Falkin (Contract City, 2015, etc.) synthesizes multiple unnerving apocalypse scenarios into something entirely new in this horror novel.
Kevin March of Austin, Texas, is revealed to the reader in fits and starts. He was once a slacker, idly dreaming of being a published writer, who spent a lot of time smoking marijuana and got kicked out of a marching band. But later, he’s determined and forthright, trying to stay alive with Kodie Lagenkamp, the girl he loves, as they confront what appears to be the end of the world. The novel is delivered in an epistolary style, ostensibly a transcript of Kevin’s late-2018 voice recordings, detailing his journey. This conceit gives the novel a strong voice that ably conveys the terror and uncertainty of Kevin’s situation, as well as the bleak wonder of a rapidly changing and crumbling environment. The novel’s style also highlights the protagonist’s flair for poetic language, and the overwhelming situation that he finds himself in allows readers to learn more about him as he sees deeper into himself. The apocalypse itself is a mystery that drives the entire story, starting with a sound like whale song, a strange ripple in the Colorado River, shadows cast by nothing, and a glimpse of an inhuman monster in some trees. The crisis rapidly escalates as the adults die off—choking on a strange, fiberglasslike substance or killing themselves en masse, while young children change, becoming full of dark purpose and growing menace. Through all of this, Kevin has to contend with the possibility that survival is a false hope, but he also finds that recording and remembering are acts of defiance in and of themselves. Readers will feel a rising sense of trepidation with every page turn, but the brisk pace ensures that they’ll keep moving forward despite the danger. The secondary characters can sometimes feel slightly flat, as seen through Kevin’s eyes, but the depth of his own development and that of the world around him more than make up for it.
A compelling tale with a dynamic, engaging protagonist.