The Undying by Ethan Reid

I really enjoyed the Undying.  It’s an apocalyptic type story that (after a short prologue) starts in Paris on New Year’s Eve where a group of friends are dining together to bring in the New Year.  Unfortunately things don’t go according to plan.  Early in the evening a series of strange lights can be witnessed over the City – similar to the aurora borealis – and later on, as the 10 second countdown to the end of the year commences – all the lights go out and the City is plunged into darkness.  The following morning it appears that things have not recovered, in fact things have deteriorated further.

Jeanie and Ben are over from America for the celebration.  On the morning after the ‘lights out’ they begin to discover a little of the nature of what is actually happening and become witnesses to how incredibly quickly things can spiral out of control.  The two friends are faced with a journey across Paris to try and find their friends and check out just what their chances of returning home really are. Of course there’s much more to it than that.  Nobody really knows what’s going on, has there been an extinction level event? Conjecture seems to point in the direction of a large comet colliding with the planet causing a massive cloud of dust and dirt which blocks out the sun and which will eventually fall back to earth, this to be followed by searing temperatures and ultimately a new ice age!  Not much to look forward to there then.  On top of which people are panicking and/or turning to violence in their fear.  And, as if that wasn’t enough something else seems to be stalking the streets – strange pale people, fast and strong who can invade your thoughts and manipulate your feelings and fears.

To break it down.  There isn’t any world building necessary here.  It’s Paris in the current day and age.  This isn’t an alternate setting or a futuristic one.  So, easy to picture and no need to elaborate further.  The people – well, again, probably not the strong point of the book.  Not in terms of me having any problems with them but more they’re not really the main focus either although that being said it is interesting to watch them start to pick at each other as their veneer of politeness wears thin and it’s also interesting to watch not just the friendships as they begin to unravel but also the dawning of realisation when a person’s true character breaks to the surface.  I guess being in a life or death situation will without doubt clarify who your friends really are.  The plot is the key to this story.  It moves fast and is a basic survival story and a quest of sorts.  There is also an additional element to the story when Jeanie ends up taking guardianship of a newborn baby.  Why you may ask?  She just seems to be compelled to do so.

I can see why there are comparisons to The Passage – although the stories are not particularly similar in anything other than that an unusual ‘child’ seems to have been born in amongst the chaos – perhaps a saviour of sorts.  The strange others who now roam the city become known as the moribund.    They seek out and kill other humans, seemingly to continue the spread of whatever infection it is they’re carrying.

Like I mentioned, I really enjoyed this.  It’s a zombie type novel but with a few differences.  It was interesting reading the story from the perspective of two people who are now in a foreign country during a disaster and watching the reaction and negativity of the people around them as they turned from mistrust to blame.  I think the story really excels at showing how the two begin to feel a little like outcasts, even the inclusion of snippets of French throughout the tale – which I suppose if you don’t understand the language gives you a good feel for how these two must feel facing that language barrier during a monumental crisis!  Plus, I enjoy a good survival quest and the groups journey across Paris is definitely interesting to read – particularly as they descend to the catacombs that run beneath the City.

I would point out that there are some scenes of violence – in case you’re a bit queasy.

On the whole a good read, not terribly deep and meaningful I suppose but definitely intriguing and I will without doubt continue with the series.

I received a copy of from the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

I’m also submitting this for my RIP event over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Wishing you were there.. catacombs to castles!

b2bf5-toptentuesday2This week over at the Broke and the Bookish the Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

‘Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit’

My list contains not only places as such – hope that’s not cheating!

  1. Prague – Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  I loved the descriptions in this story.  I’ve always wanted to visit but this book made me want to go immediately!  As it happens, I haven’t been yet, but…  I will!!
  2. Not a place but a house – Longbourn by Jo Baker.  I’d like to be a fly on the wall and watch the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ goings on of the inhabitants of Longbourn.
  3. The University in Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind – particularly the library!  No naked flames!!!
  4. The Catacombs underneath Paris – The Undying by Ethan Reid,  Creepy, yes, intriguing – very!!
  5. Alaska – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  The descriptions in this story are quite entrancing.
  6. The Castle from Howl’s Moving Castle – a castle that moves from place to place with a door opens into four different places.  A talking fire and Howl.  Magical and wonderful.
  7. The Room of Requirement – Harry Potter by J K Rowling.  There are lots of things that I require – more often than not, some extra time and a quiet corner in which to read – I think the Room of Requirement could sort me out.
  8. The Shire – LoTR by Tolkien – I would love to visit the Shire and in particular Bag End.  Fortunately, not being statuesque I could probably walk around in Bilbo’s home with no problems or bumps.
  9. Fairyland – as written about by Catherynne Valente – because it sounds so strange and magical.
  10. London Below – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.   Who wouldn’t want to visit – I’m not saying it’s perfect but it’s full of all the strange things that lurk in your imagination.  Plus the Marquis.

I know I’ve missed loads of places but this is what I came up with.  No doubt I’ll be kicking myself when I read all the other lists.

Spark by John Twelves Hawks

I just finished reading Spark by John Twelve Hawks.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with Spark and so didn’t really start reading with any particular expectations of where I would be led, just more a sense of curiosity to find out more about this ‘assassin who believes he’s dead’!  Who wouldn’t you be curious about that??  And, I enjoyed this.  It’s very readable and it keeps you hanging on waiting to find out more.

The main protagonist is Jacob Underwood.  Following a serious motorcycle accident Jacob suffered brain damage and now has a rare neurological condition whereby he believes himself to be dead.  Known as Cotard’s syndrome – as I understand it Jacob believes his ‘spark’ is now unconnected, merely contained within a human unit which needs a certain level of sustenance in order to maintain functionality. Jacob is an odd character.  People usually feel afraid of him without knowing why exactly and in order to blend into society he has a few simple rules that he abides by – such as ‘wash each day’ or ‘cut your hair and nails each month’.  He consumes approximately 2,000 calories in the form of a nutritional drink (as he doesn’t enjoy eating).  He has no interactions with people other than his employer, quite often thinks in colour and cannot abide anyone touching him.  He actually behaves sort of like a robot which is a little ironic given the world in which he lives.

The setting is easy to imagine.  Futuristic, urban, dystopia.  ‘Nubots’ have succeeded in pushing much of the population out of jobs and onto the borderline of survival and underground movements have arisen as a result.  The population are controlled massively by ID cards and surveillance cameras.  Big Brother is definitely watching and on top of this most people seem to have something called a ‘shadow’ which not only provides information as and when required but also seems to become more to the user almost providing advice and frankly become a bit dictatorial for some users.

Jacob works for a large banking corporation, he’s part of the Special Services division.  He’s an assassin, terminating more than just bank accounts as and when required.  And, he’s the perfect fit for this role.  He can’t be reasoned with.  He has no empathy or sympathy.  He simply performs the task for which he has been engaged in the most organised way possible.  There is no right or wrong or moral ambiguity.  He simply gets on with the job.  He has killed many people without the least doubt or regret.  He is literally like a machine.  He’s the terminator but with a pulse.   On top of that, his belief that he’s already dead lends him a very devil may care attitude in terms of his own personal safety.  Although, strangely, he loves dogs above all else!

We start the story with a brief insight into how Jacob lives.  Let’s say he’s not painting the tiles red here.  His apartment is minimalist.  He walks round in a circle which helps keep him calm and sometimes he likes to go out and walk over the Brooklyn Bridge!  He has no friends and no distractions.  Very simple.  His employer is Ms Holquist.  She’s ruthless – driven by ambition and without the excuse of any ‘syndrome’ she could be the long lost great, great, great, great niece of the White Witch!  Jacob may be the killer but Ms Holquist is undoubtedly the baddie of the piece.

Anyway, this is the strange thing.  The writing is almost clinical.  There is no flowery descriptions and the book is Jacob’s story, related by himself in an unemotional and honest way.  You’d expect to be repelled by him and yet his circumstances, both past and present, give you a strange almost liking of him.  It’s odd to get my head around to be honest.  He’s basically a killer so I would expect to really dislike him and yet I find his other associates and Miss Holquist a lot more repugnant (probably because he doesn’t take any job satisfaction from his work whereas they do).  And, I wanted things to change for him.  I wanted him to have a chance.  Odd, but there you go.

The actual plot of the story starts when Miss Holquist discovers that Jacob is capable of more than she originally believed.  She’s going to expand his remit to take on more, however, there’s a reason for the saying ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’!  And so starts the story.

This is just simply a compelling read.  You start the story just wanting to know what happened to Jacob and from there onwards it becomes difficult to put the book down.  On top of that you end up feeling for a character that you never imagined you would do which is very clever of the author I think!

I didn’t really have any criticisms although I would point out that there are a few scenes of violence and torture – it’s not over the top or gratuitous but just be aware is all.

I received a copy of this from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Submitted on Goodreads and also as one of my reads for Stainless Steel Droppings RIP event – it’s certainly dark enough to make that list!

Now, important things – which cover do you like the best:

Puppet by Pauline C Harris

Posted On 11 October 2014

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Puppet is loosely based on the story of Pinocchio although not massively so.  At the start of the story Penelope has been taking part in science experiments performed by her new guardian Jed.  Penelope is an orphan and Jed adopted her from the orphanage, took her away from all her misery and give her a fresh start in his home.  However, he’s not exactly a knight in shining armour as he only took her on the condition that she became his guinea pig.

The story is set in an alternate future where marionettes have developed and are now robots with speed and strength used for various tasks.  Jed is obsessed with marionettes and his experiments will turn Penelope into a human version.  She will become faster and stronger but unfortunately having all this raw and uncontrolled power at her fingertips, combined with Penelope’s human qualities such as the ability to think and reason, and also lie, means she becomes an object of fear and attracts the unwanted attention of those in power.

I do enjoy retellings and I was keen to see how this story would be tackled, ultimately however this fell a little flat for me.

To break it down.  The world building.  I couldn’t really get a feel for the place.  Why the marionettes had been developed in what otherwise seemed and felt like a fairly basic society.  What was really there purpose as it seemed to boil down to cheap tricks and performances in carnivals and side shows.  I just had too many questions and niggles that seemed to go unanswered.  I can live without a full explanation of the sci fi involved as sometimes the explanation can leave more queries than it resolves but what was the purpose of developing a human marionette – that’s a major query right there that I never felt was tackled.

The characters.  I struggled to like Penelope although I thought Jed made an interesting character.  There was a romantic interest thrown in with Jed’s son but it felt a little superficial and the way the two behaved made me wonder whether they really cared about each other at all!

Lastly the plot.  Again, with the unresolved questions for me plus just areas that I found irritating or with holes.  Too many plot devices that were rather blatantly used to further the story – which I’m not going to list as they will constitute spoilers.

I never enjoy writing a negative review which is reflected in the length of this piece.  It may feel like I haven’t justified all my concerns but thats simply in order to stay away from spoilers.  In fairness to the book however I do feel I should mention that this is a YA novel and actually has quite a ‘young’ feel to it and clearly I’m not the target audience here so whilst this might not be for me I recognise it could work perfectly for others and I would hate to deter anybody for reading.  The simple fact is that this story and I just simply didn’t get along.

I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.  The above is my own opinion.

Mixed bag…

Posted On 9 October 2014

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Fan Art Up is a weekly meme hosted by Tabitha over at Not Yet Read.  The idea being to see if you can come up with some inspiration for a little sketch or doodle from your last week’s reading or just anything else in general. This week I’ve just finished Spark by John Twelve Hawks (review due) and Broken Road by Teresa Frohock.  I’m also reading a fairytale retelling and also just started a book called Puppet by Pauline C Harris.  I’ll leave you to decide what sketch fits which book!

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