When I read (and reviewed) Tipping Point, the first novel in the Project Renova series, I guessed that setting the next story in Lindisfarne would bring things to the boil. If the first book introduced us to the main characters and set up the background of the story (how the population of the world had been decimated by a virus, the conspiracy that was behind what had happened, and a group of survivors set on creating a new life for themselves), the second one moves on from there and places a number of characters, with their personal crises, their problems, and their different origins and values, together in a very restricted environment. Lindisfarne is a wonderful place, but as I had observed before, is it not easy to hide there, and emotions are bound to ride high when people who would not normally have chosen to live together are thrown in close proximity to each other with no easy way out.
The author does a great job, again, of creating and developing characters that are real, with complex motivations (not all black or white), and whom we get to care about (well, some we get to truly dislike). The story is told the points of view of several characters. Some of the accounts are in the first person. Vicky, the woman who was the main character of the first book is still the central character here, but she shares her first-person narration with her daughter Lottie (who just becomes more and more fabulous as she grows, and she talks and thinks like a girl her age, even if a very strong and determined one) and Heath, the man she loves (but whom she has difficulty committing to). Some are in the third person. We are given a privileged insight into Wedge’s twisted mind (he is a biker who escaped prison in the first book and he reaches the island looking for revenge, and well, yes, he finds it), and the story of Doyle (a guy who was a data analyst and was involved in the running of the Renova project at a worker-bee level) who wanders alone most of the time until he stumbles across the next stage of project Renova is also included, although he is not part of the community. The stories of those two, Wedge and Doyle, are told in the third person, perhaps because they are the characters that are more closed-off and we are less likely to identify with (although we still see things from their points of view, not always pleasant, I might add). Doyle’s character also allows us to get a glimpse into what is going on in the world at large and what the forces pulling the strings are planning next. There is a chapter, a particularly dramatic one, where several points of view are used, for very good reason, but in the rest, it is clear who is talking, and there is no head hopping. The different points of view help give readers a better sense of the characters thanks to the varied perspectives and also provide us with some privileged information that makes us be less surprised by what happens than some of the characters are.
Vicky, who matured during the first book, continues to get stronger, but she goes through quite a few harrowing experiences in this book, she still finds it difficult to make decisions (she always thinks about everybody else’s needs first) and is sometimes two steps forward and one step back. When she comes face to face with the man she thought she could not live without again, she makes an understandable choice, but not one we’ll like. Later on, things take a turn for the better, but… The rest of the characters… I’ve mentioned Lottie. She’s great and I loved the chapters from her point of view. And we have an official psychopath baddie, but, well, let’s say he’s not the worst one of the lot. (To be truthful, I prefer an all-out ‘honest’ baddie to somebody who pretends to be good and do everything for others when he’s a lying, good-for-nothing… Well, you catch my drift).
I don’t want to give you too many details about the plot, but let’s say that we discover quite a few secrets, we come to meet characters we’d only heard about before and see them in all their glory (or not), there are strange alliances, issues of law and order, cheating, fights, and even murders. And we get a scary peep into what the future holds.
As I had said in my review for the first one, due to the care and attention given to the characters, and to the way the small community is configured (we get to know everybody and it is a bit like soap opera but in a post-apocalyptic environment), this book will be enjoyed also by people who don’t usually read this genre of novels. There is a fabulous sense of place and the author manages to use the island (its history, its landscape, and its location) to its utmost advantage. The books need to be read in order to truly understand the story, the development of the characters, and their motivation. If you haven’t read Tipping Point, I recommend you start with that one and keep reading.
I know there is a book of short-stories being published later in the year and the third novel next year. I can’t wait to see what will happen next after the epilogue (and what Dex will be up to next). A great series and one that makes us question what makes us human, what do we really need to survive, and what makes us civilised (if we are).
I was provided an ARC copy of the novel that I freely chose to review.