In this novella companion to Sanctuary, teenage siblings Rory and Hailey are holed up in their apartment building with an assortment of neighbors, waiting out the strange events that seem to herald the end of the world. The sun is dimmed, the water is poisoned, and deadly creatures roam the streets, attacking any humans unfortunate enough to cross their paths. But the danger behind closed doors is just as real, as food and bottled water are becoming scarce, and soon they’ll have no choice but to venture out as scavengers and hope they don’t end up like the rest of the broken and infected people aimlessly wandering the eerily quiet streets.
But... While I occasionally like to indulge in a well-written dystopian story, I’m usually not a fan of horror and zombie novels. But when I first heard about a young adult, Christian fiction book featuring alien space ships, monsters, and zombies — a modern take on the Book of Revelation… Well, how could I not read it? And it was awesome! It’s been a year since I first met Jennie and the rest of the characters just trying to survive this strange apocalypse, so while novellas aren't high on my preferred list, I jumped at the opportunity to get more of this unique story. Unfortunately, the faith factor was pretty low in this one, though. Sure, God was mentioned a couple of times, and maybe someone prayed for someone’s safe return (or maybe not — it didn't really stand out), but if not for the synopsis, not even a Christian theology expert would have a clue that anything about it was faith-based. Now, obviously I read a hell of a lot of books that don’t even touch religion, and I’m guessing that most people who know me online would never peg me for a Christian fiction reader…or a church employee…or the woman half the congregation discusses books with. But yeah, I’m a bit disappointed that this element is missing in the story. I know it’s just a snippet of some characters that will play into the next, bigger, full-length novel in the series, but still… I thought this would be a great read for the edgier members of our youth group, and now I’m thinking I should wait and see how the next book turns out. Damn.
The Verdict: I was pretty blown away by Sanctuary, so it should come as no surprise that I snatched up this novella as soon as it went live on Amazon. What I really wanted was more of Jennie and Hugh, but desperate readers can’t be choosers, so I was willing to see what the newly introduced Rory was up to.
Rory and Hailey don’t have a clue what happened to their mother, but they are somewhat safe hiding out at home, a multi-story apartment building with a small group of neighbors who were either at home when the chaos struck or were lucky enough to make it safely back. But being stuck inside with a dwindling food and water supply and increasingly agitated adults is no vacation, and the constant visits by the Shisa (scary as hell monsters that are sniffing out and attacking humans) are making each day a little worse than the one before. It’s clear that before long they’ll have to brave the dangerous outside world, assuming they don’t want to starve to death, and after Rory suffers a devastating loss, he’s reckless enough to volunteer for the job.
Rory, joined by a couple of friends and two adults from the apartment building, heads out to a nearby neighborhood seeking whatever food and water is left in the abandoned homes they find. But the Shisa are changing, their already lethal bodies developing even more ways to attack, and even when they’re nowhere nearby, the boys have to be on the lookout for infected humans. To make matters even worse, it seems the Shisa are more intelligent than your average horror story monsters, learning the habits of the humans they hunt and coming around more and more frequently as Rory and the guys search for what they need to survive.
Survivor is little more than an introduction to new characters and a little bit of background that I suppose will come into play in the next full-length book, but it’s still a great look at the world in the throes of the Apocalypse through the eyes of an average teenager. While the faith bit was noticeably absent, I’m hoping it will return to being a big part of the story in the next book, since that religious foundation is really one of the more fascinating aspects of the plot. Probably wouldn't hurt to get my hands on the next book before another year has passed, too. Do I sound negative? I’m really not. I’m just ridiculously intrigued by this series, dying to find out what happens next, and so impatient it’s not even funny!
Oh, and I should note that this book is probably not appropriate for the youngest teens, at least not the super-sheltered ones. It’s based on the scariest prophecy every recorded, and there’s a good deal of violence when it comes to the Shisa and the zombified humans. I wouldn’t say it’s a bloodbath, but it’s definitely disturbing, as it should be. However, if your kid’s obsessed with The Walking Dead, and you’d rather she paid more attention in church on Sundays, the Sanctuary series could win you some cool mom points.