Review: Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

Now that I have a Kindle, I find myself easily swayed by those $1.99 ebook promotions. Amazon is smart with those impulse buys! Earlier this month, I impulsively Nightwings by Robert Silverberg, which won a Hugo Award in 1969 for best novella.  The e-book from Open Road Media has an illustrated biography Silverberg along with photos. He’s a very prolific writer with multiple Hugo awards, but he’s new to me. Originally written as 3 novellas for magazine publication, this version combines all three parts into a short novel.

Nightwings opens up into a future Earth, thousands and thousands of years in the future–the Third Cycle of the human race. During the Second Cycle, the technology grew exponentially and humans made contacts with other beings. Like any good science fiction novel, the humans got cocky with their god-like power over the world, thus causing their downfall. Roum (formerly Rome) lay in ruins, with a mix of old relics such as skycrapers and new buildings. A mix of old and new like the Rome we know now.

In this future, the Watcher is part of a guild who uses a combination of old (Second Cycle) technology to “look” into deep space. He one of thousands who are looking out for an alien race who has put a claim on Earth since the Second Cycle, when humans mistreated some of their people. The planet is on the brink of invasion, but no one is truly ready. They’ve been on alert for so long, they believe the warning is just a fairy tale. The Watcher, along with his fellow travelers a Flier girl and a guildless Changeling, try to find their new roles on a changing planet.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a science fiction novel that drew me in like this one. My brain can’t always soak in enough of detailed world building, especially when it’s so different than the ground I walk upon. Nightwings was different because Silverberg drew up on familiar places and relics (albeit with a bastardized name, as would be expected since language evolves) like Roum and Jorslem (Jerusalem).  After all, I was still on Earth, just Silverberg’s future version of it.

Even though Robert Silverberg’s writing is new to me, reading Nightwings felt like cuddling up with a familiar friend. I do love classic science fiction and will definitely read more of Silverberg’s works.

What are you reading this weekend?

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Don’t prejudge the book when you first hear that  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a novel about post-apocalyptic life on earth. Station Eleven is a phenomenal novel that you’ll want to savor word-by-word, page-by-page, but you won’t be able to because it’s just freaking amazing.

Set fifteen years after the world collapses from a vicious flu, novel follows a traveling orchestra and Shakespeare troupe. They travel the remnants of the Midwest to perform King Lear and A Midsummer’s Night Dream in abandoned Walmart parking lots. Some people in the troupe remember what life was like with electricity, airplanes and the internet while the younger ones only hold vague impressions of an ice-cold refrigerator with a light inside. Interspersed with memories of life “before,” Station Eleven is not about a post-apocalyptic world, but more of testimony our society’s desire to survive–Shakespeare and all.

When I first heard about Station Eleven at BEA’s Editors Buzz, I was intrigued but wasn’t sure if I should fight the crowds for a copy. Sarah McCoy, author of  The Baker’s Daughter, saw my tweet about the novel and told me to throw some elbows to grab a copy of the galley. I’m glad I listened to her advice!

I’ve always been drawn to post-apocalyptic novels. It’s the science fiction lover in me, but the ones that stick with me after I turn the last page are the ones that dig into humanity’s deepest hopes and need for survival. Station Eleven at its core is about people. While the deathly Georgian flu is the catalyst for the story, St. John Mandel gives us the many ways society copes in the face of disaster. There are those that need a reason or an answer by reaching for a higher power. Sometimes the instinct is to save the past by teaching it to future generations or preserving the objects of our pass. Others draw upon classics like Shakespeare and Beethoven to feel complete. No matter how the characters deal with the new way of living, they must find a purpose to continue from before.

No matter what disasters we may face in our future, Station Eleven shows that community and hope are our best means of survival. Both physically and emotionally.

Also, any author who references Justin Cronin’s The Passage in her novel is cool in my book. I’m a huge fan of Justin Cronin.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is going on my list of top reads for 2015. The novel will  be released September 9, but I highly recommend pre-ordering it so you can dig right in!

 

More Post-Apocalyptic Fun: Zombies

World War Z by Max Brooks

Kim mentioned recently that she’d been on a post-apocalyptic kick which included the amazing show Falling Skies (if you didn’t watch it, you should have!).  There must be something in the water, because here at my house we watched too, and have been devouring books in that genre.

World War Z by Max Brooks

Max Brooks’ World War Z is a compilation of survivor stories from the Zombie War.  Yes, the Zombie War.  In the interest of full disclosure, my husband read this long before I did (the book was first published in the fall of 2006) and has been gently nudging me to read it ever since.   I eschewed, thinking there was no way I’d enjoy it.  Enter my favorite new shows, AMC’s The Walking Dead and the aforementioned Falling Skies on TNT.  Suddenly, I can’t get enough of zombies and post-apocalyptic fun.  Once I started, I was hooked pretty quickly.

What a great concept for a book – to present an account of the zombie war, with a straightforward, no-nonsense approach.  Presented after the costly defeat of the zombies, the narrator interviews survivors from all walks of life.  There was military strategy,  panicked civilians, government cover-ups, and greedy big businesses.  Perfect.  Through it all the resiliency of the human spirit shone through and gave me hope that we’d survive.  At 342 pages (in paperback) it is a great, quick read.  Coupled with the CDC’s recent tips on zombie awareness,  I think I’m ready!

World War Z is available from Amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.  Max Brooks authored another zombie novel,  The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead which looks promising.  I’ve added it to my “read-this-soon” list!

Have you read any great zombie novels lately?  Are there any on your “to-be-read” list? I’d love to hear about them!

This book was purchased by my husband for our personal library; I received no compensation for writing a review. All links are to the From Left to Write Amazon affiliate account.

 

Post-Apocalyptic Novels: First Vampires Then Robots

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Lately I’ve been on a post-apocalyptic kick. Not only have I been watching Falling Skies with my husband, I’ve been reading novels with the same theme as well. I’m not sure why I enjoy reading end of the world novels. Maybe I want to know how humans will react when the world is at its worse.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage by Justin Cronin, at almost 800 pages long, seemed like a daunting task when I first picked it up. My copy sat on my desk for about a month before I decided to crack it open. Once I started, I could not put it down. I became obsessed with it, reading every chance I could. I even let the kids watch extra television so I could read it. I was binge reading. I finished the novel in 3 days. (I’m a fast reader.)

 

Cronin’s novel begins with the Department of Defense’s attempt at creating super powerful soldiers. The balance of vampire (though he never calls them vampires in the novel) and human cannot be found and soon goes horribly wrong. That’s just the first part of the novel. The rest follows a cast of characters as they venture out into the post-vampire takeover, two generations later. The Passage is no horror story. The complex characters drew me in and kept me turning the pages. All 700+ of them.

Though it’s the first novel of a trilogy, the ending was satisfying for me. Enough for me to wait until 2012, when The Twelve (#2) will be published. There’s not set publication date yet.

Robopocalypse by Daniel WilsonAfter seeing all the promos about Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson at Book Expo America, I was curious about it. When I saw that it was available as an ebook from my library, I went for it.  The book was optioned for a movie, directed by Stephen Speilberg, even before it was published. Perhaps that affected the style and format of the novel because it was very choppy. Maybe it was because I read it as an ebook and couldn’t easily flip back to refresh myself on previous chapters.

Robopocalypse also begins with a science experiment gone awry. Instead of vampires, a scientist creates a sentient artificial intelligence that escapes its confines. Next thing you know, cars are running over people and mailbots are directing senior citizens into crashing elevators. Told in flashback mode, each chapter is part of an oral history of how humans overcame the sentient computer.

Robopocalypse was a quick read as well, but is half the length of The Passage at slightly over 300 pages.

If you’re looking for a fun, quick read, I would recommend Robopocalypse.  If you want to be taken into an alternate reality with fascinating characters and relationships, grab a copy of The Passage.

I think all I need now is to read a zombie post apocalyptic novel. Any recommendations?

I received a copy of The Passage for review and borrowed Robopocalypse from my library. Book title links are Amazon affiliate links.