Category: The End of the World as We Know It


Hey all, check it out, I’m on time this week. Super impressive, I know. I have a review for you all. It was a little hard to write, because spoilers, and I’m not totally happy with parts of it but the whole isn’t half bad. Thanks to the nice folks from Harper this is The Book of Joan. Enjoy!

The Book of Joan cover

Ciel was meant to be a haven for the chosen few of humanity. An Eden away from an Earth wrecked by wars and over consumption. That ended almost as soon as it began, when the charismatic Jean de Men took full control. When the wars started back up because Earth didn’t want to, couldn’t, send the supplies Ciel demanded he lead ruthless attack after attack. The rebels had one hope, a girl with a glowing mark on her face and a song pulsing in her being, Joan. They never stood a chance. Earth fell, Joan was martyred, and only the faintest memory of her song remains. But there is power in songs and more in stories. Jean de Men’s rule is iron fisted, but rebellion is stirring again even among the withered denizens of Ciel. A story can light the fires of rebellion, and a song can shake the heavens, but not even Joan can know how either will end.

So, Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan is a really weird book. It wants to be smart and literary and all that. It wants to explore what it means to be human and humanity’s relationship with the Earth. But it has a lot of spinning its wheels and drama on the way there. It also doesn’t mesh well with its blurb, which made writing the summary a little iffy.

Let’s just jump in on that. When I say this book wants to be literary but spins its wheels, I am mostly talking about the way words get used. Everyone is overly verbose, everyone uses five dollar words where something more common would serve just as well. Just as well or better, honestly, since everyone includes the foulmouthed child soldier. The use of SAT-esque vocabulary makes the whole reading experience feel clunky and obtuse, which of course makes for a really dull read.

I do feel like a lot of the big, look at how smart I am, words are part of the wanting to be literary thing. The Book of Joan wants to impress you with how literary and important and think-y it is, but then doesn’t have a solid line on what it wants to say and what it wants to make you think about. It is sound and fury signifying nothing, and that is unfortunate because there are some nifty ideas buried in the text. A side effect of that is that there winds up being a ton of sex and gender weirdness.

In the early parts of the book we are introduced to the idea that the people of Ciel have been warped by radiation. Their hair has fallen out, their skin is bleached, and their genitals are either sealed shut or shriveled. This leads our point of view character for the Ciel bits, Christine, to contemplate humanity and the loss thereof. Which means she talks a lot about sex and how that’s lost to the people of Ciel. This could have been something about a loss of connection in a better book but, given how The Book of Joan also keeps going over how withered and useless the remaining humans’ genitals are, it doesn’t land well enough to work on any level.

There’s also some gender based stuff that really rubbed me the wrong way, especially towards the end. Because spoilers, I’m not going to go super into it here. Basically though, the end winds up throwing in stuff about women being around to be mothers out of nowhere. It also really didn’t work, because there wasn’t anything to support it as part of the narrative. It also didn’t work for me personally because that’s just not a sentiment I can get behind. There was also an eleventh hour character reveal that pissed me off so badly I nearly threw the book.

There were some ideas I found interesting. The grafts, particularly the stories rather than the skin art, were a nifty idea that I’d have liked to see more about. The change from humans as we know them to the hairless withered version of the book, if that hadn’t happened in a laughably tiny timeframe, I would be super interested in. Ciel itself strikes me as a place very similar to Bioshock’s Rapture, with only the best of the best and the richest able to go there but then also having such a reliance on the world they left behind. That kind of stuff fascinates me and could have been the base for a really interesting story. But it wasn’t.

So, where does that leave me with this book? The Book of Joan is sci-fi that wants to be literature when it could have been fantastic genre fiction if only it felt comfortable being genre fiction. It wants to be big and important and smart and fails utterly on all counts. I do still think some of the ideas from this book could have been good, if they were handled by another author. I admit, my score for this is pretty heavily affected by the thing at the end. That took the book from a meh three to a one out of five.

Late as always, but not by months this time. It’s a review! Enjoy everyone.

Some years ago humanity began settling a new planet so that they could leave the polluted shell that was Earth and once again feel the sun on their skin and breath without respirators. They terraformed their new home, built cities, and started shipping in colonists and animals. The planet is a perfect place for humanity to start again, or would be if not for one minor issue. The planet’s natives, the Indigenes, aren’t happy with their aggressive new neighbors and want their home back from the beings that drove them under ground. Not all is what it seems and, between an alien world and an inhospitable Earth, it can be impossible to know who to trust.

Eliza Greene’s Becoming Human is the kind of book that I really wanted to like. It had enough elements that I usually love that I should have liked it. Unfortunately, it also feels very much like a first attempt at writing and had a lot of pitfalls that go with that. I’m imagining that she will improve as she continues writing.

Becoming Human’s biggest issue, to my mind at least, is that it spends the first half of the book introducing characters but giving the reader no time or reason to care about them. Most of the characters who are given point of view chapters could have been safely omitted from the novel to focus more on Bill, Stephan, and a couple of others who were directly important to the plot. The flip side to the lack of character development winds up being one of the villains, Bill’s boss, she gets a couple of chapters of focus and they don’t do anything to make her a more engaging character or a better villain. I’m certain that I, as the reader, am not meant to like her. But rather than not liking her because she’s doing terrible things, I don’t like her because it keeps being drilled into my head that she doesn’t like other women and that she has to have things done “the Japanese way”. It’s acknowledged in text that Japan was where she was trained, but that’s pretty easy to forget and the focus on doing things “the Japanese way” feels less like she’s an exacting highly organized villain, and more like the author didn’t really have characterization set for her.

So that’s my biggest issue, the other big one I can think of is the ending. The author spent the first half of the book or so introducing characters and not really going anywhere with the plot. When the plot finally shows up it’s jumbled and feels rushed and then, just as the heroes are actually going to do something, the book ends. It’s a painful set up for the next book given that the reader doesn’t actually get much story in this book, just a lot of characters that don’t go anywhere and build up. This one actually bothers me more than the characters not being well done, but it winds up being a smaller issue as a whole because not being invested in the characters leaves me not invested in the series.

So, with those as my big issues for the book, what works? I did enjoy the idea of the Indigenes and the initial deal with Stephen sneaking around trying to figure out how humans work. There were a number of ideas on the Earth side of things that, while fairly stock at this point, could have been pretty awesome with a little more work. This being stuff like going more into how Earth wound up with a single government for the whole planet, how people dealt with the air being poisonous if you didn’t wear a mask, or even what was done to prevent near endless worker casualties with the combination of ridiculous work weeks and stimulant pills.

How, then, does it rate? Being Human has a lot of minor issues and two really major ones and, unfortunately, the parts it does well don’t do well enough to make up for those. It felt very much like a first book and could have done with a bit more polish before being released. That said with work from this point I think Eliza Green could become a solid author. So at the end of the day, it earns a two out of five.

So, one of the reviews I have coming up is for the first book in Eliza Green’s Exilon 5 trilogy. She’s been excellent to work with. Enjoy!

It’s 2163 and the Earth has become uninhabitable due to overcrowding and poor air quality. Medical interventions mean people can live longer and genetic manipulation clinics provided by the World Government allow the population to look good while doing it. In the beginning, clean green policies were high on the World Government’s agenda until industries began to create their own energy. Not one to miss an opportunity to earn a little cash, the World Government swiftly taxed clean fuel until industries fell back into old habits of relying on cheaper alternatives, like fossil fuels. With 20 million people presently living on Earth, the planet is bursting at the seams. Increased investment in space exploration has allowed the World Government to search for a suitable exoplanet to live on. They finally discover Exilon 5.

 

When I wrote Becoming Human, there were a lot of things I had to get right. How much would the population realistically increase by in 150 years? How long would it take to reach a new planet? How would they get there? What would they find on the new planet?

 

Earth’s decimation was easy to write. Air pollution close to the scale in my story is already happening in Beijing. In my future Earth, people must wear gel masks to help them breathe. The sun’s diminished access to the planet has cooled the planet’s surface and temperatures struggle to climb above a few degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit during the day. Overcrowding is already happening in countries like Africa, India, and China. Access to resources is at a low for the majority of the population. In Becoming Human’s Earth, food farms no longer exist, land belongs to the wealthy and food replicators keep the rest of the population fed.

 

I created Exilon 5 in the image of twentieth century Earth when air was cleaner—well, cleaner than the Earth in Becoming Human—and when technology had not yet invaded our lives. In Becoming Human, the population of Earth relies on virtual assistants, virtual worlds and genetic manipulation clinics to help them cope with everyday life. And when they’re ready to die, termination clinics are at hand. It’s a bleak world they live in and Exilon 5 is everything that used to be great about Earth. But the discovery of a race already living on Exilon 5 causes tensions.

 

There is an alien race that lives on Exilon 5. Known as Indigenes, they differ greatly from humans in appearance. Their skin is hairless and almost translucent in appearance. They need lower concentrations of oxygen to breathe safely. Exilon 5’s atmosphere caters for their needs.  When humans arrive on Exilon 5 they terraform the planet to alter the atmosphere. Their actions drive the Indigenes underground where they live today.

 

Becoming Human is a story about the humans and the Indigenes and what happens when they’re forced to share a world. Who will reign supreme or will they live in harmony?

Long, long after I initially decided to do this, I’m finally posting something about it. I’m going to be breaking this down a bit in terms of what I’m covering.  Because of the nature of the thing this is going to be full of spoilers, so, you know:

Spoiler Alert

General Feelings:

All You Need is Kill:  I covered this in my review, the book is a decent, solid piece of genre fiction.  It isn’t the best thing out there, but it’s also far from the worst.

Edge of Tomorrow:  I haven’t reviewed the movie, so this is the first time I’m saying much about it online.  It’s a summer blockbuster with more budget than it really needed and enough changes made from the source material that I’m not sure of the reasons behind.  It feels less like Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as vehicles to tell the story and more like using the trappings of a story as a vehicle to use Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt to make money.  It was entertaining, but it wasn’t good.

Keiji vs Cage:

All You Need is Kill: Keiji starts the book a totally green, untested private who has to grow into a competent soldier over the course of two days with painful deaths as the reset point. He knows the people in his unit at least passingly even if they aren’t used much in the book, little things early on that serve to tell the reader that.  The loops change that, locking him in to trying to get a little better each time so he can get out and survive. Keiji can feel more than a little disconnected from the rest of humanity at times due to the time loop, but I feel that he’s shown to be a more or less heroic figure at the end when he takes up where Rita left off and vows to wipe out the Mimics once and for all.  He’s been forced to kill the only other person who understands what he’s been through to break the time loops.  He’s left an outcast for his actions during the battle, having not only killed Rita but also done tremendous amounts of damage to both the base and his fellow soldiers.  The thing is though, even with that, he’s going to keep fighting until the Mimics are gone or it kills him.

Edge of Tomorrow: Major Cage starts the movie seeming just kind of slimy.  He’s the guy shilling jackets to the world, talking about how they let someone as inexperienced as Rita Vrataski fight the Mimics and win. He’s a media suit with respectable rank who, when told he’s being sent to the front lines, jumps from trying to weasel his way out of it to trying to blackmail the General giving him his orders.  Cage isn’t a character I can really believe as keeping fighting after the first couple of loops, he’s the guy who thinks he can talk his way out of anything even as he digs himself in deeper and deeper.  Meeting Rita could be a tipping point there, he doesn’t become more heroic or anything like that, but he has a goal to work towards.  He finally sacrifices himself to kill the omega, ending the war and saving humanity, but even that winds up ringing hollow.

The Mimics:

All You Need is Kill: The Mimics in the book are these drowned frog looking things that were sent out by another more advanced race to teramorph the Earth and make it habitable for them.  So they look a little doofy, but they eat dirt and poop poison and when one dies so do all of the humans in the area unless they’re wearing proper protective gear.  It’s kind of cool.  They all look the same, but the ones that out put the signal to cause the loops stand out somehow.  It isn’t really covered how they’re identified, though it is revealed that if that one is killed the signal will switch to another mimic. So they keep that going and win anyway, unless a human gets caught up in it and keeps fighting until they manage to kill the signal mimic and all of the others that the signal could bounce to.

Edge of Tomorrow: I’m going to admit, the mimics in the movie look way more intimidating than drowned frogs, but they also seem to have replaced the just creepy poisonous innards with just speed and strength.  The movie also added two other types of mimics, a sort of alpha that has the time loop signal in it’s blood somehow and an omega mimic that sits and directs all of the others.  The alpha types I get, in a more visual medium it’s necessary to show that the signal mimics are different from the others.  The omega type just bothers me, it only exists so that the movie can have a clear cut happy ending.  The movie’s mimics also have to bleed on someone for the loops to pass on to them, so that’s different, but it also just seems to be there to make sure that the ending is happy enough.

Rita Vrataski:

All You Need is Kill: Book Rita is the Full Metal Bitch, and she earns the title from her first appearance onwards.  She turns up as Keiji is dying and makes meaningless small talk so that, when he kicks it, she can take the battery from his Jacket.  She distances herself from the other special forces members for thirty some hours prior to every battle, because she needs to distance herself from them in case she winds up in another loop.  But she’s also had her jacket painted bright red so that she’s the one the mimics are going after first.  She’s a lonely figure, unable to tell anyone about what she’s gone through because they could never understand.  When Keiji talks to her about the loops for the first or second time, she cries because she isn’t alone anymore.  She connects to him in that one day because he gets it.  The next day is the final battle of the book, she figures out why the loops continued after the two of them had killed the right mimics the last time, and she goads Keiji into a one on one duel because she knows one of them has to die to end it.  This is honestly something I had really wanted to see in the movie, because that would have been awesome.

Edge of Tomorrow: Movie Rita is the love interest, while she does get some really cool moments and is the one to ostensibly teach Cage to actually fight the mimics instead of just trial and erroring his survival, she isn’t as big a deal as book Rita is.  Part of this could be that we don’t really see the people in charge reacting to her like we do in the book, but I honestly thing that a bigger part is that she’s mostly there as a mix of the love interest and exposition.  Cage doesn’t wind up broken because they never win.  He gets broken by never being able to save Rita at the helicopter, no matter how many times they go through it or what he does, so he stops going to her for help until he realizes that the mental images he was being sent were a trap by falling head first into it.  The movie itself goes out of its way to give them semi-romantic moments because Cage is written as falling for her, the bit before her heroic sacrifice in the final loop is the worst offender.  They also made her British instead of American for the movie and got rid of most of her back story.  She really didn’t get a part of the movie where she was the hero instead of Cage.

The Ending:

All You Need is Kill: Keiji is out of his time loop and the battle is won, but Rita is dead and the mimics are still out there.  So he winds up with the American Special Forces to be their new weapon against the mimics.  The book ends with him essentially vowing to Rita that he’s going to keep fighting and planning what he’s going to do to keep going.  It’s sort of bitter sweet. I honestly really like this because the main character’s victory isn’t the be all end all win for humanity.  It’s a big win, but it isn’t THE win.

Edge of Tomorrow: It was all a dream.  The mimics mysteriously died before Cage even gets to meet the General and humanity is saved.  None of the sacrifices mean anything because they never happened.  No one but Cage remembers anything because it never happened.  There is no continuing threat to be overcome.  Nothing.  The omega is dead, it’s blood got on Cage’s body before he finished dying.  Everyone lives and Cage, now a Major again and out ranking her, goes to find Rita because he’s fallen for her.  End film on Cage giving a little smirk. I don’t like this for all sorts of reasons. Again, the sacrifices mean nothing in this ending so why should I care?  Cage doesn’t seem to have learned anything except maybe that he can get out of even that and, hey, Rita’s still alive this time.  That bit kind of plays to my issue of Rita seeming to have been down graded to love interest.  She doesn’t know him, has never met him, is out ranked by him, and without the mimics as a threat there really isn’t a reason for them to get to know each other beyond his having a thing for her. He holds all the cards here, she’s never met him but he knows all this stuff about her.  It’s weird for me, but the movie presents it as part and parcel of the happy ending, bad guys are dead and the hero gets the girl.

Ending Thoughts:

I liked All You Need is Kill, it was sparse and kind of dark and even where there was hope there was still further to go. Edge of Tomorrow,I liked OK, but it was less intelligent and more explosions and Cage getting shot in the face that made it fun.  I hands down don’t like Cage as a character and I don’t like how they handled Rita, but I did like the design for the mimics and the fight scenes were pretty awesome.  I’m gonna say that the book wins this one but that I would watch the movie again if it was on TV and I didn’t have anything better to do.

 I not quite live blogged it, and I’ve knocked around what kind of movie I think it would make (this without seeing the movie that they did make), so let’s end this terrible run on sentence and get on to the review.

I’ve talked about this book before in my not quite live blogging of it. So, given what I’ve already said and about a week after reading it, let’s take a swing at reviewing this thingy.

Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill, currently in “book of the movie” reprints as Edge of Tomorrow, is a relatively short military sci-fi march through one man’s development from green recruit to hardened warrior. The aliens arrived on Earth, they adapted a shape to work best in the environment, and they proceeded to destroy as much of the life on Earth as possible. They eat dirt and pass it as poison. Where they swim, the oceans no longer support life. The surviving nations of the world have banded together their militaries to destroy this threat, the Mimics.

All You Need is Kill is a fairly solid piece of genre fiction all told, though it isn’t without its issues. While a number of minor characters were mentioned in the various focus loops, they never really became anything more than set pieces. While this works for the book over all, it keeps the impact of anything that happens to them from really being there. This is the Keiji Kiriya show featuring Rita Vrataski and, while that works really well to show how different Keiji and Rita are as people and giving a great sense of isolation, it also lead to me not really caring if anything happened to the set piece minor characters. I also feel that the reveal about the mimic’s nature made them feel like, I don’t know, less somehow. They didn’t stop being dangerous, it just took away some of the mystery.

I’m also inclined to say that there isn’t a great deal of “show” in the novel. Again, this isn’t to the novel’s detriment for the most part. Having Keiji mostly talk about his development into a Mimic slaughtering machine just further reinforces the feeling of isolation, but I would have liked to have “seen” more of him watching Rita fight to figure out how she does things, more of him interacting with the other members of his squad and then slowly drifting away from them as more loops passed. I’d have also liked to see more lead up to the book’s climax. There was some, but not nearly enough.

So, to wrap it up, what’s the verdict? All You Need is Kill is a solid book that plays well off of the tropes Sakurazaka uses, and while it has some minor issues they mostly work in its favor rather than being detrimental to the book’s story. So, while there were some things that I did not enjoy, I give it a four out of five.

After at least five months, closer to six, of losing interest in the middle and general ambivalence towards everything I’ve finished reading a book.  This probably doesn’t mean a ton to the rest of internetland, but holy shit does it feel good to me.

So how was the second half of Edge of Tomorrow?  I really enjoyed the part focusing on Rita becoming the Full Metal Bitch.  I liked seeing her and Keiji connect and work together, it was kind of nice to see them both having someone who understood what was going on.  What I’m not a big fan of was the ending.  It isn’t that it was poorly written or that it didn’t fit the rest of the book, in fact if I’m being honest I don’t know that anything else would have really worked properly, but it wasn’t my favorite ending to a novel either.  It also struck me that revealing what the Mimics were made them feel a bit less, not threatening, but just less as a thing.

Overall, I enjoyed the book though and would read more by this author.  Not sure that I’m gonna go see the movie though.

So, it’s been about a week and , as usual, work and life and not really being able to pull an idea for a post together has kept me from posting the things.  Aside from that, I’m about a third of the way through Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Edge of Tomorrow, originally published as All You Need is Kill here in the US.  I picked it up because the blurb reminded me of an older sci-fi work my dad used to tell me about where the soldiers it focused on were revived and forced to keep fighting every time they died in battle and it went on for decades or more.  After reading a little of it I got him a copy of it too as a Father’s Day gift.

So far our hero, Keiji Kiriya, has figured out that the time loop only seems to work for him and he’s decided to make the best of that to see if he can eventually survive the second day of the loop.  I admit, the first few chapters felt overly repetitive but that’s because they take place before he’s figured it out, when the battle is still just a nightmare.  Not sure if I like how solitary the narrative is, I get that he’s the only one to remember the loops (at least as it’s been revealed so far) and is just focusing on making himself better because that’s really all that can be done.  It just feels a little weird that all the minor characters are as static as they, purposefully, are and as seemingly unimportant.  It’s a book where everyone is a red shirt so far and the big reason that strikes me is because I’m used to the cast being more present in the story, so it’s strange to just get glimpses of side characters and then nothing.  It doesn’t hurt the story, I don’t think, it’s just taking some getting used to.

So, I’m a bit late with this one.  Blame the kitten, Jonesy seems to have decided that the best toys ever are my hands and the cables to my laptop. It would be adorable if it didn’t make me worry that she was going to electrocute herself.  That aside, I’m back to working again and have another review partly done for either later this week or early next week.  All that said, this is a review for one of the books that I got last summer, so it isn’t entirely current.  Enjoy the review!

During World War 2 a group of English children were sent to a small town to keep them safe from the war.  In the time they were there each of them was entrusted with one of thirteen ancient artifacts for safe keeping.  These artifacts are all that stand between humanity and a realm of flesh hungry demons.  Fast forward to the present and the septuagenarian keepers are being killed off one by one and their artifacts stolen.  It will be up to bank teller Sara Miller to take up the broken sword and stop nothing less than the end of life as we know it.

Michael Scott and Colette Freedman’s The Thirteen Hallows had promise.  It wasn’t treading any new territory with the plot of hapless heroes with a magical MacGuffin trying to stop some big mysterious evil from destroying the world.  But there was way too much gratuitous stuff for it to be good, and it can’t all be attributed to the villains’ demonic alignment and the dark magic that they’re using to get at the hallows.  Plus, the characters each seem to be clutching their own personal idiot ball whether it is the detective who insists that Sara is an insane serial killer despite evidence to the contrary or the evil sorceress who can magically track our totally mundane heroine but can’t kill her and take the sword.  This is going to be one of the ones that I get a little long winded about because there’s a lot that could have used a second look.

So, the gratuitous stuff, it’s mostly violence and there’s some sex.  The violence could have been hand waved by saying that the levels of brutality used were necessary in every case that popped up, I think it was mentioned that the keepers had to be terrified and in agony for the magic to work.  But it wasn’t needed for the murder of Sara’s family or the random neighbor who tried to help the first on screen victim.  The sex might have been used once or twice for magic stuff, but mostly it seemed to play into the main villain’s being oh so evil just because they can be and sex is apparently the best way to show that.

Following that, the characters were flat.  The villains were evil because why not, the heroes were only the heroes because the plot needed them to be, and the police were really really dumb.  I can’t stress this enough, the characters were just poorly written and that bothers me.  I like my fantasy novels, or any novel I read for that matter to be character driven and these guys didn’t cut it. The main characters where flat enough that I almost started cheering for the villains, but they somehow managed to be even flatter again, evil for evil’s sake.  The worst case for me was the senior cop, Detective Inspector Fowler.  The writers needed a reason for Sara and Owen to stay on the run rather than turning to the police, this could have been accomplished by having the police laugh them off after they told them everything or by having the villains frame Sara for killing one of the officers that were investigating her family’s murder or any number of other things.  Instead, old cop digs in almost immediately and decides that Sara must be some kind of psycho killer despite her reactions indicating otherwise and the sheer number of statistics that suggest that women generally don’t kill people in that violent a manner.  If he had jumped on after the evil junky’s death, then I would be fine with it because people saw her do that.  On the other hand, the comparison between him and his partner, Sergeant Heath, made her one of the only characters in the book that I came anywhere near liking.

Speaking of Heath, the quality of descriptions in this book were also all over the place.  The reader gets lovingly written scenes of violence and gore and yet the only descriptions we really get for her were that she’s blond, butch, and nicer than her partner.  Again, if there had been better reason given for the attention to gore, like if the police were checking the crime scenes and slowly piecing together what was happening with bits of ritual that were left behind among all the blood and viscera.  That would have been cool, and could have given credence to Fowler’s insistence that Sara was a crazed killer until evidence piled up that it was the Dark Man and his sorceress accomplice or one of their underlings.  But it wasn’t, and that seems like a waste.

So, where does this leave me on The Thirteen Hallows?  It had potential, I can say that of it, but that potential was squandered on hollow characters and overall mediocre writing.  It was a fast read but more in a “when does this get good” way than a “this is amazing” way.  This was the first thing I’d read by either author and, while I’ve heard good things about both in reading to see who they were, it may be the last thing I read by either of them.  The ending left room for more books and anything I can find online suggests that there’s supposed to be a sequel at some point but I have a hard time seeing where I could go from here.  I’m giving this one a one out of five for characters that I couldn’t bring myself to care about and a story that couldn’t seem to decide what it was or what it wanted to be.

I did not mean to be this late with the review for 7 Scorpions: Rebellion, it’s been a weird one folks.  I’m hoping to have the next review up on time and some more nerd rantery regarding the New 52 up in the next few weeks.  Also, more books, more give aways, and less of my whining about life in general.  But enough about that, on to the review.

On May seventh, the world was turned upside down when the power hungry dictator know only as Zodiac flash bombed every major city on earth simultaneously.  What survivors there were are hunted by Zodiac’s foot soldiers, the Seekers.  Paralyzed by fear the remaining out posts of humanity are destroyed or enslaved one by one.  It’s up to former vigilante crime fighter turned government super soldier Vincent Black to save the remaining résistance and stop Zodiac once and for all.

Just based on the blurb for Mike Saxton’s 7 Scorpion: Rebellion I figured that it was going to be either a way deep sci-fi exploration of what it means to be human in the face of unrelenting horror or a somewhat cheesy sci-fi/horror romp on levels comparable to Aliens meets Sleepaway Camp 3.  It actually fell somewhere between the two with a good dash of navel gazing and assuring the reader that the government is evil.  I’m going to wind up doing a bit of a break down here because I enjoyed the story itself but had issues with the writing.

Vincent has this thing, he used to be something like BatPunisherMan but then the government stole him for scary secret experiments that had killed six other test subjects.  He will-powered his way through a year of radiation cancer that should have killed him within hours of exposure.  A year in which he decided to fight L.A.’s underground and won.  Yet this guy doesn’t think he’s a leader of any sort and seems to have self esteem issues on par with the female lead in a romance novel.  Lexi is the romantic female lead that no one seems to realize is the main romance interest.  She, like Vincent, had cancer that should have killed her but also survived, minus her ability to feel fear.  Her Dad also had some as yet unexplained connection to the project that made Vincent what he is today.   The side characters are for the most part interchangeable until about two thirds of the way through.  Josh is the computer guy.  Talbot is that guy.  Andromeda can’t seem to decide if she’s eight, twelve, or eighteen.  John’s got serious doubts about his courage and a pregnant wife.  Everyone gets crushing self doubt in one way or another and then they talk about it for a page or so.

There was a good deal of needless description here.  Anyone who was going to be even vaguely important for the scene was given a full description of their clothing.  Not just a general “worn blue jeans, a t-shirt, and a jacket” kind of description, no we’re talking down to what state’s logo was written on the shirt.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it happened way too much.  Action sequences devolved into a good deal of “tell” regarding a character’s skills or emotional state without much “show” to back them up.  Vincent does a lot of conserving ammunition by simply not missing the Seekers he’s shooting at and somehow hitting vital organs with every shot.  Is this a conscious decision or is Vincent just that good?  Likewise we’re told that it’s impressive that Vincent survived the way across the country while avoiding the Seekers, but there are several other characters who manage to do so without being written as particularly tough by human standards.  Saxton also seems to have a habit of using far more words than he needs, making it easy to get bogged down in the writing rather than enjoying the story.

The dialogue gets repetitive rather quickly.  Somehow the good guys manage to forget things that they had discussed not two chapters ago and have to go over the subject again.  Many of the early bits with characters coming to conclusions regarding the Seekers or the nature of Zodiac felt like they hadn’t been changed from one character to the next, so there was a good deal of characters sounding the same early on.  The villains all got a very over blown “Caps Lock is the rule for cool” style of dialogue that makes even Zodiac, the complete monster big bad, seem like a parody of the terrifying empire of doom.  It’s a bit like Saxton wanted to show people who had been kicked so many times that they’d come unhinged and were taking out on the rest of the world, but wasn’t sure how they’d express themselves.  So, they all got the ranting evil doer treatment.  It gets old rather quickly though, even if it does make sense.

And that brings me to one of my more interesting things with 7 Scorpions: Rebellion.  There’s enough plot bits mixed in and enough stuff included to make three separate series easily, but it boils down to two groups of social outcasts fighting over the survival of mankind.  Zodiac and his commanders are clearly messed up and any time the reader is told about their life prior to May 7th they got the short end of every stick offered.  Vincent and the rest of the heroes are almost as screwed up as Zodiac’s bunch; they just deal with it in a less genocidal manner.

Where does this leave me?  As I said earlier, I enjoyed the story a good deal but the book could have been much more streamlined.  If 7 Scorpions: Rebellion was online rather than published, I would probably suggest a beta reader to give another opinion and to catch what I’ve missed or neglected to go over.  It earns a two and a half out of five, there’s a lot of promise here and a good story, but it’s too easy to get bogged down in the writing.

Head ache tonight, took a nap after dinner and woke up past midnight.  Posting review anyway.  Enjoy!

Ellen Connor’s Nightfall is one of those books that I looked forward to because I wanted to see how one of the authors I really like’s style works with that of another author.  I’d never read anything by Carrie Lofty before this, read the book entirely because of Ann Aguirre’s involvement.   I enjoyed it a good deal in some parts, in others I wanted to scream at the main characters to sit down and talk instead of posturing and grousing at each other.  This is the third or so time I’ve started writing this review.  Each previous time I’ve tried to start with a plot summary without spoilers or ruining the ending.  Each time I’ve failed miserably and wound up rambling about Jenna and Mason’s unresolved sexual tension for three paragraphs.  It really wasn’t going anywhere, so I’m skipping the plot summary this week.

Both Jenna and Mason are damaged, though in different ways.  She came from a home where her father was seldom around and expected her mother to drop everything for him when he was there.  He was kid without a supportive family who fell in with, gasp, Jenna’s dad’s survival group and latched onto them.  Both of them crave something approaching normal while the world ends around them, but neither will admit that they need the other.  It got old pretty quickly, especially when Doctor Chris was introduced and Mason got territorial without saying anything about being attracted to Jenna.  The magical demon dogs were a cool idea as well as a great twist on werewolves.  The slow introduction of magic as something other than the demon dogs was interesting.  The minor characters were pretty awesome when they got to be in the scenes.  But never have I wanted so badly to whack the main characters.

I mentioned earlier that I had a tremendously difficult time trying to come up with a plot summary that wouldn’t spoil the ending.  I didn’t lie, even just going off of what the blurb referred to I would have to skip so much that it would seem stiff and confused.  Yes, Mason kidnaps Jenna to save her life and then more survivors show up.  Yes, Jenna and Mason have some kind of passionate bond between them and whatever magic is happening changes Jenna.  It’s more than that though.  Nightfall sets up the next two books, including what I’m pretty sure is the set up for the final in the trilogy.  It’s also a lot of navel gazing regarding why Jenna feels the need to defy Mason, why he’s drawn to her, and the nature of the new world.

So, how do I rate it?  I’m giving Nightfall a three out of five.  There was a bit much exposition for my taste and the explanations about what was going on got kind of repetitive,  but I’m also going to read the next two to see what happens next.