Book: The New Hunger

"The New Hunger"

The end of the world didn’t happen overnight.

After years of societal breakdowns, wars and quakes and rising tides, humanity was already near the edge. Then came a final blow no one could have expected: all the world’s corpses rising up to make more.

Born into this bleak and bloody landscape, twelve-year-old Julie struggles to hold on to hope as she and her parents drive across the wastelands of America, a nightmarish road trip in search of a new home.

Hungry, lost, and scared, sixteen-year-old Nora finds herself her brother’s sole guardian after her parents abandon them in the not-quite-empty ruins of Seattle.

And in the darkness of a forest, a dead man opens his eyes. Who is he? What is he? With no clues beyond a red tie and the letter “R,” he must unravel the grim mystery of his existence—right after he learns how to think, how to walk, and how to satisfy the monster howling in his belly.

Some years ago, I remember loving Warm Bodies enough that I recommended it to most everyone I know who reads. When I found out that its author Isaac Marion released a novella, I wanted to find a copy of it here in the Philippines–but I never did. So, when I got a copy of Warm Bodies‘s actual sequel, I decided to buy the novella off Amazon.

I’m not sure how important this novella is going to be once I read The Burning World, but I have this to say: The New Hunger does not have anything that I loved about Warm Bodies.

Yes, the characters are the same. But that’s where I think the biggest problem of the novella stems from: it’s the same. Nothing’s new. The only thing that makes it different from Warm Bodies is the fact that the characters haven’t met each other yet. And while, at the very least, we get some action from the chapters featuring Nora. The ones that follow Julie and ‘R’ are especially dull: there’s no threat, there’s no development–they’re just moving pieces filling time until something bigger happens.

When I first read that there was going to be a novella that serves as a prelude to Warm Bodies, I had hoped it would make the book’s world richer–it did not. It felt like a money-grab for fans of the movie who want something new to sink their teeth into after watching the film.

I hope The Burning World, the actual sequel, isn’t anything like this novella.

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Book: Bits & Pieces

"Bits & Pieces"

Benny Imura’s journey through the Rot & Ruin is well known, but who were the others navigating the ravaged, zombie-ridden landscape? Jonathan Maberry returns to fill the gaps in what we know about First Night, surviving the plague, and the land of Rot & Ruin.

Comprising brand-new short stories from Nix’s journal as well as previously published short stories, this collection shows a side of the Rot & Ruin series readers have never seen before.

I didn’t know I missed the Rot & Ruin until I cracked this book open. And I’m never getting tired of saying Rot & Ruin is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Ever. Even when the succeeding books didn’t turn out to be as heart-wrenching as the first one, the series continued to tug at the heart strings. As the characters grew up in the Rot & Ruin series, as they lost their innocence, so did we, the readers. Bits & Pieces allowed for the innocence to come back.

And Bits & Pieces broke another piece of my heart… In a good way.

Guided by journal entries from Nix, this collection of short stories present new facets to the events of the Rot & Ruin series. We meet other characters who had their own adventures alongside the ones Benny and his friends were having. And, and this is the best part for me, we get some back stories on some of the characters we met in the series.

The book does a great job at coloring outside the lines of the series without feeling like it’s just reliving the glory days. The stories are new, as are the insights. And the best part? The characters we revisit, in different eras of their lives, never feel off. They help the character grow–and the situations they are placed in add to our understanding of who they came to be.

Jonathan Maberry built a really solid house with the Rot & Ruin saga. Bits & Pieces is just the fixings that adds to the beauty of the house–emphasizing and accentuating, without changing what the house looks like.

My favorite in the collection has to be the story of Rags. Or should I say the stories of Rags? There’s two. One told a a year after the events of First Night, and another one unfolded during the events of the first book. They very different stories with one single message.

Hope doesn’t die.

And I’m now holding on to hope that Jonathan Maberry would continue revisiting the world he created with Rot & Ruin. Because I feel like there are more stories from this universe that still wants to be told.

Book: iZombie

"iZombie"

Gwen Dylan’s got a dead-end job and a best friend who’s barely there. The dude she hangs out with is kind of a dog, her town’s social scene sucks the life right out of you, and it seems like any time she meets an eligible guy, his job gets in the way.

But Gwen’s not the girl she used to be.

She’s a zombie.

Her best friend Ellie is a ghost. Her buddy Scott is a were-terrier. Her town’s a feeding ground for a pack of beautiful but bitchy vampires. Her new crush belongs to a centuries-old secret society of monster-hunters. And her dead-end job? Digging graves by day…and digging them up for a snack at night.

See, Gwen’s got to eat at least one brain a month or she turns into a shambling monster straight out of a midnight movie. But every brain she eats contains a lifetime of memories–and her latest meal came with a side order of unsolved murder.

Now Gwen and her friends have to find the killer before they, too, fall victim to a fate worse than un-death…

It took a year, and a television adaptation, to get me to decide that I do want to read iZombie. And after another month of waiting (because I had to order through Amazon)… I devoured the whole series in one sitting.

iZombie, the graphic novel series, is exceptional. And I can’t believe I waited so long before I read it. It’s very different to the witty television series that Rob Thomas created off the material though. Because once you’ve read the books and watched the series? You would know that they are two completely separate beings. Two very amazing things. But we’re here to talk about the graphic novels. And I must say:

I absolutely hate the fact that there are no more stories about Gwen, Ellie, and Spot. The three are such fun characters that, from the get go, you know you’re going to enjoy hanging out with them–and that you’re going to root for them to survive the craziness the series immediately promises.

And iZombie really doesn’t hold back on the crazy.

From zombies who have lived for thousands of years, spirits who become trapped in the bodies of animals, vampires who have a no-kill policy, and a legendary hero that comes back to life–the series has them all. And the best part? You don’t even question them, because they’re part of the fabric that creators Chris Roberson and Michael Allred weaves beginning in their first issue.

But, I feel like getting into the iZombie bandwagon late worked out well for me as a reader because I was able to devour the story in one sitting. I don’t think I would have liked it as much had I been forced to wait for issue after issue–because the crazy that made it so fun to read, spread through time? It would have also infuriated me to no end.

With all that said though, what I really just want to say is: if you haven’t read the iZombie graphic novels yet–go find them. Read them. Enjoy them.

Book: Zom-B Underground

"Zom-B Underground"

Can you hold on to your humanity if you’re a monster?

How do you face the present if you’re haunted by the past?

Where can you turn when you’re trapped in a living nightmare?

For B Smith, death is not the end!

B is a zombie, but unlike most of the walking dead, B’s brain still works. There are others who survived the transformation into zombies, too. They call themselves zom heads. The world’s gone mad, populated by mindless flesh-eaters, and what little is left of the government has plans for B and the other zom heads. It isn’t a pretty future.

Waking back up should be a blessing, but B soon realizes that consciousness can also be a curse…

I don’t remember liking the first book much when I read it, but I don’t hate it. And since I already had the second book, I thought I might as well read it. After all, it’s not like it’s gonna take up a lot of time. And reading the first few chapters, I was prepared to be as unaffected by it as I was with the first book.

Until I wasn’t.

The first book had one thing going for it: B. As I said in my post about the first book, she’s a wonderful character study–of a girl who was being groomed to be racist by her abusive father. In this book, she’s still our protagonist–and she’s now a zombie. A thinking zombie. And her journey of self-realization continues even after death.

Nothing much actually happens in this book. We finally get the plot about the mutants and the controlled zombies moving with the introduction of Mr. Dowling, but we still don’t know what they are and why they are doing what they’re doing. We have a facility full of scientists trying to understand why some zombies come back with their brain functions still intact, but we don’t really go anywhere with that either.

Zom-B Underground basically just continues with the development of B as a character. She’s becoming a better person in death. And now that she’s completed her development, of sorts, maybe we’ll see where the story plans to actually take us.

That’s the only reason why I’ll be picking up Zom-B City, the third book in the series. Hoping that we’ve finally come to know B enough that the author will trust us to follow her through whatever twists and turns he has planned.

Because I really want to find out what the effing hell is going on in the world Darren Shan has created. And that is, if not some masterful writing, is an amazing marketing ploy to get more money from readers. By splitting the story throughout so many books when just a couple would’ve done.

Anyway, it works. I’m going to head out and buy the next book.

In the meantime, check out what other people have to say about Zom-B Underground:
Books of Amber
The Book Zone
The Book Gazer

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: ZOM-B

"ZOM-B"

When the news starts reporting a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B’s father thinks it’s a hoax–but even if it isn’t, the two of them joke, it’s only the Irish, right?

That is, until zombies actually attack the school. B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors of high school, making allegiances with anyone with enough gall to fight off their pursuers. But when they come face to face with the ravenous, oozing corpses, all bets are off. There are no friends. No allies. Just whatever it takes to survive.

First of all, the fact that B is a girl took me completely by surprise.

Oh, don’t worry. That’s not really a spoiler. Or, at least, I don’t think so. Her gender doesn’t affect the story much, except how you look at the events prior to the reveal. It actually makes the novel better, come to think about it now.

But before you’re fooled into thinking that this is actually a novel about zombies–it’s not. Well, it is. There are zombies in this book, but this book is not about zombies.

It’s about B. And her dad. And her mom. Her friends. How she chooses her friends. How she forms her relationships, and how she makes decisions, because of her dad, her mom, and her friends.

This book is about B, a girl who has to live up to the demands and expectations of her father. The father she loves. The father she hates.

And ZOM-B is a brilliant book. About the psyche of a troubled child, about racism, and how it’s harder to see the monster in us than it is to see the ones that surround us.

Oh, and sure, the zombies aren’t very original. Author Darren Shan does add a new twist into the mythology, but for the most part, the zombies aren’t that interesting. But then again, we don’t really read zombie novels for the zombies, do we?

We read these kinds of novels for the humanity. The people who inhabit this world that has gone crazy.

And Darren Shan has created a marvelous character study with his protagonist: B.

I’ll probably just continue gushing about how brilliant the character is, so I’ll end this hear–and leave with you with some links that would actually have reviews:
Alexander Gordon Smith
Totally Bookalicious
Miss Literati

I read through their reviews, and I thought it would be worth mentioning to note that Miss Literati seems to have mistaken B for the first character we meet. Just thought I’d point that out.

Book: Dead of Night

"Dead of Night"

A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots in hte grave. But all drugs have unforeseen side effects. Before he can be buried, the killer wakes up. Hungry. Infected. Contagious. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang…but a bite.

I was going to say something about this book in relation to a series of books that author Jonathan Maberry has written. And then I realized how much a spoiler that was going to be. So I’m going to hold that thought back and give you my assessment of this book without relation to any other stories.

The book was nice. Better as it came closer to its end, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t good before then. Well, it was a tad slow-paced. Much slower paced compared to Maberry’s other books. But, in this case, it helped in establishing character.

Weird thing though–

The events described in this book all happened within a day. It felt much longer. The book, after all, only kicked into high gear near the end.

But I still liked it.

My gripe against Michael Grant’s Gone books, with its series of red shirts who die as soon as they’re introduced, gets turned in its head in this book. We get red shirts, and they too die way too quickly; but while they don’t provide traction to the development of the characters we’re following, they don’t detract from them either. In fact, their little stories help in coloring this world in better.

Later on, this even serves as a character upgrade for one of the main protagonists.

My other gripe against the Gone series, with its some times too separate story lines is how, in this book, the stories are still tied together at its core. There are no separate concerns that one set of characters are involved in that doesn’t, in one way or another, connect to the concerns of the other characters.

If there’s anything to complain about in this book, it’s that we don’t get as many updates on a couple of peripheral characters who play a bigger part near the end.

Oh, and the missing time between a certain character’s disappearance to his reappearance later on in the book. This touches on a whopper of a spoiler though, so I don’t know how I’m going to discuss this…

Basically, a character leaves. Starts moving. And yet ends up in a place that another character reaches in a shorter time. While partly walking there. I’m sure there’s an explanation, but I thought the ribbon was a bit too perfectly tied on that bow.

I realize that that statement makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve already read the book. Which you should.

Don’t believe me? Then check out what other people have to say too!
Fantasy Book Critic
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Enough is Enough

And I just realized how I started with I’m not going to compare this to other books and proceeded to do that anyway. Oops.