Michael Grant’s Gone Series Book Number 5 and Counting

Michael Grant's Gone
Michael Grant’s Gone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow.

That one little word says exactly how I feel about Michael Grant‘s series about a group of Southern California teens who are trapped in a Dionysian apocalyptic world by a giant bubble that has been created by a 5-year-old autistic demi-god.

I read the first book in the series in August of this year. I was immediately hooked on the characters, their story and the tiny surfing community of the fictional Perdido Beach where everyone over the age of fifteen suddenly disappears.

Perdido Beach is soon renamed the FAYZ by the remaining children who are broken into factions. The first two factions are the “Freaks” and the “Normals.” Further factions are broken down into the Sam Temple camp and his half-brother Caine Soren, as the names imply Sam is the good guy and Caine is not.

The other faction that affects all the kids beside the actual bubble itself is the Gaiaphage, an outer space virus that was getting a piggy-back ride from a meteor that crashed through the Perdido Beach nuclear power station.

The trials and tribulations of the stranded kids has run the gamut from carnivorous teeth sprouting worms to bugs that eat you from inside out.  Of course there is still the disappearing at fifteen hurdle to overcome, but both Sam and Caine have proven that you don’t have to “poof out” if you don’t want to.

The books in the series are as follows:

1. Gone

2. Hunger

3. Lies

4. Plague

5. Fear

6. Light

Light the sixth and final book in the series will not be out until April 2013. I, for one, cannot wait for the finale of this outstanding series.

The Gone series is classified as fiction for Young Adults or Teens. I am neither and I have been swept away by Grant’s world. Each book in the series has followed the character’s development, deaths and decisions.

I actually sat down and in a three-day “read-a-thon” plowed my way through Lies, Plague and Fear. It was only after I’d downloaded Fear and read it as an E-book that I realised my error. If I’d waited for the book to be available via the library, I could have save myself the agony of waiting for the last book to be published months away.

Michael Grant has shown us what Lord of the Flies could be in the 21st century. Both tales are of nuclear catastrophes and of the effects that it had on a group of ungoverned youths. Grant’s FAYZ bubble is an island by everything but name and the kids in it are facing similar struggles to the plane wreck survivors in Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The addition of “super powers” in some of the kids and the “joker in the deck” of Coates Academy full of rich kid juvenile delinquents just makes the playing field that much more colorful.

I would recommend this series full of unforgettable characters to anyone, young or old. The villains of the series are not cardboard cutouts and some, Drake Merwin aka Whiphand especially, are terrifying. By the end of Fear we’ve learned that outside the bubble the “real world” exists and that it is aware of the bubble and is trying to penetrate it.

I have read the odd review where they stated that the kids did not seem like “real” teenagers. I have one thing to say to that, but since this is a series aimed at young adults, I’ll restrict it to a G rating. What a crock! I work with teenagers everyday (well I did until my accident and then heart attack) and I can identify with Grants depiction of Sam, Astrid, Caine, Diana, heck all the kids in the FAYZ.

I have, so far, written two reviews about this series. The Gone  and Hunger reviews were written literally minutes after completing the book. This review took a bit longer as I sat and digested the enormity of what Michael Grant has achieved with his story of the FAYZ and all those in it and their families outside of it.

It also took a couple of days to get over the disappointment of realising that I won’t know the outcome of the characters until April of next year. The sign of any good author is the trait of being able to leave his readers wanting to hear more about his creation.

Grant has done that no question. I am a Michael Grant fan now and like a true fan I’ll be reading everything else by him that I can get my hands on. If for no other reason than it will make the waiting for the final book of Gone that little bit easier.

Pontypool (2008): Python-esque Horror

Cover of "Pontypool"
Cover of Pontypool

Written and adapted for the screen by Tony Burgess and directed by Bruce McDonald  the 2008 film Pontypool feels like a demented Monty Python sketch on acid. It is clever, witty, and funny. It is also a brilliant exercise in suspense and horror.

The film promises so much in the beginning and continues to make these promises right up to the last quarter of the film. Then (a little like the 2010 film Insidious) it discards its brilliant beginning and shows us the ‘monster.’

Considering that the film was made in Canada by Canadians it’s no real surprise that the ‘big bad’ of the film turns out to be the English language. Without sounding too racist (I hope) it makes a sort of ironic sense coming from a country that has two national languages. One of which is French.

French is still touted as the ‘sophisticated’ language (mainly by the French) and the French are still slightly pissed that it is no longer considered the ‘international’ language that it once was. English has taken over as the ‘international’ language, which is slightly surprising considering it is seen to be harder to learn that the Chinese Mandarin language.

Still language plot points aside, the film is a good one. We join DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) on his drive to work. Work is a small suburban radio station that he’s just started at. Grant was a ‘Shock-Jock’ at his last job and it got him fired. Working for Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) the radio’s producer and manager is a major ‘drop’ in his status. The only other person in the radio station is Laurel-Ann Drummond (Georgina Reilly) who is the station’s technician, switchboard operator and all around chief cook and bottle washer. She also is a big fan of Grant’s.

That station producer Sydney doesn’t like Grant is obvious from the moment she walks into the station. Grant has little love to give in return as he drinks his scotch and coffee while presenting his show. While talking to their ‘eye in the sky’ traffic reporter, who in reality is not in the sky at all but is parked on a hill in his car, they are told that a ‘mob’ of people have surrounded a Dr’s office in the town.

This same mob, apparently blows up and the survivors start moving towards the radio station. A transmission in French breaks into the radio stations live broadcast. Laurel-Ann translates it and the message is that they should stop talking in English and to not use ‘terms of Endearment’ such as honey or sweetheart.

At this point in the film, we can only hear what Grant, Sydney and Laurel-Ann hear from the various ‘eye in the sky’ reports and phone calls into the station. We can hear through the calls, the sounds of everything that is going on around the caller. It makes for a suspenseful ride.

Steven McHattie really sells Grant Mazzy. His reactions, rants and realisations are brilliant. It is his presence that makes the film feel all too real.

If the film had continued in the vein that it had started, it could have quickly become a classic horror film. Unfortunately the creators decided to ‘show’ the infected crowds and bring the violence and gore into the radio station. It doesn’t harm the film when they do this, but it does rob it of it’s brilliant suspense and mounting horror.

Overall, I loved the film. And I might be the only one who noticed this, but towards the very end of the film when Grant and Sydney are playing their word association game in an attempt to “save the world” isn’t that a direct reference to the 1974 film Rhinoceros? A film that could be Pontypool’s spiritual twin?