Review by Shellie for: White Horse ~ by Alex Adams
The first in a planned trilogy, it’s a stream of consciousness styled apocalyptic tale with alternating timeframes. The novel features an illness that horrifically decimates and changes the human population, and an intriguing mythic thread with a heroine’s journey - where a young survivor travels on a heartfelt mission to find the father of her unborn child.
About: Zoe is strong, intelligent and reflective. In transition, she is working at a local research facility where she does janitorial work while trying to figure out what she will do with her life. In the process she visits a male therapist in an attempt to find herself and to figure out what appears to be a slight problem she is having around a jar that has “magically” appeared in her apartment - which the therapist thinks is in her imagination. She is at once scared, curious and concerned, about this metaphoric Pandora's box.
When everyone starts becoming ill and dying from similar symptoms, with the survivors changing bizarrely, Zoe remains unaffected physically. Yet emotionally she struggles to contain some part of a greater humanity while many that are left are loosing theirs. She is left with one option, which is to head out on a heroic journey to Greece to find her unborn child’s father. During her journey she finds the most animalistic, insane, dark yet conversely self-sacrificing aspects of human nature.
Thoughts: Although I really do not like to compare new novels to older very popular ones, this was very reminiscent of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You can’t have the world fall apart without loosing your mind, however strong the character, which both books exemplify. However, White Horse has a strong female heroine (which I really liked and could relate to), rather than a male, a fabulous mythic thread that McCarthy’s book did not, and some interesting insight into human nature - which is a key aspect to any good apocalyptic fiction and an element of both books.
Thinking about the author’s writing, it’s insightful and has unusual language. However, its “stream of consciousness” style and alternating timeframes sometimes made it feel choppy and confusing. I had to struggle to keep track of events and puzzled over whether what was happening was Zoe’s “stream of consciousness” delusional dream experiences and imaginings or if it was actually happening. Though I should mention that my version was an ARC so this “choppiness” may have been edited out; or perhaps it’s a trope used to create a surreal feel. I am thinking the later, since at the end of the world even the strong are going to loose their minds, even if it’s only partially.
Beyond my quibble, the best part of the novel and one which I really really liked was a spectacular thread that contained myth. I would have loved to see more of a discernable link in the first three quarters of the novel to the disease and its name, but then perhaps the book would have become trite? However, this is a terrific story with some exceptional elements. If you enjoy good apocalyptic stories and/or have an interest in mythology, this will be great read for you. In fact I think it may be one of those books which will be a perfect book club selection and that is probably worth a second read. I am curious what Alex Adams will do with the mythic element in the next two planned books for the series – Red Horse and Pale Horse. Despite my small concerns I enjoyed the novel and think it deserves a 4 star rating – definitely recommended.
White Horse by Alex Adams; (ARC); Atria/Emily Bestler Books; April 17th, 2012. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy.
Alex Adams is from New Zealand but now resides in Oregon, US. This is her first book.
Thanks for reading!