Monday, October 4, 2010

REVIEW: Zombies vs. Unicorns


Zombies vs. Unicorns

Zombies vs. Unicorns is a series of short stories, alternating between Zombie story and Unicorn story.

I think the only thing I would ask for from this... more of a conclusion on who won from the two narrators. Their banter was funny and amusing... I would have liked more of a conclusion from them. 

READ INDIVIDUAL REVIEWS BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW!


The Highest Justice by Garth Nix
Team Unicorn

Synopsis:
This story is about a princess who wants her mother's death to not be in vain, a zombie queen who knows what she wants, a unicorn that aides their kingdom in times of need, and the dark dealings of those in power.


Character Likability:
The Princess and her Mother were both determined and driven. The unicorn was aloof and mysterious until the end. Side characters were well developed and written to be unlikable for the most part, except Piers, who is a member of the King's entourage, and very likable. The characters weren't as intense and introspective as in some of the later stories, but this story was filled with much more background history about the characters.
Quality of Writing:
Garth Nix is one of my favorite storytellers, the writing flowed smoothly, the story kept a nice pace while still being short AND very full of information.
Ending:
Excellent, potentially ominous ending. Who can say?
Plot:
This story was made by the added gruesome details. The horrid nature of the King and those who would consort with him, the undead Queen... they were described in length and saved this story from being just another Princess tale. Besides, who couldn't love a princess willing to tote her 3-Days-Dead mother across the country to dish out a little justice? The motivations and character of the King's latest companion were a little stereotypical and bland though, I would have liked a little more development there.
Believability of World:
Believable. Granted, the Unicorn was there to solve most problems fairly easily. It would have been nicer if the characters had to struggle a little more to achieve their goals.

Overall Grade: C (Because while it was an ok story, I've seen Nix do a million times better. This was not his A game)


Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Team Zombie

Synopsis:
Ahh... young half-zombie love. Such a delicate, delicious thing.
Grayson was once full zombie, now he's just half zombie. He craves flesh, but can pass as human. Unfortunately, he's fallen in love with someone who just smells delicious... and who has a maniac for a father.



Character Likability:
The two main characters were likable, if not a bit hard to relate to at times, because they bonded over very specific things that lead to insider jokes not always as humorous to people not in the know (me). Not that I was entirely ignorant of what they spoke, but I'm also not "In the Scene" so while I sometimes knew they were dissing one band, I didn't understand the richness of the joke.
Quality of Writing:
I found the numbered, song title sections to be a little jarring... probably because I'm not familiar with all of the songs, so while they were possibly supposed to set the mood for the chapter, for me they were often just cryptic titles. The story itself though, read beautifully, and flowed very smoothly... so much so that I'm interested in looking up more works by this author.
Ending:
A decent enough ending.... not particularly satisfying though, nothing was really concluded except for the affections of the two main characters for one another.
Plot:
I liked the idea of this story, that here you have this part-zombie, who had gone full-zombie... didn't remember anything except snippets of blood and violence, and then was captured and partially cured by scientists who then were foolish enough to let him escape... now traveling cross country, feeding his desires and trying to remain anonymous. It's kind of like a twisted boy love version of Twilight told from Edward's point of view. The main character has a burning desire to eat the one they love the most, because that person smells most delicious, they have a huge music fetish, they are paranormal creatures and the love is forbidden.
Believability of World:
It's set in our world, just with a few extra diseases thrown in... so it's fairly believable... although I'm not sure how much I buy into the whole disease aspect of it, and everything surrounding that.

Overall Grade: C- (the constant referencing to a very select pop-culture pulled me out of the story quite a bit)

Purity Test by Naomi Novik
Team Unicorn

Synopsis:
A Unicorn needs help... and he doesn't really care who from. Oh sure... she's "supposed" to be a virgin... but really, anyone with opposable thumbs will do.


Character Likability:
I didn't just like these characters, I loved them. They were skeptical, sarcastic and funny.
Quality of Writing:
Naomi Novik is an excellent writer when it comes to interactions between characters. I think her Temeraire books reflect this as well... the emotions, feelings and attitudes are always honest feeling and natural.... and this being a short story, the characters thankfully didn't have time to take any long... horribly boring trips... which is my only complaint about Naomi Novik's novels.
Ending:
Loved it. Need I say more? Well, if I do, then here's why... the ending also remained humorous and managed to go out on, what I thought, was a fairly amusing note regarding something said earlier in the story.
Plot:
This story is about a rescue mission... there is an evil wizard who has kidnapped baby unicorns... possibly in an attempt to make himself immortal. The unicorn who has been tasked with the rescue mission needs human help, and finds just what he's looking for (or so he thinks) as she sleeps off a hangover on a bench in Central Park. The plot itself is simple and quick, but greater details are unnecessary because this story is truly more about the amusing banter between the characters.
Believability of World:
100% Believable. The world itself isn't rich and overflowing, but the characters move through it smoothly and while magical things do happen, there is nothing that seems not plausible about it.

Overall Grade: B+ (this story takes the best parts of Naomi Novik's writing, the character interaction and humor and condenses them into a short, sweet story. Granted, she had to lean on a few cliches to get there (Evil Wizard? hmmm) but it worked well enough for a short story.

Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan
Team Zombie

Synopsis:
A small island is a safe-hold against the mudo... a small family is in charge, a small disaster is inevitable.


Character Likability:
Love the characters. Carrie Ryan did a wonderful job giving them incredible depth in such a short space.
Quality of Writing:
Carrie Ryan excels at creating in depth characters through emotion and background. The whole story flows smoothly and feels deep and rich. It's length doesn't hinder its quality. It also manages to keep a creepy, haunted air about it, which really adds to the sense of impending doom.
Ending:
Absolutely beautiful ending. It ties everything together in a neat little package.
Plot:
This is another story in Carrie Ryan's zombie infested world, but it's not necessary to have read any of her other stories to enjoy this one. This story is based on the spoiled ignorance of one girl, and her rude awakening into the reality of her situation. I've heard people complain about not knowing where the 'fast ones' come from after reading this story, but I do believe it says right in the story that when zombies are created without other zombies present, they are fast ones, until there are enough zombies for them to slow down (although no one is sure what that breaking point is)... so while there is previous history from the other books, this story DOES explain it.
Believability of World:
Very believable. Frighteningly believable. So believable it will keep you up at night.

Overall Grade: A (Seriously, there was a lot of information tied together beautifully in a tiny space)

A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan
Team Unicorn

Synopsis:
A beautiful virgin princess is spoiled, a man taking a pee is accused, a wet nurse bears witness to the strange fates of these two, and to stranger things still.


Character Likability:
I liked Manny Foyer, the man who was just looking to take a leak, trying to be nice and not piss on the flowers and had the unfortunate luck to stumble across (with the help of a Unicorn) a beautiful, but roughed up young woman... who turned out to be a (very formerly) virgin princess. I really didn't care for the princess... or any of the royalty at all. The Nursemaid, was kind of likable, but I found most of the characters in this particular story to be a bit bland.
Quality of Writing:
I found the shifts between characters to actually be a little jarring... maybe because I was just really starting to get into Manny's story when it was cut short.
Ending:
The ending was a bit creepy and haunting... probably my favorite part of the story were the events surrounding and following the pregnancy... not the very end itself, that was a bit anti-climatic.
Plot:
I'm not really sure what I should take away from the plot of this story... it seems the plot mostly was telling you, "Stay away from Unicorns"... but at the same time, it pointed out the cold detachment of royalty and the cold, detached work-ethic of a Midwife. The Princess herself seemed indifferent, until bad things started to happen, and then I felt like she overreacted to one particular incident, seeing as how she had cared so little in the first place when she could have spoken up and saved an innocent man some trouble.
And then there was the shifting of viewpoints, which for me, was jarring and added to my detachment from the characters involved. I found the entire plot involving the tower to be incredibly interesting though, and wish it had been expanded upon.
Believability of World:
The world itself was actually very believable. It was just the characters that I found lacking.

Overall Grade: D

The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson
Team Zombie

Synopsis:
A young girl is fooled into picking berries abroad by her boyfriend... what seemed like a lovely summer on a farm turns out to be something akin to slave labor... then her boyfriend leaves her and life seems as dismal as it can get... until she is offered the opportunity of a lifetime, babysitting the children of a world-known celebrity.


Character Likability:
I love all of the characters in this story. The stupid main character who keeps making one bad choice after another, the strangely adorable children, the celebrity, and even the ex.
Quality of Writing:
Fantastic. This is another one of those short stories where it seems like they've managed to shove in so much more than one should be able to in so limited a space. It flows smoothly and manages to incorporate a lot of background for each character in a limited amount of space.
Ending:
HILARIOUS... and creepy.
Plot:
The plot to this story is hilarious. The celebrity is never referred to by a specific name, but called the Actress... and her handsome husband is often referred to, but always as just "The Actor". But the Actress is described as well-muscled but slim, tattooed... and known worldwide for her work and her adoption of babies from different countries of the world... I think you can figure it out ;)
The main character has been hired to watch her children for the night, and finds that the Actress has the most bizarre setup for them... a strange room, completely walled off, that the children shuffle around in, and at feeding time, they are fed via conveyer belt... The Actress leaves our main character, telling her all she has to do is feed them. Don't go in, don't let them out, they'll be fine, just feed them on schedule, but the main character snoops, finding books on the Actress's strange new religion and of course things were bound to go horribly wrong.
Believability of World:
I'm shocked this hasn't ALREADY happened.

Overall Grade: A (I really liked this one. I liked it's commentary on crazy celebrity religions and lifestyles, on adoption from 3rd world countries and on, seemingly, the dangers of thinking you want a bohemian lifestyle, lol!)

The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund
Team Unicorn

Synopsis:
Having witnessed horrible things done last summer to her cousins by a Unicorn, Wen is horrified to find a traveling carnival with what they claim, is a real living Unicorn being held captive. Wen can't help herself, she has to go check it out, leading her on a very troublesome adventure.


Character Likability:
Very well cast for your typical high-school dramatastic group. There is the main girl, her former love interest, her new, jocky love interest, and then the bevy of other random teen girls put in place to give the boys something other than the main girl to throw their affections at so she can get moody about it.
Quality of Writing:
Really excellent, actually. I had heard about Diana Peterfreund's unicorn novels before, and had NO desire to read them based on plot... but after reading this short story, seeing the quality of her writing combined with her execution of the topic... I think the books might actually be a really fun, insane read.
Ending:
Excellent ending, and inviting of more story later on!
Plot:
There is a lot of internal struggle, and at one point, she (Wen) plots to murder the Unicorn left in her care... she is hindered by the beliefs of her parents, the actions of Unicorns past, the perceptions of the public and her own feelings. She is forced to question the norm, question choices from her past and question common knowledge. Her world is flipped on its head and we watch her struggle through that, anxious to see what her next move might be.
Believability of World:
The world was so complete that it's a major part of the reason I'm now wanting to pick up Diana Peterfreund's other stories. However, sometimes I did feel like it was a little "too completed" in other books. 

Overall Grade: B+ (I loved this story, it makes me want to read the other books, but I felt a lot of the history was left in the other books... not quite as seamless and separate from the original world as Carrie Ryan's short story was.)

Inoculata
by Scott Westerfeld
Team Zombie

Synopsis:
Man, being a teenager is sooo boring. But then... so is being a Zombie.


Character Likability:
The main character was likable enough, the girl she was infatuated with, not so much so. The adults were all decent, and the other two children were amusing, although one of them was particularly not well described beyond "Being 10"
Quality of Writing:
I've never read a Scott Westerfield story before this, now I want to read more. I thought the setting, flow and character interaction was all exciting enough.
Ending:
It was a little bit of a goofy ending. I think this might have been an elaborate setup for the author to call teenagers 'zombies'...
Plot:
This is pretty much a story we've seen before. Teenagers get bored, teenagers do things they've specifically been told not to do by adults, teenagers get themselves in some trouble, teenagers get bored. It's one of those constants in life... returning from whence they came.
Its a story that relies heavily on teenage mistrust of adults. The adults weren't really given a chance to prove or disprove their trust-worthyness... they simply were untrusted. Then there's the end of this story... the concept of the 'lights', and the fact that what it essentially boils down to is that Zombies are even more bored with life than teenagers are... kind of sad, really.
However, I must say, I really liked the concept of infection here, and what was going on. Although I have to admit, once again, it seemed a little too convenient... that everything 'just happened' the way it did and where it did.
Believability of World:
The world was a little convenient. I really liked the world they were currently living in... but the history and how they ended up where they did seemed a little contrived and convenient.

Overall Grade: C (While I really liked the writing style of Scott Westerfield... I'm really tired of the 'bored teenager' tale. I really liked certain aspects of this story, but the ending was just too... bland for me.)

Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot
Team Unicorn

Synopsis:
It's Liz's 17th birthday, and it's going to be a disaster. As per usual. Her mother is out of the loop on cool, buying her High School Musical 3 party favors, her best friend is ditching her for the party of the popular girl, who happens to have the same birthday as Liz, and her Aunt lives under the misconception that she is perpetually 7 years old.

Not to mention, she disappoints everyone by not appreciating this years gift from her Aunt.
What is it? Why... a bonified Unicorn... something her Aunt picked up at a Renfest and thought she might like. A bonified Unicorn named Princess Prettypants.


Character Likability:
I really loved the characters in this story. Liz, while being a somewhat whiny teen, actually seemed to have legit reasons for being whiny. I mean, really, if my best friend ditched my birthday party for another, I'd be pretty annoyed too. The supporting characters were all a lot of fun too, especially Princess Prettypants :)
Quality of Writing:
A really engaging, easy flowing, interesting story. Time to read more Meg Cabot!!
Ending:
Excellent ending, it really wrapped up the whole thing... and made me want to read more.
Plot:
I almost didn't want to read this story because of the title. But it seemed a silly reason not to read, and I'm glad I didn't let it stop me. The title turned out to be perfect. PERFECT. Liz is a teenage girl with, in my opinion, more than her share of social problems. She's not only in some serious denial, but she's got to deal with jerk classmates and a rather flaky best friend.
I got the sense that her family loves her and her little brother kind of idolizes her, which makes her disappointing him all the more poignant. But, seeing as how she's an essentially good, loving character, she spends the rest of the story trying to remedy her mistakes.
One of them being underestimating the awesomeness of her Aunt's gift. Of course, with a name like Princess Prettypants... it's pretty hard to take a Unicorn seriously (the story *does* offer a reason for Unicorns to exist)... especially when it keeps emitting rainbow farts that smell like lavender... but thanks to an emergency, Liz ends up teaming up with her new pet... and sheer awesomeness ensues. Honestly, I don't think I've ever thought a Unicorn was so cool.
Believability of World:
Essentially it's set in our world with an explanation ala Jurassic Park as to why Unicorns are around

Overall Grade: A (Seriously, this was one cool Unicorn.)

Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare
Team Zombie

Synopsis:
Adele has found the man she plans on marrying. They've known eachother forever and she can't imagine her life without him. An added bonus? He's the most powerful boy in town... set to become the Duke within the next year. But, in Adele's town, the dead don't stay dead... they come back, and are put to work... shadows moving about, ignored by the living... that is... until Adele's boyfriend becomes one.

Character Likability:
I actually didn't really like Adele much. She seemed to be defined by her relationship to her boyfriend. Once he was gone, she couldn't cope with being just 'normal' again. Her boyfriend (James) was a nice, likable guy, though.
Quality of Writing:
Easy flowing and nothing was jarring or pulled me from the story.
Ending:
I enjoyed the scene on the podium, but the actual last few sentences, where Adele is explaining who and what she is, they didn't quite resonate with me, and it's possibly because I disliked Adele.
Plot:
This story is about murder and justice. In this town, the dead have a chance to speak... so those with wicked intent, beware! Seriously though, I think my problem with the plot of this story was that the main character was just a vehicle to tell it. She really didn't need to be there... and she was really pretty pathetic in terms of strength, will and self. For me, the secondary characters in this story were all much more engaging.
Believability of World:
Very believable, I really loved the concept of the town... and would love to see more, just not from the main character's viewpoint.

Overall Grade: C (My lack of enthusiasm for the main character is reflected in the grade I gave it.)

The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey
Team Unicorn

Synopsis:
A Unicorn wanders the Earth, tortured by his desires, tormented by his choices, wishing for an end.

Character Likability:
I both liked and hated the main character... which, seeing as how the main character pretty much hated himself, isn't a bad thing. He really was rather despicable.

Quality of Writing:
Very easy flowing and lovely.

Ending:
The story kind of fell apart a little bit for me here.

Plot:
This is a story about addiction, self loathing, and not being able to live up to the expectations of others... just to name a few of the topics covered. The Unicorn wants to be what people believe he is, but he's addicted to the living essence of the people he helps... and sometimes he even seeks out lives to take (very disturbing descriptions of the deliciousness of a new born baby's life force). He's a despicable creature who tells himself he's doing things for the right reasons, when really he's just doing it to get a fix... to feed the endless hunger inside him. It's all really rather disturbing in a very interesting way.
Believability of World:
This story is spread out over a very long period of time and through many different variations of the world... so really, the world itself is not a major player.

Overall Grade: B- (I enjoyed the story a lot, but for me, it unraveled a little at the end )

Prom Night by Libba Bray
Team Zombie

Synopsis:
It's prom night during the Zombie Apocalypse... there are no adults anymore and the kids can't help but keep up with old traditions to help them let go. It's the brief and sad exploration of one community trying to hold it together after everything has fallen so terribly apart.

Character Likability:
I really liked the two main characters and their goofy banter, surrounded by the girl's sad, quiet, inner reflections on the way life had been, and what happened when it all fell apart.

Quality of Writing:
Must read more Libba Bray! In other words, it flowed well, kept me interested, and was a fast read thanks to the writing.

Ending:
Bittersweet. I wanted this story to continue. Desperately. It felt like the beginning of a bigger story.

Plot:
The main character, a girl who, like every other child in town, had lost her parents to the disease that turned people into mindless, flesh-eating corpses, is our narrator. She takes us through the horrific events that led them to where they are today, she hints and bigger stories concerning her own parents and the inhabitants of the town... and she concludes with portents of doom. All I can say is, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, Libba Bray, continue this story!
I do have to say though... not a lot happened in the course of the story, action wise. Everything was mostly flash-back. The things that did happen lent themselves to being part of a bigger story too, though... since they were only vaguely explored.

Believability of World:
Believable... to a point. Honestly, with the set up, I kind of expect a more Lord of the Flies scenario... but, perhaps that's coming.

Overall Grade: A (The backstory on this one was truly terrifying, and so was the ending... it was all just very haunting.)

4 comments:

  1. Wow... This looks like a cool book! Thanks for the review... er, reviews. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. You seriously took out some time to break down each of those stories. Props to you, dedicated!

    I've yet to read this book, however, that day will come :)

    Mad Scientist
    madsteampunkery.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've read a lot of reviews about this book, but none as in depth as yours! Great review(s)!!! And thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm so excited to read this book!

    ReplyDelete