Tag Archives: Post-apocalism

Carlon, Lee: A God-Blasted Land (The Bastard Cadre I) (2016)

AGBL_Cover-Low-Res
Cover design by Lee Carlon

The Bastard Cadre, episodes 1-14 is the first book of this ongoing serial written by Lee Carlon. I am not used to continually changing stories, but find the concept fascinating. Carlon describes the way he works:

… one thing to note about this serialization is that unlike traditional serializations where the author is bound to the words that have been committed to the page, publishing online allows me to treat The Bastard Cadre as a continuous work in progress. Each episode is complete at the time of publication, but I do update the text from time to time. (peakcity)

Change can be daunting when you are an aspie. Part of that has to do with the accompanying anxiety. I have to go through mental gymnastics to keep anxiety’s influence on my opinion as limited as possible while reviewing The Bastard Cadre.

Newterra is on a world with two suns. Its geography is loosely based on Australia’s. Some of the inhabitants on Newterra might be descended from Earth humans. Others, not so much. Dragons, dualists, descendants and gods are in the last category, although, I’m arguing with myself about the gods. Newterra’s gods are not very old, they fight each other, hold separate territories and 20 years ago they Cleansed the world with a type of fire. The Cleansing took biological lives but not electrical ones. There are still plenty of AIs around. Vehicles can be picked up in almost any city and cleaning bots are still doing their jobs in the larger cities. We enter the world 20 years after the Cleansing and meet a world that has lost numbers and a great deal of understanding of technology.

Our main characters, Avril Ethanson, Ethan Godkind and Ranora fi’Intar, all seem to be human. Avril and Ranora are both young and have unusual abilities. Avril can affect electrical impulses. Ranora can read people and cards. Ethan is Avril’s foster-father and has held that role since soon after Avril was born. These three characters give us insight into how Newterra works and what its people are like. Clues to their importance and backgrounds are doled out during the telling of this story. This way of learning about places and people in a story is my preferred one.

Avril and Ethan are scavengers who salvage old tech and barter it for essentials. When we meet them, the past is about to catch up with Ethan. Life has a tendency to mess up our plans and put our procrastinations to shame. There was so much Ethan had planned on telling Avril to prepare him for what might happen. When they meet Beads, the finder, it is almost too late and Avril is in for some gigantic surprises that involve his heritage and potential future.

We learn little about Ranora’s background. She is a talented painter who brings the past to life. Bringing the past to life in her art is probably connected to her ability to read people and objects to uncover “secrets”. Ranora seems to be on her own when we meet her. Being alone in Newterra tends to shorten your life-expectancy. When a bounty-hunter gang shows up, Ranora uses her ability to claim a spot in it. We all make choices in our lives. Some mess life up for us while others bring unexpected gifts our way. Joining the gang was a choice that brought both mess and gift to Ranora, such as bringing her into contact with both Ethan and Avril.

The Bastard Cadre’s intended audience is young adult and older. From the get go we get an action-filled story about fate, betrayal, family and different ways of handling the world. The Bastard Cadre was given to me to review. Recommended.


Reviews:

  • Benjamin Spurlock
  • Leachim
  • N.E. White
  • N.N.
  • Rosie Writes

A God-Blasted Land can be found on Amazon

Miéville, China: Railsea (2012)

“Well, no one knows,” Caldera said, “but they’ve got a sense of the possibilities. What do they say where you come from? Streggeye, you said? What do you think? Were the rails put down by gods?” Her questions came faster. Were they extruded from the ground? Were they writing in heavenly script, that people unknowingly recited as they travelled? Were the rails produced by as-yet-not-understood natural processes? Some radicals said there were no gods at all. Were the rails spit up by the interactions of rock, heat, cold, pressure & dirt? Did humans, big-brained monkeys, think up ways to use them when the rails emerged, to stay safe from the deadly dirt? Was that how trains got thought up? Was the world an infinity of rails down as well as around, seams of them through layers of earth & salvage, down to the core? Down to hell? Sometimes storms gusted off topsoil & uncovered iron below. The most excavation-gung-ho salvors claimed to have found some tracks yards underground. What about Heaven? What was in Heaven? Where was it? (Railsea, p. 181)

Certain subjects will probably interest me until I die. The lengths to which we go to justify our beliefs and avoid being wrong is one of them. We cling so hard to our philosophies that we end up with mechanised arms, like Captain Naphi, or send our navys out to get hold of two children, the way Maniniki did.

Realizing that my childhood faith was not based on facts, had an immense effect on my ability to handle the thought of being wrong. Debating an issue is now merely fun. No longer do I see other people’s beliefs as something to be feared. Some of the lies I told myself are no longer necessary.

Lying to ourselves, even if we are not aware of lying, holds us firmly in our socially accepted places. Sham Yes ap Shoorap is a brave kid. He often needs to be prompted; but by asking himself difficult questions, he manages to defy conventions and seeks answers. Answers are sometimes only found in dangerous waters, and the metaphoric waters of the railsea are indeed dangerous. The Railsea seethes with life wanting to devour anything and anyone in their paths. One has the choice between being eaten by giant burrowing owls, giant moldywarpes, giant earwigs, giant naked mole rats, giant turtles, blood rabbits, tundra worms and so on. Being on the moletrain was one thing. Going from that to his handcart was quite another.

The Railsea‘s culture is post-apocalyptic. A huge war between rail-barons and other big corporations has caused environmental damage that has lasted long enough for cute creatures to mutate into threats for humans. The heavens are only seen as a smog cover containing angels. Yes, angels. And quite scary ones, too. Scientific knowledge has more or less died along with anything resembling healthy ecology for humans. Yet people keep on messing up the ground even more, especially when greed prompts justification. Greed is a fairly common motivator for destroying our habitat in today’s world. I suppose it always has been. I admit that my own attempts at being an environmentally responsible person are inconsistent, yet I keep on trying. George Carlin has a fitting commentary on the effect humans have on the Earth. Railsea seems a fitting vision of it getting revenge.

While Railsea is indeed a young adult story, it is also very much an adult story.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Railsea can be found at Amazon


Translations:

McGuire, Seanan: Midway Relics and Dying Breeds (2014)

“Thing was, the westward portage rope was attached to Billie’s harness, and Billie, for all her advantages as a draft animal, is about as smart as damp moss when it comes to things like “noticing external stimuli.” She’s a genework Indricothere (link by ed) that my Uncle Ren and I bought from a fly-by firm about six years back—a sort of precursor to the rhinoceros, and one of the largest land mammals ever to walk on the planet. When she put down her foot, the ground shook. There were no predators that could take her down and no threats that she recognized as worth giving a damn about, all of which combined to mean that there wasn’t much that could distract her from the essential task of eating her way through the foliage of the world. All nine tons of her continued plodding relentlessly forward, her massive teeth stripping branches as she walked. Her grazing license typed her as a firebreak, preventing fires by clearing out all the dead stuff before it could go up. It was more than halfway true, and it hadn’t caught us any trouble yet.”

Seanan McGuire

Midway Relics and Dying Breeds

Robertson, Edward W.: Outcome (Breakers 0) (2013)

Outcome by Edward W Robertson

 

 

Across the table, Ellie Colson’s bosses laughed what might be the last big laugh of their lives. She forgave them. They didn’t know they were joking about the end of the world.

She smiled thinly. Rawlings, her direct superior, chuckled and swabbed his puffy hand across the table, as if he were working at an imaginary water spot. Dr. Armen laughed and clutched his gut, as if he were afraid it might bounce away. Jesper Mason just smiled. Like Ellie, he hadn’t been introduced by rank – Rawlings hadn’t even mentioned which org he belonged to, which meant he was a field hand, and a useful one. She recognized him vaguely. Might have seen him around the stacks once or twice. Mason had told the joke, something about Spanish flu. Ellie hadn’t been listening. She’d been thinking about the transmission rate in Rawlings’ printout.

The laughter stopped. Conversation resumed. The room was bare and windowless but their voices carried no echo, dying in the small space like lost moths. It wasn’t that these men weren’t smart; they had enough degrees between them to paper a den. It wasn’t that they lacked dedication; she would soon prove herself least dedicated of any of them.

It was that they lacked imagination. (page 1)

These are the words that hooked me. Something about Robertson’s writing drew me into his post-apocalyptic chaos until the end, an ending I appreciated.

Why did Ellie risk her life to try to save Chip Billips? Well, as she saw it, she was already dead. In fact, both of them were already dead. Their bodies just hadn’t finished the process yet. The likelihood of escaping this surprising and terrifying new plague seemed highly unlikely. But why Chip? It certainly wasn’t because Chip lived in a convenient place.

New York, a city with a population of about 8.49 million people packed into an area measuring 468.90 sq miles (1,214 km²). Needing to chase down a person in a tight place like that makes for perfect post-apocalysm. Robertson paints both the atmosphere between Ellie and Chip and the atmosphere in the city as bleak, confused and fearful. With his magic, Robertson helped me believe in the plague’s progression and people’s reaction to it.

When authors like Robertson come along, I find it does not matter to me if snags turn up. Yet none did. I loved it.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Outcome available at

Also available on Kobo and Google Play.

Bell, Alden: The Reapers are the Angels (2010)

The Reapers are the Angels - Alden Bell

“Doggone it, she says. Why do livin and dyin always have to be just half an inch apart?”

Bloody hell! Some reviews hurt more than others to write.

My father was a couple of years old before the Germans invaded Norway during WWII. He had passed his 7th birthday when they left. Yet there are quite a few things he remembers from that time. Especially one thing stands out with regard to The Reapers are the Angels. During the war a certain wildness was permitted in children. Many of the little ones were used by older kids to get at the German soldiers. Being little made it less likely you would get shot. Then the war ended. All of a sudden children were expected to become normal children. As my father tells that was not a simple task to perform, even for a seven year old boy. His father returned changed from POW camp. His mother had retained a great deal of psychological scarring from the war. And my father was a wild one.

Today we have more information about the mental processes of war-time experiences on children who grow up in them. One child tells of his killing as a child-soldier:

“The youngest was a girl about six. She was shooting at me.” (IRIN Africa)

In reading about young Temple, only 15 years old, her traumatized psyche was easy to see. Her feelings of guilt, being evil, should have been able to make different choices are all classic symptoms of a child with PTSD. PTSD is something I have knowledge of and I had no problem identifying with Temple a great many times.

“She eases herself to the ground and wonders when she will eventually die because she’s awfully tired, so terribly tired, and Moses Todd is right – there are debts she owes to the perfect world and she feels like she has cheated them for too long already.”

Death is nothing I fear. Each and every one of us must end our journeys there. Some of us are less afraid of it than others. For Temple her journey has brought her to the brink of death many times in her fights for survival against the slugs. She bears them no ill will. After all, a world with meatskins is all she has ever known. Accepting the world as it is seems to be her strongest quality. Somehow there is beauty to be found in just about every circumstance Temple encounters, even in her encounter with the mutants.

When Temple is saved by the half humans/half slugs you would think she had stumbled upon a gang of “krokodil-junkies” (drug used in Russia that makes your outside and insides look grosse – Slate) taken to the extreme. One thing addicts have shown us is that if the buzz is considered strong enough by its user it will be taken no matter its side-effects. The effects of injecting zombie juice into a human body are devastating. But addicts will be addicts.

“Oh lord, Royal says, marching around the room in circles. I got a fire in me, Bodie. Right now? Right now I could fuck a hole in the world. I swear to God a’mighty I could fuck and new Grand Canyon all by myself.”

Like I said – a buzz one might want repeated.

Nothing in The Reapers are the Angels points toward a happy ending for Temple. But happy endings are illusions caused by a death put off for a while longer. Sometimes there is happiness to be found in the moment of death and that is all we can hope for for our beautiful little Sarah Mary Williams, AKA Temple.


Reviews:


The Reapers are the Angels on MacMillan


2010: Nominated for Philip K. Dick Award

2010: Nominated for Shirley Jackson Award

2011: Winner of ALA Alex Award


Growing up with war:

Summers, Jordan: Red (Dead World I) (2008)

Cover design by Christian McGrath
Cover design by Christian McGrath

I generally do some research before writing about a book. When the blurb began:

“What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turned out to be the same person?”

I went off on one of my curiosity sprees. Roald Dahl has a wonderful version of Little Red Riding Hood (below) that resembles the version of Little Red Riding Hood that Jordan Summers writes about.

Red has three Riding Hoods that are eaten by the big bad wolf while their grandmothers are left alone. Our Were-theme is discovered in the first chapter when the murderer describes being wracked with the pain of being ripped apart and put back together again. Then he mauls and eats his murder victim. Summers’ description of the mauling and eating is just as descriptive as her description later on in the novel of sex and its prelude – pretty explicit.

The mystery part of Red is pretty straight-forward. As a reader I know everything long before Red and Morgan do. When Renee Forrester, Lisa Salomon and Moira Collins turn up dead, I  draw conclusions faster than the couple-to-be. Embroiled as they are in the action and full of fear of being discovered, fear of the other not liking them, fear of the other person liking them, and being horny to the degree that the two of them are probably slows them down.

Red is full of the non-existent, exterminated Others. These people were supposed to have been wiped out. Instead they are turning up all over the place. Some of them do not even know that they are an Other. Discovering what they are might just mean the difference between life and death for themselves and others.

We are all Others of some sort. It isn’t my Asperger side that defines me as an Other but rather the Beast in me that might rear its head at some point in my life. We sure see a lot of the Beast types in the world without needing to genetically tinker one into us.

I liked Red.


Reviews:


Red on Amazon.com


Red Riding Hood, 2014; by LessThanHuman
Red Riding Hood, 2014;
by LessThanHuman

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.

When Grandma opened it, she saw

The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, “May I come in?”
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
“He’s going to eat me up!” she cried.

And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, “That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve got to have a second helping!”
Then added with a frightful leer,
“I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”
He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,
(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,

“What great big ears you have, Grandma.”
“All the better to hear you with,” the Wolf replied.
“What great big eyes you have, Grandma.”
said Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the better to see you with,” the Wolf replied.

He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She’s going to taste like caviar.

Then Little Red Riding Hood said, “But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.”

“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf. “Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.”
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She wimps a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, “Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.”

Roald Dahl, Revolting Rhimes (audioversion)


Shirer, George R: The Finishers (2011)

The Finishers

Perhaps we might call the zombies in The Finishers “Flippers” since they rose after the world seemed to “flip”.

We meet Tobias and Archer who get paid for making sure the dead remain lying down. They finish what death began. The only way to do that is to shoot the flippers in the head.

“Sometimes”, said Archer, “I really hate this job”.

I see his point.