I came across this book in a list of recommended post-apocalyptic fiction, and was pleased to find that it was available as an audiobook from the Phoenix library, so I downloaded it and listened while traveling over the past couple of weeks. The basic premise is pretty standard post-apocalytic fare: A super-flu has swept across the planet, killing 99.7% of people and leading to the collapse of civilization. The main character is a survivor who lives at an old airport with his gun-loving partner Bangley and his old dog Jasper. The main character, Hig, has an old Cessna that he occasionally flies around to scout for hostile gangs or to go visit some nearby survivors. During one flight, he receives a garbled message from a distant airfield, and the main plot has to do with what heppens when he goes to investigate.
This book reminded me a lot of The Road, although not quite so bleak. It uses very stylized writing with lots of sentence fragments and apparently the printed version doesn’t really use quotes either. I think reading it as text might have been pretty challenging and/or annoying; this was a rare case where I think hearing it as an audiobook may have really helped. The book mostly manages to pull off this blatant imitation of Cormac McCarthy because the writing is pretty good once you get through the odd style. There are some very nice poetic descriptions.
Unfortunately the story itself is lacking. It moves very slowly, and then ends abruptly without really feeling (to me) like anything has really been resolved. It’s always a bad sign when I am shocked that a book has ended and have to double check to make sure I didn’t accidentally skip a part of the audiobook.
Also, underneath the literary style of the writing, this story basically boils down to an adolescent boy’s fantasy of what the apocalypse would be like. Hig’s life basically alternates between teaming up with Bangley to kill any “bad guys” intruding on their property, and going up into the mountains with his loyal dog to fish. One of these days I’d like to read a post-apocalyptic novel where the collapse of society doesn’t inevitably lead to roving bands of thugs out to kill each other. From what I’ve seen of major disasters in the real world, they tend to lead people banding together and cooperating to recover rather than giving up on any semblance of decency and descending immediately into rape and murder. Call me crazy, but I’d like to see more post apocalyptic fiction that doesn’t assume that most people are fundamentally terrible.
Anyway, later in the book (spoiler alert! No really, I’m about to give away the rest of the plot in a few sentences!)…
…Hig comes across a woman living in seclusion with her father. Of course she is beautiful, and of course she very quickly falls for him, and they go skinny dipping in fresh mountain streams and make love under the stars and then she comes back to live with him. Her dad, a former Navy SEAL, becomes BFFs with Bangley as they bond over being old badass dudes. The End.
All in all, I’m kind of ambivalent about this one. As an audiobook it was ok. I don’t think I would have been able to get through it actually reading it because of the weird style and slow pace. It’s clearly trying to imitate The Road, and has some moments of very nice writing but didn’t have a very satisfying ending and had a weird undercurrent of adolescent male wish fulfillment that makes it hard to really recommend it.