Monday 15 July 2019

TREAD: Fallen Nation by Jeff DeMarco @DeMarcoWriter

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Twitter

In a Nutshell: Post-apocalyptic/military novella

Lately I've read some of a post apocalyptic series concentrating on the survival aspect, and a novella that I'd class nearer the horror end of the genre; Tread:Fallen Nation, however, is military-orientated.  All of these books have one aspect in common: the effect of a global disaster on the people.

The main character in this book is Evan, a soldier back from the Middle East who finds his country in meltdown after a mysterious virus has devastated the land.  The US is, in effect, in civil war.  Evan is already disillusioned about the ethics of some of the military, and war itself, and becomes more so as his new tasks are laid out before him.

I knew nothing of the author's background until I read the notes at the end, but it was clear he comes from a similar background to Evan; the details, not only about the weaponry but also the practices, are most convincing, at the same time as being written so that a layperson can understand.  I liked, too, that he destroyed certain myths about the effects of an EMP, which has probably spoiled me for books of this genre that involve such things!  

'Hell, the whole idea of electromagnetic pulse or nuclear detonation permanently damaging electrical systems and communications is just garbage.  Just sayin'; this ain't the movies'

He has a cool writing style, perfect for the subject matter, and I was particularly impressed by the dialogue, which struck just the right chord.  He delivered a good atmosphere of bleakness, using few words.

'Evan rounded the rocky outcropping and found a man in dirtied clothes, his face covered by a white and black shemagh, hunkering down against the boulders as though clinging for dear life.  In the insurgent's eyes ... no, the man's, not the animal he'd been conditioned to see them as, he found only fear.'

I felt it could do with a final round of copy-editing to iron out minor proofreading errors and add a bit of clarity here and there, but I'm one of those people who winces at misplaced commas, and it is far better presented than many self-published books of the genre.  I would definitely recommend it to any fans of military-oriented post apocalyptic stories.

Saturday 13 July 2019

SEVERED KNOT by Cryssa Bazos @CryssaBazos #RBRT

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads
On BookBub

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Fiction centred round the treatment of Scottish and Irish royalist prisoners during the English civil war; slavery in Barbados; romantic aspect.

I enjoyed this book so much.  The basic story: Iain Johnstone is a Scottish 'moss-trooper' imprisoned by Cromwell's men after persuading many of his contemporaries to go south and fight for Charles II.  Mairead O'Conneil is a young woman staying at her uncle's house in rural Eire for 'safety' while her father and brothers fight the Parlimentarians ~ but then the soliders come... and both Iain and Mairead find themselves on a slave ship bound for Barbados.

I hadn't read this relatively new writer before, but I'm glad I've discovered her; she's seriously talented.  The book is professionally presented, which I appreciated so much; it is clear that the research has been both meticulous and extensive, but at no time was I overly aware of it; I never felt that I was reading her research notes, as can so often be the case.  The atmosphere of the prisons, the slave ships and the Barbadian plantations, with all their horrors, is colourfully illustrated, and her characterisation and dialogue kept me engrossed, throughout.  I liked, too, that it gave me a view of how the English troubles spread far and wide.  Aside from all this, it's a terrific adventure story.

Within the plot is a romantic thread, a background shadow in the first half of the book that steps closer to centre stage as it goes on.  The theme is the romantic novel standard of two people taking against each other on sight then being extraordinarily rude to each other whenever they cross paths before finally admitting their passion, which can work well if cleverly written, and this was. 

Sadly, though, because of the descriptions of Mairead (tiny, skinny, frizzy-haired, plain, sprite, 'Mouse') I could only ever picture her as a sort of meek teenage imp, rather than a woman likely to inflame the passions of the Sean Bean-as-Sharpe/Boromir-like Iain, so it fell a little flat for me.  This sort of opinion is only ever personal viewpoint, though, and I must bear in mind that I not a fan of romantic fiction, generally; I was glad that other non-love stuff made up the main body of the book.

Despite these reservations, I am still rounding the 4.5* up to 5* on Amazon in the interests of objective reviewing, because it really is an exceptionally good novel, and I will definitely place her on my mental 'read more' list.

Friday 5 July 2019

CONGEAL by John F Leonard @john_f_leonard

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I bought it when it came out, as I love this genre and very much liked this author's last book.  Then it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member, so I am reviewing it for Rosie too :)

In a Nutshell: Post apocalyptic/horror novella - nasty slimy stuff that covers the world!

Another fine novella that fits perfectly into the limited space - I do appreciate writers who understand how to use the shorter format so well.

Amelia had a happy life with a man she loved, but then the Clag arrived; now she's stuck in a deserted city with a guy she can't stand, as the nasty slimy stuff from the deep bowels of the earth rises up to swamp the world....

Having just read two post apocalyptic novels that centred round human relationships and practical survival, Congeal underlined to me how many subsections this genre has; this one is far into the 'horror' end.  Amongst its many strengths, I liked the short, sharp prose style, so appropriate for the horror and despair of Amelia's situation, though not without dry humour.  I also enjoyed that those in the group with whom she found herself trying to survive—a standard in all PA stories—were not all of the likeable, resourceful, charismatic variety, as is so often the case; Pete, Maurice, Yvonne and the others were types she would have avoided like the plague (pun intended) in real life.

A good ending, too—I had no clue about Amelia's fate, even by 95%.  Anyone who has read the author's recent novella The Bledbrooke Works will enjoy the connection between the two, but both are entirely stand alone.  Oh, and one more thing - in the flashbacks to Amelia's pre-apocalypse life, she refers to her mother as 'Mom', several times.  As she is English, living in England, and her story is written by a British author, I questioned this - out of place American English is one of my 'ouches', but apparently it's a Birmingham-Irish thing as well; just making this point in case it's one of your 'ouches', too.