Book Review: Commune Book Two

Commune Book Two by Joshua Gayou is the sequel in his dystopian series.

My Photo [Commune 2]

Following on from Commune Book One, the plot follows Jake and Amanda’s group, who have settled in Wyoming, fighting day in and day out to establish a home for themselves in a near-empty world. When a new group turn up, running on fumes, and searching desperately for a place to settle, it’s only a matter of time before short-term solutions to survival run out.

It seems an age since I read Commune Book One, but you can read my review of it from May here:

In his personalised note to me in the cover of his book, Joshua writes:

‘I’m pretty sure I’m still using the word “chuckle” in here, but you bear with me, won’t you?’

Over recent months, I’ve developed a strong aversion to the word “chuckle”.

My Photo [Commune - Twitter Exchange]

However, whilst I noticed the first ‘chuckle’ a mere 23 pages into the book (sorry), I decided to let this go and indeed ‘bear with’ Joshua because of how impressed I was by almost everything else in Commune Book Two.

Narration

Like Commune Book One, the sequel is written in first-person narration, alternating between perspectives from new characters as well as old ones.

This was enjoyable to read because it really helped to flesh out the characters of the main protagonists: Jake, Amanda, and Gibs, and I particularly liked this narrative style when it circulated between these three characters, each doing different tasks at different times in different locations. It helped highlight the wide range of jobs needing doing amongst the group and how every member plays a different role.

However, when the narrative switched between these three during one singular event, I think this let the book down a little. To me, retelling the same or an incredibly similar event from different character perspectives came across as somewhat redundant.

Characterisation

Speaking of Jake and Amanda, Commune Book Two draws out their personalities even more, particularly as they interact with newest members of the group.

Gibs, an ex-Marine, is the new addition to the group of protagonists in the series and, although his language is incredibly … explicit, he feels a very naturally written character.

Thus, as an ex-Marine, his authoritative style of voice, paired with his knowledge of guns and mechanics made the explanation of certain weaponry much more appropriate – I remember finding myself lost at the use of over-technical language in Commune Book One; I did not have this same problem again, and this is a great improvement to see.

Turning my attention to the minor characters however, it was difficult to remember who was who because a lot of the minor characters seemed to have their own small strands working in the background of the overarching narrative. Now, whilst it is completely natural that, in a group of survivors, some will be leaders, and some will be followers, I query the necessity of having to provide each minor character with a backstory and family, particularly when their lives and their roles are not the ones we follow for a lot of the book.

Furthermore, with only some throwaway details about some minor characters, it was difficult for me to care about the injuries, or incidents that happened to them. This contrasted with the first-person perspectives of the main characters, who would always seem to respond as if they’d just lost a best friend, despite them only being mentioned in a few pages or chapters.

Style

Moving on from this, I liked Joshua’s style of writing; his descriptions were very imaginative, without bogging the reader down in too much unnecessary detail.

There were lots of action scenes throughout Commune Book Two, with lots of variation each time – such as location, characters, the nature of the incident – so it never felt like “generic gunfight #3”.

Each action sequence was fast-paced, and I found the ending scenes with Gibs particularly exciting.

The fear of survival, emphasised by violent incidents and practical problems like a lack of supplies eradicated my longing for overarching problem – like a zombie apocalypse. I remember discussing that at times in Commune Book One, life felt more straightforward than scrambling for survival, leaving little for characters to do. However, by describing scouting for supplies, building a base, and dealing with any opposition, there was never a dull moment.

The ending of Commune Book Two was good; it introduced new story elements, as well as tying up other narrative strands, reminding me of how an episode of The Walking Dead would end, leading you to want to find out what happens next.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the story of Commune Book Two.

The protagonists were developed in more depth with more proficiency, the introduction of new characters meant watching the groups merge together and settle into life in this new dystopian landscape in an enjoyable way.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Commune: Book Two is available to buy as an e-book or a paperback from Amazon.com or Amazon UK.

– Judith

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Book Review: The Teacher

‘In the assembly hall of an exclusive Devon school, the body of the head teacher is found hanging from the rafters. Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end.’

The Teacher is a contemporary crime thriller by Katerina Diamon, in which DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must work together in order to stop a series of grim murders, and uncover the identity of the killer.

This is a well-written book*; the narrative switched character perspectives, as well as forwards and backwards in time, which I liked. I was able to follow the story clearly, although it took me a while to piece certain characters or details together.

The dialogue felt completely natural and the short chapters kept my focus and moved the narrative along at a nice pace.

*Ironically, the first few chapters of the book seem to have not been proofread – the amount of missing punctuation and spelling mistakes were quite glaring, but I was fortunate that my particular charity shop copy had been re-edited by the previous owner with a Biro!

This book is probably one of the goriest thrillers I’ve ever read; no gruesome details were spared when it came to descriptions. Indeed, no topics were spared from The Teacher either – the book covers murder, suicide, rape and victim-blaming, gory violence, and extremist viewpoints.

I really enjoyed the thrills, uncovering the mystery behind the murders, and watching how the characters develop and link to one another.

However, there are some parts of The Teacher that wound. me. up.

Spoiler Warning: Minor

Firstly, a victim of rape is not believed when the incident is reported, and is blamed instead. I really felt for the character in these frustrating and upsetting moments – I can’t imagine what it must be like to have gone through such a horrific incident and have it dismissed as falsehood. Whilst The Teacher is merely a fiction, sadly, this situation is reality for some rape victims today.

Secondly, certain characters have different, warped perceptions of morality and subsequently, what is right and what is wrong. For some, the act of murder is seen as the crime it is, others see murder as justifiable if done in revenge, others see murder as an entirely acceptable act.

It was incredibly difficult to read the thoughts and dialogue of characters with such a vastly differing moral compass to my own, and it’s tricky to discuss this further without revealing some serious spoilers.

Yet, whilst these parts of The Teacher infuriated me, they still added to my overall enjoyment of the book, and I was glad Diamond’s writing was able to provoke such a strong emotional response from me.

I strongly recommend this book if you can stomach some gore and want to read a well-written, thrilling murder mystery.

– Judith

Book Review: Skybreaker

Skybreaker is the sequel to Airborn in a series of young adult steampunk books, set in a world where the aeroplane has not yet been invented. You can read my review of Airborn here.

Taking off from (no pun intended) Airborn, Skybreaker follows the protagonists Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries, as they board the airship Sagarmartha in an attempt to find a mysterious ghost ship, lost in the air, and the treasure left buried inside it.

I think Skybreaker is a better book than Airborn for the following reasons.

The descriptions are clearer, the dialogue is a lot wittier, and the overall writing is better*. Furthermore, characters – both those newly introduced and those from Airborn – are developed and the relationships between these characters are more complex.

*I’m pleased to report that Matt Cruse did not feel any ‘tingles’ in this book!

This character development really helped to shape the protagonists – something lacking from Airborn – , so I knew them better and decide who I liked and who I disliked; I liked the character of Matt, but strongly disliked Kate.

Matt Cruse comes from a lower social status, but longs to better himself. He is hardworking, caring, and eager to be of assistance whenever he can. Albeit, he envies those with more money because with money comes opportunities and power, and he hopes that this will help him win the heart of Kate de Vries.

Kate de Vries is from a wealthy background and used to a comfortable life, with a passion for flying and travelling. However, she has a tendency to, whether intentional or not, look down on those lower than her – Matt included – and spend time with men of a higher social status. She is arrogant, and offended by the very notion that her flirtations with those in society who are rich might make Matt feel unable to “compete” because of his social class.

Skybreaker has a similar dramatic beginning to its predecessor, something I initially thought was a positive. Yet, as I continued to read the book, I noticed a lot of other glaring plot similarities, which at times felt like I was reading the same book, just with better writing:

Matt learns of a mysterious ship (an air balloon/ Sagarmatha) carrying a mysterious man (Benjamin Malloy/Theodore Grunel), who has a mysterious journal about a mysterious discovery (a new species of animal). Kate and Matt have a rocky friendship, Kate grows closer to a boy of a higher class (Bruce/Hal) and together the youths must seek out the mysterious discovery, protecting the secrets from a troupe of villains (Vikram Szpirglas /John Rath).

It’s a shame the plot of Skybreaker is so similar, and I hope this doesn’t become a trope of Oppel’s writing; in my review of Airborn, I specifically praised the book for being able to cover various different genres without falling into the trap of recycling stereotypical genre conventions.

However, despite this criticism, I did enjoy reading Skybreaker a lot more than the first book – I read it in just 2 days.

Will I read the other books in this series? Quite possibly.

– Judith