Book: United As One

"United as One"

They hunted us for our legacies.
They are coming for you now too.
They know you have powers.
They fear how powerful we can become–together.
We need your help.
We can save the planet if
We fight as one.

They started this war.
We will end it.

I read this last year. I thought about skipping writing about this since it’s been so long, but the completion-ist in me didn’t want to go ahead to the new Lorien Legacies series without at least posting about the finale of the previous one.

So–

If you’ve been keeping up with the I Am Number Four series of books, United As One provides a very satisfying conclusion to the novels. The previous book, The Fate of Ten, stumbled in providing plot movement–and that actually leaves a problem for this last book. Which I will get to.

For the most part, United As One reads like a series finale of a television program. Things really come to a head, and you don’t know which of the protagonists will survive until the end. But the first few chapters felt a little cramped, with no wiggle room for breathing. I feel like some elements of United As One‘s first act would have benefited being introduced in the previous book.

I just hope they apply their learnings from the previous series to the one that’s currently being written now, Legacies Reborn.

And this is pretty much all I can write, because this is all I remember from my reactions after reading the book last year. There’s a lesson here for me as well: never disappear from blogging, unless you don’t have plans of ever returning.

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Book: Tin Men

"Tin Men"

After political upheaval, economic collapse, and environmental disaster, the world has become a hotspot, boiling over into chaos of near apocalyptic proportions. In this perpetual state of emergency all that separates order from anarchy is the military might of the United States determined to keep peace among nations waging a free-for-all battle for survival and supremacy.

But a conflict unlike any before demands an equally unprecedented fighting force on its front lines. Enter the Remote Infantry Corps: robot soldiers deployed in war zone around the world, controlled by human operators thousands of miles from the action. PFC Danny Kelso is one of these “Tin Men,” stationed with his fellow platoon members at a subterranean base in Germany, steering their cybernetic avatars through combat in the civil-war-ravaged streets of Syria. Immune to injury and death, this brave new breed of American warrior has a battlefield edge that’s all but unstoppable–until a flesh-and-blood enemy targets the Tin Men’s high-tech advantage in a dangerously game-changing counter-strike.

When anarchists unleash a massive electromagnetic pulse, short-circuiting the world’s technology, Kelso and his comrades-in-arms find themselves trapped–their minds tethered within their robot bodies and, for the first time, their lives at risk.

Now, with rocket-wielding “Bot Killers” gunning for them, and desperate members of the unit threatening to go rogue, it’s the worst possible time for the Tin Men to face their most crucial mission. But an economic summit is under terrorist attack, the U.S. president is running for his life, and the men and women of the 1st Remote Infantry Division must take the fight to the next level–if they want to be the last combatants standing, not the first of their kind to fall forever.

One bad book doesn’t spoil an author for me. Especially in the case of Christoper Golden, whose books I’ve been hunting down ever since I was introduced to him by the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer novels. So although I wasn’t completely sold on Snowblind, I still immediately picked up Tin Men when Fully Booked informed me that they finally received a copy.

And boy, am I glad I don’t give up on authors easily.

Tin Men is one of Christopher Golden’s best works to date, in my humble opinion, because it presents a post-apocalyptic scenario that might actually happen in the very near future. And the best part? Although there are no zombies, or ghouls, or other monsters? Golden still manages to horrify his readers. In the best way possible.

One of the things I keep a look out for when reading thrillers is the character deaths. I tend to like books better when the author doesn’t discriminate which character to kill. And Golden definitely doesn’t discriminate when he kills his characters, preferring to pick them off when their deaths serve to move the story forward–and not just to shock his readers. This makes the deaths, when they do come, stick. And you feel for the characters.

And you fear for the characters.

Because when it comes to horror, you shouldn’t be able to pick out who is safe from death. You should always be worried about the characters you’re following… The ones you’re enjoying.

I find that, with authors becoming more accessible through social media, many of them are becoming afraid of the backlash from killing off characters who readers might enjoy. This waters down their writing, because you can see in the writing how certain events were maneuvered to make sure certain characters make it out alive. Which is why I have more respect for authors who, while they are approachable online, don’t let their readers dictate where a story goes. Or whether a character survives or not.

There’s a reason why there’s a distinction between readers and writers. And while there’s nothing to stop you from being both, you’re also not supposed to meddle with the writing of something you read. Because readers get emotionally invested. And we let emotions dictate what we want the characters to do, or what we want to happen to them.

And I feel like I lost this train of thought.

Anyway. Going back to Tin Men. I love Christopher Golden’s foray into non-supernatural horror, and I would recommend it to anyone who can find a copy. Really. Read it, guys.

Do you need more convincing? Then why don’t you check out these other blogs that wrote about the book?
Kirkus Reviews
John D. Harvey
So I Pondered

Book: The Fate of Ten

"The Fate of Ten"

This is the day we’ve been training for. The day we’ve all feared. We’ve spent years fighting the Mogadorians in secret, never letting the world know the truth about our war. But now all of that has changed.

Their ships have invaded Earth. If we can’t find a way to stop them now, humans could suffer the same fate as our people: annihilation.

I wish I could be with John on the front lines of the battle in New York City, but I am hoping–praying–that the key to our survival lies within the Sanctuary. This is where the Elders always meant for us to go when we came of age. This was their plan for us. There is a power that has been hidden here beneath the earth for generations. A power that could save the world or destroy it. And now we have awoken it.

They killed Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
Number Three in Kenya.
And Number Eight in Florida.

I am Number Six–but our numbers don’t matter anymore.

Because now we are not the only ones with Legacies.

Much like the previous books in the Lorien Legacies series, The Fate of Ten is a fast and fun read. An escape from the real world, if you will. But compared to previous installments, this one felt a little lackluster.

Maybe I’m starting to feel fatigue. Maybe it’s because the last book was so amazing that my expectations were set much higher. Or maybe the material was just a tad too stretched than usual.

In The Fate of Ten, we get three perspectives: Number Four’s, Number Six’s, and Number Ten’s. While I loved the pacing of Number Four’s and Number Six’s separate stories, Number Ten’s point-of-view felt a little too convenient. It’s as if the author saw the page count and realized he still had a lot of things to cover, so he used up two chapters to just explain why certain things are happening.

I wasn’t a fan of the extensive flashback to things I never actually wondered about as well. And I felt like some of the characters we’ve gotten to know over the course of the books got short-changed in this installment. And these concerns colored my enjoyment of the book a little bit. Especially Sarah, Number Four’s girlfriend. I feel like the book would have been better with one of the point-of-views being hers.

My biggest concern with The Fate of Ten though has to do with the fact that nothing big actually happens. Well, a handful of big things did happen–but they felt more like a holdover than a precursor to bigger things. Things that shout “grand finale!” Instead, this book feels like the publishers are just trying to milk the readers’ money for one more book.

Well, at least I hope it’s just one more book. Because I am definitely ready for this series to end.

Book: Ang Lihim ng San Esteban

"Ang Lihim ng San Esteban"

Unang beses na magbabakasyon si Jacobo sa San Esteban sa Ilocos, at magkahalong pananabik at kaba ang dala ng biyahe papunta sa probinsya ng mga magulang niya. Siguradong marami siyang matutuklasan tungkol as kasaysayan ng kaniyang pamilya mula kay Lola Carmen! Ngunit hindi niya inaasahang may mas malaking lihim sa mga lumang bahay at multo ng San Esteban. Ang mga ito kaya ang susi sa misteryong pilit na ikinukubli ni Lola Carmen?

Quick translation: It’s Jacobo’s first time to visit San Esteban in Ilocos, and he’s feeling a mix of nervousness and trepidation about the trip; wondering if the town would live up to the stories he’s been told growing up. But what he didn’t expect was that he would discover a big secret about a house in San Esteban. A secret that his own grandmother is working hard to keep.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it was… It wasn’t what the book turned out to be. Although, to be fair, I think I already judged the book in the first chapter–when the author made a twelve-year old travel to a provincial town he’s never been to on his own. Now, unless this was a recounting of real events, I see no reason why he couldn’t have been taken there by his parents.

It all goes downhill for me from then on. Jacobo isn’t really developed as a character. If I’m to compare him to someone from current literature, he’s a Bella Swan. He exists solely to become an anchor for readers to attach to. His inquisitiveness is his only redeeming trait, and that’s only because we need him to be inquisitive for the story to move forward.

The book introduces many characters with potential to make the main story more… engaging. But the author drops the ball on all of them. The town jokester who turns out to be really friendly with the nuns is wasted as he becomes a sidekick to our bland hero, and the mysterious clairvoyant appears only once–to make us think that something ominous was about to happen–only for that warning to actually ruin the story because suddenly our hero is trapped in a house with nowhere to go.

That is, until he decides to break rules. And by then, it’s already too late. We’re already 80% into the story, and the remaining pages only serve to wrap up a mystery that never became mysterious in the first place.

I wish I could say something more positive about this book. I really do. But I’ve already sat on this book for two weeks now. I can’t think of anything nice to say about the book. Nothing at all.

But the folks over at Good Reads seem to have found something to like about the book. So why don’t you also check out what they have to say? Maybe I missed something.

Book: Maktan 1521

"Maktan 1521"

Ano ba itong mga Kastila? Espanya? Kristiyanismo? Bakit tayo ang kailangang magbigay-alay sa kanila? Wala silang karapatan dito sa ating isla dahil atin ito. Itinayo pa ng ating mga ninuno para sa atin at hindi para sa mga dayuhan.

Any kind of history is revisionist; with winners dictating how they are colored, with how they are preserved. How does that line from that one Wicked song go? “It’s all in which label is able to persist.” So if you think about it, historical fiction as a genre actually applies to the history lessons they teach at school. They just drop the ‘fiction’ part.

Well, in Tepai Pascual’s Maktan 1521, the artist does not pretend that this version of history is completely accurate–even though it has historical data to back it up. That’s because she has already added elements to the story that is based on speculation–and in trying to make logical sense of what had happened, and how things played out. And I’m glad that artist Pascual didn’t attempt a blow-by-blow account of what had happened. I liked that she gave the story her own spin–Maktan 1521 works because she made the characters relatable. She made them into people–and not just names on the pages of a history book.

This being a graphic novel, I feel like I should write about the art as well. But I’m not an artist, and I won’t pretend to know the first thing about art. For me, as a reader, the art did its job. It got the story’s points across, and that’s all that matters.

I do, however, want to point out that some of the colors are too dark. I don’t know if it’s because of the printing, or if the panels were painted that way. What I do know is that there were sequences that I had to go over a few times to understand what was happening, because the colors were too dark and I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be on the look out for. But hey, maybe it was the printing. Maybe Visprint made the colors too dark and the colors bled.

Whatever the reason, I hope that in future reprints, the art is made a little sharper.

Yes, future reprints. I did say that. Because Maktan 1521 is something I want to succeed. I want it to sell all of its copies, requiring Visprint to have a second printing, and a third one, and a fourth one. Because these are the types of Filipino books that I want to become popular, to become bestsellers, to have more kinds of.

Let’s make Maktan 1521 successful so we can have more books like this… Books with substance.

So, if you’re reading this and you don’t have a copy yet, please go out and buy yourself one.

Support local books with quality and value.

Book: The Revenge of Seven

They will not rest until we are dead. They will not stop until your planet is theirs.

We are all that stands in their way. We know secrets they thought hidden. We have power they never expected.

The time has come for them to fall.

I would say the I Am Number Four series of books is my guilty pleasure, but you don’t really admit to a guilty pleasure, do you? Unless you’re anonymous, but in this case, I’m not. So I will proclaim that– Yes, I enjoy reading the I Am Number Four series, and I really, really had a wild ride reading its latest installment, The Revenge of Seven.

You know what the best part of this books are? It’s that they are fast reads. You don’t need a whole lot of time to absorb what you’re reading, things just happen: action upon action, reaction upon reaction– I’ve said it before, the I Am Number Four series is the book equivalent of a movie blockbuster–and, hey, it’s released during the American Summer season too.

Now, I’m not throwing shade at the book. The Revenge of Seven is unapologetic in being fluff. Sure, we get introspection about forgiveness and redemption, but let’s be real; these books are all about the forward momentum. The quiet moments are few and far in between, and before you know it, you’ve already devoured the whole book.

And then comes the one thing I really don’t like about this series: the wait. Because I don’t need the time to contemplate on the things happening, I go through the whole thing in a flash, and I’m already wanting to read what happens next. I already want to get my hands on the next book.

I want this series to end so bad. Just because I really, really want to know what happens in the end.

But wait, I must.

In the meantime, let’s check out what other people are saying about the book:
My Book Musings
Lunch Break Adventures

Book: World War Z

"World War Z"

We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the plague years.

I can’t believe I never wrote about World War Z before. The book, I mean. Then again, I don’t think this blog existed back when I first got my hands on the book. Heck, I can’t even find my book now. I had to buy a new one so I could read it again.

On the fourth go, the book is still as emotionally powerful as it was the first time I read it. On the one hand, this makes me appreciate the film version more, because it really diverted from the source material; but at the same time, I can’t believe the producers would waste so much of World War Z‘s potential at a gut-wrenching creature feature. In the literal and figurative sense.

Reading the book again, I am reminded of the reason why my interest in zombie fiction started. I’m a confessed coward. Biohazard scared the shit out of me when it came out. I was in grade school then. The old Dawn of the Dead gave me nightmares. But World War Z made me a zombie fan. This was the book that made me realize zombie stories are not stories about zombies. Zombie fiction is about the people left behind.

I wish I saw more of this in the film version of World War Z. The people. The human factor. How we took back our world from the brink of a zombie apocalypse. Instead of having Brad Pitt’s character going around the world looking for a miracle cure/answer. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still give the film good marks even in hindsight, but I can’t help but wish. You know?

I have a dream that somewhere down the line, an enterprising wannabe would develop World War Z into a mini-series. For HBO maybe. A documentary of how people fought back. Of how people were during the zombie wars. Maybe the book’s author, Max Brooks, could do it himself? I don’t know. I’m wishing.

Because I feel really, really bad that so much of the heart-wrenching stories in the book never got told.

At the very least, I hope the people who watched the movie would get interested in reading the book. Seriously.

Read the book.