Book Review #27- The Darwin Elevator by Jason M Hough

This is the kind of book that would do well enough as a movie is directors had the good sense not to ruin it by giving the role to Tom Cruise (thankfully, he’d be too old for it) or Keanu Reeves (yeesh)…

THE PLOT (snagged from goodreads):

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.
 
Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity

I glanced at the goodreads reviews (for the record: I don’t especially care for goodreads, in general, no offense) some people didn’t like it because the characters weren’t “strong enough” which is fine…

And honestly I can relate. At first I was thinking, “dammit, Skyler, why are you so damn wishy washy?”

Skyler recently became captain, after the former captain of the Melville, Skadz, suddenly abandoned everyone. He’s not particularly good at it. He flew into Darwin with Skadz when humans started going apeshit and eating each other, which is where the rest of the crew got together: Samantha and Angus and Jake. So Skadz leaves and Skyler takes over because the Melville is his. He doesn’t know how to lead, he was a grunt in the Dutch Air Force and was happy not making the tough calls. The people of Darwin have small farms in orbit that supply food and some roof top gardens but they are horribly over populated and depend on scavenger crews ransacking the rest of the earth that is infested with subhumans. The wrong call could get his crew killed or lead to shortages of vital resources… Skyler is caving under the pressure.

“He didn’t want to be special. Or sought after. Truth be told he’d rather be back in the Netherlands, flying mundane patrols for the air force, living a good life. But that was a long time ago, in a different world.”

So, Skyler Luiken hasn’t really gotten over the world ending or his friend freaking out and leaving and doesn’t have the ambition or aptitude for leadership. That’s the point. I know all of you think you would get over your glaring personality flaws and be the Big Damn Hero if it ever came down to it. Reality Check: not everyone is built for it.

Skyler does step up over the course of the book, for the reason straight men do. No, no, not money, not “because it’s the right thing”, not fame, not for adventure, or excitement… for a beautiful woman.

There’s actually a really cute part where he goes to rescue her: not even sure if she’ll remember him, “Hey, it’s Skyler, from Hawaii?”

So if you want to smack him for not being able to make a decision: he will, don’t worry.

In the “women who don’t really need rescuing” category: For the “tough chicks” Kelly Adelaide and Samantha. For the “smart chicks”: Tania Sharma and Natalie.

The story doesn’t follow them around as much (for the record, more time spent with Kelly and Sam would have been optimal)

The world building is good. There’s enough for the general idea of how everything got this way and why every one is going so damn crazy.

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Just kidding, no it’s not. The problem is not really the aliens (or the zombies). It’s plain old human greed. Hidden plans, secret plots, power grabs, revenge, monopolies on resources, money, power, respect. Russel and Alex want to control orbit (where the money lives), tired of being dependent on lesser of two evils Neil Platz. Platz, for the record is hiding too many secrets to name, including the Mother Of All Secrets. And he gets mighty rich off his MOAS. Russel and Alex… and, you know, humanity are right to be resentful.

“The aura is everything.”

This book wraps up a major issue, but leaves the fate of some characters (and earth overall) up in the air. I’m very interested in starting book 2 to see what happens to everybody and how their discovery changes their world! There were also some things that never get fully explained that I hope do in the next book. Like why the “zombies” were changing.

And for the record, if this were made into a movie…. I would pick Michael WeatherlyImage

Even though he is both too old and too tall for it.

PS- It actually reminded me of Outlaw Star, and Gene Starwind who wants to go into space but is terrified. He’s a tough guy and a gunslinger and an all around rad dude, but nothing above and beyond. The first time he’s on a spaceship he passes out, he has to drink to keep his cool. But he ends up inheriting a ship and joining an intergalactic treasure hunt.

4 Data Cubes!

Book Review #20- Hunger Chronicles by Tes Hilaire

It’s about zombies. 

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Imminent Contact: The narrator is a woman. A tough woman. A tough woman who is SCREWED

End of the Rope: 17 year old emo kid misses her brother, hunts with a bow and arrow.

Two’s Company: Instead of man vs. zombie this is man vs. man. Or man & dog vs. men. Yeah that’s accurate.

The Fittest: Ooooh this one was my favorite. The protagonist was… something else. 

Anyway, the voice and tone of each story is drastically different. The author did a great job telling a few different stories from the z-poc. From to the young to the grizzled to those with no other choice. Fun read. There’s no back story given, just that there is a z-virus and plague zombies. 

Why do all teenage girls have bows and arrows? Someone should at least write it as “I took up archery because the Hunger Games was so cool” because really, there’s no plausible excuse. Maybe it’s just because I live in the city and I’m vegan and I think prevalence of bows and arrows is being greatly exaggerated.

Irregardless! 4 Brains!

Free right now!

Book Review #15- Breaking the Nexus by Lindsay Avalon

Breaking the Nexus begins in the realm called Mythria. Mythria: It’s where the myths live. Their realm is kept separate from the human realm. By the Nexus. And as you might surmise.. The Nexus is breaking.

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Sha is a Sentinel in Mythria and she’s investigating some evil going on when she is suddenly sucked through the Nexus into the human realm. Here she lands on a crime scene and quickly meets a sexy detective who she falls head over heels for. The feeling is mutual.

So, world building is very important to me and it was very nicely done here (my biggest peeve is when supernatural creatures show up and humans didn’t know about them because… immortality is a curse, or some hot nonsense) so the fact that the worlds had been separated for hundreds of years until Mythrians started sneaking through and plotting nefarious deeds intrigued me. There’s interesting magical creatures, elves, mages, a banshee, the Sorceri (which is what Sha is) and their different classes, Aquarum and Infernum and Metallum and how they get powers. It’s very interesting, I enjoyed the world and the mythology.

There’s some sexy scenes between Sha & the sexy detective (his name is Connor, but she hardly ever calls him that. She even calls him “Detective” during sex, he calls her “temptress” it’s cheesy.) Oh yea, I said something about a crime scene and nefarious mythrians: a mage has been conducting blood magic rituals to raise a powerful foe! And blood magic needs… well, blood. So there’s murders and some one gets skinned, damn skinwalkers. But Sha and Connor and their magical romance are the main focus.

Overall, a nice treat

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But the ending is a little abrupt.

4 Silver Stakes!

I do want to mention, that Sha is literally the only female in this book (except the banshee, oh wait, and one woman who was at the crime scene who Sha was instantly jealous of. And a female officer that Sha thought liked the detective. Gah!) the movie version would not pass the Bechdel Test  And everyone seems to be Irish and/or a Celtic mythological creature which is strange for Denver.

Movie Review #1- ParaNorman

So, the movie opens with our main protagonist, Norman, watching a zombie flick and talking to his Grandma:

Grandma: what’s happening now?

Norman: Well, the zombie is eating her head, Gramma.

Grandma: That’s not very nice. What’s he doing that for?

Norman: He’s a zombie, and that’s what they do.

Grandma: He’s going to spoil his dinner.

But, well… his grandma is dead. Norman can see all kinds of ghosts. His G-ma, road kill, Revolutionary War soldiers, whoever is around. 

Unsurprisingly, most people think Norman is weird. Super weird. Ultramega weird. This doesn’t improve when Norman has a freak out at the school’s Witch Season play that leaves him screaming “THE DEAD ARE COMING!!!” (for the record, Norman and I would totally have been BFFs)

At home: Norman’s dad thinks he’s too weird for words, his mom doesn’t get it, his sister thinks he’s creepy. And at school: he gets bullied. A lot. Especially by Alvin.

He does have a close friend, named Neal, who gets bullied because he’s chubby. Neal doesn’t worry about it as much, “You can’t stop bullying, it’s human nature,” Neal says, “If you were bigger and more stupid, you’d probably be a bully, too.” Neal’s pretty happy with himself and his one friend.

This seems to take place in the town of “Fake Salem” where a witch’s curse threatens to bring on the zombies. Norman is the only one who can help! However, mob mentality gets in the way. The townsfolk are scared of the zombies, and the witch manifesting in the sky and soon they are taking out their fears on anyone and everyone! 

Norman assembles a rag-tag band of friends to help him save the town from the zombie hoard! And save the zombies from the angry townsfolk!

The animation is fantastic (especially the lightning witch). A cool story, nods to some classic horror, a cheesy anti-bullying message and quick witted quips abound.

Oh, and Neal’s older brother is voiced by Casey Affleck. 

Creepy, quirky cool for the PG crowd. 

4 broom sticks!

Book Review #8- Zeek’s Loving Thorn by Dicey Grenor

Synopsis: 

Zeek hadn’t been a vampire for long before the world she knew had come to an end. Did she give a fuck? Not really. The world had never been kind to her. In fact, the last few years of her life had been downright miserable, most of it spent in a hospital bed. So, would she have chosen not to give her soul over to darkness had she known it would preclude her from being one of the Chosen to leave the earth behind? Nope. For one, she wasn’t so sure the Chosen had gone to a better place, because she didn’t believe in Heaven. Heaven was a state of mind. Two, she felt pretty damn good in her new body, with her new powers, and she thought earth was a mighty fine place to be, especially if you weren’t human. Thank Mother Earth, she wasn’t human.

This novella begins where the 3rd Narcoleptic Vampire book left off. With the Rapture. “Some would say they now lived in a better era. Prisons opened. Credit card balances zeroed out. Mortgage and student loan debts discharged. The stock market dissolved. Everyone had a clean slate like a newborn baby.”

We start with 2 of the new vampires that Willow turned, Zeek and former VET agent Monroe. They’re on a mission to find any children who may have been left on earth. And they come upon a man, a man who is being hunted by a group of humans who want  to give him “the mark of the beast.” Zeek saves him from immediate danger and the man thinks “So far, his physical reaction to her was shamefully akin to pissing on her kindness. He should be thanking her, not objectifying her.” Thorn, the human, is fulfilling a biblical prophecy (he’s the Beast). Willow, a Christian Vampire trying to get right after the Rapture is not pleased with Zeek’s new friend Thorn.

Thorn turns out to be a man of God. A man of God with a sex addiction. And he’s Willow’s brother. Far beyond sibling rivalry ensues. Willow has a tumultuous past with her ultra-religious family who thought her narcolepsy was a sign of demonic possession.

The book is told from from 3rd person perspective, but centers alternatingly aroung Zeek and Thorn. Grenor does an excellent job of differentiating the tone slightly between each. Conveying Thorn’s arrogance and confusion, and Zeek’s nervousness.

Zeek is an intersexed vampire, living at a fetish club who’s concerned about being fetishized and concerned about being accepted. So many people write characters based only on themselves or people they know (with any degree of believability), to that end, you can tell Dicey Grenor is a people person. Her characters are always multidimentional, conflicted, interesting and believable.

Thorn, being a holier-than-thou hypocrite does not deal well with Zeek’s disclosure. And since intolerance does not fly around Hades Underground Fetish Club; he gets his ass kicked, hard.

Thorn tells Zeek he loves her after she brings him a bacon cheese burger, but will he truly love her?

In the background of all of this, the Hades crew is scouring the area trying to find any children who may have been left behind after the Rapture.

Good read, good characters. It was nice to see how Willow’s adjusting to being a Maistress Vampire, too. 4 stars!

Book Review #7- Catching Fire (Book 2 of Hunger Games)

First this: 

And: There’s a real Maslow’s hierarchy of needs thing happening here. I like that the boys are pursuing her and Katniss is all, “I have real problems, I’m trying to save my family or start a revolution. Leave me alone. Ugh.” That’s not a direct quote, but it was in that vicinity.

And: “As far as I can tell, they never get up before noon unless there’s some sort of national emergency, like my leg hair.”

And: ehhh, a little more girl power was had? maybe? I don’t know a strong female protagonist doesn’t make up for the rest of the lot where every other female is either useless or batshit crazy (or barely involved with the story). Like Johanna, she could have been a good character, but she had to be all “I don’t care about Jabberjays, I don’t love anyone.” Yeah yeah, Katniss is  the only well rounded female character.

And: Dammit, Haymitch! That was not the plan!

Alright 4 squirrel-heads. I mean Stars, whatever.