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Reviews Written by
Andy Phillips (Leicestershire, UK)

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Hiero's journey;: A romance of the future,
Hiero's journey;: A romance of the future,
by Sterling E Lanier
Edition: Unknown Binding

4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but slightly silly, 28 Dec. 2014
Firstly, note that there is a sequel to this book, 'The Unforsaken Hiero', which I didn't realise until I was 90% of the way through the book. Hence the book doesn't really reach a conclusion. Worse still, there were supposed to be 3 books but the author has sadly been dead for some time now, so I doubt the story will ever be finished.

Apart from that I enjoyed this book. It features a kind of priest/warrior (the eponymous Heiro) from a settlement in modern day Canada who sets out on a quest across North America centuries after a nuclear and biological war. He rides a giant moose-like creature and meets an intelligent bear, all of whom are capable of telepathic conversations. The book is essentially a series of encounters with giant mutated animals and various agents of an evil rival civilisation who want to conquer Heiro's kingdom. The whole thing reminds me a bit of a 1980s role playing game. If you don't take it too seriously it's a fun example of post apocalyptic fiction.


The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse
The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse
by Mr. Matt Sinclair
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 19 Oct. 2014
This is a collection of 14 stories ranging from 4 to 22 pages in length. As with most of these anthologies there are some that I liked and some that I didn't. However, my main reason for giving this book a fairly low score is that quite a few of the stories aren't what I would call apocalyptic fiction. I realise that some people might like the fact that not all the stories are about plagues and zombies or other typical subjects, but some of them aren't really apocalyptic at all (I would say that 7 out of the 14 were what I was expecting and 2 or 3 of the others were a bit different but 'fitted'). Of the 7 that were the sort of thing that I was hoping to find, some of them were a bit tedious and I felt I was just reading them to get to the next story, rather than because I was enjoying them.

The stories are well written and could be of interest if you're looking for a more varied view of apocalyptic fiction, but I simply didn't enjoy it very much as a collection. If you're the sort of person who reads a lot of genres of books then add a star or two to my score.


The Dog Stars
The Dog Stars
by Peter Heller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and well written post-apocalyptic fiction, 4 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Dog Stars (Paperback)
This book is bound to draw some comparisons with 'The Road', which is well known for its sparse style, but the approach and story really are completely different. Admittedly there are no quotation marks at all and the text is often fragments of sentences, but the rest of the punctuation is present. The general tone of the book is almost much less gloomy, even if some things that happen are a bit grim.

Hig is a fairly typical guy whose family have died along with over 99% of the rest of the world in two pandemics. He is an aviation enthusiast and lives on a small airstrip in Colorado with his dog. Before the story begins he is joined by a survivalist gun nut called Bangley. The two have settled into a routine where Hig patrols the area from the sky in a light aircraft while Bangley and his arsenal of weapons protects the airfield and the featureless plain around it. This gives them enough warning if someone is approaching, and if they can't scare them off them Bangley deals with them in a fatal way before they can pose a threat.

I loved the interactions between the two men and their opposing viewpoints. Hig is much more willing to trust people, including another group who he sometimes supplies, while Bangley is quite willing to shoot women and children before asking any questions. I won't spoil what happens as the story progresses.

I've read a lot of apocalyptic fiction and this is one of the best examples that I've found in a long time. It features a lot of the typical aspects that fans expect but has enough unique elements that make it stand out from the crowd.


Dying to Live: Life Sentence
Dying to Live: Life Sentence
by Kim Paffenroth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable sequel, 4 Oct. 2014
This is a sequel to 'Dying to Live' but can be read in isolation without losing too much as it is set 12 years later. However, I recommend you start with the first book as some of the characters feature here too.

The settlement in the museum has grown since the first book and Zoey (the baby) has now reached an age where she is expected to undergo a ceremony to become an adult. A significant proportion of the book features her story, and her view of a world where zombies are considered normal. The adults that remember the world before refer to concepts that she can't understand.

Meanwhile Milton is still rounding up zombies rather than exterminating them. The other major part of the story features a zombie who has retained the ability to think and some of his old skills, like typing. This is a bit of a change from the first book, but is handled well and I was pleasantly surprised as I'm a bit of a purist and I hate it when authors introduce gimmicky zombies.

I can't say much more without giving spoilers, but this is a solid sequel and much better written than most zombie stories.


Last Words
Last Words
by Michael Presutti
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Felt a bit disconnected, 24 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Last Words (Paperback)
This is a pretty average zombie novel in my opinion. Note that they aren't true zombies, but rather are infected live people (like in '28 Days Later' or similar) so bear that in mind if you like your zombies dead and shambling.

The premise of the story is that a virus is deliberately released from a military facility by a lone man wanting revenge. It causes people to become crazy and homicidal, so it's not long before the apocalypse is truly underway. For then on it's the usual string of bloody encounters and people being killed in gory ways.

This side of the novel is fine if you like that sort of thing, but felt really disjointed. Some chapters are in the first person, others in the third person. At least 4 of the 11 chapters have no real bearing on the rest of the book as they are effectively stand-alone scenes with no characters or events in common with the main story. I guess they add some flavour and a picture beyond the main story, but it doesn't hang together very well. The main story starts in the 5th chapter and features a former military man who is travelling north to Canada while fighting off the infected.

The book could do with a bit of editing, but it isn't the worst I've read in terms of mistakes and typos.


The Day the Machines Stopped
The Day the Machines Stopped
by Christopher Anvil
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Electricity stops flowing, 24 Aug. 2014
This book was originally published in 1964. Bearing in mind that it's 50 years old at the time of writing, it holds up pretty well in a modern setting, and a similar idea has been seen in at least a few other books since.

A scientific experiment goes wrong and alters the laws of physics themselves such that all electrical machinery fails and properties of metals are altered due to the inability of electrons to flow. The hero of the story is working for a scientific research company at the time so he and his colleagues almost immediately understand what's going on, and the implications of the event. They decide to head across several US states in order to reach a site owned by their company in a more remote location.

Overlaid onto this backdrop is a kind of love story between the hero and his female colleague. His male colleague also wants the woman for himself so their rivalry becomes an important part of the story.

As with most of these types of books we follow a journey through a rapidly-decaying society. The lack of any machinery leads to a shortage of fuel and food, although there seems to be plenty of guns and ammunition. Although I enjoyed the book, my reason for only giving 4 stars is the way that the hero and his colleagues react to this situation, as it seems slightly unrealistic and feels dated. It's very 'black and white' in that the heroes are essentially decent people who want a quiet trip and protect innocent people, while most other people seem to be fighting or robbing one another. It's a bit of an old fashioned adventure story, rather than a gritty more realistic tale of what might happen, but quite enjoyable if you can find a copy.


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

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

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: £5.89

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!


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