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The idea behind this blog is to share my opinions about Post-Apocalyptic Literature, Films and Ephemera as well as my random nattering on a regular basis.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Thrill Of The Chase; The Glory Of The Capture

The first item of business here needs to be a brief update on what I have been reading and viewing. I got way bogged down in reading a whole passel of books that turned out not to be really apocalyptic... But because I have an issue with not finishing a book and with rare exception (I never finished The Purple Cloud by MP Shiel or Wolf and Iron by Gordon R. Dickson I tried but I just couldn't) I power through them anyway. So the fact is I was too busy reading a series of tedious books that in most cases were only tangentially post apocalyptic and couldn't update my blog. Well.... that and the fact that school was back in session.

The first book I waded through was PA. Sort of. I read The Inevitable Hour by Martyn Boggon and found it to be OK. It was worth reading I guess but be assured that it is one of the books I spoke of that was only slightly PA. Sure, sure nukes went off in cities and millions of people snuffed but... it was more of a murder mystery than what I wanted. I won't spoil anything for people who may enjoy a good sci-fi murder mystery so I will leave it at not really PA but mystery. That said I was expecting a bit more of a book like Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald or even the short story A Death In Real Time by R.S. McEnroe. Both of those works deal with WWIII from a sanitized, clean environment. And of course the war still visits misery on those in the bunker. I completely expected this to happen in The Inevitable Hour. It NEVER happened. So disappointing. Oh well.

The other very disappointing book I had to wade through was Sunstroke by David Kagan. Now this book had some real potential. An unstoppable satalight armed with a massive death ray? Hell yeah! Fantastic setup for world wide destruction when the thing goes nuts and starts frying the local population. Got even better when Russia got wind of it and threatens to turn The United States to a sheet of glass. But alas David appears to lack the balls to pull it off and our hero narrowly averts global catastrophe. I read a review that said Stephen Segal would be the perfect actor to play Mike Doheny. I would have to agree with this assessment. That douche would be perfect to act in this movie that would have to be a strait to DVD.

Also between books I reread World War Z. I stick to the more hard line definition of post apocalyptic so I don't normally include zombie books in the canon. World War Z is a great book and everyone needs to read it. The 'Battle of Yonkers' is particularly fantastic. Also you will know if people have read it yet if they snicker about others with Zack as their name.

While I was reading The Inevitable Hour I saw reviews of an older PA book titled Emergence by David R. Palmer. All signs pointed to it being a pretty great read. I looked for it on line but the lowest price for it was 30 bucks. I do enjoy a good post-apocalyptic tale but paying anywhere from $30 at the low end to $85 at the high end for an ordinary older mass market paperback was just too much. So the hunt started. I knew that Emergence had to be found languishing on a self in some small town nearby. The owner of the book entirely unaware of what they had. I am a substitute teacher and one of the very few upsides to this is being in a different small town each day. I combed the book store shelves of each of them. Finally: Sheridan Oregon. I knew that I had hit pay dirt just by the books they had on the shelf with the covers showing. Looking back at me from the shelves of the sci-fi section I saw Black Sun by Robert Leininger and Dark Advent by Brian Hodgeand also Meteorite Track 291 by Gary Paulsen. With those titles shining out at me, I knew was going to find it. The stars it seemed had aligned for me and there it was. Woot. It only took me two months of book-store-combing but there it was and a bargain at a buck and a half.

I think it was well worth the search. Most of the book was written by Candy a 12 year old girl. She survived because she is a member of the next step on the evolutionary ladder for humanity. She is Homo post hominem. The end in this book come from a bio-nuclear war. I was a bit confused about the description of the 'war' on the back cover as well. Have no fear it makes perfect sense as you wade into it. The deal is that a secret cabal of ne'er do wells have engineered a virus and then released it. The virus by itself is completely harmless and spread very quickly to everyone on the whole planet. The 'nuclear' part comes in when the cabal explodes a nuclear weapon in space. The bomb does no damage to anything but it has the effect of triggering the virus into its fatal stage. Turns out the virus is uniformly deadly to every human. The virus acts as a type of garden screen. Humans are caught and snuffed but Homimems survive. This book was well worth the search (I wouldn't say however it was worth 30 dollars -- sorry David). I enjoyed all the references to other books as well as the vivid descriptions. The style of writing was completely unique as well (though I read it was similar to the style of Riddley Walker by Russel Hoban I haven't read Riddley yet but I will soon.) Candy, in order to save space in her journals, writes in Pittman Shorthand. The book of course is not really in shorthand but since it lack subjects in most of the sentences it still conveys the feeling of the style. I was riveted by the whole 'ultralight' sequence. I enjoyed the description of the Giant Redwoods as being 'Brobignagian' those who are more literary will recognise this as being named for Gulliver's second journey and the beings there were giants so Gulliver felt like a Lilliputian -those trees were true giants in other words. It was a well crafted book and I understand it has a sequel called Tracking. I will be looking for that one as well.

So that is what I have been reading. The movie I watched was ' Ever Since the World Ended'. The movie was low budget but very well done. After I watched the movie I just had to reread "World War Z'. The book will soon be made into a movie. If Brad Pitt were to watch Since the World Ended he would be able to make a truly awesome movie. Ever Since the World Ended is told in a series of vignettes as is the book World War Z. A couple things stand out in the movie. First is how they deal with a fellow survivor who they fear because he sets fires. First they banish him and tell him if he ever comes back they'll kill him. One of the more memorable parts of the movie is how they come to grips with the consequence they need to give the guy when he inevitably comes back. The other thing that is pretty fantastic is the conversations with the 'youths'. These are 'twenty somethings' who were very young when the plague struck. These kids have no idea of the world as it was. The way they deal with all the skeletons they find is a bit chilling. A great little film and the fact Adam Savage plays the part of an engineer who helps keep the power on is just icing on the cake. You should watch this film.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Go-Go Girls Of The Apocalypse

Most apocalyptic books follow the same basic traditions and prototypes. You can always count on certain plot elements and themes occurring. Most times you can bet on the survivors resorting to cannibalism. Cannibalism met with different reaction in the various books. In the Change World series (or The Emberverse series as we seem to be required to call it now) cannibals, or Eaters, are killed on sight while they are, ironically, glossed over in other books. Most notably in World War Z by Max Brooks.

Another plot element is the journey. In nearly every PA book one character is on a quest. Sometimes the quest is to find a specific thing. Rudy in the The Emberverse series is questing for the Sword of the Lady, Chaka Endine searches for Haven and the lost secrets of the Roadmakers in Eternity Road and in Mister Touch by Malcolm Bosse the survivors are simply in search of safety and air they can breath easier.

Most times however the quest is for a person. A son, a daughter, a wife, someone you got separated from when the world went to hell. This is the case in Go-Go Girls Of The Apocalypse by Victor Gischler. Mortimer Tate sees the looming apocalypse and acts accordingly. He gathers up a bunch of survival gear, food, alcohol, guns and of course porn then heads for the hills as everything goes nuts. First a flu pandemic that almost ends it for the world. After a near brush with death the San AndrĂ©a’s Fault activates and destroys most of the West Coast of the United States. FEMA takes over. Soon after the stock market collapses and a terrorist strike in Washington DC kills most of the members of the House and Senate. After that the world goes at it.

Mortimer hunkers in his cave for nine years. When he ventures out he is taken prisoner and after a bit of trouble is rescued by a person who soon becomes his best friend. Mortimer falls into classic PA stereotype and decides to journey to Spring City, Tennessee to find his wife. He finds that she is a stripper at Joey Armageddon’s Sassy A-Go-Go. But she is such a great stripper she has been sent to the main Joey Armageddon’s at Chattanooga. The place is like a fortress and sits on top of Lookout Mountain. After meeting Joey himself Mortimer finds out his wife has been kidnapped and is being held in ‘The Forbidden City of Atlanta.’ So the journey continues.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is how it wove real places into the description (well I guess most PA books do). Most books don’t have real products and the back story about why they still around. I found the Jack Daniel’s label fascinating. A tiny microcosm of the book:

“Hey!” Bill held up his tumbler, swirled the amber liquid. “What’s this stuff?”
The waitress looked at him like maybe it was a trick question. “Jack Daniel’s.”
“I know. I mean who makes it? It practically tastes like the real thing.”
“It is the real thing,” she said. “The distillery never closed. You can read about it here.” She turned the bottle around so the back label faced Bill.
“I’ll be damned,” Bill said. “They still make the stuff.” He squinted at the label’s fine print.
“Read it,” Mortimer said.

Jack Daniel’s: The Tradition Survives

Much blood has been spilled to preserve the smooth-sipping Tennessee whisky you’ve enjoyed through good times and bad. Governments rise and fall, but the recipe for your favorite adult beverage has remained unchanged even as the world as we know it has been through the wringer. You can count on our seasoned and indestructible distillers to continue bringing you the finest whiskey in what’s left of the known world.

A mere three months after the Fall, humanity quickly discovered it did not want to endure the end of all civilization sober, so raiding parties at the Jack Daniel’s distillery were frequent and disruptive. The owners soon gathered the remaining distillery employees into fighting militias known as the Jack Squad. With the help of some intrepid local NRA enthusiasts, Fort Lynchburg was built and defended. The fort almost fell to a band of wild Civil War reenactors who had replaced their muzzle-loaders with army-surplus M1 rifles. At last, General Ira “Stonewall” Weinstein surrendered his sword before being hung from a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign, where his bones still hang today as a reminder for those who’d fuck with producers of the finest, smoothest liquor ever made by true Americans.

So challenges come and go, but Jack Daniel’s pledges to keep using only the best, purest ingredients available. Unlike those responsible for the short-lived resurgence of Sam Adam’s beer, Jack Daniel’s promises to use pure spring water, free of radioactive or other toxic materials.

So whether you’re fleeing violent rape gangs, remembering those lost loved ones, or daydreaming of a future where wild dogs no longer roam the streets, we hope you’ll keep making Jack Daniel’s your preferred beverage.

I have to mention one thing here. Also careful I am going to ruin a portion of the ending. I recently finished reading A For Anything by Damon Knight. The two books basically have nothing in common. In A for Anything the world ends because of a device called the ‘Gismo’. As the title implies if one possesses a Gismo they can make anything they want. The only problem is that a Gismo won’t do the jobs everyday people did so they could make money to buy things.

But the Gizmo also makes people. These people are not considered human and are duplicated and then destroyed when they are no longer needed. Society is run mostly through slave labor to the tune of about 300 slaves to 1 not slave. The final undoing of the society in A for Anything is a slave uprising. In Go-Go Girls Of The Apocalypse electricity to run comfort items is provided by indentured servants, hundreds of them. The fledgling society lives on the sweat of slaves. It could only be a matter of time before the slaves figured out they outnumbered their masters and a portion of the final ending is a slave revolt. While I do recommend Go-Go Girls as a solid PA read I can only recommend A for Anything as on alright Sci-Fi book.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Things At Once

A discussion of both The Girl Who Owned A City by OT Nelson and The Happening a film by M. Night Shyamalan and not the wicked awesome album by The Descendants.

First let me assure everyone, I do understand this is young adult novel. I am not a young adult and because I am not I read it with perhaps different eyes and have higher expectations. I do enjoy the occasional young adult novel even though I feel a bit strange reading them. I have read some fantastic young adult apocalyptic fiction and some truly dreadful ones as well. I would not place The Girl Who Owned A City by OT Nelson into the truly dreadful category but I would place it very near it. I understand again that the main point of the novel was not to fashion an end of the world scenario but to have a teaching tool for adolescents.

The book is intended to make the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand understandable to children. I have even seen it taught in school in government classes to help school children think about how they would form a government of their own. I just found the whole book a bit heavy handed (and by a bit heavy handed I mean over the top) but OT wanted to make children understand and sometimes you need to be a bit heavy handed to accomplish this end. Most of the Objectivist philosophy teaching is done in the form of bed time stories that Lisa Nelson tells her little brother Todd. They are all about the same. Pretty much two points the American Government is bad because they take wealth from you and don’t give you the value of the things they take from you. The second seems to be a screed about depression. OT seems to think that people are unhappy because they are not earning their place in life. They would all be much better off if things were not just given to them. He thinks that if only people would work for a living they wouldn’t need to take any Prozac. I think it is worth noting now that OT Nelson has two children named Lisa and Todd. The whole book is written for his children and I bet they both think it’s pretty fantastic. For the rest of it just appears to be an attempt at indoctrination.

I was disappointed in the cleanliness and sterility of the story. Although all the adults had died in just a single month, no mention of corpses was made. No mention of clean up. No description of the symptoms. There should have been wreckage and piles of rotting corpses. It was just way too clean. I was also disappointed in the way Nelson chose to portay the state of minds of the children. They have lost everyone they know who is older then 12 yet they don’t mourn the dead. To me this book has more in common with Lord of the Flies. Both books have the element of rebuilding some type of society without adult help. I found the book to be just a bit boring. I recommend skipping The Girl Who Owned A City and reading instead Empty World by John Christopher or the Fire-Us Trilogy by Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher. Both of these are a far better read and are along the same plotline (a virus wipes out adults) although they leave out the society rebuilding element. There is also the four-book ‘Big Empty’ series by J.B. Stephens. These books deal with a plague called ‘Strain 7’. It is not fatal to just adults but to everyone. It does however feature a cast of seven teenagers and is written for an adolescent audience. Also if you prefer your books in visual form then the ‘Jeremiah’ series might be for you. This series takes place 15 years after a virus called ‘The Big Death’ kills everyone who had reached puberty. All of these books (or shows) are a far better option than O.T. Nelson’s book (that I barely made it through).

I thought I’d give this the same treatment I gave ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’. I figured I would search for a study guide and answer the questions myself. Keep in mind this is a kid’s book so teachers do ask their students to read and respond to it. Even though it has some strange ideas.

What happened to the students on Grand Ave?
There was a plague that killed all the adults. When the sickness was finished the only children left were 12 or under. They had to learn to survive on their own. Also they had to reinvent society. Lisa understood there was strength in numbers so she had all the children band together for mutual protection. In the end they realize they cannot keep themselves safe in the houses they once shared with their parents and move to Glenbard High School. With the help of the children she transforms the school into fortress and defends it from the gang who had made them abandon their homes.

Who are the main characters?
Lisa, the leader of the Grandville Avenue Children.
Todd, her younger brother.
Tom Logan, leader of the Chidester Avenue Gang and former friend of Lisa
There are many other characters but none are really main characters.

What role does Lisa, the protagonist, have?
She is the leader of the Grandville Children and eventually becomes the leader of The City of Glenbard (the high school). She is responsible for keeping order, providing protection and keeping them fed. Her role is much the same as the President. Her job is made easier because she is a divergent thinker and can think of solutions to problems that other children hadn’t even thought of. Food for example. How were they going to feed themselves now that the adults were all dead?

How have the children survived so far?
So far the children have survived by scavenging for food in the empty houses of dead adults nearby. When trouble arrives they hide in basements and wait for it to end. Then Lisa thinks to organize, look for food at farms, find food at a grocery store distribution center and finally move to a more defensible home with fortifications.

What are some tragic events that have happened to the children of Grand Avenue?
First they lost their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, and neighbors to the virus. Just as they are getting things sorted out rival gangs of children invade and take the food they have gathered and finally burn their homes forcing the children to relocate to ‘The City of Glenbard’. As a final insult their leader Lisa is shot and the city falls to Tom Logan.

And now on to The Happening. I viewed this movie with lowered expectations because I had only heard poor reviews of it. So with reviews of an hour and half of my life wasted I sat down for the viewing. I enjoyed it. Now don’t get me wrong it wasn’t what I’d call great or anything. It was predictable and didn’t have any plot twist device. Night chose to reveal the agent behind The Happening in the first twenty minutes and then let the viewing audience sit and think ‘really? really?’ I did enjoy all the mayhem and death, panic. That was fantastic. I only wish that Shyamalan hadn’t wussed out. Goddamn it I hate it when authors and directors do that. Crap! I’m an adult I can handle a horrible depressing ending. What he should have done was shorten the entire movie to no more then 20 minutes, used that as a prologue ands then should have extended the ending at least an hour. That was what I wanted. Total destruction on a world wide level. The same thing happened in 28 Day Later. At the end we find out it is only England. But wait there’s a sequel 28 Weeks Later. But damn it all! The movie pulls back from total destruction and shows Rage Zombies overtaking France as a tease at the very end. Come on! That’s what I paid to see in the first place. Now I bet they will try to swindle me again with 28 Months Later or some junk. That was exactly the feeling I had when I watched The Happening. I knew it could be so much better if Night had not pulled the punch on the movie.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Castle Keeps and other Dystopian Literature

The Castle Keeps. I enjoyed this book greatly. It did everything for me that an author wants their book to do. It kept me riveted and unable to stop reading. Also it made an otherwise boring car ride much more enjoyable. I cared about the people in the book and felt that they were believable. Also I thought the book was well written. I think all of these things are what an author has in mind as a goal as a writer. I am imagining this is going through the author's mind because it what goes through mine as I write. That being said the type of book I read most often (if I'm not reading young adult novels) is post-apocalyptic. This book is not PA, it is dystopian. By that I mean a novel that is set in either in a seemingly perfect world that comes unraveled in fits and starts like Brave New World or one that begins terrible and only gets worse as the story unfolds.

The Castle Keeps falls squarely under 'starts bad then gets worse'. The agent of collapse in this work is population and also environmental damage done by an uncaring public. Early on in the book the cops give up even attempting law enforcement and go on killing rampages that outstrip the criminals in violence. The citizens of major cites ignore violence inflicted on their fellow man (Offutt uses a case in New York where a woman is raped in front of many witnesses and no one helps as 'proof' people will care less about their fellow man as time passes). He also uses the use of DDT to extrapolate how man will continue to destroy his environment. I think he is right we will eventually do this to our selves but not however in the short time span he predicts. Still this is good read. The deceptions of chaos in the city are great as are the two battle scenes. But if you are like me and are a PA purist I recommend that you should skip this one.

Two other books go hand in hand with this book. The first is The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle. He stays with the 'man is turning the planet into a cesspit' theme to its logical conclusion. This was a book that took me quite awhile to read. It just struck me as sorta boring. It was however apocalyptic, just not much of a page turner.

The other companion book to The Castle Keeps is Make Room, Make Room. I admit that I haven't read this one yet. I do own it and I intend to read it one day. I know that it is not apocalyptic though. Life is hard because of over population. I mention it here because of what I just mentioned and also because it got a short mention in The Castle Keeps. I own and have watched the movie Soylent Green and perhaps one day will post a compare/contrast dealing with them both.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Unintentional Sequels

Many PA books I read seem to have been unintentional sequels to other books. My first post was The Stand by Stephen King. It looks as though Jack McDevitt had a bit of unintentional sequeling happen to him with Eternity Road. This book is set a thousand years in the future after a plague has wiped out most of humanity (Captain Trips kills 99.4% of the population in The Stand). A group of explorers set off from Memphis to find a treasure trove of Roadmaker artifacts. Roadmakers being the people who existed in the world pre-plague. Only one of them returns and he is a bit crazy after the experience of it and kills himself. The main storyline deals with the daughter of one of dead questers completing her father's quest. Great book and definitely (for me) an unintentional sequel. The events of Eternity Road could have conceivably happened after The Stand.

This brings me back to the original reason I posted this musing. I didn't really intend to write about The Road just yet but ... oh well. I stumbled on The Road quite some time ago so it isn't a book I just picked up. It has stayed with me for a long time though. I was really embarrassed when Oprah decided to make it one of her book of the month reads. Here I am reading Dark Advent one week then (unbeknownst to me) reading an Oprah Book the next (I got a bit of teasing from my wife for that one). If I had known before I started that legions of bon-bon eating house fraus would be reading it I would have probably passed. -- No I would have definatly read it anyway. I love a good grim well-written apocalyptic tale, and it is a rare PA that gets any grimmer (Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald springs to mind). Plus it is the only PA book to ever win a Pulitzer.

So the reason I wrote about The Road for two reasons. Firstly, I just wallowed around in both books by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Life As We Knew It and The Dead & The Gone. As a further example of the Unintentional Sequels I offer The Road. Secondly, this book will be released as a film November 26th 2008 (filmed in Oregon a mere stone's throw from the set of Twilight). In The Road there are descriptions of not being able to see the sun or the moon and needing to breathe through a mask. All these things are images from both of the Pfeffer books. As I read the book I tried to figure out what had happened to cause the world to end and I just couldn't figure it out. I have read many reviews that seemed to think nuclear attack. I had my doubts because there was no description of radiation or burns. None of the elements of nuclear attack are even mentioned. It does have an ash filled sky and cold and starvation. Also cannibalism. The Road features cannibalism but it wasn't a plot element of either Life As We Knew It or The Dead & The Gone. (I think that Susan Pfeffer was just a bit gun shy about people eating each other in a book geared towards teenagers. She did however have the characters ask about it as sort of a last resort.) Recent details mention that McCarthy wrote it as a meteor impact senerio. That fits Life As We Knew It as well.

The point is that both Eternity Road and The Road are fantstic books that just happen to be good follow-up books to other great books.

There Will Come Soft Rains

This little jem came out of the book The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. It's a very short read and is available to read for free on the interwebs. If you would like to read it, enjoy. Click here for the text: There Will Come Soft Rains then read the rest of the post.

I read that story quite a while ago when I read The Martian Chronicles. It's stood out for me in stark detail for years. The house taking care of itself. The feeling of repetition. Day following day with not the slightest disturbance to change the ebb and flow of time. I also enjoyed the slow reveal of the story. Up to a certain point the family might just be on a vacation of sorts and just forgot to turn of the artificially intelligent house. Great read.

I have even stumbled over it several times in many different PA anthologies. This story stands on its own apart from the other stories in The Martian Chronicles as well as in anthologies I've encountered it in. I decided to take time to write about it for this post because I recently found a blog titled There Will Come Soft Rains.

I had been trying to find a workable (and interesting) URL for this blog and had been using different iconic examples from different books, poems and even song lyrics. The point here is that when I tried There Will Come Soft Rains I found it to be taken but not just taken -- oh no! -- it had been taken by a teacher who was using blogging as a way to have students respond to different literature. Her site was simply giving directions to her students. She used her comments as a place for students to turn in the work. A pretty slick idea. I just wish she hadn't parked on so many good blog titles for this. Oh well.

***yar, here there be spoilers***

Anyhow the point is that I thought it would be fun to respond to the questions she asked her students as the meat of my post today. Here they are:

Who is the main character in this story? Explain.
The main character in a story is the protagonist. In a work of literature to determine the protagonist you ask yourself who changes over the course of the work. In this book there are about four 'characters' mentioned, a narrator, the house, a dog, a fire. The narrator is constant. Just a voice giving details. The dog enters the story and then exits quickly. The fire is a foil to the house. The fire is the agent of change. The main character is the house itself. At the beginning of the piece the house is cultured and refined. It is systematic. All things are ordered and strictly scheduled; regimented. It is after all a machine and that's the way a machine is expected to act. When the tree branch breaks the window and starts a fire the house changes. At first it marshals it defenses and fights the fire but as the fire gains in strength the house begins to act erratically and with fear. At the end it accepts its fate but tries to pack in life as it hurries to prepare food on a mammoth scale.

What is the main conflict in story? Classify it according to our examples of external conflict. Be sure to give details and examples.
I don't know what "our examples" are but I would say the conflict is 'Order vs. Chaos' if I had to choose conflict. And it is an external conflict. The house is definitely not struggling with itself here. Order is symbolised by human society and also by the exact timed out schedule of the house. Chaos is symbolized by the fire. Both types of fire; the more conventional fire lit by the stove when the branch breaks the window and the less ordinary fire lit by the nuclear bombs that fell on the city. With the example of the 'Order vs. Chaos' struggle between fire and the city, the city loses quickly. It cannot struggle to defend itself in any way. Later when the branch breaks the window and the fire starts, the house mounts an intense and furious but ultimately futile defense. The specifics of the defense gets into personification and I will respond to the question a bit later.

What major event caused the house to be empty?
Nuclear war. This is part of the slow reveal. The story begins in the house on what could be an ordinary day. The viewpoint expands slowly until the outside of the house and the city is revealed. The description of the burned silhouettes of the family doing ordinary things is the tell. Mom working in the flowerbed, dad mowing the lawn, son and daughter throwing the ball back and forth. It even pulls back further to show the radioactively glowing city. The house became vacant as a result of man's final war.

Look for instances of personification in the story.
Personification is making a nonhuman object human by giving it human characteristics. Examples of personification throughout the writing include the house being compared to a spinster as it went through its daily duties. So much attention given that the house is 'paranoid'. The best example of personification come when the house tries to save itself from the fire. It is described as an army doing battle with he flames. Later it speaks of the house with a 'skeleton' as having skin red vein and capillaries.

The house isn't the only character in the short story though. The fire is also described as being clever as it wages its battle against the house.

What kind of feelings were elicited while you read the story?
I guess I felt sad. The house was left all on its own. It was a sentient being that was able to experience dread of death. The family should have left some sort of program in place for a time when it no longer needed to serve anyone inside it.

The scene of the burned silhouettes has always stayed with me. A truly great work of fiction.

Here are some different ways to enjoy this fantastic story:

Radio Play: There_Will_Come_Soft_Rains.mp3

Comic Book: There Will Come Soft Rains.html

Nifty Animation (Watership Down style with ironic Russian dialogue):

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Open Letter To Stephen King

What better way to start off my new blog then with a reaction to the most famous novel of the apocalypse ever? I am talking about Stephen Kings masterwork The Stand. I would say it has the number 1 spot in my love of apocalyptic reading. I especially loved it when he told me loud and clear not to buy it right up front in the new edition. I was ready for it not to have the characters in the book doing new and fantastic things; I would however have liked a bit of editing.

This next part is for you Mr. King.

Mr. King: I really enjoyed the book and loved the 'complete and uncut' version but I was wondering why you didn't fix the gigantic glaring mistake when you went back through it? I'm talking about Harold Louder's Permacover notebook here. Yes, the same one that he wrote out his pathetic apology/suicide note. Now, Mr. King you wrote that Harold writes in this notebook in chapter 64. He says how sorry he is and how he was misled. Signs his name 'Hawk'. Then, 'he puts the notebook into the Triumph's saddlebag. He capped the pen and clipped it into his pocket.' Then shoots himself in the mouth. Later when Larry Underwood, Glen Bateman, Ralph Brentner, and Stu Redman were making their trek to Las Vegas they stumble on, who else, Harold Louder. What do they find? Harold's buzzard ravaged corpse. And get this (from chapter 72) 'The buzzards had worked him over pretty well, but Harold still clutched the Permacover notebook in one stiffening hand'. So my question here is, how could Harold put the notebook in the saddlebag and shoot himself yet still have it in his hand when the boys found him? Why didn't you fix this in the 'uncut' version? Just wondering if you could clear this up for me.

A Two Part Calamity

Life As We Knew It

This is the story of Miranda. She's an ordinary high school girl. Like many girls she keeps a journal. This book reads as her journal. All is great with her world until an asteroid is predicted to hit the moon. She is not worried about it though. In fact she is, at first, irritated by it. Her teachers use the looming disaster as an excuse to pile on the homework with not one, not two, but three essays about the moon.

May 18th... it happens. The moon is hit. Miranda and her family are outside reveling in the street in a party-like atmosphere. All is fun and games. The asteroid hits the moon so hard that its orbit moves much closer to the Earth. When the partiers notice this panic sets in. Now we all know the moon's gravity is what causes tides. So the first sign that all is not right is when coastal areas get flooded. After the flooding there are massive storms and earthquakes. Just when you think they can finally settle in for simple survival, volcanoes begin erupting bringing on an ice age.

I enjoyed this book and in fact it kept me up late at night just so I could finish it in a single setting. I just have a couple problems with it though. First off Miranda and her family were given too soft a ride. I imagine had it happened for real there would have been a bit more fighting for the necessities of life. They didn't even have to fight a single one of their neighbors off for food shelter or means to stay warm. (They had wood and heating oil even though most of the people near them didn't). Second, no mention of people resorting to cannibalism. This is a staple of nearly every PA book out there. Still a fantastic book.

In every book I read there is the one scene that stands out. For me in this book it is when Miranda takes some time for herself and goes skating at the pond. In her mind she is at the Olympics and winning more medals than anyone in history. This simple little scene encases all of Miranda's character. She carries the absolute knowledge that she is a survivor with her not even knowing it. It is the ability to see past the struggle that is her now and to allow her dreams to become reality that keeps her alive. A great scene (even if I was on the edge of my figurative seat waiting for someone to jump out of the woods and put her innocent dreams to a very nasty end).

The Dead and The Gone

The Dead and The Gone is a stand alone story that compliments the events of Life As We Knew It. It has all the events spoken about in the first book but it is not a sequel rather it could work all on its own. This twin novel set could have even worked as a single book with switching viewpoints. The view of this version of apocalypse however is much darker and grim and a bit more real I think. It takes place in New York City and follows a young Puerto Rican named Alex. He is seventeen as the story begins and works at a pizza parlor. Alex is a student at a Catholic School. He has no idea the asteroid is going to hit the moon because he is busy with school, his job and his family so takes no special steps to ride out the disaster.

This story is darker grittier and just more fantastic than its twin. More death. More disorder. A great read.

Once again, for me, in every book there is the one scene that stands out the part that encapsulates the whole and stays with me long after I have read the 'About the Author' page. The part in this book that stood out is when Alex is at Yankee Stadium attempting to find his mom's corpse. The description of the screams and the smell and the flies really made the descent into hell real. It was also a turning point in the book. Alex's dreams are over and he begins to accept and cope with his mom's death as a concrete fact and not just an abstraction. Also ‘body shopping’.

** Update: Third Book is called 'This World We Live In'. It will be released next year. Different sites are already offering ARCs, including this one, The Book Butterfly. If you are a fan or would like to get a start reading give it a go. **