BOOK REVIEW: Day By Day Armageddon: Ghost Run

This review is long overdue, but better late than never.

 

51s0etzxtylIt was about two years ago when I first picked up a copy of Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne. Being a red-blooded American, I’ve always enjoyed zombie movies/games, but thanks to Max Brooks I became quite enthralled with zombie literature, as well. So, when I came across DBDA on sale, I thought I would give it a whirl. After all, the author is in the US armed forces, which already warrants a great deal of respect from me. I figured the worst that could happen was that I didn’t like it, and one of the men protecting this nation has a few extra bucks in his pocket. Suffice it to say, my socks were full and properly blown off with this series—I was hooked.

I’m considering doing another, lengthier review on books 1-3, but this review will be about book 4, subtitled Ghost Run. While this review will be best read by people who have gone through the previous books, I will do my best to avoid significant spoilers for someone who hasn’t read all (or some) of the prior books in the series.

Book 3 (Shattered Hourglass) deviates from the rest of the series and is written (mostly) in third person following several different people/groups. At first this was a bit difficult to chew, and I questioned why Bourne made that decision. However, by the end of the book I had seen a story—a much deeper story—develop. And while the move to third person was a bit jarring, it advanced the story in a way that would just not have been possible to do from the first person perspective of the main character. This is not to say the book was bad, just that it was different. But, I realized that it was a necessary choice for Bourne to make to take the plot the direction he did. And I am glad he did it, because it set up the story for Ghost Run—the best book of the series!

Ghost Run returns to the first person perspective of Kilroy (Kil), the protagonist, and starts off a short time after Shattered Hourglass ends. And it doesn’t take long for Kil to find himself out on the road, again, facing hordes of the undead who are hellbent on having him for dinner. Picking up a faint distress signal from a familiar group with significant news, Kil quickly decides to take on the suicidal task of locating and extracting the group located inside a major city. It’s worth the risk.

One of the first things I want point out about this book that I love is that Kil is alone. Sure, he interacts with a few people here and there (many of which don’t take too kindly to strangers), but in this book he is by himself more than he is in any of the other books. And, as I read through the book, I think I felt more anxious and empathetic for the hero than at any other point in the series (with perhaps the exception of a stretch of chapters in book 2). And even though Kil has a companion of sorts in Ghost Run, for all intents and purposes it’s him versus the world. And it’s great!

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was getting to know Kil more on a personal level—on a more vulnerable level. In the interest of those who haven’t read the other books, I won’t go into details, but the concerns and worries that plague Kil’s thoughts at times, for the people he cares about, brought a new depth to his character in this book. One that I can personally relate to. I am quite sure these thoughts came straight from Bourne’s heart, and was not just an attempt to pull at the heart strings of the reader. I found it easy to laugh when Kil laughed, get choked up when Kil got choked up, and get frustrated for him when the crap kept piling on. In this book, Kil has to climb a mountain of struggles while slaying more demons than just the undead.

As if there was any question to it, Bourne delivers brilliantly on the intense action front. There are some chapters in the book that I found myself so tensed up that my fingers began to hurt from clutching my Kindle, and it would take me several minutes after powering down my e-reader to come out of the story and back to reality. For some readers, reaching this point comes a bit easier, but not so much for me. I can count on one hand the books that have impacted me that way, and Ghost Run, by far, did it the most.

J.L. Bourne, like myself, is a gun enthusiast. And, like me, inserts much of that enthusiasm into his writing. For me personally, I loved reading the details about weapons and supplies Kil came across over the course his journey. Some people might get a bit bogged down with this information if their knowledge of the subject is limited, but Bourne does a good job of keeping the story flowing even during these situations. And proper context is usually offered to explain the technical talk. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and assume most of his readers won’t have any problems in this department.

Ghost Run is written in a way that I feel someone who has not read any of the prior books in the series could pick this one up and read it standalone. There’s enough information given to explain characters and past situations that it wouldn’t leave you completely confused. Having said that, you will get so much more out of this book if you read the first three. So, do it.

I’d be lying if I said J.L. Bourne wasn’t one of my favorite (if not my favorite) author. His craft improves with each story told, and each one of those stories is even more compelling than the last. Without a shadow of a doubt, J.L. Bourne has gained me as a reader for life. I look forward to his next release, whatever and whenever it may be.

 

You can pick up Day by Day Armageddon: Ghost Run (along with the other DBDA books in the series) over at Amazon and other book retailers. You can also check out his standalone doomsday/prepper novel, Tomorrow War, which was my favorite novel of his until Ghost Run released.

You can also learn more about this author at his website http://jlbourne.com/

 

-AJ

Book Review: Tomorrow War by J.L. Bourne

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A while back when J.L. Bourne tweeted that his new book, Tomorrow War, was going to be a lights out societal collapse novel, I was immediately intrigued. His previous series, Day by Day Armageddon, is a very enjoyable zombie apocalypse series, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that he went with another (but more realistic) TEOTWAWKI universe. A few days after release, I picked up the hardback and dug in. So what did I think?

First, I must take you back to 2008 when I read this little book called World War Z. I read it back when I was working for id Software and was getting a little bit of inspiration for the project I was working on. WWZ has a significant, permanent place in my heart because it was the first full-length novel I read as an adult. Sad, I know, and I hate admitting it, but as a game developer (especially an artist) you tend to get wrapped up in more visual medias like games and movies. But the reason WWZ was so significant is that it was a literary gateway drug for me. Suddenly, reading books could be as fun, if not more fun, than just watching a movie or playing a game. I quickly became hooked and found myself at book stores as much as a GameStop or Best Buy. World War Z, with it’s journalistic first person writing style and various entries ranging from a few hundred words to a few thousand words, engaged me in a way a book had never done before. It truly was a book that I “couldn’t put down,” and despite many of the incredible titles I’ve read since, I’ve not really found another book that I could honestly say I couldn’t put it down…Until I read Tomorrow War.

If I had to guess, I’d say that I read through Tomorrow War in fewer sessions than any other book (including WWZ). When I actually got time to sit down and read this book (not always an easy task with a toddler and an infant), I became immersed. I saw the world the characters saw, I felt the pain, anger, and fear the characters felt—I was a fly on the wall during the collapse of the American society, and based on the events that occur in the book, I think I’d prefer being the fly. Bourne does an excellent job with an elegant, but very readable writing style that brings the universe to life. There are some books that truly have one-dimensional characters and a smorgasbord of cliches intertwined with a series of “WTF” moments that make you wonder how this author even got published. But fear not! You will not find any of these in Tomorrow War. Also, Bourne does go into some technical detail about guns/gear, but nothing too over the top. And when he says something without a clear explanation, he uses context to do the explaining for you. As a gun/gear guy myself, I really like reading about these types of things, but if you’re not into that stuff as much, it should still be pretty clear what he’s talking about.

As I did with my last review (and what I will continue to do here), I will not go into too much detail about the book’s premise or story elements out of respect of the author. The last thing I want to do is spill beans the author intended to be left in the can until the readers experience it for themselves. However, the elevator pitch for this story is that through unexpected events (to the main character), the “just in time” network of food and supplies the majority of Americans rely on for their very survival is disrupted. The instant communication, the on demand entertainment…All gone in the blink of an eye. This book showcases just how devastating this would be for most Americans today, and speculates at the horrific lengths individuals would be willing to go in order to get their block of government cheese. There were no fewer than a dozen times when I shuddered at some of the events described, not because they were gruesome (though there is plenty of that), but rather because none of it seemed far enough fetched to think “that would never happen.” Several sobering scenes in this book that will make everyone reading this review thankful for this cozy world we currently live in.

I will be transparent here: While I was intrigued with this book when Bourne announced it, I was a bit hesitant at the same time. I’ve tried prepper books in the past, and…Well, please refer to my comments above on one-dimensional characters and cliches (DISCLAIMER, not saying all prepper books are like this, but many of the ones I’ve read are). I wouldn’t say this is a full on “prepper” book—there is quite a bit of it towards the earlier half, and admittedly I was vicariously living through Max [Redacted] as he extravagantly purchased thousands of dollars of goods and supplies before things went down—but this book moves past that in favor of developing the story further. Some people really enjoy just the prepper stuff exclusively; to each their own. I for one am glad Bourne didn’t go this route. He gave it the appropriate amount of time needed (certainly emphasizing the importance of such preparations), and then moved on. Well done!

I think I tweeted this statement before, but I had this book listed in my top five favorites. Honestly, it could probably be top three, maybe even taking a close second behind World War Z. I really enjoyed this book, and I was thoroughly disappointed when I flipped the last page and saw the acknowledgements. I was not ready for this story to end. I want more, and I hope that this talented author continues writing, he has a knack for it. And to be honest, between World War Z and Tomorrow War, I am pretty inspired to do some writing in a similar fashion sometime (First person, journal/log entries).

Tomorrow War is, in my opinion, a stronger showing than the Day by Day Armageddon series. Bourne takes his writing to the next level, and I am excited to see what he does next.

Final thoughts: This was a great book, and I highly recommend it. The situations were not always pleasant, and the whole concept is downright scary (society collapse could occur in countless different ways), but as Bourne states in his acknowledgements, let’s hope this kind of situation stays where it belongs—in a fiction book.

You can pick up Tomorrow War at pretty much every book retailer, but here’s a link directly to Amazon. You can also visit his website at www.jlbourne.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Book Review: Werewolf Cop

I’ve been following Andrew Klavan’s video commentary since around “Talking Crap with the President” aired. Klavan’s a gifted writer when it comes to making the viewer laugh while teaching some facts. Though I loved watching his videos, I had never read any of his books. Then I saw a tweet about Nightmare City being on sale. I thought I would give it a go. I didn’t realize that it was a YA book, but that didn’t matter. It was no less gripping and intense than what I would expect from a more mature book. I was impressed. So when Andrew started tweeting about his latest upcoming release, Werewolf Cop, I was intrigued.

I made a mistake when I first started reading this new supernatural crime thriller of his. A mistake because I started reading it right as I was launching my own novel, and those efforts demanded I spend much of my time focused on that, and less time reading. I was annoyed with this because after just two chapters of Werewolf Cop, I was hooked, and I didn’t want to stop reading.

Here we are, a month or so later, and I have finished Werewolf Cop. Do I feel the same about it as I did after the first two chapters? Nope. I like it even more.

One of the first things that drew me in with this book was Klavan’s elegant, yet simple writing. I must admit a tinge of jealousy coursed through my veins as I read Werewolf Cop—I only hope to be able to write that well someday. When you’re reading this book it’s very obvious that you are not just reading a police report or blog post recapping some events. However, a casual reader also won’t be reaching for a thesaurus every ten minutes either. Klavan does a great job of using words that aren’t always common, but common enough that the reader will know what he’s saying. And when he uses more obscure words, he does a wonderful job of surrounding it with context that will let you know the definition. Casual and hardcore readers alike will enjoy this book. And while we’re on this topic, Klavan’s ability to create unique, interesting ways to describe everyday things is fantastic! I know on more than one occasion I stopped and read a description and went “I know I have never heard that kind of description before, but it works so perfectly I can’t figure out why no one else had come up with it before.” So all in all, the writing quality is superb in Werewolf Cop.

Now to the story. I will admit, I am not really into supernatural stories, especially something along the lines of a werewolf. Not that I have anything against it, just not my usual cup of tea. Nor do I often read police suspense/thriller/mystery novels. Again, just not my normal genre, but I have nothing against it. After reading this book, though, I think I will be checking out some more police stories. If they are half as good as this one, I know I’ll enjoy them.

I’m not going to get into the specifics about the story. One, I am always afraid I’ll discuss a spoiler that the author didn’t want revealed. And secondly, I can just let the blurb on Amazon tell you what it’s about. I will say, however, that this story is very unique, and will have you on the edge of your seat more than once. Zach Adams certainly finds himself in some tough situations, but never did it feel like “yeah right, that’s unlikely,” when he did. Nor did it feel contrived when he—at times—found ways out of those situations. All in all, a great story that will have you turning each page in anticipation.

Characters are a huge part for me when it comes to a successful book. I believe boring, one dimensional characters can destroy a great story, while well written, deep characters can propel a mediocre story into greatness. Well, Werewolf Cop has a great story and great characters, so it’s win-win. When I am reading a book, I typically find myself watching the characters from an outside perspective. Sure, I get tense for them in stressful scenarios, or I am sad for them when the scene is pulling at the heart strings, but I am always able to stay pretty detached. With Zach Adams, however, I felt as if I was seeing the world through his eyes. I felt his anxiety, I felt his rage…I felt his regret. I felt the intense desire to control the beast that was consuming him. I felt as if I was Zach Adams. I am not sure that any other book I’ve read has had me so invested in the main character. Well done, Mr. Klavan!

No book is perfect, however, and while there is little I would critique about Werewolf Cop, I will warn readers who are looking for something more in line with Klavan’s YA lineup: It ain’t this book. Language in books and movies doesn’t really bother me, though I am not a fan of God’s name being taken in vain—something this book has a fair bit of. There are some relatively mild sexual scenes (mild in comparison with other books and prime time television), it may not be for everyone in that regard. The book is definitely a mature rating, but I suspect that most people would suspect that based on the title.

At the end of the day, this book is certainly among one of my favorites. I was very excited that Klavan’s website says this is book one in a trilogy, and I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the lineup. In the meantime, however, I will be checking out some of Klavan’s older books, and hope that they aren’t too big of a distraction as I dive into writing my next manuscript.

You can buy Werewolf Cop over at Amazon.