Review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is a dystopia novel published in 2012.  It was a 2013 nominee for the Arthur C Clarke Award for Best Novel.  This is another novel that has been on my TBR list since it came out.  dog-stars-peter-heller

Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.  But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.  (GoodReads)

Without intending to I’ve read a few dystopia novels from my TBR list fairly close together.  They all offer something different.  Some offer a view into an alternate world resulting from an idea or technology taken too far.  Others, like this one, aren’t really about an alternate world but instead about the people left behind.

In The Dog Stars the world is still the world we know just without all the people.  There are only tiny pockets of people left alive trying to survive a world without a modern economy.  They’re trying to live in the face of the loss of their loved ones and the comforts of their prior lives.

It’s a lovely book that mostly takes the form of Hig’s internal dialogue or thoughts.  Some people didn’t enjoy the way it was written because of the punctuation and sentence structure.  Honestly, I barely noticed it.  Reading it was like following Hig in his mind and everything made sense.  I enjoyed reading it and it was a different take on the dystopia story.

lilolia review rating 3 stars good



Review: Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake was published in 2003 and shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prize for Fiction.  It is the first of the MaddAddam trilogy.  The novel is described by the author as speculative fiction and in general as a dystopian novel.

This is the second of Atwood’s novels that I’ve read, the first being The Handmaid’s Tale, and while they are very different in storyline they are similar in that they are both unsettling stories about a very plausible end of the world as we know it.  oryx and crake atwood

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining. (GoodReads)

The GoodReads blurb describes it as an ‘unforgettable love story’ which I wouldn’t agree with.  This book isn’t about love; it’s about a world of segregation between the haves and have-nots, the ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’, the obedient and the rebels.  It’s what our world could very seriously resemble if we continue on the path of fixating on living in security complexes, on being young and immortal, and on unscrupulously modifying genetics to solve immediate problems.

It’s a bleak and horrifying world which could easily have turned into a horror story but told through the eyes of down-to-earth Snowman we are able to experience this story as if it were completely normal.  He is the perfect narrator for this story and an unforgettable character.

I enjoy reading Atwood’s books very much and look forward to reading more as well as carrying on the MaddAddam adventure.  I did enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale more but Oryx and Crake did not disappoint and I’m happy to have finally read it.  I would definitely recommend this book.


lilolia review rating 3 stars good

Review: The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin is the long awaited final novel of The Passage trilogy.  This epic literary journey began with The Passage followed by The Twelve and now, after a 3 year wait (or 4 years if you read The Twelve right when it was published), draws to a close with a final crescendo in The City of

In The Passage and The Twelve, Justin Cronin brilliantly imagined the fall of civilization and humanity’s desperate fight to survive. Now all is quiet on the horizon, but does silence promise the nightmare’s end or the second coming of unspeakable darkness? (GoodReads)

As with the previous two novels, The City of Mirrors is a well written novel of great suspense.  It has its own surprises and yet continues the story of our beloved characters.  It continues to be an epic tale of humanity in the face of extinction highlighting the human heart and spirit.

It is one of the best final books I have read.  It neatly and satisfyingly brings to a close a story that will remain a readers’ favourite for a long time to come.  The Passage trilogy really has been one of those great literary journeys that come along very rarely.

What sets this trilogy apart from others in this genre is its magnificent breadth of story which spans many centuries and Cronin’s undeniable writing skill.  To those who have read the previous novels: you will not be disappointed with this final installment.  And to those who have not yet read this trilogy: you are blessed for you will get to read this epic story from beginning to end without pause.


lilolia review rating 4 stars great



Review: California by Edan Lepucki

California was another popular book this year and I couldn’t wait to read this one.California

Here is the blurb from GoodReads:

“The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can’t reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant. Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.”

I enjoyed this book.  It was a different and probably more realistic take on the “post-apocalypse” world.  It was an easy read with intrigue and some unexpected twists.  If I’m honest though it wasn’t all I expected it would be and the ending left much to be desired…unless there is a sequel in which case I will happily read the next installment.  Don’t think the ending was bad – it just was no ending at all.  Here’s hoping there’s a sequel.


lilolia review rating 3 stars good




Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Twelve is the 2nd novel of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin and an incredible follow up to the impressive first novel The Passage (read my review of The Passage)  When I read the first novel I was taken by the proportions of the story.  It spanned many The Twelve (The Passage, #2)decades and every character would play some important role in this epic take on a post viral world.  There is a great connectedness of the characters both in the moment and across generations and The Twelve takes us back to year zero when the virus first gets out, to a time before the First Colony, and then into the time after the end of The Passage.

“At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals…”

It is another epic novel introducing us to more characters all connected to those we’ve already followed in the first novel and no doubt who will be connected to those of the third novel to come in 2014, City of Mirrors.  Cronin has once again woven a story of suspense and reveals an element of the world we came to know that we really could not have guessed at.  The plot is different and you won’t be disappointed with this book after having read The Passage but I wouldn’t recommend reading this without reading the first…you simply won’t get some of the surprises and some of the magic of it will be lost on you.  Not to mention that you won’t have a clue as to who all the people in the novel are! For those of you, like me, who read the first novel ages ago you may need a refresher on the character list which you can find on wikipedia except beware as there are spoilers in it.

Again we are privy to the hardships of this post apocalyptic world and more importantly the strength of the human spirit to go on through a desire to survive and through the love they have for their friends and families in the face of fear and loss of hope.  There’s something for everyone.  I really enjoyed reading it.


lilolia review rating 4 stars great

Review: Justin Cronin’s The Passage

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” 

Epic.  I don’t use this word lightly when refering to books but Justin Cronin’s The Passage is epic in every sense of the word.  An incredible work skilfully dealing with decades and decades of events which tumble together to form a story of the passage croningigantic proportions.  I noticed this book a while back when it entered the New York Times Bestsellers’ List and not long after that the buzz began.  Initially I thought this hype was owed to the vampire subject matter but when authors like Stephen King and Terry Brooks started giving the book such high praise I realised that this story must be fresh and brilliant.  So, I got a copy and read it.  Epic.  I have not read a book so incredibly captivating in a very long time.

The Passage is extremely well written.  There were passages in the book where I laughed out loud and then there were moments of almost unbearable suspense.  Cronin is a master plotter if The Passage is anything to go by.  He has woven a story so intricate and detailed, one which spans over a century, with different kinds of characters, settings and lifestyles and he has done an incredible job.  Every word propells you forward, I like this – it is a sign of a great writer I think, when you know that every word on the page is deliberate – every word carries meaning for later events in the story.  I loved the way the story unfolded, it was done with the most avid of readers in mind in that nothing was given away too soon and nothing could be guessed really.

As for the vampire subject matter, don’t worry if you are not into the teen vamp craze and the associated reading drivel because this is nothing like any of the vamp stuff out there (specfically, it’s nothing like Twilight).  The Passage, if anything, is a plausible account of how vampirism could exist in the world and what would happen to the world if vampires outnumbered humans.  This story is not only about vampires and the terror humans go through alongside them, it’s also a story about human nature and the strength of the human spirit in the face of extinction.

As always, you’ll get no specific details here.  What you will get is a strong recommendation to read this book because it is honestly a story for everybody; men, women and teens.  It is fresh, well-plotted and very fast-paced.  Everything you want in a great book.

The only downside, I guess, is that we have to wait until 2012 for the second novel; The Twelve and until 2014 for the third; The City of Mirrors which concludes the trilogy.  Torture indeed.  Apparently the film rights have been bought so you can expect a movie soon.

For more:


lilolia review rating 4 stars great