I have to admit that I’ve always liked fiction with a post-apocalyptic/dystopian bent especially if the story involves mutants, psychic powers or zombies (usually the result of grotesque pandemics or nuclear holocausts – cheery, I know). I’ve read a few books lately that fit this description and for the most part they were a good read.
The first was a young adult novel, The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan. Set in a future where civilisation has regressed technologically and heavily fortified human settlements are found in isolated pockets surrounded by the forest of hands and teeth. The world outside these heavily controlled settlements is teeming with the Unconsecrated – the dead who do not rest but hunger for human flesh. The story centres around Mary and her struggle with the repressive regime of the Sisterhood which gives way to a struggle to survive the forest when the defences of her village are breached. It contains a nice conflicted love and duty storyline that doesn’t get too bogged down in Twilight style misery. Although not as thriller-like as The enemy (see below) it was an interesting book and I’m waiting to get my hands on the sequel The dead tossed waves.
The enemy is a young adult thriller by Charlie Higson, who also wrote the Young Bond novels. Set in London in the aftermath of a global pandemic that only affected people over the age of 14. Many died from a baffling, quick spreading illness but there were some who did not. These adults now wander the streets, infected and ill but with an almost mindless need to consume. The early story is centred around two groups of kids and teens (all under 14) who’ve set up fortified base camps in what were once their local Waitrose and Morrisons supermarkets. In the year since the adults all died or became infected they’ve eked out an existence by banding together to stay alive but it soon becomes clear that they can’t stay safe where they are forever. This knowledge propels the kids from relative safety out onto the unsafe and infected London streets. Although the premise of both novels is somewhat similar, the writing style is quite different. During the first chapter or two of The enemy I wasn’t sure about the story (especially following on from the previous book) but it soon sucked me in. As with The forest of hands and teeth, I await the next story titled The dead.
Just to round out the trifecta, I followed these two books with a novella by Jack London, The scarlet plague. Published in the early twentieth century the story of the scarlet plague, another fast-moving, debilitating epidemic, is recounted from the point of view of an old man sixty years after it swept away most of the world’s population. Mainly focussed on events at the time of the plague, it also touches on how the world has changed since the devastation. The book is not long but it is compelling to see how far and fast London thought humanity would fall as a result of such an epidemic. It’s not cheerful reading but it is an interesting hour or so.