I bloody love survivalist fiction, and I really don’t read enough of it. I’m not talking about your generic post-apocalyptic/dystopian survival novels, I mean the full on we-are-trapped-in-this-situation-and-we-are-going-to-use-every-ingenious-method-at-our-disposal-to-survive kind of fiction.
My love of survivalist novels started way back in the day when I would read Kensuke’s Kingdom and watch Swiss Family Robinson on repeat. Other books soon followed; Robinson Crusoe, Life of Pi…and then my interest kind of morphed into the oh-so-popular post-apocalyptic novels we see these days. These are sometimes referred to as survivalist novels, but they are not the true survivalist novels I so crave.
Monument 14 brought back my love of everything survivalist. The fact that the story takes place during a bit of an apocalypse was almost irrelevant to me. It was the sheer concept of a group of kids being trapped in a supermarket and figuring out to stay alive…that’s what I loved.
It was fantastic to read about how the kids lived day-by-day, constructing make-shift beds, sourcing food, managing their energy resources. Some of the details were quite standard to anyone who has considered a zombie apocalypse/alien invasion survival strategy (check!), but some things Emmy Laybourne thought of were genius! Making individual bedrooms for everyone in the changing rooms, and being able to customise each one. Brilliant! I never would have thought of that! See, it’s the little things I just love – it really makes you feel like you’re right there and you can’t help but imagine what you would do if you were in that exact situation.
But if you’re not a hardcore survivalist such as myself, this book may be less enjoyable for you. It’s not hard to see where the book suffers.
I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. Whatsoever. It wasn’t so much because of the lack of characterisation but oh dear God did they all have to be such shits?!. I know they’re all kids but geez they were rubbish. I didn’t like a single character, not even little Max who you could tell the author was trying to use as comic effect, but it just didn’t work. Sorry Emmy Laybourne, but you’re just not funny (and I mean that in the kindest possible way).
There were other shortcomings, too. The writing was simplistic, which is putting it mildly, however I didn’t really mind. There is not much call for epic prose when you’re writing 1st person POV survivalist fiction. And the explanation for the tornado on the front cover? Did not buy that at all. I thought that was a very weak plot point and Laybourne had better come up with a semi-decent further explanation in the sequel(s).
Speaking of, will I pick up the sequel? Well, I read this book ravenously and I enjoyed it a lot, but I know it was because the first book featured kids surviving in a convenience store. Having glanced at the blurb of the second book, I’m pretty sure it will be moving away from my beloved “survivalist” genre and into your generic “post-apocalyptic” category. Have you learned the difference yet?
To sequel or not to sequel. That is the question…..