Strangerby Simon Clark Published 26 Sep 2003
|Format||Mass Market Paperback|
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The small town of Sullivan has barricaded itself against the outside world. It is one of the last enclaves of civilization and the residents are determined that their town remain free from the strange and terrifying plague that is sweeping the land—a plague that transforms ordinary people into murderous, bloodthirsty madmen. But the transformation is only the beginning. With the shocking realization that mankind is evolving into something different, something horrifying, the struggle for survival becomes a battle to save humanity.
The Stranger is an odd book that I actually enjoyed by the time I got to the end. Unfortunately, the beginning seems to meander about the place and then about a third of the way through, the book kick starts to something resembling a zombie novel, though this is not a zombie novel.
As the book begins, you are faced with a load of dialogue for the first chapter then by the second chapter we are introduced to the narrator who is a bit odd and kind of hard to identify with. As the book gets moving, and I had to push myself in the beginning as I almost gave up on a couple of occasions, a turning point happens. The narrator's personality changes and the book starts gathering momentum. By the end of the book, I actually liked the narrator and enjoyed the characters. It does turn into an exciting read by the end and a real page turner.
I quite liked the setting and the situations that occurred and the cast of characters are very interesting. I have to say that characters are often forgotten about and left dangling even though they are still part of the story. In the group there are at least five to seven characters that have a chapter or two and then become part of the survivors but are never mentioned. I assume they are still around because there is no mention of death or movement at all.
The problems with the book seems to be the dropping off of existing characters as mentioned above, the suggestion of situations but lack of carry through and most of all, there is an over all disjointed story telling taking place that almost feels somewhat lazy by the author. I do not know if something got lost in editing or Simon Clark just kind of lost focus but this book does have a disjointed feeling to it.
I also have to say that the fourth of July fireworks are a bit naff and kind of up there with the film Independence Day speech by Bill Pullman. I would have to say that if this was done by a first time author, I would probably be less critical but since I am a fan of Simon Clark's work, I felt that he could have done a whole lot better.
This started out being a two star book but thanks to the pick up in the middle to the end, it earned its extra star. It is not horrible by any means, it is just not good enough to live up to the standards of other Simon Clark books.
I actually quite enjoyed this book though a few questions plagued my mind throughout the course of it. If hives needed to feed on live humans then why was the first stage of the disease filled with the killing of uninfected humans??? Also if Greg was truly a result of the hive completing its metamorphosis then why did he want to or why was he prone to have this need to kill those that were infected?
Even with all those questions I truly did enjoy the book
Becoming a classic
I've enjoyed the story in this one a few times despite the small errors found throughout the manuscript. A good book to pass the time with.
back in 1995, Simon Clark wrote a nifty post-apocalyptic novel called Blood Crazy, featuring the adventures of a young man in England as he meets other survivors and evades groups of murderous not-quite-zombies. I loved it. seven years later, Clark wrote Stranger, an irritating post-apocalyptic novel featuring the adventures of a young man in America as he meets other survivors and evades groups of murderous not-quite-zombies. well I suppose it is true that every writer revisits the themes and stories that define them as a writer, so I wasn't particularly annoyed at seeing the old story given new clothes. nor did I mind its lack of focus; that worked perfectly fine in Blood Crazy and I don't think its presence in Stranger is all that problematic. there's an excitement in randomness and not quite knowing where a story will be going, even if that unpredictability is due to lack of focus. what frustrated me about the novel was that it felt like it was written during one long weekend. a clumsy novel.
perhaps the switch to America served Clark badly. he has no grasp of how Americans talk. for example, few 10-year olds casually use the word "lovely" and use of the word "niggardly" is fairly rare (for obvious reasons). but I don't think it was just the problems with American vernacular because there was so much that was off throughout the entire novel in how the characters thought, spoke, and related to each other. people laughing at jokes that made no sense. a monstrous villain's oddly-timed rant about how he was bullied as a teen. the hero wondering about "mating" with a romantic interest and later flirting with her by saying she has to live so she can give him children. huh? an execution about a third of the way through the book bothered me not just because of its ridiculous brutality but because it was a genuinely ridiculous way to kill a person.
fortunately the novel wasn't a waste of time. I did like the oddly erratic approach to storytelling and Clark knows a thing or two about pacing. a book that features a youthful hero who flies into an uncontrollable murderous haze whenever someone infected is near him made for some surprising scenes. and Clark still has some creative juices. I would say that a room-sized jell-o mold apparently made of blood and other fluids and that contains malevolent floating body parts is certainly creative.
At first I was like meh. It took me a minute to get past some parts in the beginning--occasionally this author tends to be a tad too obvious at times.
I guess I'll get my criticisms out of the way first
1) One of my pet peeves with apocalyptic books is that they ALWAYS start off like 6 months to a year after everything goes to hell. I'm always wildly curious to find out how things start from the moment zombies rise up, or in this case, the entire population of South & Central America flood the United States and go on killing rampage. (Points for that being different there). I know flashbacks and newspaper clips and talks around the campfire are good fodder, but I wish more varied it up and went with Day One or something (The Cell did, which is why I like that book so much)
2) It would be not a good thing if an entire continent went completely insane and rampaged through America...however, I read some crazy statistic recently that we have so many bullets in the US that the entire population would have to shoot a round a second all year long before we ran out of just what was purchased in 2009. So I really don't think the nation would totally crumple and cease to exist in 4 days. This annoys me in almost every book (except for Brian Keene's books, and in his books all the ammo in the world wouldn't help).
3) I have a problem also in these kind of books how EVERYONE is evil. I think if you managed to make it out of say a situation where prions infect everyone's brains and make them into monsters and you have hives and creepy stuff floating in rooms filled with goo, that would be a bonding experiece. Thankfully the hero of the story meets up with good folks midway through and I know it's stock in horror books--who is the real monster, them or us deal? Maybe if the book was longer and devoted more time to the town that managed to quarantine itself from the prion/bread bandits/hornets I would have accepted it better. Book could have been longer and I wouldn't have complained (so that's a point in its favor).
But once I got past the first 30 pages or so, I was completely engrossed in this book. I don't think anyone does suspense quite like this author. Just when you think it can't get any worse, they suddenly spy thousands of zombies coming at them, or a woman with a new born baby wandering the wrong way towards the monsters, or someone breaks their leg, or the room starts running out of air, etc. But it never got ridiculous to me, so giant points to the author for that.
Loved it! Loved the pacing of this book, the characters aren't perfect and they have real problems, and there are some threads left open to let you use your own imagination... and I am a total sucker for Apocalyptic stories, especially when the author uses something other than shambling/running zombies as the enemy.