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

Review: The Exodus Towers

The Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator by James M. Hough ended with the discovery of a second space elevator and a new, movable aura to protect Earth’s survivors from a deadly plague. The Exodus Towers, book two of the Dire Earth Cycle, begins shortly afterward. There is no rest for the weary! It’s another race against time, the deadline shortened to a pair of years, but the questions are bigger and the puzzles more complex. Is the new space elevator a second chance for humanity, or is it a new kind of cage?

A second colony is established in Brazil, at the base of the new space elevator and, for a while, its business as usual. Every decision is processed by the slow moving machine of the provisional leadership, headed by Dr. Tania Sharma. On the ground, Skyler Luiken resumes his trade: scavenging. In Darwin, Russell Blackfield gnashes his teeth with evil intent and Samantha proves size does matter. Subhumans are still subhuman and the Builders are still inscrutable.

Hough doesn’t tell the same story twice, however. Using established elements, he immediately deepens the mystery, adding a band of Immunes and more deviously altered subhumans. He also plays with fanaticism. It’s not a proper post apocalypse without a couple of religious nutcases, after all. The leader of the new immunes dreams of a new world populated by a superior race (sound familiar?) and, back in Darwin, the leader of the Jacobites is spreading fear and fervor. The second elevator is a problem for Jacobite Grillo; there should be only one Jacob’s Ladder. The colony at the base of the second elevator is a problem for Gabriel and his gang of immunes; the humans clustered within its aura are untested.

One of these men will be dealt with, the other needs to be dealt with. Separately, they keep Skyler and Samantha busy until the Builders arrive, as scheduled.

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Interview: Jay Posey, author of Three

17162150After reading Three (Legends of the Dustwalker, #1), I was given the opportunity to interview the author, Jay Posey. I was fascinated by the world he created, which differs greatly from the usual zombie apocalypse. (The fact we have a usual is frightening, right?) So, I put together some questions. I knew some of Jay’s answers would be necessarily vague. Three is the beginning of a journey, the introduction to a new world. Still, he was able to offer some fascinating insights to how the story and the world came about.

Kelly Jensen: What can you tell us about the world of Three? It’s so obviously different to our own. Is it a future you envisage, or an alternate reality?

Jay Posey: The world of Three is really more a result of a long series of “What if … and then what if … and then what if …?” type questions.  I don’t really think of it as any kind of prediction, but I also think that everything in it is at least possible somewhere down the road.  If you look at where technology is today, and some of the crazy and amazing (and terrifying) things people are doing with it, and you add it to the weight of human history, I think you can end up with some very interesting and maybe potentially disturbing scenarios.

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Review & Giveaway: Three

Three Blog Tour BannerQuestion & chance to win below!

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Three by Jay Posey

Three is a bounty hunter. He is well equipped for his chosen career—dark hood and attitude. He’s the typical loner, bristling with enough weaponry and broodery to discourage casual approach. A woman and boy approach him anyway and ask for his help. Even as he offers a substantial stack of local currency, Three seems to know money won’t solve the woman’s problems. So, against better judgment, he follows her and becomes immediately entangled in a plot that involves more than one woman and boy.

Dodging chemically enhanced predators, brain hackers and the zombie-like Weir, Three and the woman, Cass, and her son, Wren, cross a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of shelter and answers. In order to protect her son, Cass is running from her old crew. Three questions his motives at every turn. The chase begins to wear away his edge and gruffness and the world he has trained himself to navigate is changing.

Three is more than just another novel of the apocalypse. It’s a tale of adventure and intrigue. It is unclear how long ago the collapse occurred, but it is very clear the world is not ours. Not our present, anyway. The remnant population is confined to armoured cities which are separated by Weir-infested wasteland. The Weir might be zombies; they’re mindless, hunt at night and have terrible claws, but they emit electronic screams and their eyes glow in the dark. The people of this world are permanently wired. They can ping satellites, read data flashed across their retinas and communicate with one another using only their minds. Many have genetic enhancements and chemical processors.

The story is fast-paced. I found it hard to put the novel aside. Still, the central characters are fully formed. Three is particularly compelling. He is obviously different. Questions surround his past and his actual purpose, a few of which are answered as events begin to dull those sharp edges. Cass is heart-breakingly human, in her faults and her need to protect her son. The villains vary. Some are just nasty, some have a secret heart.

Three is an impressive debut. The plot and setting are different enough to stand out from the post-apocalyptic and dystopian crowd, while still appealing to the same readers. I look forward to reading the more ‘Legends of the Dustwalker’.

Read a sample chapter here and then enter the giveaway. (continue reading for instructions)

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Review: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

R is a zombie, one of the Dead. Julie is one of the Living. When they connect, things start happening. It’s one of those relationships that really shouldn’t work, but both are sufficiently young, curious and tenacious.

R is unusually thoughtful for a dead person and the little trips into his thoughts made this book enjoyable for me. The little asides, the things he noticed and the way he interpreted the world, made him very, very endearing. Julie is less tangible as a character, but still quite real. I think beside R, anyone would come across as blatantly normal, though.

The writing also captured me. The way R expresses himself, physically and mentally, is just damned funny in places. As a zombie, there are things he cannot do. But as he is dead, it’s really not a big deal. The passages of him just existing, being himself, are some of the most enjoyable in the book. I awarded an extra star just for that.

Over all, I really liked Warm Bodies. I have a couple quibbles with the plot and there were unanswered questions at the end. I wasn’t quite sure who/what the Boneys were and why R and Julie were so special, other than the fact they just were. I didn’t understand what was happening at the end, really. I don’t think they did, either. But (the all important but), the story still works. I just needed to suspend disbelief a bit more than usual.