When the world is devastated by GMO plants over-running the land and destroying cropland, humanity splits into multiple factions. There’s the people who firmly believe in transforming people so that they can photosynthesize food from the sun–and have green skin. There’s the cannibals, who have returned to a hunter/gatherer way and eat humans when necessary. Unbeknownst to the green folk, there’s a holdout of Old Order Amish. They’ve changed from how they were in the past but still hold onto many of their ways. In particular, they have decided that taking green skin is the Mark of the Beast, and will not go for it.
Tula is a scientist among the green folk who is tasked with assisting cannibal children who are kidnapped and converted. Levi is an Amish who leaves the compound against orders, seeking yet another group of scientists who are supposed to live in a mountain and may have the cure to his dying son’s Cystic Fibrosis. When Levi is swept up in a green raid of cannibal land, his and Tula’s worlds collide with unimaginable consequences.
I picked this up because the cover of a green-skinned woman in a desert appealed to me, and then the description seemed like an interesting post-apocalyptic future. This is certainly and interesting and unique read for any fans of post-apocalyptic or dystopian literature.
The future is imaginative with many different groups and reactions to the botanicaust (the destruction of plant matter that is considered this world’s apocalypse). As someone who has studied the Amish, I appreciated how the author imagined how the Old Order would handle such a crisis and address it for the future. Allowing people into the compound if they are willing to convert seems logical, and showing that the Old Order did accept some technological innovation also makes sense. Similarly, the green scientists who seek to photosynthesize everyone and don’t seem to care too much if the cannibals want to be photosynthesized or not make logical sense. The scientists believe this is the solution in a world without enough food, and hey haven’t bothered to do any cross-cultural studying to see if there is any rhyme or reason or value to the cannibal lifestyle. This again is a logical position for a group of scientists to hold. The other group of scientists who live in the mountain and have managed to find the solution to not aging are a great contrast to the groups of greens. Whereas the greens do sometimes do evil but don’t intend to, they only intend to be helping (with the exception of one bad guy character), the mountain dwellers have been turned inhumane by their abnormally long lives. These three groups set up a nice contrast of pros and cons of scientific solutions and advancement. At what point do we stop being human and at what point are we being too stubborn in resisting scientific advancement? How do we maintain ethics among all of this? The exploration of these groups and these questions was my favorite part of the book.
The plot is complex and fast-paced, visiting many areas of the land and groups of people. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the romance, but I can see where others would find that it adds to the book. I just wasn’t particularly a fan of the pairing that was established, but for no reason other than it seemed a bit illogical to me. Then again, romance is not always logical.
The one thing that really bothered me in the book was the representation of Down Syndrome and the language used to refer to it and those who have it. The mountain scientists have children, but as a result of tampering with their own genetics, all of their children have Down Syndrome. First, I don’t like that this makes it appear as if Down Syndrome is a punishment to the evil scientists who went too far with science. Down Syndrome is a condition some people are born with. It is not a condition as the result of anything a parent did, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. Second, all of the characters with Down Syndrome are presented as large, bumbling oafs with hearts of gold. There is just as much variety to the personalities and abilities of those with Down Syndrome as there are in those of us without Down Syndrome. Finally, the author persists in referring to these characters as:
a Down’s Syndrome woman (loc 2794)
or of course, “a Down’s Syndrome man.” First, the preferred term for Down Syndrome is Down Syndrome, not Down’s Syndrome. This is a mistake that is easy to make, though (I have made it myself), and I am willing to give the author a pass for that. The more upsetting element in the way she refers to these characters though is that she always lists the condition first and then the person, not the other way around. It is always preferred, in any illness or condition, to list the person first and the illness or condition second. For instance, a woman with cancer, not a cancerous woman. A man with PTSD, not a PTSD man. A child with Down Syndrome, not a Down Syndrome child. I cringed every single time this happened, and it happens a lot in the section of the book that takes place in the mountain. Given that this is an indie book, and it is thus quite easy to make editing changes and fixes, I would hope that the author would go through and fix this simple aspect of language. It would be a show of good faith to the entire community of people who have Down Syndrome, as well as their families. For more on the preferred language when referring to Down Syndrome and people who have Down Syndrome, please check out this excellent guide, written by the National Down Syndrome Society.
It’s a real bummer to me that the language about Down Syndrome and presentation of these characters isn’t better, because if it was, this would have been a five star read for me.
Overall, this is an interesting and unique post-apocalyptic future with an action-packed plot. Those who are sensitive to the language used to refer to Down Syndrome and representation of people with Down Syndrome may wish to avoid it, due to an unfortunate section where characters with Down Syndrome are referred to improperly and written a bit two-dimensionally.
4 out of 5 stars
Book Review: Preserver by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens, and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by William Shatner)
Captain Kirk and his nemesis from the mirror universe, Tiberius Kirk, pair up to hunt down the preservers, orbs left by some more intelligent race. Kirk is teaming up with Tiberius because Tiberius holds the key to saving his wife’s and unborn son’s lives. Their quest will reveal hidden secrets about the universe.
This is the second audiobook my fiancé and I listened to on our road trip to and from Michigan. We listened to the previous book in the series, Dark Victory (review), on the drive out. We listened to this one on the drive back. (Each direction is a 13 hour drive). Whereas the previous book kept us entertained and awake for our road trip, this one left us confused and concerned we might actually be drifting off into sleep periodically, because it made so little sense. (For the record, we were not drifting off into sleep. This book just makes very little sense).
All of the audiobook qualities that were great about the previous book stay great here. Shatner’s narration alternates between hilariously good and hilariously bad but mostly is just hilariously Shatner. The sound effects continue to be stellar and one of my favorite parts of the book. It continues to feel like listening to a Star Trek movie as a radio show, and that it was kept me going through it.
The plot, however, just makes very little sense and seems to fall apart. Whereas in the previous book a continuing plot point is Shatner’s ruined hands, in this one it’s Shatner’s unborn (and then born) son who is all kinds of genetically messed up thanks to the poison in his mother’s system from the cloned children of Tiberius. (Are you confused yet?) This could possibly make for an interesting plot, but it’s dropped frequently to pursue the other plot about the preserver orb things. We read this book and both fiancé and I are still unclear as to precisely what the orbs mean. We’re not even sure if they’re good or bad. This is how confusing the plot is, I can’t even properly sum it up for you folks. In spite of the plot being really confusing, there are still some fun scenes, such as when Kirk meets his son for the first time. It’s a short audiobook, so I’m not unhappy I listened to it, even if I mostly only understood the Kirk’s son plot.
Overall, while this provides very little clear closure to the plot point set up earlier in the trilogy, it does feature the birth of Kirk’s son and all the fun of listening to a radio show version of a Star Trek movie. If you liked the previous books in the trilogy and don’t mind a confusing plot, you’ll enjoy finishing up the trilogy.
3 out of 5 stars
Book Review: Dark Victory by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens, and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by William Shatner)
Our universe has been invaded by the inhabitants of the Mirror Universe–a parallel universe that is a dark, twisted version of our own. Now, Captain Kirk, with the captains and crews of The Next Generation and Voyager must battle evil versions of themselves, led by the evil version of Kirk — Tiberius Kirk. What nightmares does Tiberius have planned for the Federation?
Back in December, my fiancé and I road-tripped to Michigan to visit his family. It’s about a 13 hour drive, and I had Audible credits, so I suggested we pick out a book. We both love Star Trek so we investigated what Star Trek options are available. This one jumped out at us for the obvious reason that it’s narrated by William Shatner himself! Other reviewers complained about sound effects, but that just made us more excited, so we downloaded it, oblivious to the fact that it’s the second book in a series. This book reads like a radio program version of a Star Trek movie featuring a crazy mash-up of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Voyager.
The action starts right away, which was admittedly a bit confusing, since we hadn’t read the first book. It starts with Tiberius and his crew escaping into our own universe, and Kirk and his trying to battle them. Also, Kirk’s hands are mysteriously mangled from something that happened in the first book. Ultimately, we were able to catch up with the plot and follow it somewhat. Kirk is in love with a woman who is pregnant with his baby. Tiberius seems intent on getting to some orbs that the Federation wants to protect. Kirk wants to stop him, but the Federation and some spy branch of theirs are trying to keep him from engaging in the fight anymore. They even go so far as to lie to him and tell him that Tiberius is dead. It’s a complex, twisting plot that makes some sense when listening to it, although summarizing it is nigh on impossible. Suffice to say, that if you enjoy the concept of the mirror universe and the characters from three series all interacting together, you’ll probably enjoy this plot. Plus, there’s also Kirk’s wedding in this book, and that is just not to be missed. (There are horses! And red leather outfits!)
What really made the book for me was the audiobook presentation of it. It is presented like a radio program, complete with amazing sound effects. The communicator actually beeps! There are impact noises from shots at the Enterprise! There are even whinnies from the horses. If you’re a more serious Star Trek fan, you might be irritated by the relative kitsch of this book and its reading, but if you enjoy Star Trek for its periodic utter ridiculous, then you’ll enjoy the way this audiobook is presented.
Shatner’s narration is sometimes good but often hilariously bad. His voice for women is unnaturally high and soft, making me giggle each time, and mysteriously, he uses the same voice for Captain Picard as for women. Listening to him narrate anyone who is not Captain Kirk is a bit like watching Captain Kirk “fight” in the Original Series. I enjoyed it for its ridiculousness, not for its quality.
Overall, if you’re a Star Trek fan who doesn’t take the show too seriously, you’ll enjoy this radio program like audiobook with a plot mashing up everything from a mirror universe to somehow placing Captains Kirk, Picard, and Janeway on the same ship.
4 out of 5 stars
Previous Books in Series:
Dr. Montague is a scholar of the occult, and he invites three other people to stay with him in Hill House, which is notorious for being haunted. There’s jovial Theodora, timid Eleanor, and the future heir of the house, Luke. What starts as a light-hearted adventure quickly turns sinister in this horror classic.
I actually started reading this audiobook way back in September for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. It’s only 7.5 hours long, so I thought it’d be a quick read. I think the fact that it wasn’t demonstrates quite well how not drawn into the story I was. This is a classic haunted house tale that perhaps might not work for the modern reader, depending on how much horror they generally imbibe.
This is going to be a quick review because I honestly don’t have too much to say about the book. Four people arrive at a house. Things appear normal, except one of them, Eleanor, clearly is a bit more emotionally unstable than the rest. She is, for instance, shocked that anyone is interested in her or asks her questions. She also has trouble with her own identity, such as knowing for sure what she likes to eat. Odd things start to happen in the house, and because Eleanor is odd, the others aren’t sure if it’s the house doing them or Eleanor herself. Eleanor becomes overly attached to Theodora. Drama ensues.
None of the house horror scenes really got to me, because frankly I’ve seen worse in plenty of other horror I read. I do love the genre. The parts that actually disturbed me were when the others in the household were inexplicably cruel to Eleanor. That dynamic of an odd woman randomly tossed in with strangers who proceed to be mean to her in a highschoolish way held my interest more than the house did. People and their cruelty are so much more frightening than a haunted house. I understand that the book is sort of leaving it up to the reader to wonder if the house or the people really drive Eleanor crazy, but frankly I think the ending removes all question on this point.
Similarly, there are definitely some undertones in the Theodora/Eleanor relationship that indicates they might possibly have had a fling early on and then Theodora abruptly distances herself from Eleanor when she gets too clingy. None of this is said outright, however it is heavily implied that Theodora’s roommate back home is her lover who she had a quarrel with, and she and Eleanor establish a close bond early on in the book. The problem is this all stays subtext and is never brought out in the open of the book. I get it that this book was published in 1959 so it probably had to stay subtext and was most likely shocking to a reader in the 50s. But to me, a modern reader, it felt like the book kept almost getting interesting and then backing off from it. The combination of the former issue and this one meant that I was left feeling unengaged and uninterested. Basically, I feel that the book didn’t go quite far enough to be shocking, horrifying, or titillating.
The audiobook narration by Bernadette Dunne was excellent as always, and the main reason I kept listening rather than just picking up a copy of the book and speed reading it. I love listening to her voice.
Overall, this classic was boundary pushing when it was first published but it might not come across that way to a modern reader. Readers who read a lot of modern horror might find this book a bit too tame for their tastes. Those interested in the early works of the genre will still enjoy the read, as will modern readers looking for horror lite. Readers looking for the rumored GLBTQ content in this book will most likely be disappointed by the subtlety of it, although those interested in early representation in literature will still find it interesting.
3 out of 5 stars