Everyone knows I love a good apocalypse fiction, and this is a marvellous, although bleak, rendering of a world where a mystery virus has wiped out all the adults, and children die soon after they reach puberty*.
The story focusses on Anna, a pre-pubescent girl living on Sicily 4 years after the outbreak. She steals food, collects water and tries her hardest to keep her younger brother alive and safe. When he is stolen by a gang of children hell bent on sacrificing the last adult alive, Anna risks everything to get him back.
There are no holds barred in this book. Ammaniti takes childhood and twists it into the hedonistic, terrible thing it would become without the social niceties adults press onto kids. Anna thrusting her hand into her vagina to check if she has her period is something I can well imagine happening with no one to say ‘that’s not nice to do in public’. Living amongst rodents and empty food containers, stealing clothing and getting drunk on scavenged grappa are artfully portrayed – this is not graceless writing, this is a careful examination of the breakdown of polite society. There are times when you will want to look away because the rawness of the characters is heartbreakingly real.
One thing I didn’t like was the use of drugs/alcohol/chaos to blur scenes – I can’t decide whether I just don’t understand all the subtext, or whether it’s lazy writing designed to hide a lack of plot movement. She’s drunk, she’s in a crowd where she can’t see, there’s explosion and suddenly – oh look, there are Pietro and Astor and everything is ok again (for a little while). I like stuff to be shown, or even told, rather than being ‘trusted’ to fill in the gaps myself. Damn brain doesn’t work like that!
It’s a well researched novel – what foods are still ok, what medicines would last, the general degradation of buildings and reclaiming by greenery is all fairly accurate. There are tragic scenes and joyous ones in a nice mix that keeps you hooked. The ending is bleak as fuck, but remember this is post-apocalypse fiction and Ammaniti is known for his darkness. The dog is a nice touch, I love Maremmas. It’s a nice afternoon read (it’s raining and windy here, so kinda fitting) at 275-odd pages and anyone who likes realistic end-of-the-world books with no holds barred will enjoy it.
*When I’m not so shellshocked, I’ll ponder the actual possibility of this.
This is a gorgeous book. It’s short and easy to read and has the most lush prose imaginable. Plus the LGBTI elements are sympathetic and nicely developed.
It’s the story of Pen, who magically survives the tidal wave that destroys the city she lives in. After weeks of loneliness she discovers her beloved younger brother may be alive and enslaved by the mad scientist (who may be connected to Pen). She sets off to rescue him, battling giants and witches and collecting friends. Along the way she meets Hex and falls in love, but like everything else in this book Hex is not quite what he seems.
An alternative modern version of Homer’s Odyssey, this story will appeal to modern fantasy lovers. It’s an exciting ride with sweet characters that become more developed with each challenge they face. I would write a more in depth review about metaphor and confidence and finding out who you are as you grow up, but really you can read this book in a few hours, so just go get started now!
When I told Richard that I finished this book, he asked if it was any good and the only word I could find to describe it was devastating. And then I sat at the computer for 20 minutes trying to write a review that didn’t include a spoiler. It’s still not coming easy.
This book is set in a post-apocalyptic America where zombies (the shuffling, moaning kind, not the super fast ones) attempt to feast upon the scattered living population while hillbilly mutants distill the zombies into chitin-inducing stimulants. And in the middle, a fifteen year old girl is trying to get redemption for her sins, but that redemption is following too close on her heels for her liking. And if you are not already racing off to beg, borrow or steal your own copy from that brief endorsement, then you are dead to me (with a pencil shoved into your brain via your nostril to make sure you stay that way).
The book has some quirks. Dialogue isn’t contained within quotation marks and at times it’s a little hard to tell if the main character, Temple, is talking to herself, someone else or just inside her own head. The technique adds to the ambiance of the novel however, and is worth taking the time to puzzle through. The speech patterns and dialect of the characters is also peculiar. It is how I imagine people would talk in post apocalyptic America where only the strong and ruthless survived and then spent a little too much time alone with only themselves to talk to. The only inconsistency I found was that Temple is illiterate and was raised in an orphanage and in foster care before setting out on the road, but her speech is peppered with words and ideas far above what you’d expect for her position.
The book is full of lofty ideals slightly twisted by the fact that there are zombies staggering around trying to eat people. Temple believes in God, a god “too big to need the supplication of the puny wanderers of the earth”. She believes in fate and beauty and revenge. And she tries, in her own way to live up to these beliefs, taking the mute Maury across country to find his family despite the fact that it leaves her open to danger. It’s a novel about the hope of humanity in a country fallen to ruin. And at the same time, the book is a judgment on mankind’s ability to fall back onto base instinct. The ‘slugs’ retain enough memory to hold hands, to climb aboard a still-moving carousel, to endlessly repeat actions they made while alive. They are still human, and yet not. They are driven by a hunger which pushing them forward constantly, despite threat or futility. The want to feed. The need for flesh. Mindless and craving.
The book describes my ideal apocalypse, if ever an apocalypse could be considered ideal. Slow moving zombies are only dangerous if you stay still long enough to have them mob you or if they take you by surprise. Temple has her gurkha knife, but there is no shortage of guns and ammunition left by evacuees. And she picks up 6 packs of coke in abandoned corner shops all across the country. If we must suffer a government-released zombie virus that heralds the end of the world, sign me up to be a reaper.
Filed under Fantasy, Fiction