FicCentral received a free copy of this book from YA Bound Book Tours.
Series: Sanctuary #1
Publisher: AltWit Press on September 10, 2013
Genre(s): Christian/Faith-based, Dystopian (YA), Science Fiction Suspense (YA)
In a heart-racing thriller described as Falling Skies meets The Walking Dead, Jennie struggles to find a safe place for what's left of her family. But it seems as though there is no place sacred, no place secure. First the aliens attacked the sun, making it dimmer, weaker, and half what it used to be.Then they attacked the water supply, killing one-third of Earth's population with a bitter contaminate. And when they unleash a new terror on humankind, the victims will wish for death, but will not find it...
When the world shatters to pieces around her, will Jennie find the strength she needs to keep going?
The end of the world doesn’t happen quickly, but in stages. First, the sun grows and dims, ominous black spots dotting its surface as Earth’s temperature drops. Large disc-shaped ships follow, hovering in the air over cities and poisoning all large water masses. Only water already in the ground is safe, sustaining the remaining 2/3 of a wary human population who wait for the next disaster. What comes next is straight out of a horror movie, large beasts attacking at random, people turning in their backs on each other as they fight to survive, and a violent plague spread through bites, changing unfortunate victims into something akin to zombies.
College student Jennie Ransom is no more equipped than anyone around her to handle the chaos and constant danger, but when she finds herself responsible for her little brother and desperately seeking any place that might be safe, it seems only God can save them. Their mismatched band of a minister and his wife, a teacher from her old high school, and a handful of other adults and children doesn’t stand a chance if they can’t make it to the security of a nearby military base.
As soon as I read the opening quote, I knew this book would scare the crap out of me. That’s pretty much a given any time Revelations is mentioned, but dystopian with an underlying Christian theme? Yes, please! And despite the fact that I prefer to avoid anything even hinting at horror, I was completely blown away.
Sanctuary reads like a movie, focusing alternately on Jennie, a college student charged with saving herself and her young brother; Hugh, a high school biology teacher on track for his PhD who fortuitously stumbles upon the group of running survivors at a church; and Brad, Hugh’s rather shallow, if not charming brother who trails Jennie to the church where everyone’s hiding out. I usually find alternating POV’s distracting, since they inevitably force me to follow a character I’m not terribly interesting, but not so with this book. While I definitely had my favorites, each character’s journey brought me new insight into the horror of what was happening around them.
Jennie is strong in will and faith but completely unprepared for what’s befallen the world. Like any college student, she’s been enjoying her independence and distance from the rules of her parents, but all that is lost when the aliens arrive. Unlike some of the more curious population, she has no desire to go anywhere near the hovering spacecraft, but she’s also reluctant to surrender the altogether normal life she’s been leading. But when the aliens unleash monsters to attack and infect the unsuspecting populace, any semblance of normal goes right out the window. With no clue as to the fate of her parents, she’s alone in protecting her five-year-old brother — well, almost. She lucks out in happening across the local minister and his wife, and while neither is in any position to defend Jennie and her brother, their presence is reassuring, like surrogate grandparents. Add in Hot Mr. Harris, a.k.a. Hugh, and his somewhat smarmy brother, and they begin to stand a chance at surviving.
What I enjoyed most about the book is that it isn’t the least bit preachy. In that respect, it reminds me of a romance series my pastor grandfather gave me one Christmas when I was a teen. I was shocked that he’d bought me “normal” books (with romance to boot!), and the mentions of God seemed more in line with the historical time period than some lesson he was trying to teach me. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the series was actually by a popular Christian author. And just like those books I read back then, in Sanctuary, while faith and God are both mentioned, it feels more organic than sermon-like. Given what’s happening around them, it’s not even immediately obvious that their prayers aren’t simply made in desperation. After all, who wouldn’t be crying out to God when all life on earth is in sudden jeopardy? And it’s a rather brilliant take on the book of Revelations as well. Those prophesies of all hell breaking loose on earth, of demons, of people begging for death… They all play out in the form of the monstrous beasts attacking and the zombies unable to rest in peace. It’s really just incredible that a story can so perfectly combine aliens, zombies, and end of days without sacrificing cherished religious beliefs.
Best of all, I can honestly recommend this book to just about anyone. Whether you love sci-fi or dystopian or romance (because there’s definitely one budding there) or faith based fiction, Sanctuary has it all, and it delivers it in such a way that even if you’re not a fan of one aspect or another, you’ll find yourself hooked. And if you’re not a big fan of the religious aspect, don’t let that scare you off. Trust me; it’s not that kind of books. And, there’s a second book coming later this year! Oh, I can’t wait to see where the little sparks of romance take them…