Brief Book Review of Apocalypse Z: Dark Days

So. Good.

It’s a sequel, which means I expected it to be a let-down. Sure, there’s Empire Strikes Back and Godfather 2, so we know that a sequel CAN be better than the first. But we also know that’s an extreme exception, right? (Seriously, every time this comes up in conversation, the only examples people have are Empire Strikes Back and Godfather 2, which means there hasn’t been a notably better sequel since the 80s.)

A fair number of zombie stories are written as trilogies: the Day by Day Armageddon series, the Hater series, the Monster Island series, the Newsflesh trilogy (links to my review), and that’s just off the top of my head. I don’t read a whole lot outside of the zombie / survival horror genre (except to read what my children are reading, so I’ve read more current young adult fiction than most thirty-somethings), so I can’t really speculate as to whether this is a trend in fiction right now (Hunger Games, anyone?) or if it’s something in the way the zombie author’s head works. I mean, the end of the world is a pretty epic thing. I can see why it might not fit in just one novel-sized book if done right.

Either way, I’ve been disappointed by some sequels, and I’m sure you have, too. (Please note: The above list of trilogies is not meant as a list of disappointing sequels.) And I can definitely see some of the difficulties of a sequel, especially in a zombie survival series. It’s a d***** if you and if you don’t situation: the audience liked the first one, so the author can’t do anything too different, but on the other hand, if the second is just like the first, why bother? Then, in survival horror, there’s a very small set of characters. Any romantic or sexual tension probably got solved in the first story. Antagonistic characters probably got dealt with… so then is there a new villain, or does the story get bigger (like conspiracy theory kind of stuff)?

But enough of my holding forth on sequels. That’s not why you’re here, right?! You want the skinny on Dark Days. I just wanted to point out that sequels are difficult to do well, so I was all the more pleased when Loureiro pulled it off so well.

What:

Apocalypse Z: Dark Days (But you already knew that)

Who:

Manel Loureiro, whom I no longer have a crush on because it turns out he’s married and I respect that. (:

The nitty gritty:

The second book in the Apocalypse Z series. (Read my review of the first book, The Beginning of the End.)

It’s really good. Read it. (Ahem, I mean the book, not my review, but hopefully that’s good, too…)

I’m not going to say it’s better than the first one necessarily, but Loureiro deals with the sequel issue well. His writing style is different in this book, in a good way. This book is suspenseful, in a way the first one wasn’t. There were times I literally thought of skipping ahead in the book to find out what was going to happen, and I’m not sure I’ve experienced that sensation since I was a kid. Seriously, not just once, but multiple times during the book I had to remind myself I hate wrecking the story by peeking.

And it’s a nice balance between having completely new material in the second book and including some of the tensions from the first book. Loureiro gives enough of the good stuff from the first book to quench my thirst for more of it yet enough new stuff that it doesn’t feel like a cheap rehash.

Just a quick note that I’m truly impressed, again, by the translator, Pamela Carmell. To stay true to someone else’s voice and vision for so many pages into a different language… wow!

Argh, can’t wait ’til the next one is available in English!

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Brief Book Review of The Newsflesh Trilogy

What:

The Newsflesh Trilogy:

Cover artwork for Feed

Zombies and blogging. Cool.
Source credit: http://miragrant.com/wallpapers.php

Feed, Deadline, & Blackout.

Who:

Mira Grant (AKA Seanan McGuire)

She is a very busy author. She won an award for best new author in 2010 (John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer), and already all these books? And they’re not stupid books, either. (You know how some authors write a gazillion books because they don’t seem to care whether they’re any good? That’s not the case here.)

Newsflesh and a new series, Parasitology, are written under her Mira Grant moniker. She has about a gazillion other projects under the Seanan McGuire name.  I’ve only read the Newflesh trilogy so far (and plan to read the novellas soon). Do any of you have suggestions as to what of her other works I should read?

The Nitty Gritty:

Spoiler-free breakdown for you–which means, again, there’s not a lot I can say about the actual plot.

This is not a book series about a zombie outbreak. This is a story set 20-25 years or so after the zombie outbreak. The zombies are around and make life difficult and scary, but this is absolutely not another “What’s this about rabies-like symptoms in the news?” kind of story (and I will read those books ’til the cows come home, but I’ll also admit it’s nice to take a break and look into the future as well).  The protagonists are bloggers, hence the title Feed, as in RSS but also as in zombies. Get it? Eh? Eh? ;D  (I actually do think it’s witty.)

Since the series about a group of bloggers, there are ‘blog posts’ every chapter, but it’s not annoying (like when books try to use IM’ing as narrative and it just looks weird). Grant does a nice job of foreshadowing just enough to make the reader feel smart for unraveling pieces of mystery along the way, but I’ll be honest: I was about 15 pages from the end of Blackout and I still wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to end.

Oddly enough, as much as it has going for it, I sort of dislike it because I disliked almost all of the characters–they all rubbed me the wrong way. Which, when I stop and think about that, only underscores how good an author Grant is, to be able to write characters that powerfully.

Newsflesh is definitely worth reading, and I’ll be reading the related novellas at some point…   Please don’t forget to suggest what titles I should try from her McGuire works, if any of you know which are good!

Thanks!

Brief Book Review of Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End

What:

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End

Who:

Manel Loureiro (I know, the site isn’t active, but the message is hilarious!)

Hell-ooo, nurse!

Oh wait, Manel Loureiro is a practicing attorney and international best-selling author, not a nurse. I suppose that may have something to do with my heart did some pitter-pattering when I finished the best zombie book I’ve read in a dog’s age and saw his bio. Good looking and obviously brilliant? Yes, please!

Enough about my new crush, though…

The nitty gritty:

So far as I can tell, Beginning of the End is the only one of the Apocalypse Z series currently available in English, though if you happen to read Italian, the second installment (Dark Days) is available to you. Or, if you’re fluent enough in Spanish to read well, I believe the third has been published as well (The Wrath of the Righteous). If only I’d kept up with my Spanish…

This is a very good book, folks. Doubtless, some of the credit has to go to translator Pamela Carmell — it can’t be easy to translate a 300+ page book successfully. Think of all those idioms that make no sense from one culture to another.

It’s written in the journal-entry style, likely due to its having been written as blog entries originally. Day by Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne came about similarly and is also written as journal entries.  How cool is it that we get to witness a new genre emerging as a consequence of the techno-world we’re living in? (Total side note: The third in the series, Shattered Hourglass, was delivered to my door this morning. So excited to read it! I plan to write a review on the series once I’ve read #3.)

There’s not much else to say without any spoilers. This is a very well written book. There are moments that may seem familiar if you read a lot of zombie books — not in a plagiaristic sense, but in a questions that need answering for zombie books sense. As a writer and as a fan of the genre, I find it very interesting to watch it develop. How do authors deal with fast vs. slow? Journal-entry style or a more traditional 3rd person POV, limited or omniscient?

I’m off to tidy the house   pretend to do something productive then succumb to the next zombie book.

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