White Horse by Alex Adams

Posted On 16 February 2013

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Just finished reading White Horse by Alex Adams which is a very dark and gritty look at a post apocalyptic world.  I thought this was a very good read, it is without doubt a disturbing book to read as the world depicted certainly isn’t pleasant to live in but it is without doubt gripping.  The story is told by Zoe and is split into two alternative sections – Then and Now.  When reading about ‘then’ we see the life Zoe led and read about the events that took place before the majority of the world’s people were killed by a disease later named White Horse after one of the riders of the Apocalypse.  In ‘now’ we watch Zoe as she goes on a quest to find the father of her unborn child and observe her fight to survive in a strange and brutal new world.

Basically 90% of the population has died.  Of the remaining 10% – 5% are immune to the disease and the other 5% survived but changed during the process.  The world we know is gone.  Technology and modern comforts have disappeared but more than the disappearance of lifestyles is the general degenerative behaviour of the remaining survivors.  I suppose what this book looks at is how long people will remain civilised and hold onto their own humanity in a world that has become so dangerous to live in.

I thought that the use of two timeframes was really good.  It allowed us to watch Zoe’s progress as she travels the globe with a specific, unknown to us, destination in mind whilst also looking back at her former life where the arrival of a mysterious jar in her apartment spells the start of the troubles.  Zoe is scared by the jar.  How did it suddenly manifest itself in her home?  She thinks she’s going crazy and seeks therapy.  Enter Nick Rose – Zoe’s therapist and love interest.  The two share an unmistakable chemistry restricted by the patient/therapist relationship they have.  However, before things have a chance to progress pets start disappearing and people start dying.

The other winning element, for me personally, about the use of the ‘then’ and ‘now’ was that each had something of a mystery that kept you turning the pages trying to find out what exactly was going on.  So instead of feeling frustrated with the switch in story as can sometimes happen because one story has become more gripping than the other, in this, you want to read both stories.  In the ‘then’ – we have the mysterious jar and the whole story of how the disease became about.  In the ‘now’ we have the inclusion of a new character called ‘Swiss’.  How sinister is this person?  Very.  I didn’t have the first notion what was going on with this guy but he is nasty and he seems to have an unnatural interest in Zoe.

Zoe is a strong character.  She has already suffered a lot but still clings to hope in order to help her keep going and as she travels she seems to gather about her other people who she feels the need to protect.  I liked that about her.  The fact that she can drag up energy from out of nowhere to fight against evil in order to protect not just herself but others.   Also, what makes zoe likeable is that although some of her actions are unpalatable she doesn’t take any of them without a lot of thought.

This is a fairly bleak look at a possible outcome if man’s meddling with science and nature goes to far although I think it’s clearly meant to be an exaggerated look.  For example, the notion of Zoe travelling from America to find this tiny island in search of the father of her child just carrying a compass and a map.  Seems unbelievable, but I think that this is intended.

The novel also contains lots of references to mythology that are scattered throughout the novel and I suppose depict the almost herculean efforts of Zoe in the story.  I liked all the mythical references, the first and most obvious being the similarity between Pandora and her box and the jar and the fact that Zoe doesn’t want to open it from fear of what she will release upon the world and then even throwing in references such as the likeness of one of the survivors to Medusa.

I thought this was a really good read.  It’s not all wrapped up in cotton wool so be warned this isn’t a YA read but the author has a lovely writing style and I think she does an excellent job of unfolding this story in a way that quite effortlessly keeps your attention.  This is a great debut novel and although I understand it is the first in a trilogy the story concludes in a very satisfying way without the use of the cliffhanger and the interminable 12 month wait to see what takes place next.

In terms of crticisms – very few, I think the writing can sometimes become a little flowery and this can maybe be a bit distracting but as I said I like the author’s writing style.  Plus I think the comparisons to The Road are inevitable but with White Horse you get a little more of the events that occurred prior to the apocalypse plus you can also throw in a little x-men(ish) action along the way.

It’s a scary outlook – keep taking the tablets!  Or maybe don’t!!

11 Responses to “White Horse by Alex Adams”

  1. jessicabookworm

    I read The Road and it really took me out of my comfort zone but I think it was worth it. This sounds like an interesting read and another comfort zone breaker too, going to add it to my maybe list.

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought it was a good read. I mean, it’s a bit grim, but you feel like you have to know what’s going on.
      Lynn 😀

  2. geekybooksnob

    Ooooh…I am going to have to read this. Add it to my post-apocalyptic shelf!

    • lynnsbooks

      Oh my, you have a post-apocalyptic shelf! I want me one of those!!
      I enjoyed this and apparently two more to come. I like this type of novel though I must admit.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Chinoiseries

    Great review, very detailed and well thought out! I’ve not heard of this book and I’m not sure whether a post-apocalyptic story is what I’d like to read next. You also just reminded me to go and read The Road.

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks. I read The Road quite a few years ago now. It is very bleak, which is pretty much what you would expect really, but also well done. It’s one of those books that leaves a lot up to you as the reader. It doesn’t give you a great deal of background but I don’t mind that. It’s concentrating more on the survival aspect rather than the ‘what happened’ aspect.
      Lynn 😀

  4. nrlymrtl

    I do enjoy me some post apocalyptic action. I’ll have to keep my eye out for this one at the library.

  5. Marie

    It feels like every post-apocalyptic story that comes out these days is compared to The Road – to be honest, I wasn’t overly enamoured with that book but I do love post-apocalyptic scenarios in general and this one sounds very interesting.

    • lynnsbooks

      I know what you mean and I think that’s why I put in that the comparison was inevitable. I think with this particular story the likeness stems from the fact that Zoe is on the move constantly striving to reach another destination which is similar to The Road. I don’t think the after effects or the story in this case are similar at all. Just the fact that things are a bit grim, there’s a shortage of food and people are struggling to stay alive and on top of that it’s a journey. In actual fact I think I probably preferred White Horse at this stage but that’s because I’m a bit of a pain when it comes to knowing what’s going on. With The Road you’re pretty much left to reach your own conclusions but I’m like a two year old when I’m reading! Imagine ‘why did that just happen?’ ‘what’s going to happen now’ ‘how did it happen’ ‘when will it stop?’ I’m a nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, I like to use my own imagination but with some stories I just end up wanting more.
      Lynn 😀

  6. TBM

    Not sure I’ve read too many books about post-apocalyptic. Now that I’m thinking of it, I haven’t seen to many movies either. Of course my brain could be playing tricks with me since it’s cold out and i’m ready for spring and I’ve only had one sip of my morning tea.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m just trying to think – I bet you’ve probably read something or seen something – what about 28 Days. Or have you read The Hunger Games?
      P.s. I’m looking forward to winter being over too.

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