Fresh off my Vietnam fictional-autobiography The Things They Carried and Pulitzer Prize winner Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, I really needed to rest my brain. Actually–let’s be honest–I really needed to see humanity destroyed a little faster than we seem to be doing it ourselves. Brant–and I might turn into a genuine fan of this non-genuine Bigfoot hunter–serves up almost exactly what I was looking for in an apocalypse-monster novel. For all you who wanted to like The Passage and didn’t, I’d strongly suggest this little action-fest. Competently written (and I’m not damning it with faint praise), I just could not put it down.
We’re set up with a character who is having a bit of a life-crisis but ends up discovering his personal strengths in an external one. He’s ill-prepared in physical skill sets but not in mental ones, once he overcomes self-doubt. I thought the characters all behaved rather realistically, from initial rationalization of the ‘illness’ to depression to to attempting to strategize through the disaster, albeit somewhat ineffectively (of course). Focus is tightly on Lance, with important secondary characters. I appreciated that Lance did not overly demonize his soon-to-be-ex-wife, often a tempting crutch to make a character seem more likeable.
Although it goes quickly, the story allows for information-sharing through television and social media, giving the chance to witness some of the societal breakdown as systems and their back-ups gradually fail. I always wish this part was longer in survival stories, but Brant gives me more than many books. Plotting was tension-filled, feeling a great deal like a survival video game. Immediate conflict, re-group/strategize, next conflict. There’s a part near the end that sounded scarily prescient with some people’s political response to the virus. I found it almost impossible to stop reading.
“The tie around Lance’s neck might as well have been a noose.
Yet another job interview went horribly as his career circled the drain. He looped a finger over the knot by his throat and pulled it down, letting out a long, depressed sigh. Fourteen years of hard work, certifications, and experience meant nothing anymore.”
What fun foreshadowing! Not only true for Lance’s own life, but about to be true for the world.
I have perhaps only two quibbles. One, overall conflict escalated quickly. I don’t mind the escalation in terms of human destruction scenario, but in terms of the monster scenario, it straddles the line between believability and pure fiction. I’m a little ambivalent about that, because then I feel the story loses its chance to explore the breakdown, and not head straight into survivalist territory. Two, (mild mid-book character spoiler—a female character that comes along is just about perfect, not in the stereotypical kind of way, but in the everything-I-need kind of way. She’s Xena, Warrior Princess. But what the hell–I kind of enjoy a good warrior princess.)
Dialogue was solid, although I did eyeroll a couple of times at the flirtation-type banter. I suppose it provides some humor. There is a little bit of humor edging into description which I appreciated. Certainly not enough to distract from the seriousness of the situation. “He considered breaking in to his neighbors’ apartments to scrounge for food, but he feared some of them might be hiding inside, armed with shotguns. Getting shot was low on Lance’s list of priorities.”
This was a freebie at Amazon when I picked it up. No worries, though–unlike the last self-pub apocalypse I picked up (L.A. Dark), this one had adequate closure, much like an arc in a television series. That said, the reader will undoubtedly want to go on to the next book. I certainly did. I just won’t start it tonight, because I need to sleep sometime and I have doubts about putting it down.
This is a straight-forward apocalypse, solidly written with no literary pretensions involved (as opposed to The Reapers are the Angels, The Girl with All the Gifts or Station Eleven). Reminding me a little of Rhiannon Frater’s As the World Dies series, I found it much better written. Recommend for people who want an apocalypse-monster fix with likeable heroes and grip-your-seat pacing.
Solid four genre stars