Category Archives: Post-Apocalyptic

Serious Crimes (Strike a Match 1) by Frank Tayell

Stars: 3 out of 5

This is not a bad book at all. It was just rather meh to me, but that might just be because I was expecting something more out of this post-apocalyptic read. 

I liked the glimpses into the past and what brought down the end of the world as we know it, even though the explanation about the AIs wasn’t all that satisfying. I mean, the technological remnants we are shown in this book aren’t advanced enough to have created something as sophisticated as the AIs as they are described. From everything I’ve seen in this book, the world “before” was at about our technological level (as in 2020’s), and we don’t have AIs or are even close to reaching that threshold. 

Also, a lot of things are hinted at, but not fully explained. Like the fact that the official story behind the Blackout isn’t really how it happened. I understand that this is only the first book in a longer series, but I would have appreciated a few more answers.

I think the biggest reason why this book was meh to me is that I never managed to connect with the characters. Mitchell seemed promising enough, but the author purposefully keeps him as a closed book. He knows a lot of things and a lot of people, but he speaks in riddles. We also never really get a glimpse inside his head or understand his motivations. I mean it’s hinted that Ruth’s mother asked him to look after her, but their connection isn’t explained.

Ruth herself didn’t work for me as the protagonist. I think it’s because she is so passive for most of this story. She joined the police academy because she couldn’t go to University and didn’t want to be a farmer or miner. She isn’t particularly motivated to be there. This is not a career she decided to pursue yet. So she kind of tags along for most of the investigation. 

She also feels woefully unprepared for the job she is supposed to be doing, which is surprising. Are you telling me that in a post-apocalyptic world where things are so bad that there is food rationing, people stopped committing crimes like murders and burglaries? So the police force is thought math and science instead of how to shoot a gun and how to best overpower and disarm a belligerent suspect? I’m sorry, but human nature being what it is, I would think that crime would have skyrocketed in society like that, so the police force would have to be a lot more brutal and better trained.

Also, because Ruth is only marginally interested in the investigation, and the reader sees it through her eyes, I was only marginally interested as well. It doesn’t help that everyone talks in riddles and never gives a straight answer.

But I guess that’s one more book I cleaned off my TBR list this year, even though I will not be continuing with the series. 

Ashes of the Sun (Burningblade and Silvereye 1) by Django Wexler

Stars: 4 out of 5

This is the third series I have picked up by this author and I can say with confidence that Django Wexler is a creator of worlds, which is good praise in my books. Each of his series has a very distinct feel, with an original world and engaging characters. 

I loved a glimpse of the world in this book, where humans live on the ruins of a war between two Elder races – the Chosen and the Ghouls, who had been intent on mutual annihilation. The Ghouls unleashed the Plague that wiped out the Chosen, but not before they bombed the ghoul underground cities into oblivion. That was 400 years ago. Humanity inherited a planet full of ruins, broken weapons, and magical artifacts. And also plaguespawn – an unfortunate side-effect of the Plague. These monsters have just one purpose – attack anything living and assimilated it, and they prefer humans. Unfortunately, they are also all over the place, so humanity lives in cities and walled villages, and travel is dangerous…

I also really liked both of our siblings – Maya and Gyre. Even though they are on the opposite ends of this conflict, it’s really hard to say who is right and who is wrong. They both believe in their own truths. They are both decent people deep inside. They are also very young, so they still see the world in black and white, even though they allowed a few shades of gray in the end which helped them find a compromise long enough to get out of a very bad situation they were in. 

I liked that they both felt “alive” to me. No, I didn’t agree with all of their actions, especially with what Gyre did in Deepfyre, but I understood their motivations. To me, that’s the most important part. I might not like the character or agree with them, but I need their actions to make sense with what I know about them. That’s exactly what I get every time I pick up a Django Wexler book. 

Of course, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered – who or what is that black spider that Maya keeps encountering. How did it get ahold of Jaedia? What is the Thing on Maya’s chest and why does the spider call her an experiment? What are the plaguespawn and are they really the by-product of the Plague? Are the Chosen really gone? And a lot more. 

So this book accomplishes what a first book in a series is supposed to do – introduces an interesting world with engaging characters and left us with enough questions to pick up the next book. Well done, Mr. Wexler, well done. I am definitely continuing with this series. 

PS: I received a fee copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Extinction Trials by A. G. Riddle

 Stars: 1 out of 5.

I DNFed this book at 55%. You would think that reaching the halfway point there would have been some exciting action, right? With a name like Extinction Trials, you would think there would be some high stakes, trials, etc., right? Wrong. 

Yes, there seems to have been a mass extinction event, but even halfway through the book I’m not sure how long ago it had happened or how the characters ended up in Station 17. And apart from them leaving the station and getting on a boat, there hadn’t been any trials either. Unless you count them trying to repair the boat as a trial. But then one man was working on it and the rest were just mulling around waiting, so that’s a boring trial.

And that’s the crux of it – this book is boring. The characters are uninspiring. Heck, I am not sure I can remember most of them after dropping this book a few days ago. I mean who the heck is Blair and what is her purpose in this story anyway? They have no personality, no quirks, no inner strengths or weaknesses. And even though the book is told from the perspective of two of those characters, we never really get familiar with them. 

The reason for that is because the author doesn’t know how to show things. What we get instead is never-ending exposition. Each character has to tell their backstory. Then they find a journal and a character needs to read every single entry out loud. Then they find video recordings, so those are narrated as well. Heck, at one point, the two character even read excerpts from a self-help book… Yawn.

By the time I reached the halfway point and discovered that nothing major had happened yet and I didn’t particularly care about any of the characters, I decided that continuing this struggle wasn’t worth my time. So I skipped to the end just to see how this whole mess was resolved and… let’s just say that the ending is very disappointing. If you want the events in a book to make sense and abide by the rules of the world that the author created, this book is definitely not for you.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rising Tide (Ben Gold 2) by Rajan Khanna

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

This was better than the first book. Mainly because I thought I saw some character growth in Ben. After all, he sacrificed the Cherub to save a town instead of running away, like he would have done previously. That was the first selfless action I’d seen him do. And he does a lot more selfless things in this book, which is a big plus in my book. 

I was fully onboard for that change, because honestly, I didn’t like Ben in the first book. He is selfish to the extreme. All he cares about is himself and his ship. To see him outgrow that and start acting against his own selfishness to help others was fulfilling. He was protecting the island. He helped rescue the scientists. It looked like he genuinely cared for Miranda’s research in finding the cure for the virus…

Unfortunately, as I came to find out by the end of this book, this was less a fundamental change of Ben’s character than his need to act like the person he cares about (Miranda) wants him to act. He loves her, so he craves her her approval. So her goals become his goals. As soon as he realizes that Miranda is gone, he reverts to his old selfish ways. I mean, seriously, he just drops everything and runs. He abandons the people he’d been fighting back to back with, who he even started considering friends, and just takes off. This, right there, killed the book for me, because it showed that the supposed character growth was just a gimmick. Talk about killing my interest in a character.

My other problem is that this book doesn’t contribute anything worthwhile to the worldbuilding. Yes, we learn about some other factions and power players, but we still don’t know the motivations of the main factions we went against in the first book. What does Valhalla want? But more importantly, what do the scientists want? Their motivations are waved off by “evil scientists do evil stuff because they are evil” gimmick. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work in a post-app world like this one. Why did they make this new virus? Do they want to completely depopulate the planet? Well, newsflash – the ferals are doing a pretty good job without anyone’s else help. Besides, if they eliminate what’s little left of the human race, then what? I doubt they will be content with farming their own food, cleaning their dwellings and doing other menials tasks of keeping themselves alive in a world without convenient minions to do their bidding. So yeah, their motivations are never explained. 

There are also several threads introduced in this book that are completely dropped and never mentioned again. For example, that strange feral outside the police warehouse in Ben’s recollections. Why attract the reader’s attention to that? It’s never mentioned again. What was the point? I understand that we see this story through Ben’s eyes, and he can’t think past his own self-interest, but it just feels so… disjointed. And while there was a driving force behind this story – Miranda’s search for a cure, I’m afraid that this is truly destroyed now. 

Which brings me to this: while I enjoyed the fast-paced action of the first 2 books, I don’t feel the need to follow Ben’s character any further. He proved that he doesn’t change. It also doesn’t seem that we would learn more about the virus or find a cure for it in the next book, so I think I will say goodbye to this series right here and now.

Plague Birds by Jason Sanford

Stars: 2 out of 5

If you are looking for a book with a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and driven by memorable characters… this is not a story you are looking for. If you are looking for a mismatched bag of great ideas loosely wrapped into something resembling a story with characters that have the depth of cardboard, then by all means, give Plague Birds a try.

This was a very disappointing read. I was lured into this book by the excellent cover (I mean, seriously, look at this thing, it’s gorgeous) and a blurb that promised an interesting story set in a unique world. The world is unique, alright, and that’s why this gets 2 stars instead of 1, but the interesting story never materialized.

Instead, I felt like the author had a basketful of interesting concepts that  he really wanted to play with and include in the story, but he couldn’t quite figure out how to weave them into a coherent narrative, so he just tossed them all in, shook it a little and left the end result to chance. So we get villages governed by AI, cannibal monks in a monastery dedicated to preserving the knowledge of a lost human race, a forest that becomes sentient by torturing people who venture into it, and so on and so forth. Yes, those are fascinating and often horrifying concepts that were interesting to explore, but what they add to the main story is unclear.

Speaking of main story. I am still not sure what it was. What was the end goal here? Was it to discover the through behind the death of Crista’s mother? Was it to reach the city of Seed? Was it to catch the villain killing plague birds? The stakes are not clear, and there is no sense of urgency, so the story meanders along with Crista seemingly without purpose. Yes, they need to stop the Veil, but there isn’t a ticking clock to create a sense of urgency. They can hunt those people for hundreds of years without anything bad happening for all we know.

And I could have forgiven this lack of cohesive story if the characters I was forced to follow were interesting. Not the case here. I am still not sure I know Crista even after spending this journey with her. Despite this being told in first person from her point of view, the author does a very poor job actually showing us her thoughts, motivations and inner workings. 

This goes for all the other characters as well. In fact, this book is all tell and almost no show. We get flashbacks and infodumps galore. People react in ways that often puzzle me because the author never explained what made them tick. Though in the case of the main villain, I am not sure even the author knew what made him tick, because his motivation is thinner then rice paper. I mean, he could have killed Crista several times over, but he chose to mess with her mind and/or even help her instead. Why? Never explained.

Another big disappointment for me was that this book reads like a YA story. With all the typical YA shortfalls and tropes. Including insta-love (or should I say insta-lust?). Yet it’s not classified as YA on NetGalley or Goodreads. Had I seen that before I had requested this book, I would never have bothered. I have nothing against the YA genre. I just don’t read it.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Terminal Peace (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse 3) by Jim C Hines

Stars: 5 out of 5

This was an excellent ending to what turned out to be a very good series. I will definitely check out other books by this author, because as far as introductions go, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse knocked it out of the park.

This book effectively resolves the main issue of the first two books – the seemingly unresolvable Prodryan treat. How do you prevail over a species who considers all other species as inferior and the whole universe as their own playground, ripe for the taking? Where conquest is woven into the very DNA of a Prodryan? The only way to beat that is genocide, at least according to the Krakau Alliance. And we found out exactly to what lengths the Krakau are willing to go to accomplish that in the previous two books. But Marion “Mops” Adamapoulos and her crew might just have another solution…

I loved how unpredictable these books are. Every time I think I know the course which the story will take, the author manages to surprise me with a completely different resolution. I admit that I still have doubts about the feasibility of the solution proposed at the end of this book, but I admit that it’s beautifully accomplished. What solution? you might ask. Well, read the book to find out.

Mops also had a big obstacle to overcome in this book. One that is very personal and very terminal. It was both uplifting and bittersweet to embark on this journey with her and to see her slowly come to grips with her own condition and her place in the big picture. Mops grew a lot as a leader and a human being throughout the series. 

So did all the other characters as well. I was particularly impressed with how far Kumar came from the obsessive-compulsive cleaner he’d been in book 1. The great part is that he is still obsessive-compulsive, but he had matured as a person and discovered some inner depths that I frankly didn’t know he had. That’s the great thing about this series – the characters evolve and mature, but they fundamentally stay themselves. The growth is believable. They still act in character and the decisions they make are believable based on what we know of them. 

I admit that up until almost the end was wasn’t sure what kind of solution our crew would find to the Protryan problem short of full-on genocide or chemically altering an entire species which would also be a different kind of genocide. As I had mentioned earlier, the solution is quite beautifully done, even if I have doubts it would last long-term. I would be interested to see how it works out, if the author decides to revisit this world again in his later works. 

There are a number of characters I would like to follow up on, including Mops and all the Librarians on Earth. We end this book on a hopeful note, with a real cure for feral humanity. This is huge. How would that work out? A whole civilization to rebuild and hordes of feral humans to cure and re-educate. That’s a big task. Also, how will this new alliance work? How would the Prodryans interact with other species when they aren’t trying to conquer them?

All in all, this was a very good story – fast paced and full of twists and turns and engaging characters. And the Jynx are furry little balls of awesome.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Terminal Uprising (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse 2) by Jim C Hines

Stars: 5 out of 5.

The second book in the series didn’t disappoint either. It continues the story started in book 1 and amps up the stakes! 

The story picks up a couple months after the events of the last book where Mops and the crew of Pufferfish almost single-handedly saved the Krakau homeworld. Did they get thanked for that? Of course not. They are on the run, declared criminals in the Alliance. Their ship is falling apart and their future seems bleak. They really have no choice but to accept the highly illegal mission Admiral Pachelbel gives them in exchange for funds to keep the spaceship flight-worthy. Even if this mission brings them back to a place none of them wants to come back to – Earth.

We finally get to go back to Earth and the ruins of human civilization. And it’s made even more painful by the fact that we now know that humanity hadn’t destroyed itself, that the Krakau were directly responsible for destroying a whole civilization, then keeping it quiet for over 200 years.

It’s very interesting to see our ragtag band of characters confront this place of their biggest fears, but also grow and mature both as individuals and also as a group of people who had been thrown together by circumstances, but end up becoming a surrogate family. They count on each other, they understand each other’s flaws and strengths and they protect each other. That is wonderful to see in a book.

And of course, all the ingenious and non-standard ways they come up with to resolve some pretty dire situations is a delight to read about. Not to mention the dry and often dark humor that permeates this book and helps the reader and the characters survive some pretty horrible things.

I also loved the Librarians! It was a very nice touch to discover that not all humans turned feral. That a very small percentage of the population was immune to the Krakau venom. And that those survivors banded together not only to keep each other safe, but also to try and preserve all the knowledge of the human civilization for future human or whomever discovers Earth in the following centuries. It was also wonderful to see that the Librarians even had a program for helping feral humans.

It was wonderful to see those “non-altered” humans interact with our “cured” humans, because until that comparison, I didn’t fully realize just how different they were physiologically. Yes, if you look at it from the real humans’ perspective, the feral humans are basically zombies – lower body temperature, black blood that coagulates almost as soon as it touches the air, unable to feel pain, so they keep going even when the body is broken, and guided only by they most primal instincts. And restored humans keep all the physical attributes, but regain their intelligence on top of it. No wonder the rest of the galaxy fears those unkillable savages!

The story itself is also well-done in this book. This is the case where we can ask ourselves how far is too far when trying to save the world. Does the need of the many really outweigh the need of the few? Where is that thin line that separates us from the monster we are fighting against? I won’t spoil it any more than this. Just go read the book!

Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse 1) by Jim C Hines

Stars: 5 out of 5.

I think I discovered my new favorite space opera series! This book is funny, witty, and very-well constructed. We get alien races, world-shattering conspiracies, a galaxy on the brink of an all out war… and a group of janitors stuck in the midst of it all.

I really loved the fact that our would-be heroes are not highly trained infantry soldiers (well, apart from Monroe, who was infantry, but got injured so badly, half his body is is artificial). They are just a team of janitors on a spaceship that happen to be the only group still standing and in their right mind when a biological weapon is deployed against the entire crew. And even that is mostly due to chance. 

It’s interesting to see this group of people finding most unusual solutions to their problems and utilizing the full extent of their cleaning knowledge to effectively neutralize their reverted comrades without killing them, and to keep the giant ship afloat the best they can… not to mention, unearth a conspiracy, thwart a genocide and save an entire planet. I’d say that makes them pretty amazing, actually, especially for a species of aggressive monkeys that the rest of the aliens consider barely sentient.

Let’s mention that little twist, shall we? This story is set after humanity pretty much destroyed itself by turning all known humans into ferals. I would say it’s an equivalent of zombies, only the infected are not dead and do not decay. They are stronger, faster, don’t feel pain, can survive anything short of a decapitation… and are devoid of intelligence. They are basically driven by one instinct – hunt for food. And food can be anything – other humans, animals, aliens, trees, rocks, you name it. 

Once another alien species, the Krakau, figures out how to cure those feral humans, they realize that they have a loyal and virtually unstoppable army at the tip of their tentacles. No wonder the mere mention of humans instills fear in the hearts of other alien species. Only not everything is as it seems and humanity saviors might not be as innocent as they are portrayed to be. For more information on that matter, read the book.

I loved all the characters I encountered in this book, especially Mops and her crew. They have their own quirks, but they are all very relatable and likeable. and Puffy, don’t get me started on Puffy!

This is definitely a series worth reading for the story, the (somewhat dark) humor, the wonderful characters. I am definitely picking up book 2.

Exodus Towers (Dire Earth Cycle 2) by Jason M Hough

Stars: 3 out of 5

I am not too sure about this series, to tell the truth. My husband read all the books and loved them, and I am… struggling. 

I mean the premise is wonderful and the worldbuilding is cool, but there is just something missing for me. 

I think it’s just because all the characters are so cookie cutter. The main guys is all good and heroic. The villains are very black and white and villainous just for the sake of it, it seems. The female characters… with the exception of Samantha, they have no personality. They are just there to incite our protagonist towards a particular set of actions or a decision. Neither of them have any agency on their own. I was willing to overlook that in the first book, because it had the thankless task of establishing the world and setting up the protagonist. Plus, it was this author’s debut novel. It is however getting a lot harder to let that slide in this book. 

It doesn’t help that the story doesn’t go anywhere in a hurry. I had the impression that some episodes were added just because the author thought they would be cool, but they didn’t really advance the main story. Case in point, the attempted invasion of the camp by immunes. Yes, that was a heart-ponding conflict for the 100 pages it lasted, but it ultimately didn’t advance the story. The leader was killed, most immunes ran away, and the settlers were left to rebuild their community. What was the purpose of that? It has no impact that I could see on the main plot. It did make the book seem endless and meandering though.

As a result, the book didn’t accomplish half of what it set out to do, even after 540-some pages. Samantha’s story arc is barely started. We only recovered one out of five artifacts that fell on Earth in the first book. When I finished reading, I felt like this book was a half-finished tapestry with loose treads flapping in the wind. 

All in all, I don’t know if I will continue with the series. I mean, I still want to know why the builders did this to Earth and humanity, but I am starting to care less and less about the characters. I might check out the next book, just because I’ve already bought it, but if it doesn’t improve after that, I will call it quits.

Defiant (Towers Trilogy 2) by Karina Sumner-Smith

Stars: 5 out of 5

I remember absolutely loving Radiant, the first book in the series, so I came to this one with a certain amount of trepidation. Often the middle books in a trilogy are the weakest, because they only serve as a bridge between the beginning and the inevitable resolution in book 3. I’m glad to see that this was not the case with the Towers trilogy. The second book expands on the story of the first one and does an excellent job of showing us different facets of this world.

And what world it is! I think this is one of the most unique post-apocalyptical settings I’ve seen in books or movies. A world where the person’s inner magic is the currency by which they are judged. The more magically powerful you are, the better your life will be. The most magically-adept people live in the comfort of the floating Towers, the least magical people are forced to scrape by in the ruined Lower City sprawling under their shadow. And there are different strata within the Lower City as well. It’s a complex and fascinating system. There is even a version of zombies there, and I loved that their existence is given an explanation that makes sense. 

I love it when the world abides by the rules defined by the author, or there is a good explanation when those rules are broken. This is always a sign that the author put a lot of thought into the creation of their world and story, and I respect that. I also love slowly discovering those rules and learning more about the world the characters live in. This book gave me that in spades.

And I think both Xhea and Shai are excellent characters. I love their interactions and their friendship. It’s rare to find a YA book that focuses on a healthy female friendship instead of a romance. We need more of those. That friendship and attachment shines through the entire book even though Shai and Xhea spend most of it apart. This forced separation was used to advance the story. It made both Xhea and Shai confront their fears and insecurities and decide what they stand for. They both discovered that there are lines they are not willing to cross and that there are people they care about. 

We also learned a lot more about the origin of the Towers and Xhea’s black magic. And also about why things are so dire in Lower City despite the efforts of its citizens to make improvements. 

I am very interested to see the conclusion of this story in book 3. So far, this is one of my favorite series.