Review: The End of the World Running Club (By Adrian J. Walker)

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 464 pages

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Edgar Hill is an over-weight, lazy, and borderline alcoholic, who was a lacking husband to his wife, Beth, and just-about-there-father to his children, Alice and Arthur. Until the event that brings about the end of the world. When his wife and children end up at the other end of the country, Edgar knows that he needs to do whatever he can to get to them. There are no roads left and barely any vehicles, and the miles that stretch between him and his family are little more than a barren, dangerous wasteland. Edgar has only a few days to cross the barren and desolate remains of what had once been thriving cities. With no other option, he does the one thing he’s always hated – he starts running. Every second counts as Edgar pushes himself to put one foot in front of the other, every waking minute of every day. But is willpower enough? Will Edgar reach his family in time? Or will the lifestyle he’s always lived force him to fail and lose his wife and children forever?

The bottom line:

The End of the World Running Club is a highly typical post-apocalyptic novel that uses a unique angle, but fails in implementation due to poor characterization, a weak story-line, and lack of ingenuity other than in its basic premise.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for a copy of this book!

The End of the World Running Club starts off really well. It’s really creepy, borderline horror, and hard hitting on emotion. Some parts of the entire story remain positive throughout. This includes a few characters who are likable and who remain as consistent as humanly possible. It is also descriptive enough to achieve a sense of intrigue, has a strong creepiness factor, and a very unique angle (running across the country to be with your family). Additionally, it reads fast enough and holds its suspense. The best part about the book, though, is the way it describes the act of running and the many emotional, physical, and mental aspects of it. These make for the more interesting parts of the story.

But the positive aspects aren’t really enough to make you ignore the many problems in the book. The main one would be Edgar Hill himself. Although the book is meant to be a journey of realization for him, his entire personality is downright annoying. He fluctuates between determined, whiny, and pathetic, and is too inconsistent to make any real impression. Furthermore, his relationship with his family is meant to be with its share of problems, yet strong. But it comes across as barely-existent, and that weakens the entire foundation of the story itself. As a result, you end up not really bothered about whether he actually achieves his goal or not.

Most of the other characters are annoying too. There is no consistency in the personalities of a majority of the characters, nor in the relationships they share with one another. And that makes their entire journey very tiresome to witness. It seems like Walker only made the characters say and do what he needed for the story to proceed a particular way. Often, that went against the personalities depicted until that point, and made them too random to associate with or even follow. While it did help the story proceed, it also led to it making less and less sense.

Another thing that doesn’t work for the book was its very commonplace elements. It has everything you expect from a post-apocalyptic thriller. It has the random murders, looting, gangs, and everything that you’ve seen before. While the running club aspect was innovative, that inventiveness doesn’t really extend into the other arcs of the book. So, you end up feeling like you’re reading something that you’ve either read or watched before (I found a strong resemblance between a few scenes from the book and scenes from the movie, The Book of Eli).

All in all, The End of the World Running Club has potential, but does not see it through. This book wouldn’t be very high on my list of recommendations for others. But, if I had to recommend it, it would be to:

  • die hard fans of post-apocalyptic novels
  • people who don’t really mind a loosely woven story

Let us know what you thought of this review and/or The End of the World Running Club in the comments below!

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Review: Fever (By Deon Meyer)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 544 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Nico Storm and his father, Willem Storm, are among the last few survivors of a world ravaged by a virus. As they drive through a desolate land in a truck filled with supplies, young Nico discovers his excellent marksmanship and cool head have made him his father’s protector, even though he’s little more than a young boy. Willem Storm has another kind of strength. He has the vision, passion, and compassion to rebuild a life. And so, Amanzi is born – a community of survivors that grows every day and where the most diverse of individuals find a new home. But the virus has done more than wipe out the majority of the population. It has left behind new challenges. As the community innovates and increases its resources, it faces an increasing number of threats. These come not only from the infamous biker brigands but even from within their own settlement. As Nico goes through an extraordinary rite of passage in an unfamiliar world, he finds his loyalties, beliefs, and abilities tested to the limits. And when the person he loves the most is murdered, the community that was once home becomes nothing more than a pool of suspects. In Fever, Nico recalls the events that composed the fascinating journey of humanity as it strived to fulfill a noble mission against the threat of its own animalistic impulses.

My take:

First, let me shout out a big thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for the ARC of this book. It was a pleasure to read.

Fever is a coming of age book written in the first person by the middle-aged main character, Nico Storm. He takes you through the time of the Fever, its aftermath, the establishment of the Amanzi community, and the many events that come during and after it, up to a pivotal moment in his life.

The book has a linear, chronological base, with some shifts between the past and present. It’s got a host of characters, and each one’s story is shared, in their own words, through notes maintained by Nico Storm’s father. This adds many interesting and different points of view.

Normally, you’d expect such a book to get quite confusing. But Fever manages to avoid that during most of its length and ends up as a fascinating read for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is the absolute honesty with which the book is written. The base of the entire book is the relationship that Nico shares with his father. And this is shown beautifully and with strong, real emotion. What really works for it is that Nico tells the story from the perspective of a middle aged man who can now see with maturity the same events that he perceived differently as a young child or a teenager. And that brings out the emotion of Nico as an adult and as a boy of whatever age he is during the event itself. It contains all the regret one would feel as an adult of one’s own actions as a youngster, and becomes extremely relatable.

The second thing that really works for Fever is that it doesn’t try too hard to be a post-apocalyptic book. Although that is its genre, it doesn’t have the typical hierarchy of survival groups or the typical roles that people normally assume in this genre of fiction. What it does have are extremely real people who have real emotions and real behavior. It is their natural personalities that come through and that are furthered by the calamity they have witnessed. They don’t change who they are – they only become more of who they were.

The characters themselves are very interesting and depict the diversity of our world in many ways, good and bad. Each one develops in his/her own way. But the show is stolen, without a doubt, by the relationship between Nico and his father, its dynamics, its moments, its words spoken and unspoken, and even its strains. There is an unmistakable, raw, honesty in Nico’s delivery, that you feel deep within you as you read, and that has the power to physically affect you.

The story itself is much more than just the settling down of a community. It is the picture of an entire life of so many people, affected by what they’ve been through, their desires, their past, and their expectations for the future. And it moves along at a great pace. There are no slow points.

To be honest, I had expected the book to be very linear, filled with teenage angst, and stereotypical in many ways. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, it was an emotion-packed, non-sappy, strong, raw, and honest book. And I really, really enjoyed every page of it. Needless to say, I will be adding Deon Meyer to my list of authors (translated works) for sure!

I would highly recommend Fever to:

  • fans of post-apocalyptic novels
  • anyone interested in trying a different type of book (because this is really different)
  • anyone interested in coming of age books (even though this is much more than that)

Fever released on 5th September 2017. Get your copy as soon as you can – you won’t regret it. And drop us a comment below to tell us what you thought of the book and/or this review!

– Rishika

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Review: A Dark So Deadly

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 608 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

DC Callum MacGregor is the latest addition to the Misfit Mob – the department where Police Scotland sends those officers that it can’t fire, but don’t want either. MacGregor does not deserve to be part of the Mob. But that’s only the beginning of his problems. He’s assigned to finding out which museum lost the ancient mummy that they found at Oldcastle tip. But then he discovers a connection between the mummy and three missing young men. The Misfit Mob manages to hold on to the case, and the disreputed department becomes the only thing standing between a serial killer and his next victim. With his professional life just about holding up, MacGregor dives head first into the case. Until a blast from the past changes everything. Questioning everything he’s ever known, MacGregor has to balance his search for a killer with the chaos of his crumbling personal life. Every step takes him closer to answers he may not like, and dangers he may not be able to avoid. As he watches his own life careen out of control, MacGregor realizes that things around him are just not as they seem. And by the time he learns the truth, it may be too late.

My take:

I had very high expectations from A Dark So Deadly. I’ve only read one other book by Stuart MacBride – Halfhead – and had absolutely loved it (read my review here). That’s why I was waiting with bated breath for the time that I’d get my hands on A Dark So Deadly. Unfortunately, the book didn’t really meet the anticipation I’d built up.

It definitely has a lot of things going for it. The story itself is really interesting and multi-layered. It isn’t a simple serial killer story. Instead, it takes multiple points of view, moves between the past and present, and explores a lot of storylines. They even leave you guessing how different things are related, which adds to the entire suspense element. It also has some really surprising elements – twists and turns you just would not see coming. Added to that is MacBride’s quirky sense of humor that comes through in narrative and dialog. At the same time, he does not shy away from making things as graphic as they need to be, which adds the right amount of thrill.

His characterization is excellent. Each person is well defined, has his or her own quirks, and has their own personality that comes through in action and dialog. Looked at from that perspective, there is great finesse in the delivery of the story.

However, the book also has a lot of things that just do not work for it. For starters, there are just so many characters. With a book that is already chaotic by design (it’s supposed to be a bit messed up given its genre), it doesn’t help that names are constantly added to an already lengthy list. And it definitely doesn’t help when a briefly mentioned name reappears only 200 pages later and starts playing a big role. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, especially if you take even a day-long break from reading.

Another thing that got really annoying were some of the characters themselves. I’m not sure if they were meant to be endearingly quirky. All they ended up being were borderline annoying.

The main thing, though, was that the book could have been shorter by just a bit. You can even make peace with the fact that it’s over 600 pages long. Except, the end feels like MacBride kind of got bored writing and so hurriedly completed it.

A lot of the story is actually left incomplete. You don’t know what happens to certain characters because the last time they’re mentioned is on sort of a cliffhanger. And when you’ve invested yourself into 600 pages, you want those extra few pages to tie things up into a neat little bow.

All the characters actually show great progression over the book. But the abrupt end leaves you wondering just what the heck happened! I mean, there’s more to a murder mystery than finding out who the killer is, right? I just hope that MacBride decides to turn the Misfit Mob into a series so that we can see how the characters continue to develop and address their many problems that have only begun in this book.

All in all, A Dark So Deadly is a good option in the genre of serial killer crime fiction. It is multi-layered, humorous, interesting, and has that typical Scottish vibe to it that makes you pick up a MacBride book in the first place. It could have been better, but still enjoyable and not something that would make you feel like you wasted your reading time.

I’d recommend it to:

  • fans of crime fiction, especially the serial killer sub-genre
  • fans of Scottish and British novels
  • fans of Stuart MacBride

Read A Dark So Deadly? Let us know what you thought of it, and this review, in the comments below.

– Rishika

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Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (By Robert Louis Stevenson)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 137 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When London lawyer, John Gabriel Utterson, first sees Mr. Hyde, he’s struck by a sense of foreboding. He finds the infamous man as deplorable as the rumors state. And he hopes that he never has to lay eyes on him again. But fate has other plans. Dr. Jekyll, a respected man and Utterson’s good friend, refuses to share in Utterson’s disgust of Mr. Hyde. In fact, he seems to almost care about the strange, unlikeable creature. Strange events begin to unfold in the city and Utterson is inescapably pulled into them. At the heart of them all, he finds Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll’s unrelenting support of the man being hunted by the entire city. As he is compelled to investigate further, he finds himself in the midst of a nightmare he’d believed unimaginable, and a reality that would challenge everything he’d ever believed in.

My take:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is known for being one of the earlier works on the topic of split personalities. But the book is actually way more than that.

The book has a very archaic writing style and, with it, the charm of that style. It’s actually quite easy to read as long as you read it slowly and not in any rush. The prose will not leave you feeling overwhelmed or like you’re missing out on anything; in fact, it’s written in an incredibly enjoyable manner.

As a story, it isn’t exactly what I had expected. I was probably misled by the many adaptations of the book (which I’ve not watched/read but only heard about). So I kind of expected a book that begins with a murder and proceeds to the split personality angle. The book is nothing like that and that’s a good thing.

It’s a little difficult, to be honest, to explain how amazing this book is (because that would inevitably lead to spoilers). So, I’m going to focus instead on why this book is so good. The main reason is that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is emotion in prose. The book has an eerie sense to it that stays with you as you read it. But, it also has this beautiful, profound sadness.

It touches upon topics like the duality of personality (which is very different from a split personality) really well and forces you to remain in thought long after it’s done. It talks about the contradiction that all of us are, within ourselves, and our ability to choose to be one over the other at varied times. And in a world where all of us are juggling so many different things that require us to be so many different things, the book and its emotion hit pretty hard.

Then there is the emotion you feel for the characters themselves. In a book as short as 137 pages (or even lesser, depending on the format and publisher), Stevenson manages to make readers truly associate with the people within his story. Whether they appear for one scene or carry the entire story, or whether they’re good or evil, you feel for each character. You share in their angst, their fight (often internal), and their decisions. As a result, you are left enjoying every single aspect of the book that really pulls you in from the get-go.

As a story itself, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is written in a mixture of retellings and present events. A lot of it is also written in the form of correspondence. It’s definitely not a linear murder mystery if, like me, that’s what you’re expecting. And I wouldn’t call it a horror either. But, it is definitely disturbing in certain ways, and even more so because those angles are a little too real. All in all, it is quite exceptional in its ability to evoke emotion of varied kinds, and in the way in which it makes you look within yourself.

I’d definitely recommend The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to:

  • all kinds of readers
  • people who haven’t really read classics (It’s a great classic that is easy to read even if you’re not a fan of classics)
  • fans of psychological thrillers, mysteries, and horrors (It’s a multi-genre book and would appeal to most genre fans)

Also, it seems that Dr. Jekyll is pronounced Jee-kal or Jee-kill and not Jek-ill (That was definitely a bit annoying to get used to).

What did you think of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Let us know in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 192 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Second in the eight-volume collector’s edition, The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2 contains Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharaoh, and The Blue Lotus.

My take:

Volume 2 of The Adventures of Tintin is brilliant when compared to Volume 1. Individually though, it doesn’t reach that level of charm that the later books possess. Containing three stories, Volume 2 does get better as it progresses.

Tintin in America includes characters that are part of the earlier books. It’s just a brief mention though and you won’t really be lost if you choose not to read the previous ones. As a story, it’s quite random, with things happening abruptly and a little too conveniently. It doesn’t have an elaborately woven storyline and is also a bit racist. Of all the three books in Volume 2, Tintin in America is the worst.

Cigars of the Pharaoh has an interesting story. There is a bit of racism in this one too, but that’s quite negligible when compared to the others. It’s an interesting read and sets the stage for the next book too. It also includes characters that make appearances in later books (from what I remember). If you want to avoid the overly racist, not too great earlier books but at the same time don’t want to miss any central characters, then I’d recommend beginning the series from Cigars of the Pharaoh.

The Blue Lotus has the interesting, multi-layered, multi-dimensional type of story for which Tintin became famous. The story itself is quite interesting and (thankfully) has very little racism. In fact, at some point, the story mocks the stereotyping and racism habits of people too. All in all, The Blue Lotus comes across as the best part of Volume 2 and does leave you looking forward to Volume 3 and Tintin’s next adventure.

Highly recommended to:

  • people who enjoy Tintin
  • people who want to start reading The Adventures of Tintin (start from Cigars of the Pharaoh)
  • anyone looking for an interesting graphic novel to read

Let us know what you thought of The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2. Drop us a comment below!

– Rishika

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Review: Red Dragon (By Thomas Harris)

 

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 464 pages

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Will Graham almost lost his life when he apprehended the psychopath and serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Surviving the horrific attack, he retired from the FBI and chose a quieter, more peaceful life. But when another psychopath brutally murders two families over the span of two months, Graham is forced out of retirement. His gift for seeing things that others can’t may have made him great at tracking killers. But it left him chaotic and broken. Now, he needs to embrace that dark part of himself as he goes after the murderer. This time though, even Graham might need some help. But the only one who can help him is Hannibal Lecter. While Graham finds himself trying to understand the mind of two psychopaths, the killer sets his sights on another family. And an innocent woman is pulled into the dangerous game between Graham and the murderer. Will Graham find all the answers in time? Or will his failure claim numerous lives, and his own sanity?

My take:

To begin, let me say that Red Dragon is the book that introduces one of the world’s most infamous psychopaths – Hannibal Lecter. But that’s about as far as Lecter’s involvement in the book goes. He makes a couple of appearances and that gives you decent insight into his scarily calculative and cruel mind. But it does not really instill the fear of Hannibal the Cannibal into the reader.

Coming to the story itself – Red Dragon has a story that has the potential to be absolutely terrifying. It’s insane, psychopathic, cruel, and often very raw. There are scenes that are just so disturbing that they will make you jump. And since they come so unexpectedly, this effect is felt even more so. You will cringe, you will wonder just what the heck happened, and you will be intrigued/grossed out at the same time. These scenes are nothing short of powerful and really bring that ‘crazy’ touch to the book.

The story moves along briskly. It’s a long read, but it does not really slow down at any point. There is something or the other always happening and that keeps you turning the pages briskly.

The characters are believable, sometimes unfortunately. The Dragon himself is a complex person and his personality is depicted well. Graham is a complicated character too, and his constant state of being in an internal battle with himself is nicely presented. Most of the other characters fill their roles out perfectly, and the various relationships add good dimensions to the plot and people. The only part that got really annoying was Graham’s wife, Molly.

I don’t know how marriages used to be in the 1980s. But there existed an odd coolness to Molly and Will’s relationship that seemed very unlike that of two people who were apparently in love. Maybe it was Will’s job that took a toll on the relationship, but that needed to be described more convincingly. Without that, Molly’s character came across as plain annoying.

As far as the writing style is concerned, the only thing that I can say is that Harris’ is freakishly weird. He switches between tenses, writes half sentences, and just has this vague touch to his prose. A lot of the book made me feel like Harris had these disturbing, chaotic images playing out in his mind’s eye and he just wrote furiously, getting it all onto paper, and then just moved on to the next image. And that made the book so darned infuriating to read at times.

It sort of brought down the entire quality of a story that could have been absolutely amazing in its chaos. It seems to just miss that mark where abstract turns into discernible image. As a result, for me, the book had a lot of potential that remained unrealized.

I wouldn’t say that everyone needs to read Red Dragon. I’m sure you can follow the Hannibal Lecter series even without reading this as he isn’t really the main part. But I’d definitely recommend the book to:

  • people who love serial killer and psychopathic themed books (this is one of the craziest!)
  • people who enjoy dark mysteries
  • people who want to learn what psychopaths can truly be like (it’s got an oddly realistic sense about it)

Let us know what you thought of Red Dragon and/or this review. Drop us a comment below.

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 206 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1 is the first in the collector’s edition of the series. It contains Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo.

My take:

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely love Tintin comics, which is why I have the collector’s edition in the first place. I’ve read all the comics over the years. But, I had not really read the entire collection in order. Until now.

I picked up Volume 1 because I wanted to start right at the beginning. And let’s just say that if these had been the first Tintin comics I’d ever read, I probably wouldn’t have given the rest of the series a chance.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets has no story as such and is just page after page of Tintin and Snowy escaping from crazy situations in ridiculous ways. I mean Tintin is famous for getting in trouble and getting away, but these scenarios were plain incredulous and un-entertaining.

Tintin in the Congo is painfully racist and depicts hunting in the most brutish and inhumane manner possible. It still has some story and is closer to the better Tintin comics in a few ways. But by no means is it a comfortable read (I’m pretty sure I actually cringed a couple of times).

Both books within Volume 1 aren’t really enjoyable. The creators have admitted that both books were heavily influenced by beliefs and assumptions of the time during which they were set. They’ve even updated some aspects of the books that just would not have been accepted later. But that still doesn’t make them a great read. And they definitely don’t compare in the least to the books that followed.

If you want to read Tintin then read any other than Tintin in the Congo and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. The others are surely enjoyable. But the only reason you can consider reading Volume 1 is if you, like me, want to go through all the books in order. That compulsion is the only thing that’ll get you through them.

Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought about Volume 1 of The Adventures of Tintin.

– Rishika

 

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