Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index


A novel by Barry B. Connors (2016, Barry B. Connors)

A group of survivors sets up a base camp for others, but soon become suspicious of their motives.



3 stars+

Read December 21st to 29th, 2015 on my iPad  
    A very worthy successor to the first novel, which set up only a few survivors. The characters are intense and show no mercy, making it like a wild-west situation. Just when the reader starts to get suspicious, so do the characters.

Spoiler review:

While the first book was about surviving a major catastrophe and invasion, this one is about surviving as the remnant of humanity. The characters are pretty much unchanged from the first book, except that they start to fall in love, and get more relaxed as a result. The characters are all very strong. They are mainly separable by their personality traits. I still love the way Cory and Rob think things through thoroughly. Every detail of a plan is vocalized, and worries are often internalized. They begin to build this little community of survivors, and allow others to make some decisions.

I was happy to see a strong female character in Shannon. She knows how to survive, and takes charge of things that she knows about. Unfortunately, although Rob makes many overtures to Shannon to cook and clean for himself, he almost never ends up doing it, as she insists on doing it for them. It's better than the last book, but these books need to break out of more of the stereotypical roles.

In the first book, I said that Cory never had to pay for his arrogance. Here, it finally happens. Clair’s death was shocking, senseless, and a necessary caution to the complacency of the main characters, who thought they were safe in their own back yard. It was foreshadowed by her talking about lightning striking twice, reminding the readers of her encounter with the mean men when they were being forced to work for the spheres. Her death brought everybody down, and made them rethink their strategy, at least for a while.

Sometimes grief is hard to get over, and sometimes events force people to push their grief aside. I found that after Clair's death, life got easy again for them, as every precaution paid off, and every threat could be easily backed up. Of course, the book is more about building a community, and having everything turn against them all the time would get in the way.

Once again, for most of the book, Cory was always “right”. In this book, he pays the price for being compassionate in the previous book, which he thinks was his error –but this kind of thinking is an error. In the time before Clair’s death, and the time after, he always makes the right choices. There is a bit of grumbling when he says or does something controversial, but after that, things always work out. Unfortunately, he is still arrogant, which makes his “right-ness” feel like it should have some payback. Fortunately, Rob often takes him to task on operating on his own, even though he always supports the decisions.

For the life of me, I couldn't remember how old Clair was. I felt that we needed an early reminder of Clair’s age. It was certain that she is young, but I couldn’t remember how old she was without referring to the first book. Cory’s age is less of a problem, because it is always referenced to Shannon’s.

I liked the dynamic between the characters, especially Rob, Cory and Arthur. And I liked the way Shannon took an active interest in repairing the family dynamic. Cory’s unease about being around Shannon (especially turning crimson when anything about love or sex is brought up) turned nicely to companionship and love, in a realistic sense, as they passed through their trials and grief. Any sex, near the end of the book (after he grabs pocketloads of condoms) is almost completely hidden, almost too subtle. One scene has Cory passing Shannon a towel, and he is obviously no longer shy about seeing her naked body. Their pilgrammage to the outskirts of the city seems to have included a bit of afternoon pleasure, as they fall asleep in the apartment for no apparent reason. I guess older readers will take more out of that than younger ones.

I think the switch between welcoming strangers to becoming suspicious of their good nature and acceptance was nicely done, but maybe could have been a little more gradual. On the other hand, that may be the point, as the spheres suddenly started interfering again (as opposed to gradually doing so). Although they noticed that the weather remained warm, and that Bolton was cooler, as well as one bird (and group of flies, etc...), I think it would have been a little more effective for them to notice other things mentioned at the meeting a little earlier, so that the reader thinks back and recalls these things. As it is, the flies, dog and bird are well-placed.

My biggest complaint about this book is Emily's conversion. Emily needs a stronger counter-argument to the decrees of the men. She is always referred to as a librarian, as if she had no other interests (actually, all of the characters are defined by the jobs they held previously). In that capacity, surely she has read enough about tribes that intimidate the people who contact them. After Clair’s death, they are being over-protective, which is natural, but Emily’s role should have been to remind them what they are gathering together for. Compassion is needed in addition to security, otherwise they are building a group that many people would not want to live in. Rob and Cory failed their first test, not allowing other points of view; she should be reminding them not to become a police state –their overly-cautious plans could be accepted for the moment, but she should always be watching them, ensuring they don’t overstep their mandate. Fortunately, Rob and Cory’s actions show that they understand this in their hearts. Their words were angry and intolerant, but their actions showed that they could think it through when they needed to, as when Daniel arrived, and seemed like a threat. Regardless, I think Emily gave up too easily in her argument against Rob.

Once again, this was a last draft of the book before it goes to publishing, though I don't expect any changes to that point. The book was enjoyable, and kept me wanting to know more about how they were going to get humanity going again. Setting up the RV campers seems like a good idea for now, as long as their group remains small. I wonder how they will deal with a continuously growing population... And of course, the suspense mounts as we wonder how they will deal with the return of the spheres...

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