Archive for July, 2014

Do any of you have a contingency plan in case of apocalypse? I admit it, I started working on mine as soon as I read the Zombie survival guide but until this moment I hadn’t really understood how unprepared I am. When it comes to Apocalypses, the Zombie apocalypse is probably the easiest to survive, think of it: Zombies are slow, which means they aren’t good at hunting, this constitutes an advantage for two reasons: they can’t hunt animals, lowering the risk of starving us out and they have troubles catching up with you, climbing, swimming… apart from that you have an earth with a perfectly normal climate, electricity during the first months until you figure out a way to hook up your own small generators and several places where you can find refuge. Now, we go to an EMP, an Ice Age or an international pandemic and that’s like playing the game in the higher difficulty levels, and you only get one life. No electricity means of heating systems or air conditioning, highly reducing the places on earth where you can live, eternal winter means no spring, meaning no food, animals would starve out and so would we. International pandemic… well, that would just be mean an unnecessary.

I find certain romanticism in the concept of the apocalypse (theoretical apocalypse, of course, I thought it would be better to clarify it for our friends in the Interpol and the CIA). Think about it, humanity thrown back to its darkest ages, trying to survive and fight its way back to civilization while the political and social map changes forever. There is certain optimism in these stories, no matter how tragic they are, which always helps me recover a little of my lost faith in humanity.

In ten years, in the middle of an actual apocalypse, you will remember me saying it is romantic while you are working hard to survive… that will get some fun reactions.

OSA

Strong Points: Characters, Realism, writing style.

Weak Points: pace in the final part of the novel.

One Second After, written by William R. Forstchen, brings us the catastrophic consequences of an EMP attack over America from the point of view of John Matherson, a military history professor working in a college located on a small community in North Carolina. As it becomes more and more obvious by each passing day that electricity is not going to come back, John must help rally and organize his community if any of them is going to make it through this ordeal alive. Facing tough, immoral choices, sickness, starvation, violent gangs and the impending death of his diabetic daughter John must fight with the help of his neighbors in order to survive until external help arrives… If it ever does.

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest achievements of Mr. Forstchen in One Second After is his characters. The author manages to create exactly what he is looking for: an ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary scenario. John Matherson is a delightful, carefully built character which resembles a man who could very well be your next door neighbor or your college professor: past, believes and personality are mixed in order to create a could-be-real entity with whom the reader will soon relate, there are things about him you will like and others that you won’t, and that makes him human. Possibly the fact I found more interesting is that while he has tragedies in his past, as a real human being he is not entirely consumed by them though they have strongly affected his personality.

Other characters, such as Charlie, Kate or Tom also enrich the novel by their presence and their evolution, and that is one of the beauties of this book, it doesn’t matter how small the character is, he or she will change in a believable way, answering to the external impulses they receive. The city council’s member’s evolution is subtle through the whole novel, but is there and in the moment you reach the final pages of the novel you discover the great personal travel each one of them has made. Maybe John is the main character of the story, but they are all heroes in their own way, breaking with the old tradition that the main character is the only useful person in the story and leaving us with a sense of community seen in very few novels.

When you are reading the novel it becomes obvious that Mr. Forstchen is that he has done his homework, not only is the novel filled with actual data extracted from the commission to assess the threat to united states from electromagnetic pulse, but the novel is filled with clues of how to survive without electricity, of the different sicknesses and their consequences and of other details which really allow the reader to submerge in the author’s wonderful world. But it goes beyond that, behaviors, character psychology, what each season means to the survivors… all is recorded to the utmost detail and is showed in such a realist way that readers will notice shivers imagining themselves in that situation. This is not a book filled with heroics, this is a book about survival in which morality takes a step back so we can see how our values collapse as they surely would in that situation.

One last positive quality in this novel which I must point out is the Mr. Forstchen writing style or, to be more precise, his talent to convey emotions and awake feelings in the readers. I have ended up teary eyed more than once reading this book because of its superb dramatic economy and the subtlety of some of the tragedies the characters live throughout the novel. It is not a poetic language, filled with style or beauty, but a simple, every-day one filled with emotion and human sympathy.

The only downside, in my opinion, is the dramatic increase in the pace of the final part of the novel. Blurring the details and, instead of accompanying John through the different tragedies described, the author refers through them as a memory in the past, just skipping through two hundred days of disease and starvation that decimates the survivors. I personally would have been interested in discovering how John lived those difficult moments and which decisions did he have to make in order to ensure the survival o the highest number of people.

One Second After has been an amazing surprise, a delicious treat that kept me reading from the beginning to the very end of the book while suffering with its characters and desperately hoping for their survival. I would recommend it to all of those people who enjoy apocalyptic literature and science fiction, for it will surely provide you with unforgettable moments and hours of enjoyment.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

I admit it; I’ve got a soft spot for Wizards Of the Coast and their two biggest books series: Dragon Lance and the Forgotten Realms. The reason for this undying fondness is that my adventures as a book reader and a massive nerd started with one little book lots of you may have never heard of: The Black Wing. Not a big book, not a narrative jewel, but an entertaining little spin-off from the Dragon Lance Chronicles. That was when I was in sixth grade and for three years I only read Dragon Lance novels. When I reached ninth grade I decided to try to get a little bit of variety in my literary life so I started reading the Forgotten Realms (what did you expect? I was a high school freshman, I probably didn’t even understand the full meaning of variety).It could be said that Wizard of the Coast ruled my literary tastes with an iron fist until I was in eleventh grade, when a little book called Game of Thrones found its way into my hands. This is the first time since then that I have read one of their books and it felt just like when I eat something I loved as a kid. Its taste is never as good as I remember.

By the way, I am curious. Which was the first book that really got you into reading? Which is the one responsible for you to hook up? (Because, let’s face, none of us would be in a book review blog if we weren’t crazy about reading).

tr

Strong Points: Action narrative.

Weak points: Character development, story development.

The Reaver, written by Richard Lee Byers, tells us the story of a continent scourged by what seems a never-ending rain. This has caused people to abandon their gods and to turn to Umberlee, the evil goddess of the ocean, making her church the most powerful political force in the land. Moved by the reward offered by this church in exchange for the capture of the god of light’s chosen, Anton Marivaldi, a fearsome and merciless pirate, must find a way to carry the chosen boy to Umberlee’s temple while surviving mutiny, rival political factions and corrupt church officials. If he succeeds his reward will be more riches that he could dream of, if he fails hos reward will be death.

The first thing I must point out is that Richard lee Byers knows his business when it comes to narrating action sequences. Lots of writers seem to shy out of narrating battles, being very general or superficial when it comes to put them on paper; several times I have felt that some final battle of some very good novels were anticlimactic. In The Reaver, though, the author manages to bring us a precise, delicious narration of the events without affecting the pace of the action. Everything the character feels or does finds its way into the pages thoroughly, giving us always a good picture of the fight and managing to make almost every combat an epic explosion of action and description (except the one with the lions… was that one really necessary?) The result is some amazing chapters that make the book enjoyable at some points and keep us reading through the weakest part of it.

I like dark selfish characters as much as the next guy (provided the next guy likes dark, selfish character a lot), and I don’t mind a good redemption story once in a while (neither does the next guy), provided that such redemption and the needed process to achieve it make sense. It is never quite clear where Anton’s starts. Suddenly a bloodthirsty pirate who has not qualm about sending men who have served under his command for years to their deaths starts feeling bad about betraying a boy he just met. These shorts of paradoxes can be found all over the novel, transforming Anton’s development in an awkward process full of unorthodox advances which make no sense in the eyes of the reader. There is not fluidity in his internal development, just emotional objectives he must reach for the narration’s sake, which he does without a continuous evolution to get him from one point to another.

The other two main characters fare no better. Umara’s evolution makes even less sense than Anton. She experiences two major stages throughout the novel: the “I am your enemy” stage and the “oh, ok, let’s be friends” stage without any short of development in between. Since the first moment she meets Anton she switches stages without there being a real process in between to make this friendship anything special for the reader to look forward to. The worst part, though, goes to poor Sven, whose character’s development doesn’t exist. Doesn’t matter what he gets dragged to, the kid never changes, nor does his vision of life or his faith in the god of light who has screwed his whole life because he couldn’t just pick and older chosen. Sven behavior doesn’t respond to the external stimuli he gets from his surrounding, making this character a behavioral anomaly whose actions keep us from accepting the “truth” of the story. One example would be his reaction after being betrayed by Marivaldi, it doesn’t affect their relationship, doesn’t cast a shadow of doubt upon them, Sven acts as if it never happened.

Finally, the story development feels uneven and badly put together. It feels, in a similar way to fireblood (still ranting), as if we were reading about a role playing game someone played, the events feel as encounters decided by dices. The solutions are similar between them, there being two major groups: “let’s kill the enemy” or “let’s exorcise the enemy”. As a result, the novel becomes repetitive and predictable, knowing every spot in which there will be some of this “events”. The directions it takes, the presentation of subplots later left untouched or the characters or actions given importance when they appear but later forgetting completely about them of having them killed anticlimactically leaves us with the feeling that the author wasn’t really sure which ones to choose and decided to forget about them, leaving just the basics but without completely erasing the mark of those sub-stories.

The Reaver is definitely not one of my favorite forgotten realm novels, which is a pity for Iw as really looking forward to read the novels of the Sundering. I would recommend it to the fans of the forgotten Realms or Dragon Lance. To those of you who aren’t fans but are curious about those worlds I recommend to start with other books such as those written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman in Dragonlance or RA Salvatore and Elaine Cunningham in the Forgotten Realms.

FINAL SCORE: 4/10

¡Hasta la próxima!