Think The Road intricately wrapped around Station 11 with a dash of Oryx and Crake.
First-time British novelist Clark Windo pushes all the right buttons in this post-apocalyptic mashup. Imagine a world in which everyone has the Feed implanted in their brains. The internet and all it offers is yours in seconds. No need to read, no need to even talk; people can even access other’s thoughts. Tom Hatfield, a psychotherapist, and his pregnant wife, Kate, a teacher, are eating in a restaurant in, maybe, England. Tom’s father had something to do with creating the Feed. Tech-speak abounds: “emotis,” “adrenalspike,” “ent.” Suddenly, there are “gasps and a gabble of confused words actually vocalized out in the real.” Everyone is bombarded with the news, something about an Arctic-South war; President Taylor is assassinated. The Collapse has occurred. Smoke pours in, there are distant detonations, “birds…sprayed upwards…machines hurtled from the sky” and then, “under the booms,” there is the “approaching sound of silence.” The Feed vanishes. Jump ahead six years. Something has killed millions of people. Tom, Kate, 6-year-old Bea, and a few others are living in huts in a grim, desolate camp. The time frame is uncertain; seasons pass. They have to forage for food. They have to watch each other sleep, otherwise they’re “taken over.”(Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers.) If that does happen, they'll need to be killed. Tom had to kill his brother. People have to relearn everything in order to survive, even language, and talk to each other. Bea is abducted. They head out to find her. Something’s wrong with Kate. The twisty, slowly unwinding tale is laid out in tiny bits and pieces of information. The characters aren’t very well-developed. Windo demands quite a bit from the reader, and some might give up on this trip.
There’s a smart and provocative story in here somewhere, but Clark Windo’s pedestrian prose and overdone narrative tricks smother it.