Friday, June 24, 2011

Vampire Zero and 23 Hours by David Wellington

Vampire Zero is the third book in Wellington's vampire/Laura Caxton series. For those familiar with epidemiology, you will recognize that the title is borrowed from the study of disease outbreaks. To stop the spread of an epidemic or pandemic you must find the first person to contract it, so you can figure out how it spread and the speed with which it spread.

Arkeley and Caxton managed to reduce the vampire population to one, the mission now consists of finding this vampire before a new generation of monsters can be birthed. Just as in previous installments, the action is none stop. Neither the audience nor the heroes have a chance to stop and take a breath between incidents of mortal peril. This time the cliffhanger is accompanied with a plot twist, one that I didn't see coming. This led me to start immediately on the fourth segment of Caxton's tale, 23 Hours.

I can't say too much about 23 Hours without giving away the twist involved at the end of Vampire Zero. All I can say is that the setting was something I didn't expect and it gives Laura Caxton an entire new set of challenges to face. I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next volume in the Caxton series, which will be title either 32 Fangs or 32 Teeth, depending on the source you get your information from.

Happy Summer reading everyone!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer

We got Artemis Fowl, the audio book, to listen to during our move. This didn't work as planned since the moving truck didn't have a way to plug in the iPhone to the radio. We have an FM receiver to use instead, but the reception and interference were so bad that we couldn't understand most of the story. So listening to it was put on hold, I heard just enough of the story to know that I wanted to finish it. The narrator, Nathanial Parker, was excellent, his voice intoxicating. His delivery and voices fit perfectly with the story.

 I was unaware when I began listening to the book that the main character, Artemis, was actually an anti-hero. This was a pleasant surprise, it added a nice twist to this YA book for me. I knew that it wouldn't quite follow the formula that many books for children do. The humor is apparent right away, though it is very subtle (and a bit of what we'd call British) in some places. Colfer utilizes a very high level of vocabulary, always a plus in works aimed at children. He does this in a manner that not only teaches the young readers new words, but increases the comedic effect of the scenes. The humor is well balanced by the action scenes, which come to life through the words used to describe them.

Our anti-hero is a young genius from a very wealthy family. His father has disappeared, his mother has lost her mind, and he is trying to regain the family fortune. To achieve his aims, he develops a complex plan to exploit the Faerie population of the world.

On the other side of the conflict are the faeries, the narrative focuses on LEPrecon Holly Short. She is the first female LEP officer, and therefore has a lot to prove to herself and the military complex. Holly is thrown in Artemis' path after a mission goes horribly wrong and she is ordered to go to the surface to recharge her magic.

One aspect I found interesting is that the Faerie equipment wasn't strictly magic based, they combined the best of their magical knowledge with science. The faeries have gone underground, literally, but are also wired into the human's ("Mud People") satellite network to keep tabs on us.

I recommend this for a road trip or just an enjoyable read. This book would work great as a read aloud for the whole family, including the teenagers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

99 Coffins

This book is the sequel to 13 Bullets; however, it is not a typical sequel. This book alternates between the present and flashbacks to the Civil War.

99 Coffins begins on an archeological site related to the Battle of Gettysburg. A group of college students are excavating a weapons cache that they and the university believe to be completely unimportant. What they discover under the cache is another room containing 99 coffins from the Civil War era.

The narration jumps between journals, correspondence, and battle reports from three Civil War soldiers and the events surrounding Laura Caxton. Wellington does a fairly good job of capturing the patterns of Civil War era speech, helping the reader become immersed in the story. In the present day events, Arkeley once again pulls Trooper Caxton (mostly unwillingly) into another fight against the vampires. Caxton must adorn Arkeley's mantle as the lead officer in this case, as the last encounter left Arkeley crippled.

Once again the odds for our heroes seem impossible to overcome, for me this adds to the appeal of a story when done well. Rooting for the underdog feels good. Seeing the human spirit persevering through trials no matter how awful is uplifting, even when the events themselves are horrible and disturbing.

Wellington jumps between the two narratives effectively, using the Civil War accounts to inform the reader about, and accentuate, present day events. We learn more about vampires in this world, yet are aware that we are still missing some necessary details (as Caxton herself realizes). Yet again, Wellington gives us a cliffhanger ending. I have already begun the third book, Vampire Zero.

Happy summer reading everyone.