The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey – A Review

The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey
Science Fiction | Post-Apocalyptic
Published by Orbit
Released 14 April 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone whose favorite genre is post-apocalyptic, I have very high standards for it. Few books reach the god-tier of the genre, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Stephen King’s The Stand. So many new post-apocalyptic books fall into the trap of cliches and over-used scenarios. To my absolute delight, M. R. Carey’s The Book of Koli, exceeding my expectations. While not in the god-tier category, it’s a contribution to the genre and a book that I can’t stop recommending.

The Book of Koli follows a teenage boy named Koli who lives in Mythen Rood, a small, walled city in Britain. The outside world is hostile: humanity has destroyed itself in the Unfinished War, and genetically-engineered trees have become violent. While there are other villages, they are too far apart for easy communication and trade, so to the people of Mythen Rood, they are essentially alone.

In Mythen Rood, the community is controlled by Ramparts, people who have been able to speak to ancient technology. Technology is seen as sacred due to both its rareness and the lack of knowledge about it. Everyone in the village has an opportunity to test their ability to “wake” a piece of technology to become a Rampart, but almost everyone walks away disappointed.

Koli wants more than anything to be a Rampart, but his dreams are dashed when he fails to wake any technology. However, he doesn’t give up and makes a series of questionable and brave choices to try again. As a consequence, he finds himself exiled from Mythen Rood. People in the village rarely leave the safety of the walls, so everything is new to Koli. He’s forced to use his own wits and abilities to survive in a very dangerous world.

Technology versus humanity is an old trope in post-apocalyptic and science fiction literature, but M.R. Carey puts a unique spin on it, making it feel fresh. More than anything, The Book of Koli is about constructs of society, blind faith, and corruptibility.

One aspect of this book that I wasn’t crazy over was that the trees had been bred to walk and consume flesh. It was too outlandish for me, but not out of bounds for science fiction. It’s a personal preference that I didn’t enjoy this element, so for many of you, it might not be an issue. Fortunately, that part of the book is a background element that provides life to the setting but doesn’t influence much else.

I was fascinated by the societies made by the remnants of humanity. While Mythen Rood is the focus of much of this first book of the Rampart Trilogy, we also meet a large group of people living in a tunnel and worshiping their messiah, Senlas. In both instances, the communities have almost blind faith in their leadership, whether that’s a group of technology-baring politicians and a religious prophet.

The people in the world are very isolated from one another, and as a result, there’s very little genetic diversity. Koli comes to realize the dangers of this with the help of his friend Ursula, a traveling doctor who he unexpectedly runs into outside of Mythen Rood’s gates. As a result of both a dwindling population and reduced gene pool, people are no longer successfully having children. Communities are at constant risk of dying off, and Koli wants to do something about it. From the ending of The Book of Koli, the second book in this trilogy will focus more on Koli’s efforts to do just that.

The first several chapters of this book were difficult to read due to Koli’s vernacular. People in his world are poorly educated in reading and writing, and it shows in the book, which is in the format of a diary written by Koli. One of the first examples I found in the book was in the first chapter: “Judging is what them that listen does for them that tell.” Sentence structure, misspellings, and bizarre wording can make parts of this book hard to read. There were a few moments early on when I considered DNF-ing it due to this element. I’m very happy that I stuck with it, however, because eventually you stop noticing it as much and the story takes off.

Despite Koli being 15 at the start of the book, I would not call this a young adult novel, although I have seen it classified as such. It reads as adult science fiction and deals with mature ideas. While there’s no explicit or graphic scenes, this is a pretty dark novel that I would definitely catalogue as adult fiction.

The Book of Koli is meant to be read as a trilogy, not as individual books. While there is an “end” to this first book, it’s really just setting up the next two novels in the series. Usually, I like each book in a series being their own self-contained story, but it didn’t bother me so much in this instance. I was incredibly intrigued and do want to read the rest of the story, and readers won’t have to wait for the next books. The publisher’s plan for the trilogy is to release all three books within 10 months. As someone who has absolutely no patience, I’m thrilled that they’re publishing the books as quickly as they are.

If you like post-apocalyptic stories or stories that involve nature trying to tear down humanity, then I very much recommend The Book of Koli. I’m eagerly waiting to read the second installation, The Trials of Koli, which is already out, along with the forthcoming final book in the trilogy, The Fall of Koli. M. R. Carey has created a unique world that asks us hard questions about society, and it’s very much worth the read.


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The Bear by Andrew Krivak – A Review

The Bear Andrew Krivak

The Bear by Andrew Krivak
Post-Apocalyptic | Nature
Published by Bellevue Literary Press
Released February 11th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my opinions.

“Her father told her once that all animals were creatures of habit and so, too, were they. The difference was she could choose to change her habits. Animals changed when they were afraid. Change before fear has had a chance to overcome you, he said, or after you have overcome it and like a storm it has moved on.”

When I first heard about Andrew Krivak’s The Bear months before it was published, I easily predicted that it would end up being a five-star read for me. After all, it’s post-apocalyptic, which is my favorite genre; it’s told almost like a fable, which intrigued me; and it’s about the last two human inhabitants of a planet that is being reclaimed by nature. Everything about this book stood out to me as something I would love.

As you can tell from the two-star rating that I gave this book, however, it didn’t end up being a new favorite. Surely part of that was that it didn’t live up to the high expectations that I had for it, but mostly it was because there was so much wasted potential along with too many stylistic choices being ripped straight from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

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I can’t explain the plot any better than the publisher, so here’s the blurb for The Bear:

In an Eden-like future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain. They own a few remnants of civilization: some books, a pane of glass, a set of flint and steel, a comb. The father teaches his daughter how to fish and hunt and the secrets of the seasons and the stars. He is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last of humankind. But when the girl finds herself alone in an unknown landscape, it is a bear that will lead her back home through a vast wilderness that offers the greatest lessons of all, if she can learn to listen. A cautionary tale of human fragility, of love and loss, The Bear is a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature’s dominion.

Before I start discussing the aspects of this novel that didn’t work for me, I want to talk about the positives. I love what the author, Andrew Krivak, attempted to do with this book. There are strong themes woven throughout the story that touch on important topics.

First, the main character, whose name we never learn (more on that later), is left entirely alone in the world after the death of her father. Loss is always difficult, but for this girl, what is even the point of continuing on? She’s the last human left alive, her very existence is made up of struggling to survive, and there’s no one who will benefit from any legacy she’ll leave behind. A quote in the book that stood out to me made me think about my experiences living with severe depression, especially at those (thankfully rare) points where I didn’t see the point of going on.

“You’re hungry, I know, said the dreambear, but you need to be hungry for more than food. More than sleep. We all go to sleep and will be asleep for a long time. Be hungry for what you have yet to do while you’re awake.”

(Note: This quote was taken from the ARC of The Bear, so may be changed in the final version.) Whenever I’m feeling really depressed, one of the things that will usually help to pull me out of it is thinking about all of the things that I haven’t done yet. Some of them are silly (dying my hair purple) and some are huge (spending a week in the mountains of Norway), but they are all things that push me to move forward. It’s so easy for people prone to depression to get caught up in doing the bare minimum to survive: go to work, eat, sleep, repeat. But life is about so much more than those essentials. I have no idea if this was the author’s intention, but it was definitely something that stood out to me while reading it.

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Another theme that Krivak’s book touches on is the survival of the world when humanity ends. No matter what humans do to destroy the world around us, the world will move on. It’s so much more than that, however. In this story, the girl loses her father, and her world doesn’t end. She has to keep living. We tend to think of death as the end of the world, whether it’s our own death or the death of our loved ones, and it’s sad when it happens. The world will still go on, though, and there’s a certain beauty in that. We can use this lesson when experiencing grief, and to help move through the sadness that accompanies loss.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, The Bear had so much potential. It was the execution of these themes and the storytelling itself that resulted in my two-star rating.

First, this novel blatantly takes its style and narrative form directly from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (which happens to be my second favorite book of all time). The Road is a masterpiece of storytelling, and McCarthy’s unique style is a huge part of that. In The Road, we never learn the names of the characters, when or where they are, or what happened to cause the end of the world. There are no quotations, the layout is simplistic. All of this combines to pull the reader deeper into the loneliness and despair of what the characters are experiencing. McCarthy took a chance on writing his novel like this, and it worked perfectly.

All of these things are true of The Bear, but it fails to pull the reader in the same way. We never know the characters’ names, nor do we know why they’re the only surviving humans. There are no quotations, and we never learn exactly where the story takes place. Where in The Road it pulled me deeper into the story, in The Bear it only made me feel more disconnected from the characters. These stylistic choices do not work for every story and not every author can pull it off, and I strongly feel that Krivak’s book may have benefitted from a completely different format.

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Another aspect of this book is that the main character, the girl, makes terrible decisions. After her father dies, she burns all of his maps and the hand-made bow that they made together. Grief sucks, I get it, but it didn’t fit in with the characters being survivors. In reality, I doubt anyone in her position would have thrown away tools essential to getting back home.

While Andrew Krivak’s The Bear had some solid ideas behind it, my opinion of it is that it failed to utilize the profound themes it touches upon to impact the reader. The stylistic choices Krivak made borrowed too heavily from a masterpiece of the post-apocalyptic genre, and it was too obvious to ignore. I can’t recommend this book on those points.




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After the Flood by Kassandra Montag – A Review

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After the Flood by Kassandra Montag
Post-Apocalyptic | Adult Fiction
Published by William Morrow
Released September 3rd, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received an unsolicited ARC of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.

I’m a bit obsessed with post-apocalyptic literature, so I was thrilled when I received a copy of After the Flood in the mail. Apparently not excited enough to read it until a couple of months after its release date, but excited.

After the Flood takes place in the future, when most of the world is covered by water, and the few remaining communities are dangerous and found on mountaintops that are tall enough to still be above water. There’s no more government or social structure, and raiders are mainly controlling the seas. It’s a world where people struggle to survive through fishing and trade and have to fend for themselves when things get dangerous.

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Kassandra Montag

We follow Myra and her daughter Pearl as they travel between trading posts on a small boat they named Bird. Life is far from easy for them, but they’ve managed to survive. Myra, however, still mourns the absence of her oldest daughter, Row, who was taken from her by her husband, Jacob. It’s been seven years since he took her away, and finding Row has always been on the back of her mind.

Finding Row becomes Myra’s main goal, however, after hearing that she might be alive in a colony in what’s left of Greenland. From that point on, Myra does whatever is necessary to get to Row, even if that means using people who are trying to help her.

This novel was really enjoyable to read. Again, I love post-apocalyptic fiction, so the setting of a mostly-water covered world was really interesting to me, and I loved the realistic, simplistic world-building that Montag created. Mainly, I loved the lack of world-building, because in a world where there are so few people and resources left, creating any kind of structured society would be difficult. While I’m not positive that a completely water-covered world is realistic, the way the author portrayed a broken-down society was definitely plausible.

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There really aren’t any heroes in this story, and I appreciated that. Myra, our main character, is manipulative, selfish, and judgemental, but despite that, she’s still an intriguing character. As the reader, you understand her motivations so deeply that, even if you can’t praise her actions, at least you know why she is acting the way she does.

Such a quality is visible in many of the characters, and one of the themes of this novel that I encountered over and over again was that people have complex reasons for their actions. Two of the side characters, Daniel and Abran, are so multifaceted that my opinions of them shifted up and down many times. I like this in a book – characters that are perfect are often boring. People are infinitely complex, and I appreciate authors that reflect that in their characters.

The ARC that I received stated this on its cover: “Life is about more than surviving.”  That’s another big theme of this book. For the first portion of the novel, Myra’s only goal is surviving and/or finding Row. It’s only after she enters a larger community and learns to appreciate them as individuals and their shared goals that she realizes that surviving isn’t the same thing as living.

Lastly, through Myra, Kassandra Montag shares how difficult parenting can be. Myra adores both of her daughters but oftentimes is overwhelmed by their presence or her responsibility towards them. Despite not being a mother myself, I can appreciate the difficulty of having and raising children, and it’s refreshing to read an account of how difficult it can be, rather than following many books that regurgitate endlessly how much of a joy it is.

I’m rating this book 3.5 stars because I generally enjoyed it, but it wasn’t in any way mind-provoking or unique. It’s worth a read, especially if you enjoy post-apocalyptic settings or unlikeable/untrustworthy main characters. However, I’m not sure if it’s a book that I can see myself re-reading.


Pair with a candle!

Frozen Lake

White Barn Frozen Lake 3-Wick Candle

This candle is one that I’ve burned quite a bit in my house, and it’s perfect to pair with this novel. The scents here include juniper berries and glacier, which reminded me of the endless ocean and scavenged wood common throughout the novel.


Have you read After the Flood? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!





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The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley – A Review

The Emperor's Railroad - Guy Haley

The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities #1) by Guy Haley
Post-Apocalyptic | Fantasy
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Released April 19, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

My boyfriend often gets bored when we’re at the library. He’s not really a reader, so while I’m spending an exorbitant amount of time walking between the shelves, piling up books until I reach my maximum checkout limit, he gets a bit antsy. Last time we went together, he decided to help me pick out some short books to read because I’m way behind on my Goodreads challenge.

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Author Guy Haley

Fortunately for me, he came back with The Emperor’s Railroad, a book I had never heard of but wanted to read as soon as I saw the first paragraph of the synopsis on the back cover:

“Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.”

That is everything I need in a book. Post-apocalyptic fiction has long been my favorite genre, so I started reading it that same night.

This book is very short – just 176 pages – and I was able to finish it in a single day. I enjoyed the setting right away. Most post-apocalyptic fiction is mixed with elements of science, such as nuclear war, bioengineered viruses, EMP attacks, death from the cosmos, that sort of thing. In this book, however, author Guy Haley has written a post-apocalyptic fantasy book, complete with knights and talking dragons.

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I can’t recall ever reading a book that featured both zombies and dragons, so that was an aspect of the book that I really loved.

The story (at least in book one of the series) is told from the point-of-view of a twelve-year-old boy named Abney. He and his mother meet up with a Knight named Quinn on the road, and he agrees to help them travel the dangerous roads to a village in the north where they have a relative.

The first twenty or so pages, the way the story was told annoyed me a little, but I got used to it. Abney’s voice is undeniably young and imperfect, especially since there’s not much education left in this world. Abney grew on me a lot though, and by the end, I was glad that the story was told from his perspective.

The most fascinating character in the book is definitely Quinn. He’s a Knight, appointed by Angels, although he chooses not to wear his badge showing which city he is from. Quinn is quiet and mysterious, and by the end of The Emperor’s Railroad, I found myself both intrigued and a little confused. In a good way, though – I’ve already reserved the second book in this duology from the library.

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As this is a fantasy story, there’s some world-building, but I’m still a little unsure of the specifics of it. We learn quite a bit in The Emperor’s Railroad, but I hope it’s heavily expanded upon in book two. There were several times in the book where I wasn’t sure if the characters were referring to something literal or figurative; for example, the Angels that are frequently discussed are never shown in this book, and I feel there’s an equal chance that they’re either actual Angels or that they’re just people posing as angelic beings. I also found myself wanting to learn more about the politics of this world and the hierarchy of the rulers.

There are very few authors who can pull off something like combining zombies with dragons in a post-apocalyptic world, but Guy Haley definitely succeeded.

I’m thrilled to have discovered this duology via my bored boyfriend randomly pulling books from our library’s shelves. I can’t wait to read book two, The Ghoul King. If you enjoy genre-bending fantasy stories with mysterious characters and good suspense, do yourself a favor and pick this series up.


Have you read Guy Haley’s Dreaming Cities duology? If so, let me know what you thought!




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A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher – A Review

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A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
Science Fiction | Post-apocalyptic
Published by Orbit
Released April 23, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

This book was a rollercoaster of emotions for me. There were times when I loved this book and plenty of other times when I absolutely hated it. How I felt about this book essentially looked like this:

UntitledFun story: my brother texted me when I was about 50% through with the book to ask me what I thought of it. I told him that it was fine, nothing special. Then, around 10pm the same day, I texted him again to tell him that I changed my mind and I absolutely hated the book. Finally, the following morning, after I had finished the book, I once again sent him a message, this time stating that I actually ended up enjoying it.

I can’t remember the last time my mind changed so frequently while reading a book.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is set in a post-apocalyptic world after most of the population has died off after some unknown event caused women to stop giving birth.

The story is told from the point-of-view of Griz, a teenager who lives with their family on an island near what is left of the British Isles. One day a traveling merchant shows up and entices them all with tales of other survivors and places he’s seen on his travels. On the traveler’s final night there, however, he slips something into their food and steals one of the family’s dogs. Griz wakes up just in time to see the traveler’s ship rounding the corner of the island, and Griz decides to chase after him in order to get the dog back.

I’ve mentioned time and time again on Read Yourself Happy that my favorite fictional genre is post-apocalyptic. I’m so intrigued by stories about the end of the world and how the remaining population would survive. This book has been on my radar for at least six months when I started seeing bloggers receive ARCs of it. I’ve always been attracted to books with a nearly-empty world as its setting.

The first thing about this novel that I want to talk about is the pacing. I found that I had to push myself through the book, which is rare for a post-apocalyptic story. This book could have been about fifty pages shorter with no impact on the story. For the majority of the book, the only character we’re dealing with is Griz, and that doesn’t always work. Griz does encounter a few people during the journey, but the book is basically like a post-apocalyptic Castaway.

Another aspect of the book that I wasn’t crazy about was the character’s voice. I don’t think we’re ever explicitly told Griz’s age, but it reads as though we’re dealing with a teenager. The book is told in a diary format, and while the way Griz writes about the journey is fine, I just was not a fan of the tone or voice of the character.

At one point Griz meets a female traveler who speaks French, and I loved the entire section about their travels together. They have to learn how to communicate with hand signals, broken words, and an English-French dictionary. This section was definitely my favorite of the book and I loved their relationship with one another.

One of the things that I did not like about this novel was the way C.A. Fletcher writes foreshadowing. Good foreshadowing should be discreet, something we barely notice. However, in this book, there are a lot of sentences along the line of “at that time I didn’t know [blank] would be my downfall.” The foreshadowing was so obvious that it bored me. When the author is constantly telling us that bad things are going to happen, it takes something away from the storytelling.

In terms of the novel’s post-apocalyptic setting that C.A. Fletcher does well is with Griz’s sense of wonder in the old world. We’re never explicitly told what year this novel is set in, but as the buildings are crumbling and nature is overtaking the cities, it feels at least 100 years into the future, if not more. Griz’s fascination with the old world and, especially, trying to understand what a populated world would have been like were very well done. Setting the world so far in the future was a great choice.

“When the world was full, did everyone smell the same? Or were you all distinct from one another? I can see from the old pictures what a crowd looked like, but I don’t know what it smelled like. Or sounded like even. That’s something I often wonder about. Did all the voices become one big sound, the way the individual clink of pebbles on a stony beach adds up to a roar and a thump in the waves? That’s what I imagine it was like, otherwise all those millions of voices being heard and distinct from one another at the same time would have run you mad.”

I don’t write to spoil the story for anyone, but there are some very surprising twists at the end of the novel. I wasn’t sure exactly how I felt about some of the twists until I actually finished the novel and could reflect on the novel as a whole. In fact, one of the biggest twists towards the end is what prompted me to tell my brother that I hated the book.

Ultimately, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is a book about truth and loyalty. It’s worth a read if you are a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, but I wouldn’t expect a masterpiece going into it. There are a lot of problems, such as the pacing and density of the novel, but overall it was worth the effort.


Have you read A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World? What did you think?




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The Last by Hanna Jameson – A Review

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The Last by Hanna Jameson
Post-Apocalyptic | Mystery
Published by Atria Books
Released April 9, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that my favorite genre is post-apocalyptic, and it has been for as long as I can remember. I’m fascinated by the end of the world and the psychology of how people would react to world-ending events.

Hanna Jameson’s The Last is a unique spin on the genre, combining the usual end of the world scenario with a murder mystery. This is the first post-apocalyptic/mystery novel that I’ve ever read, and I was incredibly impressed. The two genres fit together perfectly in Jameson’s novel.

The story follows academic Jon Keller, who is attending a conference at a large hotel in a remote part of Switzerland. One morning, everyone starts getting breaking news alerts on their phones, starting with a nuclear attack on Washington D.C., and then proceeding to include other cities around the world.

Most of the hotel patrons decide to leave and head to the nearest cities, hoping that there are still planes flying to their distant homes. Several people, however, decide to take their chances at the hotel, assuming that help will be on the way eventually. Jon is one of these people who decide to stay, starting a diary to chronicle the end of the world.

Diary formats for novels are very hit or miss – they have to be done perfectly to work well, and Jameson did a great job. Jon’s narration and the day by day life of the survivors painted a fascinating by-the-minute story of survival and mystery.

Let’s speak about the mystery portion of the novel. One day the remaining hotel patrons notice that the water tastes funny and has a strange color to it. A few men, including Jon, climb to the roof of the hotel to check the three large water tanks. Sadly, in the third tank they check, they find the body of a little girl.

One of the remaining people at the hotel is a doctor, and she performs a very basic autopsy on the girl. She determines that the girl was killed prior to being deposited into the water tank and that the death occurred close to the time that nuclear bombs were being dropped all over the world.

Jon takes it upon himself to discover who the girl was and who murdered her. He interviews the other patrons remaining at the hotel, including some hotel employees who had worked there for years. As his investigation starts to unravel clues, he wonders if the murderer is still among their ranks, while he also starts to discover that the hotel itself is full of secrets.

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There is so much that I love about this novel.

Part of the reason that the diary format works so perfectly for this novel is that we know just as much as Jon does. We’re left wondering, just as the characters do, which country dropped the first bomb, how many cities were destroyed, and if there’s any order or government left in the world. The unknown adds to the overall mystery of the novel and serves to make it more realistic. After all, if a nuclear apocalypse were to really happen (which hopefully it never will), most of us won’t be able to just turn on the national news and find out what’s happening. Survivors will be left in the dark just like Jon and the hotel patrons are.

Throughout the novel, there are allusions to the American president being the cause or start of the end of the world. It’s blatantly obvious that Hanna Jameson means for us to think of current U.S. President Donald Trump. Although I did not vote for Trump and do not support most of his policies, alluding to his being the cause of the nuclear war felt cheap and will also make the novel feel dated in the future when his presidency is a thing of the past.

At the same time, however, it brought up an interesting point:  If the end of the world were to start with a nationally elected world leader, who should be blamed? The leader for starting the war or the people who voted for them? This was an interesting philosophical question that the survivors struggled with, as Jon did not support the Trumpian American president while the other American, Tomi, did.

“I’ve also come to realize that the non-Americans are stockpiling resentment. They blame us, Tomi and me, for what happened. They look at us and see one person who voted for this to happen and another who hadn’t done enough to stop it.”

I’ve consumed so much post-apocalyptic fiction, and this is the first novel that I’ve read that raised such a question. My own opinion on the matter is that an answer to that question is ultimately impossible and useless. The people who voted for that world leader would have done so (hopefully) never expecting such destruction to occur under that leader’s watch. Can we blame millions of voting citizens for what their government does? Also, if we do decide to blame those voters who elected the representative in question, should we blame the voters collectively or fault each individual person? As Tomi tells Jon,

“I can’t believe everyone is so fucking simple that they look at me and think I’m the reason we’re all here. The world didn’t go to shit because I voted for it. The world had long gone to shit; it took years. We all watched it happen. We were all cowards, none of us did what needed to be done, so I don’t know why you’re all lining up to blame it on me.”

Such a philosophical question sheds light on how much our political choices and votes can potentially matter, and why elections and who we elect should be taken seriously. 

Another important philosophical question that is asked is that of repopulation and the role (or use) of women at the end of the world. Unlike the previous question of blame, this is a topic that many post-apocalyptic books discuss. In The Last, this is manifested by an attempted rape of one of the surviving women and the opinion of one of the male characters that rape might be necessary to continue the human race. As the character tells Jon,

“I’m just saying, is it always going to be about what we want, or is it going to be about the right thing to do?”

“…the whole future-of-the-planet thing, that’s a real question. Hypothetically, what do we do if the human race is gonna die out and none of the women want to have babies? It’s a question! I’m just asking the question out loud!”

Rape is almost normal in areas where war is happening, which is incredibly distressing. It’s not far-fetched to think that, in an end-of-the-world scenario, some people would use such an excuse to rape and take control of women.

Finally, one last philosophical question we encounter:  How should criminals be dealt with when resources are scarce? At a certain point in the story, someone does something reprehensible, and the others are left to decide their fate. Is it better to find a way to isolate the individual and continue to use the few remaining resources to keep them alive, or would it be better for everyone else if that person is killed and resources go to the survivors that have not committed a crime? It’s a question that pops up a lot in post-apocalyptic scenarios, but one that is rarely easy to answer.

Jameson also writes about how certain people might react to the end of the world. Everyone is different, and people react very differently to crises.

“Some people react to a crisis by shrinking into themselves. Others lash out. To be honest, the gender divide between these responses is obvious. Van Schaik [one of the survivors at the hotel] had been locked into a state of fight or flight since day one, and so, to a lesser extent had Peter [another survivor]. There was always aggression rumbling beneath the surface. None of us could fight the end of the world, so Van Schaik was going to fight everyone and everything just to retain the illusion of control and power.” [Emphasis mine.]

One of my favorite aspects of The Last is Hanna Jameson’s use of setting to impact the tone of the novel. As things become bleaker for the survivors at the hotel, the literal sky starts to darken day by day. The sky and mood of the world reflect the gloom that the characters are feeling. It’s a wonderful plot device that draws the reader into the story even further.

There is so, so much more I could say about Hanna Jameson’s The Last. It’s easily going to be one of my favorite books of 2019. However, for the sake of you guys, I can’t bring myself to make this review even longer than it already is. Suffice it to say, I think this book is incredibly well-written and full of important philosophical questions, as well as being an entertaining mystery story. I cannot recommend this book enough.


Have you read The Last? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.




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48 Hours by William R. Forstchen – A Review

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48 Hours by William R. Forstchen
Adult Fiction | Post-Apocalyptic
Published by Forge
Released January 8, 2019
Received free copy courtesy of the publisher
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

My favorite genre in literature, television, film, and video games are all the same:  Post-apocalyptic. I seek out any novel I can find that involves the world ending.

When I heard of William R. Forstchen’s new novel, 48 Hours, I reached out to Tor.com about a review copy, which I’m very thankful to have been sent. I had read his previous novel a few years ago, One Second Afterwhich took place around Asheville, NC where I was living at the time. That book is also post-apocalyptic, involving an EMP attack on America.

48 Hours is about a deadly solar explosion that is going to strike Earth in two days and how humanity prepares for the extinction-level event. The story follows two main characters, Darren and his wife Darla, who live in Missouri; and Richard Carrington, a NASA scientist and descendant of a scientist of the same name who first discovered solar flares in the 1800s.

As Richard Carrington and the American government realize how bad this solar storm is going to be, the government takes steps to save themselves and their families. Meanwhile, Darren, who works at a large underground storage facility, learns of the impending disaster through his ties with the military that he once served in. When Darren learns that the state of Missouri is planning on using the underground facility to save members of the state government, he takes matters into his own hands and, with the help of other members of the community, takes control of the facility. Their goal is to let only children in along with a few hand-picked adults, such as a doctor and teachers, to maintain control.

The novel was enjoyable and kept me engaged until the end. I enjoyed the storyline that follows Richard Carrington and the growing horror that he and the President experience as they realize the severity of the coming storm. I appreciate that Forstchen appears to put a great deal of research into the science of his novels. The coronal mass ejection was explained thoroughly, as was the solar storm (“Sauron’s Eye”) that would come immediately afterward. I love real science in fiction (I am a Trekkie after all), and I would have been okay with the entire story following Carrington.

The part of the story that follows Darren and Darla left a bit more to be desired. While I understand that they were trying to do something noble and good by taking over control of the underground facility and only letting children in, it doesn’t exactly seem practical, and it definitely wasn’t well planned out. There are very few bathrooms in the facility, and literally thousands of children. I also find it unbelievable that a group of essentially local militia would be able to wrest control of the facility from the government, which has air support and troops to back it up.

The moral dilemma raised in this novel was interesting, but I wish it had been handled differently. It’s a normal trope in post-apocalyptic fiction to focus on how to decide who lives and who dies, but it’s a topic that fascinates me.

If you’re interested in reading one of William R. Forstchen’s apocalyptic novels, I recommend starting with One Second After, which feels much more thought out and is more interesting. This story felt a little flat to me.

Trouble No Man by Brian Hart – A Review

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Note: This review was originally published in December 2018, but I wanted to repost it in honor it being released today. It was one of my favorite books from 2018, and now that it’s finally out, I definitely recommend picking it up. 

Trouble No Man by Brian Hart

Fiction | Post-Apocalyptic
Goodreads
Published by Harper Perennial
Release date: January 29, 2019
Author Links: Unknown (If you know of the author’s website or social media, please let me know. I was unable to find anything.)

Preorder: Amazon

I received a free ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I never accept monetary compensation in exchange for a positive review. Read more here.

Synopsis

Trouble No Man takes place in the near future when northern California has run out of water and is being controlled by militias. Roy Bingham is the main character, and the story follows him throughout his life, jumping back and forth from his younger days as a pro-skateboarder all the way up until he has become a family man living on a farm. The novel is about family and survival.

Review

I’m not sure where I originally heard of this upcoming novel, but as soon as I read the synopsis I contacted Harper Perennial to request a review copy. I had never heard of the author, Brian Hart, but he was being compared to Cormac McCarthy, one of my favorite writers; the plot was also post-apocalyptic, which is my favorite genre. I knew immediately that I wanted to read this, and am very grateful to the publisher for sending me a copy.

The aspect of this book that I enjoyed the most was the muddled timeline. Each chapter is set during a different decade of Roy Bingham’s life. As the story progresses, you start to piece things together. I found myself flying through the pages because I wanted to find out what happened next in his life. The layout and progression of the chapters were perfectly done.

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I enjoy books about characters that are unlikeable, and this is certainly one of those novels. Although Roy starts to grow on you toward the end of the book, for the majority of the story I found him immensely unlikable and selfish. His personality is such a large part of the story, however, and is important to his growth, so his off-putting personality is actually very enjoyable, and it’s nice to see how much he evolves over the course of his entire life. People always change as they get older, and it was refreshing to watch that happen to his character.

There are thousands of post-apocalyptic novels in the world right now and, while I would read just about any of them, the ones I enjoy the most are the ones that feel as though they could actually happen. This book isn’t scary, but it is certainly unsettling due to how realistic the scenarios are. It is not hard to imagine that in a world without water militias would take control of localities and violence would explode.

Rating

5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Trouble No Man is one of the best books I’ve read in 2018. I’m going to be recommending this book to everyone when it is released in January 2019.

Other Books by Brian Hart

 

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Young Adult | Science-Fiction
Goodreads
Published by G.P Putnam’s Sons
Released May 7, 2013
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks

Synopsis

The 5th Wave is a young adult science fiction novel about an extraterrestrial invasion of earth. The invasion begins with an EMP attack which takes out all of Earth’s electricity. The second wave is the triggering of a massive tsunami that destroys most of the planet’s coastlines. The third is a plague, wiping out most of the remaining population. Then we come to the fourth plague, where the story begins. During the fourth wave, the aliens walk among us, indistinguishable from real people.

The story follows Cassie as she tries to survive on her own in this horrific world. She is on her way to save her little brother and avoids anyone else she sees along the way, not knowing who she can trust. Everything goes smoothly until she encounters Evan Walker, a farm boy who rescues her and takes her back to his farmhouse.

This novel is one about trust, survival, and family, even in the face of terrible odds.

Review

I had a hard time rating this book because I felt so conflicted about many parts of it.

Let’s begin with the positives. I really enjoyed the plot of this book, and the concept of earth being invaded in these “waves” rather than the traditional warfare we’ve come to expect from alien invasion novels. It is a truly unique story, and it is that originality that initially attracted me to this novel.

Cassie was an amazing main character, and Rick Yancey wrote her in such a way that it’s hard not to love her. She’s strong and vulnerable at the same time, and completely believable as a teenager. So many young adult books make their characters seem far too adult, but this was absolutely not the case with The 5th Wave. Yancey’s representation of all of his characters was believable and wonderfully done.

In terms of the surprises in The 5th Wave, I was able to predict very early on what the “twist” of the novel was going to be. However, despite that, the moment in the war zone when Zombie and Ringer, two of the teenage soldiers, are discussing that twist was incredibly well-written.

Now on to the negatives. This book is told in a multi-narrative format, which I usually adore. There are three narrators throughout the story, although Cassie is the main one. With the changing narration, Cassie was really the only narrator I enjoyed. I listened to the audiobook version of this novel on Scribd, and the performance by Phoebe Strole was absolutely perfect and convincing. She brought Cassie’s character fully to life, and her narration was full of believable emotion. The narration from the perspective of “The Silencer,” one of the alien soldiers, and Zombie, a human soldier are mildly interesting but don’t carry the same quality and excitement as Cassie’s.

I could not stand the character of Evan Walker. His character seemed predatory and creepy, and I had a bad feeling about him from the start. In the novel, he’ll frequently stand outside Cassie’s bedroom door, which I found incredibly sketchy. As Cassie came to have feelings for him, I wanted to shake her out of it and scream at her not to trust him. Cassie’s romance with him was cringy and I kept finding myself wishing that she would just shoot him and put him out of the story.

Something I’ve seen in other reviews of The 5th Wave but that I did not experience for myself since I listened to the audiobook was that, in the written format of the novel, you’re not told ahead of time whose perspective you’re reading. It makes me glad that I did listen to the audiobook rather than read the physical book because I have a strong feeling that my rating would be quite a bit lower with the added confusion of trying to figure out who’s narrating the chapter.

Rating

5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

While I enjoyed listening to the audiobook of this novel, I was never invested enough in the story to say I loved it. I won’t be reading the rest of the series, as I genuinely don’t care what happens next. However, since this first book was entertaining, I’m still rating it three stars. I feel like a lot of people would really enjoy this book, especially if you’re looking for a science fiction novel in the young adult category. It’s also a very unique take on the alien invasion trope.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world. Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

The Book

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Post-Apocalyptic | Adult Fiction
Published by Knopf
Released September 26, 2006
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars


Synopsis

This is Cormac McCarthy’s most recent book to be published. It is a post-apocalyptic tale told in a very minimalist style. By minimalistic I mean that there’s very little we actually know: McCarthy never tells us what happened to cause the mass extinction event, we don’t know the names of our two characters, we have no idea where exactly the story takes place, and we don’t know how long it’s been since the cataclysmic event happened.

What we do know is that a man and his son are trying to survive against the many, many odds that are stacked against them as they travel south in an effort to escape the brutal winters. They’re starving, sleeping on the ground, scavenging what bits and pieces they find along the way. Their world is described as gray and covered in ash. There are earthquakes and the sun is all but absent.

The Road won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, along with several other awards.


Review

The Road is my favorite book. I’ve read it every November since the first time I picked it up almost a decade ago. Despite reading it so many times, the last few pages still make me weep. This book is devasting.

The thing that a reader first picks up on is the writing style. McCarthy is not a fan of punctuation and proper grammar. You will not find any quotation marks in this book. He also leaves everything as vague as he possibly can. As I mentioned in the synopsis above, we don’t know much of anything. Throughout the book, the father is referred to as the man, and his son is the boy. They walk through towns but we are never told what town they’re in. I’ve heard a lot of people say that McCarthy’s style is off-putting, and while I do understand that, I actually really enjoy that aspect of this novel. The anonymity of the story makes me feel like it could happen to anyone. I also just love McCarthy’s overall writing style:

No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you. 

The vagueness of the setting also serves to bring the focus of the story to the relationship between father and son. They have nothing but each other. The father will do whatever it takes to keep his son alive, while the son wants to help others and is terrified of the world around him.

Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

The characters frequently mention god and “carrying the fire,” but even the religion is vague in the story. You can read what you want to in it.

The individual scenes in The Road are mostly devasting, terrifying, sickening, and worse. I don’t want to include spoilers, but there are a few scenes that will leave you shaken, such as one that takes place in a pantry beneath a kitchen. However, much less frequent, there are also a few happy scenes that will make your heart swell, such as when they share a scavenged Coca-Cola, which the boy has never tasted before. It’s a sweet scene that breaks up the terror of their lives.

Despite how many times I’ve read this book, I still weep while reading the final few pages. The ending is depressing, and it also makes me cry for a more personal reason.

*THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS*

The man, who spends the latter part of the book coughing violently, reminds me of the couple of years before my mother died. She would also have incredibly long and disturbing coughing fits. When it happens in the book, it brings those memories back to me, and that is definitely one of the reasons this book makes me cry every single time I read it.


Verdict

I recommend this book to literally everyone. I will continue to read it every November as I’ve been doing. It’s the perfect book to read once the leaves have mostly fallen off the trees and the landscape is starting to get a wintry, barren look.


Have you read The Road? What did you think?


 



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Book Review: The Realm by Seth M. Peck & Jeremy Haun

“Funny how quickly you can get used to some things, and how quickly you can forget others. One day you’re worrying about passing your algebra final and the next thing you know, you’re trying not to get eaten by trolls.”

The Book

TheRealm - Seth Peck

The Realm, Volume 1 (plus issues 6 and 7) by Seth M. Peck and Jeremy Haun (artist)
Comic book, fantasy, adventure
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: 2017
Website
Jeremy Haun: Twitter | Instagram
Amazon | Goodreads

What It Is

A comic book series set in a magical post-apocalyptic landscape, full of orcs, goblins, dragons, sorcerers, and fantastical creatures like this:

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I’m obsessed with this creature.

I don’t remember where I first heard of this series, but I remember it being described as “The Hobbit meets Mad Max,” and I purchased Volume One immediately.

The story follows Will Nolan and his sidekick Rook, as they lead a small group of people to Kansas City from Chicago through a dangerous, rugged, post-apocalyptic landscape. There are roaming orc war parties, goblins, dragons, and countless other dangers along the way.

The group that Will is helping consists of Molly (easily one of my favorite characters; I love her spunk), Laszlo, Doctor Burke, and David. Doctor Burke is carrying a mysterious cargo, of which Will and Rook are unaware. Along the way, they meet Eli, who saves their lives; Ben, a badass orc hunter; and Zach, a young kid who enjoys comic books and can come back from the dead.

The world is ruled by dark magic. We are introduced to Johnny Eldritch, a dark sorcerer, as well as the Crow Feeders, a warband led by Redjaw. The sky is full of giant rocky spires, which suddenly just appeared all over the world, changing everything.

There are currently 8 issues released, but I’ve only been able to get my hands on issues 1-7, so, unfortunately, I’m not completely up to speed on what’s happening after issue 7.

What I Loved

Every single thing. From the writing to the art, I’m genuinely in love with these comic books. There are amazing creatures, like dragons and owl-bears (which may be the most adorable fictional creatures I’ve ever encountered) alongside a loveable cast of characters who are very well developed.

The color scheme of these comics is stunning. The colors are done by Nick Filardi, who uses a lot of earthy brown, red, and orange to create a rugged, dreary landscape. Jeremy Haun’s art is incredible, some of the best I’ve seen. He is easily one of my favorite modern artists.

I love the fact that there are guns alongside swords and magic. As someone who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy, with a particular love for anything post-apocalyptic, I feel like these comic books were made for me. The characters’ costumes are also great, especially Rook’s helmet, which is actually available for purchase through Digital Armory Collectibles (and which I would totally buy if I could afford it!)

Also, there are goblins riding giant bats.

What I Disliked

I really can’t think of anything. Maybe more of those gorgeous horned, bearded deer creatures? (See above!)

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)

Buy. 100% buy. This is one of the best comic book series I’ve read in years. I’m obsessed with it. An amazing story, beautiful art… what more could you ask for?

Book Review: The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi

Toomie sighed. “I used to know this Indian guy. Skinny dude, came over from India. Didn’t have a wife or family anymore. Maybe they were back there in India, I can’t remember. Anyway, the thing he said that stuck with me was that people are alone here in America. They’re all alone. And they don’t trust anyone except themselves, and they don’t rely on anyone except themselves. He said that was why he thought India would survive all this apocalyptic shit, but America wouldn’t. Because here, no one knew their neighbors.” He laughed at that. “I can still remember his head wagging back and forth, ‘No one is knowing their neighbors.'”

The Book
The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi
Goodreads
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

What It Is
A post-apocalyptic novel that takes place when the world has passed an ecological tipping point. The American West has run out of water, and only the largest cities remain. Forest fires rip across the mountains, and states have closed their borders to outsiders. Cities are resorting to nefarious means of getting their hands on water rights, with California lining snipers up along the Colorado River and Las Vegas employing mercenaries as “Water Knives” to implement take-overs of pipelines.

The book follows several different characters and weaves their stories together. Angel is a water knife working for Catherine Case, the “Water Queen” of Las Vegas. Case sends him to Phoenix when one of her other guys starts getting scared of what’s about to go down. He’s not sure what he’s looking for, but right away he can feel something is off.

In Phoenix, he meets the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Lucy, who moved there in order to write about the city as it crumbles around her. She’s resourceful, clever, and is dedicated to her job. We also follow the story of Maria and Sarah, two youngish girls trying to survive, by whatever means necessary, eventually leading to tragic and very violent ends.

Lucy and Angel team up to track down the oldest known water rights to the river, finding corpses and backstabbing along the way. Eventually, Angel realizes he knows exactly where the rights are, and together they go after them.

What I Loved
It’s a terrifying interpretation of what could happen if we, as a species, don’t act to stop runaway global warming, especially with articles like this coming out. Post-apocalyptic tales are my favorite genre, and I enjoyed the climate change angle in this one. I also enjoyed the pace of the story.  However, I have read other reviews where people have said it started off too slow for them, so I think it comes down to personal taste.

What I Disliked
A lot of the characters fall flat, and I wish there had been more character development. Most of them display a “have to be tough to survive” mentality, and that’s about it. Maria and Toomie are the only characters I had any amount of sympathy for. There was also the rushed and unlikely romance between Lucy and Angel, and I feel like the story could have easily continued without it. Finally, I hated the moment Angel realizes he knows where the water rights are; it seems unlikely and a little bit like a copout.

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)
Borrow. It’s an entertaining book to read, and it’s an interesting look at a futuristic America where we didn’t do enough to stop global warming. It’s not perfect though, so I’m not sure this is the sort of book that you would find yourself picking up multiple times.