on May 30, 2007
The invisible killer. We've all seen the media frenzy over the latest deadly outbreaks: SARs, Avian flu.... We've all been gripped with fear as they sensationalize the story, only to have it disappear soon after; leaving us to wonder if this was just another scare story. Yet history is riddled with stories of deadly plagues and killer viruses ravaging populations and wiping out civilizations. What makes us think that it could not happen again?
Sam North's latest novel is not a work of Science Fiction. It's not even a work of fiction. It is potential fact!
Set in Vancouver, this is the tale of a world ravaged by a mutated version of the avian flu virus. People are dropping dead in the thousands, society has broken down and anarchy is slowly ensuing. In the midst of all this turmoil are three sets of characters, Fen and her dog Red who, along with her family, flee to a remote island in an attempt to wait out the epidemic. Arno flies from Toronto to Vancouver to find Rachel, the woman he loves, and together they try to outrun the virus. Finally there's Deka, a cab driver whose good friend Dr Borov somehow helps them both to survive the virus with his own medicinal cocktail. The so-called experts have failed to develop an effective vaccine and now most of these experts are also dead. People are afraid of people. No-one knows who to trust. The government are no longer able to protect you. The economy is all but destroyed. The world seems doomed.
Yet out of the ashes emerge these three sets of characters who prove that all is not lost. When all is said and done it's the ordinary people who save the day. Through all the doom and seeming despair, hope remains alive with some. When you've hit rock bottom and survived, the only way is up.
What makes this book so much more compelling is Sam's easygoing and free-flowing style of writing. Rarely have I discovered a new author who can draw you into his world so easily. His writing is alive and engaging, and the dialogue is so down to earth that you feel like the people are next to you acting it out. Sam has the enviable ability to create a diverse group of characters that the reader is able to vividly picture and instantly like or dislike; something that should be commonplace, but is sadly lacking in many of today's books.
Fascinating, frightening and compelling, Another Place to Die is the ultimate page-turner which I guarantee will result in many late nights under the bedside light with you uttering, `just one more chapter!!'
Reviewed by Ian Middleton: Travel Writer and photographer, and author of Mysterious World: Ireland.
on March 3, 2011
I'll confess, right from the start, that I adore post-apocalyptic fiction. If it's dying..I'm reading it. I'm not sure why I do, but I do. That said, I've read my share of self-published stinkers and reviewed a couple of them here on Amazon without mercy. I don't have to do that with this book. It's a fabulous story, told in an engaging and approachable style with a rhythm to each individual character that brings it all to life.
Before I review, let's address the issue others have brought up in their reviews: profanity, grammar and editing.
Yes, there is profanity. In fact, it starts out with a bang full of it. But it isn't gratuitous and matches well with the social standing and age of the speaker using it.
I wasn't struck by the grammar negatively as much as some others. I enjoy it when authors capture the quirks of language native to an area. Whether it is the way some areas refer to soda or pop for soft drinks or the way some areas change the word order in some kinds of sentences, I think it adds authenticity to a story and character. Just so long as it isn't over the top, that is. I didn't find it so in this book. Yes, there are some errors that are clearly that; errors. Given that this is self published and done by one person without an editor, I'm pretty impressed.
Editing problems noted by others are very minor as far as I see. He did a fabulous job in self-editing the book and I'm a rather harsh critic of those things.
I'm wondering if he didn't go back and review the book and I received a better copy from a second Lulu publishing run? If so, it is entirely possible that anyone with an older version may see many more problems that I did.
Now, on to the story! It is the story of pandemic. Oh yes, I know. You're sick of pandemics, right? How many flu stories can we bear? But this one is told in a way far more realistic than so many others. It is a flu, but just one notch more persistent than our Swine Flu epidemic of last year. Instead of just a small percentage winding up on respirators for life or healing but with such scarred lungs that they are weak forever, the percentage is just one smidge more. That's all it takes really. Just overwhelm one rare and necessary medical machine capability and you have what happened in this story. A cascade of death, suffering and failure of a system requiring constant re-supply for existence.
In this book we have a set of protagonists and each is very different from the other. Fen, a teen girl who belongs to a family that cares rather less for her than they should is a practical girl who has had long experience shielding her feelings behind a hard shell. With her less than dutiful family, she goes to one of the many islands off the west coast of Canada to wait it out. Deka, a cab driver who was once a professor in a foreign land and Doc, a brilliant former Russian doctor and now caretaker to a shabby art gallery make up our second pair of hardy survivors. And finally, Arno and Rachel. Re-uniting just before it all goes downhill, they are left in this world of horror yet wrapped up in the joy of new love.
Their stories are very different, yet strangely united in their founts of strength that have made them survivors. Compassion, practicality and a certain mental immunity that never lets the bad things get them all the way down are hallmarks of these characters and I found the story compelling and immensely satisfying. There are snippets or interludes in which characters come and then go from the story that allow one to see many other ways in which people try to survive. I liked them as they gave me a moment to breath between the intensity of the main stories.
Overall, I'd have to say this is the second best self-published book of this type I've read. The first being Lights Out by David Crawford. For fans of this genre, that is really saying something as David's book has reached near cult status. Good work, Mr. Sam North, and I look forward to your next book! But could you please go ahead and make this available on kindle?
on October 21, 2009
True-ly a horrific scenario! King's 'The Stand' has a pandemic killer-flu, but his is 'good vs evil.' This pandemic is more man vs everything. People are afraid to be near each other, afraid to touch what someone else has touched, afraid of food that was packaged after the flu started, afraid of everything...so they lock themselves into their own little worlds where there is no longer electricity, or running water, or heat, or medicine...and they either die alone (I'd go crazy) or they band with a few they can trust and hide out.
The story shows just how evil humans can be (as if we didn't know!) and how sometimes you just have to trust someone else.
I didn't care for the swear words - don't use 'em, ask people not to swear around me - and a few errors in editing, but overall, a powerful read.
on March 30, 2011
Most books that deal with survivalist themes are really a combination of entertainment and education. If you read the Deep Winter Trilogy or Patriots, you get a story and you also get some thought provoking ideas and information. Another Place to Die really doesn't fit into that nook. Rather, it's purely a novel for entertainment. The author is not concerned with imparting knowledge to his readers. His intent is simply to entertain. The story takes place in Canada, which is a not unwelcome switch from the U.S. based stories you usually find in this genre. The characters are well developed and the story moves along smoothly. If I had it to do over again, I'd have asked my library to temp loan a copy for me rather than purchasing the book outright. Once you've read it, there's no reason to keep it.
I enjoyed that "Another Place To Die" took place in Vancouver, British Columbia. It allowed for some differences in the run-of-the-mill apocalyptic story. It was interesting, as an American, reading about some of the differences in daily living I don't normally think about between the U.S. and Canada.
This book was self-published by the author using Lulu Press (I write this since Lulu is a self-publishing house) and I must "assume" that the author, even though he is the Course Leader for the Masters in Creative Writing Programme at the University of Portsmouth, missed out on a LOT of his early year grammar and spelling lessons. Plus he must not have any friends with editing capabilities either because, like so many self-published novels, there were an abundance of errors. It definitely needed some copy editing.
But that written, I tried to ignore the mistakes because I felt the base story was very good. I like North's writing style. I liked the overall premise of the book. I liked the characters and thought North did a very good job of developing all the main characters. I felt the storyline was believable - much too believable, in fact. This was one of the MOST believable of any of the pandemic catastrophe books I have read and I have read most of them, I think.
I hope North continues to write but that next time he avails himself of copy editing services. And uses a bigger, more reader-friendly font when publishing. The tininess of the print was more distracting to me than the grammatical/spelling errors.
I enjoy post-apocalyptic books and will be keeping this for my library.
This was a great book. Moved quickly without being slowed by overly emotional & whiny characters or heavily burdened with politics. Nor was it weighed down with a bunch of religious overtones and nonsense. It was just a good old fashioned winter night read. A story of several people from different backgrounds who came together in varying ways through a massive die off worldwide and how each of them changed, moved forward, struggled, dealt with the horrors around them and happening to them and survived. The characters find themselves doing things deliberately that shock and shame them - however the lesson learned is survival is a one time option and when the choice is you and those you love or strangers, is it really a choice at all?
The author's look at the effects of the pandemic during the early stages, the worst of the pandemic, the immediate after effects and the months following the decimation of the world's population was realistic and without excess drama. I felt he protrayed things with realism for the truly awful parts and yet a sense of hope prevailed - no pollyanna here, but a prevailing sense of humanity underlying the bleakness of an 80% death rate. It was interesting to see this story told from a Canadian point of view - Americans tend to forget that Canada is heavily populated with immigrants from around the globe and several of the main characters were originally from South Africa, Russia etc. That brought a different flavor and feel to their actions and reasons behind them that was refreshing when compared to other novels in this genre.
on April 24, 2010
While the overall story was (for the most part) interesting, I couldn't thoroughly enjoy it due to the grammatical errors on just about EVERY page.
Also, I would hope the writer was setting the story up for a part two. If not, the ending was no ending at all.
on August 5, 2010
I bought this novel for its topic and title. I'm fascinated with the anarchy/apocalypse story line and the title was compelling. First, it took me a month to get over the stopping and restarting because of my impatience with the typos, missing words and simple lack of copy editing and the poor font display. Ugh! But I kept going back to the hooks Sam embeds into the story line. He's a very good story teller, creative and with his vignettes he spins a real page turner. After about 50 pages I just accepted the mistakes and the page look didn't matter because the story was just humming along with Deka, Arno, Rachel, Fen, Doc, Red, etc. headed into the dark shadows of massive death and the vacuum it leaves in its wake. But, Sorry Sam, it kinda slid into nice little love affairs with no conflict whatsoever. I'd give the first three quarters of the book a 8.5 rating. The last quarter a wimpy 4.5.
Sam North has a gift for spinning a good story. I'd think his future work will be better if he spends more time scrubbing the story for corrections and finishing stronger.
I liked it and and look forward seeing his new stuff.
on March 17, 2010
Wow. I gotta say, I loved this book. I'm fasinated by stories of survival, and have read a ton of them, be it meteors, nuclear war, zombies or sickness. And this one was one of my favorites. It was well written, the characters were all interesting, it was a fast read, and it was hard to put down. My only complaint is the ending was kind of anti-climactic, but still, an excellent read that I recommend to everyone.
on February 7, 2011
If you can get past the lack of proofreading and editing, this book is actually a good read. The author's research into catastrophic pandemic disease is thorough and informing. His characters grow real and believable as the book flows. Although the characters sprinkle their remarks freely with the same curse words in the beginning, they all oddly clean up their dialogue after the first two chapters so don't get discouraged. The book grabbed my attention and held it, which is rare for a self-published book.