The Gunslinger -The Dark Tower Series – Stephen King

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So first I must tell you, in case you didn’t know, Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. I have a few whose books I will devour whenever new ones come out, and I am always searching for older ones I may have missed. My first journey with Stephen King was Pet Sematary – to this day I look under my bed before sleeping. Kidding, but you get the idea. I have read everything I can by Mr. King, and have thoroughly enjoyed most of work. My favorite will always be The Stand; however, each book is like finding a long-lost friend.

It is because of my love for him and his works that I write this with unwilling fingers. The Dark Tower series, for me, just isn’t interesting. I tried and failed to read this book many times over the years, and just couldn’t get into it. I finally finished it, and to be honest, don’t think I missed much. However, I am told it all makes sense and it all comes together when you read the rest of the series. Since I know Mr. King, and have had a hard time with some of his earlier work (Salem’s Lot comes to mind), I will continue to try this series out.

To the review though:

It starts with Roland chasing the Man in Black. Anyone who has read any novels by King will instantly recognize the Man in Black as Randell Flagg or the Dark Man. Roland is the last of his kind, a Gunslinger and from what I gather, his home has been destroyed. The world they live in is like our world, but it is either a parallel world, or many years in our future. They know things like Bible and the Beatles, but don’t have any knowledge of skyscrapers for example. King never comes out and says parallel or future, but I am sure the next books divulge deeper into that.

Along the journey to meet the Man in Black and in his search for the Dark Tower, he meets some colorful characters that sometimes confuse more than help the plot line. It spans a massive dessert and goes into pitch black caves. The descriptions were great, as was the character development. I personally just didn’t care if Roland ever met the Man in Black. HOWEVER, I feel this is all me and not Mr. King’s writing or the story itself. I must emphasize that because as I said, I love his writing and most of his stories, so when I come across one I don’t like I know it must be me.

Anyway – this got off tangent – I would recommend this book (and series) to anyone who likes adventure, science fiction, alternate universes, maybe even westerns. I think it could be a very enjoyable book to anyone familiar with his work.

 

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

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It is no surprise that I enjoy reading dystopian fiction. I like it for many reasons, but mostly I enjoy reading what other people think of humanity. You can tell how positive or negative they feel by the world they create when the world as we know it ends.

This novel reminds me a lot of The Stand by Stephen King. The Georgia Flu has taken out 99% of the population. (Capt. Tripps or Project Blue – a man-made super flu – killed off 99% of the population) Society must put itself back together. Instead of having a good/evil that puts the society that is left in two camps. It follows the more likely Glenn Bateman theory of a bunch of little societies popping up and being led by different forms of government. From Socialism to Dictators and everything in between. The way we can experience this, is by following the Traveling Symphony. The members of the group preform Shakespeare plays and play music while traveling around the mostly deserted landscape that used to be America. For 20 years they have done this, but of course, the good people aren’t the only ones that survived and as such, they run into problems trying to find some friends of theirs.

The whole novel sweeps back and forth through landscapes and over time, from before the flu to the present, going from one character to another and bringing the reader into a world where everything is gone. The internet, modern medicine, TV, cold food from the fridge, cooking on a stove, going to drive through for food, flying across great distances, getting in your car and traveling hundreds of miles in only few hours. Families, friends, jobs, useless degrees all gone in the blink of an eye and what remains is only what we are. Musicians, doctors, mothers, fathers, electricians, trying to find ways to find meaning in the new normal.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the other reason I like dystopian novels. I feel like most of humanity (not all) is stuck in rut. We live each day going about our business with very little thought to our futures, or even our present. We work, we sleep, we eat, we repeat and for what? Is that living? Or just existing. Two parts of the book stick out for me that make me feel like the author feels the same way. There was a monolog in the middle where a woman is describing her boss and she describes him as: “High-Functioning Sleepwalker” Deep. Because I look around and see a whole lot of “high-functioning sleepwalkers” every day. The second reason is a recurring phrase: “Because survival is insufficient” which is apparently originally from Star Trek. Again – isn’t it true? Just because you are alive doesn’t mean you are living.

Another thing that stuck with me is the way she would make you think about morality – one minute here, the next gone. There was one reflection where one of the characters was remembering making snow ice cream with his mother and brother. “Frank standing on a stool on his wondrously functional pre-Libya legs, the bullet that would sever his spinal cord still twenty-five years away but already approaching” again – deep. Thinking about it makes you think about your life, what events have shaped where you are and what events are still to come.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if it took me a long time to read it. I would highly recommend this to anyway one wants to read as good dystopian novel.

 

NK3 – Michael Tolkin

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Every now and then you read a book that reminds you that why you will never become an author. This is one of them. It isn’t so much that the book was amazing or beyond compare, it is simply because the writing was so clever. The character development was non-existent, but the language, the scenery and the overall tone of the book sucked you in. I read the book in two days. After reading it,  couldn’t begin to describe why people should read it, or what I just read even. I just knew that it was a good book and scary in the way that it almost seems plausible.

Not too long from now North Korea develops a virus that wipes out human memory. Everything. Complete blank state. Everything you were, everyone you knew, every memory you cherished gone. Not only that but it did something to our inhibitions and emotions. For example, sex and being naked is completely normal. People have orgy’s in the streets. In some ways, I found this liberating. Imagine if we cast aside our societies view of normal or polite and were more free. People wore what they wanted without regard to “girl clothes” or “boy clothes” , a biker in his former life wore a sexy nurse custom for example. It was that part of the book that I was most drawn to. There was a certain peacefulness to the ignorant bliss they all shared.

The way people spoke to each other was really why the book was so good. He created a way of speaking that never faltered through the entire book. It was almost like a bunch of four year old children babbling and making decisions, so if you can imagine four year old running the world…that would give you and accurate description of the language. There were levels of people, those who, in the early stages of the virus, were rehabilitated, those who sort of got rehabilitated, and those who never did, then there were those who were beyond any sort of help. The first wave of people were people who had some usefulness about them. Electricians, doctors, mechanics, pilots, farmers, etc. They created a place and put a wall up that kept out the people who weren’t verified. (in other words people who had no useful skills in the new world.) No matter what level of rehabilitation people received, no one could remember anything since the virus.

Because none of them have any memory of the way things were, they run the world much like a four year old with all the candy they can eat would. Wine, drugs, and food run freely with no regard as to how more will be made. This spells disaster when, four years after the virus they realize that at some point, the party has to end.

I feel like I am doing a poor job of explaining this novel – but I will say, anyone who loves dystopian novels, interesting writing, or new concepts will probably enjoy this book.

 

The Midnight Star – Marie Lu

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“None of us are saints. We can all do better”

The final installment in Marie Lu’s Young Elites novels. This one I liked better than the second. It was full of action, drama, and it was beautifully written.

I am again assuming that if you are reading this, you have read the first two. While I will try not to give anything away, there is always that a chance.

In this conclusion we find the Elites struggling with their powers. Some have become ill, some have gone mad, while others seem to be fairing okay. One of the Elites, Raffaele is aligned with the other elites powers and senses a deterioration. He concludes that they must give their powers back to the gods or have their powers kill  not only them, but their entire planet. In order to do this, they must make alliances with their enemies. A hard thing to ask to give up your powers, but harder still to travel with people you don’t think you can trust.

This book was a gripping, non stop conclusion to a great series. I can’t wait to see what else Marie comes up with next.

The Young Elites – Marie Lu

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I love a good series, and this one promises to be one. I read her other series, Legends  and really enjoyed, so I already knew I would like her writing style.

The Young Elites takes place after a horrible sickness has taken over the land and killed or disfigured many people. Some people were lucky enough to live without being marked. Those that weren’t so lucky are called malfetto and are seen as something to be embarrassed by. Fathers have a hard time marrying off their malfetto daughters.  Adelina Amouteru is more than just a survivor and a malfetto she is also one of the children that is now in possession of a special gift. She meets up with others like her and they have a plan, put a stop to rein of the King and put the rightful King in his place.

The story takes place in a world like ours, but slightly different and it a time much like our 1400’s…which takes a bit getting used to if you aren’t used to reading fantasy novels. I liked this book (and will of course be finishing the series) because of the strong female lead, the rich descriptions and the character development. I feel like it was well done and keeps the reader engaged. I didn’t feel like it dragged in any parts.

I look forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing how things turn out for Adelina and her friends.

You will know me – Megan Abbott

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This book sucks you in an doesn’t let you go until you turn the last page. Even then, it is one of those books that you keep thinking about it.

How far would you go if your child was destined for greatness? How far would your family go? Your community?  Most of us would never have to answer that question. Most of us have children with ordinary talents who will maybe get a scholarship. The rare few that actually make it to the Olympics – how did they get there? What did they sacrifice? This book takes you into that world where everything is riding on one person, the hopes and dreams of a coach, the inspiration for younger gymnast, the pride and joy of the families, the jealously and bitterness of the parents with ordinary children. It also brings with it a secret, a horrid and life changing secret, that threatens the entire community.

If the book was just about the life of a gymnast it would have a been a good book, but it also weaves a tale of a mystery, a who done it and why. When the whole story unravels, you find yourself asking: would I do the same for my child?

The only complaint I have about his book is that the conversations were choppy. I am sure it lead to the mystery and intrigue of the story, but I found it hard to read at some points. No one asks a questions to their husband only to have them turn away without answering…at least not without a fight. There was a lot of conversations that never went anywhere, and again, I am sure that it helped with the mysteriousness of the story, but as I said, it was hard to digest a few times.

Over all – I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to picking up her other books.

The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer

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I had a hard time writing this review. I liked this book; and subsequently read through it in just a few short days. However, I can’t seem to tell you why I like it. I would definitely describe it as a fluff book, and similar writing style to her book The Host. (Which I also liked)It is a very quick read, with likable enough characters, and decent plot line. I guess the problem for me, is when reading a mystery, I never trust anyone, so I spend the whole time thinking, “It was her! She is behind it all.” Then I will switch once someone does something shady like go to the bathroom, “Oh my gosh! He is a double agent!” That kind of thing… So, I have hard time warming up to the characters when I think they are all evil. That may just be a personal issue. But, I did feel like I wouldn’t have cared so much had anyone turned out evil. It wasn’t like I would have been devastated. So that in of itself might be telling of the character development.

The story is about a girl who used to work for a special secret part of the government. She handles…getting information out of people, using a variety of interesting chemical compounds. And of course, she is very good at her job. When the government decides they no longer need her they set out to kill her, forcing her to go on the run and keep running and hiding for the rest of her life. She is contacted by a former colleague and offered a way to stop running. Do one more job.

The job isn’t so clear cut as she is lead to believe and now she is in even more danger than before.

The book is half romance/half mystery, I guess and although I am doing a poor job reviewing it, it is a decent book.  Unfortunately, no lines stood out to me on this one. I think this would be a good book to read when you are between intense books, or on vacation. Definitely not something I would bring up to your book club.