storytimewithbuffy

Posts Tagged ‘Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction’

Hunger

In Book Reviews on September 11, 2013 at 6:43 am

Hunger

First published in the USA 2009 by HarperTeen
First published in Great Britain 2010 by Egmont UK Limited

Nutshell blurb: The adults have all disappeared leaving everyone under the age of 15 behind. The kids who survived the first book now face a food shortage. They also have to contend with the fact that some of them are developing strange powers.

This is the second book in this series (you can read my thoughts on the first one here).

The first book deals with the fact that everyone over the age of 15 had disappeared leaving kids behind in a small town in California. Being kids with no adult supervision, they made the mistake of not planning ahead with their food. They ate all of the candy/ice cream/junk food and let a lot of fruit/vegetables/meat go to waste.

In this book, those consequences kick in as they now have to ration what they have left. The kids that are left are separated into two factions; those who live in Perdido Beach and those who live in Coates Academy. These factions do not get along and are being broken down further into kids who have strange mutant powers against those who don’t. Throw a nuclear power plant and some mutating animals/insects into the mix and you’ve got a really exciting story filled with peril and action.

This series is YA and it recommends that the reader be 12+ due to “scenes of cruelty and some violence” but that doesn’t mean that it’s a light and comfortable story for adults. These kids deal with some heavy problems, only without the benefit of adult supervision.

One of the problems is that the town is being run by a 15 year old. He’s managing over 100 kids who have no discipline and no desire to harvest food that is growing in the surrounding area. Some of the kids get into alcohol or drugs and one of the girls has an eating disorder even though they are on the verge of starvation.

This book also comes closer to explaining why it all started.

I love this series. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I find it fascinating to imagine how people would survive in a post-apocalyptic world with limited resources. It’s especially interesting to imagine how kids would survive. In this book, they don’t always make the right decisions (even the main characters) but they do the best they can. Some of them try to do things to give their world some semblance of normality, such as creating currency.

There is a lot of action and even though it’s YA, Mr. Grant doesn’t pull punches. People get hurt. People die. There are lynchings. The only real defining characteristics that make it YA to me are the fact that there is no sex and no swearing.

It’s a fantastic series (so far) and I’ll be getting the third book the next time I go to the library.

If you’ve read these books, I’d love to know what you think. (No spoilers, please!)

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Wool

In Book Reviews on August 4, 2013 at 9:33 am

Wool

Arrow Books 2013

The children were playing as Holston climbed to his death…

I rarely ever read books when they come out. It’s not a fully intentional thing, although I do tend to avoid things that are surrounded by too much hype. I guess I just don’t like to be told what to read. Taste in books is a very personal thing and I guard it jealously. This means that I avoid any book I see advertised on billboards or on bestseller lists, almost defiantly. I may read one of these books once the hubub has died down, as long as it has an interesting premise. Does reading something after it’s cool make me some kind of literary anti-hipster? I don’t know. Let’s not start with the name-calling.

I’ve always liked doing my own thing independently from what the crowd is doing, but I will admit that sometimes I take it a bit far. I didn’t start watching the X-Files until the re-runs started playing because I couldn’t stand that everyone was making such a fuss over it. Turns out that it became one of my favourite shows. So yeah, I need to work on this little quirk of mine.

I’m telling you all of this because I hesitated when I found this book in the book store. I first saw it advertised on the underground during my daily commute and immediately dismissed it and moved on with my life. Then I saw a couple of threads about it on Goodreads which I didn’t read because I knew that they would be spoilerific. (It doesn’t matter if I don’t intend to read a book. I hate spoilers.) I did read the premise of the novel and I didn’t want to want to read this book. Given my intense love of dystopia, I decided to get over myself and give it a shot.

Thank goodness for my sudden onset of common sense!

Nutshell blurb: The atmosphere of Earth has become so toxic that people now live inside a silo that goes deep underground. Occasionally, people are sent outside to clean the cameras that transmit images of the outside to the people who live inside. The cleaning is a death sentence reserved for criminals although sometimes people volunteer. These are usually people who have gotten too close to the truth.

As awesome as I thought this book was, I almost put it down at one point. The first 40 or so pages gripped me completely. Was Holston really climbing to his death or would he be saved at the last minute? What’s this book about? OMG WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN???

And then we switch to a different PoV for nearly 100 pages and it sent me straight to Dullsville. Population: Me. Why are we following this person? Where is this story going? I found it to be incredibly tedious and I wondered if I could be bothered to finish it.

If this had been a library book, I might have put it back in the bag to go back. But, I bought it and I felt compelled to soldier on.

I’m so glad that I did.

Once we actually got to the main character’s PoV things improved drastically. The action picked up as did the suspense and I zipped through the rest of the 500+ pages in no time. (It helped that I was on holiday as well.)

The main character was interesting as were many of the secondary ones. The problems they faced were intense and left me desperate to know what was going to happen.

Once I got further into the book, I realised the relevance of the part which I thought was dull and when I read the book again (and I’m sure that I will at some point) I don’t think that I’ll find it as boring.

I’m definitely glad that I stuck with it and I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

Vacation

In Book Reviews on July 31, 2013 at 6:00 am

Vacation

Tomas Dunne Books 2011

Chaos – always close, always one attack away. The pressure from the Can Heads always there, always mounting.

I’ve taken a departure from my usual fare of post-apocalyptic zombie stories and have sauntered into the realm of cannibals. Exciting, eh?

Nutshell blurb: A global crisis kills off plants and animals and gives rise to a new type of human dubbed ‘Can Heads’ who are attacking and eating survivors. Jack and his family decide to leave New York City for a vacation in a secluded area which is reputed to be free from Can Heads.

I had some mixed feelings about this book. I feel like I should start by telling you the things I didn’t like so that I can end this post with the things that I did like.

So, what are Can Heads you might ask? You would be right to do so. I actually don’t know. I was really excited when I picked up this book because I’ve been reading so many zombie stories lately and it was nice to delve into something different. However, I never really got a feel for what these things were. They seemed pretty much like zombies to me, except that their bite didn’t turn people into zombies or Can Heads. They just went around eating people. There wasn’t much explanation about why they are or how they came to be that way and I found that to be a bit disappointing. Zombies are usually depicted as brainless, non-sentient creatures filled with a mindless hunger. When I think about cannibals, I think about people knowingly eating other people, whether they’re in the grip of religious mania or because they actually have nothing else to eat. I think of rituals and barbarians dancing around huge boiling pots usually with a fully dressed human inside a la Allan Quartermaine.

Obviously, it’s great to put a new spin on an old concept, but I didn’t feel that these things were much different than zombies.

Another problem I had was that I didn’t find the main character to be at all likeable. Jack was a jerk. I’ve read so many books which feature the hardened cop who isn’t in touch with his soft side and who doesn’t like to talk about his feelings. The wife is long-suffering and they bicker a lot. He always has to drive, even though he’s recovering from a leg injury and it’s very uncomfortable. He takes it all stoically and just expects her to understand. He can’t be happy with the woman he’s got and finds it difficult to hide his ogling. (Yes, we all ogle from time to time, but a bit of discretion is advisable.) I find it tedious. While I understand that people like this exist, I’m kind of tired of reading about them. We’re in the 21st century and it’s more acceptable for both men and women to show a wider range of emotions than ever before. It could be that I’m not the intended demographic for this book, in which case that would be quite a shame as I love a good actiony post-apocalyptic story.

The last negative thing I’ll say is that sometimes I didn’t like the writing style. I don’t mind a fragmented sentence here and there. It’s great for when you’re in someone’s head and it’s used to illustrate the tough situation they’re in, but I found that it was used a bit much in this book. This is a niggling, stylistic preference though, so don’t let that deter you.

Believe it or not, I really did like this book. There’s a lot of action and it’s just plain fun. The things I mentioned above are small things that made it good rather than amazing. I took this book with me on my daily commute to work, but found that I had to read it at home too. I was really caught up in all of it. I’m not sure if it’s one that I could re-read, but I’ll definitely read more of Mr. Costello’s work in the future.

Gone

In Book Reviews on July 24, 2013 at 6:00 am

Gone

Egmont Press 2009

One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone. There. Gone. No ‘poof’. No flash of light. No explosion.

Nutshell blurb: One day, everyone aged 15 and older disappears leaving kids to fend for themselves.

I wasn’t sure what I would think about this book at first. Sometimes books aimed at kids are so far below my reading level that I can’t take them seriously. They could be very well written but the fact that they are aimed at kids means that they’ll be written differently. (I’m still trying to slog through Harry Potter.) If a book has an interesting premise, I’ll give it a try regardless of whom it’s written for.

And in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book. It was written for kids, but it never talks down to them and the action was pretty intense. Mr. Grant didn’t pull punches and I respect him for that.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love stories which provide a picture of how people handle adverse situations and the choices that they have to make. I really like reading how people think that children would react in these situations with no adult guidance. It’s interesting to see what authors come up with. I think that Mr. Grant nailed it in this case. Kids are selfish, unsure of themselves, and need authority and guidance (although I guess that could be said of adults as well). I think that if they had to forage for food in deserted supermarkets the candy, pop, ice cream and junk food would be the first things to go. Their first thoughts wouldn’t be to see if anyone needed help. They would most likely mill around until someone corralled them and gave them tasks to do. I’m in no way saying that people under the age of 15 are stupid, but I think that adults who have more life experience would struggle in these situations too so it would be silly to think that kids would be able to behave the way we think that they should.

It was great to see that some of the kids accepted that they were alone and finally tried to sort things out, but they had to contend with bullies and other forces which thwarted them at every turn.

This was a long book at 570 pages, but I enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next one.

Life as We Knew it

In Book Reviews on June 16, 2013 at 6:00 am

Life as we Knew it

This edition by Marion Lloyd Books 2010

This book left me confused as to whether or not I liked it. I’m loving post-apocalyptic books these days and I felt a bit disappointed in this one. It felt decidedly un-apocalyptical. (And yes, I like to make up words.) I never felt like the main character was in peril. Towards the end, they started running out of food and some of her family got sick, but that was it. I cringed (as I do when I read these types of books) waiting for all hell to break loose, riots in the streets, attacks on their house, one of her family members dying, but all of my cringing was for naught.

The writing was excellent, though, which is why I was so torn. And then it hit me. 16-year-old Buffy would have loved this book. It was a very safe end of the world story and I really liked safe back then. My tastes have changed though, and 38-year-old Buffy needs a bit more. I kind of feel that in these types of stories the main character really needs to go through some difficult stuff to become a really interesting main character. This usually involves losing her family or at least the primary caretaker so that she would be forced to figure things out for herself.

I loved the premise of this story. Oh, and I almost forgot my Nutshell blurb: An asteroid has hit the moon and has moved it closer to Earth triggering tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. This is the story of Miranda and her family (told in journal format) and how they try to survive.

I felt that this would have been far more interesting if it was told from the perspective of someone who was trapped on the top floor of a high rise building when a tsunami floods the entire city. Or something similar. That would give me more of a sense of fear than following the lives of a family who are slowly running out of food. I need to feel that all is lost and that the characters are going to somehow rise above it and be better for it. The main character did grow throughout the story which made me very happy as she really got on my nerves in the beginning.

I enjoyed reading this book but I probably won’t read the sequels. I can’t criticise it too much because it was intended for a much younger audience.

School’s Out Forever

In Book Reviews on June 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

School's Out Forever

Abaddon Books

Omnibus published in 2012

“I celebrated my fifteenth birthday by burying my headmaster and emptying my bladder in the freshly turned earth.”

How’s that for a first sentence?┬áThis book. Holy wow. I had a serious book hangover after finishing it. (For those of you who don’t know what a book hangover is, it’s the inability to start a new book because you can’t stop thinking about the previous one.)

Nutshell blurb: A virus has swept across the globe killing everyone who does not have O-negative blood type. This is the story of the survivors who take shelter at a private boy’s school in Kent.

I feel that I need to start of by saying that even though this book is mainly about children and teenagers, it’s definitely not a YA book. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.

So, why would anyone want to read a book that features children who must kill in order to survive? There’s an interview with the author at the end of the book and he’s asked the question of why he features children in the post apocalyptic tale of survival. His response:

“Because they’re far more vicious than adults. Crueller, nastier, less predictable and more morally flexible…kids are not fully formed personalities yet, they’re still pushing the boundaries of social conventions and trying to define themselves, so they do the most awful things sometimes. And the most wonderful, of course.”

This omnibus is made up of three short novels and a short story. The first book is from the point of view of a fifteen year old boy named Lee. The second and third books toggle back and forth between various characters.

There were a few times when I had to suspend my disbelief a bit more than I’m comfortable with, such as when one of the teenagers flies a plane from Kent to Iraq by himself, refueling at various military bases along the way. I also felt as though Lee’s voice/thoughts were a bit more mature than a fifteen year old’s would be. It’s been way more than fifteen years since I was fifteen years old, so I can honestly say that I don’t remember what my thought processes were like back then. I’m willing to push my belief to the boundaries if the writing is good, and the writing in this book is excellent. The characters are engaging and realistic and the action was non-stop.

No one is safe in this book, which gave me the thrilling feeling of fear for the characters I liked as well as the desire for the villains to get their comeuppance, which sometimes didn’t happen. It was difficult to predict and that made it stressful, heart-rending and fun at the same time.

I seldom recommend books to people as we all have different tastes and I don’t want the responsibility of my recommendation if you don’t like it, so I will refrain from doing so now. What I will say, however, is that this book was brutal and it took my breath away.

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