Serena’s Review: “Scythe”

28954189Book: “Scythe” by Neil Shusterman

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, November 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: Giveaway from ALA 2017!

Book Description: Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review: Confession: I had never really heard of Neal Shusterman before attending the YA Coffee Klatch at ALA with Kate and hearing her get excited cuz apparently he’s a big deal. So big miss for me! What’s worse is the day before I had walked by a line where he was signing this book and passed it up, not knowing who he was! But after hearing from Kate that he was quite good and hearing his own synopsis for “Scythe” when he came around our table, I tool the time to seek out a copy of his book later that day. Alas, no signature, but these are the trials.

Shusterman described his book as growing from the question “What would happen if the world solved all of its problems? What would people do in a true Utopia?” “Scythe” is his answer to that question. There are so many interesting concepts presented in this book that I don’t even know where to start!

First off, the basic premise of the story is incredibly original and ripe for exploration. Immortality has been reached, but for reasons only briefly touched upon in this book, space exploration was a failure, so humanity is stuck with the world it has. This being the case, overpopulation is a real concern. To solve this problem, the Scythe organization came into existence. Their task is to randomly (emphasis on random) cull the population by killing a certain number of people per year. The family of this person is then granted immunity from culling for the next year. There are so many interesting ideas packed into this seemingly straightforward concept that I can’t begin to cover them all: the methods by which Scythes choose their victims, the methods by which they kill them, the combination of hero worship and fear they inspire in the population, the punishment for defying being chosen to die, and the fact that the odds are incredibly low that you will be chosen, though Scythes are a visible presence in the world. So much great stuff!

As mentioned in the synopsis, the central conflict of the story revolves around our two protagonists, Citra and Rowan who have both been chosen to be apprentices to a Scythe. The story alternates between these two and each character was well-drawn and presented a unique reason for why they were selected and how they approach the challenges of killing people for a living. Essentially, neither wanted the job, and that’s why they have it. Through their eyes, the layers of the Scythedom are peeled away and we begin to see that for all of its advancement, when left to their own devices for long enough, even the most well-intentioned organization begins to grow rot. There are deviations and factions of the Scythedom, all fighting for control and to shape the direction of the future. Should Scythes remain on the periphery of society, chosen for their distaste of their work but equipped with a strong sense of moral obligation? Or should a “new guard” take over, one that relishes in its task and in the glory that is allowed to all Scythes?

All of this and I still haven’t touched on half of the creative and unique world-building aspects of this book. There is the Thunderhead, a rare example of a benign A.I., that essentially runs society. There’s Rowan’s friend who loves “splatting,” jumping off high places only to inevitably be brought back to life each time. There’s Citra’s and Rowan’s training, and there are the well-drawn Scythe elders who alternatively take them under their wing, or force them forward down paths they wish not to tread. Throughout it all, Citra and Rowan form a tenuous alliance, each experiencing very different paths through their year of apprenticeship. The final act was tension filled, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the many conflicts laid out throughout the story would be wrapped up. The end was satisfying, but did its job and left me all too eager for the next!

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a story that was so totally engrossing, perfectly balancing an action-packed plot, complicated characters with clear story arcs, and fully realized world-building. Definitely check this one out of you are interested in sci-fi or dystopian fiction!

Rating 9: One of the most unique and creative reads of the year so far!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Scythe” is on these Goodreads lists: “Fiction Books About Grief, Death and Loss” and “Grim Reaper Books.”

Find “Scythe” at your library using WorldCat

 

 

Kate’s Review: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away”

22422Book: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away” by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson (Ill.), & Rodney Ramos (Ill.).

Publishing Info: Vertigo, February 2002

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Book Description: Despite — or perhaps with the aid of — drugs, drinking, and paranoia, Spider Jerusalem and his filthy assistants are hot on the trail of the horrifying truth behind the newly-elected President’s campaign. Features three stand-alone stories: “Nobody Loves me, “The Walk” and “Dancing in the Here and Now,” and also includes the three-part “Gouge Away” storyline.

Review: I bet some of you were wondering if I had just given up on “Transmetropolitan”. Well guess what? NOPE!! I just took a break from it because, as much as I love it and have really enjoyed re-reading it, it’s both a bit manic and a bit too real for me at the moment, a theme I’ve noted a few times during my re-read. So I just needed some space from Spider, his Filthy Assistants Channon and Yelena, and the ugly world that they live in.

But I have achieved that space and I decided that I was ready to tackle it again. When we left off, Spider had just found out that his story and voice had been squashed thanks to White House interference, and a story about police brutality got swept under the rug. When we join him, Channon, and Yelena again, we see that Spider is still without a voice, and has become something of a joke to the world thanks to propaganda run thanks to The Smiler and the Administration. But is that the kind of thing that’s going to keep a good journalist down? Hell no. So Spider starts to figure out how to get his voice heard again, and starts to hop from source to source and scumbag to scumbag to try and get another strike at The Smiler and the White House. If the last collection left us with despair and fear, “Gouge Away” comes back with a whole lot of hope and tenacity that acts as a catharsis to the nonsense going down in the world today. I liked that we went back and revisited a number of characters that we’ve seen previously, and that they managed to come together and make a pretty satisfying counterstrike that Spider could use in the fight for truth and journalism. I had mentioned that a couple of the previous issues felt like “The Empire Strikes Back”, and this one kind of feels like “Return of the Jedi” at the end. It could have been final. It could have been the end of the series altogether. I don’t know how I feel about how final it felt, knowing that it’s going to go on. But, that said, there are still stories to tell, and maybe there isn’t room for ambiguity in Spider’s world.

But along with the main storyline that we got, I felt that the best part of this collection was the story that was devoted to Channon and Yelena, Spider’s assistants. I think that it could be tempting to give Spider two lady assistants, one of whom he is sleeping with and the other of whom is a walking sex pot, and to just leave them as unexplored characters. But Ellis gives Channon and Yelena their own thing to do that isn’t only about Spider (even if they realize, to their dismay, they ran away from him for a spree but are now talking mostly about him). I love that the two of them have a friendship that exists outside of Spider, and that they play off of each other while acting as each others’ confidants. And really, a girls night with them that involves running away in a taxi, a shopping spree, a gun range, and then stopping a government agent from following them via force, now THAT is the kind of thing I like to see in comic books when it comes to the ladies.

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Source: Vertigo Comics

It’s also welcome and/or upsetting to see The Smiler back on the pages of this story, in his full sociopathic glory. We are given reminders throughout this collection of what he has done in the past, not only to his enemies, but also to his supposed allies. We are reminded of Vita, who was a spin doctor for The Smiler, and was murdered by his campaign just to give him higher approval ratings in the wake of tragedy. Her folk saint status has almost completely exploded with a full on permanent shrine in her memory, and honestly, seeing it made me smile, albeit sadly. Vita is still one of the few people in this series who Spider had a complete reverence for, and it’s very satisfying seeing him slowly but surely take revenge on the man and the campaign who murdered her for votes.

I know that with four more issues there are still parts to be played and conflicts to happen, even if I don’t remember all of them. But it was really nice seeing Spider finally declare all out war against The Smiler, via journalism, integrity, and being a psychotic pain in the ass. Ya can’t help but cheer for him. I am thinking that I may not wait four months to pick up the next collection of “Transmetropolitan”, because I missed it so much.

Rating 8: Though it’s sometimes exhausting to read this series, “Transmetropolitan: Gouge Away” continues a strong and incredibly relevant meditation on the freedom of the press and the signs of fascism in a corrupt system.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away” is included on the Goodreads lists “Bibles for the Revolution”, and “Best Graphic Novels and Comic Books”.

Find “Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed:“Transmetropolitan (Vol.1): Back on the Street”“Transmetropolitan (Vol.2): Lust for Life”“Transmetropolitan (Vol.3): Year of the Bastard”“Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum”. and “Transmetropolitan (Vol.5): Lonely City”.

Emily’s Corner: “Ready Player One”

20170202_140222Emily and I (Serena) have been friends since the first week of freshman year of college. Other than a lost purse (I did the losing, Emily did the calming), take a wild guess as to what we bonded over? Yes, that is correct: books. And the fact that we both had plans to be English majors and would go on to coordinate our schedules to have as many similar classes as possible! All that said, Emily has agreed to be a semi-regular contributor to our blog, so keep your eyes open for posts from her in “Emily’s Corner” on random Mondays going forward!

9969571Book: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

Publishing Info: Ernest Cline sold the novel in June 2010 in a bidding war to the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. The book was published on August 16, 2011.

Where Did I Get this Book: Barnes and Nobles

Book Description: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Review: I adore science fiction, though I often lament the cheesiness that plagues the genre. So I was utterly floored by this book. This is the kind of science fiction that would convert even the most ardent sci-fi hater. Ernest Cline absolutely hit it out of the park on his first try.

“Ready Play One” is set in our world, less than thirty years into the future. The world is a bleak place, with a gaping divide between rich and poor, where the OASIS is the only respite from a reality of war, famine, violence, and disease. This book is believable because both the reality and virtual reality presented hit close to home. Global war is the norm, the populace consists of the uber-wealthy and people living on the streets, there is no middle class. In-game commerce is more valuable than hard cash, and the OASIS has more engaged voters than the actual government does. This isn’t Star Trek; it’s a future that feels hauntingly close at hand.

Wade is the perfect protagonist. Yes, he’s a teenager. He’s whiny at times, and you want to smack him upside the head when he pines too long after his love interest. But you can’t help rooting for him because he represents what it means to be the little guy, to go up against “the man” against all odds. He’s brilliant, but flawed enough that he doesn’t get preachy.

Wade’s story pivots around a global treasure hunt set up within the OASIS by its’ creator, a treasure hunt that is in itself a love letter to pop culture of the 80s. I loved the references I caught (shout-out to Wil Wheaton, who also narrates the audio book!), but wasn’t distracted by the ones that went over my head. I’m too young to catch the majority of the early 80s gaming references, but if anything it made me want to research Pong-era gaming systems. Atari, anyone?

The treasure hunt within the game is an engrossing adventure, complicated by real-world villains in the book, the IOI conglomerate who want to monetize and control the OASIS. Wade, known as Parzival in the OASIS, becomes the first player to crack the first of three clues that lead to both in-game and real-world treasure. He becomes the target of the IOI and cautiously teams up with other top players, known as Art3mis (pronounced Artemis), Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”), and brothers Daito and Shoto to win the game and keep IOI from dominating the OASIS.

“Ready Player One” is a great springboard for discussion on issues of technology, privacy, monetization, and legal liability which are hot topics today. It also provides thoughtful commentary on the positives and negatives of a fully immersive virtual world and the risks inherent to addictive technology. This is a thoughtful book, one that immerses you in the story but also makes you question your own addictive tendencies. Personally, I was struck by the idea that books were the first virtual reality, and wondered if I, as a self-proclaimed book addict, could really judge people who spend hours on video games.

There is a great twist near the end of the book, as Wade’s in-game friends introduce themselves to him in the real world. If nothing else, the reveal of Aech’s identity is worth reading the book for. There is also a teaser at the end which could leave room for a sequel. My guess is that Ernest Cline will wait to see how the movie adaptation turns out before deciding whether or not to pick up the story again.

Rating 10: This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, one that may just get added to my annual reads list.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Ready Player One” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Books About Video Games and Virtual Reality” and “Nerdventure.”

Find “Ready Player One” at your library using Worldcat!

Kate’s Review: “Feedback” by Mira Grant

22359662Book: “Feedback” by Mira Grant

Publishing Info: Orbit Books, October 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: Audiobook from the library!

Book Description: FEEDBACK is a full-length Newsflesh novel which overlaps the events of New York Times bestseller Mira Grant’s classic Feed and follows a group of reporters covering the Democratic side of the Presidential campaign.

There are two sides to every story…

Mira Grant creates a chilling portrait of an America paralyzed with fear. No street is safe and entire swaths of the country have been abandoned. And only the brave, the determined, or the very stupid, venture out into the wild. Step inside a world a half-step from our own in this novel of geeks, zombies, politics and social media.

Review: And we get another zombie story! The zombie story is one that is still riding pretty high, thanks to “The Walking Dead” and it’s continued (though perhaps wavering) popularity. I’ve been into the zombie genre ever since high school when me and my sister (I was sixteen, she was twelve) sat down and watched the original “Night of the Living Dead”. Though she was absolutely horrified by the disgusting cannibalistic violence on the screen, I was completely into it, finding it to be scary and unsettling and super fun. Now I’m in the thirties and I still can’t get enough, though I’m more interested in unique takes on the genre as a whole. I’ve mentioned Mira Grant’s “Newsflesh” Series here before, and while I really do enjoy it for it’s creativity and the badass blogging main character Georgia “George” Mason, I felt that the rest of her team of bloggers (including hot headed brother Shaun) to be not as endearing. However, a world where zombies came about due to the cure for the common cold and the cure for cancer merging and mutating is SO enjoyable that I love the universe that she has created.

So enter “Feedback”. While “Feed” and it’s sequels “Deadline” and “Blackout” follow the Masons and their turn from political bloggers to targets of government ire, “Feedback” is something totally new within the same timeline. This time we’re following another blogging team, this one a bit more scrappy and independent. You have Aislinn “Ash” North, an Irish Irwin (aka blogger who goes into the thick of zombie danger for clicks and likes) who has attitude and snark for days. You have her husband Ben, a Newsie (news blogger) who married Ash to give her U.S. citizenship (as being a lesbian in post Rising, incredibly zealous Ireland was a bad spot) who is loyal and determined to get the truth out there. You have Audrey, a fiction blogger who is hiding from her past. And you have Mat, a techie/make up blogger who is genderfluid and hoping to end up as a make up artist to the powerful of this world. So when they are approached by Susan Kilburn, Democratic Governor of Oregon and Presidential Hopeful, to follower her on the campaign trail, much as the Masons are doing with the Republican front runner, this team is thrilled. And of course, much like in “Feed”, all does not go well.

While my love for George Mason will never be replaced by anyone else, I have to say that “Feedback” was super enjoyable and Ash was a great protagonist! She has a little more attitude and is a little rougher around the edges than George, and she wears her heart on her sleeve, which made her very easy to connect with. You get the sense from the get go that she and her team have had to fight tooth and nail to get where they are, and while sometimes she could be a little precious in her toughness, she always had her vulnerabilities laid out. As a whole I enjoyed this team more than the bloggers at After the End Times because in one book you got a sense for each and every single one of them, even with it being filtered through a First Person Perspective. I also liked that in this book there was far from societal speculation in regards to how different countries would react to the zombie plague, specifically Ash’s home country of Ireland. Ash, a lesbian who has no interest in fitting into societal norms, was highly oppressed in Ireland, which became a far more conservative and patriarchal state after the rising. It felt very dour and yet realistic to address the fact that in reaction to something as awful as a zombie apocalypse, some countries would put stake into zealous and restrictive morals such as forced breeding and the debasement of those who don’t wish to lead that kind of life. Grant tackles a lot of social issues in this book in regards to sexuality, race, and gender, and it was nice to see these things cropping up as important matters to address.

The plot itself was pretty good too. The intrigue and cloak and dagger issues of someone deliberately planting zombies at various political gatherings is something that we might remember from the original “Newsflesh” series, and to what ends this all will shake out. But seeing this group of journalists stumble into it quicker and more accidentally was fun, because it made for a lot more action as the consequences came to a head. I will keep it vague here, because you may want to read “Feed” and it’s sequels first, but let’s just say that Ash and her team are a bit more aware and have more time to make some decisions in regards to how to proceed. But that also kind of leads to the problem I had with this book, which I am going to talk about in it’s full spoilery glory. So yep, that means you get a

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(source)

Ash and her team eventually end up running away from the (redacted) threat, hoping to make it into the wilds of Canada. But as they are moving their way through the Pacific Northwest, they are kidnapped by a group of survivors run by a cruel and misogynistic despot who intends on creating a new society literally underground. His name is Clive, and he decides that Ash is going to be one of his many companions who he will eventually use to have an array of children to keep the human species going. Mind you, this happens about two thirds of the way into the book. This storyline is something that 1) we have seen many times before in our zombie fiction, from “28 Days Later” to “The Walking Dead”, and 2) is far too large of a plot point to introduce so far into a narrative. It honestly could have taken up an entire book of it’s own, so to try and shoehorn it in felt rushed and disingenuous. I really did not see a point to it. HAD this book ended with them being taken by this group, and HAD that story been saved for a second book in a series, it would have made more sense. Even if it would have been a bit old hat, it still could have been fleshed out enough that I would have been able to give it something of a pass. As it was, it just kind of felt like Grant wanted one more hurdle for this group and this was tossed in and rushed through. That was pretty aggravating.

I should also mention that I really liked Georgia Dolenz, the woman who did the narration for this audiobook! She was great at varying her voices for each character, and held consistent accents for the characters who had them.

So while “Feedback” isn’t necessarily as strong as “Feed”, overall I liked this team more than the team in that series (Georgia Mason aside), and would SO read more about them. The book kind of ended on a note of finality, but I could easily see Grant picking them up again and telling us more. I hope that she does, because I am still hungry for more stories about the Kellis-Amberlee Zombie Universe!

Rating 8: A fun and new group of bloggers are a great addition to the “Newsflesh” series. Had it not been for a random detour too far into the plot, this could have lived up to the greatness that was the original “Feed”.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Feedback” isn’t on many Goodreads lists as of now (can’t understand why not),  but I think that it would fit in on “Awesome Zombie Books for Girls/Women”, and “Are YOU Ready for the Zombie Attack?”.

Find “Feedback” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Boy on the Bridge”

31554413Book: “The Boy on the Bridge” by. M.R. Carey

Publishing Info: Orbit, May 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Book Description: Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

Review: First and foremost, I want to thank Orbit/Hachette for providing me with a review copy of this book. In exchange for you generosity I will provide an honest review.

A couple of years ago I picked up the much hyped and much loved novel “The Girl With All The Gifts”. I had heard nothing but praise about it from those around me who like zombie fiction, and given that I like zombie fiction so much I had high hopes for it. While I did like aspects of it, overall I was kind of underwhelmed by it. But I made a note to keep reading Carey’s stuff, as plot aside I really loved the writing style and how Carey explores his characters so deeply. “Fellside” proved to be a win for me (as seen on this blog). And that brings us to Carey’s newest novel, “The Boy on the Bridge”. Though it’s not a sequel to “The Girl With All The Gifts”, it is a companion piece that takes place in the same world, where a fungal zombie infection has ravaged mankind.

Since our book description doesn’t really give us much of an idea what this book is about, I’ll give you a rundown. “The Boy on the Bridge” takes place about tenish years before “The Girl With All The Gifts”, with a combination military and scientific research team heading out into the world of the ‘hungries’ to try and gather samples and specimens that could potentially lead to a better understanding of the infection, and perhaps a cure. If you remember from the first book, that group of protagonists stumbled upon a mobile lab called the “Rosalind Frank”, which seems to be stopped in it’s tracks without succeeding in it’s mission. Well guess which mobile team we’re following! Yep, The Rosalind Frank team! So there are some foregone conclusions that could be drawn from this…..

But that doesn’t stop Carey from drawing many emotions and facets to his characters. The team has a number of interesting characters. There’s Samrina Khan, a scientist who has recently discovered herself pregnant by another member of the team, John. She is now more than ever determined to find some hope for the sake of her baby. There’s Dr. Fournier, the leader of the science part of the team, who is singleminded and determined to throw his weight around as one of those in command (who is also trying to figure out who the father of Khan’s baby is, as he sees it as a breach of protocol). There’s Colonel Carlisle, who is the head of the military team, and who is haunted by his past during the early days of the infection. And then there’s Stephen Greaves. He’s a teenage boy and science prodigy who invented the e-blockers that people use to hide their scents from the hungries, who may be able to find a cure as well. He is on the spectrum, and Dr. Khan is the only person that he trusts, and the only person who really understands him. With a few other people in their team, they are traveling up towards Scotland, trying to gather as much info as they can. But they soon discover that something is following them, something that none of them have ever seen before. These things look like children, but are definitely not ‘human’, nor at they fully ‘hungries’ either. They could be the key to a cure, but they could also be the team’s downfall.

So there were the same issues in this one that I had with “The Girl With All The Gifts”. I did find myself a bit bored sometimes with how the story is told. It’s definitely a writing style choice that focuses more on the literary and less on the pulpy thriller, and that can encourage my mind and attention wander sometimes. I don’t think that it’s through any fault of Carey’s, mind you. I just found myself skimming a bit, and would have to go back and re-read sections because of it. I found myself wanting to get to the point faster than we did at times. But like in “The Girl With All The Gifts” I did find the characters in “The Boy on the Bridge” interesting, and in this one I was more interested in the overall story arc than I was in the previous book. There is just something about an official mission that goes horribly wrong that will always, ALWAYS suck me in. It’s a plot point that you don’t see too much in modern zombie fiction, which tends to focus more on the chaos of living in the zombie zone. I liked how the tension between the science side and the military side was built up in this story. It’s a trope that is old as time itself, but when it’s done well it can feel fresh and unique. In this book we get it not only through the encounters with the hungries (like we did in the first book), but also through the character of Greaves, who few people care to understand because he’s Autistic. Many of the military people call him “The Robot”, and their lack of understanding is frustrating to Dr. Khan. It’s not wholly unrealistic either, given how people on the spectrum are viewed and treated in modern society. I thought that Carey did a good job with Greaves as a character overall. It felt like he did a lot of research and took great care to make him an accurate and sensitive representation of  a neurodivergent person. Greaves had many moments that I found incredibly bittersweet, and humorous, and yes, frustrating, but he always felt very real, and worked as a great dual protagonist along with Dr. Khan, whose determination to survive is noble and perhaps heartbreaking in it’s likely futility. While the other characters kind of treaded towards two dimensions at times, these two always felt fully realized with clear motivations and personalities.

The scenes with the hungries were also pretty tense, as I found myself holding my breath when they were fully interacting, wondering if logic would prevail over fear. I appreciate the concept of humankind evolving to adjust and adapt to the ‘Cordyceps’ pathogen, as we as humans sometimes tend to think that we are the end of an evolutionary line, as if our present selves are the goal. But really, evolution doesn’t have an end point, it keeps on moving and changing and adapting. So I LOVE that Carey has introduced that aspect of the theory into his stories, and postulates that perhaps this kind of catastrophic event wouldn’t necessarily lead to our extinction, but to a transformation. Perhaps we wouldn’t be the same as we are now, but we wouldn’t necessarily be wiped away from the world.

Do you have to read “The Girl With All The Gifts” to appreciate “The Boy on the Bridge”? That’s kind of a hard question to answer. I think that it does work as a standalone for the most part, at least up until the epilogue (which I won’t spoil here, because it’s a great nod to the first book). But even then I think that you would be on solid footing, perhaps just not as able to appreciate the revelations and scenes that come right at the end of the book. I also think that I enjoyed it more than “The Girl With All The Gifts” just because the plot felt like a new take within this already new take, and I don’t know if that would be as clear if you hadn’t read the previous book. But that said, you won’t be lost at all. You just may not see the easter eggs that are laid out.

“The Boy on the Bridge” does stand on it’s own two feet, and I did enjoy going back into this world. I definitely recommend that those who loved the first book should get their hands on this one as soon as possible. And if you were like me and wasn’t as caught up in “The Girl With All The Gifts”, this book may still be worth the read.

Rating 8: With a couple well explored characters and some tense zombie moments, “The Boy on the Bridge” was a good companion piece to “The Girl With All The Gifts”. It may be richer by having read the previous book, but it isn’t a requirement.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Boy on the Bridge” is included on the Goodreads lists “Waterstones Recommends”, and “Most Anticipated Novels of 2017”.

Find “The Boy on the Bridge” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “The Burning World”

16148435Book: “The Burning World” by Isaac Marion

Publication Info: February 2017, Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: R is recovering from death.

He’s learning how to breathe, how to speak, how to be human, one clumsy step at a time. He doesn’t remember his old life and he doesn’t want to. He’s building a new one with Julie.

But his old life remembers him. The plague has another host far more dangerous than the Dead. It’s coming to return the world to the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak, and stopping it will require a frightening journey into the surreal wastelands of America—and the shadowy basement of R’s mind.

Review: This book came into the publishing world like a new Beyonce album: no word, and then suddenly it appears! I highlighted this book as one that I was looking forward to reading, but also with a bit of trepidation. “Warm Bodies” was such a beautiful, funny little book that opened and closed so neatly that the thought of a sequel had honestly never even crossed my mind. So, while I was excited to re-visit this world, especially in the aftermath of Julie and R’s discovery of re-animating (?) zombies back to humans, I was a bit concerned that it was going to succumb to sequel-itis and bring nothing new to the table while negatively impacting the brilliance of the original. And while there were a few rough patches, particularly in the beginning, I am pleased to report that Marion’s expansion to his world and series is well fleshed (ha!) out!.

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You can’t stop this laugh train! (source)

“The Burning World” picks up a few months after the events of “Warm Bodies,” and things aren’t going as smoothly as Julie and R had hoped re: reintroducing the zombies into society. I mean, in the movie version of the first book, the zombies and humans are literally playing baseball together and sharing umbrellas in the end. This book quickly does away with any of these happy fantasies. Turns out people aren’t quite as easy to convince that beings that used to kill and eat their brains are really just uber repressed people who need to reconnect with their feelings if only they’d give them all a chance! Even R himself, the protege of this whole zombie-transformation-movement is struggling with the reality of this transition. When he was cured, mobility, language, and most especially, memory didn’t suddenly just reappear. They’ve all had to be tediously re-learned, and when the story begins, it is clear that he’s hit a bit of a wall.

When I made my admittedly very bad pun about fleshing out the world, that is probably the most notable aspect of this book. Marion takes his rather simplistic little zombie world and really goes crazy with it. Half the appeal of “Warm Bodies” was the complete lack of importance that was given to the history of the world. Something went wrong, zombies appeared, and this is the hell everyone is now living in. No explanation necessary. Doing away with this charm was a risky move, but a challenge that Marion proves to be up to meeting. Not only do we get details into R’s own history, but through his patchy and slowly returning memories (present in flashbacks interspersed throughout the story) we see how broken the world really was. If anything, the world of “Warm  Bodies” was a step in the right direction from what had come before! Fractions and zealots fought for power, religion and business warred to control the minds of the people, and zombies were almost an after thought to the craziness.

One particularly, albeit smaller, detail that was brought to the table was the reality of what transforming from a zombie that can’t be killed by anything less than a shot to the head into a person entails. Nora’s story comes to the forefront as a nurse attempting to treat these re-emerging injuries. If you’re shot as a zombie, you don’t heal. Becoming human again doesn’t magically do away with life-ending injuries. This brought a level of seriousness to the procedure that I hadn’t expected, and one that is tied into a major plot line for Julie later in the book.

Most of the plot involves an airplane roadtrip across America. Julie’s home is invaded by a shadowy group with whom R is having strange kindlings of memories, forcing them to go on the run. Mixed in with the expanded world (which cities fell, which cities burned, which came up with their own rule of law), our heroes are faced with the constant question of what future they are running towards: one in which they fight or one in which they flee. I loved how these questions are never approached with an obvious answer. The characters on either side make valid arguments, and though as a reader I knew what the ultimate decision would be, I appreciated the fact that other survival techniques were not poo-pooed away.

So, I really did love much of the book. The expanded world, the added characters, R’s complicated history. However, there were a few setbacks. In the beginning especially, I felt as if the writing was a bit stilted and trying too hard as far as philosophical musings go. “Warm Bodies” hit just the right balance in this regard, and I felt like “The Burning World” suffered from the weight of expectations. Once the story really gets going, there’s enough of a structure to hang these existential musings upon, but in the beginning it just felt tedious and a bit forced.

Secondly, there was a strange “We” character that would show up between chapters. Even by the end of the book, I’m not sure what I was supposed to be getting from these chapters. And it’s not like there were only a few! There were pages of this stuff, and much of the same tedious philosophical ramblings would be crammed into this section with no character or story to really focus on. About midways through we meeting a zombie boy who becomes something of a character in these bits, but the whole thing still feels very strange and disconnected from the story. Presumably it’s building towards some sort of reveal in the final third book in this series, but in this one it felt like a distraction and an unwarranted break in the main plotline’s action.

And on that note, there is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of this book. Nothing intolerable, in my opinion, but it does end in a manner that requires a follow up read to really reach any type of resolution to both the story and character arcs. But, luckily, this was a strong enough sequel that I’m all in for the next and last book!

Rating 8: A solid, surprise follow up to a story that, previously to this, I had been happy enough seeing as complete!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Burning World” is newly released and thus not on many Goodreads lists, but it is on  “Zombies!” and should be on “Apocalypses and Dystopias.”

Find “The Burning World” at your library using Worldcat!

Kate’s Review: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.5): Lonely City”

7599985Book: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.5): Lonely City” by Warren Ellis and Rodney Ramos (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Vertigo Comics, July 2001

Where Did I Get This Book: I own in!

Book Description: Continuing the acclaimed tale of the day-to-day trials and tribulations of Spider Jerusalem, this fifth installment has the no-holds-barred investigative reporter delving into the city’s police corruption. Living in an anti-utopian future, Spider continues his quest to expose society’s injustices as he focuses his attention on those sworn to protect and serve. But even more so than usual, he will learn that his dedication to the truth can come at a high physical cost, especially when dealing with the riot police. Featuring an introduction by actor Patrick Stewart.

Review: I really have to pat Warren Ellis on the back, because boy has this re-read of “Transmetropolitan” felt so relevant and timeless. I’m now halfway through the volumes, and every time I pick one up I say to myself “Boy, this sure feels like the stuff that’s going on in today’s world of politics and government.” The journey of Spider, Channon, and Yelena continues to be absurd and over the top in a lot of ways, be it the cyber punk setting or the various side characters and plots that involve genetic mutants, crazy technology, and a crazed society. But at the very heart of it, there is always truth and relatable heart. And “Lonely City” is no exception, as it tackles the question of the Free Press, and Police Brutality. Like I said. Familiar.

It’s kind of funny how these stories are so over the top, and yet there is that grain of truth to them. It starts out innocently enough, this collection, with Spider and his Filthy Assistants deciding to take on a Senator who is caught up in a potential sex scandal. It’s a move that they’ve done before, and how they usually operated when The Beast was President. It’s humorous and it’s fun watching them pursue this guy relentlessly, knowing that he’s going to expose corruption and hypocrisy, all because of a new invention called a G-Reader, which can read genome structures and genetic code on any individual. For Spider he can read where this Senator has been, based on what he left behind on a number of prostitutes. But the G-Reader is also used by a gang of thugs to read the genetic make-up of someone who they then beat to death (because Lockwood, the victim, had modified his genome in a way that is considered ‘perverse’. It’s hard to explain in full here so just think of it as a hate crime). The same machine used in two totally different ways, the ups and downs of technology. Spider, Channon, and Yelena decide to take on the story of Lockwood, and why the police are being so cagey about it.

And what happens next is yet again an example of me completely forgetting parts of this series that are now blowing me away.

Ellis does a great job of portraying a corrupt system from top to bottom, from the White House to the precinct house. Because when Spider, Channon, and Yelena find themselves the targets of a dangerous plot (which I won’t spoil here), and hope to expose just how far it goes….. they are stymied by the White House, who makes Spider’s paper crush the story. Up until this point, Spider has always had the Truth to rely on, and his ability to move that truth from his screen to the masses of the public. Even under The Beast such truths were not suppressed, making Spider an enemy, yes, but an enemy with a voice. Now, however, he doesn’t even have that. And once again, we leave this collection on a bit of an “Empire Strikes Back” kind of moment. A moment that, after certain news outlets have been shut out of White House Press briefings in retaliation for the stories they run with, feels all too resonant and really hit me in the gut as I turned the last page.

Spider’s character is slowly evolving as well. He still has that cocky and manic swagger about him, confident in his role as truth teller and remaining both a Greek Chorus and Shakespearean Fool to the story. But he’s also starting to crack. The Smiler has a very tiny role in this one, but even if he makes no appearance his power and influence is everywhere. This world that Spider lives in is changing, and it’s changing for the absolute worse. And he’s finding himself more and more powerless to fight against it.

I also wanted to note, just for funsies, that the introduction to this volume (at least the copy I have) was written by Patrick Stewart! Apparently he’s a “Transmetropolitan” fan, which really made me smile. But he also completely sums up exactly what it is about this series that I love.

“I know this City, I have read The Word, I have listened to these politicians, I have smelt the stink of greed, I have thrown things at the TV, I have wondered what future there is for Truth and Beauty. I have wanted to go and live on the top of a Yorkshire moor… Warren, tell Spider to stay healthy and keep writing the column.”

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(source)

“Transmetropolitan” continues to strive for that truth and beauty, even when it gets super dark. That’s what I love about this series.

Rating 8: This definitely has it’s moments of fun and humor, but also has some good and chilling commentary on the importance of the free press in a corrupt society. “Transmetropolitan” continues to feel all too familiar and real in today’s political climate!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Transmetropolitan (Vol.5): Lonely City” can be found on the Goodreads lists “Bibles for the Revolution”, and “Books That Make You Vomit With Joy”(?).

Find “Transmetropolitan (Vol.5): Lonely City” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed:“Transmetropolitan (Vol.1): Back on the Street”, “Transmetropolitan (Vol.2): Lust for Life”, “Transmetropolitan (Vol.3): Year of the Bastard”, “Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum”.