Writer of Horror Fiction

Review of Katherine Hanna’s “Breakdown”

Breakdown  is the story of Chris, a man who has lost everything in his life, as the world around him spins out of control.  A worldwide pandemic has killed many and set civilization back several centuries as all we take for granted goes away seemingly overnight.  After his wife and young daughter die from the plague, Chris sets out on a slow, arduous journey to return home to England, across the ocean from where he lived in New York.  The story is not necessarily of that journey, but of the journey that takes place after he returns home to the remnants of his family-a brother who had no idea if he was alive or dead, an old mate who his relationship with was damaged long before the plague came about, and other new faces, including new people who attempt to help Chris heal.  He has seen what the world has turned into during his travels-barbaric and wretched, and there are experiences he had that have shattered him emotionally.  It will take a great deal of kindness and patience to allow Chris to come to grips with who he is and what he has become, and a dedicated and persistent person willing to take that journey with him.

This is a post apocalyptic novel, true enough, but not the type that I would typically pick up.  I did so at the recommendation of a friend, and while this is different than what I am used to, I can’t say that I have any regrets reading it.  The author is a solid storyteller, developing her characters in slow bits and pieces with reveals that are satisfying and plausible.  The broken down world, as well as the broken down man that inhabits it, provide ample opportunity for her to give us just cause for Chris’s brooding state.  He is troubled, but I didn’t get the urge to tell him to get over it-his losses, and sense of regret for what he believes he didn’t do are real, tangible, and identifiable.  Chris is no different than any of us would be, or at least any of us would try to be, if we wanted to maintain some sense of humanity despite living in a inhuman, monstrous world.

I liked the setting where the things we take for granted-speaking to someone over the phone, being able to drive to see someone 70 miles away from where we live in about an hour or two becomes impossible, and everyone is closed off from those more than a mile or two away from them.  Life is rough, and difficult, but in many ways much simpler for the folks that live in it.  They do their chores, the grow food, they milk the cows, and on occasion they remember how easy they had it, and hope that the technology will return, and that the world will come together again.  But they fear the world around them, still worried that the plague may revisit them, and trust very few outside of their own circle of close family and friends.

While I guess this book could be defined as a post apocalyptic romance novel, I would venture to say that it is more of a character study, with the relationship coming about naturally, slowly evolving as Chris learns more about himself and accepts who he is and what he has been forced to do ever since the world turned brutal and went dark in the early days of the plague, while he opens up and discovers things about those around him-how they too have suffered, and that he is not alone, no matter how much it feels that way.

For anyone who has looked at any of my reviews, they will know this is perhaps not my normal type of book that I review, but I have to say that this is a story definitely worth checking out for anyone who likes PA fiction with strongly drawn, compelling characters.

Breakdown can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Breakdown-Katherine-Amt-Hanna/dp/1461093791/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312750908&sr=1-1

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