AUDIENCE: Adult & Young Adult
EDITOR: Lisa Chant
COVER DESIGN: Steve Grice & Matt Pike
Apocalypse: Diary of A Survivor focuses on the life of an Australian teenager, Jack Baldwin, after a dark comet crashes into the Indian Ocean. The impact causes major tsunamis that destroy coastal cities, while bits of the comet and its tail wipe out other cities. Multitudes of people are killed in the initial event. The impact causes giant dust and ash clouds that blanket the remaining landscape and send the world into a nuclear winter. Services break down almost immediately and the people who remain quickly degenerate into tribe-like communities fighting for food and survival.
Jack was fortunate enough to receive warning of the impending comet from an on-line gaming partner and had the opportunity to spend a few days preparing for life after the apocalypse. But he’s alone in Adelaide, living in his parents’ house. His parents are travelling in the days preceding the impact and do not make it back in time, and Jack’s brother lives in London.
Told through a series of diary entries by Jack, chronicling the lead-up to and the months following the impact, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is riveting. The breakdown of society is well-imagined, detailed, and realistic and Pike’s take on how an apocalypse could happen is fresh and unique, even if it is utterly terrifying. He unfolds the actual event very effectively and creates lasting imagery in the reader’s mind.
The diary approach is interesting. While it takes the reader out of the immediacy of the scene, and prevents significant development of the other characters, as we only see them through Jack’s retelling of events, it does take the reader deeper into the main character. Ultimately while risky, it works, as Jack’s character is likable and the urgency of his age and situation come through. Because of the diary approach, however, the book takes a bit to get into, as one has to decide whether Jack’s voice is strong enough to carry a novel. But by the time of the event and its immediate aftermath, Jack is well established, and these sections focusing on the development and dissolution of community, Jack’s day-to-day life, and Jack’s relationships with the other survivors, including one in particular, are fascinating.
The story loses a bit of traction at the very end. Jack starts taking too many careless risks and behaving in a manner that does not seem in keeping with his previous character, and too many details are provided regarding the hovercraft construction. The ultimate ending, while perhaps realistic in a way, does not serve the fantastic build up as well as an alternate ending may have. While Pike’s choices are understandable, the reader cares so much about Jack, that they want something different. But perhaps that is what sequels are for.
Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is good—really good. Despite the imperfect ending, Jack is such a great character, and the apocalypse scenario so interesting that the reader will want to continue Jack’s journey. Given Jack’s age, this definitely has YA leanings, although adult fans of apocalyptic or dystopian fiction would likely enjoy it.
Four stars. A story that will stay with you for a long time.
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Jennifer Ellis is the author of A Pair of Docks, a fantasy adventure for kids and adults, and In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation, about a kinder and more romantic dystopic future. She lives in a ski town and works as an environmental researcher. Find her at www.jenniferellis.ca.