My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’ve known for a long time that the apocalypse is not something to fear. It’s what people will do while the sky falls that is much more frightening. I’ve survived a few mini-pocalypses: a devastating tornado, several hurricanes, and two redheads. I have seen first hand just how batshit crazy people get when the status quo gets a healthy shake. They’ll stab you in the throat for a gallon of gasoline.
P.A. Douglas presents a relatively plausible game-over scenario: Earth finds itself in the crosshairs of a killer field of asteroids and the ensuing meteor storm not only rains down on the planet, but one big old rock gives the moon a kiss and bumps it out of orbit. The result is massive flooding, earthquakes, and something unexpected – the reduction of oxygen in our atmosphere. The air is escaping the balloon, and it seems inevitable that all life on the planet will eventually be extinguished. The time waiting for the ticket punch will be excruciating for those who have managed to survive.
We meet Byron, our protagonist, just pre-apocalypse. He’s an average guy. He’s got an ex-wife and kid living out of state and spends his days grinding away at work and watching cartoons. He’s been hiding out in his apartment watching the events unfold and he is confused and scared. However, he doesn’t get to stay there for long and eventually finds himself with a reasonably sane and diverse group of folks. As the book progresses, we watch them logically plan out their survival while dealing with the personality conflicts one would expect in such dire circumstances.
Douglas contrasts Bryon’s group with another, a group of National Guardsmen who have taken the plunge and allowed themselves to devolve into violent beasts driven by urges to rape and pillage. It’s within this contrast that Douglas puts human nature to the test. Do we rise to the occasion or sink to the bottom when faced with the ultimate crisis? Do we share that gasoline or do we stab someone for it? When the end comes, will you have grace? Or will it be disgrace?
The narrative is tight. We stick to a small cast of characters and although the outside world and its disintegration are mentioned, it’s really about what’s happening in the immediate vicinity. The story is character driven and although the setting is driving their motivations, it never determines them. Byron’s a sympathetic aspiring hero, one that we can behind. There’s some ugly in this book but Byron keeps hope alive.
A great weekend read and a solid contribution to the genre. Worth picking up.