Gibson adds humor to the usually bleak landscape of post-apocalyptic fiction in this debut YA adventure novel.
Twins Clo and El Yetti are living in the Northern California wilderness, but they’re making the best of it. After all, it’s better than being stuck in the cities, run by machines who’ve largely succeeded in bringing humanity under their drug-enforced sway. Clo and El are inseparable, hunting, talking, and fighting like a single organism, which lends a unique quality to the prose and point of view, mixing traditional third-person narration with the first-person plural “we.” In this way, the reader gets a powerful sense of how the twins are linked together—in sync and using their own sort of language, or “cryptophasia.” The twins’ codependency and tendency toward violence has improved the odds of survival for themselves and their mother, Lauren, and little brother, Dyre. But after 10 years in the wilderness, a nefarious robot dressed as Santa Claus walks into their camp and begins changing everything. Soon after, Lauren disappears while investigating the outside world, and Dyre falls ill after another automaton attack. The twins have no choice but to go out in search of their mother, though what they find will upend their small world. Gibson’s writing, brisk and solid, emphasizes action and snappy dialogue over description. At first, this style enhances the storytelling, but at later points, it becomes confusing, especially when the twins bestow nicknames on everything from favorite weapons “Toothy” and “Daisy Duke” to the robotic enemy “Tik-Toks” and even their childhood car “Bouncy McBounceface.” This style also hampers characterization, as the witty repartee leaves little space to define the twins’ personalities or desires beyond survival. Finally, while the violence here is darkly comedic, it sometimes seems to be provocative for its own sake: “His body was sprawled awkwardly, like a bloated crimson swastika in the dirt.” Still, the novel is fun and entertainingly skewers Silicon Valley and the tech industry.
A gleefully apocalyptic page-turner that unfortunately wears out the charm of its manic violence and clever banter.