Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Lightest Object in the Universe

The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; 7/9/19
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781616207939 

The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele is a recommended post-apocalyptic novel.

A flu pandemic sweeps the world, twice. Protests are already tearing the country apart when society completely breaks down after a cyber attack takes out the electrical grid, along with the global economy and everything else. What is left is a world of individuals on their own who must know how to survive by their own wits and means. Carson is living on the East Coast when the collapse happens, while the woman he has been having a long-distance relationship with, Beatrix, lives on the West Coast. While Beatrix finds herself trying to work with her neighbors to create a cooperative community, set up a radio station, and watch out for the gangs of unruly teenagers on bikes who call themselves T-Rizers, Carson sets out to cross the country on foot to find Beatrix.

The narrative alternates between Carson and Beatrix's point-of-view, with a few sections told through teenage Rosie's eyes. Along Carson's journey he encounters a wide variety of people, most of which are adapting to the new world, mostly helpful. Many are heading toward the compound of a man called Jonathan Blue and the Center he leads in Wyoming. He has taken over the radio frequencies and offers food and community for all who come and join his self-styled religious cult. People across the country are headed toward his group, while others stay in place and try to survive by their own strength and wits.
I would probably scoff at this kinder, gentler post-apocalyptic novel, except for the absolutely exceptional writing - and the quality of the writing is exquisite. She also delves deep into her characters, who are good people. You will want the best to happen to them, even if you, like me, doubt the vision created here. There is also a little too much implied finger-pointing about the "various evil whatever entities that brought us to this horrid path, but look at how we can overcome" going on.
Eisele has envisioned a collapse of society that is actually somewhat optimistic. One would imagine that the actual violence is taking place somewhere off the page, because this novel is more about hope, community efforts, and a new beginning, which is kind of nice, but not highly likely in reality. If people can't get along when they are living (generally, in comparison) comfortable lives, how would the end of society suddenly make them try? Beatrix scoffs at armed guards protecting her neighborhood. Really? Digging composting toilets with your neighbors doesn't necessarily bring people together and make them want to share all they have with others. I also found the idea that thousands of people would head off to a cult located in Wyoming a fantastical fabrication.

In the final analysis, suspend your disbelief and read this novel for the determination of Carson to get to Beatrix.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

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