(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
The end of the world is only the beginning.
Zombies are on the loose and the world comes unraveled. A group of strangers on a Manhattan subway are brought together in the name of survival following the lead of Ari Brenner, a young man who represents authority because of his army uniform. Even though Ari doesn’t feel worthy of their trust, he steps up during the crisis as he’s been trained to do.
College student Lila Teske finds her non-violent beliefs tested in the crucible of a zombie attack as she takes her place fighting by Ari’s side. There are other members of the diverse group, but the focus of the story is on Lila and Ari, young people who learn about sacrifice, inner strength and even love during their ordeal.
With infrastructure down and communication with the outside world broken, the survivors head toward the nearest marina to escape New York. When they meet a lab tech who may know the key to defeating the virus, he must be protected at all costs. But the reanimated dead aren’t the only danger that impedes them on their perilous journey.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
It’s actually kind of funny that I found this book on NetGalley because 3-4 years ago I read an excerpt from the original version. The voice of the author was so unique that even though I didn’t have money to buy it at the time, it’s been on my list for a while. So when I saw a chance to read the whole book (a new revised edition, mind you), I leaped at the chance.
First off, Bonnie Dee’s zombies are not your typical zombies. They’re a little smarter and are surprisingly strong, but what really stood out for me was how you kill them. Just disabling their brain doesn’t work; you have to go for their spinal column to get to their so-called ‘primitive’ or reptilian brain that drives them. So having a bunch of guns and some sharpshooters isn’t necessarily going to save your butt this time like in so many zombie books. They’re also a little smarter and some of them are quite strong, so you’ve got the makings of a perfectly terrifying apocalyptic scenario.
So while the zombies and general world-building was good, my relationship with the characters was so-so at best. Ari and Lila were both very good, solid characters with lots of development. Ari has to fit into his unasked for leadership role as the only man with military training around and Lila has to reconcile the new everyday violence with her pacifist tendencies. If they don’t succeed in changing, they’re all going to die. There’s a definite romantic element to the plot as Ari and Lila become close, but it’s not always the main focus. The main focus is survival.
That was the really good part of the characterization. The bad part is that for her secondary characters, Bonnie Dee tends to use stereotypes. The pampered model, the cute and helpless kid, the scientist with the cure, the disgruntled teenager, etc. I would have liked her to flesh out her secondary characters a whole lot more, but she never really did. There was so much potential with many of these characters that was never lived up to, so in a way the characterization was rather disappointing when you compare it to that of the two main characters.
However, the plot is incredibly fast-paced. Bonnie Dee grabs you into her story and doesn’t let you go until you’re done reading. There’s a constant undercurrent of tension from the very real threat of the zombies as well as the many interpersonal conflicts that crop up in a diverse group of survivors. She has an excellent writing style that describes things in detail without ever really letting go of the fast pace. Thankfully, there was no middle sag in this book either as Ari’s group got their footing. It’s fast-paced pretty much all the time, which is what you really want in a post-apocalyptic novel.
So overall, I was pretty happy with how After the End turned out. The main characters were good, the zombies were terrifying and new and the plot was insanely fast-paced. The only real letdown was the secondary characters, which could have had so much more depth and added so much more to the story.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Imperial Beach Teen Blog.)
YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING.
For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.
If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.
There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed…and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Despite my misgivings about the Goddess Test trilogy, I actually enjoyed Pawn by Aimée Carter. The world was refreshingly unique for what seemed to be such a stereotypical dystopia and I found the main character, Kitty, to be a pretty sympathetic character. Considering I usually want to strangle the female leads in YA dystopia, this is quite a feat if I’m honest.
First off, the world-building. It seems like your typical divided society dystopian trope, but it’s not really. There are actually reasons for the division and the reasons are explained when the history of the country is presented. I found the Hart family’s rise to power surprisingly believable and how they keep their hold on power even more believable. It was rather disturbing to see what Elsewhere was because it really reminded me of the world Lois Lowry created in The Giver, but I suppose it makes sense when you have a system like that.
Kitty was not your stereotypical heroine. She was ready to do whatever needed to be done to survive, even if it meant pretending to be someone else in a family that mostly hated her. Was she a kick-butt heroine? No and her reluctance made sense given her upbringing as well as the Hart family’s reputation. How she handles herself in that complicated maze of politics was quite impressive and I cheered her on the whole way.
The pacing was pretty good, but the only thing I found a little off about this book was the plot. It wasn’t boring, per se, but it didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat. Some of the plot twists were unpredictable, yes, but they felt a little off. Like Aimée Carter was departing from the whole feeling of the story, what she had been building toward previously. It was a little disconcerting, but overall I think Pawn is a pretty good read and I’d recommend giving it a try if you like YA dystopia.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
A fatal virus—a biowarfare experiment unleashed on an unsuspecting world—has reduced the once-mighty United States to a smattering of tribes dueling for survival in the lawless wilderness. The disease-free folk known as Settlers barricade themselves in small villages, determined to keep out the highly contagious Spewers—infected humans who cannot die from the virus but spread the seeds of death from the festering blisters that cover their bodies.
Tanner Kline is a trained Sweeper, sworn to exterminate Spewers roaming the no-man’s-land surrounding his frightened community. As all Settlers do, Tanner dismisses them as little more than savages—until he meets his match in Spewer protector Lila. But when hunter and hunted clash, their bloody tango ignites a firestorm of fear and hatred. Now, no one is safe from the juggernaut of terror that rages unchecked, and the fate of humanity hangs on questions with no answers: Who’s right, who’s wrong . . . and who’s going to care if everyone’s dead?
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Whatever my expectations were starting Apocalyptic Organ Grinder, they were blown away within a few chapters. William Todd Rose packed so much into this novella that I hardly know where to start.
Let’s start off with his world-building. It was fascinating, terrifying and worst of all, believable. The divide between the Spewers, the people infected with a horrible disease who pass it onto healthy people and the healthy people is realistic. Spewers are outcasts to be put down like animals upon sight by Sweepers like Tanner, who will do anything to keep their friends and family safe. Yet the atrocities aren’t limited to the uninfected because the Spewers’ hands aren’t clean either in this war. I love how in Apocalyptic Organ Grinder both sides are relatively ambiguous; it’s left up to the reader to decide for themselves who’s good and who’s evil. Personally, I decided both sides are a mixture of good and evil.
Both Tanner and Lila were fascinating characters. Tanner will do anything, which includes kill Spewers, in order to protect his little girl back at the settlement. He does have a guilty conscience and wrestles with it and it’s that struggle that brings Apocalyptic Organ Grinder to its horrifying conclusion. His hands are certainly not clean and we do feel more sympathy for Lila, the Spewer who only wants to protect her family and her tribe from Sweepers like Tanner. Since we get to see things from both perspectives we’re left to judge the characters by their actions and internal struggles.
The plot was fast-paced in this little novella and I read the whole thing in one sitting. Reading a book in one sitting is not unusual for me as my regular readers will know, but frantically flipping the pages to do so is. William Todd Rose certainly knows how to create suspense in a limited number of pages. He is also quite even-handed with the perspective switches so that we get enough switches to understand both sides of the story but not so many as to become confusing or annoying. In short, Apocalyptic Organ Grinder may not have a completely unique premise, but it does have awesome characters, great world-building and suspense.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.