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The narration by Sasha Dunbrooke takes a good book and elevates it to a GREAT book. This book is told in first person, in a sort of dialect in which the grammar is not always correct, and Dunbrooke keeps our protagonist (Inez, or "I") from sounding stupid, and layers in some of the best emotional performances I've ever heard in an audiobook narration. Through her voice, we know that Inez is brave, not foolhardy; uneaducated but not stupid; savvy if not smart; practical but not unfeeling; scared but determined.
The world of the book is set in the near future (2070's) in New York after a series of pandemics and epidemics have decimated the population of the world. This is a gritty, fearful world but it is not a police state. There is enough government left that there are online message boards to use to communicate and food drops of MRE rations to help sustain life. Inez is 30 when we meet here, and she is the conduit through which we learn the state of the world and the history of the pandemics, but the backstory never feels like exposition. The language is dynamic, abbreviated, colloquial (Inez only finished 3rd grade. We're dealing with a lot of people that had no infrastructure for schools during the worst of the pandemics). There is new technology and new slang for it. The story is action-packed, with struggles for survival and the have versus the have-nots, but there is very little actual violence.
The focus of the book mostly centers on the fact that the pandemics and vaccine effects have made reproduction very difficult. People are selling eggs and sperm, IVF, test tube fertilization and even fertilized embroyos in both a black and a grey market system. People that have proven that they are immune to one or more of the pandemics are selling blood, eggs, teeth, skin cells to the people that supply this "alt repro" industry. Or they take jobs testing vaccines.
Inez answers an ad to be a test subject, and ends up proposing that she donate eggs and help raise some "viables" for sale. The process that finally take sis essentially cloning, which will produce a disease-resistant baby. The wealthy client backs out last minute, and Inez is given her "daughter" Ani, essentially a clone of herself. The bulk of the book follows Inez and ani through childhood, in which Inez does everything she can to offer Ani a life as different from Inez's own perilous, abandoned, and abusive one that she can.
The language of the book reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, with its similar themes of parenthood and post-apocalyptic survival. It's like no PA book I've ever read though. It really tugged on my emotions by the end, despite the very "just the facts" abbreviated language of the book and almost entire lack of sentimentality in the narrative. The first person POV was perfect for this story, and the tale was really immediate and visceral and tense.
This was one of the best books I've read in 2015. Heartily recommended, particularly in audio format.
NOTE: I received a copy of this audiobook from the author, narrator, or publisher in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about The Only Ones?
I really enjoyed the more realistic take on the post-pandemic world portrayed by the author. They didn't waste time with explaining how or why the world got that way; they just dove right into explaining how things were.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Only Ones?
When Inez is on the run from the religious zealots who find her methods of conception unnatural.
What does Sasha Dunbrooke bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
She does a great job of bringing the characters' accents and inflections to life.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
When Inez gets a message from her daughter even though their relationship is strained.
Any additional comments?
This is a great read for fans of The Road, Children of Men, etc. (dystopian literature lovers)
2 of 2 people found this review helpful