Monday, March 24, 2014

Homeless by Nicolas Wilson

A frightening unseen infestation of deadly creatures has invaded the world! Sweeping across the country from the east coast, the “blight” take over enclosed places – homes, businesses, even tents, and vehicles left closed – and violently destroy any humans that come close enough. Society has collapsed as people have been forced out into the open spaces – abandoning the built environment to the blight – for exposure to the elements, not only of the weather and temperature but of the worst of what remains of humanity.

The creatures die if exposed to sunlight and the open air so a new occupation has arisen: “wall-bangers” or “crackers.” These new entrepreneurs know about the making and setting of explosives to “crack” open infested buildings to make the accessible once again to humans when the blight infestation inside dies. The local populace can then raid the contents of the cracked building for essential items or those that can be used to trade for essentials.

The only other way to obtain these goods is to coax a “runner” to race through the infested building, retrieve the needed treasures, and hopefully, escape with their life. A dangerous occupation, few runners survive their first or second attempts.

A third occupation linking the settlements of society’s survivors are the expressmen. Similar to the postal service, the expressmen travel the devastation between the colonies of survivors with letters and requests for runners and wall-bangers.

The story follows the interactions of a wall-banger, a runner, and an expressman, and the different colonies they encounter in their part of the Pacific Northwest: the remnants of a college town, bandits, and an urban militia that has taken over an abandoned military base which happens to have a stockpile of much needed artillery and ammunition.

I thought the author’s take on the cause of society’s apocalyptic collapse – the infestation of the blight – unique and terrifying. We only get hints of what the creatures are like until the near end when a quick, horrifying description is given when the wall-banger, Mitch, has a near fatal face-to-face. I think the “not knowing” really gave the story a suspenseful edge.

The characters backstories are sketchy at best and also lends something of an unknown quality to them and to the realism of the situation and their encounters with other groups. The book builds from a horror story to the suspense of a real thriller and ends in such a way as to leave room for sequels.

I recommend this story to anyone that likes post-apocalyptic tales. Explicit sexual references might offend some and would remove this from the young adult genre. A little time spent with an editor fine-tuning some spelling, word choices, and punctuation would really polish the final product.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

History of the Timelaws - imaginative and engaging for young adults

To the human world, 15-year-old Elizabeth is a regular teenager growing up without her parents in a pretty rough neighborhood. However, in the world of magic, she is the powerful leader of a team of “Darks,” and holds the fate of humankind in her hands.

History of the Timelaws by Marise Ghorayeb is an imaginative story for young adults that marries magic-laden fantasy with science fiction adventure. And although I enjoyed the story, I had to work hard to follow all the different storylines and miscellaneous characters. (I had read the prequel story, Sorcery in the Alleys, and was already hooked so I wanted to stick with it.) There is time-travel involved and action takes place in 2 different times simultaneously. This was not a problem however, at times there just wasn’t enough explanation to why things were occurring to keep me straight. Characters appeared and it seemed they would play a major role but then nothing. Others performed critically significant actions in the storyline but seemed to come out of nowhere without any relationship to the main character. I am hoping that they are to feature heavily in future sequels.

A little more editing is still needed here but because the characters and plot were engaging, it did not disrupt my reading experience.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sorcery in the Alleys - prequel to History of the Timelaws by Marise Ghorayeb

My friends and family are aware that I'm a "reader." They realize that I'm a bit quirky in what I pick up and that when reading series books I have to start at the beginning and read the books in order. So when I realized that I'd requested to read and review a book that was the 2nd in a series, there was no joy.

Luckily the author of the book popped into the review forum and I asked if it were possible to get a copy of the the story that is the prequel to the young adult novel under review. She agreed but cautioned me that the current edition of Sorcery in the Alleys needs editing before being released. This turned out to be true but the meat of the story is still there and it is a dandy: very imaginative and addictive. I even brought lunch to the office so I would have time during the break to read rather than using the time up driving home and back. I definitely recommend this nice start to the series when the new edited version becomes available.

Thank you to Marise Ghorayeb for giving me the copy to read before her next in line - The History of the Timelaws.