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The Raft: A Novel Hardcover – May 3, 2016
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char
Enchanting, captivating, intriguing...none of these do The Raft justice. Strydom's fresh voice and confident prose will completely engross you. A stellar debut!”
New York Times bestseller Jason M. Hough, author of Zero World
"Strydom’s debut subverts postapocalyptic fiction with a scathing parable of pain and paranoia ... reinvigorates the genre with a suspenseful concept and intimately realized characters. [A] sucker punch of a novel."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
If you think you’ve seen it all, read it all when it comes to dystopian fiction, you really haven’tnot until you’ve experienced The Raft. I was enchanted, awestruck, and ultimately moved by Fred Strydom’s rip-cracking debut.”
Nick Cutter, bestselling author of The Troop and The Deep
This eerie debut about one man’s search for truth, even though what he finds may hurt more than it heals, features a protagonist with raw emotions and a strong voice, carrying what could be a convoluted plot to an unforgettable ending.”
Library Journal, starred review
This novel really is a masterpiece. It’s different and haunting. It’s devastatingly good. And it’s beautifully put together. If you don’t read another SF novel this year, shame on you. If you do, make it The Raft.”
John Love, author of Faith and Evensong
"One of the sharpest premises in 2016 . . . The Raft is a must-read."
B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
F***ing fantastic. The writing, from start to finish, is wonderful. The Raft is easily the best book I’ve read this year, and one that I’m not sure will be topped.”
We the Nerdy
The Raft was a refreshing, unique read. [I] can see it sticking with me for a long time. I look forward to seeing what Fred Strydom writes next.”
Christy's Love of Books
A strong debut in the genre and sure to interest SF readers in generaland dystopia fans in particular.”
Riveting and moving science fiction ... I read The Raft in one sitting.”
Rant and Rave Reviews
A must-read, even for hardened 'realist' readers.”
A writer to watch ... a philosophical adventure story that takes the reader into a terrifying world where no one can remember who or what they are.”
A brilliant book, and one not to be missed ... a rollicking good dystopian novel.”
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This is not my usual style of read at all so my rating is more a reflection of my personal taste rather than a reflection of the author or the way the book was written. I can appreciate that it was well written, if a bit confusing to start, and very well thought out.
“Beauty. Grace. Wisdom. She’d had each, but life hadn’t cared, hadn’t shown her any favour. What were the rest of us supposed to live by, if anything at all? Tragedy, I learned that day, floats … And then it lands, arbitrarily, like a feather from an indifferent bird high in the sky.”
Or, on describing a man with burn scars…
“…his face is a mess of burned skin, a large patch of knots and cracks and swirls stretching from the neck to the forehead, a sludge of skin stirred with a spoon and allowed to set.”
All told, I was blown away! It’s a thoughtful book. You’ll need to engage brain. I couldn’t even begin to tell you why, since it’s nothing like, but it somehow had me thinking of 2001 A space Odyssey or Z for Zacharia. Possibly, it too, deserves its own niche in the world or words.
Where this book falls apart, however, is with the story. It's incredibly slow. I read reviews from others complaining of the same. I read the first few pages, liked the writing, and decided to ignore those reviewers...much to my-now-chagrin. Strydom constantly switches viewpoints in the most obnoxious ways. The storytelling from those other views goes on and on--indeed, several chapters sometimes are devoted to just one tangential character's story. Those stories aren't by themselves bad; it's just that Strydom can't pace himself properly.
There is a good concept here: part Castaway, part apocalyptic world, part Momento. I was eager to jump in and discover a new world. But I just couldn't get into it. The slow progression, disjointed viewpoints, and some pointless detours turned me off halfway through the book. It was a struggle to finish it.
Perhaps the audiobook version will be easier to take on. But as a reader, I personally don't like to PLOD through a book. Either it grips your imagination or it doesn't. And here, Strydom played yo-yo with my imagination.
"The day every person on earth lost his and her memory was not a day at all. It couldn’t be slotted in a schedule or added to a calendar. In people’s minds, there was no actual event - no earthquake, tsunami, or act of terror - and thus whatever had happened could be followed by no period of shock or mourning. There could be no catharsis. Everyone was simply reset to zero. This moment of collective amnesia could not be understood within any context because it was the context itself that had been taken away. There was nothing anyone could do to repair themselves because they didn't know what was broken." (location 1348)
On Day Zero civilization collapsed because no one had any memories of relationships, how everything worked. From the confusion and aimlessness left behind a new movement arose, the Renascence. The Renascence collected people and sent them to distant, random collectives/communes. Families were separated because the concept had been lost. There is a mysterious group in charge of the communes who monitors the individuals collected there, and their dreams.
Kayle Jenner is in a commune located on a random beach. The trouble is Kayle remembers his son, Andy. Andy appears in his dreams and Kayle's one goal is to find Andy. But how does one do that when he has no clue as to where Andy has been sent and how to find him in this world without a set frame of reference, where little is understood or remembered. All Kayle knows is that he must escape and find Andy.
The characters are well developed - multifaceted and complicated. Due to the nature of Day Zero, the recollection and memories shared by characters may be dreams or real. Characters tell stories/dreams to each other that may have meaning. You can't tell and won't know until later... maybe. It's not a puzzle to be pieced together. It is many puzzles all mixed together without context that must be sorted to come to some semblance of an answer. This is one of those novels that you have to stick with, through everything, even if you feel confused or have many more questions than answers. The ending will be worth staying the course.
Strydom does an excellent job presenting his very complex, carefully plotted debut novel. The writing is incredible - descriptive and thoughtful. I like the advice one reader gave, to be patient while reading The Raft. There is action, but much of it is more cerebral. The ending will have you shocked and then very thoughtful. Some readers might follow my thoughts and say "But, wait, didn't... and what about..."
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Talos for review purposes.