Tag Archives: survival

Red Rising (Red Rising saga: Book 1)- Pierce Brown

I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.’

‘I live for you,’ I say sadly.

She kisses my cheek. ‘Then you must live for more.

Red Rising is the first book and the eponym of the scifi trilogy by Pierce Brown. The saga follows the story of Darrow, a miner in the Mars deep-mines, some 700 years in the future. His kind has a hard life, toiling to extract precious minerals to terraform the world above, that they never see. However, is there more that meets the eye?

Humanity has evolved to colonize the solar system, but not beyond. The society is organized on a hierarchical caste-based system, colours being given by the role they fulfill in the society. Harsh life in the first colonisation of the Moon, centuries ago, made humans to specialize on different tasks and later being genetically modified to better fulfill their tasks. For example, Greys are policeman and soldiers, Blues are pilots are spaceships personnel, Yellows are doctors, and, on top of all, Golds, the leaders. On the bottom of the pyramid are the Reds, the miners and low jobs in general.

Darrow is a Red in the society’s hierarchical caste-based system, skilled in his job, young in age, but old according to his colour. His wife dreams of more, for her children to be free and have a better life, and she is killed by the society. She passes her dream to Darrow, who starts an epic struggle of guile, force and grit for a new society.

This is one of the best series of scifi saga, right next to Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games. Great ideas and plot, excellent writing, characters with depth and motivations, unpredictable plot and excellent pace.

Thinking bigger than the world he is.

Most impressive is the plot, which moves quickly, but with just enough detail to get to keep the reader immersed in the story. So many things are happening, but they are linear enough to be easily tracked by the reader. There are no parallel stories, the reader sees the world only through the eyes of the protagonist, which makes the complex story easy to follow.

Secondly, the motivations, the actions, the plot is credible and realistic. The protagonist is not the perfect guy, with the perfect plan. He sometimes loses, sometimes is out-foxed and out-maneuvered, with real consequences for him. Rarely there are plots with so few holes. Indeed, plot holes exist in the book, but they are few and far apart.

Finally, the writing style is head and shoulders over similar novels, with great grammar, well-researched Latin references and excellent use of English vocabulary. It is clear that the book had a great editor, helping the writer to identify weak points of the story and keep the plot progressing steadily.

No wonder the book was Goodreads choice for 2014. There was a bid war for film rights between some of the largest film corporations around (which made the author a multi-millionaire in the process) and likely there will be a movie in the making. A book to read, even if not a scifi fan.

Adrian’s Undead Diary: Dark Recollections – Chris Philbrook

I hit play on the CD player to fully set my trap, and Lady Gaga burst forth. A little bit of me died right then. I’m not saying she sucks or anything, I just think she’s a tad bit overplayed. Flavor of the month if you will. That’s not a pun regarding her likely fate as zombie food somewhere out there either.

Dark Recollections is the first book in a zombie series, following the adventures of the protagonist, Adrian, after a zombie apocalypse. The first book is a survivalist story, where Adrian, a former soldier, manages to escape the zombie rage and fortify a school campus as a strongpoint and safe house against zombies. He is alone, but has plans to contact other survivors, story that follows in the next book.

The volume reads as a journal, where Adrian presents the events or recalls how he got into and cleared the campus of zombies. The action sequences are beautifully paced, with several chapters presenting the view of other characters as well.

Journal of a survivor during a zombie apocalypse

The survival of Adrian is based on planning, luck, pragmatism and optimism. In the immediate aftermath, many people commit suicide in the face of a crumbling world and civilization. Adrian’s first kill was his mother, so the need to quickly adapt to the new reality was a prerequisite for survival from the beginning. Adrian also conscientiously decides to go alone for a while, with no other people in his compound; he would have accepted friends or acquaintances, but no newly-met people.

The drawbacks of the book is that the plot is quite straight-forward: in essence, a positive story during a catastrophe, where the protagonist survives almost unscathed to everything and has virtually perfect conditions, including physicality, to survive. He even has the prescience to buy guns in the same day as the zombie outbreak. No one invades his campus while he is away. The book is quite immersive, with detailed presentations of the world after the zombie apocalypse, but it could go even further, for example, what happened to the governmental structure, such as the army. Also, the protagonist has no hard moral decisions, except one: not looking for his girlfriend, but even there, there are arguments for his decision. Finally, there is no hard science. While, indeed, a zombie-based story is a quite a stretch of imagination, more detailed data on the aftermath, like One second after, could have brought greater depth to the book.

Overall, an entertaining book for those evenings when the reader wants a relaxing time. For the fans of the genre, one of the best zombie books after World World Z.

Koban – Stephen W. Bennett

His octet was to be limited to the same weapons these humans were given. A very detailed video of the compound’s terrain was furnished. This he shared with his octet, because every Krall had an inborn ability to memorize such details for a mission. Repetition was unnecessary.

Koban is a very imaginative and action-packed military survival sci-fi. The story revolves around Captain Mirikami, who is transporting in a passenger spaceship scientists to a far colony, when he is attacked by an unknown and far more advanced alien species. Captain Mirikami and all on board is then isolated on a dangerous planet, Koban, where he has to prove to alien war race that humanity deserve to be treated as worthy opponents.

The author creates an entire universe with this book, with a new planet and a new alien species. The Krall are very advanced military, highly physical, destroyed or enslaving every other intelligent species they met so far. They use those wars to enhance their military abilities. Humans are considered weak and very low technologically speaking, but they are still put to trial. If they succeed, aliens plan to destroy humans gradually, rather then in a one big stroke, hence the struggle of Captain Mirikami.

Scifi survival story

Stephen Bennett creates a future where genetic warfare  almost killed the entire male population and changed ways of society. The men are subservient to women and the first part of the book is full with sexist situations. After the genetic war. humanity is not fighting internally nor meeting any other intelligent species in 300 years.

The narrative is captivating, some chapters are looking at events through the eyes of predators on Koban, some others through the Krall aliens. It makes the story a lot more interesting.The book has some fantastic ideas, but with others it went overboard. The sexism is interesting, but not adding to the story. The genetic enhancement done in days leave too many logical holes.

Nonetheless, it is a solid scifi survival book, imaginative, well paced, action-packed and entertaining.

One Second After – William R. Forstchen

She’d always talk about how great Gandhi was. I’d tell her the only reason Gandhi survived after his first protest was that he was dealing with the Brits. If Stalin had been running India, he’d been dead in a second, his name forgotten.

Have you wondered what will happen if electricity suddenly stops coming? This book replies exactly at that questions, under a fictional story following an ex-military history professor, in a small town in the mountains in the United States.

Loss of electricity (not a blackout, in a blackout you kind of expect electricity to return) can have several reasons. In this book, there is an electromagnetic pulse that fries the grid and everything electric (circuitry). This threat is actually possible, and the guy in the US Army looking at this problem (asymmetrical threats) was an advisor for the book.

In case electricity stops coming, the very fiber of society disintegrates: no communications (no phones, television, internet, newspapers), no commerce (no card readers, only cash for a while, then only barter), no food (no refrigeration, no trucks to bring food to supermarkets, no machinery to harvest, no trucks to bring food from silos to animal farms), government loses the monopoly of violence (how can you announce the police of a robbery, crime, rape, if communications are down?), no medicines for the needy (diabetics and others). Also, no hygiene products for women.

Without electricity

Electricity allows to increase tremendously the efficiency of agriculture and food production. Therefore, as soon as it disappears, human population reduces to the efficiency of food production before electricity. This means mass starvation, which the book painfully describes.

The story takes place in the United States, in a mountain town. Hence, some features are present, which might be specific to the country, such as : numerous people have guns that can hunt with and many citizens have military experience. This comes as an advantage, because, as society breaks, individuals usually kept in check by police, re-surge as organized bands, taking food by force and killing. Police can’t quickly intervene, without the instant communications.  Also, many officers and hospital staff might be wanting to return home, at their loved ones, until some form of community protection is realized.

William R. Forstchen is asking many interesting, deep questions about the vulnerabilities of our society. The literary value of the book is quite low, writing is ok, fluid, but not fantastic; however, the strength of the book is coming from the really good questions that it asks. This is kind of hard fiction, from politically conservative perspective.

There are many low chance, high threat events that could destroy civilization. Supervolcanoes, meteorites, robots, plagues, but it is not a lot you can do if a meteorite comes. On the other hand, just blowing a nuclear bomb at high-altitude, for example 50 km up over a continent, the US Army colonel specialized in this issue argues, is enough to destroy a country. In the book, they don’t even know who launched the nuclear bomb. All that they know was that the launch was from a freighter out in the sea and they speculate that maybe a terrorist group or a country not friendly to US or even a large power that covered their tracks really well.

A report from nine scientists was published, unluckily in the day of the 9/11 attacks and, seemingly, a US Congress inquiry was made over this, but overridden by the terrorists attacks.

Overall, a must-read book for the interesting questions it asks.


[Picture from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Strommast-Current-Pylon-Steel-High-Voltage-Sunset-520008%5D

Glory Main – Henry O’Neil

Both sides possessed weapons that could blow a planet’s atmosphere right off or radiate the place so badly that no one could live there, but the goal of gaining a habitable planet took those weapons off the table. Instead it set the engineers from both sides working on devices that delivered their terrible effect but didn’t permanently alter the ground where they were used.

The tech had become visibly disturbed when he reached the logical conclusion that the limited war calculus would no doubt be dropped the day either side found the enemy’s home planets.

The book is a survival story during the Sim war, a war between humans and similarly-looking aliens. Lieutenant Mortas and three others crash on a desolate planet and fight to survive.

Survival scifi, could have used more imagination.

The four characters are nicely constructed, the infantryman, the scout, the tech and the psychoanalyst, and their struggle is believable and interesting. While less action-packed than other series, the pace of the story is fast enough to keep the reader engaged. The plot is nicely constructed with many twists and turns. The end is fantastic and unexpected. An original military sci fi overall.

The survival story could have been better developed and more imaginative, but it was interesting enough to keep the reader engaged. The narrative is focusing rather on characters then on the surroundings or the events. Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to follow the four in their fight.

A nice read for the fans of the genre.

The Way of Men – Jack Donovan

“Honor diversity” is an interesting slogan, because it essentially means “honor everyone and everything”. If everyone is honored equally, and everyone’s way of life is honored equally, honor has no hierarchy, and therefore honor has little value according to the economics of supply and demand. “Honor diversity” doesn’t mean more than “be nice”.
To honor a man is to acknowledge his accomplishments and recognize that he has attained a higher status within the group.

Jack Donovan presents in a framework of anarcho-primitivism what he sees as masculine values and way of life. It is a challenging book, with some extreme conclusions.

The book is short, but the topic is important. It is kind of an equivalent of extreme feminism, but on the other side of the axis, an extreme masculism, if you like.

On the plus side, the author correctly notes some masculine’s traits: why a simple excuse or shake of hands between men is enough to end a conflict, why men fight for status, why they go their own way sometimes, why men love playing contact games. The Bonobo Masturbation Society chapter is fantastic.

The way of men is the way of the gang – interesting concept.

Some points are very interesting, such as the values of man, the difference between being a good man and being good at being a man, how men talk and act in groups of men. Some research was done and presents some good stories, Romulus and Remus, Gilgamesh; though with insufficient profoundness.

On the negative side, the last chapters are insufficiently refined and the conclusions are misguided and a bit on the extreme. The book could have been so much better, if he would just had the patience to filter more the last chapters.

I don’t think that masculinity is going through a crisis, but there are some major changes, never before experienced by men. We are the first generations not being conscripted into the army, in the entire history of mankind.

Some challenging ideas. It is worthy to read it.

World War Z – Max Brooks

The swarm continued among the cars, literally eating its way up the stalled lines, all those poor bastards just trying to get away. And that’s what haunts me most about it, they weren’t headed anywhere. This was the 1-80, a strip of highway between Lincoln and North Platte. Both places were heavily infested, as well as all those little towns in between. What did they think they were doing? Who organized this exodus? Did anyone? Did people see a line of cars and join them without asking? I tried to imagine what it must have been like, stuck bum per to bumper, crying kids, barking dog, knowing what was coming just a few miles back, and hoping, praying that someone up ahead knows where he’s going.
You ever hear about that experiment an American journalist did in Moscow in the 1970s? He just lined up at some building, nothing special about it, just a random door. Sure enough, someone got in line behind him, then a couple more, and before you knew it, they were backed up around the block. No one asked what the line was for. They just assumed it was worth it. I can’t say if that story was true. Maybe it’s an urban legend, or a cold war myth. Who knows?
The book is a collection of reports that present a zombie apocalypse. Max Brooks is fantastic in the way he presents the apocalypse, not in a single description, but through a myriad of small puzzles divided between the reports and interviews.
The stories are so varied and imaginative that you just can’t leave the book out of your hand. The third person narrators range from India to China and the US, from military personnel to ordinary refugees, all bringing a new angle, a new experience, a new sentiment, a new tragedy to the picture.
Why some people have this incredible fascination with zombies, I can’t understand. But the book is good.

There is no single narrative line, but you are gradually made understating how the apocalypse unfolds. There is no classic protagonist, following the zombies; the protagonist is the zombies themselves, through their overwhelming and disrupting, horrifying presence. Or maybe the protagonist is humanity itself, through its many voices that is presented. The narrative is truly a masterpiece.

There is also a movie with the same title, but it has nothing in common with the book. Read the book, it is fascinating even if you are not fans of the genre. Zombies could be replaced by aliens, volcanoes or rabid animals. What really stands out is the human story and how it is narrated.