It's hard to rate a mixed bag of stories, since some of them will likely be more to one's liking than others. Such is the case with this book.
Some of the stories are delightfully clever with happy, triumphant endings. Some of them are humorous, almost like long jokes with unexpected punchlines. Some of them are deeply haunting and socially insightful, and some of them stick with you because they are horrible and ugly, like skunk stink. You wish you could scrub them out of your brain, but you will never be able to. Alas, these are the risks we take when we read new authors.
Overall, will you like this book? Parts of it. If you're a cozy mystery fan, this book is probably not for you. These mysteries are not cozy. If you're a noir-fan, you'll like this a bit more. If you're up for a fair bit of mind-twisting, then plunge right in.
Content warning for those who care: Various stories in this book contain extreme profanity, adult content, and troubling themes.
I'm a huge MbC fan. I particularly love his supsense/supernatural/action stuff. I'm not as big a fan of classic gorey-horror, which this leans more towards.
What I loved about this book:
The symbolism. Like all horror, this is a morality tale. I loved the literary symbolism in the various train cars and their occupants' deaths.
The twists. Of course, you know that what you see is not what you get in a book like this, but even though I was second-guessing everything, there were lots of surprises.
What I didn't love as much:
The gore. It was pretty hard for me to keep listening through that. A lot of others would enjoy it, though, and it's a valid artistic decision for the genre and morality lesson of the book.
Overall, I'd recommend it to fans of classic horror. This is definitely not horror-lite, so be prepared if you decide to dive in.
I'm not a hard SF fan, but this book was recommended by Howard Tayler, a cartoonist whose literary taste I really respect. Upon looking it up, I saw that it had 4.6 stars. Sold!
What carries this book is the voice. The MC is lovably proactive, incredibly resourceful, and fundamentally--almost pathologically--happy. A few people on Goodreads found his attitude unrealistic, but the fact that he's an astronaut who was selected specifically for his psychological resilience makes his voice very believable to me.
The ingenuity of the author is the other thing that carries this book. With each setback, I thought, "How in the WORLD is Whatney going to get out of this?" and then somehow--some BELIEVABLE how--he actually did. It was quite impressive. To me, the ingenuity of the problem solving is one of the real pleasures of this book.
I don't know if I would have enjoyed this book as much in print format. I think some of the scientific explanations would have bored me had I not been able to listen to the lively narrator's voice meditating on them. As it was, however, I was like, "Yeah. Okay. I'm with you. LET'S DO THIS MATH!"
The two things that almost knocked this book down a star for me were the profanity and the (I felt) curtailed ending. I like cussing to be selective and warranted. I can totally get behind, "I'm stranded on Mars! @#%%!" But I felt that "Those mother$%^#ing rocks were heavy!" was excessive. Also, I would have liked to see more of the ending. The author made a different artistic choice, which I respect even though I think I would have enjoyed a more prolonged denouement. In the end, however, neither of these differences in taste brought my enjoyment of the book below "I loved it," so it gets five stars from me.
Definitely recommend to those who a) enjoy hard SF or b) enjoy a strong protag voice and c) can stomach a bit of excessive profanity if the story is good enough.
I'm a sucker for small-town mysteries and multiple POVs, so this book was right up my alley. Tons of different characters---which the narrator and author do a good job of distinguishing from each other--and several small mysteries that undergird the overarching story. I'm not a huge fan of buying serial installments because they generally end up costing more than a couple of full-length books, so I can't comment on the rest of the series. I'm eagerly waiting for this book to be released as a single unit. It promises to be a great read! If you're interested in a quick, interesting hook and you don't mind being cliff-hung (or you're willing to spend the money in the serial components), start here!
Basically, I want an audiobook to sweep me away. The more it engages me, the less I think about the boring drive I'm making, the room I'm cleaning, the makeup I'm putting on. Colony SO delivered. There were no dead spots, no slow introspection. Just bam. End of the world. Then bam. Action and adventure. Then bam. Suspense. I loved it.
The characters are likable and hopeful. Mysterious and secretive and a little weird, certainly, but decent. Sometimes you read post-Apocalpytic fiction, and you think, "Humans are the worst. Why have we not already died en masse like the wretched swarm of cockroaches that we are?" But this book shows humans at their best, or at least at their most decent. I appreciated that. The zombies are freaky-weird (I need to grab the second one and find out wth is going on with this whole uber-bizarre zombie situation), but the humans are still acting like humans, not monsters.
All in all, if you're looking for a quick-paced, high-action, zombie read that won't make you despair of all hope for mankind, this is the one for you. Or even if you don't mind despairing of all hope for mankind and you just want a good zombie read, this is the one for you as well.
I follow and sometimes chat with Collings online, and I see him at conferences and conventions sometimes. When an author is this accessible, you sometimes forget that in addition to being an all-around nice guy, he is also a damn fine writer. I was reminded of that as I listened to "Strangers." Strangers has a literary--but not pretentious--writing style: visceral descriptions, deep character penetration, rich verbs that clench the scene. I loved how insightful the descriptions and narrative were--they added a whole other level of depth to the novel.
The characterization was fabulous. I felt like I really was inside the head of a tired, desperate, lonely, forty-something man. That sounds depressing, but it really wasn't. The character's voice is authentic and active, and even when he's exhausted and terrified, he's fighting, It was easy to follow along with the ride.
And the pacing was perfect. It grabbed me, it held me. The slow amping of tension as the family grows more desperate. The increased revelation of secrets. The twists on the classic horror tropes. lt was all great. Plus, it had the possibility of a sequel, which would be nice.
All in all, if you're looking for something to sweep you away while you put miles on the car or treadmill or load the dishwasher or fix the car or put on your makeup for the umpteenth time, this is a good pick! I'm thrilled that Collings has an Audible presence now and I and look forward to scooping up his other works.
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