14

1414

By: Peter Clines

peterclines.com

(Science Fiction/Apocalypse/Steampunk)

350 pages (trade paperback)

 

Nate Tucker’s new apartment building is a little strange – padlocked doors, odd light fixtures, and mutant cockroaches… but the rent’s good.

This book is not about zombies. Just thought I’d make that clear.

So many apocalyptic novels involve one brand of zombie or another. It’s either some sort of zombie plague that makes people crazy or violent or one that turns them into vampire-like monsters that are, again, crazy and/or violent. Lots of people love that stuff, but I generally don’t, although there is the occasional exception. What is so wonderful about 14, is that this book’s brand of apocalypse is completely different, and involves a more classical approach to the end of the world. Unfortunately, saying anything more would give away the story, trust me, it’s cool.

On the cover, this book is compared to the TV show LOST, but I disagree a little on that point. Yes, they both have mysteries, but I feel like the similarities end there. I didn’t really like LOST. It was good at first, but I gave up on it a few seasons in. Why? Because the mysteries kind of sucked. Well, actually, the mysteries, at first, were great, but they ruined them over time by, either ignoring them altogether or by having really anticlimactic reveals. 14 slowly builds intensity with its mysteries, each one more pivotal than the last. Pretty much everything of importance is answered and what is revealed is awesome. I didn’t see it coming.

The characters are good and create a well-balanced atmosphere of silliness with occasional seriousness. The book has a slightly lighter feel to it in that regard, but it kept the adventure fun. It was serious when it needed to be, but there were also plenty of jokes and geek references too.

This was a fun and interesting read. I always do well with curiosity-driven books. What’s behind that door? Why is it locked? What happens if I pull this lever? It was an interesting idea and something different, so I was really pleasantly surprised. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

 

*Spoilers*

For those of you who have already read the book I just wanted to add this one little thing…

(Highlight to read)

[You know how everything on the other side is covered in sand?

Two words: Squale poop. Think about it. 😉]

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Technogenesis

TechnogenesisTechnogenesis

By: Syne Mitchell

synemitchell.com

(Sci-Fi/Future/Thriller)

326 pages (paperback)

 

In a future where everyone is connected to the Net 24/7, Jasmine Reese’s means of connection malfunctions and she is forced to go without access to something she has always taken for granted. She soon notices odd things about the connected people around her. When one of the few disconnected people warns her that “The Beast is watching you…” she is thrust into danger and an encounter with something she never imagined could exist.

*   *   *

This book is one of my many book sale finds. I was trying to bolster my science fiction section at the time. Since I’ve been gathering books at such an alarming rate, I thought it was about time to try to focus on my own bookshelf for a while. We’ll see how long that lasts. Distractions abound.

The short version of this review is that this book was good, but not great. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a good book. Not everything has to be mind-blowingly awesome. I enjoyed it, it was a quick read, and that’s really all there is to it.

I find that lately I’m  drawn more to longer, more complicated stories. There was a time when 300 pages was plenty, but these days it just doesn’t seem to be enough story. There isn’t enough time for me to get fully engrossed in the characters or the world but, then again, not all books are the kind you really dive into like that. I think it’s good to have a balance though. The lighter novels help me to appreciate the deeper ones and help keep me from getting buried by them. I think it works.

This book is a little bit technical without being overly so. You want a little technical in your science fiction, that’s what makes it plausible, you just don’t want so much that you nod off and start to drool. There are the usual fun ethics questions and technological advancement “what ifs” that are interesting to think about, and there isn’t one clear answer. The main character has a little trouble deciding what is right, and her choices aren’t easy. There were also a couple of cool quirks and interesting complications that I didn’t see coming.

If you’re looking for some quick science fiction, that doesn’t involve ark ships and galactic exploration, this is a pretty good choice. It’s entertaining, but you don’t have to invest too much either. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Othella {Arcadian Heights 1}

OthellaOthella {Arcadian Heights 1}

By: Therin Knite

knitewrites.com

(Thriller/SciFi)

302 pages (Trade Paperback)

 

“Welcome to Arcadian Heights, where the world’s brightest minds go in…and don’t come out.”

*   *   *

Therin Knite’s books are fast paced and super easy to read, not to mention that the printed versions have such lovely print I didn’t really need my glasses! They make for great breaks in between those super long, epic, fantasy novels. In this case though, I was suffering from a bit of a book hangover from The Wise Man’s Fear, so I had a little trouble adjusting to this one.

Othella is a little bit dark since it takes place at a point in time, frighteningly not far from now, where the world is on the verge of apocalypse. The impending doom creates for a tense and interesting tale, but a more serious one.

There are no heroes in this story. Each of the three main characters’ actions are done for selfish reasons like revenge, fame, or survival. As a result, I didn’t feel for them quite as much as I could have. This is more about watching the chaos unfold and wondering what will happen when everything falls apart. I did like how we got to follow the perspective of the one character who most closely resembled a villain. Watching him do bad things in the name of ensuring a future for the human race, and then watching him live with the consequences was fascinating. There were times I felt bad for him, and then felt that I shouldn’t be feeling bad for him because of the things he’d done. There is the question of who has the moral high ground, how far is too far to go to try and save the human race?

I was a lot more invested in the story by the end. When stories move quickly and are split up across three characters like this, it takes a little time to get to know them well enough. Since this is shaping up to be a trilogy it makes perfect sense. I’ve noticed this pattern before in books that were the first of a series.

This was a solidly good book, and I would certainly recommend it. If I gave Therin’s first book, Echoes five stars, I’d give this one four, but only because I liked the subject matter of Echoes a little bit more. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series. Often, whenever I finish reading one of my favorite books, anything I read afterward seems terrible, whether it is or not. I have to say, this one held up well against a serious book hangover and that’s saying something. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Falling Sky

Falling SkyFalling Sky

By: Rajan Khanna

www.rajankhanna.com

(Post-Apocalyptic/Thriller/Adventure)

252 pages (Trade Paperback)

In a world where a contagion, known as the bug, broke out causing those infected to become ferals (wild not quite zombie people), Ben Gold is doing ok…until he loses his airship and gets stuck in the last place he wants to be, on the ground.

*   *   *

I need to stop picking up random books at the library, when I’m supposed to be reading from my to-read pile, but this one was short and caught my eye. I wonder if there’s some sort of support group for compulsive book gathering? I digress…

Honestly, I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to, and while Tad Williams’ endorsement of “…like Hemingway meets The Walking Dead” made it intriguing, it also had me wondering how I would feel about it. I’m not a Hemingway fan, though I’ve only read one short story so far, and I don’t watch The Walking Dead. I hate zombies. Here, the ferals are just un-zombie-like enough for me to read it, but only just. The mention of airships and a post-apocalyptic world was enough to get me interested though. Ultimately, the things I liked pretty evenly matched the things I did not. Allow me to explain…

The story had a lot of promising elements that somehow didn’t quite come together for me. The air ships, floating city, and “stay off the ground” mentality were all great and had a wonderful steampunk vibe. I have absolutely no complaints about that. The premise was good. The contagiousness of the bug added an extra element of danger, that made simply shooting a feral into a very dangerous proposition, since a speck of contaminated blood could lead to a fate most would consider worse than death. However, as much as the characters kept themselves covered with scarves and gloves and everything, they never talked about what they did with them after or how they acquired so many. Think of it this way, you go out, run into a feral, kill it, and blood gets on your scarf. Ah! Do you keep wearing that scarf? Do you promptly dispose of it? Burn it? Where do you get a replacement? How often do you do this? I just feel like keeping a scarf with contaminated blood on it near your face after the fact just doesn’t make sense, and yet I never noticed a character disposing of contaminated garments. I find that odd.

Those things that felt out of place or didn’t quite make sense, like the example above, were my biggest problem with the story. They distracted me, pulled me out of the story, and in some cases made it harder to relate to the characters. The obviousness of Ben’s crush on Miranda, the scientist, that he somehow didn’t realize he had, seemed oddly cliche for a book that is supposed to be gritty and realistic. What really got to me was a moment when she happens to take her hair down, and oh look, the pretty scientist is pretty. Classic romantic comedy tropes didn’t seem to fit here, maybe if it were more of a cut and dry steampunk adventure it would have made more sense.

Lastly, the main character seemed to be randomly Jewish. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with him being Jewish, or any other faith for that matter, it’s just that he seemed to become it rather suddenly. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my reading, but there was a moment where he suddenly recognized Hebrew and met a rabbi. My problem is that there was no real mention of his faith or knowledge of the language before, so it felt abrupt. There may have been a very brief mention of a Star of David early on but that was it. Up to the point with the rabbi, there had been no mention, in all that talk of his Dad and Ben’s past, of learning Hebrew or caring at all about his ancestry. If anything, like most people in a messed up post-apocalyptic world, he didn’t seem to be particularly fond of any belief system other than survival. It just caught me off guard, and all those little things just kept making it more and more difficult to invest in the story or the characters the way I wanted to.

Plot wise, it was a decent adventure, and Tad Williams seemed to like it. Normally I would trust his judgement, but it just didn’t work for me. Perhaps I’m just being picky and it was a wrong book at the wrong time kind of situation. Maybe I should have been reading Endsinger like I had originally planned. It’s hard to say. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

The Passage

The PassageThe Passage

By: Justin Cronin

enterthepassage.com

(Fiction/Thriller/Vampires/Apocalypse)

766 pages (Trade Paperback)

In an effort to create fast-healing super soldiers, the U.S. government accidentally releases a vampire plague, and one little girl is the only one who can make things right.

I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. Lately, it seems I’m saying that about half of what a read. Maybe I shouldn’t prejudge my books so much…

Anyway, I had read some mixed reviews, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend 766 pages with the vampire apocalypse. It seems I keep reading vampire books even though I keep saying I’m not that into vampires. I think what is really happening here, is that the interesting plots that I keep coming across often have vampires in them – every story needs a catalyst. I was actually about to donate this book back to the book sale I got it from, to make room for some of my new arrivals, but changed my mind at the last minute. I’m glad I did.

First of all, this is a heavy story, but worth it. It also moves slowly, not to be boring, but to be thorough. There is a lot of detail here and the story will draw you in if you let it, but you have to take your time. Don’t expect constant action and intrigue. There are steady dribbles of action and suspense. Things build slowly. There is a lot of spooky end of the world stuff that is, at times, rather unsettling. The atmosphere of the story is as important as the plot.

The story goes from the time just before the outbreak (our very near future) to 100 years later. Everything is very well thought out and at times it felt a bit like two different stories altogether. The first couple hundred pages was more like a thriller, and the rest, more like a “trek to Mount Doom” fantasy quest, only in a post-apocalyptic world. Both elements were good, so no complaints there.

The vampires themselves are interesting. There’s a psychological aspect that makes them more than just mindless monsters, and as time progresses, they seem to evolve and have to adapt to various changes.

Amy! I almost forgot to talk about Amy! I love this character. She is incredibly interesting, but I feel like I will give away too much of the story if I go into detail. Really, she’s the reason I like this book, and why I will read the sequels.

Ultimately, this was very worth the read. I occasionally found it disturbing or depressing, but those elements made it a strong story, and I always like a strong story. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

 

Echoes

EchoesEchoes

By: Therin Knite

knitewrites.com

(Scifi/Urban Fantasy/Paranormal)

213 pages

My first ever indie review…yippee!!

Before I get into the story, I’d like to first say that I’m impressed with the whole package. I chose to purchase the paperback version rather than download it (I have this thing about being able to physically hold the things I pay for) and the printed version is wonderfully professional. The cover art is great, and this thing was edited well, better than a few big name publishers I’ve reviewed before. I have come across entire repeated paragraphs in books published the traditional way and I didn’t find a single typo in this. Well done.

This was a fun story, not too serious, but not too light either. It was a lovely balance. It’s difficult for me to nail down the genre which had elements of science fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal, and even felt a bit like a thriller in some places. I liked the mix of elements in this. Government agencies, super powers, deadly dream dragons…yup, that’s just a fun combination.

The characters were all nicely unique and I enjoyed the interactions between them. There was plenty of snark and attitude, but not in an over-the-top kind of way. It was entertaining rather than irritating and it felt genuine rather than being there just for the sake of it. I liked the characters a lot, especially Dynara Chamberlain. Her personality is sprightly but tough and I find her fascinating…not to mention kick-ass.

What was truly wonderful about this book was that I didn’t guess the ending at all. I have what I like to call story brain. I have a tendency to predict things in stories based on all the stories I have already experienced and the stories I’ve been writing in my head for so many years. There weren’t any slow parts with this story either. It didn’t drag on in any way and at 213 pages it was a refreshing read. So many of the books I’m drawn to turn out to be 700+ pages, so when I find something I like that’s short and sweet I’m very happy.  Can’t wait till the sequel!

And I will leave you with this brief quote from the story. I just really liked the description here so I thought I’d jot it down.

“His hands are as steady as rocks, the result of decades of laughing in the face of death until he came to believe it was truly funny.”

Awesome. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Learning to Swim

Learning to Swim Learning to Swim

By: Sara J. Henry

www.sarajhenry.com

(Thriller/Mystery)

289 pages

I picked this one up at a book sale, largely because of the mention of Lake Champlain and the surrounding area. My family used to go on vacations there, and it seemed nifty to read about a place I’m familiar with. I guess a story about a boy thrown off the back of a ferry and his rescuer had something to do with it too.

Being yet another first person narrative (I seem to be reading a lot of those lately) the story moves quickly, and it’s a short book at less than three hundred pages. As I said, a boy is thrown off a ferry and the main character, Troy Chance (who is a woman by the way), leaps in after him and just manages to keep both of them alive. Then she needs to figure out what to do to keep him safe, including finding his father and those who harmed him. The inside jacket of the book describes it like this:

“What she uncovers will take her into a world of wealth and privilege and heedless self-indulgence – a world in which the murder of a child is not unthinkable. She’ll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself.”

But this is a little misleading. This description had me envisioning lavish parties, and a host of wealthy suspects…something a little like Clue perhaps. I imagined the main character hiding in a closet in some mansion, the boy in her arms, hoping he wouldn’t make a sound while some crazy, rich, psycho stalked just outside the door. The story is quite different from that. Yes there is some wealth, and a couple suspects, but I wouldn’t call it a world where the murder of a child is not unthinkable, more just the mentality of the person or persons (I won’t give anything away here I promise) who wanted him dead.

There was actually a surprising amount of downtime in this story. There were a few events involving skill and courage, but it wasn’t the whole thing, which is not what I expected. And it’s in this down time that I have a little bit of a criticism. Too many details!

Details, to a point, are vital to making a story seem real, but when the details seem arbitrary, and do nothing to give the reader insight into the nature of the character or the world in which the story takes place, then they just clutter up a page. I don’t need to know that she used Microsoft Outlook to check email, or MapQuest to print a map, or that she had a TracFone, used Twitter, Craigslist (this one might be the only one that’s ok), or watched something on Netflix. The flavor of her bagel or the Ragu she put over some pasta didn’t really help me either.

Then she went on to detail basic computer maintenance more than once like running spyware programs or defragging the hard drive. Finally, since the author is a bicycle enthusiast and her protagonist is also, there was quite a lot about bike repair and maintenance, which is a little reminiscent of Clive Cussler novels where he spends a lot of time on details about a fancy submersible. Where’s all the intrigue and suspense in this world of privilege and heedless self-indulgence?

Despite this complaint, it was a good story but not a great one in my opinion. It moved quickly, so even with all the downtime, it never felt slow. The little boy is completely adorable, and the story ended with a bit of a twist, but I had kind of guessed at who was responsible for everything.

The author has a second book out with the Troy Chance character, only this time it’s winter in the Adirondacks, which I have to admit I find intriguing. I might read that one eventually, but it won’t be at the top of my list. Until next time…

Happy Reading!