Who doesn't love a good apocalyptic story now and again? It seems like lately they are all the rage, and some of them end up being more of a story about angsty YA love triangles, and others are the real deal, reminiscent of "The Stand" and "The Road". Based on the reviews, it sounded like this story fell into the second category, so I decided to give it a shot.
Uniquely, I had both a print copy (a gift from Carrie at Books and Movies) and an audio copy, so I was able to jump back and forth and experience both types of media and read it twice as fast!
Synopsis: Not long before the end of the world came, 30 year-old Zoe finds an ancient jar that was mysteriously left in her apartment. Who left it there and what is inside? The jar haunts her dreams, and preoccupies her mind during her daily life as a cleaning lady for Pope Pharmaceuticals. Soon after, people begin dying of flu-like symptoms, including Zoe's friends and family. Wars break out, and the weather has been re-engineered until it is out of control. The earth is eventually home for those who were immune, and those who were changed.
With nothing left to lose, Zoe takes off on an Odyssian journey to find the man she loves. Is he even still alive? Zoe's not sure but it is worth a shot. On the way she encounters enemies and allies, both changed and unchanged, and one particular homicidal stalker that will not leave her alone. Through her encounters she gradually learns of the origin of the virus that decimated mankind, and it dawns on Zoe that good and evil can be found in the most unlikely places.
My thoughts: I mentioned "The Stand" and "The Road" at the beginning of this post, and indeed this novel has quite a bit in common with them. This is dark stuff, with little time for fanciful flirtations or fun and games. There are food shortages, lecherous men with "urges" that must be satisfied, and genetic mutants that wouldn't think twice before maiming and killing another human.
Zoe is a serious woman with quite a bit of personal baggage before going into the apocalypse, but she is a fighter and she is determined - a worthy heroine and someone you want to win. She is what gives this bleak story hope.
The story moves back and forth in time from "Then" to "Now"...no dates to keep track of, just simply before the plague and after. It all transitions fairly smoothly, and both narratives were equally compelling and well-paced.
I did think the writing was average, and there were holes in the story that left me a little confused. Some of the physics and logistics of this world-ending business wasn't as tightly constructed as I would have liked. Perhaps it will be filled in with the next two installments of the series? I also thought the evil Swiss stalker was over-the-top obnoxious, almost a parody. He reminded me of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees...he just WOULDN'T GO AWAY!!! I couldn't take the character seriously.
I was actually surprised to learn that there will be two more installments after this one. I liked the ending, and was happy with that final note in my head. Do I want more? I'm not sure.
A few words about the audio production: The narrator for this audio was Emily Durante, who is a veteran in this business but a new voice for me. She was pleasant to listen to and made the experience a good one, with the small exception of her portrayal of the crazy Swiss guy. Her accent and intonations made him seem more over the top!
Listening length: 10 hours and 15 minutes (320 pages)
3.5 out of 5 stars