Book Review – World War Z – Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book! It is definitely a niche interest, but planted in the mainstream by a successful zombie-afficionado who knows how to grab commercial appeal.
The novel is a documentary style collection of incident reports from the great Zombie apocolypse. When the zombies begin to take over the world, world agencies act to curb, prevent and destroy the menace using both kind and questionable means.
What I genuinely enjoyed despite myself, was the collection of reports accumulated by the narrator as an excuse to act out the “what if?” scenarios we have all talked about over beer. What would you do in the event of a zombie plague? Would you do like documented report F did, or would you be quarantined like documented survivor 118 was – or maybe you’d capitalise on the woe like such and such a person did? This is the premise for Brook’s text. He gives you multiple accounts from varied sources on government actions and public reactions. He lets the fictional survivors tell their story, the one you thought would save your life should the unthinkable happen – and then he lets the reader have the gory details of failure time and time again.
As a schlock novel, it works really well, and is a fast read. I got through this one mighty fast, and that is a good thing as it really did drag me in despite myself! I like the clean, impressionable style of the narrator, a hint of innocence lost as the accounts begin to build up. The persona of each survivor are vivid enough that you buy into their experiences easily, and what they leave unsaid is as loud as their words. Brooks certainly knows how to handle suspense in this format, but waits until just the right time before teeing up the more emotional and terrifying histories recorded with varying degrees of passion, loss and numbed anger.
After getting through the text, a friend gave me the audiotext version of the book. I’m not a huge fan of such audiobooks on the whole, but the production values and actors hired for each persona and character was through the roof! I would easily reccomend this for people who enjoy the audio version of books, but I would caution that the delivery is less thrilling than the direct read itself. World War Z works well on both mediums, but there is a sense of something lost in the recorded delivery compared to the eerie feeling you get scanning through the transcripts of the novel directly.
I think that this is one definitely worthy of a brief read if you have just a casual interest in the world of zombie hordes and post-apocolyptic turmoil, but if you have more than a passing interest, you’d be hard put to find anyone with a better knowledge of the source material, or the ability to tell a ripping good yarn.

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Gaming news…nothing this week!  Due to other commitments, this and next week are not going to be gaming weeks – and maybe that is a good thing, as I have just received my first ever Forge World purchase in the post!  My lovely Fimir are going to need some TLC in the coming week or two to get ready for the table – and they are really gorgeous models!  I only hope my paint job will do them justice!  I usually go from GW blueprints or follow the fluff to get a predictable colour scheme, so these completely new and unspecific models force me to figure out what to do myself.  To boot, I’ve received my long awaited Mangler Squigs.  I played with a loan of a unit a few weeks back and was rightly impressed with their potential.  True, they’ll get shot down before they get too far, but that at least takes pressure off of my movment 4 troops – and – in the event that they make it to the enemy…I love the squigs, so help me they are so unpredictable, the really make the game interesting!  Speaking of which, today’s Forgeworld newsletter has just alerted me to the preorder of this little beaut – http://www.forgeworld.co.uk/New_Stuff/COLOSSAL_SQUIG.html – the Colossal Squig from the Monstrous Arcanum.  I’m looking forward to some day fielding this fellow for a giggle, but for now, I’ve plenty to be busy with and not a lot of funds left to worry about spending more!  Take it easy all, and talk soon!

shane

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Book Review: Crazy Horse and Custer by Stephen E. Ambrose

Crazy Horse and CusterCrazy Horse and Custer by Stephen E. Ambrose
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this is a typical Stephen Ambrose text, in that it is easy to read, if a little verbose at times.

I thoroughly enjoy Ambrose’s work, and this one was much better than Band of Brothers, although there are a number of points where narrative stretches information that may not be entirely factual. The tone of the text never wavers, and it does have that “one-more-page” quality to it that makes it quite an achievement for a historical text.

What I find particularly praiseworthy is Ambrose’s penchant for elaborating to just about the point/depth of disinterest, but pulling the reader back in immediately with an anecdote or side-story that reminds us that this is not simply another history retold, but a masterful storyteller doing the telling. This is an easy one to reccomend, but I do suggest that a prior interest in the subject matter is preferable if not essential to fully embrace this piece of American history.

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite RunnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful text – simply incredible depictions of beauty and raw truth poured from an honest and very capable heart.
The Kite Runner to me, is a text about redemption in the truest sense – the unflinching realism of the Middle East with the personal interest of a family/friendship divided by more than just cicumstance, and the efforts to rebuid from the ashes of a past never forgotten. The landscapes Hosseini paints are vivid in their stark, bare pride. The colours, the excitement and emotions always bubbling from below – and the courage to release what is clearly close to heart.
All of us have made mistakes in our lives, and can relate if not in kind, but in nature at least to the plight of the protagonist – at once selfish and afraid, but through the nurture of a moral father, of a tight community, he gains the tools necessary to reopen his past and rectify the sins of the past. This rediscovery is at the heart of the novel, and I truly felt that it could not have been represented better. The beautiful flow of language that surrounds the budding author forms before us against the halting dialogue that he hides himself and the past behind so painfully. Never has so sensitive an issue been dealt with so evenly, honestly and so tenderly as to make you feel grateful for the opportunity to have shared Hosseini’s experience.

Shane

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Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

A Clash Of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash Of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gripping read – normally I’m into a few texts at a time – as an avid and voracious reader I like to keep my interests mixed, but this one absolutely consumed me! As a sequel, there is far more “action” taking place, and it is possibly one of the novel’s noticable improvements, but G.R.R. Martin in Game of Thrones often neglected the battles or attacks in order to give news of the result as a far more shocking realisation than the reader journeying through the fights with the protagonist of the chapter. This happens less often in A Clash of Kings and is the better for it, as the pattern itself becomes less predicable after a fashion.

What I love about Martin’s enduring style is that you quite often root for someone new in each chapter, even if at the outset you are not too pushed about leaving the previous cliff-hanger to find out more about Sansa or Catelyn – who really come into their own as riveting characters in this text as central to the evolving plot. If you take them out of the mix, most of the novel loses all context, so Martin was wise to show their own wavering strengths as central in the sequel. I even found myself cheering on Theon and Tyrion, despite Greyjoy and Joffrey being easily despised by their actions. It takes real skill as an author to keep the reader pledged to opposing characters beset by ever-diminishing odds and fortune; but Martin has it in spades.

The text is long, and sometimes feels like it, but you’re frequently grabbed by a section – usually towards the end of a chapter, that makes you read that much further, and then when a new character opens the next one that you want to follow some more; you forget it is almost 3am and you just know that the snooze button will get some exercise in the morning!
I can easily reccomend this as a text for any fan of the previous book or the TV series, and while I’d love to spoil the latter half of the text with some preview, it’d be a diservice for anyone who takes the time to read this epic novel. I look forward to starting the sequel fairly soon, but to be honest, I already feel like a break is in order to knock out something a little different before re-entering the time-consuming world of Westeros!

Well worth the read – and riveting to the finish. 4/5

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