I’m completely into post-apocalyptic right now, which is unfortunate because everyone I look at these days falls into one of three categories: 1) Action hero 2) Crazy maniac probably going to eat my kids and 3) Most likely to die. On a recent camping trip, I even imagined who would steal all our food if a meteor hit (it was everyone). I also have an escape plan all worked out if the “virus” takes over, aliens invade, or a supervolcano explodes: get to the woods, and in the event you can’t, dig a hole under the hall closet and hide there with 10,000 canned goods and a porto-potty when all the crazy maniacs knock. I mean dig a hole behind the pantry. Or the guest room. Perhaps the yard. You’ll never know, crazy maniacs probably reading this!
Then The Rock and I saw World War Z last weekend and I engaged him in a serious conversation about how we’d get to the woods when all the cars on the freeway are stopped due to rabid human attacks. Answer: stay off the main roads and get on the zip line to Julian I’m constructing.
Then it occurred to me that I should probably share what I’m reading with all of you so you can begin preventive zombie arrangements of your own. I’ll start with the dystopian stuff and then segue non-logically into the other genres with subsequent “What I’ve Been Reading” posts. So, ready? (Wait! Was that just a global power outage orchestrated by amorphous alien intelligence?) (HA HA!) (Just a little WE’REALLGONNADIE humor!)
First up, is:
The Fifth Wave
The thing about a lot of dystopian these days is that it’s young adult fiction. Which is fine with me because I happen to think the young adult genre is exceptionally plot- and character-driven. I enjoyed this take on the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it because it was imaginative and thought provoking. The action revolved around what happens on earth after aliens invade our air space, and it’s not what you think: there isn’t War of the Worlds-type fighting going on, rather the aliens turn our own environments and friends against us. The Fifth Wave refers to the final attack (some of the others include flu and power outages) designed to completely wipe out the human race. Most of the book focuses on the main character, Cassie, who upon surviving the previous waves, takes to the “road” to gather the resources she needs to survive and also to find her little brother. About halfway through, the point of view changes to another character, which is initially jarring, but eventually illuminates the theme of you never know who is going to help you when you need it most.
The thing I find especially compelling about these genres is the survival instinct and the strategy the main characters must develop to make it in a world where it seems everyone is out to get you.
If I were a star-rewarding reader, I’d give this four stars out of five.
Bringing us to:
The Dog Stars
This book falls in the adult fiction category because it’s a little more complex than others in its genre. It’s also beautifully written and almost poetic even. The Dog Stars came across as largely stream of consciousness for me, due to the unconventional writing style and spare prose, but after I adjusted to the writer’s convention, I became hooked because I felt like I WAS the main character and experiencing this horrible, post-apocalyptic world with him. The story picks up after a flu pandemic kills most of the world’s inhabitants and the narrator, Hig, is left alone with an unpredictable neighbor to live in an old airport hangar in the middle of a cleared field they both try to protect from interlopers.
Desperate to find something to hold onto after being solitary for so long Hig takes his Cessna and begins exploring what – and who – is left to live in a world that’s violent and lonely.
I loves this book because it so clearly captured the isolation one might feel upon realizing there’s nothing around to hold onto and love, leaving you with just yourself.
If I were going to star-rate this, I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5.
And finally, we have:
Into the Forest
This book simultaneously thrilled and repulsed me. It tells the tale of two teenage sisters who live “off-the-grid” in the Northern California woods. After a series of non-apocalyptic-y events, it’s clear the world is nevertheless in a tailspin and its resources, including gas and electricity, are dwindling. The sisters live together on their remote homestead and grow what they can to survive and wait for news of power returning to set the world right again.
What interested me about this novel was that the girls’ journey into adulthood was arrested and literally suspended in the house in which they lived. The relationship between the two sisters is also interesting because they are so different, yet must rely on each other’s strengths to make it through literally dark days.
The action – if you want to call it that because the book’s prose mirrored the waiting, waiting, waiting, the girls were doing, even if in a compelling way – thrilled me because it played to my fascination with “what would I do in this situation?” and evoked most of my “what-if” scenarios (get seeds! dig a well! live in the woods away from the crazy maniacs!). The author also included several references to people “starting over” in the world or being thrust out of it, including the Native Americans. I found that history fascinating and frankly, sometimes revolting.
I would really have loved this book without reserve if not for one scene. In fact, I hated this scene so much and it was so out of left field that I can’t even recommend this novel without mentioning it – because you might dig 97% of this book, but that 3% as represented by the most out-of-character, unbelievable plot point I’ve ever read, might blow it for you like it did for me.
That ridiculous scene? Means Into the Forest gets 3.5 stars out of five.
I’ve got more reading to share, but this should be a good digestive amount for now. Some of the non-we’re-all-gonna-die books I’ve loved include Wild and Unbroken, not to mention The Distant Hours, which was pure epic/gothic perfection. I loved them so much, all three of those are totally going in my hidden-hallway-panic-room library.