My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t normally review non-fiction books, but I’m going to make an exception in this case. Okay, I hear you, “But, hey man, zombies aren’t real! This has got to be fiction.” Well, sort of. The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse, besides having the longest title of any book I’ve ever reviewed, is more than a cookbook. It occupies a weird, but cool, niche at the intersection of three popular subjects: zombies, apocalypse survival, and food.
Be assured that this book is far more than a series of recipes, in fact you don’t get into recipes at all until page 58, and to be honest I didn’t care one bit, because this book is flat out fascinating. You start reading and then flipping and pretty soon you’re imagining yourself setting up game snares, water filtration teepees, rooftop gardens, and mud ovens for baking quick breads. It’s a preppers dream guide to the essential elements that will keep you alive in the z-poc (or any apocalypse for that matter); safe food and clean water. If you’re like me, this isn’t the kind of book you sit down and read through cover-to-cover. It’s divided into various subject matter areas that you can pick through as your interests meander, anything from making blackberry mead to the proper way to clear a building of zombies and scavenge supplies.
Clear, concise, and well illustrated guides for all the pertinent subject matters. The illustrations were great and fit right in with the grungy zombie vibe and showed detail in the places where you’d really need a little extra guidance from the text. The other great thing about this book is that it’s fairly comprehensive. I went looking for every food-type and scenario I could think of and the book covered it all (at least at a cursory level). How to skin a rabbit? It’s in there. Which insects are safe to eat? It’s in there. Why you should NEVER go to Wal-mart after TSHTF? It’s in there. How to spit-roast a pheasant? It’s in there. The best thing about this book is that there are hidden treasures all through the book, like my favorite: how to make kick-ass variations of the best damned grilled cheese ever.
It’s essentially non-fiction and it’s a guidebook, which means that the text is dry at times. I’m not sure that’s a negative in the z-poc, as the last thing you want to read is the author making jokes while you’re starving, but in the comfort of our living rooms with a full belly it’s a consideration. The only other minor knock is that you shouldn’t expect the recipes to be your Julia Child-type concoctions. Most of them are short, fairly common foodstuffs, and require more ingredients than you’re likely to have on hand in an emergency. As with most recipes for us lazy cooks who can’t be bothered with another grocery run, you’re going to have to wing it most of the time.
This book is an easy recommendation for almost everyone. There’s nothing in the book that could be a problem for young teens or children. Preppers, zombie fans, homesteaders, campers, and survivalists should all get this guidebook and stash it away in their bug out bag. It makes a great companion to other more technical survival guides and bridges the gaps necessary to keep that belly filled for zombie-killing action!
The ink is drying the presses are warming up. It’s almost tie to get your grubby, zombie-gore encrusted hands on Dead Sea Games in paperback.
I’ve been waiting for it. You’ve been waiting for it. The zombies have DEFINITELY been waiting for it…
I give you the Dead Sea Games cover (by Blue Harvest Creative)
One year after the Emergency, the island of Manhattan has become a prison. The survivors of the Colony have carved out a living a few stories above the sea of millions of shambling corpses. With no escape and no hope for the future, the teenagers entertain themselves by participating in brutal gladiatorial games, betting the only thing they have left – their lives.
As a contestant, Jeremy Walters is among the best of the best, but his adrenalin-addicted recklessness has done more than earn him the nickname Deathwish; it’s gotten him noticed. Now the race is on to recruit Deathwish as opposing forces maneuver to take advantage of his zombie-killing gifts. If he somehow manages to navigate the maze of bribery, threats, extortion, and intimidation, and not get himself killed, he’ll still have to face every teenager’s greatest fear: an angry mother.
Coming in November 2014.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m not sure I was emotionally prepared to read Ms. Shambrook’s Beneath the Rainbow. I’m used to explosions and car chases and plots involving giant asteroids and killer robots, so when little Freya was hit by a car and died in the opening sequence my heart broke. Make no mistake, Shambrook will take you on a journey in this book and it will all be emotional. You’ll feel, and for a heartless, robotic, cynic like me, that can really be powerful.
Beneath the Rainbow is a beautifully written story of loss, hope, family, sacrifice, and redemption. When seven-year old Freya is killed in a tragic car accident, her family and community is devastated at the senseless loss. We get to see the universe through Freya’s eyes as she passes on and watches the results of her death unfold over the course of a year. Shambrook hits you hard with one of life’s little-talked about truths: death isn’t fair and it doesn’t discriminate. But life goes on as we see in the book, even in the grief of Freya’s parents and friends we recognize the signs of life all around them, and it does not diminish those who were lost. Even in fiction, we recognize that seeing this cycle enhances our memories and brings us together as flawed and fragile human beings.
Beneath the Rainbow is beautiful. Not only in the carefully crafted prose, but the imagery Shambrook evokes is stunning and serene, even in the wake of tragedy. You’ll be right there with Freya in the otherworldly gardens and lush settings. The book also has several cleverly woven subplots involving Freya’s mentor, Jake, her Uncle Pete, and neighbor Old Thomas. All of which I found realistic and heartwarming. To say more would be to spoil the plot, and I’d beg you to read it on your own to find out how these stories evolve.
It’s not “bad” per se, but there is an undeniable religious subtext in Beneath the Rainbow. I could see how that might bother some people right from the get-go. If you’re a staunch atheist, or don’t enjoy engaging the more fragile human emotions, then you won’t appreciate much of what Shambrook has to say. My only other complaint besides making me cry (How could you, Lisa!) is that I think the author slipped unnecessarily into the supernatural realm in several scenes where it would have been just as powerful without.
I highly recommend Beneath the Rainbow to everyone who enjoys emotional novels. It’s inspirational and beautiful, but I know literary fiction can be a hard sell to genre fiction fans. The death of the protagonist could be a hard topic for younger readers, but there’s nothing inappropriate in the novel that would cause parent’s concern among the teen/preteen crowd.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s a little nerve wracking writing a review for one of the living legends of the sci-fi community. Redshirts is an interesting novel, part sci-fi, part parody, part philosophy. On the surface, it’s a somewhat simple novel about the newest ensign about the Universal Union ship Intrepid and his incredibly bad luck with the starship’s away missions. When Andy Dahl and his friends start to put two and two together about the nature of the deadly trips to alien worlds, well… things get a little weird.
Humorous but not hilarious, interesting but not compelling, Redshirts gets an enthusiastic four stars from me. Scalzi is an unquestionably gifted writer, but I feel like the unusual format here cost the book a little punch. If you’re not a patient reader, you’ll definitely miss out on the best parts of the book in the Codas after the main action is over. All I can tell you is that by the time I got to the meat I felt like I’d spent way too much time in the setup. If you’re a writer though…you definitely need to read this book. There’s a wallop of a message in Redshirts for writers who struggle with their characters.
It’s funny. Not Douglas Adams funny, but still really enjoyable. It’s interesting. Not Nietzsche interesting, but still gives you lots to think about. If you’re into books that are self-aware and playfully meta, then this book is for you. The Codas are a brilliant bit of writing, worth the read on their own.
There’s nothing terribly new or inventive in Redshirts. If you’ve seen Galaxy Quest and Stranger than fiction, you know the jokes. Scalzi even acknowledges this in the Codas after the main action is over. My biggest complaint was that 230 pages felt like too much setup for the payout, some of which is probably lost on the non-creative crowd.
I recommend Redshirts to all sci-fi readers, especially writers, and fans of Star Trek who will instantly get all the jokes. There’s some swearing and a few characters who have sex off-screen, but nothing worth keeping away from teenagers.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can see why many consider this book a staple in the apocalypse genre. Alas, Babylon is a 1959 nuclear-holocaust survival novel and one of the first in the post-apocalyptic genre. It sets the bar incredibly high with great writing and an intense slice of life view of the little town of Fort Repose, both before and after ‘The Day’. For me, the novel captured perfectly the insane window of time when the Americans and Russians REALLY were considering duking it out with H-bombs and just how ridiculous it must have been to consider there was a way to actually win a war with nuclear weapons. How do you rebuild a country where every valuable piece of real-estate has been turned into radioactive ash with a half-life of 5000 years?
Answer: You can’t.
Alas, Babylon follows the story of Randall Bragg, a Korean War veteran and younger brother to a high ranking Air Force Colonel in the Strategic Air Command. His life of leisure and comfort in the Florida sun, chasing women and day drinking are about to end. Abruptly. US-USSR tensions have grown dangerously unstable and the powder keg is about to be set off. When Randy’s older brother sends his wife and two kids out of harm’s way in Omaha and tells Randy to prepare for war, Randy knows the time is short. No sooner than his niece and nephew arrive when the powder keg is lit and the entire world descends into Hell. The book is relatively short but it captures an entire year of post-nuclear devastation living in central Florida and does so in a way that is at the same time fascinating, horrifying, and (if you can believe it) charming.
Everything you’d expect in a modern post-apocalyptic novel is there because this book did it so well the first time; bandits, lawlessness, food shortages, disease outbreaks, radiation poisoning. The setting and action are described with charm and realism. The citizens of Fort Repose, Florida are in for a rough ride after the bombs drop, but you’ll be rooting for them the entire time. Frank’s characters are well fleshed out and sympathetic. Their struggles are real and interesting and people die from exactly the things you’d expect. Frank spares no one their misery in this fictional world and the book is far better for it.
From a reader’s perspective, the plot, story, characters, and pace are all solid. If I had to pick a few nits, it would be in two minor areas. There is a fair bit of overt racism and classic sexism in the book, however its nothing the protagonists engage in and its par for the course for the 1950’s South. The second area of complaint is why I knocked the book from five stars to four. The novel is just too narrow in conflict and scope. For such amazing writing, I wanted more from Frank; harder problems, bigger fights, deeper time line. In short, it was too short.
I highly recommend Alas, Bablyon to anyone into post-apocalyptic novels, history buffs, and cold war enthusiasts. I can easily recommend this book to everyone in the general audience. There’s nothing in the book that would be inappropriate for younger audiences (if you don’t count the nuclear devastation).