Thursday, 24 September 2015

REVIEW - SURVIVAL COLONY 9 BY JOSHUA DAVID BELLIN



Title: Survival Colony 9
Author: Joshua David Bellin
Genre: Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic, Survival
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: 23rd Sept 2014 / paperback released 1st Nov 2015 UK

BLURB from Goodreads
In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.

Querry is a member of Survival Colony Nine, one of the small, roving groups of people who outlived the wars and environmental catastrophes that destroyed the old world. The commander of Survival Colony Nine is his father, Laman Genn, who runs the camp with an iron will. He has to--because heat, dust, and starvation aren't the only threats in this ruined world.

There are also the Skaldi.

Monsters with the ability to infect and mimic human hosts, the Skaldi appeared on the planet shortly after the wars of destruction. No one knows where they came from or what they are. But if they're not stopped, it might mean the end of humanity.

Six months ago, Querry had an encounter with the Skaldi--and now he can't remember anything that happened before then. If he can recall his past, he might be able to find the key to defeat the Skaldi.

If he can't, he's their next victim.
 

INITIAL THOUGHTS
I’ve had this title in my “To Read”  pile for a long time, due to health issues and my eyes I had been reading just on my kindle or tablet for some time, until I got my glasses sorted out and though not perfect I can now read physical books again! Then shock horror during a thunder storm my internet went down which meant only having access to physical books to read. Hence I finally found this book again, as my daughter had secreted it in her pile of “books to read next”! Approaching the book all I knew was that was post apocalyptic. I decided not to re-read the blurb and just dove right in.

REVIEW
I was super lucky and actually won a signed hardback of this one directly from the author Joshua David Bellin so this book will be going straight onto my keeper shelf.
The cover has a large number nine as the main focus . The number nine acts as a window into the landscape of the area the characters have to survive in. It shows the desolation of dust and sand as far as the eye can see. The other thing seen through the nine is the blisteringly hot sky. The figure seen through the number nine could be the shadowy skaldi or I suppose the shadow could represent the main character of the book Querry who could be described at the beginning of the book as a “shadow of his normal shelf”. The byline on the book is “FORGET THE PAST. FIGHT TO STAY ALIVE”  these words are the ethic promoted by the leader of Survival Colony 9, Lamon Genn.
So would the cover make me pick this book up from a book store shelf? Yes as both the title and the cover suggest this book is a post apocalyptic one I feel I would certainly take this book from the bookstore shelf to learn more about it.
The book is told from the point of view of Querry, a teenage boy who has a memory problem. About six months ago there was an “incident” and since that point Querry has had a problem with memory. It is hard for him to remember day to day things and prior to the “incident” is a total blank. All Querry knows about the “incident” is that he was somehow knocked out, and when he woke up he had a large and painful lump at the back of his skull. He didn’t even know his name or recognise any of the people around him. A man named Laman Genn who is the leader of Survival Colony 9 explainsto Querry that he is his father. Laman constantly asks if Querry has any returning memories. Laman also continually goes over drills and survival techniques with Querry instilling rituals and instructions into his memory that I’d describe as being similar to pouring water in a bucket with holes. Querry seem’s to remember things that have been told to him over and over again such as the routine the survivors must follow in the event of a Skaldi attack. Sadly Querry has no memories of a mother that is no longer around him or the father that Laman claims to be. After the accident it took Querry a long time to learn and retain everyone’s names which made him an easy target and the butt of jokes made by the other teenagers. The self appointed leader of the other teen’s is Yov. Yov insists on calling Querry “Space Boy” in reference to his memory difficulties. Yov is a boy who hasn’t had a father figure and who is becoming a more troubled young man as time goes on. He has a problem with authority specifically with Laman. Yov takes every and any chance he can to poke fun at Querry as well as telling jokes at the expense of the leader, Laman. He also is beginning to challenge instructions, jobs and orders given to him directly or indirectly from Laman.  In fact as the plot progresses Yov ends up being part of a small rebellion group within the Colony.
We learn that those that lived “before” have caused this desolate landscape and have destroyed everything, the only people left are those in the Survival Colonies who need to move around trying to keep ahead of the dreaded and feared Skaldi
The Skaldi are a strange almost ghost-like race that sneak around and get inside the bodies of the survivors  and consume them from within. A Skaldi will enter a person’s body, use them up and then go onto the next body again and again until they are in the last available body, then they use that body to travel to the next group of survivors to be consumed. The only way to stop the Skaldi is to burn them in whatever body they may be in at the time.
The Skaldi can actually mimic the person they inhabit and fool those around them into being complacent and then they choose the perfect moment to move bodies and continue their destruction.
The group we learn all about in this book is Survival Colony 9. The leader is Laman Genn, his second in command and advisor is Aleka. The group has scouts who travel ahead and around the group keeping an eye out for any approaching Skaldi. The groups best scouting pair is Petra and Danis. Unfortunately they go out on a scouting mission and whilst they are away, the Skaldi attack the camp. The alarm is raised and everyone in the Colony immediately goes into pack up & survival mode. They narrowly escape and once again begin travelling. Some of the teens are sent ahead to scout and they report seeing a collection of ruined buildings so Laman orders they all make camp there. It is whilst they are there that Petra finally returns informing them that Danis has been consumed by the Skaldi, that she had to kill her long time friend and scouting partner. As Petra has been alone, she is subjected to the “trials” this involves pulling the fingers and teeth until they are bleeding to see if they have a Skaldi hiding within them. Luckily for Survival Colony 9 Petra, their best scout is not hiding a Skaldi within.
One of the character’s I did really liked the most was Aleka, she is a true survivor having seen the Skaldi go through her own Colony. She survived and managed to save the two teens with her Yov and Querry. Aleka then has to accept that she has a lesser role of second in command, not only to accept but has to be seen to agree and follow the orders of the leader Laman whether she truly agrees or not. We also learn later in the book that Aleka is holding a rather large secret about her relationship with someone else in the Colony for the greater good and perhaps for the survival of the group as a whole. Aleka also rescue’s Querry and has to kill a much loved member of the Colony who is at the time occupied by the Skaldi. It is difficult for Aleka to comprehend that the Colony member in front of her has really already gone once the Skaldi is within her and she has the difficult task of killing her former friend with a flame thrower (the only way to truly kill a skaldi)
The other character that I liked a lot was Petra, the stong, battle worn scout who ends up making the ultimate sacrifice for the future survival of the rest of the Colony, and does so without anyone knowing of her selfless act prior to her doing it.
I did “enjoy” the book, though “enjoy” seems to be an inept and perhaps inadequate word at describing how I honestly felt about the book. I had super high expectations for this book and it turned out to be something totally different from what I had envisioned. As most of you will know I adore the dystopian and apocalyptic fiction a but to be honest it is a quite simplistic story, there is no in depth explanation on how the world has become so desolate. Or how the Skaldi have come to exist.  When I got to the end of the book my initial reaction was “wow that was a bit of a strange read” . There is no real conclusion or finality in the ending to the book, neither the Colony nor the Skaldi totally win. I think the author has cleverly wrote a thought provoking book that leaves it’s conclusion to the reader.
Even now after reading the whole book, if someone asked me to describe the book the best I could come up with is, it’s about an apocalyptic world in which a group of survivors attempt to out run a clever mostly unseen enemy called the Skaldi.
On one hand this book could have been a smaller part to a much larger story but at the same time the book is also a story of sorts as it is on it’s own.
So did I enjoy the book? Yes, the book did keep me reading to the very end
Would I recommend the book? Yes and No. It’s not a typical post apocalyptic book, it’s a more thought provoking, slower read. It’s so difficult for me to describe but I don’t know the words and way to describe it any further without revealing the whole plot. I mean I read it to the very end, which must result in the conclusion that I enjoyed the book on some level.
Would I want to read a book two if this is a series? Truthfully I don’t think there will be a book two from how book one ended. If there was a book two would I read it? Do I feel that invested in the characters at end of book one to want to read another book to follow them further on their journey? To be honest I’m not sure.
Would I want to read other books by this author? I pride myself on being totally honest, so I did “enjoy” it, maybe not as much as I had hoped to but yes I would take a closer look at any book written by this author as he really managed to keep me so interested I wanted to read to the very end.

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