Perhaps it was growing up immersed in a religion that was not-so-patiently awaiting Armageddon? Maybe it was being a child in the Cold War, when school children were told that hiding under one’s desk would protect you from a nuclear blast? Perhaps I’m just a morbid so-and-so? Whatever the reason, I’ve long been fascinated with fictional tellings of the end of the world as we know it. Songs, poems, short stories, films, novels…I feast on a diet of destruction and pain. It’s my idea of fun.
White Horse by Alex Adams is an accomplished debut into my dark world of apocalyptica. It tells the story of Zoe, a cleaner in a pharmaceutical lab, who embarks on an epic journey half way across the world in search of the man she loves, the father of the child she is pregnant with. Along the way she encounters unimaginable horrors: survivors mutated by the White Horse virus, people with immunity from the virus who have disappeared into their own black hole of hopelessness and savagery, as well as small glimpses of hope and heroism. Zoe, herself, refuses to give up hope, regularly putting her own life on the line rather than descend into cruel inhumanity. She’s remarkable, not for any super power or glorious quest, but just for being determinedly good in the face of despair, destruction and evil.
The story is effectively told with scene headings of “then,” which relate the results of the virus, experimentation with weather and the resulting war, and “now,” which follows Zoe on her personal quest. The prose is unusual and idiosyncratic. Adams has a distinctive authorial voice which I personally found entrancing, though others may find it too rich for their tastes. The story is heavy with biblical and mythological references, all of which I found to effectively deepen and layer the story. It’s a rich, spicy, pungent dish of a book. Gentler readers than myself may find it too depressing and violent.
While attempting to place the book on my highly organized book shelves, I came across a problem. What genre is it? It’s a hard book to classify. It has elements of science fiction and fantasy, a deep thrombotic vein of horror, a literary flair, a touching romance, and the twists and turns of a thriller. It’s one of my favorite things: a skillful amalgamation of literary and genre. White Horse is the first in a planned trilogy and I await Adams next book with great anticipation and high expectations. In the end this book was placed on my shelf of books I’ve read more than once and will read yet again. I believe I shelved it perfectly.
* * * * *
Diane Dooley writes science fiction, romance and horror – sometimes all in the same story.