Adult Fiction · Book Review · Science Fiction

Station Eleven

SEbyESJMIn a matter of days the world has ended. A pandemic, a disease that kills a victim within 48 hours, has left 99% of the world’s population dead. The survivors spend the rest of their lives scraping by, forever changed by the tragedy. In this post-apocalyptic world there is a troupe of traveling actors and musicians who call themselves The Traveling Symphony. When they aren’t protecting themselves from bandits they perform Shakespeare and play music for townspeople they come across.

I loved the sound of this book when I read the blurb and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I can definitely see how it isn’t for everyone. There isn’t much action or suspense. It is a quiet read that is primarily about life. The narrative follows the lives of a few characters in the events leading up to and their lives after the pandemic. The plot jumps back and forth in time and the story is split between past and present events for a while. Eventually the two plot lines meet up as the novel comes to a close. The amount of characters that are introduced does become a little overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem since only a handful really need to be remembered.

I can also understand how some readers may find this novel to be a slow read. Personally, I found it to be a page turner. I was invested in the lives of the main cast. I would call this novel very character driven. If you cannot connect with or find the characters interesting you may not have the same pleasant experience I had while reading it. The novel explores many concepts of humanity and civilization through the characters’ stories more than it deals with the event of the pandemic itself. It makes you think and it scares me. The pandemic, losing loved ones, and civilization crumbling doesn’t feel too far from a possible reality.

The writing is beautiful. The scenes the words paint is both depressing and inspiring. The imagery and character development is spot on. The only thing I really want from this novel is just more. I want more details about the post-pandemic world. I want to know more about different cities, what happens to my favorite characters, and how the world is changed. The novel does explain many of these things in considerable depth, but I still want more! This novel is definitely one of my all time favorites now.

Adult Fiction · Book Review · Science Fiction

Wolf in White Van

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I’m not sure what I expected from Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle. The summary on the jacket says that Sean, who is horribly disfigured by an accident, makes a text based role-playing game for others to play. He is reclusive because of his disfigurement so the game is how he makes money. However, a couple of kids take the game a little too far and take the game into the real world. This causes problems for them and for Sean.

Saying anything else would ruin some of the mystery, but the game and the kids aren’t the driving force of the novel. I was hoping for something more about the game or some details about exactly what the kids did. These details are vague at best. Since the novel is told from Sean’s point of view and the writing style is sort of stream-of-consciousness we learn a lot about him. However, the driving force of the novel is something a bit deeper than any character. I think that it is a difficult novel to get into if you’re looking for a conventional narrative. From what I could tell it appears that the novel is questioning the influence the media has on violent acts. This question is woven beneath Sean’s story.

This novel is difficult for me to review. The writing is quite good, Sean is well developed, and the topic is interesting to explore. I wouldn’t say that I particularly loved the novel, but I appreciate what it is and it is thought provoking.

Adult Fiction · Book Review · Graphic Novels/Manga/Comics · Science Fiction

Saga

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So. This is amazing. You’ve probably heard of Saga (written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples) and you’ve probably heard people rave about it. I’d heard it all too and I was reluctant to give it a go because of the hype. But I’m glad I did because for me it was really, really worth it.

I’d read Vaughan’s Pride of Baghdad a few years ago and really liked it so I was confident of the writing. Staples’ artwork looked beautiful from what I’d seen online and the first three volumes were 20$ all together on sale so I couldn’t argue with the price. So, here I am on the hype train. Chugga, chugga, choo, choo!

Anyway, the writing and characters are just spot on. They are witty, fun, and fresh. There’s a enough sassy women, legless floating ghostly teens, lie detecting cats, assassins, and cute goat boys to go around. If you’re not OK with some weirdness and nudity then you probably will be turned off by this series though. There’s some weird things… like TV headed robot people having sex and huge naked giants with large genitalia, but trust me it is all in good fun! It’s just so SO good. I’ve dropped extremely heavy hints about wanting the next volumes for Christmas. Now excuse me while tie my hands behind my back and try not buy them before the 25th.

Update: I failed. I bought volume four and five during a black Friday deal. And yes, the series is still awesome in case you were wondering.

Adult Fiction · Book Review · Science Fiction

Never Let Me Go

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Have you ever picked up a book knowing that it is going to be a tough read? You know you are going to feel a lot of things while you read it and they might be uncomfortable feelings. I had a sense that Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro would be like this even though I went in blindly when I read it. I was right. I didn’t cry, but at the end I just kind of sat there and stared at the closed book. I took a day or so to think on it before I tried to write this post. My thoughts might make a little more sense now. Maybe.

I’ve read The Remains of the Day and The Buried Giant by Ishiguro and they both feel foggy to me. Not everything is explained. I feel like there is a fog around the plot and characters. The fog begins to clear as you read, but your “vision” is still slightly fringed on the edges by the end. I like that about Ishiguro, but some people do not. I like having open ends and questions. It keeps me thinking about the text even days, weeks, or months later.

As I said I went in not knowing anything about the plot except for what was on the back of the book. The description of the plot was vague though and in case anyone reading this hasn’t read the book I won’t spoil anything. Not knowing anything about the book is really the best way to go into it. One of the most interesting things while reading the book was guessing exactly what is going on with the students. You get hints here and there, but things aren’t spelled out until the very end. Even then I had some questions about certain things, but I felt like it was summed up pretty well. I felt like the world was built up just enough, but I would have been happy to see more of it too.

In my opinion one of Ishiguro’s strengths is building characters. A character in the novel would do something very small and I would be reminded of people I knew or even myself. The characters felt real, familiar, and very human. Some people might find the characters in Never Let Me Go passive or flat, but I don’t feel that way. Sometimes a character might not say something they feel or cover their feelings with anger or they may misdirect the conversation. This may make them feel like they are unable to be strong or proactive in their lives, but I don’t see it that way. People do that sort of thing all the time in real life. The characters in this novel are dealing with some very serious things and their culture is against them. They can’t make sweeping changes. This isn’t a fairy tale where happy ending always come when things look darkest. It is a story about society, reality, and life. It makes you question things about your world.

This is a heavy book that will spark discussion. I loved it even though I was left emotionally disturbed. It is definitely worth a read if you can stand a rather slow pace and the “fog” I mentioned above.