Book Review: Commune: Book Three

Commune: Book Three is the third book in Joshua Gayou’s post-apocalyptic / dystopian series. I’ve read  and reviewed both Commune: Book One and Commune: Book Two.

This third instalment follows the Jackson commune as they gather supplies and reinforce their camps in order to endure a bitter winter in Wyoming. Elsewhere, other factions are beginning to form – though not all of them pleasant.

My Photo [Commune Book 3]

Commune: Book Three contains a brief recap of the second book. I appreciated this because I hadn’t read the previous book in a while, and it conveyed that this series is dramatic and episodic, like a television series.

Once again, some new characters were introduced, adding to Gayou’s ever-expanding world. His ability to write about so many characters and settings with increasing depth and creativity is impressive, and I think Gayou’s talent improves with each instalment.

Characters, I think, are really the focus of Commune: Book Three.

There isn’t masses of action, but there’s plenty of interaction between other characters to occupy your attention. There were also some poetry segments, which were ok, but I’m not a poetry fan so I skimmed them fairly quickly.

Clay and Ronny, leaders of a Nevada survivor group, are instant foils (opposites) for Jake and Gibs, leaders of the Jackson commune. I instantly disliked Clay which, though it shows good character-building, made me enjoy the narrative about Clay and his group less. I admit, I perked up more once the narrative switched back to the more familiar, likeable characters from the Jackson commune.

Speaking of familiar characters, Elizabeth, the wilful daughter of Amanda, is given an interesting storyline within Commune: Book Three. She learns new skills and vents the difficulties of being a child in such a ruthless new world. When life is no longer fun and games, but you’re too young to be given adult responsibilities, what can you do?

Romance subplots are also gradually introduced. I discussed the theme of romance in my review of Commune: Book One, saying:

‘It was refreshing to have a stronger female character who builds up a close relationship to a male without it being reduced to a love story.’

In the first book, I liked that male and female characters could form friendships without being complicated by romance. By the third book, developing romantic interests between minor characters was paced well, completely natural, and lovely to see.

If it sounds like I’m referring to the previous two books and my previous two reviews often, it’s because I am. Commune: Book Three ties the events of both books together in a neat and entertaining way, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable sequel to a story I’ve now been tracing across for more than a year.

The ending was descriptive and made me want to read on, without being an overly dramatic or cliché cliffhanger, although it didn’t go entirely where I expected it to, or where I wanted it to.

In summary, Commune: Book Three is another strong performance by Joshua Gayou and I’m interested to see what happens next.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Commune: Book Three is available to buy as an e-book on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

– Judith

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Themes in: War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells about when Martians invade Surrey. It was published in 1898, towards the end of the Victorian period, known as the Fin de Siècle (end of the century). To find out more about the plot, and what I thought of the book, you can read my review here:

Otherness

This is the most apparent theme in the entire novel.

The Martians are not human and so are obviously, well, alien. Wells uses language such as ‘strange and ‘monster’ to emphasise how different these creatures are. The Martians are scary and powerful; they bring new technologies with them that humans have never even seen before. They are different, they are intimidating.

‘Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles. […] Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket […] The monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.’

(War of the Worlds, Chapter 10)

The predatory, animalistic language such as ‘tentacles’ and ‘fisherman’s basket’ once again emphasises that it is the Martians who are the invaders, and the humans who are the invaded.

However, Wells not only makes the Martians “other”, but makes the humans “other” too.

The narrator observes the chaos and catastrophe once the Martians attack; homes are destroyed, streets are turned to rubble, and humans flee. Whilst this is happening however,  the narrator begins to describe the humans  less as individual victims, and more as a homogeneous group, stampeding. He uses language such as ‘the host’ and the ‘multitude’ which is language typically ascribed to alien or other beings.

‘Their skins were dry, their lips black and cracked’

(War of the Worlds, Chapter 16)

Furthermore, this dehumanising language suggests people have begun to lose their human appearance and behaviours in the face of panic – becoming something strange, something they’re not.

As a side note, I feel this line would not be out of place in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness is another book which touches on themes of invasion and otherness, and contains many racist depictions of African slaves as “other”.

Thus, the alterity of both human and aliens in War of the Worlds can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

1. For example, the fear of an unknown, alien population invading white Victorian Britain reflects fears of reverse colonialism. This was the fear that people from countries colonised by Britain, such as India, would attack or invade Britain in revenge.

2. The fear of a technological, scientific invasion also reflects fears of the increasing modernity of Victorian England. Science was making new discoveries and the capabilities of technology were expanding. This might have made some feel uneasy.

3. Furthermore, the invasion of the unknown and the unusual reflects fears regarding the end of the century. For readers in 1898, the 20th century loomed ahead ominously – nobody knew what it would be like, nobody knew what would happen next. So why not imagine an alien invasion?

– Judith

 

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