Blackout by Mira Grant – Book Review

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

Blackout is the third book in the Feed trilogy and, as such, this review contains spoilers for the previous books in the series, Feed and Deadline.

Everything started going wrong when After the End Times followed the Ryman presidential campaign. Now they’re on the run, hunted down by the CDC. Actually, Shaun and his team are being hunted. His sister, Georgia, is dead. Well, she was dead. Now she’s alive again in a CDC facility. Sort of alive. Actually, she’s a clone, and not the first one they made of the original Georgia Mason, just the most realistic one to date. Can the After the End Times team reunite and break the biggest story of their lives before being take down by the CIA – or by zombie bears?

You GUYS. I preordered Blackout on my Nook. PREORDERED. And then I waited six months to read it. WHY? WHY I ASK YOU? WHY? Okay, but seriously, Blackout was perhaps my favorite of all of the books in the Feed trilogy, despite the fact it had been 18 months (and, oh, 300 books) since I had read any of the previous installments in the trilogy, so I had forgotten things.

But really, this is quite possibly the best book in the Feed trilogy. I adored the first one for the world building more than anything else (well, that and the politics and blogging angle…okay, I really just liked it a bunch in general), but even though Grant plays with her reader’s brains and sense of right and wrong, Blackout is just amazing. It all works, it all comes together. It also makes me want to go back and reread this entire series from the beginning, including the prequel novellas and the novella that is chronologically between Feed and Deadline. And then I want to sit patiently at Mira Grant (a pen name of Seanan McGuire)’s feet and wait for her to write more zombie things.

I love when the end of a trilogy validates my having started the trilogy in the first place, and Blackout does that in spades. Very highly recommended.

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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Zombiestan by Mainak Dhari – Audiobook Review

Zombiestan by Mainak Dhari, narrated by John Lee
Published in audio by Tantor Media, published in print by TK

Synopsis:

It begins with an airstrike on a Taliban compound where new biological weapons are being stored. The initial response to the strike is unabashed joy, finally the US military has taken out some of the top members of the Taliban, certainly now that the leadership is dead, the group will fall apart. Soon, though, the allegedly dead Taliban are ravishing villages, storming US military compounds. Shooting them does nothing, nor does attempting to blow them up, and anyone they bite or scratch gets terribly sick and begins acting in the same mad way. Thanks to the soldiers who are on their way home, and the ones who are taken out of country for medical care, the epidemic begins to spread throughout the world, although it seems to be worst in the Middle East.

It is against this backdrop that our unlikely band of protagonists comes together in India. They include a Navy SEAL, an aging romance author, a teenage boy who has lost his family, and a teenage girl with her toddler brother in tow. During an attack by the “biters,” as they are being called, it becomes evident that the young boy is somehow immune to these strange zombies, a discovery that provides hope to survivors and enrages the creatures at the same time. Suddenly, there is more at stake that minute-to-minute survival, the fate of the human race may lie with a little boy obsessed with Disney.

Thoughts on the story:

With Zombiestan, Dhar introduces a new an interesting twist to the classic zombie story. Unlike most zombies, Dhar’s biters move quickly, possess rudimentary group memories from the original Taliban victims, and even seem capable of learning. These deviations from classic zombie lore kept Zombiestan fresh, aided by the quick pace and the engaging plot. The men were better developed than the women as characters, but the women still formed an integral part of the plot, and were able to play a significant role in the group’s quest to get to someone who could do something with the possibility of immunity. Zombiestan is very engaging, and incredibly easy to get caught up in.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Ah, John Lee. I haven’t listened to very many things he has narrated, so I tend to forget just how amazing he is; after all, he did manage to keep me grounded during The City & The City. In Zombiestan, he shows his exceptional talent with accents. Lee himself is British, and narrated the book as such, which works for something set in the Middle East and India. However, he had a variety of accents to cover among the different characters, primarily Indian and American. The main characters occasionally came into contact with others from the region, and Lee managed to switch voices and accents with a seemingly effortless flair.

Overall:

Zombiestan is a captivating and unique zombie story, which is truly brought to its fullest potential by John Lee’s expert narration. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

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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Zone One by Colson Whitehead – Book Review

Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Published by Doubleday Books, an imprint of Random House

Everyone has a Last Night story, and now that the world is rebuilding, people have the time and energy to share them. The man now nicknamed Mark Spitz has even figured out different levels of his Last Night story to tell depending on his acquaintance with the listener. The government in Buffalo is looking to the future, though, and part of that means reviving New York City. Mark Spitz is part of a team of civilian sweepers clearing New York of the last few remaining straggler zombies.

Zone One is, without a doubt, the most introspective of the zombie novels I have read. Mark spends a good deal of time dwelling in the past, resulting in occasionally choppy transitions between the present zombie search-and-destroy mission and the past, both before and after the traumatic events of Last Night (Mark, like essentially every other survivor has PASD: Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder).  Interestingly, actual zombies played a relatively small role in Zone One, Spitz comes into contact with them only rarely, either in the present or in his memories, with Whitehead focusing more on the psyche of the survivor than the actual end of the world.

This is a fascinating approach to a post-apocalyptic novel, but it is one that would have worked better had Mark Spitz been a more compelling character. Certainly part of the issue is the stress disorder associated with the end of the world, something like that does not make for a terribly personable character. Spitz’s extreme mediocrity is drilled into the reader, however. We are told over and over that he is exactly average, even painfully average, never any grade but a B, never excelling in any way, other than perhaps his aim in killing zombies. The real problem is that Colson Whitehead – 2002 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship – doesn’t write ‘extremely average’ well, as is evidenced by this reminiscence of Mark’s about the apparent normalcy of his home on Last Night:

Normal was the unbroken idyll of life before. The present was a series of intervals differentiated from each other only by the degree of dread they contained. The future? The future was the clay in their hands.

A thoughtful and beautiful passage, to be sure, but not one that is particularly believable from the head of someone without any great mental ability. Passages like this are also not rare, one could open to almost any page and find one. This fairly significant flaw in characterization makes Spitz a two-dimensional and therefore less interesting character, which in turn lessens the emotional impact of the attempted rebuilding of our world after devastation by such an insidious plague.

All this being said, Colson Whitehead’s general depiction of life after zombies seems to be almost painfully on cue, from the cheesy, manipulative symbols put out by the government in Buffalo to the ability of those with significant personal problems to detach from the danger in their everyday lives in order to focus on sensationalized stories, such as a the survival of a set of triplets in a far-off survivor camp.

Zone One is certainly an interesting and realistic take on a post-apocalyptic world, but an unbelievable protagonist makes it less successful than it might otherwise be, and some fans of zombie lit may be surprised and disappointed by the near lack of zombies.

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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Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Book Review

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

R has always been a bit different than his zombie friends – if you can call them that – trying harder than most of them to hang onto his pre-zombie identity. So, perhaps it makes sense that it was R who managed to take in and keep the memories of a dying boy at the same moment that he was feasting upon his brains. R’s victim was in love with a girl named Julie, a girl who was in the same room, under the same attack, but somehow R manages to save her, and even bring him home with her. Back in the presence of the living in a non-predatory role, R begins to become more sentient, and even win Julie’s affections. How can their love survive, though, when zombies and the living are the most deadly of enemies?

I never expected to be talking about a beautifully written zombie novel, but here I am. At times, Warm Bodies verges on the poetic:

I don’t know why we have to kill people. I don’t know what chewing through a man’s neck accomplishes. I steal what he has to replace what I lack. -p. 8

The writing is lyrical and smart, including literary references to Melville and the Epic of Gilgamesh, not to mention the fact that the whole thing is essentially a post-apocalyptic version of Romeo and Juliet (R and Julie). Part of what is so interesting about Warm Bodies is that the Romeo and Juliet aspect is so subtle. Once you are alerted to it, it becomes obvious – what two groups could be more diametrically opposed than zombies and the living? – but Marion makes the story his own, instead of simply sticking to the story laid down for him by Shakespeare.

I will admit, I was very skeptical about the idea of a sentient, loving zombie, as that seemed to be the antithesis of all things zombie, but Marion makes it work beautifully. Not that there aren’t times where the improbablity of R’s character – even accepting the existence of zombies – can frustrate, but the story and the writing pull the reader through those times.

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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Eat Slay Love by Jesse Petersen – Book Review

Eat Slay Love by Jesse Petersen
Published by Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette

This is the third book in the Living With the Dead series. My reviews of Married With Zombies and Flip This Zombie.

Sarah and David have survived the zombie apocalypse for longer than really seems possible, particularly since they are traveling and fighting zombies instead of sitting quietly inside a survivor’s community. Now they’re finally approaching the fabled Midwest Wall and possible salvation. Only a few things are slowing them down now: their hitchhikers, a tv tabloid reporter (think TMZ) and a batty aging rocker; David’s odd reaction to the zombie serum he was given in Flip This Zombie; and, of course, the zombies themselves.

The Living With the Dead series exists to entertain, and it does that beautifully. Petersen mixes survival, interpersonal relationships, and government conspiracies adroitly with witty and sarcastic repartee to create a fun  and engaging story that will make you alternately laugh and cringe. Is this the book that is going to make you think deeply about the world and your place in it? No, if that is what you want from your zombie books, check out Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series Feed and Deadline, but Eat Slay Love and the entire Living With the Dead series provides very high entertainment value, and for that, I recommend it.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound.*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* 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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