Review of Meghan Ciana Doidge’s “After The Virus”
Quite a few post apocalyptic novels have attempted to inject love and romance into their pages. Some do it by cramming it into a high action, gore splattered story, while others let it flow more gradually into the mix, letting it germinate based on circumstances surrounding the characters-people pushed together and sharing the horrors that surround one another, so they come together to push back the nightmares. Meghan Ciana Doidge is one of the few storytellers who pushes the love story up front and center with After The Virus. There are a couple of other books I have read that have the relationship between two main characters stand as the key element, but this is the first that I would categorize as a true romance tale.
This story surrounds the two main characters, Rhiannon and Will, as they live their separate lives after the apocalypse…if you can call it living-especially for Rhiannon, who begins the story captured and put into what amounts to a baby mill. Over 99% of the world’s population has died, and the barbaric pockets of survivors are lead by men who need as many healthy women to breed as possible. But Rhiannon is special. She is an actress and a world class beauty that has caught the eye of the local boss, who wants her all to himself. She escapes, but throughout the rest of the story is pursued by the boss’s men, who are intent on bringing her back to him. Will, on the other hand, is a man who has chosen to live his life alone, in a small, remote town where he dutifully takes to the task of cleaning out the dead bodies and restocking the stores and and maintaining the hotel. But Will just wants to be left alone, which creates friction when other survivors come across his little Shangri La who are looking for a place to stay. He eludes danger with them, and on one of his trips to find more supplies, comes across a mute nine year old girl he dubs Snickers (that was what she was eating when he finds her) and though she is skittish, brings her back to his place to live with him. Rhiannon, who manages to escape her captors, stumbles across Will’s town and finds herself reluctantly feeling that this new place could be home. Of course, due to the character’s actions and the other desperate survivors that surround them, things do not go at all well for them. Will and Rhiannon are thrust into the wider world, with other survivors, desperate for heroes, latching on to Will. Rhiannon gets captured again, and Will realizes that he has a greater responsibility in the world than he had hoped or wanted, but will accept, if it will allow him to save the woman he is falling in love with.
The story flows very well and I liked the characters the author developed. Snickers and the dog B.B. allow Will and Rhiannon to focus their efforts on something more than their awkward, fumbling steps toward the realization that they belong together, and draw them closer throughout the story. Some would call this a zombie story, but more to the point, it is an apocalyptic love tale with a smattering of infected creatures that perhaps resemble zombies, though they are a side point altogether. As the author states clearly, this is a story that pays homage to other author’s tales, including one of my favorite books of all time, The Stand. It is about people living, loving, and struggling after the world has crumbled; trying to put the pieces back together and start again, which requires reluctant heroes and leaders, and symbols of hope that can stand against the devastation that not only a virus can do, but what men can do to one another.
The areas of concern I had with this story were a couple of main distractions that I think took away slightly from the tale. First and foremost, the use of pronouns when it came to stating who was speaking and thinking were confusing. One character would be speaking or would be in action one paragraph, and the next would start out with “he” or “she” and would be referring to an entirely different character. This was consistent throughout the story, and while it is something I got used to and started to expect, it disrupted the story when I had to figure things out more than once. The other issue I had was with the nicknames given to various characters. I totally understand and appreciate them for characters that pass by in a story and become nothing more than minor details, but when they become key characters, and when their real names are learned, those nicknames need to evaporate, or at least used less liberally-it caused confusion, and in some cases didn’t make much sense. Especially when it is really only one person who creates the nickname and doesn’t necessarily speak it out loud, but just as a device to remember them, but in no time, everyone else is using it as well. This works when a few characters call Will “Tex”, but not so much when a character is dubbed “Stupid” early on in the tale, but even when his real name is provided that dismissive moniker is used up until the very end of the story.
Rest assured, these issues were not deterrence for me in reading or completing this book. It is a solid tale, with well fleshed out characters and a story that has a place in the PA pantheon as unique because it is a true love story. I know this is the author’s first book, and my gripes are minor issues that are a sideline to her ability to tell a tale. I look forward to checking out more of her work as it is released.
After The Virus can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/After-the-Virus-ebook/dp/B0053HT0FG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312059772&sr=8-1