Thursday, 4 July 2013

Book: Apocalyptic Organ Grinder by William Todd Rose

I was given an ARC of Apocalyptic Organ Grinder via netgalley.

Mankind is split into two factions, the People or Spewers and the Clear-Skins or Settlers. Many generations ago a virus was released, called the Gabriel virus, and it became airborne. Most people who catch the virus die, but some are just carriers who suffer some of the symptoms but won't die, these became the People. But the Settlers, people who would die if they came into contact with the Gabriel virus, are out to kill all of the People in an attempt to purify the human race again, one such man is Tanner Kline, a Sweeper, who comes upon a pair of infected lovers and kills them only to be discovered by Lila, a hunter of the people. Tanner is caught and is determined to escape and make his way back to his daughter, but things aren't as easy as they seem.

This book is not what I expected, I can't really describe what that was, perhaps a light hearted take on the end of the world (if that is possible) or something to do with organs which would make me squirm a bit, but it turned out to be neither. In fact the storyline only has a very tenuous link to the title, so its a good job I wasn't judging this book by its cover!

For me, this story sums up the worst of human nature, the infected people are shunned and treated badly, both sides of the infection want to kill the other side, and there is no unity or harmony. That's not saying that this isn't a good book, because it is, and the author has caught those bad human traits in just the right way for the characters to be human, not overly evil or mean, just human.

Something that the author has clearly mastered is the art of grey characters. After reading Apocalyptic Organ Grinder you would be hard pressed to decide who was actually right and who was wrong, and that all comes back to the motives, Tanner is motivated by wanting to keep his daughter safe, and Lila is motivated by revenge, then by the want of justice, and to some extent wanting to keep her family safe, and because the story is told from both of their viewpoints equally, it is hard to actually take a side. Though I think its fair to say that Tanner's decision at the end may have tipped the scales slightly.

When reviewing Dystopia, earlier this week, I commented on the use of a break from the story to tell some of the background and one of the things I noted was that it would have made more sense for there to be periodic breaks for the background. Well this was the case in \Apocalyptic Organ Grinder, every few chapters there was some of the history of the world told, through fairy tale style stories, clearly told to children. As with the other parts of the story, you got these little interludes from both sides of the story, so again they didn't really tip the scale either way for who was in the right and who was in the wrong.

I didn't feel that the focus of this book was on what made the people different, it was focused on how they treated each other because of that, and the atrocities they were willing to perform in the name of their people, I think the saddest thing about the storyline is that you can see how it could happen, it is not completely far fetched.

This is a very different apocalyptic novel, there being two sides, but no clear 'good' side. If you're after a short read, I'd say give it a go!