Book Read: Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh HoweyMy second book of the year (2016).

When I bought this book, I didn’t know whether to read it before or after WoolShift is a prequel to Wool, but is the second book in the series. A discussion with the kind book seller (at Waterstone’s in Amsterdam) didn’t help. I bought the book anyway, but left it on the shelves until I had bought and read Wool. Then I left it for another few years…

Although I didn’t remember the details of Wool, I soon realized that there were people in this book who had also appeared in Wool. In fact, we get the back story for what happens in Wool. Not surprisingly, of course, since it’s a prequel.

The story starts with a world as we know it, and then works towards the world in Wool. We find out why the silos were built, and we’re introduced to some of the silo secrets that we were totally oblivious of in Wool. I found some of the story a bit slow. In particular, I found that I wasn’t too interested in the back story about how the silos came about. On the other hand, I loved the story of Jimmy in silo 17, whom we follow through the years. He’s also a (minor) character in Wool, and I very much enjoyed finding out how he became the person we meet in that first book.

Amazon says:

“In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platforms that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened. This is the second volume in the New York Times best-selling Wool series.”

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 570

First published: 2013

I got this: bought at a bookshop

Genre: Post-apocalyptic


Book Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret AtwoodThe Heart Goes Last: What it is about

Doubleday (publisher) says: “Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.
At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.”

The Heart Goes Last: What I thought

Let’s start on the outside: a beautiful cover! Do you agree? This kind of cover, simple but colorful, is so inviting!

I am not a huge Margaret Atwood fan, but I was keen to read this new novel, as it sounded very interesting. I’ve read a few of Atwood’s books, and loved them, but I also read one or two that I found impossible to get through. The science fiction ones, I love: The Handmaid’s TaleOryx and CrakeThe Year of the Flood.

The Heart Goes Last reminded me to some extent of The Year of the Flood, because of the crazy things that are happening. I read the book in a weekend because it’s was near-unputdownable, but some of the crazy things were a little too crazy for my liking. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis sex dolls? And changing one’s brain for…well, I won’t spoil it for you. But this went a little too far for me. Luckily, this only appeared in the latter half of the book, and I devoured the beginning like chocolate cake.

But okay, what is the book really about? That’s a different story altogether! It’s about freedom and perceived freedom. When we first meet Stan and Charmaine, they are living in their car. They can go wherever they want, as long as they have money for petrol, but leaving their car is not advisable most of the time, because of all the violent people outside. Stan and Charmaine are extremely poor and when they get the opportunity to start a new life, they don’t hesitate and take it. However, this means being permanently locked up in a gated community, where they have to spend half of the time in prison and the other live a ‘normal’ life. Now they have all they need, in return for their freedom. Are they better off?

When they make mistakes and get in trouble, it’s time to find a way out. They discover that the system they live in is not what it seemed, and strange things are going on. In the end, Charmaine discovers that her mind sometimes limits her freedom when her circumstances don’t. That was quite an interesting discovery!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 308

First published: 2015

I got this book: from my Penguin Random House representative for an honest review

Genre: post-apocalyptic, science fiction


Book Review: California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan LepuckiCalifornia: What it is about

From the publishers: “The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can’t reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant.

Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.”

California: What I thought

Suzanne of Bibliosue got this book, a beautiful signed hardback, for me as a birthday present. She’s too nice!

And she was right: this is just the kind of book for me. I love to know what happens after the apocalypse, any apocalypse. It wasn’t really too clear at first what the apocalypse entailed, but the effects were just right: chaos and survival in the woods. When Frida and Cal come across a community, their life suddenly improves, but at a price. Bit by bit they discover how the community works and how it evolved, and they wonder whether they weren’t better off on their own in their cabin in the woods.

I enjoyed very much exploring the world together with Frida and Cal, starting small and seeing more and more of their surroundings. Meeting the different people and their backgrounds was interesting.

The story was believable. The apocalypse wasn’t overdone but seemed like a natural result of the way the world is right now. No zombies, no virus.

Really, the book was about people and their relationships. and how best to survive in a hostile world. There are no certainties, and when Frida gets pregnant they are both terrified and excited. Will their baby be welcome in a community without any children?

It was a less dark read than I expected (which is good) and I really enjoyed this novel a lot. A whole new view on a post-apocalyptic world.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 400

First published: 2014

I got this: from Suzanne of Bibliosue, mainly because she’s such a nice person, but more specifically because she read the description and thought of me. Thanks, Suzanne! 🙂

Genre: science fiction, apocalyptic


Book Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

The Uninvited by Liz JensenLiz Jensen is one of those quiet writers that you don’t hear a lot about, but who has a few titles in her name. Her most well-known is The Ninth Life of Louis Drax but more recently her book The Rapture has had some attention on the book blogs. I have read several of her books and enjoyed them to 4 stars or higher. Both The Rapture and The Paper Eater are dystopian/apocalyptic novels just like The Uninvited. Jensen’s book are always a bit odd which makes them good fun.

The Uninvited: What it is about

From the publishers: “A seven-year-old girl puts a nail-gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious?

As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry. Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioural patterns, and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics.

Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Southeast Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behaviour of his beloved step-son, Freddy. But when Hesketh’s Taiwan contact dies shockingly and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, he is forced to acknowledge possibilities that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career and, most devastatingly of all, his role as a father.

Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.”

The Uninvited: What I thought

I loved this book! I loved the main character, 36 year old Hesketh, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and has his own way of dealing with people and situations. When it gets too much, he carries out his hobby, origami paper folding, in his head: he thinks through the steps of folding a swan in order to calm himself down and to shut himself off from his environment – what a fantastic idea!

He also creates flow charts in his head to work out the possible outcome of situations, which he uses during his investigations into industrial sabotage and parent-killing children.

This novel is an apocalyptic mystery story in which Hesketh tries to find out what is going on with the world. Things seem to get worse and not just in his own country: all over the world similar things happen. He gets very close to the action when he is a first-hand witness of both a suicide and of a murdering child as well as a sabotaging colleague. He slowly realises what is going on.

Weird things happen in the book. I loved trying to work out what could be happening to the world and used each “clue” to think along with Hesketh and his colleagues in order to solve the mystery. The build-up to the ending seemed unsatisfying at first, but when I finished the book, I was happy with the solution after all.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 320

First published: 2013, January 8th (USA, 2012 UK)

I got this book: from the publishers for review via Netgalley

Genre: contemporary fiction, speculative fiction

Extra: Other books I read by Liz Jensen: The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, The Rapture, The Paper Eater and My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time


Have you read this book?

What did you think?

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