Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One by Conrad Williams

One by Conrad Williams
Virgin Books 2009-07-29
ISBN: 978-0-7535-1810-6
363 Pages

Richard Jane is a deep sea welder. While at work the end of the world happens.

This is a hard book to explain but the basic storyline is: Richard Jane gets to shore and walks the long road back to London. He wants to see his son, he is sure his son is still alive and through out the book we get to experience his life with his son.

Along the way he meets up with a number of survivors, an Australian couple who constantly bicker and the wife goes nuts; an elderly British couple (their role in the book is short lived but required); Becky and her young ward, Aiden (who has a blood disease). There are thugs and druggies, a strange girl in white who decides to follow Richard and a few other people along the way, including zombie! Yay! But these zombies are called Skinners and I won’t say what they really are.

The book is broken into two parts: Births, Deaths and Marriages and Lazarus Taxon.

Book one is all about Richard Jane’s (herein after called Jane as in the book) trek to London and the many problems that arise. Book two (ten years) Jane is in London as part of a resistance kind of outfit. Skinners are the main problem. They are blind but all other senses are heightened. Oh, and there’s a Lion on the loose, rats are not afraid of humans and will feed on sleeping adults. There is rumour of a raft and once confirmed a huge exodus take place. It seems as if there are hundreds of hundreds of people still kicking around in London.

Conrad Williams is an awesome writer, his words flow smoothly and hours can pass without your knowledge as the pages keep turning. But, and it’s a big one. Stuff just happens in the middle of a paragraph. Other scenes are not described clearly, especially the last scene leading to the war and the explosion, because stuff just happens off the cuff, in the middle of something else. There’s no lead up, no build up and maybe that is what Conrad was going for, but to this reader it was confusing and many times I had to go back and re-read the last few pages trying to find the start point that hints at the coming event--but there is none.

Jane is a man driven to keep breathing in the hope of one day seeing his son. He won’t accept the fact the boy could be dead, he refuses to accept it. He has hallucinations and dreams of his son and he talks out loud to the non-existent child.

The end is as you would expect, but it is a chocker moment (yes a near tear jerker), because Jane is such a rounded character driven by a basic need to find his son.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Strain, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
© 2009
401 Pages

The Strain is book one in a three book series planned. Most books about writing will tell the learner to never, never, never use “Once upon a time” to open a story. And that’s exactly how this book opens. Del Toro takes us straight in to the fantasy aspect of the story by introducing us to our first main character, who becomes the one with all the information.

Abraham Setrakian’s grandmother used to tell him of tales surrounding a giant, Jusef Sardu, who becomes a monster. Many years later, Abraham meets this monster face to face in a POW camp. Strigoi, AKA The Master, is a vampire centuries old. Abraham decides to kill the monster and it becomes his life long pursuit.

Sixty years later, he is an old man, a pawnbroker in the Spanish Bronx. One afternoon, watching TV he sees a plane land. It doesn’t move off the tarmac. The plane is dark and all electronics and coms are dead. Boarding the plane, authorities find everyone dead, save five.

The CDC are sent in to investigate. Eph Goodweather is called, but he doesn’t want to answer the phone and tries to ignore it. He is spending time with his son and in the middle of a custody battle with his Ex. There are other things going on as well, giving the character depth -- but, I never felt for Eph. The other minor characters are so well drawn with just enough to gives a hint of whom they are. I liked them better, especially the exterminator, Fet, who starts noticing a difference in Rats behaviour in the underground (unused) tunnels running under NYC; and Gus is a great character as well.

The start of the book is a little slow as the vampire virus gets free, starting with the dead passengers on the plane, who go to their homes and kill family members and neighbours, turning them all into vampires.

The five uninjured passengers are released from hospital via a lawyer (one of the passengers) and guess what they do... (see above paragraph)

Abraham meets up with Eph, who naturally doesn’t believe him and Abraham gets arrested. In jail he meets Gus and Gus’s friend who was attacked by a vampire. He tells Gus to kill his friend. His friend is turning. Gus can’t.

Eph gets Abraham out of jail as the virus has him and everyone baffled. Only Abraham seems to have any idea of what’s going on. He tells them the story of Strigoi, The Master, and takes them to his pawn shop. In a hidden basement, he shows them proof of the vampire virus. And in the course of a week, Eph goes from healer to slayer.

And yes, they do run into Strigoi.

There are a lot of sub plots going on at the same time that all tie in near the end of book one, but there are other plots that I am sure will link in to the next book: The Fall.

A great undertaking, this book has moments of greatness and moments of bored horror. Some of the first attacks are filled with way too much detail that the killings are--yes--boring. But all that changes once the virus is fully understood; the reactions of those turning are realised and how these vampires feed is awesome.

As mentioned there is a bit too much explanation going on but the last 200+ pages fly past and before you know it, the sun is rising, the book is done and it’s time to start the day.

Looking forward to The Fall.