Paradise, Michael R Watson

Paradise, Michael R Watson

Paradise (Aftershock Series Book 1)

The setting of Paradise, using earthquakes as the vehicle of the disaster, provides an interesting and plausible twist on the story. It leads neatly into the classic dystopia breakdown of infrastructure and mass civilisation, and the rise of local power structures, of which this book offers a number. The roaming Raiders, the feudal system of the Tent City, the religious enclave, and the survivalist hermits hacking it on their own all add to the backdrop of the plot.

There were, however, aspects of the writing that I found impacted the read, including technical challenges in grammar and spelling that were continuous enough to keep pulling me out of the story. In addition, the point of view, which stayed steady on one character, first person, for the first two-thirds of the book, began to move around in the later stages of the book, including switches into third person, which was a trifle jarring.

There was also only one true antagonist, the Governor of the Tent City. The religious enclave was open-minded and accepting, at least provided the women made all the meals, the raiders were actually working the Robin Hood angle underneath the bad reputations, and even the leader of the brutal encampment guards turned out to be nothing more objectionable than a good old boy. Despite the dystopia setting, things never really got rough, which I found made it difficult for me to keep my disbelief suspended through the plot.

In short, I felt that the book had a good initial idea, but it didn’t quite manage to pull me in and convince me over the long run.

The Watch, Amanda Witt

The Watch, Amanda Witt

The Watch (The Red Series Book 1)

The Watch, by Amanda Witt, is set in a closed community under constant surveillance, where walls provide protection from the things that are rumoured to haunt the surrounding woods. Red, so-called for her flaming red hair, is the maverick in a society of martinets, the only child born during the time of the ashes, the only person on the island with that distinctive shade of hair, and she is both watched and shunned because of it. Red’s existence is precarious, and her penchant for breaking rules with her charismatic friend Meritt makes it more so. It isn’t until a dangerous brush with the Wardens that Red becomes increasingly aware that it isn’t just her existence that’s precarious…

Amada Witt offers an action-packed story in The Watch, fast-paced and with rags and tags of buried history drawn unexpectedly from dark corners as the plot progresses, building a fascinating dual picture of a highly-regimented society underlaid by foundations that are crumbling into the abyss at an ever-increasing rate. Red, the wild card, is a strong protagonist, the unknowns in her background drawing the reader on page by page in the quest to discover more. This book offers a wealth of adventure, mystery, and plot twists that will draw you in and surprise you right through to the final paragraph.

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End

Everyone Dies at the End, by Riley and Sara Westbrook, opens in the mouldering and trash-littered home of a pair of desperate junkies, fighting over the tiny amount of drugs they can afford. Earl, infuriated by Jadee’s attack, adulterates her dose with mould scraped from the walls of their home. Jadee, hospitalised and in a coma, eventually regains consciousness, but Earl is horrified to see that she’s altered, feral – and dangerous. Shortly after Jadee’s awakening, Earl finds her skull split by a huge mushroom rooted in her brain, the people around her alternately dead or ruthlessly predatory. Desperate to escape and driven by his addiction, Earl runs from the corpse of his girlfriend into a world that will never be the same again.

Everyone Dies at the End is a classic zombie horror story with a twist, the world of the two drug addicts with whom it begins contrasted against the mundane existence of three ordinary families who are caught up in the events that Earl and Jadee set in motion. The characters are plausible, exploring the theme of normal life thrown into a conflict situation by the unexpected, and the vector by which the disease is spread is original and plays neatly on a very familiar element turning into nightmare. Riley and Sara Westbrook have written a novel that is bound to entertain fans of zombie fiction.

Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth: he wrote her name in the stars

Qorth is set on a future Earth, where the seas have covered nearly all of the planet’s surface, and of the whole human population, only two isolated settlements remain. It’s a compelling backdrop to a dystopia, but in some ways, the world-building was contradictory. Early in the book, the narrator presents a picture of a community that shares everything, where the elders tell old stories of murder and racism. However, as the story develops, the setting describes the community, and especially those living outside the main settlement, as terrorised and raided by violent gangs, which I found difficult to reconcile.

Alone in her family’s old farmhouse, Cameron lives on the Outer Zone of the US settlement, near what used to be Yuma. Cameron is a powerfully isolated protagonist in many ways, physically and emotionally; highly independent and willing to look outside her community’s customs for knowledge. Her encounter with an alien species on the beach near her home is possible because of this isolation; her isolation also makes both of them a target. It is this status as an outsider, the balance between independence and exposure, that drives a lot of the plot. The first person voice was also strongly-written in this story; flippant and sarcastic, Cameron provides a unique and memorable narrative voice.

I had a bit of trouble with this book, and trying to figure out exactly what it was in objective terms turned out to be tough enough that it delayed putting this review up by an embarrassing amount of time. I’m fond of sci-fi, I generally get on well enough with dystopia, and I have what could be uncharitably termed an addiction to anti-hero types, all of which boxes are checked by Qorth; but when I reached the end I was still on the fence. The romance that develops between Cameron and Qorth had its ups and its downs from my perspective; while it had some original points, (I have to give points for the originality of the setting), I found some of the interactions on the stilted side. While I’m a terrible romance reviewer, there are romance books that I can’t put down, where the characters fascinate me and the tension between them drives me to read more, and that quality wasn’t there in this book for me.

Despite my challenges with some aspects, I found this book merited a solid three stars; it’s well-paced, features a strong anti-hero type as the protagonist (I am a sucker for my anti-heroes) and a lot of the ideas were both original and compelling.

Reviewed for Romance Rehab.

Meet the author:

Goodreads

Author on Patreon

 

Adam’s Stepsons, M Thomas Apple

Adam’s Stepsons, M Thomas Apple

Adam’s Stepsons

Dr. Heimann wrote a theoretical paper on the topic of cloning. He didn’t expect a desperate military to snap it – and him – up, and throw billions at him to make it happen. Severely conflicted, not least by the experiment’s choice of genetic donor, Dr. Heimann finds himself torn at every turn; most of all between what he knows is right and his orders. By the time he’s finally forced to face the fact that neither his reactions nor the clones’ behaviour can be defined as within the parameters of the experiment, it may be too late.

Adam’s Stepsons explores the hot topic of human cloning; their development, their status, and the more ephemeral topic of whether the ability to think is the basis of individuality. I found that the characters and the plot were well-developed, with a fast-paced storyline. The aspect I found a little weaker was the world building. As a reader, you’re aware there is a war and the clones are being developed to fight in it, but basically world awareness is limited to the lab, the military base beside it, and scattered memories from a couple of the characters. If the story were being told uniquely from a clone’s perspective, that would have been a brilliant tactic; as a lot of the story is from Dr. Heimann’s point of view, it came across as rather odd. Kudos, however, for a great final plot twist.

Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch: The Sword of Agrippa Book 1

Antioch follows the story of Roy Swenson, a scientist in an age where science has become reviled by extremists and scientists are hunted and killed on the streets; and in another incarnation, the story of the young Marcus Agrippa, following his Caesar to Alexandria to start a series of events that will echo through history. Other events in that time, less public, still shadow Roy’s life two thousand years later, as he struggles to find support and funding for a ground-breaking research project in one of the few remaining oases of education – the ancient city of Prague. Somehow, the two lifetimes are inextricably linked…

Author Gregory Ness has created a compelling contrast between the two timelines; Egypt in the time of the Caesars, and a close-future society where the vogue for denying science has become even more fashionable. The talking points of Swanson’s research offer interesting food for thought – I would have been happy to see those storylines developed a little more; in this first novel, Agrippa’s timeline dominates the story, and interesting as it is, I felt it rather overshadowed the other. The book is also clearly preparing the way for the next in the series, with a cliff-hanger of epic proportions to lure the reader on. That said, the book was a pleasant read, offering a tempting mix of myth, mythology, and science to pull a reader into the plot.