I love me a good post-apocalyptic story, but this one was a especially good. I think people who have read and loved The Stand by Stephen King would really like this novel. The book kept popping up in my suggestions on Goodreads, Twitter, my library. Finally I said, alright, alright I’ll read it! I am so glad I did. I can tell that it will be one that I will re-read.
In this story we follow a few people who have some how survived a nuclear attack where one country attacks, then another and before you know it all the countries are firing their weapons. They hit major cities, of course, followed by our military bases. What is left of America is a waste land where nothing grows, the air and water are poison, and food is scarce. You would think people would band together and try to find a way to survive together. But no. This is humanity. It is every man for themselves and unfortunately it isn’t too far of a stretch to read Robert’s view of what people are capable of doing when there is nothing left to live for.
We meet Sister who lived in New York City as a bag lady and survived by taking shelter in an subway tunnel. We meet John (a wrestler )and Swan (a 7 year old girl), who took cover in a bunker at a gas station. Roland (a teenage boy) and Colonel James Macklin who have survived because they had already been in a fallout shelter.
We read what happens to these people moments after the bombs hit, the fires, the flash burns, the blindness. We read what happens weeks and months after, the shock, the depression, the starvation, the sickness.
Sister finds a glass “crown” that allows her to ‘dream-walk’. In those dream-walk’s she sees a person of importance, the closer she is to them the more clear the image, but she is always just a little too far away. Meanwhile, John notices that Swan can make grass grow. He doesn’t think much of it at the time though, he just knows that he must protect Swan at all costs, with his life if it comes to that. Roland and Colonel Macklin have formed, The Army of Excellence. Hell bent on killing anyone that gets in their way of ‘rebuilding’ America.
Then Robert takes us 7 years into the future. Sister has been sweeping the country-side looking for the person in her glass ‘crown’. Roland and Macklin have grown their army to thousands of solders and have laid waste to any settlement they come against. Swan is now a 17 year old girl and she rediscovers her ‘gift’ of making things grow. It is Swan that is the future of bringing back food, plants, and life to the barren planet. When Colonel Macklin and Roland hear about her, they know they must have her in their possession.
It is all out post-apocalyptic story that gives you everything: rich detail, engaging characters, battles of good and evil, hope, despair, love and hate. Who wins in the end? Is there ever a winner? Is there a lesson to be learned? Is humanity capable of learning that lesson?
This book might hit a bit too close in these troubled times.