By C.J. Tudor
Publication Date: January 31, 2023
This is going to be a tough book to review without giving out any spoilers, but I will do my best.
The novel is set in a dystopian/apocalyptic near-future where mankind is on a quick decline due to a virus that mutates faster than anyone can find a cure or reliable vaccine. The lucky die. The unlucky basically turn into zombies. But there’s no slow build-up of the virus taking hold, etc. Nope, in all three stories, the author drops you straight into the action.
In the first story, the action starts immediately after a bus crash, killing nearly half of the students onboard who are trying to escape in a snowstorm to The Retreat, a place where they’ll be safe from the virus and the havoc left in its wake. The students are trapped on the bus, outside is a blizzard and they’re miles from anywhere. One of the passengers is the daughter of the main virologist fighting the disease and with any luck, he’ll send The Department to save them. Or kill them, depending on why they were on that particular bus in the first place.
In the second story, a group of volunteers on their way to The Retreat wake up in a stalled cable car, suspended thousands of feet above the mountain. They don’t know each other and can’t quite trust each other. But they’ll need to if they want to get out of the air and back on safe ground.
In the final story, a group of people currently at The Retreat are living on borrowed time. It’s obvious something has gone terribly wrong and the systems are failing. Here, too, everyone has their own agenda and no one is telling the whole truth – about their history or what has happened there.
So we have three groups of people. At first it appears they have nothing in common, aside from being trapped with no help in the middle of a blizzard and/or the mountains. Slowly, it becomes clearer that both Invicta University and a girl on the bus are what ties them together. But, the author doesn’t let you know that for a while and while there is one other key bringing each story together, it dawned on me really slowly, working its way into my gray matter until finally, about two thirds of the way through the book, the lightbulb went on.
I can’t tell you more than that without giving anything away and really, even if you’re tired of COVIDesque stories, this book is worth the read. The author does a great job subtly bringing all these characters together onto one trajectory. I’ll be honest, the book ends on a bit of a downer. I was never really clear what anyone was hoping to accomplish aside from survival, but I enjoyed watching them all strive for it. I’m not sure if I got what the author was going for in the epilogue because it was so far removed from the main story, aside from being alluded to over and over again, that it almost seemed like the launch of another book. I suppose time will tell.
3.75/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐+
Thank you to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for providing the ARC ebook. I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.