This was definitely a page-turner. I found the premise – that the apocalypse comes about because everyone suddenly develops telepathy and can read each other’s minds – at once fascinating and problematic. Despite these contradictory feelings, I whizzed through, so this is an author who is doing something right.
First, it’s set in Sydney in a near-ish future, with a lot of hip hyper-connected teen jargon, which sets the scene for the apocalypse to come while also being really quite clever. Then the “Snap” happens – on Christmas Day, perfect, always a time of goodwill and low stress-levels – and mayhem and mega-death ensues. Our tough and down to earth heroine Danby, who has been mis-diagnosed as kooky because she already tuned into these telepathic waves, is invisible to the crazed majority who feel like ten thousand people are screaming in their heads. Her mission becomes, to get herself and her little brother to hippy mum’s hideaway in the Blue Mountains. She also meets a young med student, Nathan, who is similarly “immune”: ie he can hear others’ thoughts but they can’t hear his.
Their attempts to save themselves, plus assisting and reviving other people, seem to only just be starting, and a good start it is, when the narrative changes and the story becomes a novel of two halves. I won’t say too much because it would be spoiler-y, but the second half introduces a new set of characters. One in particular has unusual talents and the thrust of the story shifts to Danby’s uncertain, ambivalent relationship with this guy.
The premise is interesting: that our brains are being re-wired for connectivity through social media, and that this is the natural evolutionary next step. It kind of introduces that idea without fully exploring its implications: 7 billion minds on the planet – and like the internet, 99% plus of each mind is probably stuffed with rubbish no one needs to know. I know mine is.
Connectivity is a buzzword (very big in education: we teachers are meant to be embracing the connectivity of our students as 21st Century learners) but no one seems to ask the basic question: why? Connectivity is good for Connectivity’s sake, goes the C21st educators’ mantra. But I do wonder. Deeply unfashionable view: what good does it do? If you look at it with a cold and cynical eye, the vast vast majority of this sharing and connecting is on the one hand self-promoting, and on the other desperately trivial.
So… my reasons for contradictory reaction: it is a fascinating premise for an apocalypse, but this happening overnight as an evolutionary response is not possible. Natural selection, selfish genes and all that – no great genetic changes can happen to everyone on the planet outside of several generations (or at the very least one, if there’s a plague say that wipes out everyone but people who… can roll their tongues. Then, in one generation, the vast majority of the people in the world would be people who can roll their tongues… boring old evolutionary theory, so widely misunderstood).
So the mechanism by which this occurs is at present not plausible, although it might come clear in later books. But that didn’t affect my reading pleasure anyway.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, people all of a sudden murdering each other and crashing their cars and fires all over the city – basically, Christmas Armageddon – why? So, your hubby thinks your bum really does look fat in those pants – do you charge outside and drive like a maniac ramming your car into every other vehicle you see? Even if you do drive off in a huff, you wouldn’t want to kill yourself through reckless driving. But they all do.
I think the madness could conceivably have been explained as a stress reaction – people literally going mad with the noise in their minds… I don’t know, maybe it was there but if it was, it’s not very focused or explicit, and the rationale for the madness seemed a little lacking.
In any case, nitpicks aside, I still roared through the story – interesting, gripping read, and lots of potential to explore answers in the follow-ups.
Because it is the first in a trilogy. The story resolves enough for satisfaction, but is clearly primed for instalment #2.
What Works And Why?
We read to escape, enjoy, engage, and find out more about our world. So reading is great - but what makes a great read? A page dedicated to short analyses of how writers engage readers.