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Reviews Written by
Andy Phillips (Leicestershire, UK)

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Sixty days to live
Sixty days to live
by Dennis Wheatley
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat dated, but otherwise enjoyable, 20 July 2014
This review is from: Sixty days to live (Paperback)
Bearing in mind the age of this book (first published in 1939) I could forgive the fact that it's quite dated. Some of the references to technology, society etc are a bit out of date, but the most striking part is the attitudes of the characters. In particular, the role of women seems a bit odd to a modern reader, but I can live with it give that it's 75 years old.

The story itself is essentially the build up to a predicted comet strike that could be severe enough to destroy the world. A small group of people get advanced warning as one of them is an astronomer so they begin to make preparations. This group consists of a variety of interesting characters, although I thought it was a bit unlikely that they would all happen to know one another. The story was well written and it made me want to carry on reading to see what happened as London gradually slides into chaos.

All very enjoyable except the last few pages and the odd attitudes of the main characters (although even that was entertaining in a way).

The Scarlet Plague
The Scarlet Plague
by London, Jack
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Short and a bit dated, but interesting, 17 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Scarlet Plague (Paperback)
This book was originally published in 1912 and it shows from some of the language used and attitudes that are portrayed. I guess the text must be out of copyright or something as my edition was printed by Amazon and has no publishing details or introduction at all. It also features a number of illustrations but they look like they are scanned in from another version as they are fairly poor quality.

However, the age of this book is what made this interesting to me. It's one of the original apocalyptic fiction stories that led to what is now considered to be a fairly common story. It is set around 60 years after a very quick-acting plague that has left a fraction of a percent of the population alive. An old man living in California tries to explain things from a world that no longer exists to his disinterested grandsons.

The book is very short and consists mainly of the old man's rambling. It seems to be aimed at the teenage audience, but I enjoyed it as an adult. I find it hard to believe that all knowledge and most physical aspects of civilisation would be lost within a couple of generations, but the concept is interesting. Don't expect a face-paced thrill ride, but it's worth reading if you're a fan of the genre and want to explore its origins.

Against the Grain
Against the Grain
by Ian Daniels
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Realistic collapse of society story, 17 Jun 2014
This review is from: Against the Grain (Paperback)
The story centres around a reasonably average guy whose hunting and outdoors skills come into use when society breaks down in the US. There has been an economic collapse that led to rioting, looting, fighting and starvation to the point where the population has thinned out considerably. Although not a military man or prepper he does have a lot of guns and survival equipment which comes in handy. The book essentially follows his attempts to re-establish some level or normality with a few families in a rural area.

I enjoyed the pace of the story, the style of the writing and the characters. My one complaint is that there are a lot of typos and grammatical errors in this book. I would say at least 50. It's not the worst book I've read in that respect, but it could do with being tidied up a bit. If you can look past that, and I managed to, then I would recommend this book.

Kelin's Journey
Kelin's Journey
by John L. Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent end of the world plague story, 21 May 2014
This review is from: Kelin's Journey (Paperback)
A teenage boy is warned by his parents that an infectious disease is likely to be worse than the media is letting on, so he goes into self-imposed quarantine with his grandmother and friend on a remote farm in Missouri. When their predictions come true he tries to cross the US to California in the aftermath of the plague.

This isn't anything particularly new, but it's very enjoyable and the story moves at a good pace. The characters are fleshed out enough that you care what happens and the plot remains pretty believable throughout.

My only real complaint is that there are quite a few typos throughout the book. Not enough to get annoying, but I found enough of them to stop counting. A decent proof-read would have fixed this, so if you're reading this, Mr Evans, I liked this one enough to do that for your next book!

Dying To Live
Dying To Live
by Kim Paffenroth
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, 27 April 2014
This review is from: Dying To Live (Paperback)
In many ways this is a pretty standard zombie story. A lone survivor lives day-to-day avoiding the zombies that have taken over. He comes across a settlement in the early stages of the book, where a group is sheltering in a museum. Although not hugely original, the book is well written and is very enjoyable up to this point. However, without giving too much away, I felt that the last third of the book went downhill a bit. It all got a bit silly (within the understanding that nothing about zombie books is realistic as such) and it ruined the experience for me really. That said, I'll be looking for the sequel as it is a good book on the whole.

This Is Not A Test
This Is Not A Test
by Courtney Summers
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars I'm not convinced, 27 April 2014
This review is from: This Is Not A Test (Paperback)
It seems like this book has some fans, but I think that I'm probably not in the target audience. This book is aimed at the young adult market and I'm probably about 15 to 20 years outside that range, so maybe that's the problem. To me this felt like an episode of "Dawson's Creek" or "Beverly Hills 90210" with a few zombies and swearing thrown in. This was partly due to the content but also the style as everything is written in the present tense, like someone is describing what's happening on TV in real time.

The story is told mainly from the perspective of a teenage girl who is being abused by her father. Her sister has just ran away from home when the zombie apocalypse begins and a new set of problems arise. Fine, that's kind of interesting and that provides a lot of the personality and motivation of the main character.

There is a group of supporting characters but to be honest I found it hard to tell them apart sometimes, no matter what other reviewers have said. Is it coincidences that all the survivors in the groups are teenagers when the book is aimed at teenagers? Probably not. It did alienate me slightly though, as much older adult.

I found the pace of the book a bit on the slow side, but not unbearable. All of the stuff about emotions and relationships does make the book stand out from the usual zombie books, but it certainly didn't make it any more exciting in my opinion.

Last Man on Earth
Last Man on Earth
by Greenberg Martin Harry
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A hit and miss collection, 7 Mar 2014
This is a quite varied selection of short stories based around the theme of being the last man alive. As with most collections, some are good, some less so.

"The Underdweller" by William F Nolan - A man living in the Los Angeles sewer system avoids the city's new inhabitants.
"Flight to Forever" by Poul Anderson - A quite long time travel story.
"Trouble With Ants" by Clifford D Simak - A world mostly populated by dogs and robots (!)
"The Coming of the Ice" by G Peyton Wertenbaker - A man undergoes an experimental surgery and becomes immortal.
"The Most Sentimental Man" by Evelyn E Smith - The Earth is evacuated and a single man deliberately stays behind.
"Eddie For Short" by Wallace West - A woman sings over the radio every day, wondering if anyone is listening.
"Knock" by Frederic Brown - Aliens invade and keep a limited number of animals as specimens when they kill everything else on Earth.
"Original Sin" by S Fowler Wright - Mankind plans its own mass suicide in an orderly manner.
"A Man Spekith" by Richard Wilson - A disc jockey is trapped in space.
"In the World's Dusk" by Edmond Hamilton - A scientist in the future tries to prevent the extinction of mankind.
"Kindness" by Lester Del Rey - The last example of homo sapiens lives among an evolved species.
"Lucifer" by Roger Zelazny - A man revisits a deserted city.
"Resurrection" by A E Van Vogt - Aliens visit Earth and revive dead humans from various ages.
"The Second-Class Citizen" by Damon Knight - A man working with dolphins survives the end of the world.
"Day of Judgement" by Edmond Hamilton - Animals of various species have evolved after the disappearance of humans.
"Continuous Performance" by Gordon Eklund - The last man makes a living by performing magic to settlements of androids.
"The New Reality" by Charles L Harness - A man tries to shape reality itself.

Dark Beyond the Stars
Dark Beyond the Stars
by Frank M. Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Quality sci-fi story, 21 Feb 2014
This review is from: Dark Beyond the Stars (Paperback)
Sparrow has an accident while exploring a newly discovered planet and awakes on the Aston, a starship that is on a mission to discover alien lifeforms. The ship left Earth over 2,000 years ago and has searched the universe for generations while finding no signs of life. The mysterious Captain has been at the helm for the whole journey while the crews come and go, with their numbers slowly dwindling as resources become more and more scarce.

Sparrow has no memories of his life before the accident and sets out to discover his background, and how he fits into the ship's functions. Meanwhile, the Captain is preparing to send the ship across a vaste featureless void between galaxies that will take generations to cross, and that many members of the crew feel that the ship cannot survive.

I can't say much more without giving away the details of the intricate plot. Although it is slightly long-winded at times the plot keeps moving, with a continuous series of twists and complications. Recommended for all sci-fi fans, and is good example of the 'generation ship' concept.

Cannibal Reign (Harper Thriller)
Cannibal Reign (Harper Thriller)
by Thomas Koloniar
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent apocalyptic fiction, 21 Feb 2014
I've read a lot of books about disasters and the end of the world and this is one of the best I've found so far. The concept isn't original as the various components of the story have been seen in many other books, but the way the story is told is amazing and how easy is it to think of anything that's totally original nowadays? The book is well written, with detailed characters and what I thought to be a fairly realistic description of what could happen if a truly terrible disaster were to ever happen.

The book has several strands but mainly centres around a group of former special forces soldiers who learn of an asteroid that is going to hit the USA with disasterous consequences. They purchase a decomissioned missile silo and stock it with supplies and a handful of invited guests in an attempt to wait out the aftermath underground.

The title gives a taste of things to come once the asteroid hits. Things get very bad indeed globally, and although I had a vague idea what to expect, this book exceeded the horrors I was anticipating. This wasn't acheived through graphic gory descriptions, but rather by solid story telling that made me care about the characters and the situations that they were forced to endure. On top of that there are some great action sequences and a couple of unexpected twists along the way. Fantastic.

The Hospital Ship
The Hospital Ship
by Martin Bax
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.46

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too weird for me, 21 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Hospital Ship (Hardcover)
I didn't enjoy this book but I think I might have missed the point a bit, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and hence more stars than I would have given in otherwise. It felt like around half the book is the actual story, with the remainder being made up of excerpts from various medical texts, tourism brochures and various other publications. These quotes ran to several pages at a time and seemed to be only vaguely related to the main story. I found this annoying more than clever.

The story, as much as there is one, concerns a hospital ship that travels around the world following some sort of global disaster. The medical staff pick up various survivors with physical injuries and mental disorders and attempt to treat them. Some of the treatment methods are quite bizarre and much of the book concerns these methods and the relationships between the various crew members.

I think this book requires a bit of effort to really appreciate it. If you're looking for something a bit unusual then maybe this is your cup of tea.

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