Friday, September 18, 2015

Microreview [book series]: Yesterday's Gone, by Sean Platt and David Wright

A bit of alright, as the Australians might say


How did I stumble across this series, you ask? Simple: I got my eyes burned by a laser. So I knew, post-laser, that I’d have to rest my eyes for a day or two, and decided to stock up on interesting-sounding-yet-still-reasonably-priced Audible titles. Nor was I sorry! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to what the dual authors have dubbed, in what they call an homage to narrative arc TV series storytelling, “season one.” (I also liked season two, but season three wasn't available on Audible, only as a regular e-book, and perhaps as a consequence, didn't really "do it for" me, as Bill Pullman said so emphatically as Lonestar.) They claim in their author’s note/afterward that they were inspired by the episodic but still character-driven nature of Lost to try an experiment with this project, exploring the capabilities of the e-book format and aiming for the feel of a TV series. And I was mildly surprised to find this formula pretty effective, in fact, though it ironically reproduces some of the most frustratingly contrived aspects of serial TV (such as characters not doing something anyone on earth would immediately do, like close the door or whatever, because it is just so much more convenient for the diegesis if the idiots keep making spectacularly bad decisions). My generally positive impression of seasons one & two, in particular, might stem partly from the skillfully done audio recording; the narrator really brings Boricio, in particular, to life.

I won’t say much about the story, except to note that it’s not so much post-apocalyptic as “right in the middle of the apocalypse”, a Manichean nightmare where darkness and light are locked in furious battle…and darkness is mopping the floor with light. Boricio is awesome despite the suggestion that to psychopaths empathy is like a switch that can be turned back on; Luca is a weird, irritating drag, despite obviously being hugely important to the story. And the vaguely quantum theoretical underpinnings of the series’ main premise/conceit is interesting enough, and if not wholly original, at least a major improvement over the typical “zombie plague” kind of storyline.

The only real objection I have is about what I’ll call the “infected” or, if you prefer, the “monsters”,  which I felt to be a singularly odd combination of lethal traits (massive physical strength and speed, claws, bullets to anywhere but the head seldom effective, etc.) and absurd vulnerability (sometimes human characters just stepping on the monsters’ heads is enough to end them). Do the authors intend for the infected/monsters to be scary? They end up conjuring fear in the hearts of this reader only when a) there are tons of them, and b) the humans are almost out of bullets.  Which happens pretty much all the time, now that I think about it!

Anyway, if you’re looking for an engrossing read (or “listen”!) that, at least for the gateway drug of the first volume (or “season”), is free or nearly so, you can’t do much better than Yesterday’s Gone—the shockingly vulgar one-liners from Boricio alone make it worth your time!

The Math

Objective Assessment: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 for Boricio, +1 for a refreshing quantum-ized look at the apocalypse

Penalties: -1 for failing to render the monsters/infected in a truly scary/consistently tough way (if they can form claws or whatever as hard and sharp as steel, why are their heads ripe watermelons waiting for a stiff breeze to explode them?)

Nerd coefficient: 7/10 “A bit of alright” (ß throw some prawns on the barbie and smoke ‘em!)

This has been a test of Nerds of a Feather flock-mate Zhaoyun’s emergence-ee broadcast system. It was only a test; if it were a real emergence-ee, I wouldn’t have time to tell you I’ve been doing this for literally two years!