As a fan of both post-apocalyptic stories and space operas, particularly the subgenre in which a small group of travellers face off against the authorities, any story that combines the two is bound to appeal to me. In this particular fusion of SF elements, another personal favourite, the near-future scenario also plays a significant role in the author’s worldbuilding and in the characters’ backgrounds. We aren’t given a precise date when the story takes place, but many of the characters’ possessions and surroundings feel very familiar – both initially when we meet them on a distant planet and later when they return to Earth. The heroine’s longstanding issues: a disintegrating relationship following the in utero death of her unborn child and her need to keep working, even as she deals with her emotional crises, also feel very grounded in the present, even as we watch her tackle issues beyond any that a reader might feasibly encounter.
We first meet Jamie as she is recovering from a severe viral illness that has spread across every human settlement in the galaxy, proving fatal in almost all cases and reducing its victims’ bodies to a handful of dust. Emerging from the cottage in which she has isolated herself, Jamie finds that no one else amongst her co-workers has survived the infection, but is given hope by discovering a faint recorded message that may have been sent by her estranged lover. The two had once (not entirely seriously) promised each other that should the worst ever happen and humanity be wiped out, they would find each other again on the stretch of Northumberland coastline where Jamie grew up. And so Jamie sets out in search of other survivors, ideally those who might possess the means to take her off the planet where she has been living and working, then onwards to Earth.
The group Jamie eventually finds herself part of is very reminiscent of the short-lived TV series, Firefly, right down to the unorthodox preacher, the captain with hidden angst and his female second-in-command who is fiercely loyal but unafraid of speaking her mind, and the former sex-worker trying to figure out her role in this new reality. Although Captain Callan is at first reluctant to involve himself in Jamie’s quest, encounters with other groups trying to rebuild civilisation in their own dysfunctional ways convince him that Earth may be the best destination for him, at least to begin with.
When Jamie, Callan, and their companions reach Earth, however, their problems are far from over – just altered – some survivors have made difficult choices in order to ensure that their lives have continued, and at least one of Jamie’s own group is being less than honest about their past deeds and future plans. Although I had to suspend my disbelief at times to make the situation on Earth fit with the backstory to humanity’s quest for new homes on distant planets, I found myself caught up in the mysteries surrounding both the virus’ origins and Jamie’s secretive companions. Not a perfect book by any means, but I’ll be looking out for whatever the author produces for us next.
When the world ends, where will you go?
In a breathtakingly vivid and emotionally gripping debut novel, one woman must confront the emptiness in the universe—and in her own heart—when a devastating virus reduces most of humanity to dust and memories.
All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…
Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.
Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…
Read an excerpt.