South by Frank Owen

South by Frank Owen

Felix Callahan sat on the rusted exercise bike, naked.

– Opening sentence

Thanks to Corvus Books for the copy of South!

It’s somewhat interesting that I read South, a book about a wall being built across America and an all-out North/South war, the week before the Presidential election between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

Coincidence?

South is a dystopian novel, one of my favourite genres, set thirty years after the outbreak of a civil war in America, which resulted in a giant wall being built across the old states, and viruses being used as warfare.

Hopefully this isn’t a foreshadowing!

The divide is actually more similar to that of North and South Korea. The “North” in the book is perceived to be much like America is right now – everyday people going about their everyday lives, working and living. The “South”, on the other hand, is a lawless, infected land with few survivors. There’s no electricity, no farming and no healthcare. Towns and cities are abandoned, too infectious to inhabit.

Why? Because the North sends deadly viruses in the wind.

It’s a truly terrifying thought – you can’t stop the wind, and you can’t hide from it. The only hope is to shut yourself off somewhere sheltered, and eat whatever you can catch in a short radius.

But there is hope. A place known as “The Mouth” where apparently nobody gets ill.

Frank Owen is actually the pseudonym for two authors – Diane Awebuck and Alex Latimer. And I think sometimes that showed. I thought the first half of the book, with the setting and build-up was exceptionally good – much like The Death of Grass by John Christopher and The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis.

Awebuck and Latimer did an excellent job of painting the picture of the South as a broken, war stricken land full of death and disease. Those who remain are left without govern or hope. They simply survive, keeping themselves to themselves and hiding from the wind.

However, as I approached the end of the book I began to feel slightly disappointed. WHOOSH – suddenly the authors rush through the narrative, barely allowing an idea to take root before totalling it and rushing to the next.

“The Mouth” is a unique settlement in the South where people don’t get ill. Considering each breeze brings with it a new way to die, you’d think this would be bigger news than it appears to be in the book.

What’s more – The Mouth has a truly miraculous secret; the cure to all illnesses! Again, you’d think a bigger deal would be made of this, but not so. Particularly when the cure comes with such a harrowing sacrifice – one that raises serious questions about ethics and humanity.

But no – the author’s rush over this and in the next chapter it’s all over and done with. Literally.

This is frustrating, because there’s SO MUCH POTENTIAL and I don’t understand why they were in such a hurry to get to the end – where nothing of note happens. It feels like the plot and direction of the book wasn’t very well thought out.

Overall, I’d say it’s a good read for Dystopia lovers, and a story that could make an awesome film with some TLC and good direction. However, I am left slightly disappointed.

She was ready – for whatever territory emerged once the waters had fled, peeled back like the skin from an apple, the landscape nude and new, stretched out before them.

– Final sentence

3 Stars (3 / 5)

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