Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Closure, Limited by Max Brooks ★★★★

I really enjoy Max Brooks' stories. I love his insightful way of looking at the zombie culture, what it represents, what it means for us, what we would, or could, do about it if it were to occur.

I recently recommended Max's World War Z to a friend, and loaned him my copy so he could read it. (Don't worry, it's back in my possession now, and unharmed. :D) He returned it with the comment that it was probably one of the best stories about society in crisis he'd ever read, and that the realism was incredible. I completely agree, which is why I recommended it to him in the first place. ;)

So anyway, my point in mentioning this is that Max Brooks' books have been on my mind recently, and so when I was browsing Audible last night looking for something to listen to so I could clean the kitchen (What? Like you don't...), I discovered Closure Limited. I'd never heard of it before, so I was kinda excited by the thought of new material.

So, I downloaded, listened, and cleaned... in that order. Priorities, people. O_o

Overall, I liked this - maybe not AS much as Zombie Survival Guide or World War Z, but close. I think part of what detracted from this a bit was the format and the reading. For one thing, the reader sounded a lot like Max Brooks himself to me. I have heard Max read on the WWZ audiobook (the abridged one - I've yet to listen to the newer unabridged version), and I've seen him on that one zombie documentary show that I can't think of the name of... *IMDBs* "Zombies: A Living History". So for the intro, the reader's voice worked fine for me... but in the stories themselves... it wasn't the best match.

That's not to say that the performance wasn't good... It was good, but I am kinda picky when it comes to audiobook readers, and I wouldn't say that Christopher Ragland is among my favorites. The male voices were OK - but the females were... not. And three times he had to do accents: one from The Netherlands (if I remember right?), another from Vietnam, and then a woman from China. Oddly, the Chinese woman's voice distracted me the least, which was kind of contradictory to how I felt about how he read other women - maybe it was the more staccato way in which he read her that helped. Not sure.

Before I talk about the individual stories, I'll just mention one other thing that detracted from this book for me, with regards to the audio version. That issue is that each story is headed by a chapter. "Chapter One: Closure, Limited". I didn't actually NOTICE this, though, until midway through the 2nd story, when I was wondering what the hell the events I was listening to had to do with where I thought the story was going. I'm used to stories jumping around at chapter breaks. It gives a different perspective, and progresses the story, etc, so I heard, "Chapter Two: Steve & Fred" and didn't think anything of it being a NEW story, but a 2nd chapter in the story I was listening to already.

It was a little distracting, the be honest. Probably in print form, this wouldn't be an issue, because I'd know, getting to the next story, that it's not really "Chapter Two". Anyway, so when I eventually realized that it was a different story, it made a LOT more sense.

Moving on to the stories themselves, I really enjoyed them.

Closure, Limited:
Think about a zombie apocalypse... You know that the undead are everywhere, and that they are relentless killing, and turning, machines. Think about your loved ones, the ones that are now out of contact with you in your safehouse, or compound, or whatever. You don't know whether they are alive or dead or undead. You hope that they are alive, but the odds are... slim. After a while, the wondering starts to get to you... it starts to be harder to live with NOT knowing than it would be to just mourn. That's where Closure, Limited comes in - they allow you to end that uncertainty. They provide a service that gives just what their name says: closure. Granted, there's a certain amount of self-deception that's required, because, after all, you HIRED this company to give you closure... but if you just need the symbolic aspect, you're all set.

This one really made me think... It is kind of awful in its way, and extremely risky, but could I really say that I wouldn't want something like this to exist if I was in the situation of needing it? At the very least, it would be cathartic to destroy the hope that just stubbornly hangs on and insists on tormenting us...

Steve & Fred:
When I listened to this one last night, I was... not impressed. It didn't help that I didn't realize it was a new story (as I mentioned above), but to add to that the story also has a shift of its own. So, to be fair, I listened to this one again this morning, and I've changed my initial opinion. This is a GOOD story. It's like a little polaroid of a story, one that is still working on developing toward the middle. There's not much to this one - it's 22 minutes long, so, maybe I'd estimate a similar number of pages if the reader goes through 1 per minute. Maybe double if he reads slower. I dunno. But either way, the way it expands to show the whole situation is impressive, and enormous in its capacity for dread. And the irony of the story-within-a-story aspect is not lost on me. This is good stuff. 

The Extinction Parade:
This one is probably my least favorite of the lot, and oddly enough for the "unreality" of this zombie story containing vampires. Yes. Really. 

I mean, it's not that I'm against vampires and zombies in the same story; in fact, usually I'm good with that. But in Max Brooks' universe, zombies invade the normal, everyday world due to a virus. There's nothing paranormal about them. So the insertion of the paranormal here just felt... out of place. 

That being said, if I put that aside, the story is still a good one. It brings to light the concept of resources - that if suddenly a previously thought continually renewable resource suddenly starts to dwindle, would those who rely on the resource notice in time to stop it... COULD they stop it even if they did? 

The Great Wall: 
This story, previous to my re-listen to Steve & Fred, was my favorite of the four. Now, I'd say they are tied. I loved this story for everything that it represented in terms of human resilience and stoicism and courage. It brought tears to my eyes, both of pride and sadness, and I loved every second of it. 

This one is definitely a keeper for anyone who enjoys zombie lit, or who is a fan of Max Brooks, or both. I definitely recommend it. 

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