Interesting YA Post-apocalyptic SF that’s not quite dystopian.
Centuries after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned - the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few who survived humanity's destruction spend their short lives in a violent struggle for survival. But some light still flickers in the darkness: the Blessed of Bountiful live in seclusion, relying on walls both physical and spiritual to protect them from the Desolation.
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SERIES INFO: This is Book #1 in the “Book of Ever” series which, according to the author, is “planned as a trilogy.” Book #2, “which will be titled Extinction” will be out “sometime in 2016.”
I’m not labeling this one as dystopian because I felt that, despite it’s flaws and the dissatisfaction of some of it’s citizens, neither the founders nor current leaders of Bountiful were malevolent or deliberately oppressive. No society is perfect, and there will always be those who feel they don’t quite fit in (especially among the young).
Ever (18): is a Saint (someone gifted with supernatural powers) living in a fundamentalist religious society. She starts out with the ability to heal and begins to develop additional gifts along the way. She chafes against both the restrictions on women inherent in her society and the narrowness of her world, necessitated by very real dangers from outside. While her abilities are definitely “special,” she isn’t obnoxiously over talented. I like that she has a reasonable amount of self-defense & weapon skills for someone living in a dangerous world but isn’t unusually skilled. There are things she has to depend on others to do.
: At first, like Ever, I disliked him. But he quickly proved his caring nature and determination to do the right thing. While he may have been a bit over competent for his age, his emotional responses seemed appropriate. He wasn’t controlling or dismissive. He let her do what she was good at and contributed his own skills to the mix. Ever & Jared
: I understand why she doesn’t really consider herself to be married, but their relationship was still a bit disturbing. They support each other with words & actions, and I liked them together; but I would like to have had more interaction between them earlier on, to develop the relationship. Note: it is clear from the beginning that something is going to happen with them, so it isn’t really a spoiler to discuss it. Erlan
: (Ever’s sort of husband) - deserves no mention; I seriously don’t understand him.
At first I had to write down the full names of Ever’s traveling companions, since sometimes they were called by their first names and sometimes by their last. As we went along, however, they began to be distinguished by their personalities.
I would have appreciated learning where Bountiful was in the pre-apocalyptic world sooner.
The prologue didn’t work for me as a beginning. The jump back in time from it to chapter one was too abrupt. That could have been resolved by simply saying “2 weeks earlier,” but it also made me impatient to get back to where we started. Note: I often have this response when the prologue is from a time soon after the beginning of the next chapter.
A couple of times I thought I knew what was going to happen but the author found a different, not so obvious, way to accomplish the same end.
I was thinking that it was nice that her society, despite be religious fundamentalists, nevertheless accepted those that were gifted; and the author highlighted that by introducing someone whose people didn’t accept his gifts.
It was also nice to get to see several different societies that have developed in isolation over the past several hundred years, from good to bad.
The ending can be considered a cliff-hanger since nothing is resolved, and a lot more questions have been introduced, but we don’t end right in the middle of a plot line. I will definitely be reading the sequel.
NARRATION: I wasn’t liking the reading at all, until I bumped up the speed. I listened on 1.5 speed (rather than my usual 1.25), and it was still a bit slow. However, I liked it much better on the higher speed. / The main distinction between character voices is through subtle accents. There is less distinction between the characters from Bountiful.
FAVORITE PART(S): Jared confronting Erlan, giving him a chance to “man up.” / Ever & Jared not really needing to speak.
“You’re making the concerned face,” she said
“You’re making the decisive face,” he countered. “You’ve decided to go through with it.”
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: swearing (was an unexpected, unpleasant surprise more than halfway through and included blasphemy) / torture (thankfully not described)
OTHER WARNINGS: In case you missed it in the summary, Ever lives in a religious community. This group is descended from members of the LDS (Mormon) church who survived the apocalypse.
--Narration: AVERAGE (LOW on it's native speed)
--Re-readability: AVERAGE I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audiobook Blast dot com. Exile
by James Cormier; read by Gabrielle de Cuir
; produced by Evil Toad Press in 2015 / Length: 14 hrs 52 min (Unabr) / Available through Audible & Amazon
BONUS AUTHOR INTERVIEW
Tell us something about your lead character(s) that we don't already know.*
Religious belief is a big theme throughout Exile, but what may not be immediately obvious (at least at first) is that the two main characters, Ever and Jared, struggle with their beliefs quite a bit. Neither of them is quite sure they believe it all, and most of the motivations that drive them in fact run pretty contrary to the Blessed's beliefs. The attraction between the two characters is illicit, at least according to their people's values, and they share a desire to see more of the world and do more with their lives than is offered by the quiet life of Bountiful. They also see a great deal of stagnation in their society. The sequels to Exile will explore these aspects of the characters in greater detail--and there might be a few unexpected surprises along the way!
*He revealed it here first.
What motivated you to sit down and write your first book?
I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Exile was the first novel I completed, though, ironically, it wasn't the first novel I intended to write. I was in the process of writing an epic fantasy and a number of other things when I started it. I sat down one day in front of a blank Word document and just started writing, and the prologue to Exile was what came out: Ever Oaks' diary entries from before she started her journey north. The rest of the story spilled out of me relatively easily, and relatively soon thereafter I realized I had to put my other work aside and finish Exile first. I'd written a lot of unpublished fiction by that point, but this was the first time I really understood what it meant for characters to "come alive" as I wrote them. It felt a lot more like uncovering a story that already existed than creating one as I went along.
I've always loved post-apocalyptic stories--in any medium. So that was a big motivation in writing Exile. The story really clicked for me when I thought about what characteristics might enable a society to survive such a catastrophic event as the one described in the book. And I don't mean just literal survival: what would assist a people in maintaining a particular way of life in the face of overwhelming odds? Usually the post-apocalypse stories you read involve survivalists roaming a wasteland, alive only by the grace of their toughness and grit. And they're usually loners, unwilling or unable to be part of a community. But it occurred to me that inter-reliance, or codependency, I suppose you might call it, might also be enough to keep not only a single person but a community alive and running. An intense, common belief system, such as a particular faith, if practiced devoutly and with determination, might keep the fabric of a community strong enough to withstand even an apocalyptic event.
The Blessed are loosely based on Mormons, who have a strong pioneer background and emphasize, even today, the necessity of things like food storage and financial independence and survival training. They also tend to be somewhat removed from the secular world, for a number reasons. It struck me as a set of traits that might translate well to the type of holdfast community that Ever and Jared come from. It wouldn't be as much of a transition for them, in other words.
But that same dogmatic belief system might also eventually hold them back, for instance, if their continued survival involved thinking outside the proverbial box. So that was the premise, and the story evolved naturally from there.
Tell us something about yourself that we might not already know.
I'm a lawyer by training. I was an Assistant District Attorney and then a defense attorney for years before I started writing full time. It's an experience that I'm still mulling over, trying to figure out how, if at all, to work it into a book some day.
Audiobook / eBook / Paperbooks? Which is your favorite and why?
I'd have to say I prefer ebooks, especially lately. I love paper books as objects, I love the smell of them and the feel of them and the craft of making the really fine ones. I love collecting them. Ideally speaking, I'd probably read paper books over anything else. But the convenience of reading a book on my iPad is undeniable, which is why I usually end up reading ebooks. I can read at night in bed with the lights off, and download new books immediately rather than having to wait to go out and buy them.
Audiobooks are wonderful as well, and when I was commuting every morning I listened to them constantly. I don't often listen to audiobooks these days, but when the question of whether to release Exile in audio arose I didn't hesitate. It's a wonderful medium and, I've discovered, the primary way a huge group of people discover books.
The best place to learn more about me and my books is at my website, www.jamesdcormier.com.
You can find links to all my social media profiles there, or just google me!