Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison
Author: Eliot Pattison
Genre: Fiction (Mystery / Post-Apocalypse / Dystopia / Future)
Publisher/Publication Date: Counterpoint (4/1/2011)
Source: The publisher.
Did I finish?: I did, pretty quickly.
One-sentence summary: Twenty-five years after an apocalypse wiped out most of the Earth, a series of murders threatens the stability of a community of survivors.
Do I like the cover?: I'm not wild about it, but it features key elements from the book so that makes me happy!
I'm reminded of...: Octavia Butler, Robert Heinlein
First line: The faces of the many child suicides Hadrian Boone had cut from nooses or retrieved below cliffs never left him, filled his restless sleep, and encroached in so many waking nightmares that now, as the blond girl with the hanging rope skipped along the ridge above, he hesitated, uncertain whether she was another of the phantoms that haunted him.
Did... I love the first line?: YES -- I mean, how can you not flinch and sit up at that?
Why did I get this book?: I'm a sucker for a dystopia!
Review: About twenty-five years have passed since a nuclear apocalypse nearly obliterated life on Earth. Hadrian Boone was a survivor, one of the founders of the Carthage, but after being a community leader early on, he's now a disgraced criminal. What was an agrarian attempt at rebuilding has turned into a repressive totalitarian stronghold with a leader who exiles anyone he dislikes or fears. Children kill themselves in hopes of crossing to a world like the one they've seen in contraband magazines and books.
This is the bleak, grim setting for a conspiracy-laden murder mystery, as Boone tries to untangle the connection between the secret murders happening in the community. The world-building was interesting and vivid without being overwhelming (I get glazed-eyed at too much technical explanation) and we're fed details about the apocalypse and the community's history as the story goes on (usually when Boone is meditating on something). The events that led to this dystopic world are still remembered by the survivors, and the first children born after the apocalypse are now in their early twenties. I was particular intrigued by this setting because there's the mix of those who remember, who want to forget, the tension of commemorating versus moving on, and the myth-making that inevitably happens.
I especially think fans of YA dystopias will enjoy this -- the middle-aged protagonist certainly doesn't get into the kind of drama that YA hero/ines do, but the ambiance and repressive feel is articulated with fascinating world building and a tangled conspiracy. I even think those who like political thrillers might dig this -- secrets and cover-ups from a different kind of government!
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