Book Review — Nomad

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Whew.

After reading Nick Cole’s The End Of The World As We Knew It and Matthew Mather’s Nomad within a day of each other, I was mentally exhausted. The two books wore me out. I described how Cole’s book was an exercise in retracing our steps in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse yesterday, but Mather’s book was a visceral look at a very specific end of world event. Both had the hallmarks of apocalyptic fiction, but they were as different as can be when it comes to the action and plotting.

nomadIn Nomad, Matthew Mather tears things apart. Families, countries, economies, planets, galaxies…all get ripped apart between the covers of his latest novel. I read his earlier book from this year — Darknet — and found it frightening in a way that was almost difficult to describe. In Darknet, the threat is real, but invisible. In fact, the antagonist can strike and be gone again without you even knowing it, the only traces are digital breadcrumbs left in its wake.

In Nomad, Mather does it again, creating an invisible villain — the titular astronomical anomaly — but the effects this go-around are more immediate, more violent, more physical. Instead of bank accounts and identities being torn asunder, it is the literal earth that undergoes an upheaval in Nomad.

The story is fast-paced and energetic from the get-go, placing all of our characters in Rome. Some are there for pleasure, some for work, and others are trying to hide from the authorities. The latter is our young protagonist Jessica. We first meet her while she is on a tour of an Italian castle with her mother, but her story goes much deeper and gives her a rich and detailed backstory. In fact, as the story kept unfolding, we kept seeing new aspects of Jessica’s character that led to numerous “aha” moments. Mather wonderfully wove her story in the fabric of Nomad and gives us a great character we can live through in this book as well as others to come.

What was great about Mather’s previous books was the scientific reality he’d grounded things in from the technological terror of Darknet to the scenarios he plays out in CyberStorm. The same is true for Nomad, with actual astronomical possibilities. In fact, the very anomaly he showcases in the book popped up in the news as a discovery in just the last few months. The terror of space really isn’t what we can see — it is what we can’t see, and Mather proves it with this book.

Mather takes the reader on a wild ride, and all of it feels genuine and authentic. Our characters are real and we want them to be real and to make it in the face of overwhelming adversity. With all that can possibly go wrong, can humanity go on? What will an event like this bring out? The best, or the worst in us?

As for the next books in the planned trilogy, Mather certainly has a plan for the second book with the path for our characters, but planted enough seeds along the way to make sure the reader knows the path will be rocky and difficult. I massively enjoyed this book and am very much looking forward to Sanctuary

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Book Review — The End Of The World As We Knew It

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With the long weekend and another day off yesterday, I was able to polish off some of that reading list that never seems to shrink. I posted my review of Hank Garner’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son yesterday, but that was really the tip of the iceberg.

On Tuesday night, I finished Nick Cole’s latest book, The End Of The World As We Knew It (TEOTWAWKI). It was epic. It was grand. It was heartbreaking and yet hopeful. More on that in a bit.

In a Nick Cole hangover today, I finally got around to starting Matthew Mather’s Nomad. I kept hearing great things about it, but it just came out at a bad time to get to it immediately (same thing with Cole’s book). With a few hours riding in a car today, I figured it was as good as a time to start as any. I couldn’t stop. Any free moment I had, I was back at the Kindle, craving more of Mather’s version of the apocalypse. I LOVED it, but for different reasons than why I loved Cole’s novel. I’ll share my thoughts on Nomad later this week…first I want to get TEOTWAWKI off my chest.

teotwawkiFirst off…I hate Nick Cole. I hate that he can write like he can. I hate that he makes me care about his deeply flawed characters. I hate him so much I can’t help but love him just a bit.

I will admit when I first opened the book, I struggled with the first few pages. Found footage in book form. Ugh. It seemed like an unnecessary plot device, but after a few pages, it settles down. Yes, there is the aspect of these recordings and journals being found and pieced together, but the stories are quite broad and involved.  As a reader I found the two main stories quite distinct and after a while I forgot they were “found footage.”

In that case, it does draw comparisons to the modern-day standard in zombie fiction — World War Z. Max Brooks’ classic is well known for being a series of vignettes that are only tied together by the slimmest of threads (NOT the movie, which features Brad Pitt as a very capable thread). In this case, there is a sense of that as well, but instead of it showcasing the tales of survival (or death) at the hands (and teeth) of the zombies, Cole shows us the humanity left behind in its wake. He shows the emotions, the torment, the shame, the bitterness, the economics, the brutality, the…life that is left when the plague wipes out most of the nation. What he does better than Brooks from a narrative point of view is he uses the protagonists of Alex and Jasonn (mostly Jason) to find all of those aspects of humanity in the aftermath. Jason’s journey is one made by countless characters throughout literature, starting with Odysseus. He needs to find the love of his life, but with Alex he only has the vaguest idea of where to look. Along the way we see his faults, his fears, his failures on his trek from New York to Los Angeles.

There really is so much to take in along the way, Cole could have easily tripled the size of the book with the rich details he added with developed secondary characters. Shoot, Cole could write a whole other story with just the character of Chris, or The Lady, or…any number of them.

But we get Jason and Alex. Star-crossed lovers, separated by thousands of miles of land and millions of infected zombies between them. Who are they? What choices do they make? How does that affect everyone else? What does that do to their very souls?

I loved Nick Cole’s book. Described as “The Walking Dead” meets “The Notebook,” I can honestly say as someone who hasn’t watched either (I know, I know!) that this book delivers. If you like a healthy dose of philosophy and romance with your zombie literature, this book is for you. I really could go on and on about what I felt as I flipped each page of this book, but suffice it to say I felt all the things. I felt joy, sadness, anger, shame, courage, and fear. Cole places you at the center of the apocalypse and makes sure that you know that each character has their own apocalypse. Each person gets their own ending and even with similar circumstances, each ending is unique. Read this book. You won’t regret it.