This book gave me a nightmare. A very vivid, very scary nightmare where I was trapped in the cold darkness of Antarctica and no one would rescue me. I woke up in a cold sweat and frankly, I didn’t appreciate it. So excuse me if my nightmare colors my appreciation (or lack thereof) for this book.
I’ll say this about History: it’s inventive, clever, and well-written. Here’s the plot: people are dying on earth quickly. Where do they go when they die? As long as someone they know remembers them, they live in a place called “the city”. There they can live whatever lives they choose without fear, sickness, or even money—for years, sometimes—until they vanish into thin air when they are no longer remembered (or there’s no one left to remember them). Think of it as Limbo for the dead. So what is happening on earth to make people vanish from “the city” at such a rapid rate? There’s a man-made virus sweeping the earth that’s being transported by…Coke (you might want to put down that can you’re holding). Called “The Blinks”, it kills in a few days and there is no antivirus to be found. Brockmeier alternates chapters about different people in “the city” with the story of Laura, still alive back on Earth, who is doing research for Coke in Antarctica. She doesn’t know what’s going on in the States, but she knows something is wrong…there’s no one answering her calls back at headquarters, and her crew is running out of food. She sends out her two research comrades to find help, and when they don’t come back, she goes off to find them in her damaged sledge. When she finally makes it to the second camp, instead of finding 18 healthy scientists, she finds…18 graves. With no one left to communicate with and supplies dwindling, she strikes off yet again to find help in the below-freezing temperatures.
The book was well-written and the stories taking place in the city were mostly interesting (although I couldn’t see the point or how they were connected to each other until midway through the book). But the story of Laura was depressing with each passing chapter as you realized there was no one left to help her and she cannot possibly survive the arctic conditions. Thus—my nightmare. What am I supposed to get out of this story? We could all be killed by a man-made virus being cooked up as we speak? Don’t drink Coke? Never read depressing apocalyptic fiction? I don’t need puppies and flowers and happy thoughts from all my books, but I need them to have some sense of optimism. Although I guess if you’re dead, you really don’t care.
Ok, so I lied: I do need puppies and happy thoughts. I like stories with a happy ending. Sue me. Maybe if this book had been solely the characters in the city, I would have enjoyed it more, but page after page of Laura’s suffering were enough to give it a thumbs down. I’m sure there are other literary souls who enjoyed it more. What did you think?
2 out of 4 Stars
Reviewed by Erin Payton