A woman on the run ponders the nature of humanity as she lives through the end of the world.
Readers have gleefully suffered through the End of Days in a good many apocalyptic novels in recent years. Whether it’s zombies in World War Z, robots in Roboapacalypse or vampires in The Passage, writers suffer no shortage of inventive ways to kill us off. What debut novelist Adams brings to the scene in a planned trilogy is an unhinged but disquietly clear perspective on survivor’s guilt and the grimy nature of humanity. “It’s not just college grades that fall in a curve,” observes 30-year-old American refugee Zoe. “Human decency is bell-shaped, with some of us slopping over the edges.” Adams ramps up our end days in an increasingly horrifying amplification of events: a Chinese intervention of cellular technology; weather modification experiments gone awry; and a DNA-warping virus that halves the population at an astonishing rate. Zoe is making her way across Europe, hoping to book passage on a boat to Greece, but it’s hard traveling, especially when she discovers she’s pregnant. She and a young companion are beset by bands of predators and are stalked by a shadowy figure dubbed “The Swiss,” a murderous abortionist driven by a startling secret. With uncommon confidence, Adams flips back and forth between the present day and Zoe’s life before. She dreams of a container of horrors straight out of the Pandora myth, pieces together the (naturally) man-made origins of the plague and recounts her relationship with Nick Rose, her therapist. Adams has an excellent sense of timing, delivering gasp-inducing moments that punctuate her nightmare with verve. But it’s Zoe’s clear-eyed sense of self-preservation that will keep readers waiting for Adams’ follow-up.
The novel relies heavily on biblical and Greek myths to welcome readers to Zoe’s nightmare, but it’s a small price to pay for the jolt.