Thursday, January 2, 2020

#IReadsYou Book Review: AFTER THE FLOOD: A Novel

HARPERCOLLINS/William Morrow – @HarperCollins @WmMorrowBks

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

AUTHOR: Kassandra Montag
ISBN: 978-0-06-288936-2; hardcover; 5 in x 9 in; (September 3, 2019)
432pp, B&W, $27.99 U.S., $34.99 CAN

After the Flood is the debut novel from poet Kassandra Montag.  A post-apocalyptic drama and sea-faring novel, After the Flood is set on an Earth almost entirely covered by water.

After the Flood opens a little more than a century from now, and the Earth has been utterly transformed.  It began with the so-called “Hundred Year Flood,” in which rising floodwaters slowly overtook the North American continent.  Then, the so-called “Six Year Flood” obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland.  After which, all that was left was an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.  [That may also be the situation with all the other continents.]

Sailing what is left of the United States is a stubbornly independent woman, Myra, and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl.  They fish from their small boat, “the Bird,” and only visit the dry land of the mountaintop colonies when they need to trade for supplies and information on those few remaining outposts of civilization.  For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her elder daughter, Row.  She was stolen by her father, Myra's husband, Jacob, after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska, an event that occurred before Pearl was born.  During a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that the man has seen Row in a place called “the Valley,” which is located on the Eastern coast of what had been Greenland.

Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra plots a perilous voyage to those icy northern seas to recover her daughter.  Myra and Pearl find an ally in a mysterious man named Daniel, a cartographer and navigator.  Eventually, the three of them join another ship, “the Sedna,” and Myra tries to convince “the Sedna's” captain, Abran, and his crew to travel to “the Valley.”  However, the secrets that Myra, Daniel, and Abran hold may derail the voyage and lead to everyone's death.

If you, dear readers, peruse After the Flood's book jacket, you will find other authors praising this novel, including bestselling author, Karin Slaughter, one of America's best writers of thrillers and crime novels.  You can take all these authors' praise for After the Flood to heart; author Kassandra Montag's novel is indeed an excellent read.

After the Flood pushes against being pegged as belonging to one or two genres.  It is a sea-faring novel, full of adventure and gripping sea battles.  As post-apocalyptic fiction, After the Flood offers a frightening and implausible scenario for the destruction of civilization as we know it.  In this novel, we find humans basically reduced to dog-eat-dog survivalists, killers, thieves, rapists, and wannabe leaders engaging in biological warfare.

However, I think that After the Flood is, at its heart, a work of modern fiction, and it focuses on the lead character, Myra's personal journey, from trauma and grief to discovering the nature of hope.  In that sense, After the Flood is about characters, conflicts, and personalities, while also offering strong genre trappings and elements.  It is an irresistible read because Myra is an endlessly fascinating character.  Once you start reading this novel, dear readers, it will be hard to stop reading.  When you do, you will find yourself wondering about Myra and perhaps, even being concerned about her.

As a bonus, Myra's daughter Pearl is an equally endlessly fascinating character.  I think Kassandra Montag could write another version of this novel that focuses on Pearl, and it would be just as gripping and engaging... dare I say an even better novel?  For now, I will highly recommend After the Flood to readers looking for something different and also for something familiar in novels that deal with troubling futures for mankind.  Readers looking to delve into the interior and exterior lives of the characters that must survive these future shocks will want After the Flood.

9 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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