A DRM-free dark sci-fi action adventure… with zombies?
Mature Content Rating: R (for strong language, violence, and graphic images)
I don’t do this often, but every once in a while I count my blessing: food in my belly, a roof over my head, not being chased by worm-infested humans… Abe Griffin might be able to count these blessings, except for the last one, but I hope that you can count all three of these blessings. If you haven’t guess already, this is yet-another-zombie-apocalypse-book… and yet not. They are not “zombies” in the purest sense of the word and the world is only ending because some big baddy is trying to destroy it… Doesn’t that sound like the plot of almost every book out there? Though this book has that end-of-the-world-running-from-ugly-things feel, it is not your standard must-fight-to-survive-against-the-undead-horde. Bad Radio is a wonderfully crafted tale of loyalty and vengeance on the backdrop of a social commentary about the human condition.
Michael Langlois knows how to set a mood. Bad Radio opens with an old man waiting for life to end. The scene progresses in a slow meaningful manner as the reader gets a taste of some back story and who this Abe Griffin character is. Suddenly the scene changes and we are sitting on the edge of our seat within the final paragraph before the “Chapter 2” heading. Not only does Langlois know how to set a scene, he also does a beautiful job of ending them and causing the story to progress in such a way that leaves the reader wanting more. Most chapters end on a cliffhanger, which would be bad enough, but a lot of them (especially near the beginning) end with something crazy about to happen which was unforeseen until a few sentences before the end. For the sake of not revealing spoilers, I will use some fictional examples that may get the point across.
Scene 1: An old man. A wooden boat. A fishing pole, line loosely dropping beneath the surreal water. A nice relaxing fishing trip. The line goes taught. Did he catch something? A tiny fish on the end of the line. As he reaches out to grab his prize of the day, he is already thinking about how it would taste slowly cooked over the flames. Suddenly a meteor lands on the tail of the boat and the man disappears beneath the water.
Scene 2: A mother. A stroller. A beautiful baby. A beautiful day. Cool breeze, warm sun, bird’s chirping. “There’s nothing better after a long day of work than a nice stroll in the park. Wouldn’t you agree?” She leans down to kiss her child on the forehead. Though she knows he cannot answer, sometimes she just like to talk to him.
“No, I wouldn’t agree.” the reply does not come from the lips of her child, who is yet too old to speak. A man steps out from behind a nearby tree, and points a gun at her child, a cruel smile not disguising the intent.
The chapters are often short and end in ways that keep the reader glued to the edge of their seat to see what is coming. Many times while reading, I had no idea what was going to happen next, and almost expected some outlandishness thing to come out from the recessed of Langlois creative mind to jump into the scene. The problem is that his mind is not mine, so when I expected things to happen, they didn’t, and when I didn’t expect anything, the most outlandish thing happened leaving many chapter closing with these words on my lips, “What is happening in this book!” It’s so crazy, it’s good.
As I previously mentioned, Langlois is amazing at mood-setting. Whether it is a high-octane action scene or more slow paced, the reader feels like they are in the scene, living it not only through the eyes of the characters, but through their hearts. The descriptions are rich, hearty, and effective. A scene isn’t often bogged down or slowed by the description used, but instead it makes the scene come alive with vibrant flavour.
The book is split into two parts, each with their own characters and mood. The “parts” are not distinct from each other, but employ a definite change in the mood of the story. At the end of part one, a sub-plot is complete, but the story is far from over. I wasn’t so sure what the point of splitting this book into parts was until I got through the second part. The solid shift in mood between parts one and two give a new flavour to the story, and splitting it in two was a nice touch which re-guides the reader as new scenes and characters are developed.
The first half of the book is the strongest, by far. Part one leads the reader on a journey of discovery about the characters and world without letting the action drop. There are many on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments that draw the reader right in, and the descriptions are amazing. I feel that part two fell behind on this a bit. It is not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is just not as good. Once part two gets going, there are a lot more action sequences which are split up with seemingly meaningless chapter breaks. The reader still gets that edge-of-your-seat feel, but for completely different reasons. Instead of the suspense of what is going to happen next because of crazy and innovative chapter endings, the suspense is held by ending chapters in the middle of the action. Though I still enjoyed the short chapters in the second half, I don’t feel like they were used as well as they were in part one, and often I felt like I had to keep reading just so that when I came back to it I wouldn’t be lost in the middle of a scene. Instead of chapters ending at well-crafted commercial breaks, they seemed to come simply because they were required by the television network after x number of words.
As you can tell by the mature content rating, there is a lot of strong language and graphic images in this book. The swearing was quite off-putting for me. I understand that people swear, especially when they are angry, but the frequent use of the F word disturbed me. Because of the nature of the story, there are a lot of gruesome scenes, and Langlois has no qualms about describing them in all their grotesque detail. This didn’t bother me specifically, but I do think that maybe the gut-wrenching descriptions were a bit over done at times, and this could put a lot of people off. Every book must find a good balance between reality and readability. Bad Radio was leaning a little bit too hard one way.
If you are not bothered by strong language and gruesome description, this book is for you. A high-octane tale of people going to save the world from the “big baddy.” Though this may sound over-used, Bad Radio is anything but traditional. Be prepared for a wild ride through mood-setting descriptive scenes and a strange world with strange magic to discover. Whether you are looking for the magic of the world, or the magic of words bringing a story to life, this book is for you.
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