YEAR ONE by Nora Roberts
It began on New Year’s Eve.
The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.
Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magick rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.
As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.
In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.
The end has come. The beginning comes next.
THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
This is my first Nora Roberts novel and it won’t be my last. Okay I realise she appears to mostly write romantic fiction and while it has it’s place it wouldn’t be something in which I’d want to invest enough time to read a whole novel, but that aspect received a light touch in this book and was used only to make the characters real and move the story along.
This is after all the first in a series of novels set in a dystopian post apocalypse world where a huge swathe of the world population has been wiped out within weeks and some of the survivors begin to develop special abilities. A bit like Stephen King’s The Stand meets every superhero origin story ever written and even more like Terry Brooks’s Word & Void series where our world is shown giving birth to the world of his Shannara fantasy novels – complete with magic and magical creatures.
One of the things I liked about this book is the practical approach to the character building. Every character had a place in moving the plot forward and while some were recognisable because there are other characters just like them in other works of fiction, or because we can recognise ourselves or our friends in them, they didn’t sink towards the cliche – a mark of a very very experienced writer. The situations the characters found themselves in and the slow build towards the convergence of the key plot elements were handled extremely well and at no time did I feel scenes were simply stitched together to arrive suddenly at a key point in the plot; something that I’ve encountered before when the sweep of the story is so broad and populated by so many characters.
I read this book over three days last weekend and didn’t want to put it down. If I had a preference I would have liked it to be a big sprawling single book like The Stand or Seveneves rather than yet another series where I’ll have to wait for the following instalments (although I think all three should be available by the end of this year -2019). It would have been “unputdownable” enough to sustain that kind of read.
I’d recommend adding this to your list of books to read.
Have you read any other Nora Roberts novels? Let me know what you think of then in the comments.