Late to the Party: World War Z (The Book)

[This is the first in a continuing series, Late to the Party, talking about culture that’s not so ‘pop’ anymore, because sometimes you have things to do for years on end instead of reading the latest book or watching the latest movie.  Max Brooks’s World War Z came out in 2006 and I’m only now getting around to read it.]

On the gorgeous Friday of Memorial Day weekend, my partner and I set off to Portland.  I had heard good things about the audiobook of World War Z and, knowing little about it except that people liked it and there were zombies, we downloaded it for the 3.5 hour drive.

[Note: An unabridged audiobook came out May 14 of this year but was not available for purchase on iTunes on Memorial Day weekend.  Or I didn’t see it.  Whatever.  Either way, this article is primarily about the abridged version of the audiobook, which has been in the market since 2007.]

I do want to be clear about this up front: I like a LOT of this work, both the audiobook and the book.  (After I finished listening to the audio, I ended up borrowing a copy to compare the two.)  Brooks’ prose isn’t necessarily anything to write home about, but the level of research and commitment that he brought to this hypothetical situation is outstanding.  I think that it achieves one of the most important objectives of science fiction, which is an earnest re-examination of our lives as they are through the lens of what they might become.

But (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming!), this achievement makes Brooks’s failures stand out in greater contrast.

Spoilers: There will be some about this work and the seminal zombie masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead.

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Review of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

unspoken-by-sarah-rees-brennanKate and I were very lucky to recently get our hands on an ARC of Untold, by Sarah Rees Brennan, the second book in the Lynburn Legacy series. I read Unspoken last year and told Kate to check it out, and we both LOVED it. I do not know what kind of bookstore sorcery Kate worked to get her hands on Untold, but she better keep working it.

Ok, but before we get to the magic of Untold, we need to talk about Unspoken. Let’s get down to it. Sarah Rees Brennan is a great author. Unspoken is full of elements that seem all too common in YA, and you think it’s going to be predictable. Then she flips everything on its head and events unfold in ways that are totally surprising, and yet seem like the only way any of it could possibly happen. Rees Breenan seems to get great glee out of setting up classic YA tropes and then wildly spiking them into a wonderful new direction. Continue reading

What Makes a Strong Female Character: A Basic Guide

Recently Kate and Charlotte were talking about how easy it is to focus on the negative, when there are some awesomely feminist things going on in the realm of young adult literature. So we spent a lot of time going over the relative strengths of female protagonists in young adult literature (YA for short). After several conversations, we decided it would be helpful to have a written guideline of strengths to judge characters against. We think that the list that follows is a good general template for judging. When making this list, we were aiming for broad categories – it’s not a helpful criterion if it is so specific that it describes only one or two people.

Please note, we do not expect (or want) a character to have all of these traits. That would make for boring books. However, we do expect a strong female character to possess three or more of these traits. We are also completely aware that there may well be strong female characters that don’t fit ANY of these categories. If you can think of any, please tell us who they are and why they are great! We are happy to be wrong (and to make new categories).

Divergent's heroine Tris getting ready to make a literal and metaphorical leap into the unknown

Divergent’s heroine Tris getting ready to make a literal and metaphorical leap into the unknown.

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Review of “Counting by 7s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7s

In the interest of full disclosure, know that I read this book as an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) that I did not have to pay for. Also in the interest of full disclosure, I work in a bookstore, where our basement is periodically overflowing with ARCs. The fact that the book was free doesn’t influence my review; we get sent a lot of terrible books, and I won’t tell you to go read any of those.
Also, I won’t spoil anything that isn’t revealed in the first chapter or on the back of the cover.

The Penguin rep for our store gave this book to me when I asked if she had any recommendations for new, non-fantasy young adult books. Reps tend to be pretty intense about books that they like, which only makes sense – after all, their job is to talk people into buying books. However, she was even more excited than usual about this book. Plus, she compared it to After Iris by Natasha Farrant (another recent middle-grade novel that I loved), AND THEN SAID THAT THIS WAS BETTER.

To be honest, I assumed that part was a bit of rep-ish BS. It wasn’t.

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