Book: Zombinoy, Season 1

"Zombinoy: Season 1"

I love zombies. Which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, that I would pick up the Zombinoy title. I didn’t even look at the synopsis, I just saw the title and the cover–and I bought the first issue.

I didn’t think there was anything to write about Zombinoy back in May though. At the time, while I saw the potential in the title, I didn’t really think it had enough to merit an actual discussion. It defined the premise, and it presented its take: the world goes to hell but we still have human drama to make everything colorful. It was a selling point, but not the whole story.

Fast forward to a few months later, and the people behind Zombinoy releases the two other issues that would complete their first “season.” And while I’m still not completely sold, I am intrigued as to where they’re planning to take the story.

What is Zombinoy? It’s your typical zombie apocalypse, complete with a healthy cast full of drama, set in the Philippine setting.

We have a number of main characters who have yet to show any distinguishable traits, and a villain that’s supposedly scarier than zombies–bureaucrats.

So far, the only thing redeemable about the title is a character that starts out annoying and becomes a bit of a comic relief by the time the third issue rolls around.

Our main couple, Paulo and Clara, are so far one-dimensional and their respective families have been defined more by the roles they play and not the characteristics they possess. Well, there was that one scene with Ryan, Paulo’s brother, which was supposed to be a deviation of his stereotype. Except his stereotype wasn’t well-defined to begin with.

And then there are the other characters, the ones who are supposed to make things interesting. They don’t. One group of survivors seem to have been able to commandeer a ship, save dozens of the impoverished, and set up a semblance of a political structure in the same span of time it takes Paulo and Clara to go up and down the North Luzon expressway. Then there’s the villains.

I don’t know if the writer/s of Zombinoy is planning a twist that would put all twists to shame, but from the picture being painted in the three issues released so far, the villains are pretty clear cut. Black and white. And boring. So very boring.

Of course, I didn’t really expect much from the title when I picked it up. The one thing important to me at the time was that it was about zombies, and that it was set in the Philippines. It delivered on both accounts. Now, if it’s not too much to ask from the writer/s, I want the next “season” to surprise.

Now, let’s see what other people have written about the title:
Jumper Cable
Daily Blurbs

Book: Hunger

"Hunger"

Food ran out weeks ago and starvation is imminent. Meanwhile, the normal teens have grown resentful of the kids with powers. And when an unthinkable tragedy occurs, chaos descends upon the town. There is no longer right or wrong. Each kid is out for himself and even the good ones turn murderous.

But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

After reading the first book, there was only one thing that I found myself caring little about: the powers. While important, it played so little into the unfolding stories of the book–save for the battle scenes that, I must admit, were really cool. But there were seeds planted in Gone that fully blooms here in the second book. After the battle of good and evil, where good seemingly won, the battle moves inward. With the normal kids fighting against the super-powered ones.

Hunger continues to tell its story with an ensemble cast. Unlike in the first book though, this one introduces a sub-story starring one of the smaller characters in the first book, Albert, which I want to discuss first.

Back in Gone, I liked the character of Albert because he was a normal kid whose common sense was a breath of fresh air from all the super-powered shenanigans happening all over the place. And, for the most part, that remains unchanged. For the most part. The awkwardness that stemmed from being the runt of a huge family seems to have disappeared. This makes sense because he’s slowly finding his place in town. But the common sense that separated him from the other characters in the first book seems to be giving way to ambition in Hunger. And I must say, I don’t like where it seems to be going.

It’s gradual. Albert, for the most part, still has great ideas for their community. The plans he execute are actually very smart. Too smart for a teenager, but we’ll suspend our disbelief. But the last leg of his Hunger journey has me scratching my head. In what universe is it smart to use bullets as currency? Especially around kids who are ready to wage war against each other? Where there are guns aplenty, and no one is regulating their use?

That way leads to a lot of stupid mistakes. And I can’t believe this came from Albert. Unless the author reveals a sudden twist in the next book where Albert was replaced by an agent of darkness. Who knows.

The reason why I bring up this sub-story is because I feel like this will play a bigger role in the next books. Much like the other sub-story that, I feel, should’ve been the one in the spotlight: the normals versus the freaks.

It’s discrimination. There are no pretensions about it, as one character explicitly points it out. And in a post-apocalyptic setting where mob mentality rules the mostly kid population? It’s a very interesting premise that, I feel, falters in the end. No one even dies.

I’m sure there are reasons for there no being casualties. And I don’t think author Michael Grant is afraid of killing off characters, as evidenced in the first chapter of this book. But I do feel that something bigger should’ve happened with this story before the book ended. I just hope there’s more to this storyline in the next book.

With the sub-stories aside, let’s move on to the main plot: which is hard to put into paper. You have Sam who is dealing with leadership issues, Caine who is holding on dearly to his crumbling dictatorship, and then there’s the Darkness–and its hold on a number of our main characters, and its plans of being released out of the mine shaft.

In the first book, the Darkness felt a little tacked on. Again, as I said, the powers really do feel like a latch on in Gone. But in this book, the Darkness is explored further as a character. Sort of. It’s definitely used more to explore the characters of Lana the healer and Caine. Which, I thought, was a great use for the monster in the shaft. Just not a very complete use. I mean, by the end of the book, it felt like the Darkness was one of the monsters that the Power Rangers fought week after week, presented as the strongest force, as something to fear–and then defeated by the end of an episode.

Unless, again, it plays a bigger role in the next book. How? I don’t know as I haven’t started reading the third book yet.

What I really want to discuss though is Sam’s character.

Sam who was an amazing flawed protagonist in the first book mutated into something of a whiny baby in Hunger. Aside from the first chapter, I don’t think there was a single scene in which Sam did not complain about his circumstances. Sure, he didn’t ask to be made leader–but he accepted it. And while it’s understandable for him to feel the pressure of the job, we didn’t have to be reminded of it every single time he appears.

It reached a point when I sought refuge in the scenes that revolved around other characters. Even horribly underused new characters who seemed to have been introduced just to serve as canon fodder.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading the book, but it’s not exactly the most perfect book written. But, I must say, Hunger being not perfect makes it the perfect book to have discussions with. And it’s not like the book turned me off the series. I already bought the third and fourth book, actually.

Now, let’s see what other people have said about this book:
Reading Writing Breathing
Georgia Summers
Books4Hearts
YouTube Review: beardude37

Book: Gone

"Gone"

Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is no way to get help.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents–unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers–that grows stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent.

I love getting into a new series when they’re about to release the last book. Especially when the series turns out to be quite enjoyable. Like Michael Grant’s Gone series.

Admittedly, I’ve never really thought about picking up the book at all, if it weren’t for an acquaintance’s recommendation. No, it’s not the story I had a problem with, the not-picking-up-the-book part? That was literal. I’ve never actually gotten to the part where I’ve read the synopsis at the back.

So what put me off? What else? The cover. Released during the heyday of Gossip Girl and the likes, the Gone series looked like it belonged in that genre. And that genre never appealed to me.

Well, there is a reason why we have the saying “don’t judge the book by its cover.”

Sure, Gone isn’t exactly ground-breaking. It’s teens with superpowers. Sounds familiar? Of course it would. It’s one of the most popular trope in the current landscape of the young adult genre. And it doesn’t even utilize the super power trope all that well in this book. In fact, I’ll even say that the powers aren’t all that important in this book at all.

But what makes this book work is because the author created characters that actually breathe. Michael Grant introduces us to a high school of stereotypes, and turns that around in its head before the first chapter ends.

We have two central characters–the reluctant leader, Sam, and the charismatic Caine. And around them, we have other characters that are split into two camps: the kids of Perdido Beach, and the ones who are still in Coates Academy.

Notice how I didn’t say main character. That’s because while Sam and Caine are important in the fabric of the story, their main character status is on the same level as many of the other characters. It’s an ensemble cast.

Now, I know that stories with an ensemble cast of characters have a tendency to be hard to follow. That was the case against The Casual Vacancy. But the difference here is, there’s a common goal among many of the characters–and Sam and Caine clearly stands out as the characters whose journeys we’re supposed to follow.

A journey that, I felt, could have done without the super powers. At least, in this book.

Oh sure, the powers are integral to the story. Especially having read the second book and seeing where that plot thread is headed. But with this book in particular, I thought the disappearance of adults, getting cut off from the world, and the new world order that comes from that is interesting enough without the super powers subplot. And it is, I feel, nothing but subplot and eye-candy in this book.

Of course, if you take out the powers in this book, it’s not like it can just pop up in the books that follow. It’s just that–I do wonder how Michael Grant would’ve handled the Lord of the Flies problem with today’s kids. It’s just that we get glimpses of it–but the intricacies of a kid-run nation gets overshadowed a lot of the times by the need to address the superpowers.

But that’s just me seeing a different avenue of storytelling for the Gone series. It’s great as it is, and I’m sure it’s just going to keep getting better.

Well, I hope.

Now, let’s see what other people have said about the first book in the Gone series:
At Home With Books
Turn the Page
The Fiction Diaries
YouTube Review: ArrictineReads