Showing posts with label post apocalyptic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label post apocalyptic. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2016

More Mini Reviews with Boston Bound and The Fireman

Guess what starts today, my friends?  My first day of my first semester as a college student (well, round 3 after my bachelors and masters degrees).  :)  As such, I expect my pleasure reading time to diminish significantly, but I do have 2 more mini reviews to share with you as I enter this drought period.  Unless you want me to review my Sports Management textbook...?

Boston Bound by Elizabeth Clor
Createspace, 2016
personal purchase

I encountered Elizabeth Clor's recently-released memoir via her Instagram page, and was immediately intrigued.  Elizabeth started road racing in 2005, and has since run 20 marathons (as well as countless other races at shorter distances).  She began her marathon career at the mid-pack with the rest of us average Joes, but after years of hard work and persistence, she started to realize that a Boston Marathon qualifying time was in her reach.  However, the time between her first inclination towards that dream and its realization was SEVEN years.  Elizabeth knew she was capable physically, but anxiety and a host of other mental barriers stood in her way.  Boston Bound is the story of how she overcame them to earn her BQ (she finally ran it this year!).
I ended up giving this one a 3 on Goodreads.  There's no doubt that Elizabeth's story is inspirational, especially for those of us that are "hobby" runners, training in between jobs and families and everyday life.  Plus, as someone who deals with many of my own anxiety issues, I made note of a lot of the strategies that Clor used to realize her dream.  Running is about 90% mental for me, so I relate to that struggle!  That said, the reason I gave a 3 instead of a higher rating was because of the writing.  Clor's formatting doesn't give her story a solid flow, and her race recaps eventually started to sound repetitive.  Her takeaway advice is excellent, but the journey for readers to get there is a bit clunky.  Plus, she relies heavily on past blog posts from her running blog (Racing Stripes), which ends up making the whole book feel like a long blog entry--not really the tone I was wanting from a memoir/nonfiction book.
Overall, runners will like this one, as it certainly has a lot of inspirational material!  It's just not the most well-written running book that I've encountered lately.

The Fireman by Joe Hill
William Morrow, 2016
borrowed from the library

Oh, I have so many feelings about this book.  Let's start with the good thing: the creative post-apocalyptic world that Joe Hill has created.  Basically, a spore called Dragonscale has infected humans, and the people infected are spontaneously combusting into flames.  So there's fire and mayhem and just overall good, end-of-the-world chaos.  This premise alone was reason enough for me to pick up the book, and Hill certainly delivers as far as interesting sci-fi-ish plots go.  I absolutely expected to love this novel.
BUT (and you knew there was a but).  I had two serious issues with the The Fireman.  First was Harper, the protagonist.  I felt like Hill was trying to make her too many things at once.  She's cutesy and naive and loves Mary Poppins, but then she's swearing like a sailor and unfazed by carnage and violence at the same time.  I wanted to be like, PICK A SIDE, DUDE.  I am all for complicated characters, but in 747 pages I never felt like Harper came together.  Second issue was that this book is trying way, way too hard to draw off Stephen King's The Stand.  Which is awfully interesting, considering that Joe Hill is King's son but has (in the past) gone to great lengths to hide it.  But in The Fireman, we have a deaf character named Nick, a main character who is pregnant and has the middle name Frances (goes by Frannie...), and all sorts of little Easter eggs referencing other aspects of King's work.  I'm surprised SK didn't read this and be all, "Get your own apocalypse epic, sonny-boy."  This, paired with the fact that Hill constantly references Harry Potter (seriously, so many JK Rowling references, let's give it a rest), the Rolling Stones, and other aspects of popular culture, makes this book feel like it is not at all his own creation.
A longer review than I intended, but I 3-starred this one.  It had promise, and despite the length of the book it moves along at a brisk clip.  However, in the end I was disappointed with how Hill put the pieces together.

What are you reading these days, reader friends?  I will add your suggestions to my list for after the semester ends!  :)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

We NEED to talk about The Walking Dead COMICS!

Hello, reader friends!  As I mentioned last week, I have recently delved into the comic book world of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.  I've been watching the TV show on AMC for quite some time, and I always knew there was a comic series, but not being much of a comics fan, I didn't see the need to seek them out.

Initially.

Now, as Season 6 of the show has taken me on a wild roller coaster of flesh-eating-zombie emotion, I've found myself more and more curious about the comics that the series is based upon.  It's hard not to hear fans comparing the show to the comic fairly constantly, and so I finally decided to make some time to check them out myself.

OH MAH GAH.  I am HOOKED.  Why didn't I start these up sooner???

I am reading the comics as "compendiums", which are basically huge collections of a lot of issues of the comic (makes it much easier than having to hunt down each individual issue).  There are 3 TWD compendiums currently, and my local library system has the first two (I'm currently on the second).

Fans of the show (but not the comic) may be wondering: what makes the comics worth reading if I'm already quite happy with the TV series?  That's a GOOD question.  Here's the reasons I've come up with so far, as a former skeptic myself:

1. It's interesting to see the origins of TWD: the initial tone, the motivations of each character, etc.  I've found that in some parts, the comic is WAY more campy than the show.  In other areas, the intensity and violence is far beyond anything you've seen on TV.  It's cool to read it one way after having watched it another, and dissect why there may have been differences created between the two.

2. Comparing the characters.  This is obviously the MOST fun reason to read the comics.  Some of the characters are pretty much exactly as you'd expect, with their story line largely unchanged thus far (Rick, Carl, Shane, Glenn come to mind).  And then there are some that are just like, WHAT??  CAROL??  IS THAT EVEN YOU??  Ditto for Dale, Hershel, Andrea (happy to report that Comic Andrea is 1000x less annoying than TV Andrea), Tyreese, and a whole host of others.  Plus, TV Governor is child's play compared to Comic Governor.  ((shudders))  And this doesn't even get into the differences in who lives and who dies.  (Or who keeps appendages, and who doesn't...)

Oh, and there's no Daryl in the comics.  I KNOW.

3. With books, the common mantra is "the book is always better than the movie."  In TWD, I don't think you can necessarily say that the comic is better than the show, or vice versa.  The comic certainly has been able to do some things that the show can't, especially when it comes to toeing the line with violence.  But the show does just as good a job of delving into each character's background, and hitting the primary high points of the comic's story line.  Comparing and contrasting these two mediums based on what they can provide is fun brain food.

Basically, this entire post is a push to all you TWD TV fans to get out there and READ the darn comics, if you haven't already.  If you think you'll be bored because you already know what happens...trust me, you are wrong!

Any other Walking Dead fans out there?  Have you just watched the show, just read the comics, or both?  What do you prefer?  And either way--if you were stuck in the zombie apocalypse, which Walking Dead character would you want to be stuck with for survival?  YOU CAN PICK TWO.  (Because it was too hard for me to only pick one.  I have to go with Carol and Daryl, but the rule is that they're not allowed to fraternize as long as I'm around.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's the end of the world...and I like it just fine. (Fictionally speaking.)

Zombie apocalypse.  Worldwide plague epidemic.  Civilization-ending environmental disasters.

No, this is not a list of reasons why you should start stocking up on canned goods.  It's a list of (fictional) topics I LOVE to read about!

Obviously, I'm not alone.  The popularity of books like World War Z, The Stand, Oryx and Crake, etc. is a testament to the fact that other readers are in this with me.

But...why?  What is it about a post-apocalyptic novel that has me running to the library to get on the hold list?  Why do so many of us love to steep ourselves in a world where, (let's be honest) if they became reality, we would likely be dead (or undead, considering)?

Let's mull that over, shall we?

1. WWYD?
Post-apolcalyptic storylines are completely immersive for me.  It's impossible to read a book about life after the "end of the world" and not think, "Here's what I would have done in that crazy situation."  I find myself planning out how I would have survived, how I would have saved my kids (and my husband, yeah, he can come too), where we could have holed up to avoid the zombie horde, etc.  It's like a story within a story, as you always get a lot more to think about than just where the novel's plot is going.

2. There's safety in the outrageous.
You know what kinds of books keep me up at night?  True crime.  Stories of real-life serial killers, stalkers, rapists, etc.  That's the stuff that makes me want to sleep with my high school softball bat under the pillow.  But a plague that wipes out 99% of the world population?  PSHAW.  I can read about it, be entertained by it, imagine what I would do if it ever happened, but it won't really ever happen.  That's the fun of it!

(Right?)

3. Top-notch world-building.
This is somewhat related to #1.  Compared to many other genres, post-apocalyptic novelists usually have their world-building game on lock.  Writing about a world after civilization is obliterated requires an author to think through a lot more than just what the survivors are eating and drinking.  They have to consider the tiniest details of post-disaster resources, infrastructure, government, etc. and figure out how those details will impact their characters throughout the story.  The amount of imagination and forethought this requires is staggering.  Hats off to the authors who do it well!

Jump in here, readers.  Why do YOU love (or loathe!) end-of-the-world literature?  Or do you tend to love some of them and not others?  Why or why not?  I know I'm not the only morbid reader out there...
Gratuitous Daryl Dixon photo for all of my Walking Dead fans. YOU'RE WELCOME.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it. 


My Review:

A novel in which everyone (well, almost everyone) dies of the flu!  As a low-grade germaphobe, this book review is brought to you by my favorite little friend, Waterless Hand Sanitizer.  Which I have been using a lot more of since I read this book.
Don't leave home without it!
Anyway...another well-hyped, new-ish novel!  I just can't stay away from the New Releases shelf at my library the last few months.  Plus, this one won The Morning News's Tournament of Books (think Final Four for books) this year, so that's saying a lot.

I suppose that Station Eleven could be summarized as an apocalypse novel.  Catastrophic flu, 99% of the population dead, bye bye Internet, etc.  If you're into that sort of reading, you'll certainly find it here.  However, that simple description also does the book a bit of a disservice, as it has a lot of the literary merits that might be lacking in a more action-based novel.  It's not entirely an Oryx and Crake, or The Road, but it's also not The Hunger Games or Feed.  Somewhere in the in-between.

I loved this book.  Mandel wrapped me into the post-apocalyptic world that she created right from page one, and I never wanted to put the book down once she did.  Though truthfully, I'd be lying if I said that it left me feeling happy at the end.  Bereft would be a more likely descriptor.  There's just so much sadness to process here.  Of course, you have the devastation of the pandemic, but then there's all of the interpersonal relationships between the characters--lots of divorce, death, abandonment, violence.  Don't get me wrong, the book is amazingly well-written, it's just not a feel-good story by any means.  I was deeply affected by these characters by the end of the book, flu pandemic or not, which says a lot about the quality of the writing.

I can't pinpoint the one thing that made this book great for me.  It's just all of it...the alternating storylines (which cover both pre- and post-pandemic), the world building, the story-within-a-story (as the title comes from a comic book that is introduced in the novel)...this book is a puzzle that Mandel put together perfectly.  I can't think of an adult fiction reader who this would not appeal to in some way.  (Unless a germaphobic-reader-who-only-loves-happy-books is out there...then by all means, avoid.)

Station Eleven.  Read it.  Love it.

Be honest, people--based on your survival/sanitation skillz, what are your chances of surviving the flu-based apocalypse??
 
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