Top positive review
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A mix of shear terror, horror and beauty
on 23 February 2010
This is the first book I have ready by Robert McCammon and I look forward to reading more.
In common with some other commentators here, I was drawn into this book thoroughly. It is a long book at 850 odd pages, but being one of those rare books which are hard to put down, the pages zip by: especially once the story gets going.
The story mixes the realities of a post-nuclear war that has experienced MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) between Russia and the USA with the fantasies of the powers of good and evil, where evil is having a party. The story is set in the US and moves from the immediate pre-war situation into the plight of three key groups of survivors whose lives are scattered between New York - near Wichita, Kansas - and a mountain refuge in Idaho. McCammon initially focuses upon the usual post-nuclear exchange devastation; the skeletons of buildings, grey clouded skies, incessant storms and plunging temperatures that mark the nuclear winter. So far one can anticipate the usual stories of survival in this harsh landscape with people forced to choose between trying to maintain some of the codes of their civilisation, whilst others turn to their darker side. This is the substance of Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road (2006).
However, pretty soon after the initial nuclear exchange, one realises that there are other forces at work in the story. This is where the adventures really start to take-off; powers of good and evil slowly begin to emerge and one realises that another dimension has been opened for the reader.
Gradually, the survivors are to be drawn towards one another, but along the way one is never sure who is going to survive the next ordeal; and who if any, will make it to the end.
I found the book was not something that simply told a story; rather it touched one's emotions in all sorts of ways that no doubt would be unique to each reader. Overall, I felt it resounded with that grand sense of folly in the human condition and yet it was blended with the never ending power of hope and love. This book may well make you laugh and cry and sometimes do both at the same time, but like any good book it will draw you into another world, where the characters are very real and the world around them is not for the fainthearted. So be prepared.