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Bloody Shambles

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Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade
Vladimir Nabokov, Brian Boyd
Pale Fire
Vladimir Nabokov
Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground New Edition
Michael Moynihan, Didrik Søderlind
Under Stones
Bob Franklin
The Erotic Potential of My Wife
David Foenkinos, Yasmine Gaspard
A Corner of White
Jaclyn Moriarty
Winter's Bone
Daniel Woodrell
Progress: 99 %
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
Neil Gaiman
The Beetle
Richard Marsh
Wreck This Journal
Keri Smith
Breaking News: an Autozombiography - N.J. Hallard This was an unexpectedly good little zombie novel. No pretensions, no ridiculous action sequences that defy the laws of physics, and no superhuman leaders - just a group of ordinary English people trying to survive the apocalypse. There are truly gory zombie scenes, heart-breaking circumstances, detailed survival efforts and, through it all, the low-key, sarcastic, slightly whimsical sense of humour of a typical bunch of 30-something fanboys. I have heard other reviewers say that they found the protagonist to be glib and hard to connect with. I have also heard people say that the wife, Lou, was painfully stupid and gave a negative portrayal of women. I can see why people have said that, but if you stick with the book, Hallard does let you see inside the character's heads. You end up realising that this is a man's account of how he grew as a person. At the beginning, he may have lacked responsibility, and he portrayed his wife badly at the same time. But you see the character grow, and he learns to respect the strengths and character traits of those around him - especially his wife. By the end, I couldn't help loving them all. The sense of humour is sarcastic and underplays the seriousness of the situations the characters find themselves in. In reality, I could see my friends and I making the same comments and pop culture references. The pop culture references, by the way, are spot on: from the obvious "Night of the Living Dead" references, through Star Trek and Monty Python, all the way to Alan Partridge, Ray Mears and vintage sneakers. My boyfriend and I laughed about these together all the way through. This is how English people (and Australians like myself) deal with catastrophe - we underplay things and keep our wry sense of humour. It's a cultural thing, and for me, very relatable.The story takes place from the day of "Point Zero" (the tipping point of the virus, where it becomes inevitably uncontainable), right up to one year afterwards. Along the way, the characters fight: first to survive the zombies, then to survive the collapse of society, and also survive each other. They fight to rebuild their world, the England they believe in. The fight scenes are so realistic, I did find myself thinking that the author must have acted them out. He knew where each person's weight must be centred, when they would need to change hands, and what could go wrong in each scenario. As well as action scenes, emotional breakdowns and humour, a lot of attention is given to the survival aspects of an apocalypse. Whole lists of supplies are outlined, and Hallard explains in realistic detail the improvised equipment and how it would work. For survivalist fans, it'll definitely give you something to talk about.I really liked this book, so on the GR rating system it gets 4 stars from me. I also gave 4 stars to The Passage however, which is a far better written and darkly imagined novel. It's important to remember, however, that we're comparing apples and oranges here- Breaking News does exactly what it sets out to do, so I will give it 4 stars, and very definitely read the sequel. All in all, it's a great read.**EXTENDED REVIEW WITH SPOILERS** The prologue gives the impression that the book is written in a diary format, but apart from the fact that the story's told in the first person, it doesn't necessarily read as a diary. Having never read a book by this author before, I couldn't help wondering if this explanation of how difficult it was to write while under attack from zombies was actually an excuse for any poor writing on the part of the author! By the end of the book, I realised that the diary device allowed the reader to view how the main character's perspective changed over the course of the worst (and best) year of his life.The book does start off sounding a little cold and detached, (particularly if you're not familiar with English culture), and the female lead, Lou, starts off sounding so painfully stupid that you want to punch her yourself, then feed her to the zombies. You slowly begin to see that this was the main character's attempt at a detached, journalistic account of events. You're not necessarily seeing Lou, so much as her husband's impression of her at the time. You also see that the characters are changed by their experiences. The author of the diary knows he was somewhat immature and selfish before the zombies came, and this is his account of how he grew as a person. I'd be surprised if anyone still disliked Lou by the end of the book.While the story was told in a matter of fact way, the emotion did shine through, particularly during the scene where the protagonist has a major breakdown. He goes from coming across as glib and childish, to showing the cumulative effect of losing everything in one spectacular and believable episode. Even the realism of the very gory zombie kills comes with a hint of the character's feelings on the event, when the author mentions a moment of direct eye contact or a memory that it triggers for the character. At the same time, scenes of horrendous emotional import are addressed so bluntly that they come as a shock, and you often have to read a section again to make sure it actually happened. The brutal death of Jez was one of those moments. I think it was all the more shocking for the blunt explanatory style of writing.There was a great deal of minor detail included in the story that I really appreciated: how the zombies functioned through their life cycle, how to build a longbow, how to collect water and erect a shelter out of boat sails, the local geography, what supplies you would take with you - all of this detail adds something different to the book, injects some realism and I'd be willing to bet most readers would be comparing the characters' supply lists with what they would take themselves! I really enjoyed the latter part of the book, where we see the rebuilding of Britain. The British spirit survives, in fact, it is the very foundation the new world is built upon. Castles and moats, beefeaters and royalty, pubs and prostitutes, roast dinners and a good cup of tea - the survivors use these symbols to signify victory over the virus that nearly destroyed them. Overall, this was a great read, and I will happily await the next instalment.