WHITE HORSE (White Horse #1)
by Alex Adams
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster (UK) | Atria (US)
RELEASE DATE: April 2012
FORMAT: ARC, 292 pages
GENRE: Horror, Post-Apocalyptic
Then: Her life may have taken a couple of wrong turns but thirty-year-old Zoe is trying to make the best of what she has. A part time cleaning job to pay for college, a weekly appointment with her therapist to straighten out the problems in her life. The same problems that any thirty-year-old girl would have. Nothing major. Nothing too life threatening. A few bad dreams. It’s all going to be fine.
Now: There is no other thought but survival. And so begins a treacherous post-apocalyptic trek across a desolate world in search of a life for her unborn baby.Through the remains of what was once civilisation, Zoe crosses continents strewn with fellow survivors, knowing the only thing that can keep her sane is normal human decency. But acts of kindness are few and far between in a world where untold horrors exist around every corner, where food and water is in desperately short supply, and the only chance of happiness is half a world away. (Goodreads)
I found WHITE HORSE very interesting but irritating at first. The format is a little off putting with “Now” and “Then” being used throughout to tell the story of the present and the past, with very short passages between each one, which interrupted the flow of the story. Then there was the ‘jar’. One of the most intriguing aspects to WHITE HORSE and one of the most frustrating.
A mysterious jar turns up in Zoe’s apartment, with no note and no reason. And whereas you or I might just throw it in the recycling bin without too much thought, Zoe leaves it in the middle of her room, looks at it, discusses it with her friends and even has therapy because of it - I found this difficult to understand. I wanted to know what the jar was all about, but at the same time not knowing irritated me and I just couldn’t understand Zoe’s actions.
So, after the first 80 pages or so I was ready to give up.
And then the unforeseen happens. WHITE HORSE switches from a possible did not finish (DNF) to one of the most surprising reads of the year. What was at first annoying becomes the driving force of the novel and the reason for the unrelenting pace. It was now the reason I didn’t want to put the book down. I was fascinated, perplexed, captivated. What’s wrong with the world? What’s the meaning of the jar? Why has all this happened? And who is Swiss? Thankfully we are rewarded answers to these questions at the end.
The world is a very desolate place. The worst traits of the human race is prevalent; rape, murder, selfishness.There are many disturbing scenes such as incestuous rape, abortion and suicide. Everybody we meet seem to be beaten down or have the worst traits of human kind, which made this a very dark and depressing book to read.
The main character, Zoe, isn’t much better, thinking only of herself until she meets Lisa, a blind young English woman who Zoe saves from an existence of continuous rape by her father. Although the world is a depressing place, Zoe begins to meet inspirational people on her journey to find the man she loves and the father of her unborn baby. These people care, still human with the best traits. It must rub off on Zoe as she begins to grow as a character, helping others along the way, being selfless, kind and compassionate.
Very slowly we learn that the world was exposed to a disease called White Horse and now humans are mutating, changing into something else, or die. They aren’t described very much until the end of the book when you begin to get more of an understanding of what those who are infected have become.
The Swiss, a man who attaches himself to Zoe and Lisa on their journey hurts them physically and mentally. He’s a totally vile human being and has no morals, no sense of right and wrong and no lingering humanity. But when we finally find out Swiss’s own story, it’s completely unpredictable, although a tad unbelievable and even slightly cheesy compared to the rest of the novel.
The ending feels complete and doesn’t lend itself to a sequel, but being part of a trilogy there’s obviously more to come. I’m looking forward to finding out what that is.
A brilliant debut, WHITE HORSE surprised and delighted me. It’s wonderfully written with complex characters and visually descriptive prose of a post-apocalyptic landscape. What started out as a contender for the did not finish pile, found its way to my pile of best books of 2012. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.