Review: Morningside Fall (Legends of the Dustwalker, #2) by Jay Posey

Morningside Fall (Legends of the Duskwalker #2)

At the end of Jay Posey’s debut Three, the first book in ‘The Legends Of The Dustwalker’, I got the impression the titular character, Three, couldn’t possibly be the dustwalker of legend, which both surprised and saddened. He was a compelling figure and the entire plot hinged upon his actions. Three embodied the role of the brooding loner who repelled all comers with one of a variety of weapons, mental and physical. Cass and her son, Wren, got under his shell, however, and together, they completed a journey across the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Posey’s imagination. The interwoven plot threads led to an exciting conclusion that simultaneously unravelled and deepened every character involved.

Then something unexpected happened. I’m not going to elaborate here, as that would spoil the book for new readers. Suffice to say, Three does not head the cast of ‘Morningside Fall’ and that is pretty much the major problem with the book.

Once again, Cass and Wren are compelled to journey across the wasteland between sanctuaries. Tension is running high in Morningside. The residents are not happy about the influx of people from beyond the wall and the reawakened Weir returned from a zombie-like state to almost human. There is also a plot afoot in Morningside to wrest power from the new young governor. After attempts on his life, Wren gathers those still loyal to him and sets off to find a safe place to hide. His mother, Cass, meets them on the road.

This time, the Weir are smarter and weirder. They’re coordinated and more vicious than before. They have also acquired chant, the meaning of which saves this book from mediocrity. In the last quarter, we finally ‘meet’, properly, the blindfolded figure from the front cover, and learn who is organising the Weir. From that point, the battle is on.

Not that there isn’t enough hack and slash in ‘Morningside Fall’. There is. It’s the stuff in between that is lacking. A lot of Cass and Wren reassuring one another, which, I’m sorry, got old after the first fifty pages, and I’m a mother. I think what their relationship highlights is the fact Wren is young. Too young to be governor of Morningside, regardless of what power he holds. He’s a kid and while post-apocalyptic settings are great for robbing childhoods, Wren still felt too much like a lost child to really lead the book.

I wanted Three or his replacement. I wanted the guy in the blindfold from the front cover. Until the last quarter, the book lacks the leadership of a compelling character, one that I could probably empathise with.

Still, the concluding pages of ‘Morningside Fall’ are pretty epic and set up the next chapter very well. It’s just a pity it took so long to get there. Despite my disappointment in this book, I will be reading on. Posey has constructed a really unique world, one that steps to the side of the usual zombie tropes and provides an apocalypse that’s at once unfathomable, but also believable. That’s no mean feat.

Written for SFcrowsnest.

 

Review: The Remaining by D.J. Molles

The Remaining (The Remaining, #1)

The Remaining isn’t just another zombie apocalypse novel. Actually, it is, but author D.J. Molles has tweaked his re-telling of a fate worse than death enough to make it fresh. I just read that sentence over. Really, there’s nothing fresh about a zombie apocalypse. Zombies are disgusting. Two distinct facts separate this story from the rest, however.

First of all, the time-frame is very compressed. After meeting Captain Lee Harden and covering a quiet month in his bunker, where we learn the how and the why of the apocalypse and his mission, Molles pushes the fast forward button. The greater part of the book, the ACTION, spans about three terrifying and tense days.

Debating with his conscience, Lee leaves the bunker a few days earlier than his detailed instructions dictate. From the minute he steps outside his front door, what can go wrong does go wrong. That’s the second difference. There are no cosy campfire scenes in this novel. Little reminiscence regarding what was. There is no spark of attraction between two world-weary survivors. Lee does begin to collect a merry band, but he’s missing several integral ‘types’. There’s no ex-con, no slut and no gun crazy guy or girl who constantly threatens everyone else’s safety.

There are marauding bands of hooligans with guns, however, and gobs and gobs of zombies. (Is there a collective pronoun for zombies?) The world outside Lee’s bunker is also suitably apocalyptic. In other words, the setting is just right.

Given more than three days to cope with the end of the world, Lee might have managed a passable cast of characters. I, for one, am glad he did not. With furious zombies battering at every door, the story had enough tension. Palpable tension! I ripped through the pages at a furious pace and finished the book in a single day.

Folks who read my reviews regularly know I love a good apocalypse. So, I enjoyed this book. I loved the pace and quite liked Captain Lee Harden. He’s a well-constructed character. He’s a soldier, through and through, and far from being an emotionless git. I felt his balance of rational thought and emotional involvement was just right. He spared a thought for the fate of the world and for those he cared about, but continued to put his mission first, even when it meant sacrificing himself. Very noble of him, I’d say. Without the recrimination and doubt, he’d have been a bit unreal. Instead, he’s just a guy, one specially chosen by the United States government for a very special task, one brought to life by Molles. My only complaint concerns the ending, which, like all the things that go wrong, I am not going to give away, suffice to say, it’s not an ending at all. It’s a cliff-hanger of the most bald variety. Nothing to cling to AT ALL!

‘The Remaining’ caught me up and carried me along well enough that I would have picked up the next book anyway. I want to continue adventuring with Lee. Still, I don’t like being told what to do and tend to take a dim view of books that don’t give me a whole story. Feels like an upsell. If I’d wanted fries with my order, I’d have ordered the damned fries to begin with. Actually, I kinda needed fries with this order. But while I think ‘The Remaining’ could have had a more satisfying conclusion, hinting at or even serving up the next adventure, I will read on. This wasn’t just another zombie apocalypse novel. It’s a well written, taut adventure novel with characters that definitely make a mark.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

It’s the Snowpocalypse

It’s the snowpocalypse and, let me tell you, this is not the way I thought I would go. When imagining the apocalypse (something I do with disturbing frequency), I figured it would happen in one of two ways: dreaded disease or someone bombing the crap out of the United States. Both seem equally plausible, don’t they?

I have stocked the basement with supplies. We keep the camping gear down there. It has running water and heat (gas, in case the electricity fails), our huge collection of board games, daughter’s craft supplies, food (beans, beans and, for variety, some more beans) and water. If we get bored of board games, we can set up the tent, pretend we’re actually camping. Or, we can take turns pretending the elliptical machine is running. Imagine the workout you could get making that thing go with no electricity? We could stare at the blank TV screen, maybe play with our reflections. There’s a kickbag down there. We could take turns kicking and punching it. Or we could fight each other, as a measure of stress relief and to practice for the inevitable invasion of gun-toting survivalists who will be after our beans and board games.

I have looked into sealing the entrance with one of those sneaky false floors. Make the stairwell look like a closet, one with an innocuous keypad mounted on the inside wall. The floor would be really thick steel. Something only a dedicated post-apocalyptic burglar (or alien equipped with acidic saliva) could burn through. After all, we’ve only got beans to share.

We also have a weapon down there. A recurve bow with a slack string and about three arrows. The tip is hanging off one. I think we’ve shot it at too many trees. My daughter has a bow, too. A post Hunger Games ‘toy’ that is pink. Despite the wrongness of taking down a deer with a pink bow, that’s probably how it will happen, but only after we’ve enraged the mutated beast and it has finished trampling us.

The gas will run out before the beans, so we’ll have to freeze dry the strips of venison. We’ll know how to butcher it. I have a book. I do not have a strong stomach, but somehow I think that will be the least of my worries after the end of the world.

Or, I could just order three of these:

The video is in Japanese, but really, the pod speaks for itself. Sort of. There’s a pole inside, and dingy carpet. Do they expect us to while away the post apocalypse learning to pole dance? Or is that all we get to hold on to as our safe place rolls between disasters? I’ve already planned what to put in those handy compartments. (One of them would have to function as a toilet, wouldn’t it? Practical and gross.)

You know, these would be perfect for the snowpocalypse. They’re crush-proof, float and can withstand 9.3 tons of compressive pressure. Plunge distance is limited to 25m, so we’d have to cruise carefully around the Poconos. We could order them in white and travel incognito as big, shiny snowballs. The aliens (taking advantage of our weakened planet) might not recognize us. My mad family might end up as the rearguard of all humanity.

Scary thought, isn’t it.

I talked to my husband about the life armor and explained why we should order three. One for me and the cats, one for him and daughter and one as a spare. He wanted his own, of course. I predict we’d all end up in the one my daughter orders. The pink one. We can roll over the mad deer and play pinball with the aliens (hoping the toilet compartment doesn’t flip open).

Then, when the snow melts, my daughter can go back to school, I can write something other than crazy blog posts and my husband can return to his daily routine of gaming between conference calls.

Stay warm, everyone!

Review: The Last of Us: American Dreams

18101264 The Last of Us: American Dreams by Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks

‘The Last Of Us’ is a comicbook based on the recently released video game of the same name. The setting is post-apocalyptic and the main character is Ellie, the young girl featured on the cover of the game. The comic serves as a prequel. This review covers the first four issues as collected in the first trade edition, ‘The Last Of Us: American Dreams’.

Ellie arrives at what appears to be a school for orphaned children. It’s not immediately obvious why there are so many of them, but there are enough hints that the reader gains the idea the world outside is not safe. There is mention of the infected and security is tight and there are a lot of heavies with guns dotted throughout the pages.

After going through a typical initiation, lets beat up the new kid, Ellie befriends Riley, an older girl who is just shy of sixteen. Riley shares the bitter news that on her sixteenth birthday, she’ll be shoved out into the world and given a gun, forced to join the fighting ranks. Riley wants another option, one that is going to involve Ellie, whether she likes it or not.

Riley has an unhealthy interest in the Fireflies, who seem to be a military outfit at odds with the regular forces. It’s unclear if they are at the opposite end of the fight or simply do things differently. When the pair catch up with the Fireflies, things don’t go quite as planned. (Wouldn’t be as exciting, otherwise!)

Chapter four, the last issue collected in this book, reveals the answers to a lot of questions. What type of school Ellie was in and why she was there. The reader also learns about the Fireflies. It’s a very tense chapter and definitely inspires interest in the rest of the story. Previously unexplored sides of Riley and Ellie are exposed, deepening their characters.

I like more painterly art between the chapters that preface the action to come. The soft colours are a nice contrast to the bolder lines and colours of the comic book pages. I also like the pages that tell the story visually rather than rely on dialogue or comments. There are a good proportion of them and they very clearly convey both action and mood. They’re well-conceived. The last few pages feature a series of concept sketches. I always appreciate those additions to the collected editions of comic books.

I enjoyed this comic and I’d definitely keep up with the series. I would like to know more about the world, but I wasn’t overly frustrated by the slow reveal. The infected are zombies and there have been enough books and movies about zombies that I can draw some rudimentary conclusions. What sets this story apart, at present, is the characters. Yes, we’ve seen zombies before. We’re almost numbed to the horror of them. But this is the first time I’ve seen a young female protagonist. It makes a refreshing change.

Review written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.

This review was cross posted from Goodreads, which doesn’t always correctly attribute the writers and artists of comic books, so here’s a complete list of credits: Writer: Faith Erin Hicks, Neil Druckmann. Artist: Faith Erin Hicks. Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg. Cover Artist: Julian Totino Tedesco

Giveaway and Blog Tour

Less Than Perfect releases today!

Mickey's Box of Books
Mickey’s Box of Books

For the next two weeks, I’ll be visiting book blogs to talk about my novella, Less Than Perfect. There will be interviews and a couple of rambles about my characters, Mikayla and Reg, and my three favourite things, which would be aliens, apocalypses and love stories. Follow along for the chance to win Mickey’s Box of Books.

Inside, you’ll find two of Mickey’s favourite books: A Wrinkle in the Skin by John Christopher and Alas Babylon by Pat Frank. Also included are two Entangled titles: Gravity by Melissa West and The Chosen Ones by Tiffany Truitt. Because this is Mickey’s Box of Books, there is also a journal and a couple of pens. Here’s hoping the winner does not have to carry this box through an alien apocalypse!

Read an excerpt of Less Than Perfect and follow the blog tour! Here is the list of stops. Entries for the giveaway are available each day:

LTP 500[1]

Mikayla’s read every book in her collection of post-apocalyptic novels at least twice. She thinks she’s prepared for aliens taking over Earth. She’s not.

Nor is she prepared for the attention of a good-looking refugee named Reg.

All Mikayla and Reg want is a safe place to see out the end of the world, hidden away from the aliens that call themselves The People, but cities of the depopulated United States not infested with The People are rife with gangs, the detritus of civilization and disease.

On a mission to restock their supplies, Mikayla and Reg are captured by The People and prepared for the procedure that will make them perfect, but no longer quite human. In order to escape, they need to rely on each other…if Mikayla can trust a man who seems too good to be true.