Category Archives: Post-Apocalyptic

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.

Wakers (The Side Step Trilogy 1) by Orson Scott Card

Stars: 2 out of 5.

DNF at 70%, so you darn right I’m leaving a review for this, since I put so much effort into this book!

I am very disappointed. I loved The Ender’s Game by the same author so I had high hope for this story as well. 

And the beginning was pretty good actually: intriguing and suspenseful. I was along for the ride with Laz, and even his constant monologue and the tendency to over-analyze every little thing to death wasn’t all that annoying at first. He was looking for answers, after all, and we, as the reader were looking for them with him. Yes, the pacing was rather slow, but I was willing to forgive that as long as I got the answers I was looking for in the end.

Then Laz finally wakes up Ivy… and things took a nosedive from there. 

First of all, the pace, which was already slow, became glacial. I mean the story progression grinded to a halt to be replaced by pages and pages of mindless and mind-numbing dialogue between two obnoxious teenagers. It was pointless. It wasn’t interesting. It didn’t bring ANYTHING useful to the story. It made my eyes roll back in my head and make me want to take a nap every time I opened the book. It’s an endless stream of verbal vomit between two people who I found more and more unlikeable the further in the book I got. 

Because most of the book is written in these horrible dialogues, the author does a lot of telling, but almost no showing. The characters debate scientific theories, explain to each other things that should be self-evident for them just so the reader can catch up with the science here. Problem is, the reader has checked out ten pages ago. 

I got no sense of the world, because the descriptions are almost non-existent. It’s all just Laz made a snide remark, Ivy retorted with something the author meant to sound smart, but just made her sound like a spoiled brat, Laz retaliated in the same fashion, blah, blah, blah…. twenty pages later we still haven’t learned anything new and the story hasn’t progressed an inch. Heck, I don’t even know what the dogs in the pack of four look like because mighty Laz didn’t care enough about it to talk about it.

I understand that this is a YA book, but I still didn’t particularly appreciate how all adults are described as complete idiots. Seriously, Laz and Ivy have this “better then everyone else” attitude to them when they talk to anybody else that would never have worked in the real world. You might be smart and possess a unique ability, but you are still a teenager, no you are a clone with fake memories, so if you talk to me this way, you will get smacked. I think that’s my biggest pet peeve with the author’s approach – you CAN create smart and resourceful teenagers without making them disrespectful at the same time. 

It made me hate the main characters more and more, and by the end I didn’t care about them or finding the answers to the big questions enough to read through the last 30% of obnoxious dialogue.

I will not continue with the series. I will definitely not recommend this book. And if this is the author’s new style of writing, I doubt I will try any of his newer book going forward. I’d rather re-read the Ender’s Game.

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

One Day All of This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovski

Stars: 4 out of 5.

This was a delightful little novella and a very nice introduction to the author, as far as first impressions go.

The story itself is quite an interesting take on time travel that I haven’t seen explored before, even though there is a certain logic to it. If someone was sent back in time to change the past, the present they come back to wouldn’t be like the one they left. And if they are sent again to change it back because say another faction changed something in the past to suit their agenda… well, there is no guarantee that the change they make will bring back the same present they were born in. 

So what you have left with in the aftermath of a time war is a bunch of time agents trying to fulfill the agenda of governments that don’t exist anymore, or have never existed, depending on the twists the time war took along the way. That just keep changing things and fighting each other through time because they have no present to come back to. In some cases, they never even existed in the new present, because their parents never met or they died when they were a child.

This is meaningless slaughter both of people and of the time continuum until one time agent realizes that time is already so irrevocably broken that fighting over it doesn’t make sense anymore. His solution? Eliminate all the other time agents, then eliminate anyone who might ever invent a time travel machine. Anywhere. Anywhen. It’s brutal, it’s ruthless, and it’s very in character with our protagonist.

He isn’t a nice person. I would go as far as call him a psychopath, but anyone who’d fought in a time war for endless iterations of said time would have to be. He sits in the bottleneck between the broken remains of the time that was before and doesn’t let anyone with time travel technology get past him into what will become after. And he is perfectly happy to enjoy his little paradise of now in solitude. Until a time traveler comes from that after and claims that he created their whole civilization…

It was a fun read, even though all the characters in it were equally awful. Like I already said, the protagonist is a killer with absolutely no remorse or scruples, and the people he is fighting against are coming from a society that is just as awful, so as a reader I couldn’t really root for either of them. They both deserved to be erased out of time for different reasons. Heck, the only character I was rooting for was the dinosaur, but that’s because how cool would it be to have a pet dinosaur?

But even thought the characters are awful, it’s a fun romp through the broken shards of time watching them heap horrible things on each other. The ending was not what I had expected, but I admit that it has a certain poetic justice to it. It also leaves the door open for a sequel.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read that kept my attention for an afternoon and I wouldn’t mind revisiting this if the author ever writes a sequel.

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

Glow by Tim Jordan

Stars: between 3 and 3.5 out of 5

This book has magnificent worldbuilding and a rather scary view of what the human race could become in the near future if we continue or technological race for “improvements” without stopping to consider just how much damage we do to our planet and to ourselves in the process. So yes, I had much fun exploring the world created in this book.

The characters, however, were another story altogether. Granted, there were some interesting ones, like Rex or Elaine up in her crumbling ivory tower of an orbital. The major problem though is that there were simply too many of them. It’s like the author tried to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks with this book. Too many ideas, too many plot lines, too many characters.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t give enough attention to ALL his characters, so while some character arcs get satisfying (or at least plausible) resolutions, others are left hanging or shoehorned into other character stories as an after thought.

For example, what was the point of Mira in this book, Beyond having Rex realize that he could care and defend someone other than himself? Why bring her back into the story over and over again?

What was the point of Jaxx by the way? It spends the whole book hunting down the star river and merrily murdering and disassembling humans along the way (granted, that was fun to watch and to read about its thought process while this was happening), but then, when he has the river… he lets it go? What was the point of this character and this particular storyline? In fact, what was the point of the confrontation between the orbital and the artificial construct up in space? It brings nothing to the story itself and dies in the most stupid manner in the end.

And there are a lot of examples of those headscratching characters whose motivations and importance to the story aren’t clear even in the end. That’s what happens when you try to tell too many stories in one book. General confusion and hanging plot lines…

Even the ending, despite its explosions, confrontations, and general destruction and mayhem, is underwhelming. It doesn’t bring any resolution to the story of the star river, the McGuffin that was so important to the future of mankind, or so we are told throughout the book… it stays inactivated in the brain of a man-dog. Oh, and why was it so important by the way? No real explanation apart from doom and gloom prophecies is given.

And what was the whole point of Glow, that drug that the book was named for? Again, no explanation is given.

In summary, I loved the world the author created, but the story itself was confusing and meandering and the ending failed to deliver resolution or any emotional impact. Apart from Elaine. She got exactly what she deserved.

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

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Stars: 5 out of 5

This is by far one of the best books I’ve read in 2020, and I have read over 90 books so far this year.

Here is the premise: multiverse travel is possible thanks to the technology discovered by a brilliant inventor on what is called Earth Zero. Unfortunately, in order to traverse the space between worlds and survive the integration into the new reality, the traveler needs to be dead on the other side. So basically, you can only travel to worlds in which the local version of you is already dead, otherwise it would be like trying to push yourself into a space that is already occupied. The results are… bloody and definitely fatal to the traversee.

So even though scientists are biting at the bit to go and explore different versions of reality, most of them come from wealthy backgrounds, which means they are alive in almost all those realities. So people from disadvantaged backgrounds make the best traversees. People who live in poverty and hunger, in war thorn villages, and places ravaged by disease.

Cara, our protagonist, is one of those people. She is dead in all but a handful of the 300 or so worlds that can be visited from Earth 0. She is worth something to the company she works for precisely because she is so worthless to the rest of reality that it’s a miracle she survived at all.

I loved Cara as a characters. She is deeply flawed and has a huge chip on her shoulder. She is convinced that she is worthless, that she is scum, that doesn’t deserve love, affection, or even happiness. Part of it is because of her upbringing, part of it is because she studied how all of the other versions of herself died, part of it is because she has a secret she is ashamed of.

This perception of unworthiness taints Cara’s view of everything in the world as well as her relationships with people she loves. And it’s infuriating and painful to watch sometimes. She immediately assumes the worse in any situation and acts on that assumption, often creating conflict where there wasn’t any or hurting people who didn’t mean any harm to her.

A lot of times I just wanted to shake her and tell her to just stop assuming and actually TALK to people. Especially when it comes to her relationship with Dell. She loves Dell, but she had decided that Dell doesn’t reciprocate the feeling, that she is either indifferent or flat out hates her instead. And she decided that without even talking to Dell about it. Really? A lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings could have been averted if those two had sat down and talked things through at least once.

It was very interesting and satisfying to see Cara grow as a person. She starts the book as someone only looking out for herself. Someone who is trying so hard to fit in with the citizens of the City that she is shunting everything that remind her of her roots. It’s very fulfilling to see her realize that those roots make her who she is now. That she is worthy of love and admiration as a person she is, not just as a commodity that can hop between worlds.

I like that by embracing those roots she realizes that there is only so much that her moral compass would let her do, and when she stumbles into a dangerous plot and has a choice to make between going along and living in comfort and being ashamed of herself for it, or going with her conscience and trying to stop the people responsible, and probably die in the process, she chooses the later.

There are a lot of important themes in this book. What is the value of human life? What length would you go to to pursue your dream? Can people change, and more importantly, can your perception of people change based on their actions?

And the most important message of all, I think – you can find happiness if you accept yourself fully, flaws and all.

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, and I found that message of hope was extremely timely and uplifting.

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

Dahlia black by keith thomas

Stars: 2 out of 5.

What attracted me to this book is its comparison with World War Z (the book, not the awful movie). I loved WWZ and its (then) new take on the zombie apocalypse. I loved that the author chose to tell the story of what happened AFTER the end of the world as we know it. That it was as much a tale of fighting the zombies as one of rebuilding a life in a new reality where they existed. So another story about civilization coping with a world-changing event and rebuilding after it – I was all in. 

Unfortunately, the only way this book IS like WWZ is that it’s a collection of fictional interviews and diary entries. It is also very, unimaginatively boring… I kept hoping that there would be some emotional reward or grand revelation if only I kept reading, but I turned the last page and the only thought in my head was, “why waste 288 pages on THAT?”

The whole story can be summed up in four steps. 1. There is a mysterious Pulse from space that alters human DNA. 2. About 30% of people are susceptible to the Pulse and change, becoming the Elevated. From those, about 1/3 die during the “transformation. 3. The surviving Elevated disappear from our reality into a parallel dimension during the Finality. 4. The other 70% of the world’s population learn to keep on living.  That’s it! Why drag this into 288 pages of boring accounts? Why rehash the discovery of the Pulse for 100 some pages? 

I guess the biggest problem with this book is that the author chose the wrong people to be his “voices” telling this story. His fictional book writer interviews scientists, members of the White House, the President, and other fellow journalists. None of them were the boots on the ground when all these events happened. They observed and reacted from afar. What made WWZ so great was that we read the accounts from people who survived those zombie attacks. So it felt like we were right there with them when the horror was unfolding. Here, we have several degrees of separation between the events and the people who tell about those events. So guess what? I don’t feel engaged. It’s a snooze fest instead.

Plus, all the major events the Pulse and the Elevation triggered are just summarized by the author. Give me the eyewitness accounts of the massacre of the Elevated Camp, don’t TELL me in a half-page summary that it happened. I don’t want to read 10 different interviews with Dahlia Black about her accidental discovery of the Pulse. I got the gist of it the first time around, thank you very much! You want to keep me engaged? Give me more eye witness accounts of the transformations. Give me survivor reactions. Don’t tell me that the world collapsed and is slowly rebuilding itself. SHOW me. Unfortunately, the author failed to do just that.

I also didn’t quite understand the need to insert this whole side story about the Twelve. It brought nothing to the main storyline and felt absolutely useless. 

To summarize, WWZ this is NOT. And definitely don’t compare it to the brilliant weirdness of the Southern Reach trilogy. This is just plain boring.

PS. I received an advanced copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Grand Dark by richard kadrey

Stars: 2 out of 5 (and that’s pushing it because at least the language is good)

I love the Sandman Slim series, so I really, REALLY, wanted to love this book… I was so excited to receive the ARC from Netgalley that I pushed all my other half-read books aside to start this as soon as possible. Unfortunately, my excitement soon turned into bewilderment, then annoyance, then boredom. I finished it only because I was already 75% done and felt like I’d already suffered enough torture to stick around and see the ending… which was nothing to call home about.

So what went wrong with this book? Oh where do I begin? Get comfortable, it’s gonna take a while.

First and biggest problem, in my opinion, is the pacing. NOTHING, and I mean, nothing happens in the first 3/4 of the book. The protagonist delivers some packages, then goes home to get high on drugs and have sex with his girlfriend. Rinse, repeat. for over 300 pages!!!

Then the action suddenly picks up around page 300 and we careen to the end at a neck breaking speed. It would be good if the pacing was justified, but it feels exhausting, almost as if the author suddenly realized that he only had 400 odd pages to tell the story and decided to cram all of it in the last 100 instead of editing the beginning and cutting most of the boring bits out. The action feels more like an outline that has been hastily fleshed out just enough to pass mustard. And the big reveal, final big bad, as well as the ending are underwhelming to say the least.

I might have been okay with the lack of story in the beginning if the protagonist was interesting enough to follow along with. But Largo is anything but. He is a doormat. He has no initiative. All his life he simply floats with the current thinking only about his next score or his girlfriend. He doesn’t DRIVE the story, he just floats along in the current. So when it’s not even clear where that current is going, this gets boring very fast.

And even when he actually decides to do something, he doesn’t actually have to work to accomplish anything. There are no real efforts on his part.

He needs to make an urgent delivery and his tires are slashed? Hey, perfect time for character growth and for the author to actually make him DO something to change his circumstance… But no, another courtier, who was never mentioned as being his friend, lends him her bike. Why? Because reasons only known to the author. Mostly, I suspect to move the story along.

He decides to go to Higher Proszawa, which is a battlefield and a quarantine zone off limits for everyone. Does he plan this trip? Does he, you know, gather supplies, investigate the means of getting there an back? Actually do something to get this done? Nope… He just mentions this to his friend Raineer and magically, everything is taken care off. He suddenly has money, and a weapon, and a convenient way in and out via a smuggler his friend knows. Everything handed to him on a sliver platter.

I could go on and on about this, but that would just be beating a dead horse. This character is as interesting as a doorknob. And he is the protagonist, which can tell you a lot about the other characters in this book. They are all cardboard cutouts that have a role to play to push the doormat Largo along. The girlfriend who has zero personality apart from being beautiful and in love with Largo. And her sole purpose in the story is to get captured to push the protagonist into action (or what passes for action for this one). The best friend and wounded veteran that conveniently still has all his contacts and can part with a wad of cash even though he lives in a dilapidated apartment on a meager government pension. And so on, and so forth.

And finally, the worldbuilding really sucks. We are told there was a great war that Lower Proszawa won, but we don’t know when that happened, and who they were fighting against. The other party is only ever mentioned as the Enemy. We also know absolutely nothing about the world outside of this city. I think one other “provincial” town is mentioned once, because a character was born there. Other than that, the rest of the world might as well not exist at all.

In fact, at one point, I even wondered if Lower Proszawa was actually a purgatory for all the souls that died in the war. That would have explained the lack of information about the outside world or why the details of the Great War are so fuzzy, or why they live in constant fear of a new war… Now that’s a twist I would have welcomed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be.

What we have instead is a sub-par story with a boring protagonist in a barely fleshed out world. Very disappointing book from the author of Sandman Slim series. I definitely won’t recommend it. Save your money and your time for other books.

The last policeman by ben h. winters (the Last policeman book 1)

Stars: 5 out of 5

Wow, that’s the most different pre-apocalypse book I ever read.

What do you do when the end of the world is coming in just 6 months and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent it? A huge meteor is on collision course with the Earth and it will hit, it’s a 100% probability, the only uncertainty is where the point of impact will be. But even that doesn’t really matter, because what isn’t destroyed during impact, will slowly die in the nuclear winter that will follow as the catastrophe puts enough debris in the atmosphere to obscure the sun for decades. So 6 months to expiration date for the human race.

How do you cope? Some people walk out on their jobs and go through their bucket list. Some people find fate and religion, or join a cult. Some commit suicide (there is a lot of those). Officer Palace is dead set on solving a murder. Despite the fact that nobody seems to give a damn about it anymore, despite the slowly crumbling infrastructure, and even faster crumbling social structures. He will solve that murder because this is what keeps him sane while the days count down to the final big impact.

I loved the main character in this story, how obstinate he was in solving this murder, despite anything and everything. How desperately he clings to police procedures, rules and regulations. Because that’s what helps him cope with the end of the world.

I also loved the other characters we encounters, each one representing a different way of coping with the inevitability of death. Some drink, some do drugs, some just give up and wait to die, and some cling to any sliver of hope they can find, even the maddest one.

I also liked that despite certain violence in this book, the world didn’t dissolve into bloody chaos. People are still mostly decent to each other. Things are still getting done. Some people still come to work, mostly because what else would they do? Sit at home and wait to die?

It’s that air of melancholy that surprised me the most about this book. Yes, Henry solves his murder case in the end, but does that really matter? Does any of it matter when the Earth will die in 6 months? And the sad part is – he knows that it doesn’t matter to anyone but him either.