books


Third book in a series about superheroes after the zombie Apocalypse.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mark Boyett, Jay Snyder, and Khristine Hvam
Running Time: 10 hrs, 20 m

The zombie Apocalypse has overrun the world but there’s one spot of resistance where humans still survive. A group of superheroes is defending a fortified part of Los Angeles they call the Mount. They’ve battled not only exes, as the zombies are called, but sometimes also other humans, and a super villain who can control the exes, Legion.

The book starts thirty months after the apocalypse and almost a year after the end of the previous book, Ex-Patriots. There’s not much recapping of previous events, so I strongly recommend reading both Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots first. The book also deals with some characters and plot lines which were introduced in the first book. As in the previous books, this book is divided between flashbacks which are titled “Then” and chapters set in the current time, “Now.”

The Ex-Communication starts with a bang; Legion is attacking the Mount with the exes and he has made them wear helmets. This upsets the defenders and makes them unsure about themselves. However, the heroes are able to turn back the tide, but it’s obvious that Legion has upped the ante.

Then we get a first person POV “Then” chapter with Max who died in the first book. He was able to change into a demon form known as Cairax Murrain. However, it seems that he was a sorcerer and is able to cheat death. And Zzzap is willing to help him and persuade the other heroes to help, too. Unfortunately, they don’t tell much about it all to the normal humans and they draw the wrong conclusions, namely, that humans can return from being an ex.

In an other “Then” chapter we get a journal from a young woman who is trying to run away from the zombies. At first, the entries feel quite repetitive (in fact, I was starting to wonder if there was something wrong with the audio file) but that’s intentional. The girl is a interesting new character.

This book deals a little with how the normal people are dealing. The ones we see the most often are the ones defending the Mount and going on raids into the city. In this book, some have found religion and are (rather desperately) trying to find passages in the Bible which would give instructions about zombie apocalypse. Some of them want to think that being an ex is just a disease and people can recover from it. They are also going to elect a mayor to the Mount. None of the heroes want to be a candidate.

Most of the characters are familiar from the previous books. The main POV is from St. George, a Superman-type hero who is mainly concerned with defending the people and the Mount. The other POV is from Captain Freedom, a soldier who is was made into a super soldier. Both are experienced fighters.

This was a good continuation to the series and the heroes have to deal with a problem they haven’t yet met: magic. It might feel a bit out of place to some people in a series based on science, or at least science as known in comics, but plenty of comics have also magic so I didn’t have a problem with it.

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The first in the Smokey Dalton historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2001
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mirron Willis
Running Time: 11 hrs, 20 m

Smokey Dalton is a black man, living in Memphis in 1968. He has managed to get a good education but has chosen to become a private detective for the local black people but to white people he’s just doing “odd jobs”. So, when a white woman walks into his office, he’s quite surprised. Then Laura Hathaway tells him that her mother has left Smokey a sizable sum of money in her will and Laura wants to know why. However, Smokey doesn’t know the Hathaways and becomes curious himself. He takes the case and starts to look for any link between himself and the rich white woman. Years ago a mysterious benefactor gave him a lot of money and Smokey suspects now that Laura’s mother did that, too.

Smokey is a smart and thoughtful man. He’s also good at his job and looks after people close to him. He’s an orphan and doesn’t have any siblings but he’s taken a couple of young men under his wing. Their mother isn’t capable to taking care of them and it seems that they could easily turn to crime.

The story is set against the backdrop of Memphis sanitation workers’ strike during which the racial tensions between whites and blacks reach a boiling point. Also, Martin Luther King Jr. is Smokey’s old friend, from elementary school. Smokey’s afraid that King is in danger and is trying to protect King when he comes to Memphis.

The historical time and place which comes to life in the book. As far as I can tell, the racial tensions are described well and believably. Several times we get to see that the white people honestly have no idea how blacks are treated. Many whites also behave with a casual racism.

The characters are great and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. That’s not surprising because Nelscott is a pen name for Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I also really enjoyed the reader; he was perfect for Smokey’s voice.

First book in a humorous mystery series.

Publication year: 1970
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1991
Format: print
Finnish translator: Erkki Hakala
Page count: 420
Finnish Publisher: WSOY

John Archibald Dortmunder has just been released from prison. He’s looking forward to that and also of the three hundred dollars he sold his cell for. Unfortunately, the warden decides to escort him to the gates, so Dortmunder doesn’t get his money. This isn’t promising. In fact, that’s a good description of how his life continues: despite good planning and skills, bad luck interferes constantly.

Dortmunder is a small-time criminal. He does some swindling gigs, such as selling subscriptions to book series which don’t exist. But he really shines in his job as crime planner: he looks over the place that needs to be broken into and assigns the right men for various jobs.

This time his friend Kelp has a job waiting: the Bambolo diamond which is being shown in the Coliseum Hall. The diamond is worth half a million dollars but it would be difficult to sell. Luckily they don’t have to sell it. Instead, they have a man who wants them to steal it for him and is willing to pay for it. Dortmunder is skeptical but after meeting Major Iko, he agrees to get a group to together and steal the rock.

Kelp and Dortmunder contact three other men who are the best in their own business. Stan Murch is their driver. He and his mother are mad about cars and even listen car races on records (LPs). Chefwick is one of the best lockpickers in New York. He’s also crazy about trains. Alan Greenwood is good generalist. The group manage to get into the Coliseum but Greenwood is caught, with the diamond. However, he has swallowed the rock so the group still has chance to get it, but they need to get Greenwood out of the prison. And then their problems only start.

This is a fun crime novel, from the criminals’ perspective. They all know each other and trust each other. All five also have distinct personalities and so has Major Iko who is very fond of gathering information about the men he works with. Iko is also worried about the costs but has to deliver equipment to the five men, when they need it. The plot moves at a fast pace and has a lot of twists in it.

The final book in the Company science fiction series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: print
Page count: 501
Publisher: TOR

This is the book where the series has been leading. I would recommend starting with the first book “In the Garden of Iden” rather than this one, if you haven’t read Baker before.

The book has multiple points-of-view. The main part is devoted to the Botanist Mendoza and her companions. These passages have a lot of wry humor and observations of domestic life. Unfortunately, I still find their situation more than a little creepy.

During the first half of the book we also follow a small girl who lives under a hill with Quean Barbie and her Uncles, and the stupids who live just to serve the others. The girl, who is initially called just Baby, finds a man who used to be a slave to the big people. But the man turns out to be alive, just hurt very badly. He’s Literature specialist Lewis who disappeared a long time ago.

We also follow Joseph who is busy freeing the old Enforcers and a couple of powerful Section heads, immortals who are poised to take over when the Silence starts. A couple of them want to destroy humans and one wants to protect humans. All of these powers have been building their powerbases and now, we finally see what will happen in 2355.

I felt the ending was somewhat too easy. Then again, we’ve been given so many hints and speculation about the Silence that I don’t know if anything would have been fully satisfying. It was certainly different from most SF (and fantasy) endings and Baker does weave all of the various plot threads together. Perhaps I was somewhat disappointed with just how cowering and ineffectual the human “master minds” are compared to the cyborgs they created. Of course, it was no surprise, because Baker has shown it plenty of times. Also, the more I see Alec, the less I like him and he has really taken over the series by now. But I thoroughly enjoyed the familiar immortals and their melodramatic ways, as usual.

J. G. Ballard: The Drowned World
The first book in a science fiction trilogy

Publication year: 1962
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Renvall
Page count: 176
Finnish Publisher: Jalava

Robert Kerans is a biologist in a science station in the remains of a city which has been almost submerged because the world’s temperature has risen catastrophically and in consequence, the water level has risen. The whole world is a similar state: only very few areas are still habitable around the North and South Poles. Kerans is part of a team whose mission is to the map the city, which we learn later is London. The other team members are a group of soldiers, lead by Colonel Riggs, and Doctor Bodkin. London also has one other inhabitant: Beatrice Dahl who has refused to leave her (father’s) apartment and spends her days reading old magazines and sunning herself.

Kerans’ work means that he has to spend a lot of time alone, but he has come to realize that he doesn’t mind it. In fact, he now prefers solitude and has trouble getting along with anyone else. He also spends a lot of time sleeping and not doing much of anything. He and Bodkins theorize that the changing environment is awakening long dormant instincts and memories from the human unconsciousness or racial memory, or perhaps from the womb. Unfortunately, this makes Kerans a pretty passive character.

When Riggs gets orders that the team has to get back to the Arctic Circle, Beatrice refuses to leave and Kerans starts to wonder, if he should stay, too. However, in order to live in the city where the temperature is only going to rise still, they would need petroleum and food.

The first half of the story is almost dreamlike. Ballard describes the sunken city and its inhabitants who are starting to see strange dream and become quite lethargic. There isn’t real conflict until the half-way point of the book and to me, it felt forced.

I would have liked to see how the larger society has changed. Ballard tells us this but doesn’t really show and it doesn’t affect the interactions of the characters. He tells us that, for example, most of humanity has died and the survivors have moved to the Arctic Circle. Clearly, there are still countries with their own military services because they are mentioned at the start of the story but we also told that otherwise, the people live clearly different societies.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by this book but maybe I had different expectations.

My newest review: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like all of the short stories but I did find a couple of interesting new-to-me authors.

My newest review: Dead Man’s Deal by Jocelynn Drake.

It’s the second book in her new urban fantasy series where the main character is a (male) tattoo artist. I gave it four and half stars from five, so I really liked it.

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