White Horse by Alex Adams – Book Review

White Horse by Alex Adams
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

When I wake, the world is still gone. -p. 5

Zoe is thirty, working at as a janitor at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the jar shows up in her house. Her alarm system didn’t register an intruder, and there’s nothing to indicate where the jar came from, or why it is there. To deal with the strange appearance, Zoe enlists the help of friends who work at the museum to try to figure out what exactly the jar is, but she also heads to a therapist, with an alleged dream about a jar. Before long, though, the cats in Zoe’s building all begin to disappear, and people around her start getting sick, first those who examined the jar, then her neighbors. Throughout the city and the world, people begin to die from this bizarre disease, and those who don’t die mutate in bizarre ways. Before long, society is breaking down and the President of the United States has declared that humans are no longer a viable species.

White Horse alternates between the story of the rise of the plague – nicknamed White Horse by a televangelist, after one of the horses of the apocalypse – and Zoe’s present, as she works her way through Europe. During the lead-up to the utter collapse of civilization, Zoe and her therapist, Nick, formed a romantic relationship. She knows that he planned to try to find his parents in Greece, and as the world continues to fall apart she realizes how much she needs to be with him and travels across a dangerous landscape, full of mutants and others who have lost their humanity in an even more terrifying manner, in order to find him once again.

Zoe is a badass main character. As she struggles to keep even herself alive as she crosses a continent, she is unable to leave others who are suffering, which leads her to travel with a blind young woman who was being raped by her father and uncle. Sight is a fairly important sense at the end of the world, so it is possible that by bringing this girl along Zoe is endangering herself and her own mission, but she is unable to let the injustice of the situation stand, and rescues and protects the girl at great cost to herself. She fights when it is necessary to protect herself and the innocent, but at the same time she keeps her humanity in an increasingly inhumane world. She is, above all other things, a survivor, both physically and mentally.

In White Horse, Adams has created a fascinating apocalyptic world. By alternating between the world before and after the complete downfall of society, Adams keeps the story moving forward quickly, she gives enough time in each world that the reader is not left frustrated by lack of information, but also moves on quickly enough to keep up a good deal of suspense. The result is a page-turner of a book, with enough depth and world building to leave the reader feeling satisfied when the book is over. White Horse is apparently the first book in a trilogy, and there is certainly enough material there to continue to build on this world, but Adams also brings her story to a satisfying conclusion – no cliffhangers here.

All in all, White Horse is a haunting and engrossing story of survival. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Deadline by Mira Grant – Book Review

Deadline by Mira Grant
Published by Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette

This is the second book in the Newsflesh series. This review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, Feed.

Since the death of his sister George (Georgia), blogger Shaun Mason doesn’t have much to live for anymore. At this point, the only thing that his keeping him alive at all – and even then, only marginally – is the prospect of revenge, exposing whomever it was who ordered George’s death. The man who was her most immediate cause of death is no more, but Shaun knows there is a conspiracy that set everything up, certainly Tate could not have done everything on its own. This conspiracy seems to reach into the highest echelons of national and international power, and likely even into the CDC – the organization tasked with protecting Americans from the zombie-forming Kellis-Amberly virus, among other things.

Left nearly a metaphorical zombie himself after George’s death – a very dangerous condition, mind you, in the midst of literal zombies – Shaun gets a a jumpstart on life again when a CDC researcher who helped him and George in the past shows up on the doorstep of the After the End Times blog headquarters. Of course, this reanimation almost ends when a massive outbreak of zombies follows close on her heels. With the help of this researcher, herself fearing for her life due to her Kellis-Amberly research, Shaun realizes he might finally have enough information to figure out what happened to George and avenge her death.

It would not be inaccurate to say that Deadline is, more than anything else, a bridge between the first book in the Newsflesh series, Feed, and the third book, Blackout, which will be out in 2012. There are a great number of revelations both about Shaun and Georgia’s early life and their close relationship, and about the nature of Kellis-Amberly and the reality of the epidemic. Certainly things happen – the After the End Times news team does a great deal of traveling and hunting down leads to confirm the truth that is beginning to be unveiled. In addition, there is continued character development, mostly of Shaun, who becomes a much more strongly drawn character than he was in Feed. But primarily, Deadline is setting the scene for Blackout, complete with the traditional mid-series OMG moments.

What is really impressive about Deadline, is that it never feels like filler while you are reading it. All of the hard work that Grant did with world building in Feed helps Deadline feel fully realized. Interestingly, there were not nearly as many run-ins with zombies in Deadline, but this choice made sense for the story that is being told. As in Feed, the zombies are not the point, but more a part of the setting, telling a story of news, blogs, politics, and the culture of fear. It is this that makes the Newsflesh series so successful for me. Grant is using her zombie setting to tell us all a story about ourselves.

Highly Recommended. (Also: I can’t believe I have to wait an entire year to read the third book. This is worse than after I read Catching Fire.)

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee – Audiobook Review

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, narrated by Stephen Hoye
Published in audio by Tantor Media, published in print by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Synopsis:

“The Emperor of All Maladies” is a sprawling and epic biography of cancer from its earliest mentions, through a rocky history full of misunderstandings, to the latest and greatest cancer drugs of the present.

Thoughts on the work:

Absolutely fascinating.

Almost 600 pages or 21 hours of a discourse on cancer sounds perhaps somewhat intimidating, but Mukherhjee has created a fairly comprehensive biography which can be easily grasped by laymen, but is still detailed. I cannot even begin to list all of the things I learned. The section which has stuck with me more than anything else is the discussion on carcinogens and how they actually cause cancer. My level of thought on that had always been limited more or less to ‘they do,’ without questioning the how. This is merely one example of how Mukherjee makes the reader examine what she thinks she really knows about cancer. I cannot think of a single section of “The Emperor of All Maladies” that failed to excite my interest and curiosity. Best of all, Mukherjee walks the line of intellectual and easily understandable with grace and ease.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I was not terribly fond of Hoye at the outset, but he grew on me throughout the 21 hours of this audiobook. Largely I think he just got out of the way of Mukherjee’s work, but I think that was really exactly what needed to be done. Please see my review for AudioFile Magazine for more details.

Overall:

I would absolutely recommend “The Emperor of All Maladies.” Whether you partake in print or audio should be determined by the purpose you have in reading it. If you are already a medical science-minded person and want to really get in depth with the details Mukherjee provides, that is often best served by print. However, if you are like me and are looking more for a comprehensible overview of cancer and the history of cancer, audio is a great choice to keep you from getting too caught up in technical jargon and still give a good, comprehensive overview.

Buy this book from:
Audible: Audio
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*
Amazon: Audio/Print*

Source: AudioFile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.