June 2, 2016

Mini-Theme: The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

The whole time I was writing this post, this R.E.M. song was going through my head. (By the way, I had to look it up to find out who sang it. Ha!) As it turns out, I've read several books lately that are of the post-apocalypse variety.

While most of them seem pretty remote, the most recent one--One Second After--really had me going! Mostly, because I could just see it all happening, you know? I started thinking along survivalist lines like:

Me: I really ought to learn to knit.
Common sense: The last thing you need right now is another hobby. Plus, sweaters are scratchy.
Me: Who cares? If we have no more power forever, I need to be able to make clothes for my family!!

Or starting up "casual" conversations with my husband like:
"So, what do you think about keeping bees? Because I've been thinking that some bees might be a good investment..."

"You know those really big water tanks you can get? Well, maybe we should get a few. Just fill 'em up. You know. To have on hand."

Deep breaths. Reality check. Yep. I feel fine. Just fine.

The Islands at the End of the World, by Austin Aslan

4 stars: Survival of the fittest on Oahu.

Leilani's family has moved back to Hawaii--the Big Island--for her parents' jobs as professors. Her mother is full-blooded Hawaiian and her father is white, which makes it a struggle for her to fit in at school. To make things worse, she's an epileptic.

She's got an appointment in Oahu to go through some testing for a new drug. She and her Dad go together, expecting to spend a week. When they get there, however, everything starts going a little crazy. Some kind of electromagnetic pulse takes out all power--all over the world. This may not be a huge problem in some places, but in Hawaii, where 95% of food and goods are flown in every day, it causes chaos in pretty short order.

With her medical stuff cancelled and the world going to pieces around them, Leilani and her father have to figure out a way to get back home--preferably before her medication runs out. She's got enough for about a month...if they can even survive that long.

* * * * * *

Intense and believable...mostly: there is a sci-fi element thrown in, connected with Leilani's epilepsy and the ancient Hawaiian gods, which adds a twist. My husband and I had a good discussion afterword about morals and ethics in times of global disaster. :)

Content: Expect some bad language and quite a bit of action-related violence: people getting shot, etc.

(Reviewed March 11, 2016.)

Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis

3 stars: Chilling, but not without hope.

Lynn and her mother live in the basement of their old farmhouse and must defend each other and their pond at every moment. Water is scarce, and there are many who wouldn't hesitate to kill for a drink. Their world is hard and unforgiving, but it's the only one Lynn knows.

Then, while trying to defend her mother from some coyotes, Lynn accidentally shoots her. Before long her mother is gone, and Lynn must survive on her own. Slowly she finds others that she lets into her world and her heart, and together they must take on a threat that looms big enough to wipe them all out.

Content: Quite a bit of language throughout the book. Also, many depictions of violence.

(Reviewed October 8, 2015.)

One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

4.5 stars: It would truly take so little to do so much damage...

John is a widower living in a small town in North Carolina. It has been 4 years since Mary succumbed to breast cancer. His two girls are 16 and 12, respectively. He's a professor up a the local college.

One evening all the power goes out at once. Everything--cell phones, cars, lights; anything that uses electronics goes dead. Then the world starts going to pieces. John, along with a handful of others in the town, have to figure out how to handle a worst-case scenario that no-one has been trained on: an EMP, or Electro-Magnetic Pulse that wipes out all communications and electronics over a continent-sized area. 

They have a couple thousand people who were stranded on the freeway, in addition to all of their own--roughly 10,000 people in all. Their choices will be almost unbearable, but have to be made: what to eat, what to do with the "outsiders," where to bury the dead. Then there comes rumors of a ruthless band of outlaws, looting and pillaging as they come: the Posse. Though they barely have strength to do what they need to do, they have to come up with a militia of their own, otherwise none will survive to tell about it.

* * * * * *
This was scary--and it was meant to be. Thinking about all the things that rely on electricity, and the very real threat that a handful of nukes detonated in the upper atmosphere could destroy everything that we know, could keep me up at nights if I let it.

Content: Some violence, a bit of language.

(Finished reading May 4, 2016.)

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

2.5 stars: Bleak and unrelenting.

The man and his son are still surviving, but just barely. They keep on the move, toward the coast, further south, through a landscape completely burned and filled with ash. There are no animals, no birds, no living plants. They must wear masks over their faces in order to breathe, and even so, it gets inside their lungs.

They scavenge what they can from every house they come across. They avoid contact with other survivors, most of whom have become cannibals. They take care of each other. They survive...for now, but the man knows he won't be around forever and the boy will have to be able to survive without him.

* * * * * *

 I can't honestly say that I liked it, but it was evocative and well-written. I tend to put myself into the situations in these types of books, and think about what I would do if this was my world, my son. This was a difficult world to inhabit for those hours I read it.

If you don't like wasteland wandering, steer clear; that's the entire book. Also, it bothered me that we never found out the cause of the mass destruction--obviously fire of some sort, but it doesn't give much more detail than that. Possibly lightning storms...?

Content: This has some swearing, some shootings. There are many disturbing scenes relating to cannibalism.

(Reviewed February 24, 2016.)

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