Featured New Release Of The Week: The Night Of Many Endings by Melissa Payne

This week we’re looking at a tale that manages to combine elements from disaster movies, The Lord Of The Rings, and The Breakfast Club into a beautiful and poignant tale with strong yet never preachy social commentary. This week we’re looking at The Night of Many Endings by Melissa Payne.

Adult Breakfast Club During A Disaster. Ok, so I love me a good disaster movie, and The Breakfast Club (look it up, kiddos) is one of the most iconic movies Hollywood has ever produced, at least for those of us who were anywhere from young kids (and mostly learning of its amazingness a few years after it released) to young adults (who were actively living it) in that era. Here, Payne manages to hit both notes while admittedly not having quite the same tear-jerking punches of both of her prior novels. The front part of the book sets up the disaster, and actually does nearly as good a job as the Tommy Lee Jones movie Volcano in showing just how “normal” the day of the disaster is. Then the disaster strikes and our more Breakfast Club mode kicks in. Here, our cast isn’t trapped by an overbearing Principal in detention, but in a life and death struggle to stay alive and stay warm during a brutal snowstorm – but the ultimate tones and themes are very similar, up to and including various relevant tragic backstories. (Note that only the currently-relevant-backstories-at-time-of-publication part is similar between the two. The actual backstories are actually wildly divergent and yet great looks into under-told stories of each type of person.) And yet – get ready for yet another movie reference – the ending drags on a bit similar to The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King. Ok, the “coronation” has finally happened. We don’t need half the tale being what happens after! (Note, nowhere near that bad here – more like the back 20% ish of the tale.)

Still, the writing is as beautiful and poignant as ever, the overall backstories are inventive in their rarity in literature, and ultimately this *is* a really strong book that everyone should read. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Chimera by Michael McBride

Human Hubris Leads To Disaster. This is a creature feature tale combined with a disaster tale, with a unique and fairly inventive creature combining with a massive blizzard in the Arctic Circle to create one hell of a ride. McBride uses a dual timeline approach to show us how the creature came to be and just how one scientist in particular had their noble goals turn out so horrifically, along with showing the “now” of having to rescue any possible survivors once the creature runs on its inevitable (due to the genre) rampage. McBride actually teases some even more horrific creatures, but the focus is completely on the titular Chimera. While not in any way a political book (similar to the greats of the genre in that regard), in showing yet another way that altruism and hubris can in fact lead to disaster, this book actually makes some solid points about caution and even corporate and government interests – and back-room dealings – in the areas at hand. But again, these are more minor points in the tale, more throw-away commentary that fleshes out minor characters than truly central to the actual story. Truly a story that fires on all cylinders and offers much for anyone that is remotely a fan of science fiction in general or creature features in particular. Very much recommended.

This review of Chimera by Michael McBride was originally written on September 26, 2021.

#BookReview: Unnatural Disasters by Gonzalo Lizarralde

Excellent Within Scope, Ignores Alternative Explanations. This one was a bit weird. About halfway into the narrative, I was thinking this was going to be a three star at best, because it was *so* hyper “woke” / “progressive”. But then I read the description – I had picked up the ARC on the strength of the title alone – and saw that most all of the problems I had with the book were *exactly what the description said the book would have*. Well, crap. Ok, *within that scope*, this book is a true 5* narrative. Maybe a touch light on the bibliography at just 17% or so of the overall length of the book (more normal range is 20-30% in my experience), but not too terrible there. But ultimately I had to ding a star because it *does* lean too much into the author’s own biases and refuses to consider – and at times even outright dismisses – alternative explanations such as risky geography and geology, among others, in many of the disasters it covers. Still, the book has a lot of solid points about the modern “green” / “sustainable” / “resilient” building movements, if solidly from the “woke” / “progressive” side. Enough that even if you are one that normally can’t stomach such tripe (I myself am largely among this camp), this text really does have enough good material that you need to wade through it to see the arguments from even that perspective. Recommended.

This review of Unnatural Disasters by Gonzalo Lizarralde was originally written on July 3, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid debut featuring tough choices in the aftermath of a disaster. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell.

First, here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Tough Choices. Great Debut. This is a solidly written, compelling story that is a tremendous debut book. Farrell manages to use a miracle during a disaster to show that miracles… are not always that… while also showing just how complicated and messy real life is in oh so many ways. The mystery is solid enough to keep the reader invested, and then the action kicks into high gear a bit as things begin to unravel. Finally, a choice is made in an instant that will affect numerous lives – and Farrell shows all of this with remarkable reality. The overall style and tone won’t necessarily be exactly to everyone’s liking, but stick around – the book really is very, very good. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the publisher’s press release about the book followed by some praise for it from a variety of sources:
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell”

#BookReview: Running From COVID In Our RV Cocoon by Gerri Almand

Real Life Disaster Movie Memoir. This is one of those memoirs from someone who was “on the ground” at an event that so very many of us have lived through and with, and thus someone whose experiences are at least worth exploring. That noted, Almand and her husband are both 70 ish yr old seniors with comorbidities (including Type 1 Diabetes in her husband) that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, and this does in fact inform much of her own thoughts on the issue. Still, as a memoir of a sort of Gilligan’s Island – where they went out expecting one thing and got something dramatically different that cast them into a survival situation – this is quite remarkable. From being at Mardi Gras 2020 to being at some of the last NBA games to be played outside the “bubbles” to piecing together where to go in light of confusing, conflicting, and scant data to the various experiences of coming to terms with the new life and reality, this is truly an interesting memoir. Recommended.

This review of Running From COVID In Our RV Cocoon by Gerri Almand was originally written on May 20, 2021.

#BookReview: Doom by Niall Ferguson

Complete And Well Documented Examination of Disaster. This is a book that looks not just at one disaster or one type of disaster, but at all of them. It doesn’t look to one threat or another threat or a third threat, but moves between types of threats and shows how they, really, are all interrelated by a common element: the human, and in particular the governmental, response to them. From ancient plagues and volcanoes to hot-off-the-press (at the time of writing a few months prior to even my own seeming first public review level early read) details of the current global catastrophes. While docking a star for Ferguson’s high praise of John Maynard Keynes (suffice it to say I tend to hold economists such as Hayak, Bastiat, and Von Mises to levels Ferguson holds Keynes), that isn’t really my style since those are more a couple of aside level comments randomly in this near 500 page volume. But also, don’t let the near 500 page count deter you – in my copy, 48% of that text (or nearly 200 pages) was bibliography, making this one of the more well documented books I’ve read in the last few years. Truly a book that needs to be considered by at minimum policy makers but really the public at large, at times it doesn’t really go far enough to point out that voluntary community based disaster preparedness can often do more good than government top down approaches (even as he continually points out that the failures most often happen at middle management levels). Very much recommended.

This review of Doom by Niall Ferguson was originally written on January 17, 2021.