Hello Humans! oh do I have a review for you today! The lovely people over at Harper Collins were kind enough to send me an advanced reader copy of After the Flood, a new post-apocalyptic novel from debut author Kassandra Montag. This book takes on the ‘a natural disaster has already happened’ setting and roles with it! For those looking at those rising sea levels with more than a little anxiety – this one’s maybe not for you – unless you’d like to lean in.
A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.
Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Arctic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.
On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travellers.
I tend to put ‘post-apocalyptic’ books written for an adult market into two categories – those that focus more on the action and those that lean more into broad concepts and emotions. For example, The Book of M, which I read and reviewed last year, is much more of an emotion focussed book. I’d say that After the Flood leans more into the emotion/conceptual category, although there are some moments of action within the story. Thinking about it, the action-packed post-apocalyptic stuff tends to sit more in the YA category where the adult always ends up being more emotional – not a negative more an observation.
If you’re like me, and a book about a mother travelling to find her daughter against all odds sets off alarm bells in your head for something overly emotional and annoying – well let’s take a step back.
Because, yes, that’s what this story is. We don’t get heaps of detail about how the world ended up this way, this isn’t about one woman going up against the evil FLOOD corporation and battling her way through swish corporate offices, defeating the enemy (who was probably her grandma or something) and emerging victorious in the dawn of a new age. Instead, Montag chooses to tell the story of someone who lives in this world, who is just trying to survive and live life in a world where there isn’t really any corporation to fight. There are pros and cons to that approach – I’m a person who loves to know why and this book leaves some of those things unanswered. That being said, I’m also a great believer in telling stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. I’m waffling a little but you hopefully get my drift – this book may not be for everyone but it’s probably better to go in knowing what you’re getting.
I often have a problem with books like this because I, like many other people, have no interest in having children. Often these books focus in on that maternal instinct and assume that I’ll forgive any mistakes the main character makes because of parental instinct or something. In this instance, I didn’t feel like this book expected that of me – which was quite refreshing. I would be interested to read a review from a mother/parent reading this book as I imagine they might get different things out of it. I thought that the book managed to balance the way that being a parent is, in this new flooded world, both a strength and a weakness. If Myra were to not chase after her firstborn would her life be easier? – probably. But that maternal fierceness and that clear purpose also keep her going, along with her desire to protect her youngest daughter Pearl.
By the way, let’s talk about Pearl because I thought she was great. It’s phenomenally difficult to write a seven-year-old character in a book where things are pretty fraught and to have her not be a massive pain. Either they’re too cutesy and always getting into trouble or they’re unrealistically portrayed as brave and world-weary. Pearl was so well balanced – she was a seven-year-old I would probably tolerate hanging out with for a couple of hours – and she collects snakes! What I particularly enjoyed was that Pearl had an understanding of why things were the way they were, but also maintained that seven-year-old sense of fairness (or lack thereof). I thought Pearl was one of the standout characters in this book.
But what of the plot? I thought it was good, the story of Myra and Pearl means you encounter a number of other aspects of life in the flooded world – I liked it a lot. In hindsight, immediately switching from this to The Bone Ships may have slightly coloured my opinion since I personally always prefer more of a fantasy setting but nevertheless I thought that this plot was good. I would say it’s more fast-paced and has more action than other books to which you might compare this based on the premise alone. It was somewhat slow to start, but by the end I was hooked on Myra’s story.
Overall, I’d say this is a good read for people who enjoy books of this ilk. If you’re looking to transition from more YA post-apocalyptic fiction I’m not sure it’s the best thing – unless what you want is that more emotional kind of story?
Books are hard – I liked this well enough and you might too!
My rating: 3.5/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
After the Flood is available now!
What say you? What kind of post-apocalyptic fiction do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!