Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; First Edition edition (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN: 0316278157
  • Source: Publisher

Melanie is a unique girl. She spends most of her day locked in a cell. When she is moved, she is restrained in a wheelchair, her arms and legs shackled to hinder movement. She looks forward to going to “school” and, in particular, her teacher Miss Justineau. She has hopes for her future and life as an adult; unfortunately Melanie cannot comprehend why that will never happen. Like any child her age, she craves attention and affection, both of which are forbidden.

There are other children similar to Melanie, studied by a doctor at the facility. Some leave and never return.  Melanie seems to be the only one of the children who contemplates this; the others seem oblivious and go on with their routine.  Then…something happens, throwing off this routine and sending Melanie’s world into an uncontrollable spiral of change.

Set in a post-apocalyptic society, The Girl with All the Gifts alludes to something not quite being right in the world. Rather than being unveiled immediately, small tidbits of information are relayed to the reader as the characters themselves experience it.  This review is intentionally vague because the reader must experience the revelations on their own, free of spoilers or hints of what is to come.

Melanie, the main character, is a truly unique young girl. This novel is a coming-of-age of sorts, as Melanie undergoes quite a transformation mentally and emotionally as she learns what makes her different from those around her. It is impossible not to feel sympathy for her as she undergoes these revelations.  It will tear at readers heartstrings, for Carey so eloquently portrays the feelings Melanie is experiencing in her “transformation.”

The secondary characters are highly involved in Melanie’s transformation, from Miss Justineau, her sympathetic and caring teacher to Dr. Caldwell, who sees the children as merely test subjects, and finally the guards around her. As they each experience Melanie outside the confines of the facility, they each form a better understanding of what, and who, she really is.

The world the author builds is dark and chilling, difficult to fathom at times but chillingly realistic at others.  I have no doubt that this novel stands on its own as a truly unique spin on a seemingly common storyline.  The cover makes the tone of the book apparent; there is no avoiding the fact that this is a taut, intense thriller.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a must-read for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, particularly those novels that force you to contemplate your own situation, or your response to the situation at hand.  While this review is so vague as to what transpires, trust me to know that the anticipation and revelation will make it well worth it in the end. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0385537093
  • Source: Publisher

In Robopocalypse, humankind was at war with robots. The world as we know it is destroyed, a pathetic wreckage of what once existed. Once Archos, a “super” robot is destroyed, civilization has the potential to recover. . .or so they think.

Copies of Archos were spread far and wide and are now slowly awakening. Unfortunately, they are at odds at one another, the most vocal and terrifying being Arayt Shah. Focused on creating a fighting force strong enough to survive the “True War,” one fought between highly intelligent machines, Arayt Shah is quickly proving to be a robot to be reckoned with!

In addition the characters who survived the first wave of attacks, several new and innovative characters join the motley cast of characters. A mash up that completely blew my science fiction/horror-loving mind was a human/robot hybrid, in which the majority of the human dies, replaced with a stronger, deadlier robotic version. Unexpectedly, however, the human identity remains, cognizant of the world around him/her. Think of it as a self-aware robotic zombie.

This new war is far more deadly than the previous. Alliances are destroyed.  With a host of technical “mutations,” the line that separates human from robot is far more vague and unclear.

Chapters are developed as narratives of the key players in this latest battle, including humans, modified humans, freeborn robots, and the humans infected with robotic parasites.  While the narratives are many, Wilson excels at creating a unique and memorable voice for each “individual”.

As noted above, this is the sequel to Robopocalypse, one of my favorite books of 2011. While Wilson does a pretty decent job of filling in details about each character’s back story using each characters own narrative, I honestly believe you should read the first in order to get a good understanding of what happened before and how/why the characters  have evolved into their current state of existence.

The great thing about these books is they are just as applicable for fans of general fiction as they are to science fiction fans. They require readers to contemplate the implications/possibilities for something like this to happen and to reevaluate the technology that we see and use every day. Bottom line: Robogenesis is just further proof of the genius and creative mind of Daniel H. Wilson. Highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

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 the audiobook production of World War Z by Max Brooks:


  • Audio CD
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • ISBN-10: 0804165734
  • Source: Personal copy

The Zombie War came frighteningly close to decimating mankind. In this documentary-style oral history, survivors (including men, women, and children) look back on the tumultuous time immediately following the outbreak. While sharing their experiences, it isn’t hard to grasp the social and political commentary that follows, how our nation responded to the “attack” and the aftermath. The interviewed include soldiers forced to fight a losing battle, individuals who were just children at the time, now adults reflecting on a horrific past.

While obviously a fictional piece of writing, one could easily take the Zombie War and replace it with any major military insurgence the United States has participated in. The results, the impact, are virtually the same. Lessons learned, inadvisable and rash decisions, are easily transferable.

The interviews are what make this novel truly impactful.  Granted, since there are so many victim statements it is hard to get connected to any character. It wasn’t Brooks’ intent for his readers to relate to any of the characters, but instead focus on the story they are sharing. The story, the memories, the testimony: that should be, and is, the focus of this truly outstanding audio book production. Unlike many other zombie novels, Brooks doesn’t try to explain how or why the zombies came to be, instead focusing on how their existence forever altered society as we know it.

This particular audiobook is an “update” to the original previously released five years ago.  The release of the World War Z motion picture inspired this update, including over five hours of additional content. The previous audio book was abridged, honestly a disappointment. While this update is technically an abridged version as well, to me, the parts removed are not noticeable. Honestly, I was incredibly impressed with the additional content, specifically the additional narrators.  These include New narrators include Martin Scorsese, Alfred Molina (Spiderman), Frank Darabont (the creator ofThe Walking Dead), Nathan Fillion many, many more.

While I haven’t seen the movie yet, I cannot even begin to contemplate how a novel (and audiobook) so brilliant could be transferred to the big screen.  Perhaps a mini-series, but definitely not a full-length film. Instead, I chose to stick to the original, the true brilliance of World War Z. This production definitely tops my list of best of the year. While there are still a few months in the year, it’s going to be hard to top this one. So, in my opinion, skip the movie and stick to the audiobook. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Zombie, Illinois by Scott Kenemore

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (October 1, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1616088850
  • Source: Personal copy

When the dead begin to rise, the most unlikely of coalitions form between a pastor from Chicago’s rough South Side, a young reporter, and a female musician. As if an attack from the walking dead wasn’t enough, the trio uncover a conspiracy by a group of dirty alderman to overthrow the city, using the chaos created by the attack to do so without notice. It is this trio and their unique knowledge of the city that can attempt to save the city they love from this corruption while simultaneously escaping attacks from the walking dead.

Setting is an incredibly important aspect of this story. The author’s love of Chicago is clearly evident in his portrayal of this fine city, showcasing it in a way that truly adds to the development of this novel. It isn’t just a zombie novel, but an author’s love story about his favorite city. Having grown up just outside Chicago, I found myself appreciating this novel on a completely different level than I expected. Quite possibly one of my favorite parts of the novel is when a notable figure in Chicago’s mob history makes an appearance, rising from the dead for a brain-noshing experience of his own.

A little lighter in tone than Kenemore’s previous title, Zombie, Ohio, this title takes place around the same time. For unknown reasons, the dead begin rising from the ground. In the case of the zombies in Chicago they begin walking in from the lake, victims of the mob having been swimming with the fishes for decades. The gore and vulgar language are a little more intense in this novel, quite suitable for the setting, however.

The characters Kenemore created are wholly unique in and of themselves, each able to give a completely different viewpoint.  Forcing them to work together to survive, the way they relate to one another adds a bit of levity and a comical spin on an otherwise dark and desperate story line.

Once again, Kenemore has created a zombie novel that is a step above the rest, a novel that isn’t simply only about a band of the living rising up against the dead.  He just  happens to use it as a background to write about a city he loves, political corruption and all.

If you are looking for a zombie novel with a taste of political corruption, this is the novel for you. Highly recommended.




Review: Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead by Scott Kenemore

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (February 8, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1616082062
  • Source: Library copy

Peter Mellor is a college professor in rural Ohio.  While attempting to visit his girlfriend in the midst of a zombie outbreak, Peter gets into a horrible car accident. Believing he has survived this accident unscathed, he returns to campus, a slight case of amnesia his only ailment. Shortly upon his return he soon realizes that while he’s still walking and talking, he died in that accident and is now one of the undead.

Peter’s situation is certainly unique. Never before has any other zombie been able to maintain an intelligent conversation.  Really, the only obvious indication that he is one of the undead is the huge part of his head that is missing, easily covered by wearing a ballcap. His situation, however, gets worse when  he realizes that the accident that killed him was no accident. Someone intentionally cut his break lines. So in addition to get adjusted to his new undead life, Peter must track down his killer as well.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, Zombie, Ohio isn’t your typical zombie novel. In addition to the  typical humans versus zombie survivalist routine, Kenemore also adds a great deal of dry humor and suspense. Unlike many other zombie novels, readers get the monster’s side of the story, following Peter as he becomes more aware of his “condition.” In doing this, his character develops and evolves into a completely changed “man,” not only due to his situation.  The author’s political and social commentary add to the overall tone of this novel, kicking it up one level on the intellectual meter.

So, if you are looking for a zombie novel with a brains (there, I said it!) and a bit of gore, this is the novel for you.  Highly recommended!zombieawarenessmonth



Review: Star Wars:Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

Happy Star Wars (May the 4th) Day to you! Given that I will be celebrating Zombie Awareness month by showcasing a zombie title each weekend, I thought it fitting that the first one (that just happens to fall on Star Wars Day!) shall be a Star Wars zombie title. Yes…it does exist!

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: LucasBooks; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0345509625
  • Source: Library

The Purge is an Imperial prison barge filled with five hundred of the galaxy’s worst killers and thieves breaks down in a remote part of the galaxy, their options are limited. They notice an abandoned Star Destroyer in the distance. It appears as though a few life forms are still on board. Never-mind the fact that a ship of this magnitude would have never been left abandoned or the fact that it should have been filled with hundreds of life forms…

When a boarding party goes on a scavenging mission they quickly discover why the ship has been left to rot. Only have of the team returns to The Purge, bringing with them a horrific disease that leaves most of the inhabitants dead. If that isn’t bad enough, the small number of survivors are forced to deal with what happens next: the dead begin to rise and they are hungry!

Ok, so while Star Wars: Death Troopers isn’t the best Star Wars novel nor the best zombie novel, the fact that it is a culmination of the two is what makes this title pretty darned awesome. Throw in some classic Star Wars characters (Han Solo and Chewbacca) to save the day and you have a romping good read.

The intensity of the novel starts within the first few pages of the book. What is lacking in character development and writing skill is made up for with the truly outstanding action scenes that scatter through a majority of this title. I wouldn’t recommend this to a Star Wars aficionado looking for the next great Star Wars novel or to a zombie fan looking forward to a unique piece of zombie fiction. That said, if you are looking for a thrilling, slightly gory and unique spin on zombie fiction, this is the title for you.   Recommended.


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 Audiobook Review: Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection by Don Roff and Chris Lane


  • Publisher: AudioGO; Unabridged edition (September 18, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1620643758
  • Listening Time:1 hour and 41 minutes
  • Source:Publisher

The year is 2012. An infection has hit the Seattle area. The infected die and quickly reanimate. One of the survivors is Dr. Richard Twombly, a hematology-oncology specialist at a blood-treatment facility. Twombly uses his journal to document what transpires. The mysterious virus initially behaves like a flu, making people violently ill. Additionally, many of the victims have no signs of bite marks so the means of transmission is unclear.

After barricading himself and a few survivors inside the treatment facility, it isn’t long before the food supply runs thin and Twombly finds himself to be the only survivor. Forced to put an end to a number of his coworkers, or creatures that used to be his coworkers, Twombly is obviously devastated at what has transpired. He soon realizes he is no longer safe in his makeshift shelter and is forced to go outside and seek higher and safer ground.  Along the way, he meets a number of other survivors and uses his notebook to detail their story of survival. He supplements these survivor stories with scientific observations of the infected, including detailed explanations of their decay process as well as methods for killing the undead. Twombly isn’t shy about mentioning potential causes for the virus…you guessed it, we (humans) are responsible.

While I listened to the audio production of this novel and therefore didn’t have access to the detailed illustrations included in the print version, I don’t feel at all like I missed out on anything. The narration, performed by Stephen R. Thorne, was simply phenomenal. It wasn’t long before I forgot I was listening to an audiobook, instead it seemed as though I was listening to an audio documentary, recorded by Twombly himself. From the rustling of papers to the hint of desperation in Twombly’s voice, this narration very well be the best I’ve ever listened to.

A short audio at just under two hours, I quickly became invested in the story and when it ended, I was truly devastated. I may have uttered a few expletives at the audiobook. I don’t see this as a negative, but as vivid proof that this is a truly remarkable work of fiction. I do plan on purchasing a print copy of this book to relive the experience in print format. For those interested in listening to (or reading) a truly well-done zombie novel, but hesitant due to the potential gore, this is the novel for you. It isn’t overly graphic, but instead truly impressive and addictive experience. Highly, highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher, I have the opportunity to provide readers with access to an exclusive interview with the author, Don Roff:

What was it like to adapt the original graphic novel into an audiobook script?

It was quite easy. The folks at AudioGO highlighted some passages that might not translate well to audio. So, I changed them to reflect that. The adaptation also allowed me to delve more into Twombly’s character. Toward the end of the book, there’s an entirely new section. It turned out well. Now I wish it had been included in the printed edition! Also, the people at AudioGO, like Alex and Vikki Warner, were a joy to work with—flexible, responsive, patient. Everything a good collaboration needs to work.

How did you ensure that listeners wouldn’t miss something by not having the illustrations in front of them?

One idea that I conveyed early is that we should make it like Orson Welles’ 1938 The War of the Worlds radio program. If you listen to that, it’s so captivating. Adding the sound effects, subtle as they are, offered Zombies an auditory experience that borders on cinematic. I loved Marty the dog’s barking in a chilling scene toward the end—it goes right through you as a listener.

Would you consider it a faithful adaptation?

Yes, it’s a word-for-word translation, except, of course, for the new material I added to enhance it. But it’s more, it’s its own thing too, which is nice. I love that the story can live in an either visual or auditory world.

What did you think of narrator Stephen R. Thorne?

When AudioGO told me who was narrating, I went and listened to some of his sample works like the Richard Stark Parker novels and John Dies at the End. Stephen’s voice is strong, clear, and deliberate, which is exactly what the character of Dr. Robert Twombly needs. And there is a subtle vulnerability to Stephen’s voice in certain scenes, which also is instrumental in characterizing Twombly. Because Twombly’s human, and though he’s trying to look at this terrible thing through scientific eyes, he can’t help that it effects him emotionally, especially when he begins losing people close to him. Stephen Thorne did a marvelous job conveying all that.

Why do you think zombies are so appealing and interesting to our culture today?

It’s not hard, really. Zombies personify chaos and death. People want to know that they can defend against the unknown and death, two of humanity’s strongest fears. In today’s uncertain world, people feel powerless. Zombies are a way for them to cope. It’s also beneficial, too, as people are beginning to store supplies for disaster preparedness. Always a good thing to have several jars of canned peaches, fresh drinking water, and some candlesaround. There are also people stockpiling munitions like it’s World War III, but that all seems a little dangerous and scary to me. A little prudence is always good; going to the extreme of anything isn’t so much.

Thank you, once again, to AudioGo and Don Roff!