Book: Revelations (Book Two of the Naermyth Series)

"Revelations"

It’s been six months after the events in Capiz. Athena fears her developing powers, knowing it’s only a matter of time before she loses control.

Meanwhile, the tension between Naermyth and humanity is growing. Macky believes Mamon is again engaged in shady operations. When Athena is sent to Intramuros to investigate, she triggers a chain of events that pit her against an entity far more malevolent than anything she’s ever encountered.

Full disclosure: I didn’t reread the first Naermyth book before cracking this book open. I wanted to see how this book holds up, considering it’s been a decade since Naermyth, the book it’s following, came out. That, and because I didn’t really have the time.

Good news: it’s easy to jump into the action. Although Revelations references a lot of events from the first book, it also provides enough context to make sure the readers understand what’s going on. I do have to admit that I got confused about how characters were related to everyone–but that was only in the beginning. Author Karen Francisco gave each character, especially the supporting ones, a broad enough stroke that you can pinpoint who they are in relation to our heroine.

And now comes the bad part–

Although my memory of Athena Dizon as she was in the first book is hazy, I still prefer her there than who she has become in Revelations. There’s a good chance this is nostalgia talking, but I thought Francisco handled Athena’s stoic nature better in Naermyth. In this book, I felt like the author relied a little too much on the reader being privy to Athena’s thoughts to justify her actions.

And speaking of being privy to Athena’s thoughts– I have a bone to pick with Revelations being in first-person. I admire how Francisco handled foreshadowing, and planting things to make certain twists not come left-of-field… But it made Athena’s character weak. We establish that she’s smart and savvy, that she notices a lot of things–and because the book is in first person, she takes note of Francisco’s planted plot devices too. So when the twists finally come, and Athena is taken aback, it makes her look stupid. She already noticed the discrepancies. Why wasn’t she able to put two and two together? (This was also my concern with Pierce Brown’s Morning Star.)

Athena’s character and the first-person perspective aside though, Revelations does show Karen Francisco’s growth as a writer. This book had better plotting and pacing, there’s a better sense of urgency and gravity, and most importantly, although this book is double the size of the first book–it’s an even faster read.

Francisco has improved exponentially as a story-teller. Her editors, on the other hand, might want to take another pass at the book, because some of the typos were jarring.

So was Revelations a good sequel to Naermyth? Yes. Was its release worth the wait? Yes. Does it end on another cliffhanger? Well… the fact that they’re calling it the second book off a series should answer your question.

All I’m hoping for now is that Francisco and Visprint don’t let another decade pass before the next book comes out.

(Disclaimer: A decade didn’t pass between the two books. I was exaggerating. But it has been almost eight years since Naermyth came out.)

Book: Zom-B City

"Zom-B City"

After escaping a secret military complex amid the zombie apocalypse, B roams the streets of a very changed London, dirty and dangerous and eerily quiet, except for the shuffling of the undead. Once again, B must find a way to survive against brain-eating zombies–and now also against those who have seized control of the city. With danger lurking around every corner and no one to trust, B has to decide whether to join the creepy Mr. Dowling in exchange for his protection. When everyone around you is dead, where do you turn for help?

The synopsis makes it look as if there’s a lot happening in this book. That’s a lie. Zom-B City spends most of its pages on developing the character of our protagonist, whilst setting up the world that was hidden from us in the previous book.

Oh, and we get another creepy visit from the aforementioned Mr. Dowling.

To be perfectly honest, I think we could have done without this book. The entirety of this could be summarized into three or four chapters, and added into the previous book–or to the next one.

I kind of want to blame the format for this lackluster book. Author Darren Shan promised twelve books for the Zom-B series. He’s probably plotted out what happens in each book prior to writing the first one (or the second one). And he probably thought this third book would have more going for it. And then discovered too late that it wouldn’t be as plot-driven as he thought it would be.

I thought I wouldn’t mind, to be quite frank. Jonathan Maberry’s Flesh & Bone was not very plot-driven either, and I loved the book. But when I compare the third book of Rot & Ruin to Zom-B‘s, the latter comes up short. Because Maberry has us rooting for a group of characters who are dealing with grief, with changing world views, before delivering an emotional punch in the end.

Shan’s work, on the other hand, is more concerned about how the next twist is going to blow the minds off his readers. It’s a good thing that B, as a character, is very engaging.

It’s just harder to be invested in her, because there’s no sense of threat against B. She’s the solo character in a series. She doesn’t have any friends (not anymore) who we can like and feel scared for.

Zom-B has lost its emotional impact. And that’s not a good thing when your market is already being infested by a million other zombie titles.

But I’m not discounting the merits of the book. It’s still very well-written, and the characterization of B is still topnotch.

I just hope the next book would be better.

Now, let’s find out what other bloggers have said about the book:
Cheezyfeet Books
The Book Zone (for Boys)
The Book Gazer

Book: The 100

"The 100"

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents–considered expendable by society–are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life…or it could be a suicide mission.

Clarke was arrested for treason, though she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. Wells, the chancellor’s son, came to Earth for the girl he loves–but will she ever forgive him? Reckless Bellamy fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only siblings in the universe. And Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind’s last hope.

It’s not bad… It’s just not very good either.

I picked The 100 up because I thought the premise was interesting. A new take on Lord of the Flies, with juvenile delinquents instead of super powered freaks or super geniuses. A group of one hundred teens given the chance to start their lives anew after leading a ruined one prior to their do over.

Thing is… the premise remained a promise, and not much more.

Kass Morgan’s The 100 is character-oriented. Unfortunately, aside from Bellamy, the characters we are saddled with are as bland as can be. Main protagonist Clarke has an interesting background that is killed by her total lack of personality; love interest Wells is a vanilla version of The Hunger Games‘ Peeta; and Glass, the character whose story is separate from the rest of the group, is a formulaic Juliet.

It’s a good thing that the story is very plot-driven. That’s what will keep you moving from page to page, wanting to know what happens next. The whodunnits, the hows, the whats, the whys… It’s almost a complete package–it really just lacked the ingredient that would make it a powerful book: characters you understand and would want to empathize with.

Now, the driving force between each character are very well-defined. One has no choice, the other is doing it for the girl he loves, another is doing it for his sister, and the last did what she did in the name of love. Unfortunately, the author seems to have stuck to this defining characteristics and doesn’t give much room for other personality traits to come in. It says something when the one character you feel affinity for is the character with the anger management problem.

Again, I would like to reiterate that the novel isn’t bad. It really isn’t. It’s just too colored-by-the-numbers. The 100 is just another dystopian fiction that has riffs of Lord of the Flies. It doesn’t have that special political flavor of The Hunger Games, the heart-wrenching drama of The Maze Runner, or even the attempt at realism in the Gone series. If Kass Morgan wants a hit on her hands, she would need to step up the game in the second book.

And if she has no plans of killing off the characters who are still in the ship? She might want to bring them down soon. The ship story is extremely boring.

Now, let’s find out what other people have said about the book!
A Dream of Books
Xpresso
Proud Book Nerd

Book: Fire & Ash

"Fire & Ash"

Benny Imura and his friends have found the jet and Sanctuary–but neither is what they expected. Instead of a refuge, Sanctuary is a hospice, and the soldiers who flew the plane seem to be little more than bureaucrats who have given up hope for humanity’s future.

With Chong hovering between life and death, clinging to his humanity by a thread, Benny makes a startling discovery: A scientist may have discovered a cure for the zombie plague. Desperate to save Chong, Benny and his friends mount a search-and-rescue mission. But they’re not the only ones on the hunt: The reapers are after the cure too, and they want to use it to wipe mankind off the face of the earth.

Before we go any further, I need you to understand one thing: I cannot say anything bad about this series. No, I’m not biased. I really just can’t say anything bad about Rot & Ruin nor its succeeding sequels.

The bad thing about this is that my hopes were impossibly high when Fire & Ash was announced. I tried to keep the expectations down, because we all know how hard it is to conclude anything. But it was impossible. I had impossibly high hopes for Fire & Ash. Impossibly high.

And the book met my expectations. I don’t know about exceeding expectations, but meeting my really high hopes was enough for me.

Right. We’re taking a break from Filipino Fridays this week because I really need to get this out. Fire & Ash, and the Rot & Ruin series, is now officially my choice for definitive zombie fiction. Tied with World War Z. It has the right amount of horror, of suspense, of action, of comedy, of romance, and most importantly of drama. Because, let’s be honest, while you can have a good book without drama, it won’t be great unless you feel for the characters. It won’t be definitive unless the character’s plight become real for you.

When your characters are in a fictional future dealing with zombies, and you can still feel the plight? Hello, you impressive author. Here I am with the highest award I can give to anyone: my undying devotion to anything you will publish. While I’m still a big Christopher Golden fan, I think Jonathan Maberry is my master of horror now.

Now, before I go on and write about my reaction to the book, I just want to say one more thing first. I love how the Rot & Ruin series never wastes a single book on filler. (Yes, Michael Grant’s Gone series, I am throwing shade at you right now.) We can say that Dust & Decay, the third book, would be a good candidate for being the filler in this series, but it’s not. If it is, then it’s the best filler book out there. Because while nothing much advances in terms of plot, the book completely makes up for it in how the characters develop.

But this post is not about Dust & Decay. It’s about Fire & Ash. The last book. The finale.

This is where the world, as we’ve come to know it, burns.

Right from the first page, answers are given. What happened to Chong after the last book ended? What is Sanctuary? What is done inside Sanctuary? Well, that one is answered more subtly, but once you get to the point where it’s explain more explicitly, you realize that the answer was already given very early on.

The biggest question though, of what is going on in the reclamation of the world from the dead? That one is explored more carefully. And without forgetting that villains have been introduced in the last book. Villains that need to be taken care of.

If there’s suspension of disbelief that’s to be made, it’s in how teenagers are able to disarm and beat grown men who are just as trained as they are in the arts of war. But after four books, are we really going to start questioning this now?

Fire & Ash is plotted well. Never did I question where the book was going, and never did I become frustrated at how long it was taking certain characters to go where they need to go. Characters were talking. Actions were being taken.

There were no obvious over-drawing of events just so the series could be extended. There were no repetitions. And characters, all of them flawed, acted in tune to the characteristics they were introduced with. They grew, yes. But they did not become different people. They didn’t suddenly develop amorality or bipolar disorders.

And although the book introduced a new point-of-view, it didn’t detract from the overall experience. In fact, it added suspense and amped up the fear you felt for characters we were already introduced to.

Let’s just say that all the characters we’ve come to know were all serviced well. And that there was a reason for everything.

And I can’t believe I’ve missed the nod to The Walking Dead until now. That was some quick-draw.

I’m all out of words now, so let’s see what other people have already said about the finale book of the Rot & Ruin series:
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Doubleshot Reviews

Now, while you read those, I’m going to see if I can find some free time in my schedule to reread the whole series again.

Movie: World War Z

"World War Z"

The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.” — (C) Paramount

It really helps to lower expectations when watching movies you’ve been looking forward to. Then again, it helps even more when the adaptation spins off a story that you’re not familiar with. It doesn’t invite comparisons.

That said, when I heard about World War Z being turned into a book, I was skeptical. I loved the format of the novel. I loved how it was vignettes set upon a post-apocalyptic future where people are hopeful, but more wary. Turned into a movie, I was expecting something akin to a documentary.

And then Brad Pitt and a big budget came into the picture.

Obviously, a documentary wouldn’t fare well in theaters as much as a blockbuster-formula movie would. So from the post-World War Z setting, the action was transplanted into the time when the plague was just beginning, but already spreading at an incredible speed.

It’s not perfect, but it succeeds at one thing: it’s compelling.

In the movie, we follow Brad Pitt’s character as he goes from country to country in search for an answer, any answer, to what people can do about the zombie plague. I found it odd that they chose to change the location of patient zero, but it wasn’t a jarring change. Just odd. The country they chose to move patient zero to still fit the profile of the original locale. Overpopulated.

The only thing I have against the new locale is its land coverage. I mean, the original locale was huge. It makes sense that the plague started slow and escalated. The new locale they chose for patient zero is known for being… cramped. The plague would have spread faster. No country would’ve been able to have prepared itself.

Well, except North Korea. And they kept that part from the book.

I’m not a fan of how they solved the zombie problem too. But that doesn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the film, so I guess it’s not a major qualm for me. What’s important is that, even after getting annoyed at the number of ads that preceded the movie, I enjoyed it. And I didn’t feel like I wasted the money I spent on the movie ticket.

So well done, World War Z.

Now, I’m going to read the book again because I still like it better. Ha ha.

Before I completely go though, I have to raise this concern: why are SM Cinemas showing ads before they start airing the film you go in for? We’ve already paid for the film with our ticket, why do we have to pay for it again by watching the ads?

Book: The Kill Order

"The Kill Order"

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and destroyed the world mankind took for granted.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it–if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. ANd to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

I thought there would be more to The Kill Order than what we get, but for what it’s worth, it’s a good book–just don’t expect too much.

The Maze Runner is one of the best novels I’ve read recently, but I thought the sequel and the finale didn’t live up to the promise of the trilogy’s premise. Especially since the source of all the discord and drama barely gets touched upon. So I was happy that there was The Kill Order to fill in the blanks.

Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on how you look at it–James Dashner focuses on human interaction instead of conspiracies. And so our supposed answer, The Kill Order, to the questions left behind by The Maze Runner trilogy falls short of actually answering questions. What we’re left with, after the trials and misadventures we take in this prequel, are suppositions of what might have happened in between the end of this book, and the beginning of The Maze Runner.

Now, I’ve always harped about how character development is more important than original twists and turns. And if we’re judging The Kill Order by character development alone, it hits full marks. But take the book out of the its environment, take The Maze Runner trilogy out of the equation, and you get a story about a boy who would do anything to save the girl he loves. It’s nothing special. And set in the background of a Post-Flare world, you would have no idea what was going on unless you’ve already read the trilogy that spawned this prequel.

While character development is important, I think it’s also important for a prequel to be able to stand apart from its series–especially if it’s populated by unknown characters, and happens before the events of the series that warranted it.

So would I recommend The Kill Order? Sure. If you’re already a fan of The Maze Runner trilogy–or, at the very least, have already read the series. If you haven’t, you might want to skip this one until after you have done so.

Of course, as I always say, all these are just my thoughts. Feel free to browse the ‘net to find what other people have to say about the book:
I’d So Rather Be Reading
Blog Critics
My Books. My Life.

Book: The Death Cure

"The Death Cure"

Thomas knows that WICKED can’t be trusted. They stole his memories and locked him inside the Maze. They forced him tot he brink of death by dropping him in the wilds of the Scorch. And htey took the Gladers, his only friends, from him.

Now WICKED says that the time for lies is over. That they’ve collected all the date they can from the Trials and will rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission: to complete the blueprint for the cure for the Flare. But they must undergo one final test.

What WICKED doesn’t know, however, is that Thomas has already remembered far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what WICKED says.

The time for lies is over. And the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever have imagined.

And so the Maze Runner trilogy ends. I love endings. Especially when they’re as engaging as The Death Cure. Of course, as you might be used to by now, I still have concerns–but overall, I thought this book was absolutely brilliant.

Let’s begin with what I didn’t like though:

For two books, we’ve been very much in the dark about what’s going on. With this being the last book in the trilogy, and with the wrap-up imminent, I was hoping that author James Dashner would trust us readers with more of the truth. But he doesn’t.

Thing is, unlike The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure doesn’t dwell on Thomas’s hunches and hurt ego. And that’s good. This time, when we do get glimpses of the truth, they’re treated as information-sharing–and Thomas pretty much shares everything he learns with his friends from the get go.

What I really don’t understand though is Thomas’s aversion to the return of his memories.

Before I complete go into this, I must warn you that there will be spoilers.

All right, back. Straight off, Thomas refuses the offer of having his memories returned. At first, I really did think that WICKED has something wicked planned for the Gladers once they allow for their memories to be returned. And I was all right with Thomas’s decision.

The thing is, even before the action really begins, the people who did choose to take their memories back did get their memories back–with no side effect. Thomas’s refusal only served to cut him (and a few others) off from the bigger group.

On the one hand, it maybe the smarter decision as a writer to break a smaller group off for us readers to follow. But I must say, it was very frustrating as a reader to still be kept out of the loop–in the final book of a trilogy that was steeped in conspiracies!

I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book more had the author been more up front with answers. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as good. But that’s neither here nor there now, isn’t it?

The book is far from perfect: there were questions left unanswered, things that came left off field. There’s even one side story that is completely forgotten until the memo at the end mentions it again. The ending is a little too perfect. But the bottom line is this: The Death Cure delivered a good story.

I just hope The Kill Order, the prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy, delivers good answers.

Now, let’s see what other people have written about The Death Cure:
Dead Trees and Silver Screens
Mundie Moms
Nose in a Book
YouTube Review: megs3493