As one American family enjoys their break at their Scottish holiday home, a terrible sickness is released when blood is spilt on ancient magical land. The sickness travels with the family back across the oceans and within an alarmingly short period of time, more than half of the world’s population is dead. The virus seems to be unstoppable.
Nora Roberts hands down is a fiction writing juggernaut and anything this author puts out is always going to be welcomed with great glee by her army of fans. The news that Roberts was turning her talents to the post-apocalyptic (which well when done well, is my absolute favourite of all genres) was a real boost for the genre and well received by the reading (and reviewers!) community.
What you will quickly discover as you dive in is that this dystopian novel is unexpectedly populated by fantasy characters like elves and fairies, sensitives and telekinetics etc. The novel would have worked well as a straight post virus work, or as a fantasy novel. YEAR ONE is a uncomfortable blend of both that does not quite hit the mark. Going into this read I wasn’t anticipating the fantasy elements, and it was quite disappointing to encounter them. Can’t help but feeling a little cheated by the inclusions of characters that have such handy superpowers at their disposal to deal with any challenges that come their way.
Roberts always creates characters that you will want to invest your time in, and this is the min strength we see again in YEAR ONE. They won’t all survive, and the readers will have an interest in seeing through which ones will make it with or without newly acquired abilities. It is not a dark read as the fairy elements are a bit ridiculous and lighten the mood. As a beach read it serves very well and the impetus in picking up the next novel is to see where everyone ends up – what new alliances will be formed, who will go on to lead, who will be able to adapt and survive.
Book review - Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King & Owen King
Right on the money as he always is, Stephen King - with his co-writer son Owen King - addresses here a premise that is ridiculously and soberingly topical. What is it that could bring down society in such a dramatically short space of time? The withdrawing of the women.
Women - those who bear the ‘thought burden’, those who do the nurturing, those who are responsible for the “reining in” of erratic behaviour. Stunningly simple, the thematical concept behind SLEEPING BEAUTIES is not to visualize the horror and drama as the world is slowly broken down, but more to realize how simple and obvious making this happen might be.
As you would expect with the epic novels of this size, SLEEPING BEAUTIES has a cast of thousands and the reader will need to keep on top of all that, in particular as the siege of the women’s prison continues. Lots of guys with guns all fighting what they think is the good fight. Stephen King has obviously been here before (not necessarily geographically - though any fan of King knows that many of his towns and folk do crossover in a freakishly satisfying way) as his legacy novels like THE STAND set new benchmarks for post-apocalyptic works. Benchmarks, that just quietly, may never be vaulted over by other authors. King is King. He does these “rise above the common doom” novels extremely well.
It is easy (and quite fun!) to imagine that a savage edit might have taken place to remove the odd literary swipe at present day government and industry leaders. Messrs King masterfully duck and weave around the particulars and instead illustrate the domestic oppressions and expectations still placed on women via poignant little vignettes that strike uncomfortable and familiar chords.
The identifiable everyday and the supernatural are fully meshed in SLEEPING BEAUTIES and it’s a testament to the writers skill that soon we don’t question when the otherworldly inclusions appear. It is not a full scale good versus evil battle here in this novel but the take home will unsettle regardless. Allow a few days to switch off and take it all in.
BOOK REVIEW: THE FIREMAN by Joe Hill
Opening into an evolving new world where people are suffering from a highly contagious illness that causes them to burn from within when stressed, the pace is fast and we’re desperate for details. Enter cool headed school nurse Harper Grayson who is one of those remarkable people who manages to keep it all together in times of crisis.
Hill writes with confidence but there are assumptions made on his readers; a bit more clarification between the actuals and the fantastic would have been appreciated; in many of the action scenes of John (for example) we are not sure whether some of his fiery weapons are born from himself ie in the supernatural realm of his new capabilities, or if they are something more mechanical that he has created as a ruse.
Let’s talk size. The epic novels generally are also doorstoppers; we get that they require the commitment. What THE FIREMAN actually needed was a savage edit. We are quite caught up in the how the whole world is going down but if we’re investing in such a weighty novel, we need to see the disintegration of society on a grander scale. If the novel had to be confined to one town, perhaps it would have served the novel better to have a whole town story with multiple perspectives. This book has a lot of meandering filler which wasn’t required. It got at times a little insular and suffocating. With some tightening up, we may just have had the reader powering through, gratifyingly sure that there is a terrific battle or insight just around the corner.
Let’s talk characters! When they are facing the end of the civilized world, we really want to care about the survivors. It is hard to find anyone to empathize or care too much about in this novel. Our heroine makes a stupendously idiotic decision right at the start which affects her safety and mobility for the rest of the book. She compounds this soon after with another clanger. Everyone in her new community is either creepy or intent on living in a bubble when common sense would dictate they move the heck along before the town’s self-appointed saviours tracks them down.
THE FIREMAN for sure has that post apocalyptic wonder (who will survive, how will they survive?) and does a good job of conveying the fear and confusion in one pocket of the world as it all goes to hell. It doesn't quite balance the divide between horror and science fiction but will be the one to read when you are wanting to leave the world behind and be an observer in another possible version of our own.