Book Review: The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

Publishing Date: September 2018

Publisher: Inkshares

ISBN: 9781947848511

Genre: Dystopian

Rating: 3.3/5

Publisher’s Description: In the year 2090, America has walled itself off from the rest of the world. When her father is arrested by the totalitarian Board, a young woman sets out to escape the only country she’s ever known. While on a routine assignment scouting the country’s dwindling natural resources, Patricia “Patch” and her coworker and best friend Rexx discover a cache of dangerous contraband—printed books from before the Seclusion. These texts spark an unquenchable thirst for the truth that sees Patch’s father arrested by the totalitarian Board, which runs the entire country. Evading their own arrest, Patch and Rexx set out across a ruined future United States, seeking some way to escape the only home they’ve ever known. Along the way, they learn about how their country came to be this way, but their newfound knowledge may lead to their own demise.

Review: Kind of spoiler alert.

The Good– The first movement where Patch is more or less a drone to the ruling Board is wonderful.  Strange deaths, blind programmed allegiance among a sea of potential traitors and a history uncovered was just the tip to this wonderful story line. And finally a main female character that is not constantly swooning over a hunky boy(s), but rather focused on SURVIVAL. What this created was room for character expansion while making intimate interactions more poignant. Thank you Jacqui for that.

The Bad- The main premise behind the whole novel is one of great acceptance. The idea that the entire United States is overthrown by our own government, is a stretch. There is no way that our government acting without a common threat or under bleak economic circumstances (i.e. Hitler), would be able to corral 260 million people, especially when everyone hates their actions. Add to that, Wisconsin alone is the third largest standing army in the world. There are some referents to nuking our own people but that does not make sense either (contamination and subsequent extirpation of resources). The world built is hardly supportable, if indeed you reside in a nuclear wasteland.

The Ugly- So again we have a story line that is reminiscent of the Mockingjay what with the Katniss clone and a hunky unrequited love interest. There is the big bad Board and all the trappings of a dystopian society. Of course Katn…….er, Patch is the lone savior. What bothered me most was the weak character development. There was plenty of movement but it was not tied to the characters growing with the story line. There are many pivotal moments in the story that could have provided this depth but the author chose to go into pages and pages of backstory. Building a history of a person based on past events does not a character make. Characters are made by the current actions they embrace and the emotional interactions that ensue. For instance; to be wary of someone, then not, just doesn’t endear you to their plight.

Blondie and Tuco have a drink- At the end of the novel I had a hard time swallowing the whole speal. It really lent credence to an unsupportable world. But, reluctantly I had a good time with it. Mainly because Patch hadn’t glued her boobs to Rexx’s chiseled abs while smelling his chocolaty/pine musky scent. Really, you don’t know how much of a relief that is. The writing is good but lacks it’s own voice. Ideas are borrowed from other established works, only the names have been changed. You see this a lot with authors that have the technical talent but lack the inner creative voice.

I kind of look forward to this new author to see whether she can build depth of character and create a believable world based on her own wild imaginations.

p.s. Note to author: Leave Rexx where he currently is. That’s a start, is it not?

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Book Review: Dead End by Grace Hamilton,‎ Jack Colrain

 

Publishing Date: April 2018

Publisher: Relay

ISBN:9781987561623

Genre:Post Apoc/Dystopian

Rating: 3.6/5

Publisher’s Description: In the time before the storm, Jim Parker committed his life to helping others. As a police officer, he placed himself in harm’s way for the greater good. But now that the world’s been turned upside down by a deadly EMP strike, it’s all he can do to survive. With his friends Finn and Ava by his side, Parker must defy the power-hungry Council and search for his long-lost daughter, Sara.

Review: I did not read the first in this series but wish I had. This was really good, and not just of the character and world building etc., but from a preppers perspective. I was indoctrinated into the prepper lifestyle as a young boy. Homesteading  in a large family where my parents were convinced that the crash was upon us. This novel is one of many in the genre, but one of a few that weave an accurate approach to the story line while creating a solid foundation in fact.

Where the novel completely diverges from reality is really based on future suppositions about certain events transpiring and the subsequent fallout/recovery. In this novel every group is boiling with men whose only goal is to kill, subjugate, rape and/or execute after the rape. If they are not raping or wanting to rape, they are smirking while killing or thinking of rape. These groups that are functional or rather, dysfunctional, fit into convenient paramilitary boxes or religious splinter groups where their rotten under belly is exposed.

History proves that when reactionary mobs find a chink in societal norms, events quickly escalate to violence and looting. This occurs when there is no “event” promulgating the action. However when resources dwindle under the yoke of calamity, people usually come together. Take for instance war torn cities or as recent as Venezuela where there has been a monetary collapse. The collective humanity have not been reduced to their basest of natures.

I think preppers, by nature and design, are convinced of negative outcomes that support their identity. A “If something bad happens then I was right”, approach to life. I get that there are homesteaders that get back to nature and self-reliance, but once you take that step into prepping then you’re planning for the worst possible outcome. This is often reflected in the literature that encompasses these actions.  The bottom line is that we just don’t know.

The minor fall downs in this novel were the fire fights with trained soldiers against an old cop, one girl and two women.  I am not saying that they can’t be as capable but when getting gunned at by Strykers with .50 auto BMG’s and thermal imaging then you are pretty fucked. Of course they always win and are bleeding out after every encounter but seem to become ambulatory and get into another rape-fest/gunfight. I am not buying what the authors are selling me, but it was still very entertaining. Another miss hit was when Ava and Parker are captured by a band of raping/laughing men and Ava shoots Shitbird and Frank with a Glock handgun. After Ava puts down Frank she stands over him, …“The magazine in the pistol was empty…her handgun dry-fired in series of whispery, mechanical clicks..”. Glocks are single action and do NOT click on empty as the trigger does not reset without jacking the slide or live firing. Fug. Details people.

I still had a good time reading this and will definitely get the next in the series.

Book Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

Publisher: Red Adept

Publishing Date: December 2017

ISBN:9781948051026

Genre: Scifi

Rating: 4.4/5

Publishers Description: Joe Warren, an unemployed electrical engineer, has a terminally ill girlfriend and a bank account bumping rock bottom. Jobs are scarce in 2050, since nanotechnology has created the ability to animate the recently deceased, who are put to work performing menial labor at low wages. These Revivants have glutted the job market, leaving their living counterparts out in the cold. Joe goes looking for a helping hand and mistakenly gets arrested with a group of freedom fighters. The only cause Joe wants to fight for is Joe, but federal agents coerce him into spying on the Children of Liberty.

Review: When I started this novel I thought “Crap, sucked in by another zombie/dystopian novel”. Luckily I ran out of books to read and pulled this back out from the DNF pile. Glad I did. This has it all. From social and political commentary ridden hard  like a lathered horse to great characterization and story line crafting.

You will have a good laugh at yourself reading this.

Review: The One-Eyed King by Kenny S Rich

Publisher: Booksgoscoial

Publishing Date: November 2015

ISBN: 9781517627645

Genre: Dystopian

Rating: DNF

Publishers Description: in a futuristic world still reeling from the ashes of protracted nuclear warfare, resources are scarce and survival of the fittest is once more the way of the world – that is until one ruling order decides to take charge. Now equality is history and oppression is the new norm.

Review: I just could not get into this novel. Adjectives to describe the writing style and story line would be: overtly effusive, self-congratulatory and perhaps smug.  The dialogue rambles on and on in a way that you should be wholly on board with the shared perspective. If the introduction was any hint as to the content, I would have stopped there. Kind of a “shame on you” that you know nothing about blind people. 

Review: The Uploaded by Ferrett Steinmetz

Publisher: Angry Robot

Publishing Date: September 2017

ISBN: 9780857667175

Genre: SciFi/Dystopian

Rating: 4.3/5

Publishers Description: In the near future, the elderly have moved online and now live within the computer network. But that doesn’t stop them interfering in the lives of the living, whose sole real purpose now is to maintain the vast servers which support digital Heaven. For one orphan that just isn’t enough – he wants more for himself and his sister than a life slaving away for the dead. It turns out that he’s not the only one who wants to reset the world…

Review: Wow. The first half of this novel embraces an incredible writing talent that created what may become a defining moment in the genre. Too over the top in honors? Yeah, maybe but I am feeling it right now. Perhaps the horniness will pass once I have relieved myself…..with TIME. Geez, sleezy crowd here.  Anyhoo, this was fukin’ good. World building, characterization, movement, storyline etc. Plus, who names their kid Ferrett? How cool is that? 

It is at once witty, funny, thought provoking, plausible in it’s outrageousness, utterly indefatigable, revelatory and a bunch of other positive adjectives, oh and poignant. To be honest this started in a hole: slow, no relevant background, back and forth-ing  dialogue, no context….then BAM! Away we go. At about the kindle 60% mark it slows way down with mewling dialogue then picks up again. You want more storyline details? Read the book cause I aint a spoiler….well I am, but not this time.

Review: The Phoenix Cycle by Bob Collopy

 

Publisher: FIIK

Publishing Date: June 2017

ISBN: 9780991378531

Genre: Dystopian

Rating: 2.2/5

Publishers Description: New San Francisco is the last city standing on a world ravaged by storms of ash and debris. The city survived by putting the ideals of the American dream on steroids and inspiring its people to persevere, though they have become ruthless in the process. Its citizens are ruled by the General, who has made sure that his people understand that gentleness and pity have become weaknesses that nature no longer tolerates.

Review: Why is the world being ravaged by storms of ash that never seems to accumulate? Why does it cause people to scamper away in fear for their lives? Is this dystopian world biologically supportable?  These questions and many more will never get answered so either hitch up your skirts and hop in the phantasmo train or be left behind scratchin’ yur ashy-head. 

So for whatever reason everyone lives in New San Francisco, or so I presume as the world building is finite, and scramble around under the yoke of oppression and constant ash manifestations. There is a twist on the Hunger Games shtick so that the young may become part of the Inner Circle through death trials, only that Circle is never defined. The IRA is the opposing force to the evil regime, (which is kind of ironic) and the guards run around beating people senseless on whims. 

Besides all that, the writing is technically good but lacked an infusion of believable originality, rendering the story line hard to stay interested in.  The characterization is flat even with the constant movement. The depth just never develops in the main characters so you don’t really care what happens to them.  This might appeal to YA crowd that will hump anything reminiscent of  Katniss.

Review: Raid by K.S. Merbeth

Publisher: Orbit

Publishing Date: July 2017

ISBN: 9780316308731

Genre: Dystopian/Post-Apoc

Rating: 2.5/5

Publishers Description: Bound and gagged in her passenger seat is the most revered and reviled raider king in the eastern wastes. She can’t cash him in and she can’t let him go, so together they cross the wasteworld, following a dying road and dodging bloodthirsty raiders who either want to free Jedediah or claim him as their own. 

Review: Quick pace, a lot of action, great story line and great characters that leap off the page. What more could you ask for? This Mad Maxian romp through the wastes is a gutsy look at a female anti-hero that is half hot babe and half burnt to a crisp. The writing is really good and takes you to a place you would never want to be yet fascinates just the same. “So, why you no give 5 stars!!!”. What to some might be seen as a minor detail yet to me changed the course of the novel entire was the characterization of Clem. So sit back and relax while I pick the corn out of this shjt. 

Clementine. Her whole life revolves around guns. She is an expert with them, cleans them religiously, places them higher on a list than any human being in terms of importance, notes and admires others guns, got her handgun off an infamous (now dead) raider and feels naked and itchy without one in close proximity. Clearly she is obsessed as it is an important aspect of being a bounty hunter in the wastes. With every scene this intense focus on guns in general and her gun in particular, we never learn what exactly IT is. Make, model and caliber are sadly absent. Why is this important? Gunfighters know their guns and when specific elements about guns are expressed it lends authenticity to the tale and brings the reader into the inner processes of, in this case, Clem.  Additionally, relating specifics is critically important when constructing battle scenes. It is not enough to say that a rifle is good at distance (that distance and caliber is never given) and quickly discarded for a handgun during close quarters battle (CQB). There is never any scale that lends authenticity to these actions. She has a holster as well, but we don’t know if its cross-draw, thigh holster or hip. Is it FBI cant, plastic, leather? Also, AR does not stand for “Assault Rifle” like the media would have you believe. AR stands for Armalite Rifle Co.

This was easily one of the best novels I have read in a long time that sadly lacked the research necessary to bring it to great heights. Either a lack of insight into all things “gun” or really poor editing input did this novel no favors.