Robert’s #CBR5 Review #04: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Another “oops, forgot to cross-post this review” from my blog. Only two months behind. It’s fine.

The trick to creating a successful dystopian novel is to convince the reader that the wild alternate future could occur. Margaret Atwood has done it three times now with the first two books in her Oryx and Crake trilogy and the modern sci-fi classic The Handmaid’s Tale. The novels are all meticulously researched, pulling from current events, culture, and science to connect to the present understanding of the world and society.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodIn the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood relies on historical research to drive the creation of the Republic of Gilead. Various governments and social structures are combined into a believable vision of a religious totalitarian regime where women have no power in their own lives. Atwood uses everything from the mythology of the Bible and actual military revolution to push a realistic worst case scenario to its uninterrupted conclusion.

The research helps make the novel believable. Research alone, however, cannot create a compelling read. The Handmaid’s Tale generates suspense by structuring the story like an upside down pyramid. We meet Offred (Of-Fred) after the government of the United States has been overthrown and turned into the Republic of Gilead. Offred recalls how the rights of women were taken away one by one until everyone who didn’t immediately flee the country was trapped within its borders.

The broad narrative of social revolution shifts to a slightly more focused slice of life story about a typical handmaid. Continue reading

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Robert’s #CBR5 Review #03: Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

Originally published at my blog months ago but not actually cross-posted here. Whoops.

Zombie by Joyce Carol OatesZombie by Joyce Carol Oates might be the most perfect horror novel ever written. It is a masterpiece of suspense that never tries to misdirect you. What you read is what you get and that’s what’s so terrifying about it.

Oates uses the Poe device of the self-proclaimed unreliable narrator to create a piece of Hitchcock-style suspense. We know the bomb is underneath the table and the narrator will not escape, but he doesn’t know that. He really believes his plans are not only foolproof but logical and just.

Quentin P. is a disturbed young man. He is already a registered sex offender for his previous attempts at sexual conquest. Quentin knows he likes teenage boys and will do anything within his power to create a perfect sex slave. He has a master plan that can’t possibly go wrong more than one time, right?

The genius of Zombie is Oates’ refusal to pull any punches. Continue reading

Robert’s #CBR5 Review #02: Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Succubus Blues Richelle MeadSuccubus Blues by Richelle Mead is not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a well-written urban fantasy with a strong voice and interesting premise. It just has a really big flaw that seriously detracts from the enjoyment factor.

Georgina Kincaid is a succubus living in Seattle. She works at a bookstore for fun and tries to get out of performing her life-sucking duties as much as possible. After being mocked for doing an embarrassing favor for an imp, any immortal who crosses her is found dead. Georgina has also met two interesting mortal men who are vying for her attention. One is Roman, a handsome man she pulled into her life to get out of a sticky situation at the bookstore. The other is Seth, her favorite living fiction author who is relocating to Seattle. Georgina tries to keep them away while investigating the crimes against other immortals.

Read the full review at Sketchy Details.

Robert’s #CBR5 Review #01: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana RowlandEven White Trash Zombies Get the Blues picks up right where My Life as a White Trash Zombie left off. New zombie/morgue assistant Angel Crawford is finally pulling her life together after years of bad choices. Too bad she becomes the only witness to a robbery at the morgue where the only stolen item is a body that hasn’t been checked in yet. Suspicion falls on Angel because of her criminal background even though the main theory–losing the body during transport–seems unlikely.

Diana Rowland spent a lot of time building Angel’s world in My Life as a White Trash Zombie, including a whole new set of rules for zombies. These are not the mindless drones of a Romero film; they are immortal beings perfectly capable of living normal lives so long as they consume human brains a few times a week. Physical exertion and starvation cause deterioration and more traditional zombie behavior. Crime syndicates have formed to provide brains to the small zombie population and the largest group has their own ethical standards for when a person can be turned.

Read the full review at Sketchy Details.