Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Book Review: Dead Trees by Eli Constant

Subterranean humanoids, existing since the dawn of man, arose from the belly of the planet. Humanity was unprepared. The undergrounders came with nails and claws and speed to kill people in the night, dragging bodies downward into dark tunnels teeming with rabid life. Civilization is now a ghost of yesterday and the remaining humans fight for survival.

One thing’s for sure- a scientist mommy battling beasties better be handy with a scalpel.

Elise Swanson is a widow and mother. She fights and prays that she can keep her little, broken family safe. She drives and drives, day after day, trying to escape a threat that seems… inescapable. Her hope fades, food is scarce and she watches her eldest daughter’s attempts to soothe the younger babe. Then she meets Jason- a father mourning the loss of his son, masking his pain with bravado and charm. He’s strong, despite his sadness, and love re-grows within him. Weeks pass and Jason’s singular desire becomes the continued safety of Elise and her daughters.

Bloody fights with beasties define the survival-road the companions travel. Even a few moments of safety and relaxation elude the group; time and time again, Elise must kiss her children goodbye, just in case tomorrow never arrives.

Against all odds, they reach a government safe zone. Even there, Elise finds that there’s no rest for the weary.


My Review:
Elise is on the run with her young daughters, trying to survive the invasion of the planet by underground humanoid cannibals who are adapting to life above ground and killing everyone they can. She is following broadcasts of safe havens where survivors gather and there is safety in numbers, as she heads north towards Canada, and hopefully safety.

I really loved this book. It was great to have a different kind of monster instead of the traditional zombie, though this story has everything good that you'd expect to find in a zombie tale. Every time Elise stops for gas, medicine, food, change of car, or sleep, she risks being attacked by the beasties. She also has to look after the needs of two very young girls which adds a different element to the story. We see Elise as a fighter when she is attacked, and a mother trying to look after her girls in a world gone mad. I mean, what other book do you have a woman trying to drive as much as she can in daylight with one daughter not toilet trained and the other with the weakest bladder in America? I loved touches like that!

The beasties are brilliant and scary. They might not infect you like zombies but their claws and teeth will rip you to pieces. The beastie attacks really are tension filled as you hope that everyone will survive, and for the first half of the book the beastie attacks come thick and fast. Hotels, gas stations and shopping malls with dark corners all become danger zones even in the relative safety of daylight so every time they stop the car, I was on edge wondering what was going to happen. But I also liked the fact that the beasties begin to adapt to sunlight, grow smarter and start operating in groups. As the book progresses this enemy becomes more dangerous, more chilling, so the author is continually taking the plot forward and evolving her bad guys. That is the mark of great writing. Keep your readers guessing!

The second half of the book switches to life in the safe zone which gave the book an intriguing turn. Thankfully the people in the complex were all good characters and we now see a new side of Elise as she has to let her girls have space, deal with her feelings for Jason and become a scientist again.

I'm not generally a fan of people having relationships during an apocalypse based on my own opinion that I'd have enough to deal with without worrying about men! However, I did like the relationship between Elise and Jason. It evolves slowly, based on shared danger but it is complex and never perfect, giving it more realism. I liked the way the girls characters developed through the book with both having to grow up damn quick is such hostile surroundings but there were a lot of really sweet 'family' moments in there to balance the danger and horror. I also liked other characters like Benson and the scary chef! Meg was an interesting twist. I'll say no more about that!

Niggles? Just one. The few science bits flew right over my head! I got the general plan-engineer a virus that will eradicate the inhuman bits of the beasties which will turn them 'human' or kill them. But when Elise starts explaining HOW the virus is made and works, my eyes began to glaze over. Phrases like vector behavior, oxygen bonded nanotechs, il vivo principle, pulsed field gel electrophoresis, Percoli gradient and isolating chromosomes were too much for me to take in and I didn't understand a word of it. For those like me who don't get science, do what I did-don't try to understand, just remember that the virus is to turn them human or kill them! That will keep you right! Seriously, not getting the science did not in any way spoil the book as you'll see from my star rating, so don't be put off by those bits if you don't get it as there isn't much of it to read.

I found out about this book when I was looking at the blog of another author and took a chance on buying the paperback. I'm really glad that I did and I'll be passing it on to my dad to read. I'm sure he'll love it too! I'm very much looking forward to reading book two!
star rating photo: 5 Star Rating 5stars.jpg

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