the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘thriller

girl with all the giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey

published June 2014

Where I got it: rec’d ARC from the publisher (Thanks Orbit!)

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There once was a little girl named Melanie. As far as she knew, she was a happy, healthy little girl. And why shouldn’t she be? She gets to see her friends at school, she adores her favorite teacher Miss Justineau, and she always tries her best to be polite to the grown ups who help her. Even when they are holding a gun to her head.

 

Author M.R. Carey builds the tension up slowly but very steadily, at first giving us a fish eye lens view into an underground bunker where under the sharp eyes of Dr. Caroline Caldwell and Sergeant Parks, a very select group of children are fed, sheltered, education, observed, and then vivisected. Caldwell’s mission is of the utmost importance. She’s looking for a cure. And besides, if Melanie and the other “children” were still human, they’d cry out in pain when the good doctor sliced their skulls open with her scalpel, right?

 

Ever heard of Cordyceps?  How about Ophiocordyceps?  It’s a fungus that really likes ants and sometimes spiders, and it especially enjoys threading it’s mycelial hairs into the nervous system of the critter.  What happens next is pretty disgusting.  As an aside, M.R. Carey wrote a great guest post over at SFSignal, about the science behind The Girl With All the Gifts, and about Cordyceps. He even links to a video about it. I got about halfway through the video before I screamed “eye bleach!”.  Even after five minutes of thinking about baby My Little Pony unicorns snuggling with fluffy kittens, I still want to bathe my eyes in Clorox and throw up a little. So, there’s that.

 

The gist of The Girl With All the Gifts is that Ophiocordyceps has evolved, it has mutated to infect people, and it has terrorized humanity.  Terrorize probably isn’t the right word here. Because Ophiocordyceps is nothing more than the little fungus that could. And what it can do will horrify you.

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defendersDefenders by Will McIntosh

published May 13 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Orbit!)

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Can my entire review just consist of “holy fuck this book completely shattered me”?  Because really, that’s all you need to know.  But a seven word review? boring!

 

It’s 2029 and our first contact with an alien species is an invasion. The Luyten look like giant six or seven legged starfish, and they fell from the sky.  We attacked them, they fought back. They seemed to always know where our troops were, what our plan was. The Luyten could read our minds. They knew every thought going through every human’s mind, our dreams, our fears, everything.

 

And they were winning.

 

Homeless, hungry, and freezing to death, Kai helps a Luyten who claims to be an unarmed and wounded scout. A tenuous trust grows, and the Luyten begs Kai to keep silent about it’s hiding spot. How is a starving teen supposed to say no to a human soldier who promises food and a warm bed?  The Luyten is captured and tortured.

 

But still, the Luyten were winning. There was nowhere we could hide, nothing we could hide from them. If a Luyten were within eight miles of a human, the entire Luyten population knew what that human was planning. We needed to come up with something, and fast.

 

Are you scared yet? You should be. And this is only the beginning.

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Three Days to Never, by Tim Powers

published in 2007

where I got it: gift from a friend (and she got it autographed! I have the best blogger buddies ever!)

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Tim Powers is usually described as a writer of literary thrillers, but I prefer to call what he writes gateways to speculative fiction. He starts with what really happened, and fills in the blanks, takes you a wild ride, and still manages to prove that truth is stranger than fiction.  Far more fascinating than alternate history, this is secret history.

Three Days to Never was written in 2006, but it takes place in 1987, and it was refreshing to experience a thriller set in a time where cellphones and the internet weren’t ubiquitous.   The story starts innocently enough when  Frank Marrity gets a weird phone call from his grandmother Lisa, she says she’s going to burn her backyard shed down. By the time he gets to her house, he learns that she passed away at a national park located hours away. Frank’s daughter Daphne makes jokes about there being gold buried under Grammar’s shed. More unexpected than finding gold buried under the shed, they find a bundle of letters between Lisa and her father, and a VHS tape of PeeWee’s Big Adventure. First things first, Frank needs to meet with his sister Moira and arrange their grandmother’s funeral.

Frank and his sister were raised by their grandmother Lisa, who everyone calls Grammar, after their father left the family and their mother died in a car crash. Frank has always hated his absent father and blamed him for causing his mother’s possible suicide.  He’s always wondered how Grammar could be so cavalier about her own son abandoning his family.

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with this review of Blackout by Mira Grant, I will have finished reviewing all the Hugo nominated novels. Yes, I know voting closed on July 31st, but I did finish Blackout before then, just didn’t get around to writing up the review until now.

Click on the titles to read my reviews of the other Hugo nominated novels, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, and Redshirts by John Scalzi.

blackoutBlackout, by Mira Grand

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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Blackout is the final volume in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. This review therefore, is pretty spoilerific when it comes to earlier book in the series, but I’ll try to avoid major spoilers for Blackout. However, all spoilers will be “whited out”, so you can safely scroll around. Wanna know what happens or already know? Just highlight the text with your mouse, and all shall be revealed.

If you’re not familiar with this series, it takes place about 30 years from now, a generation after the zombie apocalypse. The strongest part of Grant’s zombie infected world is the zombie virus itself.  It was borne through two independently developed medical miracles that blended together to create a virus that lives within the human body, and awakens when we die. Our minds die, but our body doesn’t. And the only cure for that is a shot to the head. What remains of humanity lives behind high security, blood testing, and weapons training for middle schoolers. The series follow brother and sister news blogging team Georgia and Shaun Mason. Shaun enjoys poking dead things with sticks, and Georgia makes sure everyone knows the truth.

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Let’s talk about some Hugo Nominated novellas!  click back a day or two to see the whole list, and to click on novellas I’ve already reviewed.  Ready for the zombie apocalypse?

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, by Mira Grant

California browncoats Grant

What do you get when you mix a Comic-Con with the zombie apocalypse? You get Mira Grant’s San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats.  If you’re not familiar with Joss Whedon’s breakout show Firefly, fans often refer to themselves as Browncoats in reference to the long brown coat the main character wears in honor of his military service. If you’re not familiar with what a Comic-Con is, we got bigger problems. But that’s another blog post.

A long brown coat, like that!

A long brown coat, like that!

It almost sounds like the beginning of a comedy – cosplayers and merchants attend Comic-Con, and give the zombie apocalypse a beat down! But Grant’s novella is anything but a comedy. This is what Mira Grant does: she grabs you by the feels, and does horrible things to you.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats is a stand alone novella that can be read as a prequel to her Newsflesh Zombie trilogy (the third book in that series, Blackout, is nominated for best novel this year). You don’t need to have read any of the Newsflesh books to enjoy The Last Stand . . .

The Last Stand . . . is mostly told as a flashback.  It’s thirty years after the event that irreparably changed the world, and journalist Mahir Gowda is interviewing an aging Lorelei Tutt, the only survivor of the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. She doesn’t want to talk about what happened, but he needs her memories. They talk about other footage from the event, other evidence, and what she witnessed.  Along with Lorelei’s story in flashback, we get the POVs from an ensemble of characters who are attending San Diego Comic-Con, including a television actress, a blind journalist, some merchants from the dealer room, and  a couple on their honeymoon, among others.

No one is the wiser when Lorelei is sulkily helping her parents and their friends unload merchandise for their booth in the dealer room at the Comic-Con.  Fed up with her attitude, her parents send her back to the hotel to have a nap, or a bath, or whatever teenagers need to stop being total brats. The rest of the adults continue setting up the booth and trading geek culture quotes back and forth, and generally annoy their less good natured neighbors.

Elsewhere on the Con Floor, actress Elle Riley is desperately trying to get to her panel, with or without the help of her idiotic handler.   Fans ask for autographs, squee at celebrities, compliment costumes, shop for fake weapons, whine about the lack of wifi, try to find the bathrooms. Just a regular day at Comic-Con, right?

Until someone starts coughing. And then someone starts screaming, because the biting and chewing has begun. And then the lights go out. Lorelei’s parents are able to contact her via walkie talkie, but it gets harder and harder to insulate her from the worst of what’s happening inside the locked down convention center. Things get bad, and then they get worse, and then they become unimaginably horrific.

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calibans warCaliban’s War (book 2 of The Expanse series) by James S.A. Corey

published in June 2012

where I got it: gift from a friend, and it’s autographed! I have the bestest friends in the world!

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This is the second novel in James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse trilogy, so there will be spoilers, some major,  for the first book in the series, Leviathan Wakes (review here).  Ok, so spoilers is bad news. but the good news is, I think you could start with Caliban’s War first, and then read Leviathan Wakes, and be a-ok.

Picking up about a year after the events of Leviathan Wakes, the landscape of Caliban’s War is more a dark new world rather than a bold or brave one. Holden and crew are sitting pretty in their stolen martian warship, renamed Rocinante, and doing escort duty and pirate hunting for the Outer Planets Alliance. It’s boring, but safe. Relatively speaking. Holden is safe so long as he’s awake. Because when he sleeps, he dreams only of the horrors of Eros.  His relationship with Naomi has finally settled into something called a relationship, but she’s getting sick of the “new” Holden; The Jim Holden who shoots first and asks questions later, the one who acts too much like the late Detective Miller. But how could anyone come through the events of Eros unscathed?  I was fascinated by Holden’s tacit denial of how he’s handling what he went through by not handling it. His PTSD is the white elephant in the room. Maybe he’ll think twice next time before he decides to play hero. Yeah right.

Meanwhile, we watch as on Ganymede two seemingly unrelated events unfold: a handful of children go missing,  and a superhuman crerature slaughters  platoons of UN and Martian troops, leaving one survivor.

Unrelated my ass.

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agyar-197x300Agyar, by Steven Brust

published in 1993

where I got it: purchased used

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Ladies, John Agyar is the kind of man your mother warned you against.  He’s charming and mysterious, and he only wants one thing from the beautiful young women he flirts with.

Some of you may have already stopped reading, because you’re not interested in *that* kind of character. As a reward to those of you still reading, I’d like to share with you the thought that screamed through my head around the halfway point of the book: “holy shit, that’s what’s been going on all this time!?”

Squatting in an abandoned house, John is told there is a typewriter in an upstairs room, and he therapeutically begins to write. At first, he just records his conversations with the boring residents of this sleepy Ohio town.  As he gains comfort with the idea of writing as therapy, and with the idea of his housemate Jim actually reading these typewritten pages, he begins to add in more important details.  The pages of Agyar are those typewritten pages.

Here’s the thing through – This is John’s diary, and he talks about what he feels like talking about. He’s under no obligation to tell you anything important.  You’ve got to figure that part out for yourself.   In so many books the story is in the ink, in the words, on the pages.  In Agyar, everything important is between the lines. If you look close, it’s all there. As per usual, this review may be more vague than needed.  I type the wrong word, and I spoil the surprise. (whatever you do, don’t read review of this book on Amazon. the surprise is spoiled instantly, and in the most unkind way)

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2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.