(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
The Regime is on the hunt, forcing the Resistance to take refuge aboard the Lifemaker, an advanced submarine that houses a special cargo: a handful of women who are can give birth to human children.
To evade the Regime’s own submersibles, all parties must work together, but tensions are high, and not everyone on board is looking out for the greater good.
As they descend into the deeps, they quickly learn that not all monsters work for the Regime.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
Lifemaker is the sequel to Hopebreaker, a steampunk novel featuring a smuggler named Jacob as he navigates a world essentially controlled by demons. I had given the first book 4 stars in March and was eagerly awaiting this second installment. So when I saw the blog tour for it, I signed up immediately. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with Wilson’s second book in the Great Iron War series. Not because the characters had truly gone downhill or because he world-building suddenly tanked, but rather because of the plot.
Despite all of the good things that do happen in Lifemaker, I was a little disappointed in the plot. It was predictable in comparison to the first book and not more than a little boring around the halfway point of the book. There are characters interacting, sure, but there’s not really all that much for interpersonal conflict. And until the end there’s really not all that much for action either. It was essentially just Jacob and Whistler having a sweet sort of father-adoptive son bonding time and occasionally being interrupted by Taberah. Oh, and playing cards with Rommond. Compared to the sheer action of Hopebreaker, this second book was a bit of a letdown. It does set things up nicely for the third book but at the same time I did have a little trouble getting through it.
Jacob is still a decent enough character although I’m still having problems relating to him on an emotional level. It’s much better than my struggle to relate at all with him in the first book but it’s definitely still there. He’s not a bad character and he’s more of an ambiguous figure than a bad or good person but I found that because he wasn’t really doing anything that I got bored. Essentially he skulks around the ship and bonds with Whistler, occasionally running into members of the crew. I liked that he’s finally attempting to woo Taberah back to him and is trying to mentally prepare himself for fatherhood, though. In that respect, Jacob has certainly improved.
The world-building was still good here in Lifemaker. It didn’t expand all that much, but we learned some fascinating things about Rommond’s background, Taberah’s past and the history of demons taking over. The submarine everyone is staying in doesn’t exactly make it easy to expand on a whole world but Jacob’s exploring does lead him to some interesting new discoveries. Was I absolutely as blown away in this book as I was in the first one at the world-building? Not really, but it was still very solid and despite the somewhat boring tone of the book you can feel Dean F. Wilson’s enthusiasm for the world he’s created shine through.
So overall, Lifemaker was not a bad book, but it was definitely not as good as its predecessor, Hopebreaker. The plot got a little boring and I definitely predicted the ending but it was not a book that I actively disliked. I even enjoyed some parts of it. Really, the main problem is that it suffers from Book 2 Syndrome: its trying to set everything up for the super exciting third book. Still, if you loved Hopebreaker, you’re going to want to read this book. The little cliffhanger for Skyshaker will ensure that and there’s still many things to enjoy about Lifemaker. It’s just that an exciting plot isn’t one of them.
I give this book 3/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
For thirty years, they have avoided the outbreak of walking death that has consumed America’s heartland. They have secured a small compound near the ruins of Little Rock, Arkansas. Isolated from the world. Immune to the horror. Blissfully unaware of what lies outside in the region known as the Dead Lands. Until now…
Led by a military vet who’s seen better days, the inexperienced offspring of the original survivors form a small expedition to explore the wastelands around them. A biologist, an anthropologist, a cartographer, a salvage expert—all are hoping to build a new future from the rubble. Until all hell breaks loose…
The infected are still out there. Stalking. Feeding. Spreading like a virus. Wild animals roam the countryside, hunting prey. Small pockets of humanity hide in the shadows: some scared, some mad, all dangerous. This is the New World. If the explorers want it, they’ll have to take it. Dead or alive…
From the blurb of this book, I was absolutely fascinated. It’s rare that you get a surviving, almost thriving community 30 years after the apocalypse but it’s even rarer that they’re eager to explore and that zombies are still out there. How did the zombies not rot away? Is Arbella the only community still out there? What happens when the next generation of survivors, the ones that have only known a post-apocalyptic world, encounter the rest of the people that have survived? Answer: nothing good.
In the beginning of Plague of the Undead, our main character Jacob has a huge moral dilemma: he’s the sheriff of the town and a man has committed a crime. Now normally that would not be a big deal but the problem is that crime was theft and that’s against the Code. It means death for the man who stole because trust is the most important thing you can have post-apocalypse. So poor Jacob has to kill his first man in cold blood, looking him right in the face to make sure he doesn’t miss his shot. With a beginning like that, you’d expect the book to keep being pretty awesome. Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the case. The book starts out pretty exciting as Jacob shoots a man, gets promoted, gets approval to take an expedition out into the dead lands and sets out on said expedition. The problem is that once the group is actually out and about, things get boring pretty quickly.
The main problem in this book is the middle: it drags on and on in one place. Long story short, the survivors get ambushed by some bad guys and the survivors of the attack are forced into slavery. Then a huge chunk of the book is devoted to how Jacob and the survivors cope during the slavery and how they try to escape. In a lot of cases I wouldn’t find this boring because it would be interesting from a psychology perspective or even just from a character development perspective. But it really wasn’t. The lack of pacing just dragged the whole plot down to the point where I really wasn’t even interested in the mysterious flying saucers and finding out how much of civilization was really left. I just wanted the book to be over.
In the beginning, Jacob shows a lot of promise as a character. He doesn’t want to kill the man convicted of theft but at the same time he has to in order to maintain the Code and therefore maintain law and order in Arbella. And when he finally gets approval for the wasteland scavenging/information gathering mission, he’s ecstatic and has to plan like mad. From personal experience I completely understand the frustration he faces as every single person criticizes how he’s going about the mission but he sticks to his guns and sets out with a great plan and a good team. Then when things go south, Jacob as a character sort of goes downhill. He becomes more of a walking stereotype. He pines after Kelly (the woman he used to love as a teenager), becomes colder as the slavery takes its toll and tries to ignore just how skeevy his best friend/enemy is. It’s like that fascinating, well-rounded character we meet in the beginning was thrown out the window and replaced with a total wimp that lacks the psychological depth of the first character.
The world-building was decent in comparison to the pacing and the characterization. I liked the explanation Joe McKinney gave for why the zombies weren’t rotting even thirty years later and I liked the way he set up Arbella as a good model of what people can do during the apocalypse. There are some horrible communities like you’d expect, but he shows that not only the bad people survive and thrive during the apocalypse. That’s quite a bit different from your typical zombie apocalypse tropes. I also love how he explained the ammunition problem and how he solved some of the problems with guns during the apocalypse, like the sound issue. I think a lot of research went into Plague of the Undead but the problem is that the actual story itself was rather boring.
In the end, I don’t know whether or not I can recommend this book. It won a Bram Stoker award so clearly some people didn’t think it was rubbish or disappointing but at the same time I just can’t say that I enjoyed it. I guess you just have to do your own research, read a couple of reviews from different sides of the issue and make a decision.
I give this book 2/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.
Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.
When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
Two years ago I really couldn’t have told you what steampunk was but it’s really been growing on me, particularly of late. So when I had an opportunity to read Hopebreaker, I leaped at the chance. It sounded like some pretty good steampunk from the blurb and it turns out that I was not wrong in trusting the description.
What is really striking about the world of Wilson’s The Great Iron War series is that it’s a mixture of fantasy and science to create a special blend of steampunk. On the fantasy end, we have demons controlling the human population by swapping out the souls of human fetuses with the souls of demons. Magical amulets are worn by rebellious pregnant women to prevent this from happening. On the science end, we have things like the Hopebreaker and the other machines used by the Resistance and the Regime. They’re classic steampunk complete with steam-powered engines and a mixture of cold machinery and elegance. And the world-building itself was quite good because Wilson’s grasp of politics is also good. Not everything is so black and white in his world and oftentimes there are people caught in the middle of the faction fighting that just really want to live their lives in peace, thank you very much. There are traitors on both sides of the line and nothing is as it seems.
The main character Jacob was both excellent and hard to relate to. On the surface he is an excellent character: he’s a thirty year old man who has been smuggling as a way of staying alive and rebelling against the Regime. In theory he supports the Resistance by getting the demon-preventing amulets into the hands of women throughout the city but he really just wants to survive. He doesn’t support the Regime because of the whole demon thing but he doesn’t actively support the Resistance because sometimes they can be just as bad as the ‘bad guys’. But when he’s captured by the Regime and saved by the Resistance in a raid he really has no choice but to fight with them, particularly as he wants to stay alive. Then he finds out that maybe he’s not as neutral and uncaring as he would have liked, particularly around the smart, brave and morally ambiguous Resistance leader Taberah (she’s not the supreme leader but she does command a fair number of men). But once he meets Taberah that sort of gets to the crux of my problem with him as a character: I can’t connect with him on an emotional level. Sure, he displays emotions in theory but I really wasn’t feeling them from him. Maybe it’s just me but it was sort of disappointing that he seems to go through the novel with minimal emotional reactions to the crazy events unfolding all around him.
Despite my little quibble with Jacob, I did otherwise enjoy the novel because the plot was well paced and although it was sometimes predictable there were enough twists thrown in to keep things interesting. You can probably guess the end of the novel by about a third of the way through but it’s well written so it’s actually quite an enjoyable journey that will have you eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens next. Dean F. Wilson is excellent at writing suspense even when the outcome isn’t really in doubt and he sort of keeps a line of tension running through the novel that slowly ratchets up until things seem ready to explode. So like I said, you’ll probably be able to predict the ending but you’ll enjoy the plot and want to know what happens next all the same.
If you’re looking for a little steampunk in your life or just a great suspenseful novel with generally good characters, Hopebreaker is for you. It’s a great introduction to a steampunk world that I’m really looking forward to learning more about.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Wester Library Blog.)
It’s hard not to notice Terra Cooper.
She’s tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to leave her small, stifling town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob’s path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?
North of Beautiful is a unique, thought-provoking novel that is definitely rare in the YA genre. It’s full of complex themes like the true meaning of beauty, the power of words and the importance of choice. Justina Chen Headley’s novel is a great one, but the one thing I did not like was the often confusing references to cartography. I understood most of it after reading the book a couple of times, but there were plenty of obscure references that I had to look up.
Terra is a very interesting character that is obviously affected by the birthmark on her cheek and her father’s constant verbal abuse. As the book goes on, we learn much more about her past and we realize just how much she’s changed by the end. Terra changes for the better throughout the novel, with readers cheering her on every step of the way.
Unlike a lot of YA novels, the growing romance between Terra and Jacob feels very authentic. They absolutely do not fall in love at first sight, but their affection grows throughout the novel, especially when Terra and her mom go with Jacob and his mom to China. Jacob was probably my favourite character in North of Beautiful because he was so different from the usual YA love interest.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.