I got an advanced reading copy of this book through NetGalley(dot)com. This just sounded like a really interesting read and it ended up being exactly that. This book has a very creative take on the apocalypse, is set in an interesting setting, and was absolutely engrossing. The second book in this trilogy is Shadows and will be released in 2012.
Alex is taking a long hike to say good-bye to her parents and deal with her own personal tragedy, an inoperable brain tumor that is slowly incapacitating her. During her hike she is flattened to the ground by a pulse of...something. She meets up with a young girl named Ellie and an ex-military man named Tom in the woods. Together they try to figure out what happened and what is going on with the crazy flesh-eating people that they occasionally stumble upon.
This book is super suspenseful and almost more of a thriller than anything else. It was terrifying at times and incredibly hard to put down. I was impressed by how many different things this book deals with. Bascially you have brain tumors, nuclear warfare, the apocalypse, zombies, and even a dystopian community all in one book. I kid you not. This all made for an incredibly engaging and interesting read; I never knew what to expect next.
Unlike most of the apocalyptic novels that I have read this one takes place in the middle of nowhere. Because of that it is not humanity, but the absence of it, that the characters struggle with in the first part of the story. The characters just can't figure out what's happened and are trying to piece things together from a few static-filled radio casts and the things they see in their travels through the forest. The pulse killed everything electronic, so right off the bat the characters are having to struggle with that. There is also an interesting side note that only some people changed into zombies and it only seemed to be people of a certain age group. The explanation behind this is fascinating.
This is not a novel for those with weak stomachs. Things are gorey and nasty at a number of parts. There are places where as a reader you are thinking as loud as you can "oh please don't let that happen, oh please don't let that happen" and then it does happen. The book is utterly unpredictable and the foreshadowing filled with sentences like "that was the last time we laughed". So, yeah, not an extremely uplifting read. But the story absolutely grabs you and won't let go.
There is a constant undertone of the characters having to choose between humanity and survival. There is also an underlying theme of who is really the monsters; the mindless zombies or the humans that are taking advantage of people trying to survive?
The only weak point of this book for me were the characters. They are all okay, but I never really liked any of them. The romance between Alex and Tom felt unreal and forced. The people Alex meets up with in the settlement are in general unlikable too. It wasn't that I disliked Alex as a character, I just had trouble really liking and relating to her.
The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it isn't horrible. It ends at a good place to start the next story and really made me want to know "what next?!".
Overall this was a fantastic addition to the apocalyptic/zombie genre. It is more of a thriller than a sci-fi and not for the faint of heart. Definitely for young adult or older only; there is some very graphic violence in here. There are also some incredibly creative ideas in here relating to zombies and the apocalypse. The book is done in an interesting way and in an interesting setting. I loved the writing and was completely engaged in the story, it was so hard to put this book down. The only weak point for me was the characters; I had some trouble relating too and engaging with them. If you are a fan of young adult post-apocalyptic fiction definitely pick up this book; I think adults will enjoy it just as much as YAs and it was a really great story. I can't wait to read what happens in Shadows.