Posts Tagged ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’

I have just finished reading “When The Earth Died” by Karl Mannheim.

When The Earth Died – Karl Mannheim

I bought this book in a second hand bookshop last summer while on holiday in Devon, and it attracted me because it is a science fiction title covering the possibility of the Earth dying while humans are still around.

The blurb reads:

“His breath was tearing his throat as he ran, a tall, massive figure of a man, like a shadow along the smooth side of he great green building. There were no sounds of pursuit – the Empire Police were too discreet for sirens or whistles. But they were there behind him, and not only behind him but all around him. This looked like being the last hole into which this quarry would be driven.

The book focuses mainly on a man called Barry, who has escaped the clutches of the Empire Police and their brainwashing ways, and suddenly finds himself a vital part of a secret mission to escape Earth and the increasingly dangerous war happening between two great empires. He and the girl he seems to love end up part of a mixed crew of scientists and other hand-picked normal people, ready to form a new colony on the Moon and beyond.

There is a great deal of tension built up within the novel, with certain characters seeming to lose the plot and go a bit crazy, the suspect characters who turn out to be traitors, and those who seem to struggle with what’s right and wrong. There are a few minor characters, like the would-be colonists in the crew who we find out very little about, even though they are part of this special mission.

The main tension is that of the journey in the spaceship, which takes them to the Mood and other places, which is a very dangerous journey into the unknown, and the death of the Earth which seems to happen surprisingly quickly! Maybe a little bit unbelievable! The fact that it is the humans who destroy the planet is pretty scary!

The ending is as happy as it can be, given the circumstances of the novel!

I give it 7/10 because it seems original, if a little bit too short of get into great detail about everything. Worth a read if you fancy a different apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic type story!

Note: This book doesn’t seem to be in print any more, but is available online through Amazon and other online stores, and secondhand shops. My copy was published in 1972 and is a Five Star Paperback.

I have just finished re-reading “Z for Zachariah” by Robert C. O’Brien. I read this book back in school when i was about 14 and was fascinated by it! I recently found a copy in Waterstones quite by accident, so i thought i would re-read it, to see how differently i read it compared to the first time.

Z For Zachariah - Robert C. O'Brien

Z For Zachariah – Robert C. O’Brien (via Amazon)

The blurb reads:

“Ann Burden, the lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust, is threatened by the arrival in her valley of an unknown intruder. She hides, he watches and they both wait. Might he be a friend and ally, this scientist in a radiation-proof suit, or have the horrors he has witnessed turned him into something more sinister? The answer unfolds in a battle of wills which ends in a chilling struggle for survival, between a girl and the last man on earth.”

The book opens with Ann explaining how she was left alone in her valley after her family went to look for survivors outside and never came back. She writes in her journal each day about what she does to keep herself alive, as she plans for the future alone. That is until Mr Loomis arrives. She looks after him when he gets radiation sickness, and for a while it looks like they might be able to coexist in the valley, and Ann imagines a future where they manage to survive in the valley and maybe even have a family one day.

However, once Mr Loomis starts getting better, he starts playing mind games with her, and she grows increasingly uneasy, especially as he doesn’t talk about himself or his life before he entered the valley. This only proves that he has something to hide, and Ann gets an idea of what has happened through his delirious mutterings when he is ill. He grows increasingly threatening towards her and she starts to avoid him as much as possible but he cuts off her supplies, causing her to take action.

Ann is maybe a little bit naïve as she is only 15 (16 when the book ends), but she is also fairly self-sufficient and sensible with good instincts. She has had to deal with the loss of her family and everyone she knew all by herself in the valley where she lived with them, which can’t have been easy surrounded by memories. She knows how she can survive in her valley by planning out how to grow and harvest food and so on, but she seems to have become a little bit complacent in believing that no-one would come and has let her guard down a bit. But at least she knows how to use a gun!

Mr Loomis is a mysterious stranger who is ill for the first part of the book, so we don’t really get to know much about him until he gets better. The name should be enough to suggest that he is clearly more of an older and more superior character: we don’t know his first name, which makes him seem distant and less friendly. The stronger he gets after the illness, the more disturbing his behaviour is towards Ann. It is only in this re-reading of the book that i realise how much of a sexual predator he could be. He is clearly aware that she may be the only female left on earth, and that she is completely at his mercy. This turns the story into a more chilling plot. Ann becomes gradually aware of his attentions and is disgusted. She leaves him stranded in the valley when she steals his suit, because she would rather face the unknown than stay in the valley with a creep like him. Good on her!

I give this book 8/10 because it is a fascinating but chilling post-apocalyptic and dystopian story, and the characters are really interesting, with their relationship changing throughout the book. There is a lot of tension throughout the book, and it explores human emotion and the vulnerability of both characters really well. I highly recommend this book to everyone, even though it is teenage fiction!

I have just finished reading “Handling The Undead” by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Handling The Undead - John Ajvide Lindqvist (via Amazon)

In the city of Stockholm, the dead are coming back to life. The novel questions: how to handle the restless Reliving, who just want to come back home?

As can be expected, this plot throws up all sorts of issues, from the human rights of the Reliving, to questioning people’s religious beliefs, to trying to interact with the Reliving. The various characters we meet all have a connection to the Reliving and their relationships are all very different. These characters are all processing some kind of grief as they  confront the return of their loved ones whom they had recently buried. They are all fleshed out really well, with their stories being unique but connected by this one event. One character story is a little chilling, with the grandfather, Mahler, who digs up his Reliving grandson and hides him from the government. My favourite character is Flora, a teenager who has a special power of being able to sense things which others can’t.

You may call them zombies, but they are not the stereotypical idea of zombies which we all know: the groaning, half-decomposed, flesh-eating, walking bodies. They are simply bodies in varying states of decomposition (depending on the nature of the cause of death) which walk and, in one case, talk.  Yes, this novel explores the dead themselves, but it mainly focuses on the reactions of the living. There are some interesting thoughts about death, what counts as death, and questions what happens to the soul after death, if such a thing really exists. It makes you think about the lengths people will go to to protect their deceased loved ones, and how people really cope when the laws of nature are turned upside down. This is the sort of novel which explores and pushes the boundaries of subjects which we actually know little about. It basically just shows us ways in which humans cope with the unexpected.

The book is really well written, with great description of the people, places and events. It focuses on the emotional aspect of the story, and develops the characters’ stories by telling us about their pasts as well as showing their emotional reaction to the Reliving.

My only problem with the novel is that it doesn’t answer WHY the dead suddenly rise, or why its only those who died within the last few months who come back. Just as we start getting answers about how their souls can escape the body, the novel ends (rather abruptly i thought).

I give it 8/10 because it is a very good novel and its great to read something which more than just another zombie story.  It is really thought-provoking and disturbing.

It might have been a 10/10, but the ending is not really up to the standard of the rest of it. I was disappointed how suddenly it ended, without answering the vital questions. Nevertheless, i would still recommend it, as Linqvist is a brilliant writer!

Note: I read this on my Kindle, and it was a different experience to reading a print book, but i quite enjoyed it! My only issue with the ebook of this novel is that there seemed to be a few mistakes within the text, with dialogue of different characters getting mixed up on the same line, which got confusing, and a few other little niggles.