I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous books ‘Remix’ and ‘Replica’, so this was a must for me. It’s a bit different, being post-apocalyptic with a twist of romance, and the basic premise is a bit of a stretch: after an epidemic wipes out most of the earth’s population, a sudden climate switch leaves the whole UK buried under metres of snow. The main character, Tori, has been left behind by the evacuation process and is trying to survive, along with a strange collection of others who missed the last helicopter out. There seemed to be a surprising number of couples who survived the epidemic, and everyone manages to get around rather well on all that freshly fallen snow, but never mind.
love the idea of survival by committee (with fully minuted meetings,
naturally), and scavenging by Argos catalogue, and the very British
approach to keeping up one’s spirits in adversity - let’s start a book
club, and have a monthly ceilidh. The author's great strength is always
her characters, and the motley collection of survivors is very
believable. Even the walk-on parts, like Sam and Charlie, were
well-sketched with just a few light touches, and everyone knows a Nina
(I certainly do), running everything in her own insistent way and
brooking no argument. And Tori feels like someone you could bump into in
any pub in Britain. This early scene-setting draws rather a charming
picture of the post-apocalypse world (in London, anyway).
then Morgan arrives, and shortly afterwards his former pal Mike and his
gang, and things take a turn for the more sinister. From here on, the
book becomes a total page-turner, leading to tricky reader decisions
involving staying up into the small hours to find out what happens, or
going sensibly to bed and then lying awake wondering how Tori and co
will get out of their current dilemma. The book is very much a thriller,
and there are fights and gunshots and plenty of action and tense
stand-offs, but time after time the author disarmed me by neatly
avoiding the obvious resolution and coming up with some blindingly
simple common-sense solution. It was all very cleverly done, and made
perfect sense for the characters.
In the midst of all the
mayhem, there are wonderful moments like Tori and Morgan’s spectacular
way of reaching the shop several doors away, or what must rank as one of
the most peculiar dinner parties ever. Many of the characters reveal
their true natures along the way, and some rise unexpectedly to the
occasion. Archie, the self-described God-botherer, in particular, has
moments of true heroism.
The ending is in the same style,
effective and very satisfying. The romantic element is perfectly judged,
with enough doubts and hesitations on both sides to be credible, and no
instantaneous leap into bed, just a gentle inching towards an
understanding and a state of mutual trust. The book is a wonderful
mixture of post-apocalypse thriller, romance and quirky British humour.
It’s entertaining rather than profound, perhaps, but for those who can
suspend disbelief enough to accept the basic premise, it's a thoroughly
enjoyable read. Highly recommended. Four stars.