Reporting from Mount TBR (May Edition)

My plan to read less in 2021 is coming along nicely. Normally, by the end of May, I’d have put down a hundred or so books. Last time I “noticed” the number of books I’ve read this year, it was 50-something. This noticing was incidental, by the way. A part of my desire to reduce the number of books I read was my desire not to keep track of the numbers, but I still occasionally play with the data in Notion, sorting by author and subject, and the number of titles pops up at the bottom of the chart. I look. It’s hard not to look. I really do love data.

My plan to climb Mount TBR is also coming along nicely. I read three titles from my teetering backlog—although two of them were audiobooks, so there was no teetering involved. Still, it was nice to sort two digital files from Not Started to Finished.

Continue reading “Reporting from Mount TBR (May Edition)”

Flash Fiction: Hunger and Socks

A lot of my flash fiction is stored on a tumblr blog. I fell out of the habit of using tumblr before they started censoring my fun but sometimes head over there to scroll through my old posts. There are nearly 50 slices of story there, many of them ideas for something greater.

I’ve been transplanting my favourites here and I was surprised to note that neither of these two had made it over yet. I love these stories. “Hunger” because it’s creepy and didn’t start out that way. The idea in my head when I first looked at the picture disappeared as soon as I started to write, the story below happening instead. “Socks” is me at my sentinmental best.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction: Hunger and Socks”

Parenting in the Time of Zombies 

I recently finished playing The Last of Us. A writer friend, Mason Thomas, recommended the game to me. Being that we’ve had similar emotional reactions to a number of other games, I suspected I was in for a trip through the “ringer.” I wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t the trip I expected, however. I’ve played a number of BioWare games, so I figured I had the experience of moral ambiguity. Not so much. The Last of Us takes the player on a very different journey and it’s very, very dark.

***I’m not going to give away the ending here, but I will warn you that in my defense of Joel and the decisions he makes throughout his journey, I may step into spoiler territory, so read on at your own risk.*** Continue reading “Parenting in the Time of Zombies “

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.