Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘zombies’

Paranormal is the new normal, especially in teen fiction. Ask teens if they’ve read any good books lately, and nine times out of 10, they’ll name a fantasy. Make that 10 out of 10. For this year’s recent Teen Read Week, 9,000 teens across the country voted at their local libraries for the 2011 Teens’ Top Ten, http://tinyurl.com/3hwnpy Steampunk, dystopia, apocalypse nigh. Vampires, zombies, aliens and angels. Many, many angels.

Karou is the girl with blue hair, the girl raised by demons, the girl who falls in love with an angel. She is also  the title character of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, a scintillating mix of myth and magic, religion and romance.

In the storybook setting of 21st-century Prague, Karou is an art student who occasionally puzzles her best friend with unexplained absences and detailed drawings of fantastic creatures. But how to explain her errands for the chimaera Brimstone, who looks like a monster and who trades in wishes and teeth? It’s what Karou has always known until enigmatic handprints start appearing on the portals to “Elsewhere,” and she is attacked in Marrakesh by a beautiful man with blazing eyes. He is the seraph Akiva, and he and Karou soon learn their destinies are joined by a 1,000-year-old war between angels and demons.

Taylor nicely tempers the exotic and epic with teen angst and snark. Karou may discover she has secret powers, but she still is a teenager with a cell phone and boyfriend trouble. The book doesn’t end so much as stop, leaving readers longing for the next in the series.

Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races is a dark horse tale. On the island of Thisby, which is rural and Gaelic, riders risk their lives every fall riding fierce water horses on a strip of beach. The stallions are predatory carnivores who pluck people off of horses and boats, drowning them in the sea.

At 19, Sean Kendrick is a Scorpio Race veteran and winner. This year he’s racing for the right to buy the red stallion Corr. Young Puck Connelly decides to race her land mare for the prize money she and her orphaned brothers desperately need. Both know they are just as likely to die as to win as they take turns narrating chapters.

Stiefvater’s atmospheric, present-tense story fairly gallops along. The water horses rise realistically from the waves, and the race itself is harrowing. Readers win.

Open Book: I bought the e-book versions of both Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown) and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic). I’m also about halfway through a digital galley of Lia Habel’s first novel Dearly, Departed (Random House via NetGalley), an inventive steampunk-zombie hybrid slowed by some clunky writing. But I want to find out what happens to New Victorian teen Nora Dearly and the oddly attractive and very undead soldier Bram Griswold.

Read Full Post »

Coming soon to this space my take on Justin Cronin’s The Passage, but we are having a helluva thunderstorm and I’m logging off for now….

If the lights go out, it will be so appropriate.

Ok, it’s two hours later, I’m back, and so’s the electricity. Made me think of the residents of First Colony in Cronin’s post-apocalyptic world, tending to their turbines but knowing they’re running on empty and it’s only a matter of time before the lights go out. And when the darkness descends, so will the smokes, the virals, the drinks, the flyers, the jumps, the sticks. Whatever you want to call them. Not vampires, though, as Auntie writes in her diary, remembering the Time Before, long ago when she was Ida Jaxson in Philadelphia, and her daddy “told me no, vampires were something in a made-up story, nice-looking men in suits and capes with good manners, and this here’s real, Ida.”

So real that Cronin spends the first quarter of his 800-page novel detailing how a secret military medical experiment on a dozen death-row inmates gets out of hand, leading to the end of civilization as we know it.  “It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”  (In the new one, the Gulf of Mexico is one massive oil slick. Like that could ever happen).

At the center of both worlds is a little girl named Amy, aka “the  Girl from Nowhere — the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years.”

The Passage covers only about a century, jumping from Year Zero of the virals (who are kind of like vampires, kind of like zombies, kind of like humans) to a hundred years or so later, when the world has been rapidly depopulated by the bloodthirsty, soul-sucking creatures of the night. Most people die, split asunder stem to stern on the spot. Others survive the infection only to succumb years later to bad dreams that get worse on waking.

The Passage has been lauded as an “unconventional vampire story.” Actually, it’s the most conventional of tales, drawing on any number of familiar genres and tropes from science fiction, westerns, horror, adventure, fantasy and world-building. It’s Stephen King’s The Stand meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road  meets Mad Max and I Am Legend and The X-Files. It mixes Michael Crichton with Margaret Atwood. It’s mostly harrowing and thrilling, but it’s also digressive, even plodding as Cronin heaps on the many characters’ back stories. But Cronin can really write, and every time I tried to put the book down, the darn thing kept calling me back to its brave weird world. (Cronin quotes Shakespeare and Katherine Anne Porter, among others, at the begining of each of the 11 sections.) I had to find out what was going on with the good FBI agent and the enigmatic nun, and Peter and Michael and Sarah and Lish and Theo and Maus, and Amy, especially, always Amy.

The Passage doesn’t so much end as stop for a pause in the action, which is kind of a let-down cliff-hanger. Two more volumes are in the works. Also a movie. Anyway,  it’s going to take me awhile to catch my breath and stop looking up at trees at night and hoping that fluttering whoosh is the neighborhood owl. Meanwhile, please keep the lights on.

Open Book: I purchased the digital version of  Justin Cronin’s The Passage and read it on Nanook, which is what I call my nook. I had to recharge the battery. There’s irony for you.

Read Full Post »