Review of Natural Selection

A shocking biological discovery. A previously unknown predatory species. Evolving just like the dinosaurs. Now. Today. Being forced out of its world and into man’s for a violent first encounter. Weaving science and thriller in a way not seen since Jurassic Park, Natural Selection introduces a phenomenally dangerous new species that is rapidly adapting in a way never before seen. A mystery. A chase. A vast expansive puzzle. A team of marine scientists is on the verge of making the most stunning discovery in the history of man.

That sounds pretty interesting right? And the cover, with its giant set of jaws filled with razor-sharp teeth, draws one in too.

The book has a lot of promise – a super-intelligent, carnivorous flying predator and a team of marine biologists out to learn about and later deal with them. Based on that, it sounded a lot like Steve Alten’s Meg series, which while absolutely fictional, were fun books to read. That’s about what I was expecting here – something plausible but fictional and a fair bit of gore and mayhem.

The fictional monster in Natural Selection is the Demon Ray – a massive intelligent ray forced from the depths that learns to fly AND breath air. I found this unlikely. Sure evolution occurs, but two such quantum leaps in the same generation? It was simply too fast.

But that’s not the only problem with the book. Some reviews complain about paper-thin characters, poor dialogue, tc, but honestly, when you are reading a book like this, those are all secondary.

The biggest problem is that the monster doesn’t eat anyone until well into the book. When the big ‘hunt down the monster’ scene occurs, it’s a handful of scientists tracking it in a park? Seriously? If this thing is so dangerous, why aren’t they better armed or calling out the National Guard to assist them?

All in all, if you’re willing to suspend belief, it’s a fairly decent thriller. Personally, Freedman pushed too far and made it unbelievable.

Two stars out of five.

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October is Monster Month!

I’ve read a number of monster horror novels over the past year. Instead of publishing them piecemeal throughout the year, I thought, what better month to publish my thoughts on monster novels than October?

I haven’t finalized the list yet, but here are a few of the titles I’ll be reviewing;

Natural Selection by Dave Freedman
Zoo by James Patterson
Ancestor by Scott Siglar
The Games by Ted Kosmatka

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I’ll be at Edmonton Expo this week

I’m happy to announce that I am scheduled to be at this year’s Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. I’m still not famous enough to be a guest, so I’m going as an exhibitor for now…

It takes place this week (September 26 – 28) at Northlands Expo Centre.

This year, they are bringing in Raj & Howard from the Big Bang Theory!

Who’s the hero and who’s the sidekick?

Edmonton Comic & Expo didn’t stop there – they got tons of other guests from a wide variety of movie and TV franchises.

I'll be signing (and selling paperback copies) of Zombie Night in Canada: First Period and live tweeting from the convention.

So if you happen to be in/near Edmonton this week, drop by and say hi – I might even have a cool gift for anyone who mentions this blog (hint, hint)!

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Worried about Peak Oil?

If you’re not, this might change your mind!

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Worried about an Alien Invasion?

If you are, you might want to watch this video:

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After Armageddon – A SHTF scenario

This History.com show on a global flu pandemic offers a ton of great tips, many of which are applicable in almost any survival situation.

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Review of Slow Apocalypse

Despite wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 9/11, the United States’ dependence on foreign oil has kept the nation tied to the Middle East. A scientist has developed a cure for America’s addiction—a slow-acting virus that feeds on petroleum, turning it solid. But he didn’t consider that his contagion of an Iraqi oil field would spread to infect the fuel supply of the entire world…

In Los Angeles, screenwriter Dave Marshall heard this scenario from a retired U.S. Marine and government insider who acted as a consultant on Dave’s last film. It sounded as implausible as many of his scripts, but the reality is much more frightening than anything he can envision.

An ordinary guy armed with extraordinary information, Dave hopes his survivor’s instinct will kick in so he can protect his wife and daughter from the coming apocalypse that will alter the future of Earth—and humanity…

So reads the preview on Amazon of John Varley’s Slow Apocalypse. Somehow I missed this one when it came out, but I saw it on a trip to the book store – and it sounded interesting enough to get me to cough up the $10.

Overall, it was a decent read with an interesting premise – a screenwriter hears something ludicrous from a retired Army Colonel who used to provide him with story ideas. The characters are generally likeable and the story is interesting. Varley keeps the apocalyptic mayhem rolling with natural disasters (Dave Marshall live in LA, think about it) one after the other, as well as the things we might expect if the power went out and our high energy civilization collapsed.

The protagonist, Dave, after seeing his informant assassinated almost in front of his eyes, flees the scene and begins to stockpile food, fuel, water and everything else one might need to survive a catastrophe. Interestingly however, most of what he buys is he geared to the short term, not things that will make his life better long term, like seeds or tools or spare parts or even solar-powered chargers for his electronics, as one might need if there was suddenly no gas to power our society any longer. That made it interesting to me, as the author could have turned him into a prepper extraordinaire and ruined the novel. Instead, Marshall and members of his family make mistakes here and there, which is far more realistic than a screenwriter suddenly doing everything right all the time.

The only drawback for me was that I would have preferred to see a more global approach in this novel. Varley sets the novel in Los Angeles and never really leaves the area for very long. He describes in detail which street intersects with another street in LA, which neighbourhoods are located next to each other and so on. It would have been nice to use a broader lens at time to really see how something like this might affect the entire country, if not the world. Other End of Oil novels like Ill Wind and World Made by Hand show a wider canvass and were, I think, stronger for it.

While this wasn’t the best apocalyptic story I’ve read, it was better than quite a few and kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. Best of all, Varley adds an Epilogue so that readers can get some closure and sense of what happened across the country.

*** Three out of five stars

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I’ll do my best to be awesome!

Okay, I realize most of us already have more than enough email to deal with on a daily basis. However, sometimes it’s much easier to fire off a quick email than it is to write up a post. I know that sounds lazy, but sometimes I wonder if anyone honestly reads the stuff I post here!

So, if you are interested in occasional – and I do mean occasional – emails about Zombie Night in Canada and other stuff I’m doing (like when I’m changing prices, releasing new titles or offering stuff for free), then please sign up.

Newsletter Sign up here

I’ll try to be interesting and I promise NOT to SPAM you, as that’s one thing I hate more than anything myself!

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Review of Supervolcano: Eruption

Yellowstone National Park sits on a hotspot: a plume of molten rock coming up from deep inside the earth capable of volcanic eruptions far greater than any that have occurred in times past. It has been silent for many years, providing false security for a nation unprepared for the full force and fury of nature unleashed.

It begins with explosions that send lava and mud flowing far beyond Yellowstone towards populated areas. Clouds of ash drift across the country, nearly blanketing the land from coast to coast. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves facing the dawn of a new ice age as temperatures plummet worldwide.

Colin Ferguson is a police lieutenant in a suburb of Los Angeles, where snow is falling for the first time in decades. He fears for his family who are spread across America, refugees caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe where humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world…

Sounds like a pretty solid premise right? On the surface it is, which when coupled with Turtledove’s story-telling abilities and writing, it sounds like a potentially awesome story.

But Turtledove blows it. He creates a lot of very unsympathetic and unlikable characters, which is his first mistake. The protagonist, Colin, is okay, but the rest of his family are so bad you almost hope that some of them get wiped out by the volcano. His two sons are burn-outs who spend their lives more concerned with smoking pot than doing anything constructive with their lives and his daughter is both promiscuous and man-hating at the same time. His ex-wife is a whiner who spends most of the book complaining that her life sucks and does little to solve her problems.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

The next mistake he makes is that the disaster really only seriously affects some people living in the flyover states (Colin and his family all reside in California). Sure, people on the coasts have to worry about rising gas prices (preventing them from driving everywhere), power shortages (which make it difficult it is to charge their cellphones), or that the food they are eating – which is still relatively abundant – isn’t as fresh as it was prior to the disaster. The worst thing that happens to any of Colin’s family is that one narrowly escapes the fallout plume and winds up in a FEMA-run refugee camp.

There is no real breakdown in society even though most farms are unable to produce food, there is no money to buy oil/gas to run civilization or really any of the other standard fare of most apocalyptic stories. For me, that was the real kicker, as this was an apocalyptic novel without an apocalypse!

I really enjoy reading Turtledove’s alternate history books – he is an absolute master at it. Unfortunately, he ISN’T a master of the apocalypse and should probably stick to writing alternate history.

Three stars out of five.

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Will your city survive a zombie apocalypse?

Back in March, Estately Blog did some research and came up with this wonderful map of which American states might not survive a zombie apocalypse.

Then, Edmonton’s own Mike Ross, did his own take on the topic, looking at which Canadian cities might survive a zombie apocalypse.

While I didn’t totally agree with his methodology – not all military bases are created equally and comparing St. John’s tiny Naval base with Edmonton’s huge army base was incorrect IMHO – it was still interesting to see.

I also found it interesting that his research dovetailed quite nicely with what I posited for the Zombie Night in Canada trilogy.

So using Mike’s numbers, I created the following visual map of Canadian cities and how they would fare in a zombie apocalypse.

I took some liberties and added in a few cities he didn’t have (Charlottetown, Fredricton, Kelowna, Iqaluit, Whitehorse and Yellowknife). Those city’s colours are NOT based on his research data, which I don’t have access to, but based on educated guesses (climate, military bases, gun ownership, fitness, etc.). In the case of the three Territorial capitals, their colour is based largely on climate (cold most of the year) and gun ownership (lots of people are hunters/trappers and/or members of the Canadian Rangers).

Anyways, here it is…

As Mike noted in his post, you really don’t want to be in southern Ontario is a zombie apocalypse erupts – you’re pretty much zombie bait!

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