Australian author Matt Pike contacted me several weeks ago to introduce his latest novel Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor. He received a Global Ebook Award for Teen Fiction in 2013 for his debut novel Kings of the World.
His new book is categorised as Teen and Young Adult as well as Sci-Fi, Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic. As a recent convert to P.A. (see previous post) I was keen to read the book as the Amazon sample was immediately engaging. However I wasn't sure about the Y.A label. I don't re-call ever being a Y.A as far as fiction is concerned. In the dim and distant past you were in the Children's Library one day and the Adult's the next. I seem to remember jumping from "Just William" and Enid Blyton to Harold Robbins and Jean Plaidy over-night.
However, I've concluded that if a novel is good it doesn't matter what age group it's been written for because good fiction is good fiction. And Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is certainly that.
It's a first person narrative told by Jack, a teenager temporarily living alone in Adelaide when the apocalypse occurs. His diary is an explanation of what happened and his subsequent attempts to survive.
Jack is an appealing character whose hippy-ish parents have brought him up to be independent and resilient. They have gone away on holiday to some remote location and Jack's brother is away as well in London. Jack gets an early warning of the impending disaster and starts to make preparations recording regular comments in his diary as events develop.
The story is completely plausible and the explanation of the cause of the apocalypse works really well. There is a lot of practical detail as Jack prepares for survival and then attempts to implement his plans.
The writing style is youthful and contemporary and the author has used a variety of devices to make the diary feel real. This includes a number of typos which bothered me a little at first until I decided they were introduced deliberately to contribute to the tension and stress when Jack is writing some of his diary entries.
The story-line is gripping and the writing style makes this book a page-turner. The novel feels very real and in places is quite scary and emotionally disturbing. However this is well handled and resolutions to problems and challenges emerge and are developed convincingly.
A very powerful aspect of the book is its exploration of moral dilemmas. Although Jack has a strong survival instinct he is exercised by how he can survive ethically wondering, for example, if it is right to keep all your food for yourself if others are starving.
The ending of the novel is unexpected, takes the book to a new level and leaves the reader re-assessing the situation and its likely outcome. Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is a very good read whether you're eighteen or eighty: five stars from me!