*I received a free copy of this book from the author through the Making Connections group in exchange for an honest review*
On the pdf copy there was a note from the author saying that this novel was based on and runs alongside a previous short story called Killing Tiffany Hudson, so I read it first.(The book it is in is called Apocalypstick) I would suggest reading both to give you the full story.
Aliens have unleashed a virus that alters humans-you might have all memories and thoughts drained from you, leaving you as a zombie creature(husks), you might be infected(hosts) and drain other humans to absorb their knowledge and become connected to the big alien brain, or you might be able to harness and partially control the virus to help you fight the enemy. Nightmare creatures born from human women and mutated by the virus roam and kill while small bands of humans try to survive. The only hope for the survivors is Alex, a partially turned host who uses the downloaded information in his head to find a way to defeat the aliens, and his sister Lanni who has the ability to destroy the virus particles by touch.
It is a grim and scary world the author has created and it is very imaginative. I hope the paragraph above correctly explains my understanding of the story! There is a wide range of deadly creatures roaming around this world that would give anyone nightmares, all described in vivid detail. I liked the range of them and the frequency that they appeared. It showed just how dangerous life was and how much they relied on Alex. I particularly liked Big Daddy and Junior, showing that all the creatures were different in thought and deed. It was also interesting to see two conflicting versions of Diane in the novella and novel. Lanni seems older than her years because of what she has been through but it explains her recklessness on the salvage mission where things go badly wrong. The whole idea of an alien plague instead of a man made disaster was good and different from what I usually read.
I admit that sci-fi is not my favourite genre and I struggle with the terminology of all things science so I trembled when the virus and its effects were being described. I had a very bad experience with a Michael Crichton book with nano thingmys-whatsits and it put me off that type of book forever. Thankfully this author managed to explain it all to me without my head exploding, though I probably had to put more effort into 'getting it' than most other readers!(my brain fogs over with technical stuff!) I also liked the fact that info dumps were kept to the bare minimum required and that the author did more descriptive work on the monsters and battles instead. The world building was excellent and the idea felt original and fresh.
A couple of minor negative points. I didn't fully connect with the characters in the book. We only get a glimpse of Alex as a strange boy at the start of the book, then we join him as a machine like Host. It made it hard for me to like him. To be fair, if the author had showed a gradual change in Alex and how they came to be at the prison, it would have made this a much longer book and would have slowed things down too much. I'd have liked to have seen a bit more of Lee earlier in the book as he was the one who interested me. We don't see a great deal of Diane either(which surprised me after the short story) until the big battle so sometimes I felt there was a bit too much focus on Lanni at the expense of others who could have brought more to the story. But that is just a personal opinion and doesn't detract from the story. The other thing I struggled a bit with is not knowing what was happening with the 'two Lanni's' and the husk training. I like to be able to easily follow what is happening so having some of it hidden behind Lanni's memory block was a bit frustrating. I'm assuming that this will become clear in the second book and if that is true, I can't really blame the author for my impatience with the way he sets out his plot! Like I said, minor niggles.
In general I did like the story despite some of the content going out of my comfort zone. I think if you enjoy science fiction and dystopian novels, you will really enjoy this book. I probably didn't appreciate it as much as others will because sci-fi isn't my thing, and that is no reflection on the author or his storytelling ability. No sexual content and our heroine Lanni doesn't like swearing so swearing is minimal.
Review of the book Apocalypstick to follow.