The End of All Things by Lissa Bryan
Series: The End of All Things #1
Publisher: TWCS Publishing House on January 24, 2013
Genre(s): Dystopian (Adult)
After a terrible virus ravages the planet, Carly Daniels, one of the few survivors, hides in her apartment in Juneau trying to survive the best she can with only occasional forays to gather food. With her is Sam, a wolf puppy she found starving on the streets. He becomes her companion and a reason to continue when giving up sometimes seems like the more attractive option. Still dazed with shock and grief, she hopes for the world to go back to normal soon.
She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to Florida before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey, because a warmer climate will be their best chance against the extremes of Mother Nature.
Together, they begin a perilous journey through a nation laid to waste by the disaster. Challenges abound along the way. The weather, injury, and shortage of supplies all help to slow them down. In time, they discover that they aren’t the only survivors. Some are friendly but some have had their minds destroyed by the high fever. Then there are those who simply take what they want, leaving Carly and Justin with no choice but to defend what is theirs.
But their journey is not without joy and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a new beginning for themselves and a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.
This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life, and a home in each other.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
When a flu-like plague sweeps through the country, everything Carly has ever known is changed. Without her parents, without any friends, without a society at all, she finds herself hiding in her apartment, venturing out only when absolutely necessary, and waiting for the government to swoop in and set everything right again. But there’s no sign of relief, and as much as she wants to believe in rescue, hope is running out. So when a strange man on a motorcycle shows up, offers help, and eventually gives her a chance to get south before the cruel Alaska winter arrives, she sets out on a journey to a new home in an altogether changed world.
Of all the characters in the post-apocalyptic, dystopian books I’ve read, Carly may be the easiest with whom to identify. Like just about everyone who’s grown up with technology, convenience, and all of life’s little luxuries, she’s completely out of sorts when vestiges of the world she’s always known remain, though everything has completely changed.
The sickness that swept through society has killed nearly everyone now, and Carly is holed up in her apartment, waiting for the government to come in and restore order, civilization, and the only world she’s ever known. She ventures out to “buy” groceries, leaving a check for each shopping trip she makes, and is careful to avoid being spotted by what few people might remain in Juneau, since they could be sick or malicious or any number of things she isn’t prepared for. She’s not an experienced hunter or camper or crafter. She’s never been without her parents’ guidance. And she can’t bring herself to accept that life as she’s always known it is really and truly over.
Justin is former Special Ops, now discharged and riding his motorcycle in the wilds of Alaska when the sickness begins. By the time he makes it to Juneau, the damage has been done, and he finds himself spared and alone in the empty streets. A few remaining sick wander aimlessly and sometimes violently, but he finds no sign of normal life until he spots Carly. Unable to immediately gain her trust, he sticks around, trying to show her that he’s harmless until he has to step in and save her from a dangerous situation. But the inescapable danger is the coming Alaska winter, still far enough off that Carly hasn’t even considered it, but close enough that they’ll have to travel soon and quickly to get far enough south to escape the uninhabitable cold.
There’s a certain realness to the whole situation, to the characters themselves that pulled me in and had me believing that this could be anyone, anywhere. Justin is considerably older than Carly, though not so much that you can’t get behind them, and while he comes with many skills necessary to survive in this very changed world, he’s no MacGyver. Without Justin’s strength and background, they’d probably have ended up in the same failing boat as so many others. However, they also didn’t happen upon any conveniently untouched stores of food, herds of livestock, or self-sufficient and miraculously stocked compounds, and this is a big part of what kept it believable. While it would have been easy to lead them to the basement cache of a doomsday prepper, Lissa Bryan instead puts them on bicycles and sends them across the country, camping in the woods with little to eat and cautiously seeking shelter in a few abandoned places along the way.
Their budding relationship seemed to be the product of their circumstances. It’s easy to see why they end up together after getting to know each other and depending on each other for so much, but it’s also easy to imagine they never would have looked twice at each other had the world not ended. That’s not to say they’re not right for each other, just that their options are quite different now that society has collapsed. Like everything else in the book, the characters themselves aren’t overly idealized and polished to a perfect shine. Looking back now, the story is rather simple… Two people left behind when sickness wiped out most of humanity, finding each other, surviving together, and falling in love. However, there’s nothing simple about the way their story is written, and that’s what makes it so spectacular. If you haven’t read it yet, grab the whole series. It’s a stand-out.