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Bell’s narrative is wonderfully lyrical. He describes the ravaged landscape with a hypnotic merging of beauty and horror. It is a rare thing to want to find the description of a world teeming with living corpses so achingly beautiful, but Bell accomplishes this in spades.
There is a degree of social balance in Bell’s post-zombie-apocalypse not frequently found such stories. Our main characters frequently find people willing to offer selfless assistance. This realism serves to heighten the tension and in no way lessens the horrors we encounter.
And I absolutely LOVE the main character. What a heroine (villain?) Temple reminds me of Hailee Steinfield’s Mattie Ross from True Grit…after Mattie would have progressed so far down a road of loss and revenge that the prospect of personal salvation is no longer visible. Part mindless warrior, part innocent teenager, part mother and protector, Temple is one of those rare characters who defy easy attempts to categorize them. She is a character who isn't sympathetic simply because she is a girl. The author doesn’t spare this “little girl” out of any assumption that her gender makes her either more or less capable…or vulnerable.
After my second experience with this book, I’m convinced it will remain very high in my list of favorites. This book elevates itself out of a simple “zombie” or “apocalypse” genre consideration. It has echoes of McCarthy’s The Road, King’s Dark Tower Series and True Grit.
The scenes with the "Inheritors of the Earth" are as terrifying as anything to be found in horror genres anywhere. Truly (and wonderfully) difficult to read about.
Ms. Sammons made me “see” Temple. She brought out all of the nuances in her character…strengths, weaknesses, doubts, certainties. She nailed Temple’s uneducated, backwoods, long-ago-time accent. Wonderful narration!
I have a lot of questions for Moses Todd and need to know so much more about him. We'd have to make sure he wasn't carrying any weapons though.
"Doggone it, she says. Why do livin' and dyin' always have to be just half an inch apart." A common zombie-apocalypse theme, the definition of living and dying among the survivors in Temple’s world has overlapped to the point of obscurity.
This theme runs over every element of the story. The world is both glorious and damned and the defining line between the two no longer provides any tangible separation. In the same way, Temple struggles with knowing whether she is a good or evil person. How can a person remain good when mere survival requires such inexact savagery? She is in a constant search for a life not filled solely with survival, death and killing, but, believes she is fundamentally incapable in participating in such a life if she found it.
I have a slight complaint about some off-phrasing between sentences at times; sometimes rushing through sections that feel like they should have more of a suspenseful pause, but this is only a 2 or 3 on my scale of listening annoyance.
There is a particular quote from Annihilation that sums up my entire experience with it:
“When you see beauty and desolation, it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.”
I teetered between loving and seriously not liking this story. It wasn’t until the very last scenes that I came to some degree of reconciliation with my reaction to it. To Jeff VanderMeer’s credit, I think that this is the exact experience he intends for the reader to have, as he skillfully manipulates the reader into the same difficult emotional journey that his main character is taking.
I use the word “manipulate,” because this reading experience isn’t always easy. VanderMeer gives the narration of the story to a nameless scientist, referred to only as The Biologist. In the style of a journal entry, she maintains a nearly emotionless, analytical tone throughout. This serves to heighten the extremely creepy nature of the story, but also keeps the reader at a significant distance from characters.
Mr. VanderMeer’s protagonist is self-described as extremely solitary, preferring her observations of isolated environments to human interaction. She is irrevocably distant from the humans in her life, as well as from the reader. If I had written this review about halfway through the book, I might have said that there was nobody in the story to like or sympathize with. Thankfully, a single scene at the very end redeems our main character and creates the necessary bridge to the reader.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
The plot is the standard “group of people encounter something alien and inexplicable, then are killed off, one by one, as they deal with hallucinated (or not?) monsters, self-doubt, internal conspiracy, and the breakdown of social order.” I’m not always a big fan of this device, usually because the resolution lands somewhere in the “esoteric philosophical statement” arena without providing any identification of the “big bad” or substantive resolution. Annihilation at least leans towards some firm answers and gives us a number of very tangible clues along the way.
In the end, I believe I can recommend Annihilation with some qualifications. The key to its enjoyment is in reconciling that beauty and desolation we discussed earlier. Beautiful prose, beautiful world building . . . desolate characters, desolate outlook, desolate tone. All wrapped up in hypnotic, unrelenting suspense. It is the primary reason why I stayed with Annihilation to the end and will likely continue on to read the sequels. The more answers I was given, the more questions I had.
Beautiful, desolate questions.
Absolutely. Another wonderfully edited anthology of stories by John Joseph Adams.
Stories about the world’s end should prompt the reader to ask tough questions. How do you pick who gets to survive? At what point is it okay to give up on survival? Is society worth saving in the first place? To what lengths would you go to survive? Do you deserve to survive if you’re the reason the world has ended in the first place? Along with all of these questions, The End is Nigh highlights a wide variety of social issues, including same-sex marriage, global warming, euthanasia, genetic manipulation, human medical testing, and eating disorders, to name a few. The End is Nigh tackles these questions head on, and frequently the resulting answer is appropriately unsettling.
The menu of characters is similarly varied: con men; cult members; tech-savvy teenagers; scientists with OCD; artists; unfaithful husbands; computer hackers; grandmothers; and astronauts (astronauts who are also grandmothers). Good people doing good things, good people doing horrible things. Horrible people doing horrible things, horrible people doing good things.
Additionally, I was very pleased with the character diversity, whether it was with regard to ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Women written by men and men written by women.
The strongest stories in this collection are anchored by these strong, complex characters and issues and tack on the utter destruction of everything as a side note. My honorable mentions are:
- “Wedding Day”—Follows a same-sex wedding that is left too late, and the resulting conflict around the characters' ability to save legal family members.
- “Removal Order”—Brings us a responsible teenage girl trying to care for her terminally ill grandmother as the world burns around her.
- “Spores”—Introduces one of the more unique characters I’ve met in the apocalypse; a laboratory scientist with severe OCD who is tasked with surviving the outbreak of a genetically engineered fungus. (This story also gets my award for most disturbingly icky plague.)
- “The Fifth Day of Dear Camp”—Imagine the guys from the SNL “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” sketches encountering an alien invasion while hunting in the woods. Lovable, but deadly.
I listened to the Jake Kincaid-produced audiobook as my primary reading experience and found this experience to be fairly hit or miss. A number of the performances were so overly emoted as to be practically unlistenable. In the case of “The Balm and the Wound,” I found the interpretation of the main character to be completely off. (Would you follow a spiritual cult leader, if he sounded like mob lackey from The Jersey Shore?) On the flip side, the accents in “The Fifth Day of Dear Camp” were performed very admirably and added nicely to the story. And, those stories that were treated more as unacted narrations were generally well done.
Fun. Fast. Exciting.
Kloos once again deftly manages action scenes . . . this time in a combat environment that includes more enemies than you can shake a stick at. Even listening to the audio book, I never felt left behind as battles, weaponry, intrigue, and shifting alliances swirled around me. Kloos maintains his in-depth description of tactics, weaponry, and military hierarchy, with a never-boring clarity that I appreciate as an easily confused reader.
Entertaining. Humorous. Energetic.
Ready for the third installment in this series, Angles of Attack.
Pretty high. It's a great, entertaining "popcorn" experience.
A minor complaint, a common one regarding the portrayal the opposite sex, is that Mr. Daniel’s “girly” voice is a bit too stereotypically simpering at times. To be fair, his portrayal of a number of the secondary male characters, as well, also delved a bit too far into caricatures . . . dumb jocks, rednecks, etc. Every drill sergeant in the story had the same Full Metal Jacket persona that is so pervasive of all military stories. An understandable choice, but a bit repetitive after you’ve met the fourth such drill sergeant in as many chapters.
Additionally, his voice sounded a bit too old for the main character in this particular book. This was most notable in the opening chapter, as our main character is having very typically “teenager” conversations with his parents.
Terms of Enlistment might not exactly make any Earth (or terraformed planet) shattering statements but is sure is a hell of a fun ride. It’s a little bit Aliens, a little bit Starship Troopers, with overtures of Elysium and Jurassic Park thrown in for spice, and all told from the perspective of the guy you’d expect to get red-shirted in the first chapter.
Fascinating, thought provoking.
Donald Corren's narration was spot on. I never tired of listening to his voice. He achieved a scholarly tone while keeping an appropriate conversational quality. He transitioned nicely between the fiction and nonfiction sections of the book. Highly recommend!
No. I kept coming back to this book in between other readings. I imagine will also re-read portions in the future.
I found Mr. Sheridan's exploration of both the practical and psychological facets of apocalypse survival to be very personally edifying. The topics he explores are applicable to both the theoretical topic at hand, as well as everyday life. His study in the uses of deadly force (guns, knives, etc.) were especially interesting, and I think should be required reading for anyone owning weapons.
I would LOVE it if every person writing, or considering writing, any work of fiction related to the survival of an apocalyptic event would read this book beforehand, if only to better inform themselves of the human physical practicalities at play. Know the rules before you break them!
No. Uniformly poor writing and poor character development.
Her characters consistently made poor choices, showed a shocking lack of judgment in situations for which they supposedly had professional expertise, and seemed to have little to no common sense.
The narrators attempts at accents and depicting a male voice were very badly done. Her narrative phrasing was mid-sentence and didn't provide clear breaks between changes in point of view.
Can't recommend this book.
The dialogue was excessively punctuated by "he said", "she said". This was especially annoying when listening to the audiobook.
I was also a bit thrown by the change in tone in the Codas. This section of the book was very different from the rest of the story; a marked shift from the dialogue driven, action-based plot. I understand that this was a very deliberate choice on the part of the author, and once I had adjusted, found this section very enjoyable. I ultimately wish, though, that some of the same kind of character development that we find in the Codas could have been present in the rest of the story.
I very much enjoyed the pacing and humor in this story. I found the "meta" review of writing and overall critique of modern storytelling via TV very interesting.
I thought that Mr. Wheaton was a very good choice for this story...first for the obvious connection that he has to the Star Trek universe, but also for his overall reading performance. He injected sincerity and enthusiasm into his narrative. He understood the underlying tone of lighthearted sarcasm in the writing. He also carried off the more emotional parts, particularly in the Codas, very nicely.
Absolutely. Interesting story concept. Fun characters. Nice reading. I am very interested in reading more by Mr. Scalzi.
Very interesting story and a wonderful audiobook performance. Can't wait to read the next book in the series.
The absolute strength of this book was the development of Angel's character. The supernatural trappings serve to illustrate Angel's real dilemma (ala Buffy the Vampire Slayer), how to transform herself from a "loser" to someone with self-esteem and reason for living.
Ms. McLemore really embodied the main character and made her jump off the page. Her portrayal...accent, animation, characterization...added to Angel's independent yet sympathetic nature.
Angel Crawford. Ms. Rowland has you rooting for her protagonist from the very first pages. You can "smell" the intelligence brewing just underneath Angel's low self-esteem and can't wait for it to start bubbling to the surface. Very nice character arc.
I did feel the plot was a bit quickly and conveniently wrapped up, but this was a minor consideration in an otherwise engaging read.
I enjoyed the overall story and definitely did not regret picking up this book. I most enjoyed the humor and heavy action.
I would recommend this book as a quick, easy read.
I wish the author had spent a little more time developing all of the characters. I think the story would have benefitted from giving more weight to the interpersonal relationships. While the action scenes were exciting, I didn't feel that the Heroes were ever truly in too much danger, so the suspense was a little lacking. I also had a couple of issues with logic in the story; mainly tied to obvious ways the Heroes could have been using their skills to eradicate the zombie threat as a whole (especially Zzzap).
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