Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, Departed, by Lisa Habel, is a post-apocalyptic steampunk zombie romance novel set in the year 2195. 150 years ago the poles of the earth disappeared beneath deadly mantles of ice, and winters had become long and hard for an increasing number of nations. Humanity was forced to migrate in massive waves toward the new temperate zones along the equator. (Call it South and Central America) Entire countries were wiped off the face of the earth by catastrophic storms. Cuba, Indonesia, England, Japan are all gone.

The American nation suffered the most after refugees from Canada brought a new strain of influenza long with them. It killed one out of four people. The survivors were then forced to live through the second American Civil war and its nuclear destruction it brought with it. The United States as a nation ceased to be. If that weren’t enough destruction and mayhem, an eruption of a super volcano under Yellowstone finally emptied the US of anyone left behind.

Society, as the survivors knew it, changed drastically. There was a separation into two distinct camps called Victorians, and Punks. The Punk Movement rejected the new aristocracy, anti-technology, anti-government of the Victorians and formed their own country in the area known as Brazil and Bolivia.

Although they are technologically advanced like the Punks, the Victorians have embraced the ideals of a past era and modeled their society on Victorian England. And much like the actual Victorian era, the civilized veneer of society is masking lots of unpleasant things.

Main Characters:

Bram Griswold (Punk) is a 16-year old who became one of the undead after the Gray, or zombies, killed him. Due to advent of a disease called the Lazarus syndrome, people don’t stay dead for very long. They reanimate within a six hour time frame. Some become walking zombies with no memories of who they once were; while others, like Bram, retain their memories and abilities which made them human. Bram is a member of a zombie army that fights the Gray (those who are truly the walking dead) and is supposed to protect the human population from their attacks.

Nora Dearly (Victorian) is also 16-years of age and has been in mourning for a year and a day since her father died. She goes to school at a prominent institution due to her father’s actions in saving the Prime Ministers life. Nora lives in Elysian Fields with her overbearing Aunt who wants to marry Nora off to some wealthy boy so that she can start living the high life once again. Nora is extremely short tempered, impetuous, and has serious issues with keeping her mouth shut but also seems sure of herself when it comes to guns, and fighting those who want to harm her. She is also fascinated by the Punk society and watches past movies as her father did before her. She too easily accepts the Lazarus virus after being nearly being capture by the Gray, and rescued by Bram’s group of misfits.

The story is told from multiple points of view which can sometimes be quite annoying. But, after you read the book in its entirety, and take a moment time to think about it, they are definitely necessary to the overall telling of the story.

Most of the major chapters are narrated by either Nora Dearly or Bram Griswold. There are other chapters told from other characters' points of view like Pamela Roe (Nora’s best friend who is described as being a lower caste member of the Victorian society who was lucky enough to have Nora as a friend). Dr. Victor Dearly is Nora’s father and is blamed for creating the Lazarus virus that changes people into zombies, and the walking undead.) Captain Wolfe is a human who leads a reanimated army like Bram against the Gray. He has an agenda  

The romance between Bram and Nora isn’t pushed on the reader, but built up slowly from being scared out of her mind, to slowly coming to terms with her new reality, then to the realization that Bram is a somewhat changed and a different human being and not the walking brain sucking zombie the Gray are.

Bram is a character that you can actually feel sorry for, and cheer for at the same time. He didn’t exactly choose his current state of existence, but is doing the best he can under trying circumstances. He was forced to leave his mother and sisters behind after becoming one of the walking, talking undead. Bram and Nora couldn’t be more different. He is a tall and lanky and a Punk who loves to sing 20th century songs by legends, while Nora is a petite, short tempered, who doesn’t care who she goes up against.

This book is a young adult steampunk, zombie, apocalyptic romance novel which hits on all four genre’s with fluid motion. It also contains, what I believe to be, the writers personal political views on global warming, and racism especially with the different castes, and then the good versus evil zombies.

Dislike: The Epilogue. Please, Ms. Habel, this was a pretty decent story right up until you threw in the Epilogue. After everything that happened over the course of the story, why was this necessary?

Title: Dearly, Departed
Author: Lia Habel
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Genres: YA Dystopian

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

15/16 year old Alex Halprin watches as his mother, father and younger sister Rebecca drive off to visit his uncle’s farm in Warren, Iowa 140 miles away leaving him behind for what he believes will be a carefree weekend.
Shortly after, a super volcano erupts from Yellowstone National Park spewing Ash, as well as causing major earthquakes to occur across the US.

Alex’s house is devastated and he is lucky to make it out alive while ending up at his neighbors’ home. This is followed by a constant barrage of explosions that leave people wondering if the world is about ready to end while darkness befalls the town of Cedar Falls.

This is the day that Alex’s whole world changes in a blink of an eye from a care free World of Witchcraft player and Taekwondo specialist who chirps back at his mother and could care less about his sister’s moods; to a survivor who must brave not only the ash and the darkness it leaves behind, but the health dangers that it brings as well as survivors who believe they have the right to rape, kill, and take from others without any consequences.

Alex must face several life or death obstacles just to make it through the first several days, let alone weeks of the aftermath of the super volcano eruption that leaves citizens fighting for their very right to live. When Alex comes across a felon who wants his stuff, he digs deep into his martial arts training, and fights back. It’s not the first, nor the last time that Alex will have to use his training to help him out of jams. Even though he survives, it’s not without a price. Luckily, he happens upon a mother and daughter that save his life.

One of the best quotes the book has to offer, and yes, I am so stealing the idea from another reviewer! “For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn’t taken our humanity. No, we’d given that up on our own.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Humanity is its own worst enemy in every way possible, and Mullin does an excellent job of describing them from Alex’s POV. Humanity either finds ways to survive and deal head on with its problems while helping others out during their time of need, or it creates even more disturbing situations that cause even deadlier consequences for the survivors, including a basic lack of food, water, the ability to communicate, and the ability to find shelter.

This book should be a learning lesson to everyone to STOCK up on basic needs like canned goods, water and learn what you would do if you suddenly found yourself in a similar situation. Because, you just don’t know when a natural disaster is going to hit where you live. Just look at recent events in our country, as well as others around the world.

For those who love dystopian novels, you will definitely enjoy this one, and I’m highly recommending it. You won’t find zombies eating human brains, but you will find several funny references with strawberry milkshakes and brains.
Although Alex is the storyteller, he is not the only likable character Mullin writes into his story. No, actually I found 18 year old Darla Edmunds to be much more charismatic, and mechanically inclined to come up with numerous ways how to survive and thrive during hard times. It is Darla who ends up saving Alex’s life more than once when he gets into deep kimchee with not only other survivors, but with the elements as well.

It is also Darla who figures out ways how to build unique contraptions that allow for the production of food that can last until the devastation is finally over with. Yes, readers of my reviews, you will also come to appreciate how fast Alex grows up and discovers not only love, but a way how to survive and move towards his goal of reaching his uncles farm. You will also find a romance that is not thrown in your face, but gradually built up from pure hatred, and resentment, to something deeper and hopefully more substantial in the end.

This isn’t exactly a happy story. It is a dark tale about survival and the way Alex and Darla end up working together to end up at their final destination; Alex’s uncle’s farm more than 100 miles away. There is a situation of rape, murder, cannibalism, torture, and putting survivors into death camps because of low food rations in the affected areas.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin is an ARC provided by and Tanglewood Press and will be released October 11, 2011. ARC recvd 08/08/2011 via Netgalley and Tanglewood.

Title: Ashfall
Author: Mike Mullin
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Genres: YA Dystopian