Jeff VanderMeer’s ANNIHILATION: Addictive New Weird!

February 19, 2014 § 1 Comment

Cover art for ANNIHILATION

Cover art for ANNIHILATION

In Annihilation, we follow journey of the twelfth expedition into the mysterious Area X. All the members of the previous parties have met strange and unexplained fates – some returned home a shell of their former selves; others died of ravaging illnesses and many were never seen again.

The twelfth expedition party consists of a psychologist, a biologist, and anthropologist, a surveryor and a linguist. The biologist, emotionally disconnected and highly analytical, tells us the story from the pages of her observational journal.

Soon after establishing their base camp, the team comes across an enormous tunnel descending into the earth. Inside this tunnel, the biologist finds evidence that a sentient being is scrawling erudite messages over the walls. Upon closer inspection, the biologist finds that the messages are written in living fungi.
As she leans in to take a sample, the fungi release a stream of spores into the air. After she accidentally inhales one, the biologist begins to monitor herself for any signs of illness or behavioural change. The first effect that she notices, however, is a sudden immunity to the hypnotic instruction that the psychologist is still administering to the surveyor, the anthropologist and the linguist.

Alternate cover art for ANNIHILATION

Alternate cover art for ANNIHILATION

Why is the psychologist hypnotising the team? What is her agenda? What is the Southern Reach, and who are they? What do they expect the team to find in Area X that the eleven expeditions before did not? Who, or what, is writing on the walls of the tunnel, and where did it come from? Now that she can see through the psychologist’s façade of natural leadership, the biologist knows that the unknown landscape of Area X is not the only danger she will face on this expedition.

Annihilation is written in epistolary format – that is, as a journal. The biologist, whose name we never learn, consciously refrains from connecting with her fellow explorers in an emotional context in favour of immersing herself in her environment. Much like Dr Caldwell from The Girl with All the Gifts, the biologist is wholly focused on her work. As she recounts events from her life before entering Area X, we begin to see that she has always been this way – almost frightening in her coldness. When her self-preservation instincts kick in, though, she’s downright terrifying.

Annihilation features minimal characterisation, and what we do see is only through the eyes of the nameless biologist. Because she is utterly uninterested in engaging with her fellow explorers, she gives us very little idea of what her companions are actually like. We get the general idea that the psychologist is up to something, that the anthropologist can’t hack it in Area X, and that the surveyor is driven mad, but we spend most of the narrative inside the biologist’s head. As you might be able to guess, this makes for an uncomfortable and somewhat alienating read.
The biologist elaborates on her own past through ruminations on her marriage. A solitary person, the biologist found that she was at constant odds with her outgoing, social husband. As she delves deeper into Area X, she descends into a sort of madness, whereby she ends up pulling her marriage apart.

ANNIHILATION 1

  Annihilation clearly takes its cues from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but there are other influences at work here too. The landscape of Area X is a living thing, and it becomes the biologist’s adversary, partner, lover and self.  And let me just clarify, when I say the landscape is alive, I literally mean that it is made of living, breathing tissue. I found this fascinating and quite disturbing, and the glimpses that I got of it were just not enough. As I’m sure you can predict, Vandermeer has taken a leaf out of the Necronomicon here – Annihilation has a distinctly Lovecraftian vibe. I really wouldn’t be surprised if the mysterious being scrawling strange messages inside the Tunnel is a Great Old One, to be honest.

Cover art for AUTHORITY, to be released in May 2014.

Cover art for AUTHORITY, to be released in May 2014.

I burned through Annihilation in twenty four hours. I was addicted to the suspense, and the ever-present sense of foreboding that was only heightened by the cliff-hanger ending. Thankfully, Annihilation is the first in the Southern Reach Trilogy, to be followed by Authority and Acceptance in May and September respectively (side note – how great is it that they’re all coming out in one year?). If you’re a fan of horror, suspense, dystopian SF, New Weird or anything vaguely Lovecraftian, I highly recommend you grab your copy ASAP!

I received a proof copy of Annihilation in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Pulp Fiction!

If you’re in Brisbane, buy your copy of Annihilation from Pulp Fiction. Add them on Facebook here, and follow their Twitter here – shoot them a message and they’ll sort you out.

Speaking of which, I have a Twitter also!

 

Advertisements

M. R. Carey’s THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS: The Next Big Zombie Thing.

January 22, 2014 § 3 Comments

Cover art for The Girl with All the Gifts

Cover art for The Girl with All the Gifts

Ten year-old Melanie wakes fresh every day for her lessons. Sergeant comes to strap her in her wheelchair, making sure to restrain her hands and feet, and she’s taken to the classroom to begin the day’s teachings. Melanie is exceptionally bright, and she adores the days when Miss Justineau takes the class. Because she has never exited the compound in which she lives, Melanie’s exposure to the outside world is limited to the knowledge her teachers can give her. And because she has never known any different, she is unable to recognise that all of the adults around her are deathly afraid of what happens if she ever gets free.

Look, I have to tell you something. A lot of other reviews of this book are withholding this piece of information for fear of posting a dreaded spoiler, but I can tell you with one hundred per cent certainty that knowing this will not change your experience of this book. It’s got too many twists and turns for this small detail to be a spoiler. Right, so: Melanie is a zombie.

Put aside what you think you know about zombie novels. Forget 28 Days Later, and the monkey-borne virus. Put World War Z out of your mind, because it’s too late for the W.H.O to do anything about this outbreak. And don’t even think about assembling your unwanted record collection, a la Shaun of the Dead, because there’s absolutely no point in trying to combat these Walking Dead.

In The Girl with All the Gifts, society as we know it is long dead. What remains is the military run compound in which Melanie and her classmates are housed, and, somewhere out there, the survivalist citadel of Beacon. The rest of the world has been decimated by the “hungries” – the first wave of the zombie epidemic. Like the Boneys of Warm Bodies, the hungries resemble the zombies that we know and fear. So what, then, is Melanie, and why is the military scared of her?

In addition to being an exceptional zombie novel, The Girl with All the Gifts is also a compelling character study. Through the eyes of five very different characters, Carey dissects the new world that has emerged from the husk of humanity’s society, and man, does he do it well.
The five point-of-view characters represent a fascinating cross-section of the post-apocalyptic community: Miss Justineau, kind-hearted and fiercely protective teacher; the adamantly militaristic Sergeant; naïve and innocent Private Gallagher; chilling Dr Caldwell, and of course, Melanie. This eclectic collection of perspectives allows Carey to examine the state of the world from different angles, and in considerable depth.
Carey makes masterful use of the five POV characters to build tension and suspense. I found that he continually tripped up my expectations of a multiple perspective narrative, which made the book all the more surprising. ASOIAF has trained me to expect that when something interesting happens to a character, perspective will smash-cut to one of twenty-something other people. Not so with The Girl with All the Gifts: when something interesting happens, Carey keeps focus on the situation itself, even if he switches character perspective. This makes the book feel quite immediate, and a little bit cinematic.

This is the new zombie.

This is the new zombie. Scared? You should be.

Dr Caldwell, the researcher on base, is a truly chilling character. She is single-mindedly devoted to her life’s research, and genuinely does not seem to care about anything else. She systematically abducted Melanie’s classmates, one by one, so that she may dissect them and glean an understanding of the true nature of the end of the world. She has no issue with restricting life-saving resources from her fellow humans if it means that she can have peace and quiet to conduct her work, and holds onto her life with the sole intent of finding an answer. By the end of the book, it is apparent that her intent is pure selfishness in the guise of utilitarianism – an eerily familiar concept.

The thing is, Caldwell’s efforts amount to nothing anyway. Even after she dedicates her life to finding the answer, the answer has no effect on the outcome of the apocalypse. The fact that she knows this, and continues to single-mindedly seek answers at the expense of her peers, is nothing short of scary.

Where Caldwell is repulsive and alienating, Miss Justineau is wholly relatable. She has honour, and loves hugely, but she also breaks down in the face of overwhelming horror. She rages against the injustice of restraining children, but also recognises the vulnerability of her fellow travellers. At the novel’s conclusion, she accepts the state of the world that has shifted from underneath her. Her comparison to Caldwell makes the latter seem all the more monstrous. The tension between them is palpable!

There are parts of this book that are strikingly gory, but I kind of loved that about it. The violence and gore brings into focus the stark horror of a reality in which unknown monsters rule. That being said, I’m told that my tastes do run toward the bleak…

Too late, Shaun. Your records and cricket bats are no use now.

Too late, Shaun. Your records and cricket bats are no use now.

In an age of interminable trilogies and cliffhanger endings, The Girl with All The Gifts is a true standalone novel. Sure, the frightening world could be explored more in another book, but I was satisfied with the resolved narrative in the end. It does draw the inevitable comparison to Cronin’s The Passage. If I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I– I never actually finished The Passage. I’ve tried three times, but I always find that it just drags. I lose motivation to complete the book, can’t be bothered investing in new characters and trying to care about their situations. With a stack of unread books nearly as tall as I am, I’m unlikely to go back to The Passage anytime soon. Unlike The Passage, I could not put The Girl with All the Gifts down. In fact, I am sporting a spectacular bruise on my thigh because I was walking around reading, and ran straight into the corner of my bed.

With the possible exception of Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse, Carey’s apocalypse scenario is one of the best I’ve ever read. He takes our traditional understanding of the zombie myth, turns it upside down, cuts it all up and reassembles it. It is stunningly cool, highly original and quite frightening. In The Girl with All the Gifts, Carey shows us that the end of the world as we know it does not mean that it is the end of the world as a whole – and maybe we should just accept it.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS will be available at PULP FICTION BOOKSELLERS in Brisbane City this week. Call them on (07) 3236 2750 to reserve a copy, or hit them up on Facebook here. 

Are you a fan of zombie books? Check out these too!

– Mira Grant’s Parasite,
– Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant,
– Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City
 and J T Clay’s The Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Happy reading!

 

Our very extensive TO-READ lists.

August 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

Itsnotnatalie and I have been compiling something a little bit different for you all. We’ve been putting together our (very extensive) to-read lists. Each of us has different favourite genres and authors, and different areas we would like to pursue. That said, we both want to challenge ourselves by incorporating different genres as much as we can! While I has a strong foundation in the basic and contemporary classics (a side-effect of an English lit degree!), I would like to read more contemporary fiction., while at the same time pursuing my favourite genres of dystopia, young adult fiction and fantasy.
Itsnotnatalie, who prefers contemporary fiction and is the living embodiment of Pride and Prejudice, is particularly interested in expanding her catalogue of the classics. She also wants to establish a solid foundation in her beloved fantasy genre, and is planning to start by delving into the works of Neil Gaiman.
We’ve swapped favourites, and are trying the books close to each other’s hearts. Itsnotnatalie is surely a rarity – a law student who has never read John Grisham! I’ve given her a copy of A Time to Kill, a book I hold in very high esteem, and which I hope she loves. I also thought I’d throw her in the deep end with the post-apocalyptic fiction, and have recommended Julianna Baggot’s Pure. I’m interested to see what she thinks of it! For Itsnotnatalie, I will delve into that which I despise – Jane Austen. Having completed a lit degree, I have come to hate Mr Darcy obsessees as much as the general public despises Twi-hards, but I’m prepared to have my mind changed (I think…).
Lastly, we want your input! What’s missing from our lists? What needs to go to the top of the to-read pile? Leave us a comment with your thoughts!

I love vintage books!

I love vintage books!

Kalystia’s TO READ list:

YA

Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
Every Day – David Leviathan
Skullduggery Pleasant Series – Derek Landy
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chobsky
An Abundance of Katherines – John Green
Sunshine – Robin McKinley
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
The Diviners – Libba Bray
Gameboard of the Gods – Richelle Mead
Name of the Stars – Maureen Johnson
Delerium – Lauren Oliver
Fly By Night – Frances Hardinge
Starglass – Phoebe North

DYSTOPIA and POST-APOCALYPTIC
Peter Heller – The Dog Stars
Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven
Unwind – Neil Shusterman
The Stand – Stephen King
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
Brave New World – Alduous Huxley
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
Blood Red Road – Moira Young
Chaos Walking series – Patrick Ness
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Alas, Bablyon – Pat Frank

HORROR
Heart-shaped Box – Joe Hill
The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

CLASSICS
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Compete works – Kurt Vonnegut
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Complete Works – Oscar Wilde
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
1984 – George Orwell
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
Tess of the d’Urbevilles – Thomas Hardy
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
The Scarlett Letter – Nathanial Hawthorne
The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
Selected works – Jane Austen

FICTION
Among Others – Jo Walton
Battle Royale – Koushun Takami
Complete works – Christopher Moore
All that Is – James Salter
The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
John Dies at the End – David Wong
The Little Friend – Donna Tartt
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
Room – Emma Donohue
Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Tampa – Alissa Nutting
The Book Theif – Markus Zusak
Codex – Lev Grossman
No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy
11/22/63 – Stephen King

FANTASY
The Last Unicorn – Peter S. eagle
Darktower Series – Stephen King
The Scar – China Mieville
The Tawny Man Trilogy – Robin Hobb
The Rain Wild Chronicles – Robin Hobb
Soldier Son Trilogy – Robin Hobb
Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Black Prism – Brent Weeks
Blood Song – Anthony Ryan
The Magician Series – Trudi Canavan
Little, Big – John Crowley
Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Suzanna Clarke
Sharps – K J Parker
Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Wheel of Time series – Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
The Shambling Guide to New York City – Mur Lafferty
A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
Dark Side of the Moon – Candace Farrugia
The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

SCI FI
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
Dune – Frank Herbert

UPCOMING RELEASES
The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon
The Returned – Jason Mott
Allegiant – Veronica Roth
Warm Bodies 2 – Isaac Marion
Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive Book 2) – Brandon Sanderson
Sequel to Pure and Fuse – Julianna Baggott
The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman
Marisha Pessl – New Novel
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
World After (Penryn and the End of Days 2) – Susan Ee

Books, cupcakes and tea. Perfect!

Books, cupcakes and tea. Perfect!

Itsnotnatalie’s TO READ list:
FICTION:

IQ84 – Haruki Murakami
John Dies in the End – David Wong
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Book Thief –  Markus Zuzak
The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell
The Kite Runner – Khaleed Hosseni
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenidies
Brokeback Mountain – Annie Prolux
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal – Christopher Moore
The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
She’s Come Undone – Wally Lamb
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
Possession – AS Byatt
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller – Italo Calvino
Parade’s End – Ford Maddox Ford
Naked Lunch – William S Burroughs
Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky
Fanny Hill – John Cleland
Austerlitz – WG Sebald
Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
Where Angels Fear to Tread – E.M. Foster
The Birds Fall Down – Rebecca West
The Graduate – Charles Webb
The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling
Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl

AUSTRALIAN FICTION

The Family Law – Benjamin Law
He Died With a Felafel in His Hand – John Birmingham
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay
The Happiest Refugee – Anh Do
Schindler’s List – Thomas Keneally
Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
The Year of Living Dangerously – Christopher J Koch
Cocaine Blues – Kerry Greenwood

CRIME AND THRILLER

Carrie – Stephen Kin
A Time to Kill – John Grisham
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie
ABC Murders – Agatha Christie
Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie
The Postman Always Rings Twice/Mildred Pierce – James M Cain
Fire in the Hole – Elmore Leonard
Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy – John le Carre
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming

CLASSICS

The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Trial – Franz Kafka
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
In Search of Lost Time – Marcel Proust
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Cold Comfort Farm –  Stella Gibbons
On the Road –  Jack Kerouac
Middlemarch –  George Eliot
Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Vanity Fair –  William Makepeace Thackeray
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Les Liasons Dangereuse – Pierre Choderlos des Laclos
The Rainbow – DH Lawrence
Bel Ami – Guy de Maupassant
Gigi – Colette
Camilla – Fanny Burney
A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
Animal Farm – George Orwell

FANTASY and SCI-FI

LOTR Two Towers and Return of the King – JRR Tolkien
Outlander Series – Diana Gabaldon
Gormenghast Series – Mervyn Peake
Complete Works of Terry Pratchett
Complete Works of Neil Gaiman
Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Dune – Frank Herbert
Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Watership Down – Richard Adams
The Magician King – Lev Grossman
Mistborn Trilogy – Brandon Sanderson
The end of A Song of Fire and Ice – George RR Martin
Wheel of Time Series- Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

POST-APOCALYPTIC and DYSTOPIA

Pure – Julianna Baggot
Red Moon – Benjam

Demitria Lunetta’s In the After: YA Post-Apocalyptic Debut!

July 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

Image

Demetria Lunetta: um, can she please NOT be gorgeous as well as talented?

Being more than a little bit obsessed with the end of the world, I often research new post-apocalyptic novels. Trawling Goodreads recently, I came across In the After, debut novel by Demetria Lunetta. It was love at first synopsis.

In the After follows teenager Amy as she finds her feet in what is left of her world, now that They have come and taken everything she’s ever known. Thanks to the respective paranoia and forward thinking of her parents, Amy’s home is fortified against the mindless, flesh-eating creatures that brought the apocalypse with them when they arrived on Earth. They are hideous, unthinking beings that don’t bother killing their prey before the devour it, but they have one weakness that Amy has been able to discern – they are dependent on sound to find their next meal.

Amy comes upon a toddler wandering the wreckage of her neighbourhood and adopts her as a sister in silence. Not being able to speak aloud, she names her Baby, and Baby becomes Amy’s reason for living. They develop a modified sign language, designed to allow them to communicate in the direst of situations, and for a while, they are content.

Amy and Baby’s insular world is shattered all over again when they are forced to leave their home. In the open terrain, they are picked up by members of a covert society which houses the remains of human civilisation, a community optimistically named New Hope.

Re-integrating into a structured society proves more difficult than Amy and Baby ever expected. In a world where 3000 people may be all that remains to repopulate the planet, government is oppressive in entirely new ways. On top of that, New Hope is being run by a psychiatrist who has access to everything about everyone, and absolute discretion. Amy and Baby may have been better off in the wild…

In some places, In the After had me jumping out of my skin. ‘They”, or the Floraes, as they are known later in the book, are quite frightening, and there were several moments of skin-crawling terror as Amy and Baby navigated the wasteland, especially in the first half of the book. One night, I was reading in the quiet in my bedroom. When my boyfriend came into the room, I jumped and nearly fell out of the bed, so engrossed was I in the book’s tension! In the second half of In the After, the use of a flash-forward narrative device made for some hair-raising suspense, so it was an enjoyably uncomfortable read the whole way through.

Image

In the After’s suitably creepy cover

Not content with the horrific Floraes or the wild gangs roaming the After, Lunetta incorporates scenes of torturous psychotherapy in New Hope’s Ward (a sanitarium of sorts). The psychiatrist Dr Reynolds makes for a formidable foe, and the stronghold he has on New Hope is tyrannical. However, I felt that I should mention that electric shock therapy is NOTHING like its portrayal in this novel. I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt, in that, once the world has ended, there probably aren’t medical standards by which to abide. Of course, creative license plays a huge part in a post-apoc novel, given that we can only imagine conditions after such an event. That said, I didn’t enjoy these scenes, because I felt that they contributed to a negative conception of a form of therapy which has the capacity to genuinely help many people.

Like Angelfall, I respected this book for having very little focus on romance. This makes sense to me. Surely, once the world you knew has collapsed, you are not going to be concerned with whether the cute boy likes you?! I liked how Amy’s priority was Baby, and how the end of the world necessitated a re-assignment of the definition of family. Baby also lent an interesting perspective to the story. It’s fascinating to see her adaptation to her constantly changing surroundings develop and grow.

 “Mermaids are just a story, I tell her. She looks up at me, tearful. No they’re not. Mermaids are from Before. Like horses. You said horses could live in the sea.
Seahorses aren’t horses that live in the s
ea… I start to explain but stop myself. It doesn’t really matter if she has the Before straight in her head. She can believe in mermaids and horses that live in the sea if she wants.”

I feel that if this book had been at least twice its length, I’d have become even more invested in its world. The plot was full of twists and turns which, while exciting, felt a little rushed. That said, it’s an exciting ride, and an end-of-days I’m excited to read more about. Demitria Lunetta is definitely one to watch, and I’ve added In the End to my sequel-countdown!

Image

A very cool post-apoc wallpaper I found! Click the picture for 50 more.

Linky bits:
Buy In the After here and connect with Demitria on Facebook here. By the way, if you haven’t liked us on Facebook, we’d love you to!

If you’re interested in what electroconvulsive therapy is genuinely like, check out Caustic Soda’s Psychotherapy episode. Caustic Soda is my favourite podcast, and I listen to it religiously. Be warned, though – it’s not for the faint-hearted (or easily offended)! 

New Catching Fire trailer – “Since the last games, something is different.”

July 23, 2013 § 4 Comments

Anticipation for Catching Fire is running high – I, for one, cannot wait for the next instalment of The Hunger Games franchise. The first one met and exceeded all my expectations, thanks to some brilliant re-imagining and the casting of down-to-earth Jennifer Lawrence as tough, resourceful Katniss. The Hunger Games are some of my very favourite books, and this trailer for Catching Fire looks like it will at least live up to its predecessor. What do you think of it?

Susan Ee’s Angelfall: My favorite apocalypse

July 14, 2013 § 16 Comments

Susan Ee’s debut novel has become a darling of the reading social network Goodreads, with over eight thousand seperate five star reviews from individual readers. After reading Angelfall, I am here to tell you that all eight thousand of those reviews are one hundred percent justified.

What’s it about?

Six weeks ago, an army of angels descended to Earth. Millions, then billions of people die, as the angels bring about what appears to be the biblical apocalypse. Living in the aftermath of the initial invasion, Penryn’s fight or flight instincts have kicked in – and flight isn’t an option when the enemy has wings.

Penryn saves a brutalised angel, Raffe, after his wings are cut off by members of his own kind. When her wheelchair-bound little sister is abducted by angels, Penryn bargains her assistance for his help in finding the aerie where she believes her sister has been taken. With the weight of their opposing races on their shoulders, the pair set out toward the aerie. They come across a small pocket of organised human resistance, and Penryn begins to question her loyalties. Although she feels begrudgingly grateful to Raffe, his race did eviscerate society as she knew it. She feels a sense of pride in the human resistance, as a Daughter of Man, but knows that she can’t truly contribute until she reaches the aerie and saves Paige.

When they reach the hub of angel intelligence, Penryn is shocked. Far from the organised military base she was expecting, the angels are revelling in post-war decadence. Champagne, luxurious food, evening gowns and five star hotels are the norm for the celestials, even as the smoking panorama of a destroyed San Francisco looms from the penthouse windows. As she and Raffe navigate the political scene of the celestial elite in their quest to find Paige, Penryn finds herself blurring the lines between loyalty to the desecrated world she comes from and the brusque angel who has led her to the heart of the invasion.

Despite having lived through the end of the world, nothing can prepare Penryn (or the reader) for what she finds in the aerie.

If you’re someone who consults Goodreads for recommendations, there’s a 99.99% chance that you’ve seen this image recently

so what did I think?

Angels aren’t a particularly unique topic at the moment, especially in the YA genre. That said, Susan Ee writes this tale of celestial intervention so well that she leaves her competition (namely Hush, Hush) gasping at her heels. The potentially controversial concept of biblical end-times could have been frumpy, preachy and bland (think Left Behind), but Angelfall is engrossing, fast-paced and action-filled. I am endlessly fascinated by angels, and I loved the way this author portrayed them. She managed to make them frightening and alien, but also familiar, in that they strongly resemble their biblical incarnations.

As far as characters go, Angelfall is fairly standard. Strong, selfless and determined, Penryn is motivated to push forward in a desolate new world for the sake of her sister and mentally ill mother. Despite being an angel, Raffe is the brusque, practical and ultimately troubled male counterpart that we’ve already seen in Gale (The Hunger Games), Four (Divergent) and Bradwell (Pure). And Paige, Penryn’s crippled little sister, is a cut-copy of Prim, Katniss’ motivation to win the Games. What makes Angelfall stand out from the rest of the YA post-apocalyptic novels I’ve been devouring is the way the characters interact with one another.

One of my favourite things about Angelfall was the fact that romance took a back seat to more important things, like saving one’s sibling and safely navigating post-apocalyptic society. This made everything feel more realistic.  If one’s world had ended, one would probably be in shock for quite some time, and not prioritising romantic prospects. That’s not to say that there is no romantic tension – there is – but there’s a huge, enormous, unimaginable obstacle in the way before Penryn and Raffe could indulge in any sort of relationship. Most YA romance is graced with a suitable obstacle, I admit, but in this case, it’s a downright biblical disaster. And it’s awesome.

Paige, on the other hand, meets an entirely different fate to Prim (her THG counterpart). In fact, what happens to Paige makes the wait until Angelfall’s sequel all the more excruciating.  I have to admit that, when I first read that Paige was wheelchair-bound, I thought Ee had been trying too hard to portray her as vulnerable. By the end of the book, though, I realised she had a plan for Paige all along…

Angelfall features an angel with lost wings who winds up stuck with a “Daughter of Man” as they work together to achieve their separate goals – he of getting his wings reattached and she of being reunited with her stolen sister. Who’s betraying whose race? Could their objectives ever be anything but mutually exclusive? What do the angels intend to achieve? Could a human resistance movement have any traction against celestial beings supposedly sent from God? Could an angel from on high really doubt the existence of God?!

This book is really, really good. You should read it, right now, and find out.

Angelfall is available in hard copy for the ridiculous price of $4.99 on Amazon currently!

So readers, what do you think? Will you be picking Angelfall up?

Much love,
Kalystia xx

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with dystopia at The Novelettes Book Reviews.