Reviews by eknapp
Super meh.
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Book 3 of the Newsflesh trilogy. It gets more and more YA with each book.

Each chapter begins with posts from the characters news blogs; they try way too hard to sound witty or profound. It's cringeworthy.

Shaun continues to talk incessantly about how insane he's becoming. "My time is running out! Drama!" Dumb. Not believable. I think Grant set the first book up well--specifically I mean Shaun and George's extreme codependence--but it's hard to buy that insanity is so predictable and STABLE.

The epidemiological science continued to ring more or less true, and that's about the best thing I can say for Blackout. It's not the worst book I've read in the last two years, but I don't recommend it even for zombie fans.
An unlikely love story.
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A young woman is raped and murdered, and it is widely believed that her boyfriend Ig not only did it but got away with it. On the anniversary of her death Ig wakes up with horns growing out of his forehead, and some strange new abilities.

...one of which is that people just start telling him things about themselves. Horrible things. (One point that bothered me: Why is EVERYONE in Hill's world a complete douchebag? Hill has a really low opinion of humanity. Not one reasonably benevolent person exists. It makes me wonder what goes on inside HIS head.)

Anyways, Horns starts out like a murder mystery. It isn't. Just as I was smugly patting myself on the back for determining the mostly likely perpetrator, he's revealed. Thud.

So what is Horns about then? It's primarily the story of Ig's transformation from man to demon, and what it means to be a (the?) devil. He's kind of a hero and sin isn't so bad...it has its place, serves a valuable function. Furthermore, the bad guy had some subtle goddish qualities (he fixes things, he "turns his life around", he spearheads a Christian congressman's campaign...) I felt vaguely blasphemous reading this.

Horns also turned out to be a love story, much to my surprise. And a good one. I don't usually go in for love stories so I was shocked at how much I found myself digging that aspect of the story.

The ending felt kind of lackluster...justice unsatisfyingly served, plot threads more or less wrapped up. Not bad, not good. About what you'd expect from a King progeny. But the first 43 chapters made up for it; good read.

Idle note: This is the 2nd Joe Hill story I've read where the villain suffered brain trauma as a child (The Cape being the first). Hill seems to believe that evil is made, not born.
Collects the first six issues.

Full disclosure: I've read the novels--the real ones--several times. So when I say that the graphic novel is not good, it's possible that it's suffering (badly) by comparison.

That said, it is not good. The plot keeps lurching forward ungracefully, the narration is dull, and the art--while pretty--told the story in a boring, uninspired fashion. I won't be picking up v2.
SO much worse than the first book in the series.
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[spoilers below]

Woof, what a drop-off in quality from the first book in the series. After George's tragic zombification at the end of Feed, Shaun Mason has taken over the thriving news site in spite of his raging grief and nonstop conversations with hallucinations of his dead sister. A scientist fakes her death and comes to Shaun's team with data about a CDC cover-up related to the Kellis-Amberlee zombie virus. Shaun tries to further unravel the conspiracy that got George killed.

Deadline was a let-down. Dialogue that attempts to be clever sounds forced and lame (this may be a result of shifting the first-person voice from Feed's serious George Mason to Deadline's witty, wacky Shaun Mason. Maybe Grant just can't write men. Or can't write goofy. In any case, it failed.) Characters make staggeringly unrealistic choices, such as breaking into the headquarters of the most powerful agency in the country, the CDC. Twice. It was supposed to sound ballsy but it came off contrived. Plot gaps and logic holes abound; the main CDC office in Memphis has a (phony) break-in resulting in multiple deaths, and a month later a few journalists are able to just stroll in unchallenged, and this in a world that's all about absurd levels of security? Um, no. Grant keeps telling us just how CRAZY Shaun is--LOOK AT HIM, HE'S INSANE, HE IS--yet he's perfectly functional, lucid, rational--hell, heroic--at all times. Doesn't fly. And why were the good guys constantly pointing guns at the CDC doctor who broke the story to them?

It wasn't all bad. Grant's soft-apocalypse zombie world continues to be the best character in the series. Deadline is at its best when exploring social changes that stem from the Rising: highlighting hair is popular because of all the bleaching, pets above 40lbs (the "amplification" threshold) are seen as gauche, grocery delivery is the norm because stores--now segmented with ubiquitous security stations--are incredibly inconvenient, architecture has changed dramatically to be driven by security, and so on. The overarching theme of using fear to control the population is timely and relevant. And the science is satisfyingly hard (or at least satisfyingly convincing.)

It'll be interesting to see if the third book gets better again, because (SPOILER)George comes back to life as a clone. I'm going to have to pick it up just to see how THAT particular whopper plays out. But my expectations aren't high.
Not spectacular. But solid.
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Four college students vacationing in Cancun trek out to an archaeological dig in the jungle and are trapped by Mayan villagers on a hill covered by a strange, deadly plant.

My first impression of The Ruins was that it was written by a high school student. It read for a while like a simple, endless series of declarative sentences.

This feeling gradually faded as I got to know the characters. They--the English-speaking ones anyways--made the book for me. The point-of-view cycles amongst all four of the students--sometimes switching mid-event--allowing them each to be drawn quite well. The details of the characters, their idiosyncrasies and insecurities, felt very real.

The one part of the characterizations that gave me pause: while the girls were weak, helpless, and mostly useless, the guys were all at some point heroic. I'm not one of those folks who think women and minorities in fiction should only be drawn as brain surgeons and starship captains (to paraphrase Scott Adams) but the hard line between feminine helplessness and masculine resourcefulness was too stark. It's a minor complaint though.

I liked the mystery behind the setting and the antagonist; I loved that Smith addressed some of the questions that had already been running through my mind but didn't try to answer them. This was one of those cases where the questions are more interesting, more fun than the answers.

The gore toward the end of the book was almost-but-not-quite too much for me; the tension at that point was so high that I couldn't put the book down. The ending felt right. Solidly 4 stars.