This is a weird book. But weird in that thought-provoking way that I love. Here’s the premise: a teenaged boy named Seth drowns and dies, but then wakes up in a post-apocalyptic version of his boyhood hometown in England. His home is just the way he remembers it before his family moved to America (same furniture and all), but nothing appears to have been touched in years. As the main character explores and slowly pieces together what’s going on, we’re taken along for the ride.
The first fifty pages or so read like a post-apocalyptic survival story, mixed with the main character’s memories of his relationships with his friends and family. At first, I was really worried this would turn out to be some kind of boring literary experiment, and the third person present tense definitely adds to that feeling. And while at times it did read as a literary experiment, it definitely wasn’t boring. Once things started to happen and plot twists started showing up, the narrative becomes very compelling.
Fans of the Chaos Walking trilogy will enjoy Ness’s usual knack for exciting, unexpected plot twists, the familiar motifs of truth and reality, of friendship, and of finding your strengths. There are also many layers of story and several time-lines in the main character’s life to follow. Many meaty topics are dealt with (as the very self-aware characters state point blank) such as suicide, abuse, murder, and kidnapping. The violence in this book is not as graphic (though, still a little graphic) as in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, though the “adult situations” are a little more intense.
Ness winks at his audience throughout the story, even nods to many other sci fi/thriller tropes, and sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it feels a bit forced. I also felt that the suicide attempt referred to in the book wasn’t given the weight or gravity it deserved, but all in all, this is an exciting, engaging read that will leave you thinking about IRL, the internet, and where we all fit in in the grand scheme of things.
Disclaimer: Received an ARC directly from the publisher.