Thursday, 23 August 2018

Review: Among Wolves

Among Wolves Among Wolves by R.A. Hakok
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's a lot to admire in Hakok's Among Wolves (not least the Amazon ranking) - for it is a Young Adult Sci-fi Dystopia that knows how to tell a story. Specific sciency things are glossed over or stretched to points of believability, but this is small fry, for the way the story unfolds offers us sneak peeks and tidbits, while focusing on character, and when certain events are unveiled, you can forgive a little far-fetchedness.

The world has come to a stop; all that remains is a group of teens and the adults left in charge of them, buried deep within the safety of a mountain. Outside is dangerous and snow-ridden. Changes are occuring within the small community, and revelations are not far away. Supplies are in short supply, and the tension is rising. We follow Gabriel's story; he is a scavenger, who, along with Marv (one of the remaining adults) heads out to pick through the remains of the nearby small towns and buildings. Pickings are slim, as they are forced further and further.

Refreshingly, we also witness the end of days, following one of the key figures in its downfall. It gives the story a more rounded feeling than you sometimes get from these apocalyptic adventures (including my own). Reading this taught me a few things about how I could about my own stories. But that aside, I enjoyed the pacing. It took its time, with nice, full-length paragraphs and sparse dialogue. I imagine if I did this, it would be full of description, but here it's often movement. Sometimes not a lot happens, but there's always movement, and at other times reflection. There'll be no awards won for imaginative synonyms or metaphors, but that's okay. For what this is, and who it's for, it works.

I've seen some complaints about the ending, but if you're picking it up, you already know it's book one in a series. Even considering that, there's more than enough within the pages to tell a full story, with plenty of twists and turns and surprises, right up til the end.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Book Review: Mutation by Nerys Wheatley

"Despite their bravado, most of the men facing them now looked on edge, ranging from nervous to downright terrified, glancing around them as if they expected a wave of ravenous monsters to flood from the surrounding buildings at any second. It was one thing to shout and goad an empty street, but quite another to come face to face with their nightmares."

Mutation is book one in the Twenty-Five Percent series; featuring samurai swords, bromance, romance, gore, suspense, guns (in the UK!), motorbikes - and eaters (not zombies!). It's also a meaty book, coming in at nearly 400 ebook pages. From page one it's a series of encounters covering the usual humans-are-the-real-bad-guys and running-from-zombies tropes, all tuned to the max. If you're going to write this kind of story, do it well! And Nerys has.

Pinning the story to earth is Alex and Micah, an unlikely duo who begin at loggerheads (literally) before developing a believable bromance as the story unfolds, while they keep tally of who has saved each other more than the other. This central partnership is key, and the book wouldn't work half as well without this being convincing, but there's also plenty of exciting misadventure too as they narrowly avoid death time and again.

"Carrie was staring at Alex's face. "What happened to your nose?"
"Someone punched me," he said quickly, before Micah could say anything. "Big dude, fists like rocks."
Micah snorted. Alex ignored him."

The writing is solid - my only gripe being the slightly heavy handed use of the passive voice, such as "Carrie was staring at Alex's face." Personally, I'd prefer "Carrie stared at Alex's face." But this is minor in what is a well-written story.

As the plot progresses, it also begins to throw in the elements that the story would need to make it stand out from other zombie-genre titles, to make it different. We already have the Survivors (Alex) - those who were turned but then cured just before it was too late, left with 'powers' and distinguishable white irises. Gradually, more is revealed, and it's not so far-fetched (in this world) to be believable either.

If you enjoy this genre of book, you can't go wrong!