Saturday, February 8, 2014

Book Review: "Tales from the End" by Lissa Bryan

With Tales from the End, Lissa Bryan plunges us back into the world of her post-dystopian romance, The End of All Things. Having read and relished the latter, I came to this collection of Tales well-acquainted with the Infection and its decimating effect on earth’s population.

And I couldn't wait to wait to read more about it.

The magic of Tales from the End is Bryan’s ability to infuse stories of loss and widespread devastation with a palpable, enduring sense of hope. Because Carly and Justin survived The End, we know it is possible to outlast the Infection. And as we meet Pearl and Veronica in the first two stories, we pray they have the chance.
For their part, their desires are initially simple. Pearl wants her cranky client Randall to pick up his fan mail so she can dump him from her roster. Nine-year-old Veronica wants to eat dinner so she can go to bed at a decent hour. But as these problems brush against the backdrop of the looming Infection, Bryan is at her best—showcasing humanity’s compassion and its innate refusal to go down without a fight no matter the odds.

The third story provides us with the unique perspective of a horse named Cloud. Her wordless, equine view of the end’s advance is powerful in its simplicity. Something is very wrong, something to which she cannot put a proper name, and our concern for her well-being is immediate and acute. Without a human advocate, how will she survive?

In the last story, readers of The End are stoked to visit with its protagonists Carly and Justin. Carly has a surprise for Justin, and this slice of normalcy amid perpetual concerns for their survival is priceless and poignant. This tale is an apt conclusion to the four-part collection and enough to tide me over until the sequel to The End of All Things is released.

Barely. Because I'm really eager to read the next book. Like tempted-to-pester-Lissa-every-day-about-it eager. But she's my friend and I don't want to be annoying, so I guess I'll behave.

Maturity, sheesh.

While I wait, I could go on and on about Bryan’s brilliance, the beauty of her taut, evocative prose, and her mastery of setting and just enough detail. But I’d rather you grabbed a copy of Tales from the End and see for yourself. And if you haven’t already, grab The End of All Things while you’re at it. I promise you’ll thank me later!

From the author of The End of All Things comes a collection of short stories about the Infection that swept around the globe, decimating the population, and leaving behind a small number of survivors, unprepared to deal with the brutal new world which had replaced the one they’d known.
The End of All Things told the story of Carly Daniels and Justin Thatcher’s travels across a shattered nation in search of a safe place to settle, after the pandemic. But it was also a journey into love, and an affirmation of hope. Carly finds strength in her faith that things can be even better than they were before, that compassion and charity are not luxuries; they are what make us human. Life endures, and so does love. The End of All Things is only a beginning.
And now, Lissa Bryan gives us three new stories in Tales from the End
Two of them are an introduction new characters from the upcoming sequel to The End of All Things, and the other two are a visit with old friends.

The Horsemen
L.A.’s mayor has declared quarantine to try to halt the spread of the Infection. Pearl sets off across the city to buy supplies, but already the world is changing. Something strange is in the air. The Horsemen are coming …

When Veronica’s mother doesn’t come home from work and no one answers the phone when she calls for help, a nine-year-old girl is thrown into the chaos of a world coming to an end. Veronica decides it’s up to her to find her family. “Veronica” is the story of a little girl’s courage in the face of the end of all things.

“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
They called her Shadowfax – the mare Carly and Justin found on their travels. But before she was found by Carly, the retired dressage horse was known as Cloud. An unusual tale of the end, told through the eyes of a confused and lonely horse, left in her pasture.

A previously-published bonus story. Carly knows Justin has never celebrated his birthday, and after society crumbled, no one knows what date it is, anyway. But she wants to do something special for him. Celebrating the little things helps them keep hope alive, and as a blizzard rages outside, a small gesture of love warms their home.
Tales of courage, tales of survival… Tales from the End.
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Veronica made herself a bologna sandwich at lunchtime and ate it in front of the TV. The soap operas should be on now, but they were still showing the news. That guy her mom thought was so cute, Troy Cramer, was talking about how everyone was getting the flu. Lots of people were at the hospital, and they were closing schools in some places.
She put in another movie. By the time it was done, her mom should be home from work. She would tell Veronica that her car had broken down and she’d lost her cell phone or something, and be so proud of Veronica for taking care of herself. Or she would say that David had gotten sick, but it was a false alarm and everything was fine now.
Everything would be fine.
Five p.m. Any minute now.
Five thirty. Just traffic. Or David’s daycare teacher wanted to talk.
Veronica sobbed as she curled up on the couch, crying like she hadn’t cried in years. “I want my mom,” she told the empty room.
She wiped her face with her palms and went into the kitchen. It was unavoidable now. She had to call her dad. She couldn’t spend another night alone. As she dialed, she remembered a book she’d read last summer called Pippi Longstocking. It was about a little girl who lived all by herself, and when she’d read it, Veronica had thought about how much fun it would be to have Pippi’s big house and all of that freedom. But now, such a fate seemed horrifying.
Her dad’s phone rang. And rang.
And rang.
His voice mail didn’t even pick up. She waited, because surely he’d see their number on the screen and pick up. He would pick up because she was letting it keep on ringing, and he’d realize it was something important when she didn’t hang up.
It kept on ringing.
Veronica thought she’d cried out all the tears she had, but she was wrong. She sobbed into the receiver, and those sobs turned into hiccups. She had to grab a paper towel from the counter to blow her nose, because she couldn’t breathe.
The phone stopped ringing, and a voice came on the line. Veronica sucked in a breath so fast she choked. She started crying again when it was just a recording saying that the other party wasn’t answering. Then there was just the hum of an empty line.
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Tales from the End is available now.
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About the Author:
Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot…. though only in her head.
Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.
She is the author of two novels, Ghostwriter and The End of All Things. Her third, Under These Restless Skies, will be released on February 20, 2014.

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