Book Review: The Afters by Christopher O’Connell

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

It’s the end of the world.

The Afters is about Charles Gilbert Billingsworth the VIII (Charlie). He is surviving – and enjoying – the zombie apocalypse, until he finds two lost children and –one of whom is hiding a powerful secret.

My Photo [The Afters].jpg

I liked it.

The Afters was easy to read, easy to follow, and the tone was witty and conversational – albeit a bit too conversational in places.

There were a few typing issues, such as the unintended fluctuation between past and present tense and some words at the start of chapters lacked spaces, but I’m sure those are things a quick edit can resolve.

When it comes to zombie apocalypse fiction, The Afters covers a lot of common ground – America is struck by a virus that has destroyed the population, quarantines are set up, camps are set up by groups both good and bad, some people are fortunately immune, and there are plenty of zombie attacks and scavenger hunts. However, O’Connell writes about all of these things well, so if you really enjoy apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, this would be a great book for you.

However, in an age where everyone seems to be writing apocalyptic fiction, and zombie TV shows and video games like The Walking Dead have massive success, I wanted to see something new too.

Around halfway through The Afters, O’Connell delivers this. Firstly, in Charlie’s discovery that one of the children in his care has a remarkable supernatural ability and secondly, that the zombies may not be dead, but mutating.

It was interesting to read The Afters alongside Cell by Stephen King. Cell is another book set in a zombie apocalypse, where a blast from mobile telephones renders all uses dead, zombified, or something in between. However, some of these zombies gradually become smarter – learning, developing, rebooting themselves, with sinister intentions. With that in mind, it’s nice to see authors take on a popular or, dare I say it, overdone idea and add new things to the genre I haven’t come across before, and this is what O’Connell does.

I was also impressed with how many genuinely tense and scary scenes there were, that place the reader in the centre of zombie attacks and violence. Very entertaining.

However, Charlie’s first-person narration began to irk me once he met Kalila; he describes her in a provocative way and stares at her bosom a great deal. As a female reader, it was uncomfortable to read through his, quite frankly, sleazy thoughts and comments about a woman and it was an aspect of Charlie’s character I did not enjoy.

All in all, The Afters is a well-written piece of zombie apocalypse fiction that does everything you’d expect it and then a little bit more.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Afters is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

– Judith

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Book Review: Intraterrestrial by Nicholas Conley

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Intraterrestrial is about Adam Helios, a bullied teenager who hears a voice claiming to come from the stars and fears he’s going mad. Following a terrible car crash, Adam is left seriously injured and his consciousness is abducted by the alien presence contacting him for months.

My Photo [Intraterrestrial].jpg

Intraterrestrial was decently written, although there were some frustrating uses of synonyms. As well as using the word ‘finger’, ‘appendages’ and ‘digits’ also get thrown around and this was just unnecessary. Synonyms can provide variation if you’re afraid of repetition, but sometimes the repetition of simple words is fine. No one says “I have hurt my appendages”.

My Photo [Appendages]
I am, of course, just poking fun at the situation.

Adam was a well-developed character; he felt very much like an ordinary kid – a sympathetic loser, if you will.

However, I wasn’t sure how to interpret Adam’s adopted status; the book makes it clear Adam was adopted as an orphan from India and Adam himself struggles at times to feel as if he belongs with his American parents. On the one hand, this is fair enough, and gives Adam some interesting background. On the other hand, the book also hints he may be abhuman or other-worldly in some way, and is thus contacted by aliens. Yet stressing Adam’s differences too much, and making Adam both “other” and Indian could be problematic for some.

I liked the open rebuttal of the “chosen one” stereotype and Adam’s genuine surprise that he is not The Chosen One; the way in which the expectations of Adam, and the reader, were challenged made it quite a witty scene.

I’m not a huge reader of science-fiction, so I preferred the chapters describing Adam’s mother, waiting for her son to recover in the hospital. These scenes helped provide some reality, in the midst of Adam’s alien experiences, and were easier to picture and understand.

I also couldn’t work out who Conley’s target audience is.

Concepts such as imagination-powered aliens, the importance of creativity, and Adam discovering more about his special identity, seem as if they would be best suited in a novel for children. Yet some the book contained explicit swear-words and gory, bloody details, suggesting Conley had an older audience in mind.

I did like the idea of being drawn into an alternative world inspired by your own mind – for example, the alternative world of Labyrinth is taken from Sarah’s childhood toys and stories – but I found the execution of this in Intraterrestrial slightly too abstract. I have a pretty active imagination, but I really struggled to visualise the aliens and worlds I was being told to imagine.

On a more positive note, Intraterrestrial has a proper ending! I’ll explain.

I find that often, especially in books sent for review, the narrative ends with a cliffhanger designed to make you buy their trilogy. Sometimes this is done well and other times, it isn’t. However, Conley doesn’t do this; instead he wraps up his story well by the end of the book and this was great to see.

Ultimately, I thought Intraterrestrial was okay, but probably not the book for me. If you’re a die-hard science-fiction fan though, you might want to consider giving this a go.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Intraterrestrial is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

– Judith

 

Book Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

You feel ecstatic! Until you kill yourself.

If one science-fiction themed blog post wasn’t enough – see Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – here’s a second.

The Happy Chip is a story about a revolutionary nano-chip which allows people to monitor their physical health and emotional well-being; it can even guide life choices and personal preferences.  However, writer Brad Davis begins working for the company responsible, and soon learns they have plans to create new chips – this time with more horrific side effects including suicidal tendencies, monstrous rage, and instant death.

My Photo [The Happy Chip].jpg

When choosing a book to review for Rosie’s Book Review Team, the tagline and premise of The Happy Chip immediately caught my eye.

The beginning was shocking and instantly places the reader in the midst of this dystopian technology, forcing you to work things out for yourself. I liked this – not everything needs explaining straightaway.

Yet when explanations are needed, some of the scientific jargon surrounding the biology and nano-chip technology was somewhat overwhelming and in places not particularly clear. Meredith is a science communicator and has worked with science journalists and written various pieces himself, so it is natural the scientific language would be detailed. However, overly scientific jargon can easily become confusing to the “average” reader.

Furthermore, there was a lot of gun terminology that was lost on me. As a reader from the UK, guns are not a part of everyday life; I don’t know anything about them and so specific details regarding models and rounds were seemingly unnecessary to me.

I liked the concept of monitoring and altering emotions and choices at will, as it is reminiscent of other works such as Brave New World and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and raises classic dystopian questions such as “What is free will?” and “What makes us human?”.

The new chips – engineered for different outcomes whether implanted in males or females – was an effective, if not a little stereotypical, threat.

I enjoyed the subtle manipulation of people (wouldn’t in real life obviously, unethical, ew). However, some of the descriptions of characters’ emotional states could have been developed further as they weren’t very detailed.

Pacing was also something I felt could have been improved. Halfway through The Happy Chip, it felt like I was at the climax of the novel. Perhaps the narrative would have been better split into two shorter stories. However, this is simply personal preference (I haven’t been taken over by a nanochip just yet).

I did enjoy The Happy Chip, although Meredith’s storytelling techniques could be improved.

Star Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

The Happy Chip is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

– Judith