Random book things: Unemployment reading (Part 2 of 2)

July 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm (Articles / Interviews) (, , , , , )

I’ve been unemployed for about a month, and I’ve been using it for reading. The list started here (with Jose Saramago’s ‘Blindness’, Myke Cole’s ‘Shadow Ops: Control Point’ and Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’) and continues here. Warning, mild spoilers for everything.

Feed (Mira Grant)


This one’s a zombie novel that’s really more about the paranoia of human beings and the freedom of media (but there are also zombies). It takes place a few years after the zombie apocalypse foretold in pop culture, so the surviving population is remarkably genre-savvy (ie. Nobody leaves home without a gun, people don’t congregate in big crowds, and anyone found to be infected is killed without question).

Your three main characters (all named after horror franchises) run a website, which puts them at the nexus of all things zombie-related, since the only thing that spreads faster than the zombie virus is information online. George is on top of the news – she’s what the post-apocalyptic bloggery world refers to as a ‘newsie’, Shaun publicizes his zombie-baiting exploits (he’s an ‘Irwin’), and Buffy writes zombie-related stories and poetry (she’s a ‘fictional’, as well as the website’s techie).

The actual story has to do with the crew getting picked up to follow a presidential candidate across undead-infested America and uncovering a conspiracy involving the zombie virus and high-ranking political figures. But to be honest, the best part of the book has nothing to do with the story at all.

The dust has largely settled since the zombies first appeared, but a new and severe infrastructure of zombie-related laws has arisen. The book spends a goodly amount of time delving into the details of zombie precaution, up to and including the number of times someone has to use a hand-held kit to check their blood for infection, when and how long to take a bleach shower after delving into contaminated areas, and what kind of guns a civilian can carry in their purse.

Just as detailed are the nitty-gritty of online journalism and website operations, and how George and her crew have essentially built their lives around blogging. They carry cameras on their persons at all time, so the moment something interesting happens, they’ve got something to cut, edit and upload. They always have one eye on their subjects and another on their hits. In between shooting zombies, they’re regulating comments on their boards and coordinating with bloggers they’ve never met outside the internet.

In comparison to the world-building, the whole tangled web of evil government officials, military cover-ups, etc etc, just doesn’t strike as hard (but then, this is just the first of the Newsflesh Trilogy, so that bit may pick up in the following books). Where the story does get interesting is when the big twists start coming in. This is still a zombie story after all. You have to wonder who’ll make it to the ending.

Recommended for reading? Yes, especially if you’re a journalist or blogger. Book 2 and 3 of the Newsflesh Trilogy are out, as well as an alternate ending for book 1.

Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding (Dan Abnett)
A Warhammer 40k book, the first Gaunt’s Ghosts omnibus, containing the novels First and Only, Ghostmaker, Necropolis, and the short story In Remembrance.

The Gaunt’s Ghosts novels are something of a guilty pleasure. On one hand, I get prissy over things like the point of view jumping between characters in a given scene, and the author’s voice leaking out into the description of scenes which should otherwise be neutral description, and a lot of beats and dialogue derived from action movies.

On the other hand, I’m pretty much in love with Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only.

Here’s what happens in just about every book: the Tanith will be pitted against forces they have no chance of defeating. And every single plan they make will go wrong. And they will be besieged by monstrous enemies. And majority of whichever platoon is seeing action will be killed in many gruesome ways. And just when everything has gone to shit, they will go balls to the walls and scream their denial of fate to the sky (usually with one-liners like ‘First and Only!’). And then the enemy line may crack—or a much stronger force on the Imperial side may suddenly appear—or that plan they had to assassinate the enemy leader may push through—and they win. Or at least survive. All so they can fight another day.

Ride that train long enough and you begin to care about Gaunt and Corbec and Rawne and Mkoll and Larkin and Bragg and the others. You want these bastards to live, and fight, just so you can read how they do it this time.

What made me care a bit more was that I’d actually read the second Gaunt’s Ghosts omnibus, The Saint, first. So I’d actually met these characters further down their character arcs. This was getting to double back and see how they were before the destruction of the Tanith home world, and how their fabled camaraderie with Gaunt was built.

And while there are bits of Abnett’s writing I’m not crazy about, his world-building is awesome. Every novel will feature the Tanith fighting the Emperor’s fight in a different planet, and each world stands out. You get fleeting glimpses of every world’s history, even if it’s just a character noting that the street they’re currently driving a tank down on used to be a commercial district, or the jungle where the regiment is currently fighting a psyker storm used to be home to a race that pre-dates the humans.

And, of course, all this takes place in the three-ring gore circus that is the Warhammer 40,000 universe.


So there is a lot of fighting. And killing. Every duel, skirmish, assault, raid, bombardment, what-have-you, is presented in loving detail, down to the numbers on the tank’s side, and the sound it makes mowing over the enemy. As with the different worlds the Tanith visit, no theatre of war is the same. Each fight has something different at stake – there’s a different kind of enemy to fight, a different kind of ally to backstab them, and any of a thousand different flavors of destruction to deal. Fun stuff.

Recommended for reading: Yep. There are some days which can only be made better by a chainsword duel, or the bombardment of a hive city, or taking part in a massive war that spans galaxies.

Habibi (Craig Thompson)


Habibi is about many things – it’s about religion, history, sexual politics, and humanity’s relationship with the environment. But at its core it’s a love story – and when I say love story I mean you can take every permutation of love you can imagine between two human beings – between main characters Dodola and Zam. ‘Habibi’ actually means ‘my beloved.’

Habibi took  Craig Thompson around six years to make, and the effort shows. The art borders on obsessive in establishing patterns, a lot of which is lifted from the sinuous designs of Middle Eastern calligraphy and art.

habibi image

The lushness of the visuals matches the narrative, which dips in and out of Dodola and Zam’s journeys, and weaves it into stories from the Quran, Middle Eastern legends, and meditations on the shape of letters and the symmetry of numbers.

The conclusion the book drives towards may be simple, but it’s a long and fantastic journey– for Dodola and Zam, and the reader.

Recommended for reading: Yes. Just look at the pictures. Habibi image here was taken from the Comicsbeat report on the Habibi tour (check it, it’s got pencils).


1 Comment

  1. Today in random shit: Music for the zombie apocalypse « In the Grayworld said,

    […] the book which comes after ‘Feed’ (which I’ve talked about here) and before ‘Blackout’ in the Newsflesh Trilogy (Newsflesh. Feed. Deadline. Blackout. […]

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