Title & Author: Breakers (Book 1), Edward W. Robertson
Genre & Publication Date: Dystopian, February 6, 2012
Book Description: “In New York, Walt Lawson is about to lose his girlfriend Vanessa. In Los Angeles, Raymond and Mia James are about to lose their house. Within days, none of it will matter.
When Vanessa dies of the flu, Walt is devastated. But she isn’t the last. The virus quickly kills billions, reducing New York to an open grave and LA to a chaotic wilderness of violence and fires. As Raymond and Mia hole up in an abandoned mansion, where they learn to function without electricity, running water, or neighbors, Walt begins an existential walk to LA, where Vanessa had planned to move when she left him. He expects to die along the way.
Months later, a massive vessel appears above Santa Monica Bay. Walt is attacked by a crablike monstrosity in a mountain stream. The virus that ended humanity wasn’t created by humans. It was inflicted from outside. The colonists who sent it are ready to finish the job–and Earth’s survivors may be too few and too weak to resist.”
First Line: If he’d known the world had already started to end, Raymond would have kept the drugs for himself.
My Take: Just when I thought I’d had my fill of apocalyptic, save-all-your-can-goods-and-buy-a-gun stories, I come across one that both ponders the bigger questions about humanity while also giving plenty of suspense.
To start with, there was a good lead up to the end of the world that helped give an understanding of the characters’ lives beforehand. That was important to allow us to see how they change, but also to care about them. I’ve noticed Dystopian stories tend to barrel full speed out of the gate and don’t give a decent impression of the people in their normal surroundings. This story gave me that and lots of edge-of-your-seat action to keep things interesting.
The dialogue was fantastic. Touches of wry humor like that help to lighten the mood in these grim tales. Maybe some would think it unlikely to make a joke at such a time, but if you can’t make a smart-ass remark when the world is ending, when can you?
There were also quite a few passages that made me stop and re-read them several times, just for the joy of seeing prose so beautifully composed. Here’s one example from after the apocalypse in which a protagonist spotted a couple of bandits lurking ahead on the road and took them out, the same way a good Samaritan might take care of a piece of trash they came across (Please do not apply the following to your everyday world):
“The old masters said if you met another Buddha on the road, you should kill him. All reality is an illusion: if you think you’ve found the incarnation of enlightenment, destroy that illusion on the spot. But the real world is real. Therefore, if you meet a bandit on the road, you should kill him. Anyone who seeks to make a bad world worse is a monster and an alien. You don’t hope they’ll come around for the same reason you don’t hope the weeds in your garden will realize the error of their ways and convert to a life of cornhood. To lock these men up or threaten them would be no more effective than imprisoning the milkweed or shouting at the kudzu.”
Now whether or not you agree with this philosophy of action, regardless of the situation, that bit of writing is definitely impressive.
The Magical: The character arc of the two main protagonists, Walt and Raymond, was something I really enjoyed. The choices they faced constantly asked two different sets of questions: On one side, “Can you hang on to who you are and what’s important if the world you knew disappeared?”, and on the other, “Is it possible to become something better than what you were, even if there is no reason why you should?”
The Walking Dead does this too, one of many reasons why it’s so popular I think, but there’s something special about mapping the philosophical journey in words, rather than images.
The Mundane: A few bumps in the road. There were some pop culture references that dated the work, i.e. New episodes of Lost. I’ve heard many authors say to avoid this as it takes the reader out of the ‘fictive dream’ when those references are no longer relevant.
There was also a couple of action sequences described in a way that was difficult to visualize. I made do but it was a bummer since it happened once or twice toward the climatic end.
Summary of Thoughts: All in all, it’s a great story with wonderful writing. I’m definitely planning on reading the sequel in future. The invader twist spiced up an already engaging plot. Beginning to end, this book is hard to put down so don’t start reading it the night before any early morning appointments. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stockpile some bottled water.
Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews: http://www.amazon.com/Breakers-Book-Edward-W-Robertson-ebook/dp/B007712HM4/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top