Ripley's a tomboy at heart who has never met a stranger. Her plans were to finish her veterinary studies and take her family to the country, where life wouldn't be such a struggle. She thought the worst she'd have to deal with at the University of Maryland were the unwelcome advances and attitudes of affluent students, and the occasional East Coast hurricane. She never expected the sun to fall down. An immense coronal mass ejection, the likes of which the modern world has never seen, blankets the Earth and destroys the power grid worldwide. Ripley has no communication with her family at home and - thanks to the University's zero-tolerance policy - no weapons to protect herself. Society is becoming increasingly panicked and desperate, and the government seems slow to respond. The world, as she knew it, has ended. A new world of lawlessness, betrayal, and scarcity is beginning. Can she become the woman she needs to be so that she and her friends can make it home? With the thin veneer of a civilized society collapsing, can she even survive?
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First, let me say that I'm going to assume this book is targeted at YA. Maybe it isn't, but if I go in with that assumption, it makes it easier to accept a lot of things and smooth over some rough edges.
The story is told from two perspectives: a girl at college with her friends and a grandmother in a small town waiting for said kids to make their way back home (while dealing with her own problems on her end).
The author opens up the book with an intro that sort of puts down other similar works as "prepper porn". Perhaps there are degrees to it, but I'd personally classify this story as the same. For the kids at college, less time is spent on their actual adventure getting home than on all the "prep" work that went into it. These kids already had maps printed and emergency bags packed for something like this, and we spend a LOT of time talking about it.
The characters also spend a lot of time discussing and inner-monologuing the psychology and behaviors of other "survivors". Because of this, I'd say this was less of a story and more of a social commentary mixed with, well, "prepper porn". Softcore, probably, but porn nonetheless.
I do wish the author had spent more time developing the characters. Most of them were interchangeable, and it was hard to follow who was who for a good portion of the listen. In fact, Cory, the grandson of the grandmother the kids are making their way back home to, seemed only to exist for that reason. He was often shoehorned into a scene, and because the author did not do much to set scenes up, a character would suddenly speak or be said to perform an action and you'd be left wondering if you missed the fact that they were there all along. Sadly, that character was often Cory.
I also wish more had been done to explain their physical characteristics. It was a while before I was able to form a mental picture of them all, and even then, I wasn't too sure I had it right. What made matters worse, is that there are a number of scenes where race plays a part in things, and it's only then that you realize "oh, they're black?". Even then, you can't be sure though. Marco is spanish, that's clear. At least 2 of the kids are black, I think? There's a gas station attendent with a name you can't gleam much from who has racial epiteths thrown his way, and I still don't know what he is. When you're going to throw racial drama into the mix, it would be extremely helpful to know the races of the characters.
I found the grandmother to be the most interesting character of them all. She was fleshed out well and acted in a consistent manner throughout. The 4 college kids however seemed to be all over the place. Their personalities, points of view and priorities seemed to switch up depending on what the author needed for that situation.
This made her story far more interesting to follow. While she fell into the same traps of analyzing the psychology and behaviors of others while preparing for a long-lasting state of emergency, it was done far more naturally. The grandmother used what she had at her disposal (brains, connections and physical property) to prepare herself for the disaster. I wish the story with the college kids was written in a similar vein.
The story ends fairly abruptly with no resolution to the conflicts the book spent a good portion of its 10 hours setting up. Disappointing, but sadly expected.
Overall, it's not a BAD book at all, and I often found myself getting lost in the small town half of the story, but it plodded along far too much without a commensurate payoff for the time invested. I don't think I'll be picking up book 2 to possibly be treated to more of the same.
Both narrators did an excellent job, top notch performances.
Not the typical SHTF story. The characters are fairly original and the storyline is fairly fresh and not filled with technical jargon or filler to make the story longer and boring. Decent pace and quite interesting! Looking forward to the next book!