Life in a post-apocalyptic community may be just as harrowing as that in the devastated outside world in Flinders’ debut dystopian novel.
In April 2021, Zoe Wilkes works at a Parker’s Island, Maryland, restaurant with her best friend and roommate, Ben. They’re sleeping off hangovers when Ben’s older sister, Bex, calls them on their landline. The power has gone out nearly everywhere and cellphones don’t work, so the two drive to Bex’s house in Blair Heights, where she has a generator. A heavy traffic jam, however, prevents them from getting there; they eventually get separated, and Zoe opts to return home. After she endures a mugging by a group of teenagers, she ends up in an “off-the-grid housing community” built by former environmental lobbyist Jacob Malin. His friend Miles Kirby, who used to work on cybersecurity for the government, long feared that terrorists could hack infrastructure systems—which is apparently what happened in “the attack.” Life inside the walls is initially good, with more than 100 people working together to maintain a stockpile of food and other necessities; Zoe and Miles develop a relationship and live together. But soon, the mood within the community darkens, including that of Miles. Then Zoe stumbles upon information about what’s really happening during mysterious “supply runs”—a revelation that upends her life all over again. Flinders energetically details the atmosphere of the uncertain post-blackout world; for example, Zoe is terrified by an unseen threat in the darkness when her car runs out of gas and later feels comfort when gripping the switchblade that Ben gives her. As a result, it’s somewhat disappointing when the story shifts to the smaller community setting. Nevertheless, this choice simplifies the plot, focusing on how internal conflicts and secrets contribute to societal instability; as Zoe aptly puts it, “the world shrank…for all of us.” Flinders’ descriptions sparkle, as when a mass of lumber and parts is called “an unorganized Home Depot with no walls” and when “wilted and dying flowers” are sitting in a vase after someone’s death.
An absorbing story of the end of civilization relayed through a handful of tortured characters.