Thursday, August 16, 2012

Reading Recommendations: I'm a Survivor

Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Bear Grylls
I've never watched Man vs. Wild, but I'd heard about the Emmy-nominated adventure show and was curious to read the star's tales of (in my opinion) insane derring-do (insane!)  From a very young age, Bear pushed himself to endure conditions that most of us would find --- uh, life-threatening?  To say the least.

What surprised me was that, for such a badass, Grylls is incredibly humble and sincere, whether recounting his selection process for Special Air Services, his phenomenal Everest climb, his subsequent adventures creating Man vs. Wild, and his work for the World Scouting Organization.  He praises his family, his wife, his mates and his crew.  Without their support and example, he claims, he would not have accomplished nearly so much.  Even if you decide not to climb Everest at the end of this book, you will still find it inspiring.

Pure by Juliana Baggott*
At the time of the Detonations, most of the world's population was outside the Dome and unprotected.  Those who were not instantly killed fused with other objects, with their surroundings, even with one another.  16-year-old Pressia, who bears a doll's head where her hand should be, can hardly remember the time before.  Some wait for the day when those inside the Dome will come back out.  Some hope to kill everyone who was inside.  But Pressia is trying to survive in the world she knows.

Inside the Dome, Partridge Willux begins to doubt what he has been told about the death of his mother and what goes on in the world outside.  When he escapes the Dome and is joined by Pressia, the two of them begin to uncover the truth of their histories -- and what will happen to the rest of the world.

I had read several descriptions of this book before I read it and was still unprepared for Baggott's descriptions of the fused survivors.  Having a doll's head for a hand is nothing compared to having a live dog for a leg, being part of a "groupie" (several people fused together in a barely human mass), or fusing with the ground itself.

Pure and its sequel, Fuse, have been grabbed up by Fox; I hope the movie will do justice to the incredible images and characters Baggott has described.

*You may have read one Ms. Baggott's books when you were younger; she wrote The Anybodies series under the alias N.E. Bode.

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
"...We were going to leave together. We had this plan but she left me with him instead because being stuck with me made her feel trapped...she left me and --" I think of myself sitting on the edge of the bathtub and it was so long ago, too long, and I start to cry again. "I've been here so much longer than I was supposed to be --"
Sloan didn't plan to be alive this long. Ever since her older sister, Lily, left her alone with their abusive father, she has been looking for a last way out.

Then the dead rose up and attacked the living.

Now Sloan is trapped -- trapped with five of her classmates, who all want to stay alive.  But when Sloan's world ended long before everyone else's, what reason can she find to survive?

True to the best zombie yarns, this story isn't about surviving the undead monsters but about how the living survive one another.  The undead can never be as terrifying to Sloan as her father, who understood how best to hurt her and Lily and did so systematically, like "a machine."  Summers has placed her painfully sympathetic protagonist in a world so ruined that you understand her desire to quit breathing at the same time that you want her to make it through one more day.


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