October 28, 2016
A Review by Chris Fried
Nate is an analyst who got lost on his business trip, winding up in the small town of Haven, Georgia, where his life will change forever. After the bombs start falling, he’s placed in an untenable position and hides in an old bomb shelter located in the basement of the town courthouse. Trapped with twenty-four other people, they band together to try to find safety.
As they eventually crawl out of the rubble, they struggle to survive as they travel from one location to another. Alliances form, disagreements occur and they face violent threats greater than themselves. Will they be able to work together to survive everything they face? It all culminates in a breathtaking finale where all the pieces come together, teamwork is tested to the limits and they confront an enemy that seems too powerful for them to overcome.
While the identity of the invaders of the United States is a mystery for most the novel, their presence overshadows everything that happens like a shroud, shaping the lives of everyone around them. It creates an undercurrent of paranoia and anxiety that causes the survivors of the apocalypse to second guess themselves and the trustworthiness of others.
With this tension lurking in the background, the author excels in creating mood through the setting, using colorful description that vividly paints a picture in your mind. Then he populates this setting with interesting characters, creating twenty-five of them so that each of them is distinctive and different from the others. Nate especially is a fascinating protagonist who is also an unlikely hero and spends much of the time as the right-hand man to Will, a cable repairman who was voted to be their leader.
The storytelling is lean and well-written, swiftly weaving together twenty-five characters and their story arcs, providing plenty of deep characterization. Some of the people we meet along the way help propel the story in unpredictable directions, especially when they meet Milt and Max, who prove to be both disturbing and poetic. When you meet them yourself, you will know what I mean. The impact this has on Nate and Will is thoughtful, surprising and insightful.
The author also skillfully leaves a subtle trail of breadcrumbs throughout the whole novel that makes complete sense by the time all of the pieces are put together and we reach the finale. I found it to be extremely clever and fantastic writing that builds up the intrigue and provides an amazing payoff.
Finally, I really enjoyed the use of the group dynamics used here and how much attention the author gives this aspect of the story. From the groupings between people who had similar viewpoints, the in-fighting and the politics among everyone in the group, it can be a challenge to balance all of this in one story and make it believable. But I found the author handled it effortlessly and the subtle ways he accomplished this made for a captivating story and characters, elevating it to the next level.
This is an atypical apocalyptic story that takes the reader down some startling and unanticipated paths that enthralls as much as it entertains. The threats are unusual, creepy and always quite intimidating but with this group of people, it all combines into a superb novel that I wholeheartedly recommend.
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