I have a feeling that this will be one of those books. It’s only been about 16 hours since I finished it but, it haunted my dreams last night and I keep coming back to it when my thoughts wander.
I’m personally biased against anything to do with the end of the world. I have a dark fascination with the outcome of human morality if absolutely everything were to collapse.
This book does an excellent job at exploring what happens to humans after there is no systems, no rules, no government. As far as any of the characters know (according to the last news reports) over 90% of the population has been killed by a mutated flu virus. Most of the people who survived the mutation have contracted an autoimmune blood disease similar to AIDS – they are left to slowly die along with the wildlife that is disappearing because of warming weather.
What makes it different from most apocalyptic books is the perspective and poetic-prose format. The protagonist is a deep-thinking (sometimes against his own will) pilot that defends a municipal airport against the ruthless and wild survivors that roam the dying land. He has a weapons-expert partner who seems to have been ruthless even in the ‘before times.’ It has been almost a decade since the world went quiet and the two men have simply learned to survive side-by-side.
*Warning: There may be a few spoilers in the next part*
But the protagonist (Hig) is constantly conflicted by where he finds the drive to live. What does he have to live for? The fiber of his being left when his wife died from the flu with most of the population.
So he flies a perimeter around their fort with the only other companion who brings him any kind of solace – his dog Jasper.
This book is full of beautiful sentences and simple but thought-provoking situations. I’m also a sucker for those sentences that stand out on a page. The ones that you write down and tack on your wall (hopefully I’m not the only one who does that). And this book is full of them.
There were a few places in the book that made the feminist and English major inside me cringe. For example, using flower metaphors for women. Not only is it a little over-used and corny, it doesn’t help the fact that even apocalyptic books can’t seem to stray away from ‘classic’ ways of portraying women – delicate and not directly active within the story.
However, this is just my biases and overall the book is fantastic. It produces unease and nightmares at one end, while inspiring thoughts on relationships and their effects on people in a baser world at the other.
I highly recommend this book for other End-of-the-World enthusiasts as well as anyone looking for a heavy summer read.
I wanted to start reviewing books again for two reasons:
1. While I love writing about flying I am only flying about twice a month (and there is only so much excitement you can squeeze out of standard lessons).
2. This book was so good it gave me motivation to start doing it again.
The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
I really just want to give my biased opinions and tell you guys why you should go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy.
I found this book with my current boyfriend when we wandered into the Book Bin one night on a fevered hunt. I was in absolute turmoil because it had been weeks since I’d finished Sailor Song by Ken Kesey (my favorite author). I was skeptical that another book could measure up.
It was my beau that pulled this book from the self and read the back cover to me (I was too busy biting my nails and turning in circles). It sounded interesting enough but what sold me was the author description – She had graduated from the University of Montana – one of the more competitive MFA programs in the country.
The books main antagonist (Alice) is the 12-year old daughter of a self-absorbed horse trainer and a woman who literally only comes out of her room in two parts of the novel.
It’s a beautifully written implosion of a struggling family. Imagine a fascinating but horrible train wreck in slow motion. From the very first chapter you can see the train start to derail, unbeknown to any of the characters. Then, as the Alice recognizes that the train has almost completely lost traction on the steel tracks, she starts to ignore the consequences of her actions and begins consciously pushing every boundary she can until the train has flipped over itself, balling up in flames.
The novel is gorgeous and heart breaking – a depressing reality that lies underneath the process of growing up. The kind that stays inside your head for weeks. It’s a novel that brought up my own nostalgia and struggles from my childhood ( I had to go back home for a few days just to visit and walk around to shake the haunting feeling from this book).
Next on the book review list: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. →
It is said that the quickest and easiest way to a memory is through the sense of smell – spiced orange tea that brings back memories of Christmas mornings, a strangers deodorant as you walk by them on the street created the image of an old lover in your mind, or the the crinkly smell of dried flowers that recalls every sentence of a book you read years ago.
For Naomi Pratt, a professional ‘nose’, smell is everything – it’s linked to her taste, her perception and judgment of others, memories, attraction and disgust, the bond to her newborn child, and sometimes even the decisions in her life.
Throughout the book my sympathies and sides were continually changing. One minute I would be scoffing at the young anarchist Clay, then pitying him, then rooting for his cause (“First priority, always: no one gets injured. Second priority: don’t get caught. Third priority: achieve the objective of destroying property owned by religious bigots, corporations, and the U.S. government. Disrupt the system to hasten its downfall.” pg 30).
The author, my writing professor at OSU, said at a book reading in Portland that he believes that Clay’s character is the most sympathetic. To me, he was usually tied with Scanlon Pratt, who despite his major flaw (I won’t give it away) had my sympathies for most of the book. Another character who’s plight I sometimes pitied, scoffed, and went along with was Seqouia – the almost too-agreeing force behind the local secessionist group.
My least sympathetic tendencies overall were for Naomi. Although I could relate to her every once in a while, her stuck-up nature and annoying neediness were sometimes too much to bear.
These sympathies however should be taken lightly, they are ever-changing the more I ruminate over the book (which is what you will do even days after reading it). It is a beautifully written book that sheds light on a part of Oregon that dangerously gorgeous. Every character had their justifications and reasons, each one fleshed out so well that I wondered if they weren’t based solely on real people. It’s a novel driven by character and laced with explosions, protests, sex, love, friendship, and community.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and you will too!