Category: dystopias_and_dead_things

Yes, yes, it’s December 1st, and November is over; therefore my Dystopias and Dead Things should be as well.  In my defense, I read this book in November, and yesterday I might have gotten a review done if the library hadn’t gotten in four great boxes of donated books that my boyfriend and I cleaned and cataloged until 11:30 p.m.

Excuses aside, here’s my take on The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

Checkouts: Personally bought at the Scholastic Book Fair; it will probably end up in the library collection
Typical reader: Teen girls who like the dystopian trend

Synopsis: Mary grew up in a village surrounded by fences through which the Unconsecrated reach, and ruled by the Sisterhood.  Her mother, who is bitten through the fence shortly into the book’s story, used to tell her stories of the ocean.  After her mother dies and reanimates, her life is in chaos until her childhood friend Harry asks for her hand.  On the day they are to marry, the Unconsecrated break through the fences.  Will Mary and her friends escape?  If so, can they find the ocean?  Or is there no end to the Forest of Hands and Teeth?

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

This book started out with a lot of promise.  And throughout, the writing is excellent, the plot compelling.  But there’s something about Mary, and I hated her by the end.

The concept for the book was solid, and I enjoyed the story.  This is a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, set generations after the Return, and only pockets of fenced-in civilization remains.  The religious Sisterhood keeps the village in line, and the Guardians, including Mary’s older brother, keep the fences intact and secure.  Mary faces a lot of difficulties in the story, both before and after the fence is breached.  The Sisterhood definitely isn’t what it seems, and it would have been great if the author had chosen to explore that aspect of the setting more.  The plot keeps moving with twists that kept Mary’s life from ever getting dull.

There’s also a love triangle, which initially was a bit interesting.  Mary loves Harry, and his brother Travis.  They both love her.  Aw.  And while Mary is staying in the Cathedral with the Sisterhood, Travis is brought there to be treated for a broken leg, and they become closer during her semi-clandestine visits to his room.  But he doesn’t come for her before the day of her wedding to Harry, and is himself betrothed to her best friend Cass.

The story remained intriguing throughout the book, like I said.  But Mary is something of an unreliable narrator.  It shows most in her characterizations of her companions and acquaintances.  All other women are weak and useless, or stone cold shrews.  Harry and Travis love her, a fact that can readily be taken for granted; why they do is never explained.  The truth of the matter is that Mary is selfish and completely self-centered, caring only for herself unless caring for others benefits her.  Seriously, I would have been happy if Mary had been bitten.  Then at least she would have shown some interest in other people.  Her one good trait is that she’s actually handy in dealing with zombies and escaping.

Does this make the book bad?  I really have to say no on this, because I couldn’t be apathetic about Mary.  She was written well enough to be hated, if that makes any sense.  It just doesn’t make it a good book.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, let this say it all:

I wrote 50,206 words in 29 days.  And the novel isn’t done.  It’s not even properly named.  (“High Fantasy Medieval Zombie Apocalypse” isn’t really the title, it’s just my synopsis/catch-all phrase.)   There is much writing yet to do.  But someday, this might end up being a published work.

I feel accomplished.

Apparently, my month of “dystopias and dead things” could have also been titled “a month of sequels.”  99 Coffins, Crossed, and now Dust & Decay are my reviewed books for the month, and all are the second book in their respective series.

Enough about that, though, right?  You’re here to read about Dust & Decay, the second book in the Benny Imura series by Jonathan Maberry.  (I’ve previously reviewed Rot & Ruin, the first in the series.)

Checkouts: Soon to be added to the library collection; bought at Snowbound Books
Series checkouts: 1
Typical reader: People who enjoyed Rot & Ruin

Synopsis: Six months have passed since the events of Rot & Ruin.  Benny, Nix and their friends have been training with Benny’s brother Tom for months, and are anxious to go east and try to find the airplane they saw flying.  A bit earlier than intended, Tom sets out with Benny, Nix, Lilah the legendary Lost Girl, and Lou Chong on what was supposed to be an overnight camping trip for Chong and the beginning of a journey for the rest.  Things do not go as planned.  At all.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

This sequel does not spend as much time in the town of Mountainside as its predecessor.  This time, while we do get to see a bit of relaxing times for the group with apple pies and romantic concerns, the action heats up quickly, with a zombie attack in town.  After that’s dealt with, Tom moves the departure date for the trip up.  Chong tags along with permission from his parents for just one night.  They’ll go to Brother David’s way station, spend the night, send Chong home, and continue on their merry way.

But then a rhinoceros foils their plans.  That’s right.  A rhinoceros.  Yes, it makes sense in that animals have escaped from the San Diego Zoo, circuses, and other such venues.  Yes, it’s something that the group really was not expecting, and it’s a good way to throw everything off.  But, um, wow.  A rhinoceros.  That messed with my suspension of disbelief far more than, you know, zombies do.

That’s really my only quibble with the book, though!  The pacing is excellent, the action is awesome, and the characters are incredible.  Every review I’ve seen of this book talks about some new bounty hunter the reader gets to meet in Dust & Decay, and for good reason.  There are a quirky, dynamic bunch of people that live out in the wild of post-zompacalypse America.  Personally, I loved the Greenman.  He reminded me a lot of Tom Bombadil from The Lord of the Rings.  You’ll also come across some really nasty bad guys who have it out for Benny, his brother, and his friends.

Interspersed with the narrative are excerpts from Nix’s journal.  These are really a nice addition, adding both general information and a good bit of depth to her character.  I particularly liked how honest her writing was about her feelings about Benny.  “… Benny and I are never going back home.  We may not meet other kids our age.  Do I want to be with him because we don’t have a choice or because that was our choice?” (page 247, hardcover edition)  This sort of thing made Benny and Nix’s relationship far more believable than nearly anything you’ll read in any romance novel.  Massive kudos, Mr. Maberry.

My reviews always aim to be spoiler-free, but I will give you two little vague tidbits about the outcome of this novel.  One, the end battle is epic!  Two, I cried by the end of the book.

If you enjoyed Rot & Ruin, don’t miss this.

Back in January, I read Matched by Ally Condie.  I rated it 4 stars on Goodreads; to summarize my thoughts, it’s dystopian chick lit with a good story and the ability to put the plot first, ahead of the romance.  I like both love interests of Cassia, the heroine and narrator; Xander is her wonderful best friend and the intended Match for her, while Ky is a brooding rebel who treats her decently and broadens her horizons after appearing as a second Match on the datacard.

So what has Crossed brought us in the second installment of the series?  (Spoilers unavoidable if you haven’t read the first book!)

Checkouts: 1 (It had a hold on it before I even cataloged it!)
Typical reader: Middle school girls

Synopsis: Cassia has gone to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky, after he was taken by the Society near the end of the first novel.  After a warm surprise meeting with Xander on a Match visit, she is mistakenly taken to a former village with some other girls, and finds that only two days earlier, Ky and two other boys had escaped into the Carving – a desert canyon system beyond the borders.  With another girl, she too runs off into the canyons.  Will she reunite with Ky?  What will they each learn about the Rising, the rebellion against the Society?

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

First, I would like to compliment the cover art.  The series’ covers have been beautiful and fit the stories extremely well.  The first had Cassia in her green Match Banquet dress, trapped in a greenish bubble.  This second book has a blue theme, and she is starting to break out of the bluish bubble.  The third, from the incomplete previews, will have a red theme.  Perfect.  It highlights the colors of the tablets every Citizen of the Society carries, and blue could not be better for the second book, as Cassia and the reader learns what really happens if a blue pill is consumed.

This sequel is rather different from the first novel in several ways.  Cassia is no longer the sole narrator; now the chapters alternate between her narrative and Ky’s.   The prose is still very simple from both of them, befitting the culture of the Society, so it’s probably good that each chapter is labeled with the storyteller’s name.  I didn’t have a problem knowing whose story I was reading, though.  Their experiences throughout life make them so different.  Another difference is the scope of the adventure.  It is much less restricted and mental than Matched.  The Carving is incredibly vast, the action is physical, and while there’s still plenty of soul-searching, it’s less pronounced.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I don’t read or like romance novels.  Don’t expect this series to give you some great love story where the heroine gets swept off her feet by the man of her dreams.  There’s some undertones of romance, but Cassia seems far more interested in finding out more about the Rising than finding Ky to be her everlasting love.  For those who prefer Xander, fear not!  I think the third book -has- to go back to him, because while he’s mostly absent from this book, he’s seriously tied into the plot of this one.  And that boy has some explaining to do when Cassia sees him.

I look forward to reading that explanation.  It’s due out in November 2012.

Now that the book fair is over, I can get back to book reviews!  I’m also focusing on a particular topic this month for various reasons.  Welcome to “Dystopias and Dead Things,” where I will be reviewing books that fall into these categories.  More on this after the book review.

Here is my opinion on 99 Coffins by David Wellington, the second in his in his Vampires series starring Laura Caxton.

Checkouts: I own this one; there’s no way I’d put this series in a school library.  Actually, you can’t find any of this series in -any- U.P. library.
Typical reader: Horror fans, people that like their vampires to actually be scary

Synopsis: After the events of 13 Bullets, Laura Caxton wants nothing more to do with vampires.  Ever.  So of course an archaeology class in Gettysburg finds 100 coffins buried under the famous Civil War battlefield, all with a vampire with its heart removed inside.  When Caxton and the quintessential curmudgeon of a vampire hunter, Jameson Arkeley, investigate, one coffin is destroyed and the vampire from within has vanished.  Caxton must save the historical town from a potential army of the nastiest vampires literature has ever seen.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

If you’re tired of the dreamy, moody vampires of modern paranormal romance or even the mysterious, villainous vampires of Dracula‘s ilk, and want vampires that are genuinely scary, you need to read this series.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  There’s no sparkle here.  David Wellington’s vampires are bald as cue balls, have teeth that are more similar to a shark’s than to a human’s, are far more likely to rip your head off than to daintily pierce an artery to get a drink, and dissolve into a disgusting soup of mush and maggots during the day.

This is the second book in the series.  The first is 13 Bullets, which is also a great read and I would highly recommend it.  99 Coffins picks up a year later, as Caxton, a Pennsylvania state trooper, is trying to escape the nightmares and avoid fans of the movie that was made about the events of the first book.  (Either Wellington dreams of movie deals for his books, or he likes toying with the fourth wall.)

I was a bit curious about this sequel, as it’s billed as a “historical vampire tale.”  It works!!  The story goes back and forth between Caxton’s investigation and dealings with the vampires and her incorrigible mentor, Arkeley, and accounts from soldiers 150 years earlier during the Civil War.  I was really impressed.

Please do yourself a favor and read this stuff in the right order.  -Do not- touch the third book in the series, Vampire Zero, because the back cover gives away a massive spoiler about what happens in this one.  There was probably a neat twist in this book, but alas, I had accidentally read the spoiler while trying to figure out which was the second book.  For what it’s worth, 23 Hours is the fourth book in the series.

If you like high-impact action with a bit of mystery and excellent, flawed characters, this series is second to no other vampire tale.

Now, about this month of dystopias and dead things.  It is my goal to read and review novels that are dystopian fiction, zombie/ghoul/vampire tales, or both.  I’ve got quite a selection to get through.  Anticipate hearing about the second in the Benny Imura series, Dust & Decay, by Jonathan Maberry.  Bite your nails while you wait for my review of a book I’ve been looking forward to since January when I read the first in the series – Crossed, the sequel to Matched by Ally Condie.  Await a critique of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a zombie novel with an awesome title by Carrie Ryan.  And maybe more.

This goes together with my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project.  I’m writing a high fantasy medieval zombie apocalypse.  It’s day seven and I’ve got over 10,000 words written!  Maybe some day other book review bloggers will be telling you all about my work.

Happy November!