The Immune Omnibus by David Kazzie


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Unraveling: The Immune Part One.

I love eschatological narratives – you know, end of the world doomsday books. Films too. I don’t know what it is about them but maybe it’s the guilty pleasure and frisson that a good book or film can provide as the reader/viewer remains safe while the world they know unravels in print or on celluloid. Stephen King had a theory that this was why people love horror books and movie – that they’re revivifying; remind them of life by representing death. Whatever the reason, I enjoy this genre and Unraveling, the first book in the four part The Immune Omnibus is a really good, solid addition to the genre.

The premise is the unleashing of a highly virulent disease by a mysterious group that wipes out the majority of the world’s population. Like many books in this oeuvre, the author chooses to focus on select but diverse individuals who, for some reason, are immune to what can only be described as a plague. The reader thus experiences the catastrophic consequences of this on their personal and professional lives, as society as they know it collapses and all they have loved and worked for and towards quite literally dies. 

Well written with strong characters replete with flaws, this is a good start to what promises to be a tight series. Already started the next one. 

Void: The Immune Series, Volume 2

Void The Immune Part Two
The second book in The Immune Omnibus, Void, is a fabulous sequel to the first book, Unraveling. Starting where it left off, Void follows the adventures of the survivors from the first book, namely the obstetrician, Adam, former footballer, Freddie, and soldier Sarah among others as they unite and trek across the USA, in search of Adam’s daughter, Rachel as well as answering the call of the CDC who, before the world went to hell in a hand basket, asked for anyone immune from what’s now known as the Medusa virus to come forward.

As they travel, they meet others who have also lost everything. Joining together, the group learn not only how to survive and forage (including empty houses and abandoned businesses and vehicles) but about each other. Worst of all, they learn just how fragile the veneer of civilization is; how when there is no-one to enforce laws and common decency, there are those who will take advantage of the situation, regardless of the consequences.

While the book is about a world in chaos, it’s also very much about the humanity or lack thereof of those now populating the planet and how survival isn’t just about nourishing the body, but also the heart and mind.

Some good twists in the book and believable character development as well as fine writing made this reader buy the next book as soon as the last page of this one was finished. 

EverGreen. The Immune Part Three

Evergreen: The Immune Series, Volume 3

In this novel, Evergreen, our survivors of the Medusa virus, after another tragedy that shakes them to the core, settle in what appears to be a Utopia, the experimental township of Evergreen, a place that runs on solar energy and is fundamentally self-sufficient. Though ravaged by the virus, the remaining citizens welcome the travellers and it seems that Adam, Sarah, Freddie and Max have found a place to call home. But one person’s paradise is another’s hell and while some of the characters determine to grasp what happiness they can, there are those determined to destroy it, regardless of the cost or who they hurt in the process.

I thought the pace might slow in this book with the primary characters finding a safe haven, but nothing could be further from the truth. Kazzie uses the static location as an excuse to explore the leads’ inner demons as well as expand the search for Adam’s daughter, Rachel. So we have on the one hand the physical difficulties of trying to start afresh while everything lost is still so raw, but more importantly, the psychological tensions the juxtaposition between the old world and those this new, stark and dangerous one create. How can anyone “move on” when the world as they know it has stopped?

A page-turner that had me buying the next one immediately.

Citadel: The Immune Part Four

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The final instalment in this post-apocalyptic series is a doozy. The tensions and various narrative threads started in the other books not only come together but explode with shocking consequences. Just when you thought our intrepid and flawed characters had endured enough, Kazzie inflicts more pain on them and demands they rise to the occasion and show their resilience and instinct for survival.

I don’t want to say too much more except that in every way this was a fitting end to the series and even if it doesn’t answer all the questions it raises, I think this is appropriate as well.

Well-written, fast-paced and action-packed, it was a great read.

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Year One by Nora Roberts

This is such a difficult and, frankly, strange book to review. The principal reason for this is because from the blurb and the first hundred or so pages, the novel sets up the reader and one set of genre expectations that are, out of the blue, overturned. Depending on what you think of the genre that dominates the novel from thereon in, responses to the book overall will vary. You see, it started very much like Stephen King’s The Stand, a terrific post-apocalyptic/eschatological novel and one of my favourites in the genre (along with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale) before it suddenly morphs into an urban fantasy ala Karen Marie Moning’s Fever books, with a little bit of Harry Potter, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis thrown in along with a healthy dose of romance.

 

Basically, Year One by Nora Roberts, starts off as a dramatic apocalyptic story. The opening scenes take us to the Scottish Highlands where the McLeod family gather for their annual Christmas celebrations. Travelling from far and wide, they spend glorious days feasting, hunting, reminiscing and sharing. When the men shoot a pheasant and it lands in the middle of a cursed stone circle (as they do), it marks the beginning of the end as the men, somehow, become infected with a deadly sickness that, as they leave the Highlands and venture back to their homes in London, USA etc. (all via stopovers in other major centres) spreads and kills anyone infected. Fatalities rise and the sickness quickly becomes known as The Doom.

The story quickly shifts to New York and the United States generally and, as is usual with these types of tales, we bear witness to the destruction of society and civility as we know it. Events are observed mainly through the eyes of a few protagonists: journalist, Arylis, sous chef, Lana and her lover, the writer, Max, and a paramedic, Jonah, the man responsible for bringing patent zero – one of the McLeods – to his hospital in NYC, and the only suriving member of the McLeod family.

Mysteriously immune from The Doom, these main characters and the people around them form the core of the story as they seek to find other survivors and generally survive – no, more than survive, but rebuild a life. But while The Doom may have spared them the ravages of a deadly disease, it hasn’t saved them from the murderous intent of other survivors who take advantage of, not only the huge loss of life to grab power, but also wield the mysterious abilities some of them find themselves invested with.

This is the unexpected part of the book. From being quite sci-fi in nature as the disease spreads, touching on the collapse of government, media and general law and order, it suddenly (and I mean, suddenly) becomes populated with witches, fairies, elves and all manner of magical beings, all who seem to know exactly what they are even if their talents are still manifesting and growing. There are those who use their newfound abilities for “good” and those who do not. Then there are those who have survived and fear these gifted humans in their midst, calling them The Uncanny, blaming them for the demise of civilisation as we no longer know it and wanting to destroy them. Of course, there are those who appreciate their gifts and the gifted and seek to live with and within their communities.

Herein lies another problem. The good people are just so good and obviously good; the bad are horrendously and mindlessly wicked. There seems to be no good reason (pardon the pun) for their bad. They just are. The clichés and stereotypes are quite extraordinary. Some of the “baddies” give us insights in the form of diabolical rants before they kill the “goodies” – those with powers and without, but most do not. So, why are they doing it apart from bloodlust? I am assuming for power, but it’s not really explained. It just happens. There have been studies and examples that demonstrate that civility is a veneer many wear lightly and when it’s gone, the monster within emerges. But in many ways, these people are just so monstrous, they are caricatures.

But wait, there’s more… one of the intrepid main characters finds she is pregnant. Not only that, but she is bearing a child who has a role to play in the future of the world. As such, there are those on the Dark Side who wish to destroy both the unborn child and her mother. Why? Again, not sure. How do they know about the child and her apparent potential? Don’t know that either. Though there are the occasional characters who speak in riddles and prophesise, but it’s all very ad hoc and strange. I wanted to know how these people knew about this powerful child. I also wanted to know how, after a few weeks of millions of deaths, the shock of loss and crumbling of society, there were those who not only had powers we’ve only ever seen before in the Marvel universe or at Hogwarts, but could declare to any who asked (and were friendly) what “species” they were: elf, fairy, witch etc. It seemed more than uncanny. How do they KNOW this??? I don’t expect they were all Tolkien fans… but then again…

By now you’re probably thinking I am going to say this is a terrible book. But, if you can get beyond the shift in narrative and expectations, it really isn’t. Yes, there are leaps of logic and lack of explanation that, as you can tell, had me grinding my teeth in frustration and rolling my eyes a few times, but there’s a reason Nora Roberts (and this is the first book of hers I have read) is such a bestseller. She can tell a yarn. So, despite my reservations and the plethora of fairy wings (yes, really), I decided to go with the flow, embrace the urban fantasy and enjoy the ride. It was exciting, wild, sentimental in parts, shocking in others, slightly long-winded in some sections and jumpy and lacking in logic in others, but I actually liked it.

The ending sets up the next book very well (even if it does involve a Dumbledore… I mean, Gandalf, no, I mean wizened mentor dude with prescient knowledge offering hope and horror in equal measure) and a tad too conveniently, but hell, by now I just let the story carry me.

So, if you’re looking for something different that’s not a McCarthy, Atwood or Kingesque kind of post-apocalyptic tale, and enjoy urban fantasy, then you may like this. I know I did, despite thinking I was going to be reading one type of book and then finding myself immersed in a completely different one. And yes, I will be reading the sequel. J

Overall 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: Blackout by Mira Grant

BookBlackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3) Three in the Newsflesh trilogy, while a terrific read that ticks many of the boxes, didn’t leave me as impressed or as satisfied as the first two in the series. The plot is strong, the characters very good and  their motivations mostly sound and plausible. Whereas Deadline was very much a quest cum road trip, Blackout uses many of the same tropes and subsequent ideas but, whereas they came across as original and compelling in the second book, in Blackout, you have a feeling of situations and outcomes repeating themselves. This also happens with manyexplanations. For example, the number of times Shaun has to justify the fact he is or is not going mad regarding Georgia is far too many. We get it. Likewise, with the explanations regarding the impact the virus had on Georgia’s eyesight and the differences between one way of imagining her and another. There was barely a description or reference to eyes that didn’t go over familiar ground and it became irritating and redundant and in the end infected the pace of the story.

In terms of story, however, the plot is good and the science and cunning of desperate men and women well-handled. Still searching for answers to Georgia’s death and the whole infection, Shaun and his crew stumble upon secrets, lies and possible truths including the greatest one of all, one that will test their credibility beyond limits. Fortunately, it didn’t test the reader and we accept the “truth” of this grave new world and the horrors contained within.

Like other books in this genre, the Newsflesh trilogy and Blackout in particular reveal that the monsters we live with are not necessarily those who manifest as such: that, in fact, the monstrous is within us all and it’s often down to the choices we make whether or not this aspect of our selves is given reign.

Overall, a good conclusion to a great series.

 

 

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