reading young adult and is a big fan of survivalist stories.  I handed over my review copy and he devoured it in a matter of days. He couldn’t stop talking about it. He bugged me to read it so we could discuss it. So I did. What follows is our discussion of this book (not edited):

 

Jenn: So, John-John, why did you enjoy this book?

John-John: What’s not to enjoy! I mean, a world in which only teens have survived? No adults or younger siblings? Ok, so the fact that all the parents and younger kids are dead is kind of sad. I mean, I guess it would be fun for a while but once it all set it I would be pretty sad. Also: New York City! Ok, I know I’ve never been but if I had to survive a post-apocalyptic world I think I would want to do it in New York City. Or maybe out in the country where no one else could bother me. One of the two.  Think of it: all these well-known tourist spots, free to visit whenever you wanted with no traffic? Sounds pretty exciting to me!

Jenn: It certainly is a unique premise. I’ve read quite a few books (John-John: Understatement of the year!) in which society has fallen for one reason or another. I really liked this one because it’s obvious the author put a lot of thought and research into this explanation. Also, the survivors are only temporary. They too will eventually fall victim to the same fate.  What happens when they all age out of puberty?

John-John: Yeah, that is a bummer. I mean, you have no idea when you are going to die. It could be tomorrow or in a few weeks, or even a few years. Your body is a ticking time bomb, giving no warning to when it’s going to just…stop.

Jenn: So you like the idea of having free reign over New York City? Even with all the other tribes running around?

John-John: Ok, take the fun out of it, Mom!  Yes, all the tribes running around are kind of scary. Maybe at first it would be fun, but the constant fear of a fight is pretty scary.

Jenn: I thought the new social classes that rose up were interesting. They were called tribes, but reminded me of modern-day gangs.

John-John: Yeah, it was pretty scary and intense.  While I liked the idea of a world without adults, the thought of only teens running the world is kind of terrifying. I mean…teens are moody!

Jenn: (Laughs)Understatement of the year! So, let’s talk about what they discovered when they reached the lab. No spoilers, though, ok?

John-John: Ok, spoiler free: Intense. Scary. I don’t know if I felt more hopeful then or more terrified. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Jenn: Exactly. I felt relieved when they reached the lab but what they discovered wasn’t exactly what they were anticipating!

Ok, time to wrap up our feelings about this book. We need to give readers our reason for reading it. I’ll go first!

I really enjoyed reading this because the premise is so unique. I don’t know of another young adult novel like this one.  I also liked the multiple points of view.  We view this new world through the eyes of two survivors, Jefferson (definitely more level-headed and contemplative) and Donna (certainly more emotional and a little on the flaky side) and so we get two very different viewpoints on what has transpired.

John-John: Yes! I don’t think I’ve read anything like this yet.  I really liked the characters. I don’t think Donna was necessarily flaky. I think you think that because you are an adult. I think she was emotional because this was a pretty emotional time. Not only is she concerned about her own survival, her body is going through all kinds of crazy things. I think her behavior is completely understandable.

Jenn: Good point. Looking at it from a teen reader, I see how you could be more sympathetic to the characters!  Any warnings you would like to give to potential readers?

John-John: Ok, I know if I don’t mention it you will. Foul language. There’s quite a bit of it. But honestly, it’s not like I haven’t heard it before. There were some things I didn’t understand or had questions about, but I just asked you. So, if parents are reading this, be prepared to answer questions.  The language used can be intense, but it’s completely understandable given that, you know, the world is over and only teens have survived.  I wouldn’t expect anything different.

Jenn: Very well put.  Yes, I would recommend parents reading along if they have a young teen (John is fourteen) to help explain some of the terminology/what transpires. There is foul language. Quite a bit of it. If you don’t think/want your child to be exposed to this, perhaps this isn’t the book for them. I’m really glad you asked me to read this with you, John. It was certainly a fun experience!

Any last thoughts, John?

John-John: Read this book! It really made me think about a world without my parents and how terrifying that would be. I wanted you to read it so you can experience it with me. Now I want all my friends to read it, too. It has a lot of action, a lot to keep readers excited about reading this book. Most of all, it’s not a “girl book” or a “boy book.” Its a book I think all readers will enjoy!

Jenn: Well said!  I also highly recommend this book, with the disclaimers mentioned above!

 

Frightful Friday: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. This week’s featured title is Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines:

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (February 26, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0804136572
  • Source: Publisher (egalley)

A zombie outbreak has devastated the Earth. A year later, in Los Angeles, a band of superheroes attempts to protect survivors sheltered in what remains of Hollywood. As if fighting zombies, known as exes (ex-humans), wasn’t enough, the heroes are also forced to battle a rabid street gang known as the Seventeens over remaining supplies.

Told in alternating chapters of “Then” and “Now,” Clines successfully executes a pretty tremendous feat of combining two very different worlds. The heroes he creates are unique, ranging from a human electric current (Zzap) to a man who cannot die yet can heal others (The Regenerator). Each of these individuals have only recently discovered their powers, in most cases many just woke up with these extremely unique talents. Each of the chapters covers the viewpoint of these heroes, allowing readers to both piece together the events that lead to this devastation as well as get a unique viewpoint with each chapter.

It would be easy for a novel like this to crash and burn, but Clines is such a skilled writer (and obvious fan of comic book heroes) that he pulls it off successfully. Down to the origin, physiology and behavior of the zombies/exes, Clines creates a wholly unique spin on a subject matter (zombies) that seems to be exploding lately.

What makes this such a stand-out novel is the cross-over appeal, both fans of comic/super heroes as well as fans of zombie fiction clambering over one another to get their hands on this truly tremendous title.  I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of the next book, Ex-Patriots.

 

Frightful Friday: Domino Falls by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. This week’s featured book is: Domino Falls by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due.

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Original edition (February 19, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 145161702X
  • Source: Publisher egalley

In this continuation of Devil’s Wake, Kendra and the other survivors finally reach Domino Falls, a secure town in California run by new-age guru Joseph Wales. After a period of quarantine, the conditions they discover in Domino Falls are almost too good to be true: clean bathrooms with running water, hot cooked meals, and a mechanic to help repair the shoddy bus they have been driving for thousands of miles.

It isn’t long before they realize that the Domino Falls is, in fact, too good to be true. Wales is implicitly involved in the apocalypse that caused the infection that turned everyday people into monsters.  When what the group of survivors thought was the cause of this wave of infection is disproven, an unworldly source is revealed.

Domino Falls is an extraordinary follow-up to what I thought was an incredibly unique and remarkable first book in a series. In this novel, the characters experience a tremendous amount of growth and revelation. Additionally, readers will be floored when the true cause of the “infection” is revealed, adding a completely astounding science fiction spin on this zombie series.

As with the previous book, the action is intense and the pacing fast so don’t be surprised if you finish this book in one sitting.  While I thought the cliff-hanger at the end of Devil’s Wake was powerful, it holds nothing to the ending of Domino Falls. I cannot wait until more is revealed in this series. Highly recommended.

 

Review: Devil’s Wake by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Original edition (July 31, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451617003
  • Source: Personal copy

Kendra and her parents are on their way to the hospital in Portland for a flu shot when it happens: an infection consumes innocent people, turning them into flesh-eating monsters. Escaping before receiving the injection, they attempt to escape the madness that is unfolding before their very eyes. It isn’t long before the devastation hits home, Kendra left to fend for herself after her parents become victims of the mysterious infection.

After fleeing yet another incident that nearly takes her life, Kendra eventually meets up with a group of juvenile delinquents who served time volunteering at a summer camp instead of in the Washington juvenile detention system.The group begins the harrowing journey to find safety. Together, they cross thousands of miles of barren land in a decrepit school bus, fighting not only the infected but healthy individuals, pirating the weak for supplies and information.

A great deal of speculation takes place regarding the cause of the virus that turns people into “freaks,” the prevailing answer seems to be the infected are those who both received a flu shot & consumed a mushroom marketed as a weight-loss diet. All the survivors know is this: newly infected fall asleep and wake up as flesh-eating monsters with blood-red eyes. The cause is not important to Kendra in the survivors. Their goal is to get to safety…and fast.

Devil’s Wake is a fresh, unique spin on the zombie story. Both the cause of the infection and Kendra’s speculated involvement is wholly intriguing. Additionally, the zombies this husband/wife writing combo create are unique in and of themselves. Some turn into bumbling, flesh-hungry creatures but others retain a part of their original selves, some able to participate in actual intelligible conversation.

The main characters are mostly teens, Barnes & Due allow them to retain some of the aspects of teens, including the traditional insecurities that many teens face. Additionally, they are incredibly flawed and make genuine mistakes.  One of the many redeeming characteristics of this novel is the strong, female characters. Each of them are head strong and self-assured, traits not often seen in this genre. Also, the authors create characters from different walks of life, combining individuals from well-off backgrounds with those whose family life had more to be desired. Finally, the characters are genuine representations of people of color, not forced into stereotypical roles or norms.

While there wasn’t a strong ending to this novel with several aspects left hanging, this cliff-hanger instead generates a great deal of excitement about the next book in the series. All in all, Devil’s Wake is a great example of zombie fiction for those who like a bit of horror, but not a great deal of vulgarity and gore. Highly recommended.

Devil’s Wake the first in a series; stay tuned for tomorrow when I review the second book in the series, Domino Falls.

Mx3 Review: The Coffee Table Book of Doom by Steven Appleby & Art Lester

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  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Original edition (September 25, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0452298660
  • Source: Publisher

Perhaps by the time you read this book some of the Doom scenarios included will no longer be global threats. Maybe the human race will have acted together to contain greenhouse gas production and tree felling. Or they will have developed a laser shield to deflect incoming asteroids.

 

Perhaps not.

 

And so begins The Coffee Table Book of Doom. Nothing like starting off on a light foot, eh? In the following 224 pages, authors Steven Appleby and Art Lester guide readers through the various ways the world may end, from robotic revolts, space earthquakes, and more. Told using dark humor and elaborately illustrated pages, each chapter focuses on the different ways our race may come to an end, from Climate Change Doom to Religious Doom and Cosmic Doom.

While the information is relayed in a tongue-in-cheek sort of humor, the authors do provide a great deal of information and background on each of the potential Doomsday scenarios, including explanations and evidence as to why these events are possible.

The incredibly detailed illustrations add a bit of levity to the overall feel of the book. Pictured here is an example of an illustration, detailing what sort of material items we would be without should fossil fuels be depleted:

As indicated, there is a great deal of humor interspersed throughout the book, so the overall feel isn’t as dark as one would think. That said, the content provided does make the reader think about their impact, their carbon footprint, on the world some of us take for granted. While I don’t recommend reading this book cover to cover in one sitting, it is a truly informative novel that I would recommend flipping through.  Highly recommended to fans of dark humor, doomsday scenarios, those obsessed with the potential impending apocalypse…but perhaps not those terribly frightening survivalists who, in my opinion, are a doomsday scenario in and of themselves.

 

Review: This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (July 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451666667
  • Source: Publisher

Dr. Lucy Ingersol first notices something is amiss when people walk into her hospital with strange symptoms, including seizures and Tourette-like verbal outbursts. The number of victims with these symptoms dramatically increases within a matter of minutes. Lucy, worried about her son and husband at home opts to leave the hospital after it is overrun with the infected.

As this plague continues to spread, Lucy notices another symptom: the recently dead rise, now crazed flesh-eating monsters. To make matters worse, the government responds by dropping bombs that send out waves of electromagnetic pulses that wipe out all electronics, including vehicles and spreading radiation.  On her attempts to reach her home, she is picked up by Jim “Knock-Out” Nickerson, a big teddy bear of a truck driver. It doesn’t take long them to see the devastation surrounding them. After barely surviving a number of attacks, they reach Lucy’s home and find her ten-year-old son, Gus.  The trio embark on a mission to seek a safer ground.

Fast forward three years and the trio now lives in Bridge City, potentially one of the few remaining human civilizations.  Lucy and Knock-out have gained power in this motley crew of survivor, grooming Gus to become a future leader. Bridge City is a pretty impressive fortress using ingenious means to keep the zombies out, all at the hands of Gus, now a war-hardened young man. Their safety is threatened when they learn of a group of slavers heading that way to take over their civilization. Gus is their only salvation. He must now use the knowledge imparted upon him by his mother and Knock-out to stand up against a completely new form of enemy: the living.

I know I seem to say this a lot lately, but this novel puts a completely unique spin on the typical zombie novel. Yes, the flesh-eating buggers play a pretty key role in this novel but ultimately the real story is that of the survivors. The novel starts out like many other zombie novels but the similarities stop there. Instead, Jacobs uses this novel to reflect and report upon the human condition, how we as individuals with a conscious and morals and laws react when our world is completely turned on end, or in this case, pretty much burned to a crisp.

It is easy for the reader to identify with the main characters as they start of as completely typical, unremarkable individuals. That changes when their lives are put at risk, forced into completely unimaginable situations.  This is a novel that makes one think, a completely rewarding cerebral experience. Highly recommended.

Note: violence, sex, violence of a sexual nature. Not for the weak of heart.

Review: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0385535155
  • Source: Publisher (via Edelweiss)

In a near-future world, the medical profession has found a treatment for various diseases/ailments: brain implants. These implants, referred to as amps cures such diseases as epilepsy and allows individuals who have lost limbs due to various injuries to walk again as well as treat those with mental impairments. What starts out as a medical treatment expands and soon policeman and the military are being armed with amps, giving them super-human strength and abilities. Perfectly healthy individuals are implanted with the device, giving them superior physical and mental abilities. Soon, regular people not implanted with the device are being cheated out of educational opportunities by amps with superior brain power. Unaltered athletes are forced to compete against amps with extreme physical capabilities.

Amped begins with a ruling by the Supreme Court revoking all legal protections from Amps, those individuals implanted with the device. Despite the fact that many of these “amps” are normal people who are being treated for some medical impairment, an extremely conservative politician begins to manipulate the public, creating a fear of those with the device.

Owen Gray is one of these individuals. His father was the designer of the implanted chips. As a young adult, Owen sustained a severe head injury which resulted in horrendous seizures. A chip was implanted to control the seizures…or so Owen thought. In reality, the damage his brain received was so severe that he would not have lived without it. The chip implanted was not standard issue but one his father obtained from the military. As the country around him quickly descends into a military state, Owen has now become one of the country’s most wanted men.

Forced to leave his life behind him, Owen hunts down the man originally behind this rogue group of soldiers, a sort of special forces that was ordered to disband due to the side effects caused by the implanted amps.  He uncovers Eden, the place where all the research into these implanted chips began. In his journey, he learns about the power that has remained dormant in his brain all these years. Owen is just your average schoolteacher, or so he thought. In order to save the lives of thousands of modified human beings, Owen must learn how to control his powers and use them for the good of the nation.

Scattered throughout the novel are legal documents, providing the reader with an evolution of the government’s increased response to public outcry. In addition to Owen’s own observations, these legal documents provide the reader with evidence of the rapid decline of society.

Amped , like Wilson’s previous book, Robopocalypse, has a great deal of social commentary embedded in the text. Issues such as the value of a person, what makes a person, etc. are heavy to this storyline. These individuals have lost all legal rights and are eventually rounded up into camps for their “protection.” Legalized racism runs rampant, high-level politicians suggesting that these “amps” have lost what makes them human and therefore should not be treated as humans. “Regs,”those individuals that have not been implanted, brutalizing and killing amps without fear of prosecution.

This social commentary, compounded with a truly reliable main character that any reader can relate to, all add up to a truly impressive novel. Highly recommended.

Zombie Mondays: The Zombie Tarot: An Oracle of the Undead by Stacey Graham

 

  • Cards: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books; Crds edition (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1594745692
  • Source: Publisher

We’ve all seen tarot cards, whether in person or on screen. Imagine those tarot cards…zombiefied. This 78-card deck, along with a 96 page instruction manual, provides the user with tips on surviving the zombie apocalypse.

The instructions on the side of the box read:

In the event of a zombie attack: Get to a secure location, open this box, and consult the Zombie Tarot. This fully-functional 78-card deck offers valuable advice on life, love, family, friendship, automatic firearms, premature burials, cannibalistic children, and more.

The cards have a bit of a vintage look, making them appear as if they are relics from the past:


The illustrations, done by Paul Kepple are richly detailed without being too graphic.

The cards don’t guarantee to predict the future, but instead offer suggestions on how to survive a particular situation.  The accompanying instruction manual provides detailed explanations of each of the cards and the course of action one must take. For example, the Six of Cups card represents nostalgia, memories, old flames. The advice: “Someone from your past may come for a visit. Just don’t mistake a friendly kiss on the cheek for a zombie gnawing off your face.”

Bottom line: The Zombie Tarot Cards are a must-have addition to any zombie-apocalypse preparedness kit. Highly recommended!


Zombie Mondays: The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse by Steven C. Schlozman

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 21, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0446564656
  • Source: Personal Copy

Two-thirds of humankind have been infected with ataxic neurodegenerative satiety deficiency syndrome (ANSD), the virus that causes individuals to lose all evidence of humanity, lurch when they walk, and crave human flesh. Dr. Stanley Blum is a neurodevelopmental biologist, researcher and zombie expert for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Infected with the virus himself, he volunteers to travel to an island controlled by the United Nations, Bassas da India, to autopsy “living” zombies in an attempt to isolate the pathogen causing the virus. The Zombie Autopsies, in a journal format, is Blum’s detailed studies of the cause of ANSD, including the symptoms, rate of growth, etc. His entries are supplemented with clinical drawings by another doctor infected with this horrible virus:

Rather than fill the novel with yet another zombie attack storyline, Schlozman instead provides a detailed, scientific examination of the zombie virus. Since the doctors performing these living autopsies are uncertain as to who will discover the journals after they have died,  while they are written with great scientific detail they can be understood by the average reader. The terrifying thing is that the author describes such a well-researched explanation of the cause of this virus that readers will become convinced that such an attack is possible. Kudos to Schlozman, a doctor himself, for granting zombie enthusiasts yet another unique book to add to their collection. Anyone who calls themselves a die-hard zombie enthusiast can’t afford to pass this one up! Highly recommended.

Note: many of the drawings are pretty graphic. The one pictured above is actually the tamest of them all. While the text itself is not overly gory, the drawings may not be suited for all audiences.