Book: The Fireman

"The Fireman"

No one knows exactly when or where it began. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one… Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that tattoos its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks–before causing them to burst into flames.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse treated hundreds of infected patients before contracting the deadly virus herself. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper now wants to live–at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their once-placid New England community collapses in terror.

But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger, a man wearing a dirty yellow firefighter’s jacket and carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known simply as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted…and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

Halfway through The Fireman, I was already starting to piece together what my eventual blog post about the novel was going to be like; about the monstrosity in human beings, and the humanity that can be found in those perceived as monsters. This thesis stuck with me until I put the book down.

The thing is, when I started typing the book’s synopsis for this post, I found myself wanting to write about the synopsis instead. Because, while interesting and intriguing, the book synopsis is also misleading as to what the novel is truly about.

In it, we get a sense of the Fireman as this truly mysterious being whose presence will dictate whether the world would survive or fall to ashes. But The Fireman is about so much more than The Fireman, or Harper for that matter.

Imagine the comic book series of The Walking Dead. Imagine that you didn’t have to wait a month for each installment of the issue. Imagine the series if it weren’t being stretched out to last for as long as possible. (No shade. I still find The Walking Dead comic book series interesting and entertaining, unlike it’s television counterpart.) Imagine having an ending for The Walking Dead. Now take out the zombies, but keep the apocalypse, the factions, and the conflicts in what it takes to be human. That’s The Fireman.

It’s a study on humanity and monstrosity, and how we usually mistake one for the other because of appearances.

Joe Hill is a master at painting this world with just his words, all the while putting meaning behind the visuals he is drawing up for the readers. The way he describes the characters, their changes, and the relationships they create continuously push his message of solidarity, of compassion, and of so many other things.

Then you finish the novel and go back to the synopsis, and you can’t help but wonder: why the focus on just that? I understand the novel is called The Fireman, but why focus on just one aspect of his being? Why box Harper to just her relationship with Jakob?

Sure, Harper’s failed marriage with the unhinged Jakob plays a big part in how everything unfolds. And yes, the Fireman does have a big role in the story that is being told. But to limit the scope of the novel to just the two is doing the novel a disservice. Harper’s pregnancy and her relationship to Jakob, and the Fireman aren’t the be-all and end-all of this novel.

To anyone who has yet to read the novel, don’t bother reading the synopsis. The novel is wonderfully written, and is, in my opinion, Joe Hill’s most mature work yet. You won’t regret cracking the tome open and entering this world.

Book: Symbiont

"Symbiont"

The enemy is inside us.

The end began in a thousand places at the same time, sending little cracks through the foundation of mankind’s casual dominion over the Earth. It was born of hubris, and it started slowly, only to gather in both speed and strength as the days went by.

The SymboGen tapeworms were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world’s population began attacking their hosts, turning them into a ravenous horde.

Panic spreads as these predators begin to take over the streets, and those who do not appear afflicted are gathered for quarantine. In the chaos, Sal and her companions must discover how the tapeworms are taking over their hosts–and how they can be stopped.

After a long time of waiting for Symbiont to be released here in the Philippines… I finally decided to just have Fully Booked order it for me. And I don’t regret it.

Granted, the book took a wee bit too long for me to dive back into the action. Mostly, I think, because it’s been so long since I read the first book, but also because the sequel doesn’t dive back into action. And it’s something that the characters themselves point out in the book. There is a safety cocoon surrounding the characters in the first third of the book, and it made me feel like nothing was happening.

I mean, yes, I understood the need to lay down foreshadowing, and world-building, and mythology-building… but there was just no sense of urgency in the first third. It wasn’t until the second third of the book kicked off that I started to feel that something was happening.

There were times when I felt Symbiont lost the edge that made me intrigued in the world Mira Grant was building with her Parasitology series. But the way Grant handles her main character, Sal, makes me want to continue holding on. Not because I cared about her, but because I was curious to find out what exactly she is–and why she’s different.

Grant doesn’t have strong characters in this series, but their gray moralities make them interesting enough that you don’t want to leave them behind. And that’s what made me keep reading Symbiont during the times when I was starting to feel bored at the lack of anything happening.

Sure, I understand that events can’t happen in rapid-fire succession. Things breathe. Plans take time to be built. And I commend Grant for not losing hold of a logical timeline. Or, at least, one that’s logical in her world. But I really, really hope that the last book in the Parasitology series is better paced than Symbiont.

Right now, I’m not understanding the need to expand this duology into a trilogy. Even if I am glad I get to spend more time dissecting the motivations of Sal, her allies, and her enemies.

Don’t be a Peter Jackson or a Christopher Paolini, Ms. Grant. Do the right thing: tell the story the way you intended for it to be told originally. And don’t let your falling in love with the research pull you into writing more than what you had planned.

Because I cannot be the only one who thought that Symbiont was overlong and overwrought. Right? Let’s see what other people wrote about the book:
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
The Discriminating Fangirl
Booking In Heels

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.

e-book: pandora’s succession

"pandora's succession" by russell brooksPANDORA’S SUCCESSION is an action thriller that centers on terrorism and biological warfare.

main character ridley fox is a cia operative who is on a revenge mission against the organization responsible for his fiancée’s death. that is, until he learns about their plan to market a biological weapon, “pandora,” that could wipe out the planet’s population. suddenly, ridley fox finds himself traveling all over the world to destroy “pandora” before it destroys the world.

PANDORA’S SUCCESSION is a good enough read. is it a page-turner? a little bit, yes. did it blow me away? no.

first things first: i am not the target market for this book. while i do read all kinds of books, i tend to shy away from action thrillers. why? because i don’t like the “one man in all the world” story lines. yes, i’m not a fan of james bond either. [though i do like the grittiness of the daniel craig bond movies.]

that said, i didn’t quite like the vendetta story arc that the main character was on. and throughout the book, i find myself asking over and over: why would the cia trust ridley fox to go on a mission against the organization responsible for his wife’s death?

the changes of perspective also got confusing somewhere along the way. while ridley fox is indeed the main character, we get other perspectives thrown into the novel along the way too. the perspective of a red shirt (a character who dies eventually), the perspectives of the antagonists, the perspective of the attractor/femme fatale, and more. while i don’t mind the femme fatale’s perspective so much, as it does add a little dimension to the story, i thought the story would’ve been more intriguing had the author cut out the other characters’ perspectives.

what the novel has working for it though is that the characters are actually fully realized. reading the novel, you know that these characters had lives before you started reading about it–and they’ll have their own lives after you stop reading about them. and that became a bit of a problem too, as there were instances when main character ridley fox makes references to things that happened before the events of the book.

there was one point, while reading the e-book, that i felt as if this would’ve have worked better as a movie script. action really doesn’t translate well to the printed page, but the author definitely gives his best shot in trying to convey the action of the novel.

if you’re interested in reading PANDORA’S SUCCESSION, it’s available at amazon.

if you want to read more about what other people think about the e-book, check out these links:
geeky girl reviews
blogcritics books
joseph robert lewis’s blog