Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction

Review: The Edge of the Abyss

Cover of "The Edge of the Abyss," featuring a girl dressed in black standing on the seashore with massive read octopus tentacles rising from the surf
Image from Emily Skrutskie

Title: The Edge of the Abyss

Author: Emily Skrutskie

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Science Fiction

Trigger Warnings: Blood/gore, violence between sea monsters

WARNING: This book is a sequel and this review contains spoilers of The Abyss Surrounds Us!

Back Cover:

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Case dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.

But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and threatening the ocean’s ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?

Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

Review:

This is one of the best emotional roller coasters I’ve been on in YEARS.

So I loved loved loved The Abyss Surrounds Us, and as soon as I finished reading it I immediately reserved this book at the library.

It never made it out of the library. I had a break between work and yoga, sat down in a chair, and devoured the entire book in a single 1.5 hour sitting. I couldn’t put it down and really didn’t want to.

You get more of the great characters in this book, including some backstories and more about Swift’s history. Also some of Cas’s family towards the end. But most of what you get is Cas and Swift and their relationship, which is a beautiful, complicated mess and a total emotional roller coaster. Ups, downs, love, hurt … so many emotions. It was so raw and real and vivid and I loved the way it wrenched my heart around.

We also get a lot more about pirates in this book. How they work, who they are … even meeting a lot more of them. And it’s interesting, because they’re all scheming and piratey, but none of them seem quite as ruthless as Santa Elena. (And as a bonus, you get to learn a lot about pirate politics, which there is apparently a lot of.)

There is a plot, and a really good one – other set-free Reckoners like Bao are destroying the ocean’s ecosystem – but it takes a bit of a backseat to Cas’s emotional turmoil and her messy relationship with Swift and the reoccurring ethical conundrum of working for and with pirates. But the emotional plot and the plot plot blend nicely, and even though emotions are the focus, it doesn’t overwhelm the sea monster plot.

The only thing I wasn’t 100% a fan of was the final battle. Yeah, it was epic and there were sea monsters and stuff, but in my opinion it wasn’t quite as epic as the ending of book one. Don’t take me the wrong way, it was still pretty darn epic. The Abyss Surrounds Us just set a really high bar that The Edge of the Abyss didn’t quite meet. The ending after the final battle, though, makes up for it.

Overall, this was a great book and an amazing series. This review really isn’t doing this book justice. I loved it. It pulled my heart out and played with it and it’s one of the best books overall I’ve read in a while. I’m just sad this is the end of the series. Logically, I know it’s a good ending, but still. I wish there was more!

The Abyss Surrounds Us Series:

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Did Not Finish, Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Stung

Cover of "Stung," featuring red text on a black background and a translucent image of a honeybee superimposed with an image of a syringe
Image from Bethany Wiggins

Title: Stung

Author: Bethany Wiggins

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Trigger Warnings: Death, blood/gore, alluded threat of rape

Back Cover:

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered-her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right wrist-a black oval with five marks on either side-that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. And she’s right. When the honeybee population collapsed, a worldwide pandemic occurred and the government tried to bio-engineer a cure. Only the solution was deadlier than the original problem-the vaccination turned people into ferocious, deadly beasts who were branded as a warning to un-vaccinated survivors. Key people needed to rebuild society are protected from disease and beasts inside a fortress-like wall. But Fiona has awakened branded, alone–and on the wrong side of the wall . . .

Read to: Page 72

Review:

I have mixed feelings about this book.

Okay, let’s back up. I wasn’t all that excited about reading this. I picked it up because I’d heard of it many, many years ago and it was on clearance for $1 at my local bookstore. Those are the only reasons. I finally started reading it because I ran out of library books a few days before my next library trip.

I really like the concept. You get quite a bit from the back cover, and even though I didn’t get too far into the book, the world was great. It was dark and gritty and violent and fascinating, the kind of place where even when you know it’s day you picture the sky full of black clouds. And I really like that kind of setting. It was shaping up to be a pretty solid post-apocalyptic world.

The part that I couldn’t get past was Fiona. And not really Fiona herself. It was that it’s made really clear that she’s in her late teens and has an obviously well-developed body, but she’s lost a big chunk of her memory and still thinks she’s 13. The first ally character she meets has her disguise her gender because “it’s unsafe to be a girl” – and the reader knows exactly why, especially when you see the rough and rowdy bands of men roaming around, but Fiona is still 13 in her head and has no idea. And even though her body is older, it felt really gross and creepy to me to hang rape threats over the head of a 13-year-old kid.

Also it felt kinda weird for me, a 20-year-old, to be inside the head of a 13-year-old. It never really bothered me when I read middle grade books, but for some reason this one felt like an invasion of privacy.

Honestly, that was my only problem with the book. Without that part, I don’t think I would have found it spectacular, but I think I would have enjoyed it. That one little detail just gave me an uneasy feeling, and I couldn’t keep reading.

The Stung series:

  1. Stung
  2. Cured
Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction

Review: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Cover of "The Abyss Surrounds Us," featuring an Asian girl standing on the deck of a ship with the giant eye of a sea monster behind her
Image from Emily Skrutskie

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Author: Emily Skrutskie

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Science Fiction

Trigger Warnings: Death, blood/gore

Back Cover:

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. Shes been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the giant, genetically engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Review:

I first heard of this as a lesbian book recommendation on Tumblr and immediately reserved it at the library because heck yes scifi lesbians! I’m always complaining about there not being enough gays in speculative fiction. But anyway.

For some reason I thought this was set in space. Not sure how I got that idea. It was a little disorientating at first, because I’m expecting space and getting ocean, but once I got a couple chapters in I was hooked.

The Abyss Surrounds Us has everything I look for in a book.

The Characters: Fascinating! Cas is the protagonist, an East Asian girl from San Francisco who is just getting ready to take her place in the family business – which happens to be raising and training sea monsters. It’s pretty darn epic. Then there’s Swift, the pirate girl assigned to watch Cas while she’s training the pirate’s monster, who’s part badass and a tiny bit sweet and mostly just making the best of some crappy circumstances. Both girls have great character arcs, the romantic tension is obvious but built slowly, and you get cool minor characters in the pirates … it’s just awesome.

The Setting: So this is after a lot of global warming and stuff and the oceans have risen to ridiculous levels, countries have splintered into smaller countries, (hence why I put “post-apocalyptic” as a genre on this) and pirates run so rampant the only way legitimate ships could protect themselves is by genetically engineering sea monsters. It’s a great concept. The pirate ship that most of the story happens on is a combination of old-fashioned pirate-y stuff and modern technology, and there’s even a brief excursion to a floating pirate city which is also really cool. It’s just fantastic.

The Plot: The plot is really quickly paced, which I loved. It follows Cas, and starts with “what’s wrong with my Reckoner,” then moves into “survive the pirates/train the pirates’ monster enough that he looks trained/don’t actually train the monster because I don’t want to help the pirates because they’re evil.” But then she begins to wonder if they’re really so evil. And she starts getting to know (and kinda like) Swift. And what starts off so simply – survive the pirates, don’t help them, get home – suddenly gets super complicated with ethics and emotions and things.

The End: Holy crap, the end. An epic battle that made me feel Epic Battle Feelings that I haven’t gotten from a book in a long time. A twist I probably should have seen coming but didn’t. Romance that I did see coming but was still really happy about. And it wrapped up nicely while still leaving room for a sequel. There were no cliffhangers, just the confident knowledge that you’ll want to spend another book in this world with these characters. And I do.

One thing I will say about it, though, is it is pretty violent. (Hence the trigger warnings.) Some people do die, one death is described in somewhat graphic detail (even though Cas is disgusted by it), and there’s quite a bit of carnage in the final battle. So just be aware of that if that kind of thing bothers you.

If I have any complaints, it’s that the book was too short. (It’s less than 300 pages, which is short to me, and it feels shorter than it is.) But it’s paced perfectly, so I really shouldn’t complain. It was a fantastic book, and I’m super excited there’s a book two. Now, pardon me while I go reserve that one at the library …

(As a side note: If you’re a fan, you really should check out Emily Skrutskie on Tumblr.)

The Abyss Surrounds Us series:

  1. The Abyss Surrounds Us
  2. The Edge of the Abyss
Did Not Finish, Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Firefight

Cover of "Firefight," featuring glowing gold text on a background of dark red torn apart to reveal a golden sky
Image from Brandon Sanderson

Title: Firefight

Series: The Reckoners #2

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Trigger Warnings: Death, blood/gore

Note: This review contains spoilers of the first Reckoners book, SteelheartDon’t read this review if you want to avoid mild spoilers.

Back cover: 

They told David it was impossible – that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart – invincible, immortal, unconquerable – is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.

Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic – Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Review:

I read the first book in this series, Steelheart, as an ARC in 2013 and loved it. So it’s been several years since I read it. I honestly remember it pretty well, though, so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to get back into book two – especially with how fantastic of a writer Brandon Sanderson is. I was actually really excited to pick this up.

Unfortunately, it kinda lost me. (And currently holds the record for only Brandon Sanderson book to ever do that.)

I actually did have a pretty easy time getting back into the world. And what a fantastic world. That’s one of the things I love about Brandon Sanderson – his worlds are A M A Z I N G. This series’ world is a dark post-apocalyptic thing where the world is ruled by cruel super-powered people, and focuses on an underground group of guerrilla warriors who are fighting them. And it is great. This book goes to a different city, so you get to explore a new city ruled by a new Epic and following new rules, and I loved the world just as much in this book as I did in the first.

There were a few details from Steelheart that I missed, but Firefight did a good job getting me back up to speed. So if you pick this up a long time (*cough*several years*cough*) after you read the first book, don’t worry, you won’t miss much.

The main reason I just couldn’t get into Firefight was David. Like the back cover said, his motivation has changed from vengeance to finding Firefight and getting answers. Except it’s mostly finding Firefight. So much of his motivation had become “oh my gosh I love her” that I couldn’t deal with it. It wasn’t so much the romance angle that rubbed me the wrong way as David’s inability to even consider anything bad about her. I just got so frustrated with the whole “blinded by love” aspect.

That’s really the main things I have to say about Firefight. The plot was pretty much the same as the previous book – kill an Epic to save the city – just in a different city and with some new characters. The world was fantastic, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters this time around. (Although admittedly, this may have been a little different if I’d have read this directly after Steelheart.) It wasn’t a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, it just wasn’t for me.

The Reckoners Series:

  1. Steelheart
  2. Firefight
  3. Calamity
The Marian
Post-Apocalyptic, Steampunk

Review: The Marian by Taylor Hohulin

The Marian
Image from Taylor Hohulin; used by permission

Title: The Marian

Author: Taylor Hohulin

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Steampunk

Fifteen-year-old Ethan Denby doesn’t know how he got on the Marian. He just woke up one day inside the body of its captain.

The Marian is unlike any ship Ethan has ever seen. It crawls on long, metal legs over dunes of salt in search of water, despite laws granting exclusive harvesting rights to a corrupt organization known as HydroSystems Worldwide.

HydroSystems is closing in, tensions are mounting aboard the Marian, and on top of all that, Ethan is beginning to think the dreams he’s been having aren’t completely harmless. If he doesn’t get home soon, Ethan could die inside someone else’s body in this wasteland of a world. The only way back seems to be through a place known simply as the Cloud, but how can he convince the crew to take him there when it means confronting a dangerous cult and venturing into a place where the very fabric of reality has worn thin?

Review:

I participated in a blog tour for this book when I was supposed to be on a blogging break. That just tells you how excited I was to read this. A little bit steampunk, a little bit post-apocalyptic (both genres that I really enjoy), body-switching, and a place where reality isn’t always reality? Sign me up!

I liked Ethan more than I thought I would . But he was pretty mature for his age, and brave despite being in a dangerous, confusing new world. I wouldn’t call him a leader, but he could stand up for himself. I usually have trouble connecting to younger characters, males especially, but I really enjoyed Ethan.

Even though Ethan was the only character major enough to get his own paragraph, the other characters were all great. Brilliant mechanic and Ethan’s new friend Jackie, Jackie’s tough and intelligent sister Bonnie, ex-mercenary and the Marian‘s new captain Percy…even the cook, who only said about three lines the whole book, had a unique personality.

The Marian has a two-pronged plot. First is Ethan – how did he end up here and how can he get home? The second is the world – scavenging for water and discovering that HydroSystems is perpetrators of a huge conspiracy. Both plots were great, and they were kind of interconnected. They both had things to do with the Cloud. The Cloud doesn’t really show up until near the end, but it seems like everything in the world is connected to it. It’s a really weird, creepy, fascinating thing.

My only problem with the book:  it was too short! Due to quite a few loose ends, I think it’s first in a series. I didn’t like that – not because I wouldn’t enjoy spending another book in this world, but because I wasn’t aware of it going in. I guessed how things would play out, and the book ended before I could see if my plot psychicness was acting up or if this was one of those awesome books that made me draw wrong conclusions.

I had very high expectations for The Marian, and it delivered. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, whenever that happens.

I received a free review copy of The Marian from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

THE MARIAN scored a 3.7 (A)

Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Blackout by Madeleine Henry

Blackout
Image from Madeleine Henry; used by permission

Title: Blackout (Darkness #1)

Author: Madeleine Henry

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

One wall divides life from darkness. After the worldwide Blackout, America built a concrete wall—the Frontier—across the middle of the nation to isolate its precious electricity in the top half. Everyone below the Frontier was forsaken, and now only a few survive in the grim region known as the Dark Zone.

Sixteen year old Phoenix Troublefield endures the dark with his girlfriend, Star Windsong. When America announces that it will trade electricity for immigrants, Phoenix and Star sacrifice themselves for the power that might save her younger brother. On the other side of the Frontier, they find America is not what they expected, and instead they are thrown into a shocking and deeply personal contest that threatens to destroy their love. When the chance comes to escape back into the Dark Zone, it may already be too late.

I almost decided to ignore this book. The author sent out an ARC offer and wanted the book read and reviewed within a week. But the plot looked interesting. So I went against the part of me that said “you have your graduation open house coming up and there’s no way you can read and review that in one week!”

And I’m very glad I did.

I probably liked Phoenix so much because he was a lot like me – he had a lot of anger he wasn’t always sure what to do with. He also had some kick-butt skills with Magic (his rifle), and loved Star a heck of a lot. I didn’t really expect to like him much, but he got under my skin and made me love him anyway.

Star was Phoenix’s complete opposite. She was sweet and innocent and cared so much about everyone, and had a gift for making everyone like her. But I think she has more strength than anyone gives her credit for.

Phoenix and Star were the main characters, but there’s so many others. Dangerous and ridiculously smart Elecktra, child-like Tinder, even Star’s brave little brother who’s only in two scenes. They all felt amazingly real.

I’ve read quite a few post-apocalyptic books, but this one is really different. Instead of trying to rebuild the world after the apocalypse, it’s more of a group of underprivileged survivalists trying to navigate a world of high-class people they despise. Plus a competition. And there’s a lot more going on than anyone suspects (me included).

I devoured Blackout in one sitting. It’s one of those books where the characters got under my skin like close friends and the plot captured my imagination. I didn’t want it to end! And I can’t find anything on book two, but I need it soon.

I received a free ARC of Blackout from the author. Her generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Darkness trilogy:

  1. Blackout

Report Card

For more on my grading system, please see my About page.

BLACKOUT scored a 3.6 (A)

Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult

Review: Rise from the Ashes: Lena’s Story by Laura Franklin

Rise from the Ashes: Lena's Story book cover
Image from Laura Franklin; used by permission

Title: Rise from the Ashes: Lena’s Story

Author: Laura Franklin

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

The Taliban bomb wiped out over half of the population and left the United States in shambles. Lena, a young woman from Vermont, and Mick, a young man in the US Army, grow close and become leaders as they trudge north to meet up with a military camp at Lake Champlain. In another group that is trying to survive, a priest leads discouraged parishioners  north and is faced with tough decisions as he has to put the well-being of the group ahead of individuals. They have to band together to make it through this new chaotic situation, relying on their intuition and basic survival skills. This motley crew must reorganize the country just as was done after the revolutionary war. The clock is ticking as the persisting threats of the Taliban, drug lords from south of the border and rival gangs across the country put US freedoms in jeopardy.

It took me a while to decide to read this book. I thought it sounded pretty interesting, but I wasn’t sure until I saw the cover. The cover really clinched it for me – it’s awesome.

But it got off to a pretty rocky start. Journal-style post-apocalyptics are hard to write (I know, I’ve tried), and I can’t say Laura Franklin pulled it off. She was close, but not quite.

Even though the subtitle of this book is Lena’s Story, Lena didn’t figure into it as much as I thought. I mean, she was a major character, and a great one at that – fun, smart, optimistic, good with people. The book just didn’t have as much of her perspective as I thought it would. I expected more of her journal entries than there actually were.

I’d mention some other characters, but they were mostly just background people. They had their own personalities and purposes and roles to play, but they weren’t exactly important. Well, they were, but they didn’t seem like it, if that makes any sense.

Towards the halfway point, when the world was established and I knew what was going on, the awkward beginning was left behind and the story moved towards a long trek full of terrified people and gun-wielding crazies and struggles with the natural world. There was also a healthy dose of weird stuff going on – prophetic dreams and other strange-cool stuff that added a fantasy vibe to the post-apocalyptic world.

Judging from the title and a few random strangers’ perspectives thrown into the middle of the story, I think this may be the first in a series – or at least that a sequel is on the way. I’d be interested.

I received a free review copy of Rise from the Ashes: Lena’s Story from the author. Her generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Steelheart

Steelheart book cover
Image from The Nerdlink

Title: Steelheart

Series: Reckoners #1

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Back cover:

Ten years ago, Calamity came – a burst in the sky that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But the epics are no friends of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. Now, in what was once Chicago, an astonishingly powerful Epic called Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. He is invincible, and nobody fights back…except the Reckoners. The Reckoners, a group of ordinary humans, spend their lives finding Epics’ weaknesses and assassinating them. And David wants in. Years ago, Steelheart killed David’s father. Like the Reckoners, David has been studying and planning, but he has something they need. He has seen Steelheart bleed. And he will see it again.

Review:

After Brandon Sanderson’s super-fun middle grade Alcatraz series and the awesome high fantasy Mistborn, I had high hopes for Steelheart. And it didn’t disappoint. I should know better than to start one of his books before bed, because if I do, I never get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

I enjoyed David. He was super smart – brilliant, even – but not so great with people. Or metaphors, which was just fun. But he frequently said the wrong thing, or goofed up, and made people angry. He was angry inside, too, but I liked him in spite of that. He was seriously awesome.

I want to mention other characters, but that would make this review far too long. Every member of the Reckoners was fantastic – they all had their quirks and unique personalities, and I loved each and every one of them (especially Cody, with his habit of changing accents and making up a family history to support the change).

As I expected of a Brandon Sanderson book, the plot was the if-I-stop-reading-before-the-end-I’m-going-to-die-of-not-knowing-what-happens-next kind. A clandestine group of people – a legend in their own right – trying to kill almost unkillable super-powered Epics. It was amazing: a dark, suspenseful, action-packed, emotionally tense not-exactly-superhero story with an urban vibe.

By about halfway through the book, I had everything figured out. I knew what was going on, what Steelheart’s weakness was, and how it would all play out. And I was completely wrong. Every single revealed secret caught me by surprise. Any book that can make me draw wrong conclusions is impressive, but a book that can trample them as fantastically as Steelheart did earns definite bonus points.

Steelheart was epic (pun somewhat intended). I thought it was a standalone, but by the end, I realized it couldn’t be. There’s more Epics to kill, a few loose ends that need tying up, and the fact that I would love to spend another book in Steelheart‘s gritty urban world. I can’t wait to read the next book, Firefight – which doesn’t come out until September of next year, dang it!

I received a free advance reader copy of Steelheart from the publisher. Their generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Reckoners series:

  1. Steelheart (September 2013)
  2. Firefight (January 2015)
  3. Calamity (February 2016)
Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Rootless

Rootless book cover
Image from Chris Howard Books

Title:  Rootless

Author:  Chris Howard

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Back Cover:

Seventeen-year-old Banyan is a tree builder.  Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who will pay to own a tree.  The real trees were destroyed more than a century ago, but Banyan’s father used to tell him stories.  That was before his father was taken.  When Banyan meets a woman with a tattoo that is the clue to the whereabouts of the last trees on earth, he sets off across a wasteland from which few return.  Banyan isn’t the only one after the trees, though – and he’s running out of time.  He is forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, a pirate girl with an agenda of her own.  As they race towards a promise land that might be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.

Review:

I wasn’t super excited about reading Rootless, but when I found it at the library, I figured I’d try it.  If nothing else, I usually enjoy post-apocalyptic stories.

Banyan was a rough kid with a rough life.  He wasn’t educated, but he was good with his hands, and he had plenty of backbone – or stupidity, depending on how you look at it.  He had a stubborn streak, and every once in a while a tendency to fixate on one thing to the exclusion of everything else.  He’s the kind of person my parents would want me to avoid, but he’s exactly the kind of person who makes a great main character in a post-apocalyptic story.

Alpha was…something.  She was a lot like Banyan in the tough and stubborn area.  But other than that, and the punk side that made her fit in with the other pirates, I didn’t see what Banyan saw in her.  She was different, I’ll give her that, but she wasn’t awesome.

One thing I noticed in retrospect is that Banyan is really the only developed character.  Practically everyone except his father seemed flat, which is sad because the only way we get to know his father is through Banyan’s thoughts.  Of course, this could have something to do with the fact that by the end, almost every other character was dead.

The post-apocalytpic world of Rootless was exactly what a post-apocalyptic world should be – a world I would really not like to live in.  Nothing growing but corn, and that controlled by one company that charges exorbitant prices, flesh-eating locusts…it’s the kind of horrific world that I enjoy reading about, but would definitely not want to live in.

The plot was pretty well tied up in the world.  Trees are alive somewhere, and people want to find them.  Banyan’s father is probably with the trees, so Banyan wants to find them, too.  And most of the plot is Banyan and his traveling companions trying to survive the world and figure out where the trees might be hiding.  There were a couple massive twists at the end, too – and I didn’t see any of them coming, which was a plus.

One thing I definitely have to give Chris Howard credit for is Banyan’s voice.  The book is in first person, and there were little stylistic details in the narration that weren’t hugely noticeable, but gave the impression of an uneducated kid with a rough life.  Things like forgetting “It” at the beginning of a sentence, making some nouns singular when they should be plural, mild swear words that I didn’t mind because they fit so well – little details that gave Banyan an amazingly distinct voice.

Overall, while Rootless wasn’t a bad read, I didn’t fall in love it with.  For the most part, I liked the story while I was reading it, but I definitely wouldn’t read it again.

I’m assuming there’s going to be another book – a note in the back said “End of Book One” – but I can’t find anything about it anywhere, not even a series name.  So if there is a sequel to Rootless, I don’t think it’s coming out anytime soon.  And anyway, I’m not sure I’m interested.

UPDATE:

The Rootless series:

  1. Rootless
  2. The Rift
  3. The Reckoning
Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Monument 14

Monument 14 Book Cover
Image from The Aussie Zombie

Title:  Monument 14

Series: Monument 14 #1

Author:  Emmy Laybourne

Genre:  Post-Apocalyptic

Back Cover:

Dean is on his way to school when a massive hailstorm hits hard enough to demolish the bus.  By the time it’s over, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids are trapped in a Greenway superstore.  They build a refuge for themselves inside.  But the hailstorm wasn’t the beginning, and it won’t be the end.  The world as they know it is tearing itself apart.

Review:

I picked up this book because not only do I like a good post-apocalyptic story, I was curious what kind of problems these kids would have, since the obvious food and water problems wouldn’t apply for a while.

Dean, the main character, was not what I expected.  As the main character in a post-apocalyptic story, I expected him to be the take-charge, keeping-everybody-alive kind of guy.  And he wasn’t.  He was more of a follower than a leader, not great with people, and awkward with girls.  But, somehow, I liked him anyway.

Niko was the kind of guy I expected as the main character.  The kind of always-be-prepared, take-charge leader, who wasn’t exactly friendly but knew how to get the job done.  He was frequently harsh and/or distrustful, which kept him from being my favorite character, but it was definitely a good thing he was there.

Jake, I didn’t particularly like.  He was the womanizing jock type, and spent half the time drunk or high.  Although he could be nice at times, for the most part, he was a jerk.

Josie, once she got over the initial shock, was…I’m not sure exactly what to call her.  She was a leader, but better with people than with strategy.  Frankly, I think if she wasn’t around, the little kids would have been a huge problem.

There were fourteen characters in all, which is a pretty big cast, but it actually worked out.  Astrid, one of the high school kids, was AWOL for about half of the story, and Braydon, the other one, mostly went along with Jake.  For about the first half of the book, I got the six little kids mixed up.  Even towards the end if a kid hadn’t been mentioned for a while, when they came up again, I’d have a “who is that again?” moment.

I really can’t say much about the plot, because the characters are the plot, if that makes sense.  Since they were stuck in a supermart, survival wasn’t really the focus.  The focus was the characters themselves and how they handled the disasters and each other.  This is definitely what I’d call character-driven fiction, and it’s done brilliantly.  All the emotions felt very real, and even though I didn’t agree with everything they did, it was perfectly understandable.

Normally, character-driven plots aren’t something I go for, but I really enjoyed this story.  I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Sky on Fire, when it comes out in May.

The Monument 14 series:

  1. Monument 14
  2. Sky On Fire
  3. Savage Drift