03 July 2012

Review: White Horse by Alex Adams

If it's true that everything happens for a reason, it's also true that sometimes that reason is buried deep beneath the enormity of the event. For thirty-year-old Zoe, the near extinction of Homo sapiens has no obvious purpose. Even more puzzling for Zoe is why someone seems to be actively stalking her, even though it's the end of the world.

The dystopian landscape of Alex Adams's White Horse is frightening—not because there are aliens or zombies but because it seems so absolutely possible. The imagined world after the disease dubbed white horse spreads across the globe is eerily familiar.

Adams has Zoe tell her story by alternating between an unspecified "then" and "now," until the two finally meet. It's a technique that can be difficult to do, but Adams pulls it off in spades. The style keeps us guessing and filling in the blanks until we finally understand what drives Zoe, and the fragments begin to solidify into the whole.

A primary reason for the novel's success is Zoe. She is so completely ordinary that it's easy to relate to her. She isn't some kind of female MacGyver, but neither is she without resourcefulness. We sympathize with her struggle to balance her humanity and sense of self with her fierce desire to survive. And, of course, we cannot help but wonder what we'd do in her situation.

White Horse is the first in a trilogy, and although this book ended on a satisfying note, the last sentence (as other reviewers have mentioned) is a doozy. Where Zoe ends up next is hard to predict, but I'm along for the duration.

You might be surprised that I'm recommending White Horse as a good book club pick, but there are a number of issues that readers will want to discuss. Topics include the likelihood of a white horse–like disease happening in reality, what you would do in Zoe's situation, the nature of relationships under stress, and the meaning of humanity. One final point: Although much dystopian fiction seems to be written for a young adult audience, White Horse is an adult book about adult themes and with adult characters.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Blackstone Audio; 10 hr, 15 min) read by Emily Durante, who is an experienced audiobook narrator. Her expression and ability to distinguish not only among characters but between Zoe then and Zoe now are fabulous. I was totally immersed in the story, and I'm sure my positive experience with White Horse is at least partly thanks to her.

Buy White Horse at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Simon & Schuster / Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781451642995
Source: Review (print), bought (audio) (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Kim~Medicine for the Soul 7/3/12, 6:32 AM  

This definitely sounds intriguing! These types of books tend to freak me out but I keep going back to them :) Lol

Amritorupa Kanjilal 7/3/12, 6:53 AM  

disease dystopia is my least favorite type of dystopia (maybe because I know if a disease apocalypse happens I'll be the first to go downn)
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Holley 7/3/12, 7:41 AM  

This sounds great! I will have to check it out. I was wanting to find more adult dystopians, so thanks for shining the light on this one.

Daryl 7/3/12, 7:59 AM  

i love stories like this ... massive epidemics, pandemics and the aftermath .. my favorites are still Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, no longer in print, and Daybreak by Frank Slaughter (a little less end of the world but with bubonic plague on the loose in New Orleans, its a good read)... then of course there's Connie Willis Doomsday Book ..

bermudaonion 7/3/12, 8:45 AM  

This is the kind of dystopia I like - the kind that feels true. This sounds great!

rhapsodyinbooks 7/3/12, 9:01 AM  

Wow, a dystopia of which I was not aware! And with a protagonist having my wish-I-had-it name! LOL Must get!!! (especially intrigued because you recommend it for book clubs even though it is only book one of a trilogy!)

Anonymous,  7/3/12, 9:33 AM  

This has been on my list for a while now and I'm glad to hear you liked it so much! Now I'm thinking about picking up the audio ...

Jenn's Bookshelves 7/3/12, 9:46 AM  

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book. I really couldn't get it out of my mind, a truly stupendous book!

Unknown 7/3/12, 11:15 AM  

At first glance, this is not a book I would pick up, but after reading your review, I'm putting it on my audio list! Thank you!!!

Andi 7/3/12, 2:09 PM  

I've started this one, though I haven't had a chance to finish it. I do like Zoe straight off and will be interested to get to that doozy of a last line. :)

Julie P. 7/3/12, 4:39 PM  

I like that it would work for a book club selection!

Zibilee 7/3/12, 5:40 PM  

I had made a note that I was going to buy this with my next audible credit, and now I know that it's a must. Thanks for such a wonderful review that teases and hints at the great things within this book! I can't wait to experience this one for myself!

caite 7/3/12, 8:16 PM  

sounds interesting, but I am not sure I am up for a dystopian book in the summer.

Nise' 7/3/12, 8:39 PM  

As a read of Dystopia in YA, I was eagerly looking forward to reading this book and was not disappointed! I look forward to the next book.

Unknown 7/3/12, 9:04 PM  

I'm always excited to find dystopians that aren't YA. I'm definitely adding this one. Have you ever read The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist?

Judith Leeswammes 7/4/12, 11:04 AM  

Same here, I also like dystopia for adults a lot.

This book sounds like something I will enjoy. It's on the wishlist already, actually!

Peppermint Ph.D. 7/4/12, 10:31 PM  

I'm not sure if I've ever read adult dystopian...I like the sound of this one bc I love reading about realistic what ifs.

Anonymous,  7/5/12, 7:11 PM  

I am crazy for dystopian. Thank you for your review. I will have to give the trilogy a try.

rhapsodyinbooks 7/21/12, 7:15 PM  

Just finished! And yes, the last sentence! wow! LOL

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