Barren Waters: The Complete Novel by Julia Shupe (Book Review)

Sorry everyone it’s been quite a while since I posted any new reviews, I got a bit distracted with other things recently. However, here is a re-post of a book review that I originally did back in 2017.

Barren Waters is a post-apocalyptic tale of survival in a dystopian future where the world’s oceans have become barren and stagnant due to mankind’s pollution of their environment. As the human race continues to pump toxic chemicals into rivers, streams and waterways across the world it is not difficult to imagine the possible effects that Julia Shupe presents in this novel, and the scary thought is that it could come true.

In the 22nd century the pollution has reached intolerable levels, and the efforts of mankind to clean up their act and attempt to preserve their home, is too little too late. Plankton in the deep oceans have died out, leaving a wide variety of aquatic animals without food. Starvation becomes rife and mass extinctions leave the oceans dead.  Shrinking levels of oxygen in the atmosphere, further restricts the survival of both plant and animal life, including those of human kind.

Julia recounts the lives of two scientists with the foresight to prepare for the coming disaster, and the trials of their surviving family, a son and grand-daughter 50 years later, struggling with daily life in their harsh, unfortunate circumstances.

Favourite Quote:

“Jeremy had always believed luck was a double-edged sword. Good luck could easily turn bad. And fast.” – (p2)

The author, Julia Shupe kindly offered me a free copy of her novel, Barren Waters in exchange for an honest review.

The narrative jumps back and forth quite a lot between its descriptions of the unfolding apocalypse and of the resulting consequences, and the dates of the events don’t run consecutively, instead forming part of the story at the necessary time. It does not detract or confuse the story too much, but for those who attempt to follow the proper timeline from beginning to end will find this incredibly difficult and somewhat confusing. However, Julia has crafted a well thought-out and imaginative tale, which both intrigues and entertains the reader, while also provoking thoughtful scientific stimulation.

My only other niggle is the usual issue which pertains to most self-published books, the high number of annoying spelling mistakes within the Kindle copy. However, at 4 out of 5 stars, don’t let those errors put you off from enjoying this otherwise wonderful tale of human survival.

I may now be tempted to delve deeper into this author’s world, by reading her fantasy series The Sentinels of Kiln.

The Hunger Games: Book 0 – The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Book Review)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel novel in the Hunger Games series from Suzanne Collins. The story takes place many years before the main trilogy, during the 10th Annual Hunger Games event and is told through the eyes of a young Coriolanus Snow.

Coriolanus is better known as President Snow in the later books – and portrayed on-screen by Donald Sutherland in the film trilogy. However, during Songbirds and Snakes Coriolanus is a young student seeking extra credit and a University Scholarship, by taking part in a new Mentorship scheme for the Hunger Games.

In order to make his dreams a reality, Coriolanus must mentor a winning tribute in the Annual Games. However, he’s paired with sixteen year old Lucy Gray Baird from District 12, a musical performer unlikely to survive the trials that lie ahead of her. But will the odds turn out to be in Lucy’s favour? 

I debated whether or not to write this review, as I wasn’t all that keen on the main trilogy. My major gripe that I had with those novels was the amount of time dedicated to the build-up of the Games, as opposed to the Hunger Games themselves. At first Songbirds and Snakes appears no different in composition, however what time we do have within the Games this time is much more detailed. We’re given descriptions of the death of each tribute, provided with a list of tribute’s names, as well as those of the Mentors assigned to them, and regular check-ins telling us which tributes are still in play within the arena. This makes it easier to keep track of events.

I wish Suzanne had chosen a different district to focus on in this story though, rather than just sticking with the overused district 12, as I’d have enjoyed learning more about the other districts and their ways of life, rather than a rehashing of familiar places.

Having spent some time deliberating why President Snow was chosen to feature in this prequel story, I realised that this was probably because Snow was the only character that made sense. There were no other major players – at least none that currently spring to mind – from the main trilogy, whose backstory would have even been remotely interesting to read. So choosing Snow was the logical choice. The obvious question being, how did he become President?

Despite having now learned more about Coriolanus Snow and his tough upbringing I’m still not sure I’m warming to this particular character. Still don’t like him, he’s not endearing enough or interesting enough to warrant such a long book. The story becomes extremely stretched out and unengaging as it crawls along towards the end, and as a result I can only rate The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes at 2 out of 5 stars.

It has a somewhat enjoyable start, which peters out into pointless drivel, dotted with the hints of the obligatory romance now common to most young adult novels these days. It still leaves a number of questions unanswered, and I suspect that that means there will be another book to come.

See also:

Book 1 – The Hunger Games

Book 2 – Catching Fire

Book 3 – Mockingjay

Divergent Trilogy: Reviews of Books 2 & 3

Divergent Trilogy: Book 2 – Insurgent

After all of the fast-paced action and excitement of Divergent, the follow-up seemed very lethargic and slow. Insurgent began exactly where Divergent left off with Tris, Caleb and Four on the run from the Erudite and Dauntless forces. In the early parts of the book the characters travelled around between different factions, without much of real importance or consequence happening.

I really struggled to read Insurgent as the story dragged without much real purpose. There was far, far too much focus on the relationship issues between Tris and Four, as they constantly bickered, kept secrets and repeatedly antagonised each other.

Having suffered my way to the end of this book, I discovered that the story didn’t really conclude in any meaningful way, but continues on into the next, and final, book of the series. If the dialogue in Insurgent had been trimmed down and there had been better focus, instead of all the confusion of running around between factions, this might have been interesting. However, I’m really disappointed in the direction of this novel and it makes me somewhat reluctant to continue reading.

At 1 out of 5 stars, I wouldn’t recommend Insurgent. Divergent was a fantastic book, but this one was just boring, stretched out with tedious, irritating and pointless dialogue to flesh it out. No real story progression or character development, with Tris constantly complaining and feeling sorry for herself.

 

Divergent Trilogy: Book 3 – Allegiant

Simply to round-out this series and complete my reviews, I pressed forward and read the final book in the trilogy. However, I found it difficult to focus with the story’s perspectives constantly switching between Tris and Four, as it was hard to keep track and distinguish between them. It seemed to be a persistent battle to remember which perspective I was following, as there was no difference between them and the chapters were so short that they switched viewpoints regularly.

However, one consolation was that this novel provided the answers to questions I had after reading the first book. But since this is revealed fairly early on in the story, it just makes it doubly difficult to finish reading. At 0.5 out of 5 stars I really can’t recommend Allegiant to anyone, as its only redeeming feature is the origin story. This book is extremely monotonous, and so long that I honestly thought it was never going to end.

If you really want to check out the Divergent series, then I suggest that you watch the movies. The films are a lot more entertaining and the story moves at a much faster pace. However all that cool sci-fi tech you see in the movies, they don’t exist in the books. Just be aware that, as with most adaptations, somewhere along the line the books and films become very, very different.

 

See also:

Divergent Trilogy: Book 1

The Hunger Games Trilogy: Book 1

Divergent Trilogy: Book 1 – Divergent by Veronica Roth (Book Review)

The Divergent Trilogy is a dystopian young adult fantasy series set in an alternate reality where the USA is split into different factions, with each faction having unique mannerisms, rules and dress codes. On turning 16, main character Tris must join her classmates in taking the Aptitude Test, which determines their future, by placing them definitively in one of the five separate factions: Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Dauntless or Amity. Once decided during the Choosing Ceremony, each pupil then leaves to join their chosen faction and train to complete the initiation process. Failure is not an option worth contemplating.

….possible spoiler warning…

Continue reading “Divergent Trilogy: Book 1 – Divergent by Veronica Roth (Book Review)”

Cell by Stephen King (Book Review)

October 1st begins like any other ordinary day in Boston. Clayton Riddell has turned a corner in his graphic art career, but his good mood is soon to be cut short. While waiting in line for the ice-cream truck at around 3pm, the people ahead of him suddenly go berserk, violently attacking each other.

All across Boston everyone with a cell phone turns violent and aggressive, harming both themselves and everyone else around them. At first Clay can only watch in horror as the spectacle unfolds before his eyes, however once he realises that the problem is due to some sort of subliminal message being carried by cell phone signals, his thoughts soon turn to his young son, Johnny.

Although Clay and his recently estranged wife Sharon don’t own a cell phone, their son Johnny however, does. When Clay is unable to contact his family via a landline telephone connection, he vows to brave the chaos and find a way home to Maine, before his son decides to use the little red cell phone in his possession.

Will Clay find his family before they transform?

 

Favourite Quote:

“It’s like the fucking Night of the Living Dead.” – Officer Ulrich Ashland. (p31)

 

Cell is a bizarre story from master of horror Stephen King, in which an electronic pulse is sent out via the cellular telephone network in America to all cell phone users turning them violently insane.

As if that basic concept wasn’t already creepy enough to have you destroying your phone, vowing never to touch the abhorrent device again, the story gets even spookier when those individuals that are unaffected all have the exact same nightmare. The crazy people seem to be able to communicate telepathically, both with each other and also with those still sane, influencing people while they sleep.

The crazies don’t remain dumb, blank-faced idjits but gradually develop psychic powers as they flock together, thinking as one mind.

Let’s not forget that King’s novel was released back in 2006 before the rise of the smartphone, so let’s just take a short moment to consider the myriad ways that phones can now be manipulated, and the ramifications of a real-life hacking event if anyone were to obtain control of smartphones worldwide. Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

At 4 out of 5 stars, Cell is an enjoyable, thought-provoking novel, although rather disturbing at the same time. The only fault is that it ends a little abruptly.

 

2016 sees the movie release starring John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson and Isabelle Fuhrman.

 

I was extremely excited to finally watch the story come to life however Cell is an absolutely atrocious film.

The director has taken a number of liberties when it comes to the details of the adaptation which distorts the story. It becomes a jumbled mess which doesn’t flow very well resulting in a movie that is difficult to understand.

With bad acting, poor dialogue and very short, clipped explanations Cell is a film that no-one can relate to and which doesn’t make much sense. With so many details from the book being changed and warped it almost comes across as an entirely different story altogether.

Cell is up there on the list of terrible Stephen King adaptations, but while the film is a waste of time, the original novel is a recommended read.

 

See also:

The Shining

The Shining: Book 2 – Doctor Sleep

Four Past Midnight Collection

Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson (Book Review)

Fresh Meat is book number eleven in the series of TV Tie-in novels from the CW show Supernatural, and is written by Alice Henderson. It takes place during season seven between episodes 5 (Shut Up, Dr. Phil) and 6 (Slash Fiction), and technically comes before book ten in the series if you read them in chronological order.

 

…possible spoiler warning for those not familiar with the TV series…

Continue reading “Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson (Book Review)”

The 5th Wave: Book 3 – The Last Star (Book Review)

The Last Star is the third and final novel in Rick Yancey’s 5th Wave trilogy for young adults.

…warning: potential spoilers for those not already familiar with books 1 and 2…

Check out my review of book one, The 5th Wave here, or book two, The Infinite Sea via this link.

Continue reading “The 5th Wave: Book 3 – The Last Star (Book Review)”

The 5th Wave: Book 2 – The Infinite Sea (Book Review)

The Infinite Sea is the second novel in the 5th Wave trilogy from science fiction writer Rick Yancey.

 

***warning: this review may contain spoilers for those not already familiar with book 1, The 5th Wave***

Continue reading “The 5th Wave: Book 2 – The Infinite Sea (Book Review)”

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Book Review)

The 5th Wave is a science fiction novel from writer Rick Yancey and is the first book in the 5th Wave trilogy to become a major motion picture, recently released in cinemas.

 

Wave 1 – An electromagnetic pulse that wipes out all of the planets power and electronic devices

Wave 2 – Destruction by tsunami

Wave 3 – Infection via birds

Wave 4 – Alien invasion

Wave 5 – We Fight Back!

 

The Rules:

1 – Don’t trust anyone

2 – To stay alive is to stay alone

 

Cassie Sullivan, a sixteen year old survivor of the first four waves of the alien invasion is possibly all that is left after she loses her family to this apocalyptic tragedy. She must remain alone if she wants to survive, because there is only one rule that can protect her now: trust no-one.

But when she meets Evan Walker everything changes. He saves her life, and she saves him by giving his life purpose and meaning. Together Cassie and Evan keep each other safe, and alive. But can she really trust him? Is he really who he claims to be?

Meanwhile, an army of uninfected children are being trained for the war.

 

Favourite Quotes:

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vosch (quoting Stalin): “A single death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.” (p128)

 

“We’re here, and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here, but what we do with the time.” – Evan Walker, (p178)

 

The 5th Wave is a story full of courage and hope against the worst odds imaginable. Aliens have invaded Earth, their intention: to make our planet their home. But in order to do so, they must neutralise the human race.

The book begins at the end of the 4th wave and is a little confusing when it jumps back and forth between present day and the past, or between the viewpoint of one person and that of another. However, eventually we reach a period of cohesion and the story starts to make a bit more sense.

Unfortunately there are a few areas that to me don’t quite seem logical, though I am loath to discuss them here for fear of spoiling the story.

Despite those occasional little niggles that I am unable to comprehend I did enjoy this interestingly unique take on the invasion genre and give the book 4 out of 5 stars, but I’m not sure that the story actually reached any real conclusion. Maybe this was intentional in order for the author to release his story as a trilogy, but even separate novels should have some sort of cohesive end that fits the overall arc of the book.

 

 

See also:

Book 2 – The Infinite Sea

Book 3 – The Last Star

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Book Review)

Station Eleven is a science fiction post-apocalyptic survival story from Emily St. John Mandel. The premise is of a flu epidemic that rips through Toronto, Canada, very quickly and killing anyone who comes into contact with it.

The book begins with a riveting narrative (see sentence above) in which an actor named Arthur dies while performing a Shakespearian play onstage. It then follows Jeevan, a trainee paramedic and member of the audience as he discusses the flu epidemic via telephone call with his friend Hua, who works in a hospital. After that, the story becomes a jumble of different plotlines that drift back and forth and sideways, with no real direction or meaning.

There’s a Travelling Symphony composed of various actors and musicians, most of whom don’t even use real names, instead being called third cello, the clarinet, sixth guitarist etc. The book also narrates prior details of Arthur’s life before the flu epidemic, and brief accounts of his ex-wives and close friends during the early days of the outbreak. But things only begin to get interesting about 70% of the way through the book, and even then it’s just a temporary respite from the monotony.

Currently, I can’t quite remember what prompted me to read this book. I think I saw a review online, or a recommendation somewhere that piqued my interest. However, it wasn’t really worth bothering with. I persevered to the end, mostly just to see if the book improved or if the individual elements later came together to make proper sense. Sadly, this didn’t really happen, and there wasn’t any real conclusion as such. At 1 out of 5 stars I found the novel to be dull, disjointed and nonsensical. My advice, best avoided.