Tag Archives: apocalyptic novel

Earth’s Descent by Rachel Meehan

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earthsdescentcoverEarth’s Descent by Rachel Meehan, e-book, 217 pages, published in 2015 by Cherry House Publishing.

Nairne receives an unexpected letter that leads her to travel from Scotland all the way down to London. Ronnie accompanies her on the dangerous journey, the two of them leaving the safety of the community to face the unknown. They encounter mass death and disease, armed gangs and power hungry lunatics while they cross the vastly changed lands. Whole parts of the country are now under water, while the air swelters hotter than any summer before.

Earth’s Descent is the final installment of the Troubled Times series, which has highlighted the potential fall-out of climate change. Through increasingly erratic and extreme weather conditions, sections of land are now submerged, and whole towns destroyed. Masses of people have been displaced from their homes, have faced disease, starvation and thirst. And that’s aside from the threat of people who are making the most of the situation to exploit and control the weaker, the unarmed, the desperate. Meehan has created an highly viable and terrifying world where society no longer exists, where survival is uncertain because we, as inhabitants of Earth, failed to protect our environment and ignored climate change until it was too late to reverse the tide. I really hope we are not going to end up in Nairne’s world.

I actually put off reading Earth’s Descent for quite a while because I knew it would be the last of Nairne’s story, and I didn’t want it to end. Curiosity won out however, and I quickly dipped back into the devastated Scotland that is Nairne’s reality. I read the whole book over two, quick reading sessions, and I was sad to reach the end. It left me with a lot to think about afterwards too, mostly about what would happen to my family and friends if the climate deteriorated like that, and what will happen to Nairne, Ronnie, Paul and their community. What sort of future will they have? Would human society rebuild itself? Would the Earth recover? This series is extremely relevant to our current situation regarding climate change, and it affected me deeply. It will be a story that stays with me for a long time to come (and yes, it tempted me to stock up on long-life food and water!)

The plot is fast and full of action. This is the darkest of the three books, and reflects the desperation of the people that Nairne and Ronnie meet on their travels. There is violence and murder, intimidation and abuse. These are dark times for humanity and this comes through strongly in the story.

Nairne has been a wonderful character across all three books, and I liked her right from the start. She is strong, independent, smart and sassy. Ronnie grew on me, so that I liked him almost as much as Nairne. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Paul, and how he was progressing from his injury, but I did enjoy meeting some of the new characters that were introduced in Earth’s Descent.

Troubled Times is a touching, exciting series suitable for high school students and adults. It reads like a cautionary tale, if only we would learn from it. If you haven’t already done so, you should read the previous two books, Water’s Edge and Power’s Out first.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

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Power’s Out by Rachel Meehan

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Water's EdgePower’s Out by Rachel Meehan, e-book, 223 pages, published by Cherry House Publishing in 2013.

Two years on from when Paul and Nairne leave the Grear farm behind in Water’s Edge, sees them traveling the countryside with Dog, staying away from the towns and trying to survive. Civilisation is crumbling, bandits control the roadways and the city streets, and there is a dwindling number of people to trust. When they stumble across a self-sufficient community residing in an abandoned convent, they are taken in and given shelter in exchange for Nairne’s assistance with their wind turbines. The community consists of about thirty people working together to survive, including some young people similar in age to Paul and Nairne. This could become home for the pair, ending their wanderings. Nothing is that simple though. Danger is present as they set out to help the community acquire much needed parts and supplies, which means venturing far beyond the safety of the convent’s walls. Their past is also creeping closer, but will it catch them at last?

The second book of the Troubled Times series, Power’s Out, was fast-paced and exciting. With lots of action, it is an exhilarating ride of survival. There was much more explicit violence in this story than its predecessor, which helps to illustrate how civilisation has fallen back to more instinctual behaviours as the world around it falls apart. When the constraints of society fall away and there are no longer any policing bodies to enforce laws, there is violence for gain, and violence for enjoyment. This is a terrifying insight into base human nature, but one which I think is rather accurate. There are plenty of unscrupulous people taking advantage of others in stable communities, but when there is no one to enforce the law, or those enforcers are corrupt, there arises the opportunity for these behaviours to increase. And that’s what we see in Power’s Out. The scenes of violence are vivid and scary, but the people behind the violence are even scarier!

It is easy to step into the Scottish landscape portrayed in this book, and follow along with Nairne and Paul, experiencing what they experience. All of the characters are richly described and developed, allowing the reader to get to know them. With the introduction of more characters from the community, different aspects of Nairne’s and Paul’s characters become evident. Paul and Nairne have become extremely close during their traveling and it is hard to let others in, though they are each tempted by a young member of the community. There are a lot more characters to get to know too. Suddenly Nairne and Paul don’t just have each other to rely on and interact with, they have to cope with others, most of whom do not realise how dire their situation really is. I liked Ronnie a lot. He’s a bit of a clown, but he is also loyal and caring. Iain, I didn’t like as much, he was a prig, but I think most of that came from being jealous of Paul and Isobel. She seemed a bit oblivious to how Iain felt about her, but perhaps she just didn’t want to acknowledge his feelings. She certainly took to Paul, and was likable as a character. I particularly liked Isobel’s father, Jack. He was sensible, kind, intelligent, and fair. He was also very accepting of Paul and Nairne, and was ready to learn from them and to be assisted by them, an attitude that not everyone in the community shared. The older members of the community, including their leader, Arthur, for the most part, were a bit naive, believing that things could continue as they were indefinitely, that they would be left untouched by the outside world.

The end of Power’s Out was very intense. I felt quite anxious as I read the last few chapters, wondering if Nairne and Paul would make it through, if the community would survive, and how things would play out. It left me feeling rather desperate to read the final installment of this wonderful trilogy!

Power’s Out is suitable for high school students through to adults. It contains violence and some bad language. The themes of societal breakdown and environmental disaster could be frightening for less mature readers.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

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IMG_1572The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 296 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2013.

Life is normal and reasonably predictable in the Blue Mountains region of Australia, where Fin is a fairly typical teenage boy. He rushes to school, hangs out with his mates, tries to impress the girl he likes, argues with his brother and is disappointed by his parents’ divorce. Such worries quickly become trivial when a nuclear winter descends upon Australia after nuclear missiles are launched between nations in the northern hemisphere. Fin and his little brother, Max, find themselves alone in a world turned upside-down overnight. The landscape is frozen and bleak, the situation grim with little cause for hope. Supplies of food and drinking water are limited and there is no electricity, no running water, and no help to be found.

What a stunning debut novel for Claire Zorn. The Sky So Heavy is an apocalyptic novel for young adults, suitable for high school students and up. I enjoy the genre of apocalyptic novels, and this book did not disappoint, though it was tamer than many of the adult novels I have read, making it much more suitable for younger readers. I highly recommend this book for high school students.

The situation in which Fin and Max find themselves is a terrifyingly realistic scenario, so well written, I could almost feel the desolation, the desperation and the fear. Life could progress just like this if nuclear war were to happen, and that makes this read particularly scary. Reading The Sky So Heavy made me want to go out and stock up on canned food and bottled water!

The characters are well developed, allowing the reader to know them, and conjure them in our imaginations. I liked all the characters, though Max was a little whiney, but what twelve year old brother isn’t! And given that all the parental figures in his life are gone and possibly dead, his reaction to his circumstances seems natural. Fin, Noll and Lucy are older than Max, but still they are faced with the same fears, apprehensions, worries, frustrations and uncertainties. Fin has the added burden of being responsible for Max. In a world that adults would struggle to navigate, this group of teenagers show bravery and compassion that would escape many, but also a strong desire to survive. These feelings are well expressed throughout the book, creating a realistic and compelling experience for the reader.

I will be eagerly watching for future novels by Claire Zorn. I think there will be more brilliance to come from this new author to the field of young adult fiction in Australia.

 

* The Sky So Heavy was an honour book for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.