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Commune: Book Two (Commune Series) Paperback – August 24, 2017
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This is just a really great story and certainly one of my favorite postapoc stories of 2017. I can't wait to read the third book!
Hi praise for Joshua Gayou ! I am a fan !
Book 2 primarily expands the story of another of the commune's main characters, who was briefly introduced in the epilogue to the first book. Gibs is a former Marine, and we meet him and his hapless band of misfits as they struggle to survive amid the ruined cities of Colorado. There are several tense, violent, defining moments where hope seems all but lost, but under Gibs' will and perseverence they manage to press on. Eventually they make their way to the Jackson, Wyoming, and are taken in by the original settlers of the commune (whose establishment was the subject of the first book). Here, the narrative switches from run-and-gun survival against other groups of more ill intent, and settles into a procedural of planning and working toward their long term survival in a more secure, permanent place. There are some interesting solutions to the problems of housing, food, security, and yes even waste disposal. Gayou has thought of everything.
This is where Book 2 continues with the satisfying breadth of theme and subject matter that was initiated in the first installment. Yes, we get plenty of action, plenty of Road Warrior style confrontations with the bad guys. But mixing in a healthy dose of real-world problems, and the clever solutions to them, helps with the immersion into the story. It lends a level of believability that is absent in the more cartoonish, all-gore-and-grim examples in the genre. And, gratefully for this reader, it also infuses an underlying sense of hope to the story. Yes, disasters happen, the group is fraught with setbacks, but ultimately we can see that they're laying down the groundwork for long term success. We're rooting for them.
Which isn't to say the violence and action take a back seat. The story climaxes in an epic road-borne battle that rivals any I've read in the genre. This is the set piece that Gibs' entire story arc has laid the groundwork for. His colorful personality is matched by his battle-toughness, as he leads his ragtag group of scavengers against an overwhelming force of bad guys. Here is the red meat for hard core fans of the genre.
But Gayou's talent is in weaving the id and the ego. It's not all just gunfire and explosions. He's put some real thought into many of the more basic questions of a post-apaclyptic world, and handled those subjects with skill. The aforementioned survival needs, and their solutions, are a case in point. But Gayou throws subjects into the mix that you'd never even think of, then forces his characters to figure out a solution. One such episode features a member of their own group, who goes off the rails in a way that I've never seen addressed in a story of this genre. Several themes come together in that one small corner of the story, such as the subject matter itself, the idea that the monsters a group of survivors must face can come from within as well as without, and also the moral struggle to figure out a just solution.
Commune: Book 2, ultimately becomes more than just a post-apocalyptic narrative. It studies themes that break the norms of the genre, and therefore would be a satisfying read for even those who don't usually read such books. We see deep character studies, watch them grow and develop, some for the good and some not so. Gayou stress-tests them in a wide variety of situations to see what they do. And its fun to watch.
Disclaimer: I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the author at no cost. I was only asked for initial feedback, though there was no requirement to post an official review in exchange for the ARC. However, I enjoyed the book so much that I gladly purchased it anyhow, and am proud to offer my thoughts in this review as a verified customer of the book.
Like Commune Book One, the sequel is written in first-person narration, alternating between perspectives from new characters as well as old ones.
This was enjoyable to read because it really helped to flesh out the characters of the main protagonists: Jake, Amanda, and Gibs, and I particularly liked this narrative style when it circulated between these three characters, each doing different tasks at different times in different locations. It helped highlight the wide range of jobs needing doing amongst the group and how every member plays a different role.
However, when the narrative switched between these three during one singular event, I think this let the book down a little. To me, retelling the same or an incredibly similar event from different character perspectives came across as somewhat redundant.
Speaking of Jake and Amanda, Commune Book Two draws out their personalities even more, particularly as they interact with newest members of the group.
Gibs, an ex-Marine, is the new addition to the group of protagonists in the series and, although his language is incredibly … explicit, he feels a very naturally written character.
Thus, as an ex-Marine, his authoritative style of voice, paired with his knowledge of guns and mechanics made the explanation of certain weaponry much more appropriate – I remember finding myself lost at the use of over-technical language in Commune Book One; I did not have this same problem again, and this is a great improvement to see.
Turning my attention to the minor characters however, it was difficult to remember who was who because a lot of the minor characters seemed to have their own small strands working in the background of the overarching narrative. Now, whilst it is completely natural that, in a group of survivors, some will be leaders, and some will be followers, I query the necessity of having to provide each minor character with a backstory and family, particularly when their lives and their roles are not the ones we follow for a lot of the book.
Furthermore, with only some throwaway details about some minor characters, it was difficult for me to care about the injuries, or incidents that happened to them. This contrasted with the first-person perspectives of the main characters, who would always seem to respond as if they’d just lost a best friend, despite them only being mentioned in a few pages or chapters.
Moving on from this, I liked Joshua’s style of writing; his descriptions were very imaginative, without bogging the reader down in too much unnecessary detail. There were lots of action scenes throughout Commune Book Two, with lots of variation each time – such as location, characters, the nature of the incident - so it never felt like “generic gunfight #3”. Each action sequence was fast-paced, and I found the ending scenes with Gibs particularly exciting.
The fear of survival, emphasised by violent incidents and practical problems like a lack of supplies eradicated my longing for overarching problem - like a zombie apocalypse. I remember discussing that at times in Commune Book One, life felt more straightforward than scrambling for survival, leaving little for characters to do. However, by describing scouting for supplies, building a base, and dealing with any opposition, there was never a dull moment.
The ending of Commune Book Two was good; it introduced new story elements, as well as tying up other narrative strands, reminding me of how an episode of The Walking Dead would end, leading you to want to find out what happens next.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story of Commune Book Two. The protagonists were developed in more depth with more proficiency, the introduction of new characters meant watching the groups merge together and settle into life in this new dystopian landscape in an enjoyable way.