Wednesday, July 25, 2012

White Horse

I discovered Alex Adams through her interview on Terribleminds, and I immediately knew that I had to read White Horse. A superior spiritual cousin to Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig? Don't mind if I do. The book in a tweet from Alex Adams: White Horse: It’s like The Road, but with breasts, hope, and punctuation. For the record, this book is infinitely more depressing than The Road. Find Alex on Twitter and her blog, and there's a cool book page from SS Aussie.

A synopsis, from BN:
Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the president of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are defined not by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices. White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places.

First of all, don't let the charming cover fool you. This book is full of death and sickness and vomit (way, way too much vomiting) and all those terrible things people do after the world ends. In a post-apocalyptic book that's supposed to be about hope and love, it sure is really fucking bleak. I made the mistake of reading the first half of the book in one sitting, and I was so depressed and awful-feeling when I came up for air that I made P take me driving to the mall/ice cream/various sundries to get the haze out of my head. (So much tension around that goddamned jar!) I should mention that the US cover is awesome and I love it so much more than the UK cover. And in case you didn't realize (I didn't at first) White Horse is a reference to Pestilence, the first horseman of the apocalypse.

Why do I continue to read books that are pretty much my worst nightmare? I don't know. I felt the same way after reading The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe. Maybe by forcing myself to think about it I will conquer my fear? Who knows. But I hate thinking about the apocalypse. It's not that I'm afraid of dying (no more than any other person, that is, I don't really want to, but I don't dwell on it), but more that I'm afraid everything we've ever worked for will count for nothing. When one person dies, they still have a legacy they leave behind. People they love who get to keep living, a coin collection they built over their entire life, a however small stamp they left on the world that says I was here. But if life ends, everything that makes us human, love and passion and fear and emotions and relationships, will just dissipate into thin air, and I find that incredibly sad. All this hubbub about 2012 and the Mayans (which, after much internal debate, I do not think the world is ending December 2012. Read this. Also, this is funny.) is bringing out all kinds of end-of-the-world books, and I can't keep myself away from a book that sounds good, apocalypse within its pages or not. \end{rant}

I loved the main character, Zoe. She was quiet, but strong as balls. She did what was necessary for her to survive, even if it meant losing a bit of her humanity. She was snarky, but it was realistic, not like the super-dialogue that goes too far. She laughed and cried in equal measure, and I think that is important for the end of the world. Accept the sadness, but realize how ridiculous everything has become. Zoe wasn't physically strong, it was her character that was strong (two recent articles: On Becoming Strong, and The Definition of Badass). Adams did a great job of portraying what the world turns into when everything ends. Normal people surviving by normal means, and the other kind of people, the kind that lose their humanity because they are focused so much on surviving.

And this book is a trilogy? Why? It ended! The story is over. The world lurches on for the moment, but Zoe's journey is complete. I have no idea what the following books are about, but I'd definitely be interested in at least checking them out. It would make sense if the series was four books and went through all the stages of the apocalypse with all four horsemen. There were mentions of God in this first book, but there wasn't a large religious bend to it, more just the thoughts you would expect from someone trying to make sense of the apocalypse. I don't know if I would even want to read a story that continued to be so depressing after the journey Zoe already took, but anything happier wouldn't be true to the tone of the first book.

So why is this book worth reading, you ask? Because the writing is phenomenal. I mean, phenomenal. The kind of writing you can taste as you read. Because Adams doesn't shy away from talking about the hard things, the scary things. Because she created a fascinating virus that had a mind of it's own, and I love the people that arose from that virus. Because the last paragraph made this entire journey worth taking (and you will be wrung out as if you walked the hundreds of miles with Zoe). Because the last sentence was so fucking awesome it made my heart squeeze and left my mind racing and really made finishing the book worth it. I'll put down a book I'm not interested in easily, but a book that scares me I force myself to keep reading. And I'm glad I did.

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