The Bunker Diary – Book Review

Bought Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary randomly after seeing it in a list of recent-ish YA books. Entirely worth it. You can check it out at Goodreads, and here it is on Amazon.

Here’s the review:

When I finished this book, I slowly rose, lifted it protectively to my chest, walked a short distance to place it tenderly on a shelf, slumped to the floor, and stroked my sweet kitten. Only then did I begin to cry.

Did not expect that. Thinking on it, though, it makes perfect sense. Poetic, beautiful, miserable, realistic, empty-but-not, pointless-but-not sense. How many kidnappings happen like this? How many lives of the most unfortunate, whatever their circumstances—war, abuse, famine, bigotry—happen like this, in total ignorance and agony? Why? There’s no reason, none good enough. This is real stuff. No movie gloss, no impossible stunts. Just cruelty and slow, sad loss of almost everything.

Expected this to be sort of a combo of hellish reality TV and Saw. Bits of both, with added essence from Danganronpa and Changi, with some seriously twisted psychological experimentation included, whether that is His (the unknown captor’s) purpose or not. Was numb throughout most of it, but heavily compelled to read on, gutted by the helplessness, desperation and almost-utter-hopelessness—there is still some lovely, stubborn optimism hidden in here—every sensation delivered painfully by the diary format, nothing to do but self-reflect, survive, and maybe try to make things less terrible for those you’ve come to care for and depend on. Being as in the dark as the characters as to every how and why was frustrating, but, again, it’s real. Most everyone’s guts would be twisted and minced, reading this.

Loved Linus—he’s nothing but a sweet kid trying to sort himself out, only to be snared into nightmare by his good heart. Seeing him left to try and finish this sorting out in such a brutal situation is heartbreaking. Every character, their reactions, their attempts to cope—they’re all relatable, all understandable. Linus’ perspective of his fellow prisoners is poignant—through him, I see much of myself in this mixed bag of individuals. Not a great thought, in some cases. They don’t all get on—there’s some serious dislike going on with any number of causes—but there’s no desire to hurt, no sinking en masse into uncontrolled violence, despite no hope of salvation (though things get rougher with His intervention). I’m glad of this. It’s one of very few bright-ish points in this bleak novel.

The stream of consciousness parts are pretty intense—don’t think I’ve read any quite so raw. The random reflections and great importance of such little things, like remembering rhymes, worked well. What do people think about in this situation? What can they think about in this situation? Anything to distract, even when they can’t think about finding distractions any more—a powerful protective mechanism, I think.

I’ll repeat a few words to finish, I suppose—painful, realistic, beautiful. Very dark, clever and thoughtful, terrible content handled not quite delicately, but humanly. Kevin Brooks is most deserving of the high praise The Bunker Diary has received. Four and a half stars from me—shall be thinking of random moments from this book at random times for a long while.

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Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands – Book Review

Met a nice author on Goodreads and read their book. Enjoyed it. You can have a look at W.G. White on Goodreads and purchase the book (it’s cheap) from Amazon.

walking

Here’s the review:

It’s a challenge with 100,000 words or more. But with Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands, White has created depth. Introducing a new protagonist with each story, each bringing a new perspective and trudging through poles-apart circumstances—this is despite the Walkers and Riders living practically on top of each other and highlights the distrust between them—White has crafted a full world with limited page space. More little touches, such as differences in speech even among the Walkers, help flesh out the life going on around the stories and make this book fulfilling on more levels than only the surface plots.

I’m a fan of dystopian stories and was attracted to this uniquely-imagined rover future. The people here still manage to be selfish and bigoted despite having lost everything—somehow I’m not surprised. But there’s still good, and it shines through in each story in different ways, both blatant and quiet. A literary boost now and then, reassurance there’s no need to give up on our race just yet, is always welcome.

As with many indie books I’ve read, there are some grammatical issues here. As well, there were a few words that seemed out of place, a few sentences that were confused and briefly confused me. However, White’s style is generally engaging, and there are multiple examples of quite powerful descriptive writing.

The Rider and The Shuffler stood out in my mind, the former painfully close to the bone and the latter a solid redemption story. The Cultist was violent and sad, always a poignant combination. The Walker manages to be both twisted and touching, a feat I respect, while The Chaperone covers twisted and twisted, if that’s your thing—White should be proud of that creature of horror he’s created here.

Walking imagines a bleak, evocative world through appealing characters we can get behind, even if we don’t agree with what they’ve done. Three and a half stars from me; I’d recommend this book to those who like satisfying, visceral reads in one sitting.

Imminent Danger Book Review

I took my time about it, but here it is:  a review of Michelle Proulx’s exceptional novel Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight Into It. A fantastic read—why not head over to her site (links above) for a look? Definitely worth more than a click.

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I’d been meaning to read Imminent Danger for some time. When I finally did read this independently-released young adult science fiction romance—a genre I’m now hoping to see much more of—it was after trudging through a book a really didn’t enjoy at all. I’m not meaning to make comparisons here, but reading Imminent Danger directly after that disappointing book did highlight many glowing aspects of this very well-written novel.

For starters, despite being set predominantly in space surrounded by many-armed blue aliens and the like, this novel felt real. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s a good, realistic speculative fiction. Extra-terrestrials and setting aside—vivid as the descriptions of beautiful space crafts and sprawling alien marketplaces are—I think a heavy contributor to this strong sense of real is the dialogue. This was natural and unforced—an author’s skill in generating such dialogue may be easily overlooked until a few samples of novels chock-full of unnatural dialogue are endured.

Eris I found to be a brilliant protagonist. Though she spends much of her time forced to be a damsel in considerable distress by the increasingly dire situations she finds herself in, she is down-to-earth about it, a determined individual and very easy to relate to. Varrin is terrible and wonderful, charming and appalling—the kind of person anyone would dearly love to shove in a muddy puddle. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would be able to pull it off—he’s too wily. I hope Eris manages something along those lines in the sequels—sequels I’m very much looking forward to.

This novel was exciting to read, fast-paced, and somewhat addictive, but perhaps what I loved most about Imminent Danger was that it made me laugh. A lot. A sizable fraction of my time with this novel was spent giggling aloud—there are not many better signs of a good time than that.

Michelle Proulx’s Imminent Danger was an absolute delight to read and a novel I highly recommend to all lovers of the young adult genre. Four and a half gold stars for you, Michelle 🙂