My secret passion is dystopian fiction. I usually indulge myself with young adult offerings, but the opening lines of Alex Adams' adult debut novel White Horse drew in and had me settled into my favourite reading nook (for a very long time)
"When I wake, the world is still gone. Only fragments remain. Pieces of places and people who were once whole."
I am always intrigued by what authors imagine our future might be.
Our protagonist is Zoe - a young widow who works as a cleaner at Pope Pharmaceuticals. Zoe's story is literally told in a Then and Now fashion. (which really worked for me) We start at the beginning with a mysterious jar appearing in her apartment, then cut to Zoe already on the move, trying to get to what she believes will be a safe place. The narrative cuts back and forth, from people getting sick, sicker and the world we know slowly disintegrating to almost two years in the future as Zoe makes her way across a world hardly recognizable. Ninety percent of the population is wiped out, five percent are mutating in horrific ways and the remaining five percent seem to be immune. Zoe has no idea why she hasn't succumbed to the plague, named White Horse - a reference to one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
White Horse was a very different read. I was horrified, yet mesmerized, repelled, yet drawn in by Adams' tale. She paints a brutal, raw picture with her prose. But those prose completely capture a world turned upside down. Fair warning to gentle readers - there are scenes and descriptions that may offend some.
I'm still not quite sure how I feel about Zoe. She comes across as a very strong character, both physically and mentally and we know that she will survive. I applaud her efforts to try and hang on to her humanity and ideals in this new world. While I find her a strong lead character, I never felt fully engaged with her, despite cheering for her to beat the odds. I'll have a chance to bond with her in future books - this is the first in a planned trilogy. I want to see where Adams takes Zoe next - the last line in White Horse is a gotcha.
White Horse is a strong debut from a new author and was definitely an addicting read for me. A reading group guide is available. You can find Adams on Twitter and on Facebook.