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on October 26, 2015
Just a brutal, dark, dank, horrible, wretched, depressing tale with such a beautiful ending. I loved the very noteworthy prose that had me e-highlighting throughout. For instance there was this gem, "It was hope. As much as I badmouth people in general and think the worst of them, I'm secretly waiting for them to surprise me. Try as I might, I haven't been able to give up on them wholly. Even though they are nine and nine-tenths dirt, now and again they are capable of something angelic." Or this one mayhap, "He said the truth of a man is the opposite of what he wants you to know about him. If you want to understand someone, you have to find a way to catch hold of his shadow. By Bill's reckoning, the man to fear is the one always harping on about goodness." I'm not so sure I'd recommend this book to just anyone. I think most peoople tend to be less misanthropic than I am and I have never heard anyone else fess up to a last man on earth fantasy as their oldest dream in life. Who knows though, maybe someday I will cross paths with my spiritual doppelganger reading a book in between innings at the World Series with me or something. I came close in game two of the playoffs but this joker was reading, and enjoying the Martian.
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VINE VOICEon June 4, 2013
I'm not sure exactly how to categorise this well-wrought narrative of life after civilisation as you and I know it has, somehow, dissolved. I simply dislike the loaded terms "dystopian" as well as "post-apocalyptic". They're altogether too freighted with the baggage of other works. Simply put: The novel is told in a matter-of-fact first person narrational style that befits the Siberian landscape in which the woman who tells the story of her life has dwelt. It is a post-civilised world, but how it came to be so is none too clear. The narrator doesn't know, nor does anyone she meets on her travels, for certain. There are hints at climate change, overpopulation and a viral/bacterial outbreak, whether natural or man-made is not specified, though Makepeace Hatfield, our narrator, takes pains to let us know that she doesn't care two figs about this distinction without - for her - a difference.

What makes the novel work so well, and makes the story so credible and hit home with such a punch is, again, the extremely well-wrought prose, the fact that the narrator doesn't have some post-apocalyptic axe to grind and the condition of the world depicted being all too credible. The "glass cities" of Makepeace's childhood - the ones in which you and I now dwell or to which we at least live within hail of - are, in point of fact, not going to last forever, as certainly as we ourselves are not going to last forever. It's just a matter of time before somebody, mutatis mutandis, lives out the life described herein.

The book has a, perhaps appropriate, distant feel to it much of the time that leaves the reader detached from what is being narrated rather than feeling pulled into it. That is its only fault, if it is a fault. But the descriptions can be both distant and exquisite:

"Around three that morning it started to snow again. It can't have been the sound that woke me up, because there was none. Maybe it was the change of light in the room. It poured out of the sky like feathers from a split pillow: big warm-weather flakes."

Though not perfect, Theroux has written a chilly, taut narrative well worth the read.
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on April 6, 2016
I dislike giving authors even mediocre reviews because what some might dislike often will appeal to others; and I certainly can't write as well as Mr. Theroux. Additionally what appeals to me at different points in my life, will not at others and I wonder if I was in the right state of mind to tackle this one right now. That being said Far North is a good book. Its about a western-style sheriff, scraping by in a post-world-catastrophe, arctic circle, religious settlement. For me the central theme of the book is this character's struggle with their place in a bleak, brutal, slowly-emptying landscape. I appreciated the world-building, and the author's expertise at developing a unique protagonist but I just couldn't connect. Something about the pacing of the plot felt plodding to me, and even the few moments of excitement felt hindered by the main character's constant internal, existential dialogue. However, the running narration is also where this book shines. The questions the author offers through the main character's perspective are often engaging and left me thinking long after I'd close the book. Its certainly worth reading if you enjoy dark, yet philosophical journey stories.
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on June 6, 2016
Sheriff Makepeace Hatfield is a softer, gentler, just-as-dangerous lawman as Mad Max. An outsized narrator, this intrepid survivor delivers a forceful chronicle of a civilization that’s been dismantled by the combustive combination of changing climate, human greed, and resource scarcity. In this exceptional storytelling, Theroux captures dark human foibles along with unexpected acts of goodness. To me the most moving passage is when Makepeace describes Shamsudin, "the value of him, a man who traveled and knew languages, who knew the name of every muscle in the human body..." To drive the plot in a certain direction, the writer inserts several characters with minor roles. They may appear for a short time, but they are never discarded. Every scene, character, or trope is placed with purpose. From seeing the airplane in the cover art, I knew it would feature significantly in this cautionary tale. Theroux channels Atwood in staging technology (science) and religion, those totems that alternately intertwine in reluctant agreement and thrash in opposition. But, the warning delivered through Makepeace is more ominous in its immediacy. In Far North, the action is not reflective of a distant tomorrow. It is now.
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on October 14, 2010
Sometimes my life is so crazy that I fantasize about being the only person on earth. At least it would be peaceful and I could be alone with my thoughts. The protagonist of this haunting book seemingly lives this fantasy while the layers of that onion are peeled back to reveal the complex existence left behind. Then the narrative continues and the protagonist finds that the loneliness continues even though contact with what now passes for civilization has been re-established. At this point, classic literary themes of man's animal nature emerge in a world where the strong prey upon the weak without any discernible refuge in the rule of law. So, are you overwhelmed with a crazy life and dreaming of a peaceful post collapse existence? That life appears monstrous in this book until the main character finds real love and a little less loneliness after escaping from the post collapse bullies.

This story was beautifully written literature. Was there a deep theme or a moral? I'm not sure. You get to live in the main character's head and, while I'm not sure why, I was deeply moved. Perhaps the theme is that some things never change but everything must end. And while there are always endings, they give way to new beginnings. Some of those new beginnings are monstrous and some are beautifully life giving.
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on January 19, 2014
I rarely give five star reviews, especially for post-apocalyptic fiction, but this is a beautifully written book. I am wondering why I have never heard of it before. It has echoes of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," - it is just as lyrical, but more specific. Just enough is tweaked to keep from falling into the ruts so much of PA fiction falls into. The setting is Siberia, where Makepeace's Quaker parents have settled into a community with other disaffected Americans. Makepeace spends more words describing the natural world than weapons or villains, and focuses on the good in the world rather than the bad - though enough of a pragmatist to see early on that the non-violent way of the Quakers would make the world unsurvivable. This is well-plotted, with enough twists to make it a page-turner. All in all, a wonderful book.
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on December 22, 2017
Theroux captivates with a most bitter sweet and haunting tale in the in the post apocalyptic genre.
It is rare to find an author that can transport the reader,Theroux has this gift.
A must read !
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on November 3, 2017
Great book. Very well written. Theroux brings so much depth to the characters and puts you there in the snow with them. He brings out the real nature of people in adverse circumstances. There is a brutal honesty about it. Which is why the book is so dark, hope killing, and depressing. It reminds me of McCarthy's "The Road." Well written, but damn, I need to watch a Pixar movie now.
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on February 15, 2014
I loved everything about this book. I'm not one of those readers into the post-apocalyptic genre but found this engaging from the beginning. The characters are complex and compelling. The story is one that is believable and could actually take place in the future. Despite the overwhelmingly bad things that happen to the main character in this bleak and unforgiving environment, Makepeace maintains hope and a realistic view of humanity. I was unable to put this book down and look forward to reading more from Theroux.
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on March 25, 2014
Some of the reviews give some of the story line away, so be careful when choosing anymore reviews. I will not give anything away. There is one reviewer Gamma who hit the nail on the head. Some others are good, but again by mistake they give some of the storyline away.
I will keep it simple, the storyline is based in an area I think between Russia, and Alaska, it is a post apocalypse theme, and the way the author writes, he does an amazing job of describing a scene or a revelation in a couple of words, he is an artist with language. I can see why this book won the awards it did. All the characters are real people, not Zombies, and the story is very plausible. One reviewer says it is like The Road, and I agree, add a dash of the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion, a little Mad Max, and I think you got it.
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