Book Reviews

Max Brooks – Zombie Survival Guide (Der Zombie Survival Guide – Überleben unter Untoten)

I thought it would be quite cool to change my listening preferences for a while and dab into the amazing German language on my way to work. And it was absolutely the right choice when I was presented with some amazing words – “selbsmord” (literally killing of self – suicide) and “hinterhältigen” (devious)

The Zombie Survival Guide is the key to successfully warding off the undead, a constant threat to humans. Through comprehensive information, this survival guide covers the full range of potential attack and defense techniques. He gives advice on zombie-safe living, explains the physiology and typical behavior patterns of zombies and describes the most important items in the fight against these devious opponents.

Book Reviews

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

I picked up this book only because I loved Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush series. I must say I had a lovely surprise! A suspense, thriller, hike through the woods, serial killer on the loose, a mystery to decipher and a hot guy who might or might not be the killer. WOW!

It started off well – a murder and the young victim was a socialite who was just about to go to college. The killer is only described as taking pictures of her and wearing a Stetson Hat.
One year later, we see two girls, who’ve been friends since childhood, preparing to go trekking in the mountains during the winter season. They have heard some rumors that girls have disappeared mysteriously in that area before and there was some heavy snow pouring down, but they hoped they would reach Calvin – Korbie’s brother at the cabin before it got too bad.

The main character is named Britt, a young girl – a bit spoiled and a bit sheltered – not having lived the though life. She does not even fill her own car with petrol and she is used to having her dad or her brother do things for her. Korbie is her best friend from childhood, they have this girl bickering going on for most of the trip and Britt knows that Korbie has been keeping a list in her diary of how she scores better than her bestie on a point by point basis. Normal teenage rivalry.

Let’s get something perfectly clear, if your best friend is constantly putting you down to make themselves feel better, if your best friend lies to you and doesn’t tell you when she knows your boyfriend is cheating on you (I don’t care if your boyfriend happens to be her brother), if your best friend does all of these things then you know what? She is NOT your friend. In fact, you’d be better off considering her an enemy and finding someone new to hang out with. If, after all that, you decide to stick with her then I hate to say it but you deserve everything you get! Britt herself makes all these observations about her friendship with Korbie and yet she still chooses to follow along in her friend’s shadow for lord only knows what reasons. If possible Korbie is even more shallow, spoilt and stupid than Britt and trust me that really is saying something.

Calvin is Korbie’s brother, a bit older and already going to college (Stanford). He was a bit of a rebel and had a dysfunctional relationship with his father. Britt fell head over heels in love with him and they were together until he dumped her unceremoniously before prom. She’s trying to get over him so when they meet at the gas station, she uses a stranger she just met to pose as her new boyfriend. The guy plays along and dishes out some information that makes Britt think that he’s either very observant or he knows her from before.

So back to the main story:
Britt has been planning a back packing week with Korbie for months (although how spending a week in an expensive cabin and going on daily hikes counts as back packing I’ll never know!) and says she is prepared for anything but as they are driving up the mountain they are caught in an unexpected storm that reduces visibility and makes driving dangerous.

Does our heroine pull over and stop like a sensible person? No, she lets Korbie goad her into continuing to drive in dangerous conditions, on a mountain no less, when she can’t see more than two feet in front of her. When the torrential rain turns to snow and they are eventually forced to stop at the side of the road they just start making even stupider decisions. What do you do when you’re trapped in your car in a major snow storm? Bear in mind that you have a car full of camping equipment, clothes and food that will keep you warm and fed until the storm has passed or help arrives. You have also driven hours into an isolated mountain range and have no clue where you are or if there are any cabins nearby. You can’t see any lights in the distance, the snow is already deep and you have no compass or way of getting back to the car if you get lost. So which option do you choose – stay in the semi warm, and definitely dry, car or head out into the great unknown with no idea if you’ll be able to find help or just end up turning into a human snowman? Yes, I think it’s fair to say that our moronic main characters choose to wander aimlessly just in case they can find help. Yes, my eyeballs did hurt from rolling around inside my head by this point.

Miracle of miracles they actually manage to find a cabin after walking through the snow for over an hour. The cabin is occupied by two hot guys (because obviously our plucky heroines wouldn’t trust them if they were ugly!) so no matter what kind of creepy vibes they are giving off Britt and Korbie not only waltz straight in like they own the place, they also start bickering over who gets to call dibs on each guy. Trust me if the author had had “bad guys in here” in skywriting across the top of the cabin it still couldn’t have been more obvious that something terrible was about to happen! I’m not even going to pretend to forgive Korbie for wanting to cheat on the boyfriend who is supposed to be spending the week with them – especially when she justifies it by saying:

“So we aren’t forever. What’s the point of being completely loyal when I know our relationship is going to end?”

… what’s the point in being in a relationship when you’re happy to cheat on your partner? Britt is no better…

“I tapped my cup to his, grateful to have found Shaun, because for a minute there, I’d thought I was going to have to save myself. Instead, I’d wandered into the protective care of a sexy older man. .

Things start getting funky when they notice that the cabin wasn’t stocked even though the guys said they just got there and they did not seem to know their way around the place… When Korbie refuses to eat the gritty beans they found in one of the cupboards, tension piles up and one of the guys pulls a gun out and takes control of the situation. The girls are now hostages and Britt is told to get them off the mountain with the provisions they have in their car or face death. She invents this story that Korbie suffers from Diabetes and Mason (the same hot guy she met at the petrol station) who is one of the kidnappers, helps her out and makes sure Korbie stays behind in the cabin.

They start hiking through the mountains, during a snow storm, through thick snow, just the three of them.

This is when the book starts getting really good. The survival tips strewn across it reminded me of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. The book should have been called “What to do if you are with kidnappers in a snow storm”. This is when Britt toughens up and starts acting like a strong and independent woman that she is. But she has one weak spot: Mason. She is slowly falling for him (Stockholm syndrom much?).
I found it incredibly hard to accept that Britt was falling for Mason who had got to be the shadiest person ever in existence.

What if he did die? He didn’t deserve that. The idea of him gone forever slashed me to pieces. I had questions, so many questions, and now I might never get answers. I couldn’t believe this might be the end to our story.

WOMAN. He freaking kidnapped you and he won’t reveal anything about his true self. ARE YOU MAD? LEMME ANSWER THAT FOR YOU: YES YOU ARE.

She is trying to keep her mind busy with her days with her ex-boyfriend, Calvin. Now Calvin is a whole other dish.

“When Calvin had first started showing an interest in me, he showered me compliments, teased me affectionately, and made little excuses to see me, all of which were flattering, but the biggest clue that he liked me was his sudden interest in taking care of me.”

There are hints from the past that he might not have been the perfect match for Britt. Like the fact they kept their relationship a secret for 6 whole months. From his sister, from his mates, from everyone. His father hits him constantly and tells him he’s worthless and even pays for him to get into Standford. But he’s smart so he aces his SAT’s and his GCSE’s and he gets into Standford by himself! He breaks it off with Britt before her prom, leaving her with a bought dress.

The romance  with Mason developed way too quickly once it hit (about 60% into the book WHAM) –and the second it did Mason was suddenly crazy about Brit which annoyed me, I think I would have liked better if they never got together. I didn’t like how gullible Brit was in her flashbacks (taste thing, I don’t like super naïve characters who get bullied and don’t see what is right in front of their faces), but I will say the hints for the villain were there all along and while I thought this book was one thing it turned out to be another.

The villain, once I read the clues instead of paying attention to the scenery, was a super obvious twist, but I was so in love with the journey of survival to notice until the villain shot a guy. Then I saw all the pieces come into play.

It was a twist, I’ll give u that, and I was willing to forgive even if obvious because there were only so many characters it could be –but then the MC got stupid and ran straight back to the villain and -oh yeah (insert sarcasm): villains totally pour wax to torture a hot love interest (Really, bro? wax? No villain would use wax when they could use a knife to get answers faster) and then –my favorite part (again sarcasm): confess to the whole crime loudly in room after sending MC to go get something and bring back (like why wouldn’t he stop talking when he thinks she’s coming back –she didn’t just stay behind, she really left to get rope and returned and he was STILL talking, conveniently confessing crime). I was extremely disappointed how lame that was.
This story was way too PG in the way the ending played out, a shame since the first half was a solid thriller-survival-feel. Did I feel anything at all for love interest? Unfortunately like Patch in Hush, Hush he did nothing for me (but he WAS better than Patch, just not someone I would name a book boyfriend).

So would I rec this book for romance? No.
Would I recommend for someone in mood for survival story? Yes.

Overall rating: Best winter read in front of a warm fire, 4/5

Bonus excerpt

“When was the last time you were kissed?” he went on easily. “And I’m not talking about the dry, noncommittal, meaningless kiss you forget about as soon as it’s over.”

I scrambled out of my stupor long enough to quip, “Like last night’s kiss?”

He cocked an eyebrow. “That so? I wonder, then, why you moaned my name after you drifted to sleep.”

“I did not!”

“If only I’d had a video recorder. When was the last time you were really kissed?” he repeated.

“You seriously think I’m going to tell you?”

“Your ex?” he guessed.

“And if he was?”

“Was it your ex who taught you to be ashamed and uncomfortable with intimacy? He took from you what he wanted, but never seemed to be around when you wanted something back, isn’t that right? What do you want, Britt?” he asked me point-blank.
“Do you really want to pretend like last night never happened?”

“Whatever happened between me and Calvin isn’t your business,” I fired back.

“For your information, he was a really great boyfriend. I-I wish I was with him right now!” I exclaimed untruthfully. My careless comment made him flinch, but he recovered quickly.

“Does he love you?”

“What?” I said, flustered.

“If you know him so well, it shouldn’t be a hard question. Is he in love with you? Was he ever in love with you?”

I tossed my head back haughtily. “I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to cut him down because you’re-you’re jealous of him!”

“You’re damn right I’m jealous,” he growled. “When I kiss a girl, I like to know she’s thinking about me, not the fool who gave her up.”

Book Reviews

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead Descent

album-art Thank you Audible for this awesome performance!

Now I do not think that it is a coincidence that this fifth book of the Walking Dead Novels came out within days of the new season of the TV show. I have been waiting a long time for both to come out and I really hope it has been worth the wait. As you and I both know hype and anticipation can sometimes kill something from being successful.

I for see this one to be more about, the Governor’s dead, now what? With Lilly taking the reins. Other than that I am not so sure where the story will go. Rebuilding Woodburry? Venturing out to create a new society? Pretty much wide open for Kirkman to create with a clean slate.

Book Reviews

Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand Book Review

I thought I had found God when reading “The Life of Pi” when Pi and his bengal tiger were desperate cast-aways, blowing in the seas, roasting in the sun, trying to catch a fish here and there. But then – I had not read Unbroken. Pi was lucky. Pi had some supplies and a net. Pi had on-board entertainment in the form of the tiger and a water station that would give him water to drink. Pi had a wooden boat (in addition to his raft).

Louis was not that lucky.

Louie Zamperini during the war
Book Reviews

The Host – Stephanie Meyer

Completely different from Twilight and offering a slightly better love story than Bella and Edward, The Host is a book about an alien species who call themselves “souls” who like to invade unsuspecting planets and attach themselves in the aboriginal life forms and live on their life spans. It’s a story about an invasion aftermath, about a wandering “soul” who could not fully exorcise the human conscience living inside its host body and who finds that the “monstrous” humans living on the planet were not as bad as described. It’s a story about another love triangle and being a book from Stephanie Meyer – it’s a boring love story.

The premise is good but the book is so drawn out and uselessly padded that I felt like stopping reading it a few times during the last 4 weeks (! this coming from the same person who devoured a similarly lengthy book in 2 days).


Book Reviews

Earth Abides – by George R. Stewart

757009From the series of post-apocalyptic novels like Emergence, Survivors and The Stand, comes a 1949 classic – Earth Abides.
Different but still the same, the main difference in the disease outbreak survirvor comes in his easy detachment through which he looks at the world. He is a solitary being, used to observing events, not prone to strong passions.
The book follows the life of Ish, a geology student who was bitten by a snake when a deadly plague ran free among humans.

Book Reviews

Survivors * Terry Nation

From the series of Post-Apocalyptic novels comes Survivors, a book – for the first time – written on British soil and not in the USA. Before embarking on the Doctor Who trip, Terry Nations wrote a series of sci-fi novels – one of them being survivors which was later made into a TV series for BBC.

Faced with a deadly virus which spreads quickly and at an exponential rate infects all the world (much like the Swine Flu was predicted to do), humanity needs to fend by itself.

SURV-4The book shows the life of a group of survivors who are immune to the disease or got sick and recovered – gaining immunity. They lose their loved ones, see the hospitals overpopulated, see all their neighbors die, see how it all slowly ends within a few weeks after the infection started.

They get on the road, moving pointlessly from zone to zone, not knowing what to do and living on the spoils of foraging from the dead.

We see the life of Abby, who lost her son in the confusion and is still looking for him. We see Greg who lost his fiance and sees this outbreak as a method of getting his own life on the road, making his own decisions again – even if these decisions include leaving a spoiled brat to tend to her injured boyfriend and that ends in disaster.
Jenny – that’s her name – walks off on her injured friend and leaves him to die a horrible death. She joins Greg further down the road.

Slowly, the individuals come across one another and also meet with an interesting character with political views. Since The Stand, this is the first book I have seen where chaos and death are good grounds of growing a new political state, a force where the few rule the even fewer left and they start with building an army, getting a tank, and then declaring any nearby farms inside their new state asking for a percentage of the crops as “protection fee”.
They basically veil their theft under the pretense of feeding their army and killing everyone that opposes them under martial law.

survivors-1Our little community goes back to the roots – doing seasonal agriculture and since none of them have been farmers before, they get into all sorts of trouble with the marshland, the weeds, the hybrid seedlings who only yield one crop.

They have long, hungry winters and longer work-filled summers. When they do get to enjoy themselves, they go out and get some whiskey. Coffee becomes a rarity and tea is only drank once a day – which, for a Brit, is a miracle!

They spend close to four years on the farm, beind raided in the winters by either “The National Unity Front” who claims their crops as tax due or by passer-byes. They set up a moat and start trading with nearby communities. When word comes that the National Unity Front have grown too strong and are starting to recruit for the military – men as young as 14 and that refusal comes with a desertor’s label that will make their entire community give up their yearly crops… our group knows it’s time to move on.

survivors10They do a group meeting and decide to pack up everything they can carry in a trailer and use a car and multiple bikes to go to Dover. Their plan is sound – the car can drive 10 miles and then wait for the bikers to catch up, in the mean time building fires and rest stops. This way their advance is slow but economical on petrol, which is a rarity.

When they reach Dover, they found out that other people had the same idea and they set up a toll and a crossing fee. Afraid of what the fee might be, they decide to take their chances and find their own boat. They get lucky and they find a private boat on a rich estate further down the shoreline. When the sea is calm and clear, they take the boat up, leave two of the men behind with their goods and Abby drives the rest across the channel.
The two men get ambushed by some young ones and Abby comes in time to see that one of the attackers was her missing son – just as he was being shot down.

The book ends with the survivors on the other shore waiting for another day or so and then when nobody comes, they decide to move on into France. Because they will survive.

Score: 5/5

Favourite Parts: Even though it’s written succintly (in under 250 pages), it shows the evolution of an infectious disease aftermath quite correctly. I was surprised by how good the insight into modern human behaviour was. It’s true – we are all used to using things, but do we know how they’re made? Do we know how to make the glass we drink from? How about matches? When they run out, will we be able to survive?

Bad parts What Jenny did – was quite inhuman, morally wrong. She never seems to get punished for it throughout the book. And she gets together with Greg and has a baby… Maybe she has changed but the fact that she left a man to die of hunger in the woods is not to be dismissed.

About the author

4763f0256f018a0946d0c3019699143927ff17b8Terry Nation was a Welsh novelist and screenwriter, best known for his science fiction creations which included the Daleks in Doctor Who, and the series Blake’s 7 and Survivors.

He was born on 8 August 1930 in Llandaff, near Cardiff. His father Gilbert, known as Bert, variously worked as a furniture upholsterer, salesman, chicken farmer and stocks speculator, and had a passion for drawing. His mother Susan was a housewife who gave her son a sense of purpose and drive.
The young Terry Nation had a passion for reading, although at school he was frequently seen as a daydreamer with little academic flair. Upon leaving education he immersed himself in writing and appeared on local stage productions.
Nation also began writing comedy prose and sketches, inspired by the wartime broadcasts from America. At the age of 22 he moved from Wales to London to try and become a stand-up comedian, but his attempts at stage delivery were largely unsuccessful.

Despite this burgeoning success, Nation didn’t find working in comedy easy, although he quickly gained a reputation as an experimental and versatile writer. He worked with comedy stars of the day including Frankie Howerd, Terry Scott, Ted Ray and Harry Worth, and helped write more than 200 radio programmes before moving into television.
Nation’s professional breakthrough came in the early 1960s when he was commissioned to write for Tony Hancock, initially for his television series and later for his stage show. He was the chief scriptwriter on Hancock’s 1963 tour, but over time found his scripts were being used less frequently and the pair fell out.

As a science fiction writer
After being fired by Hancock, Terry Nation contacted science fiction writer David Whitaker, whom had previously been turned down by Nation to contribute to a new BBC science fiction series called Doctor Who.

Nation changed his mind and wrote the show’s second ever serial, which ran from 21 December 1963 to 1 February 1964. More importantly, it introduced The Daleks, the extraterrestrial mutant race from the planet Skaro, which were created by Nation and designed by Raymond Cusick.

The Daleks were partly inspired by watching the Georgian State dance troupe on television. “In order to make it non-human what you have to do is take the legs off,” he later explained. “That’s the only way you can make it not look like a person dressed up. I had seen the Georgian state dancers, where the girls do this wonderful routine. They wore floor-brushing skirts and took very tiny steps and appeared to glide, really glide across the floor. That’s the movement I wanted for the Daleks.”

With financial stability Terry Nation invested his savings in a country home, Lynstead Park. In the 1970s he wrote his first novel, Survivors, about the aftermath of a plague which destroyed 99% of mankind. The book was dedicated to his wife Kate, and became a commercial success.

Survivors and Blake’s 7
Between 1975 and 1977 a television adaptation of Survivors was shown by the BBC. After the first of the three series, however, Nation found his vision of the show conflicting with that of producer Terence Dudley, and had no further involvement.
Survivors was remade by the BBC in 2008, in a six-episode series based on Nation’s original book.
Terry Nation’s next project was a children’s story named after his daughter. Rebecca’s World: Journey To The Forbidden Planet, published in 1975, focused on the protagonist’s travels to another planet to save it from ghosts, and became a best-seller in the UK.
His next work for the BBC, Blake’s 7, brought him yet more success. The show was about a group of criminals on the run from the totalitarian Terran Federation which ruled much of the galaxy. Blake’s 7 ran for four series between 1978 and 1981, and was highly acclaimed for its dark tone and moral ambiguity.
Nation wrote the first series of Blake’s 7, but had less involvement later on; he made no contribution to the final series, although he unsuccessfully attempted to gain funding for a fifth season in the 1980s.
In 1980 Nation and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he worked on a range of programme ideas. In the following years he worked for Columbia, 20th Century Fox and MGM. He wrote a number of pilot scripts which failed to reach the screen, although he contributed to the television series MacGyver, A Masterpiece Of Murder and A Fine Romance.
In his later years Terry Nation suffered from ill health, and on 9 March 1997 he died from emphysema in the Pacific Palisades district of Los Angeles. Prior to his death he had been working with actor Paul Darrow on another attempted revival of Blake’s 7.