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White Horse: A Novel Hardcover – April 17, 2012
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The world has ended, but her journey has just begun.
Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of the world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the president of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are defined not by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices. White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places.
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Dystopian novels are a rave in the United States, I think as we gain more and more, we are drawn to stories in which characters are facing a world without all of the daily comforts we afford ourselves. We like to read about the consequences of so much of the greed and corruption we hear about daily. We love to read about the struggle for all those things we take for granted. This novel missed that mark for me and I will not be reading anymore of this particular set of stories. I just don't want to read a novel where girls are exploited. It lacks depth. Instead of heroism, I found no heroism, humiliation is a tough thing for a reader to overcome. If you humiliate your hero, there's no coming back from that.
That being said, Alex Adams can write and write well, it is the content that will keep me away. So be aware of what's here and make the right choice for you.
White Horse is split into Then and Now, which I'm usually comfortable with, as long as the book doesn't lose pace because of it, and I'm happy to say that doesn't happen in White Horse. The Then is mainly focused on the gradual apocalypse happening on everyone's doorstep but never specifically labelled, and the Now, where Zoe finds herself travelling across Italy and Greece to try and find her boyfriend.
Whilst the shock value is definitely there, there isn't ever a real explanation of what the apocalyptic event is other than what Zoe stumbles upon as the world disintegrates. Normally this would bug the hell out of me, but in White Horse it works because it is true to the feel of the book itself. There are a lot of hints at what possibly could be the catalyst, characters that have been affected in very different and disturbing ways, and quite a few mysteries that are either half resolved or just left hanging.
Zoe's interactions with other characters range from instant bonding to awkward, and she seems lost and confused for quite a lot of the book. Nevertheless I found her an easy character to connect with because she isn't an instant action hero, helpless bimbo or overly emotional. There are many other characters, most appearing fleetingly and some dying pretty gruesome deaths, and whilst some are memorable, others are very difficult to like or sympathise with.
When I purchased White Horse, it was listed as a stand-alone, but a sequel is now in the works, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. Although the ending doesn't resolve everything, it felt like a natural ending to the story and that everything that came after was left up to my imagination, but knowing there is a second book just makes the ending feel far too rushed without making me want to stalk the next book on release day.
I feel like I'm being incredibly negative, but I actually really liked this book - I enjoyed the juxtaposition between the dreamy pace and language and the dirty side of humanity, I liked that the amount of world-building was appropriate to the main characters reactions and level of interest, that the characters don't fall into stereotypes and there wasn't even a sniff of a love triangle.
It's not that it's a really bad book; it's just not a really good one. Zoe, the main character here, is a decent protagonist, and I like the way the story moves between her life "Date: Then" and "Date: Now". But far too much of this book is derivative and watered down from other, better novels.
The "Then" part of the book reminded me of stories like Crichton's The Andromeda Strain and Matheson's I Am Legend whereas the "Now" part of the book is like McCarthy's The Road without the gritty realism, horror, and emotional investment. But it's not only that Ms. Adams' work suffers by comparison. Ultimately, I was not moved to feel much of anything for these characters. Their suffering was too contrived, much of the action was predictable, and the ending was too pat.
I understand that this is meant to be the first book of a trilogy. I've certainly seen stories like this improve as they go on, so I may be willing to see what the next book holds. However, I'm hoping for something better the next time out.
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