White Horse by Alex Adams
Publisher: Atria/April 17th, 2012
Kind thanks to Atria for providing a review copy
The world has ended, but her journey has just begun.
Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of the world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the president of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are defined not by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices. White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places.
I’m not quite sure what I expected when I started reading White Horse, but I sure didn’t expect to get sucked in so much that I stayed up until 3am to finish it. Yeah, it’s that good. Why is that good? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Zoe Marshall seems to be your typical single, slightly aimless, 30 year old, cleaning floors at a pharmaceutical company while sympathizing with the lab rats and planning to attend college in the near future. When she comes home one day and finds a white jar in her apartment (that she didn’t put there), things start to get very, very scary. People are getting sick, and Zoe’s friends are dying. Environmental wars are brewing, and a plague is spreading, and if it doesn’t kill you, it just might change you, in terrifying ways…
White Horse goes from Then and Now flawlessly, and told in Zoe’s voice, offers one of the most chilling looks into a post apocalyptic future that I’ve ever read. As Zoe journeys across the world to find the man she loves, the secret of the plague’s origins is unfolded (slowly and expertly), while at the same time a ruined landscape unfolds in a weather ravaged new world. You’ll feel every chill, every shudder, that Zoe feels, and you won’t be able to peel your eyes from the pages.
Alex Adams writing is lyrical, vivid, and chilling, and her observations on human nature are spot on. Zoe struggles to maintain her humanity in an environment that doesn’t exactly foster warm and fuzzy feelings. There are things waiting in the shadows, things that used to be human, and Zoe is never safe. As steeled for survival that she is, however, she never loses sight of her compassion and her desire to help others. As good hearted as Zoe is, though, the author gives us her counterpart in a villain so nasty, so evil, the term “sympathetic villain” goes right out the window. I haven’t hated a villain with quite as much venom in a long, long time. Hate’s a strong word, yes, but it definitely applies with this one (this guy is deplorable.)
Make no mistake, dystopian fans, be prepared for a brutal, roller coaster ride with White Horse. There are some seriously horrifying, downright scary moments, and the author absolutely does not hold the readers hand. You will most certainly flinch, and squirm a bit, but there is nothing gratuitous here, and these moments do exactly what they’re meant to do. Trust me on this one. There are messages here, too, most notably about the environment and human scientific experimentation, but they’re delivered in a way that you won’t mind taking your medicine. As uncomfortable as parts of this book may be, White Horse is a very realistic look at a possible future. Alex Adams takes some pretty fantastical concepts and makes them absolutely plausible, and that’s what makes it so damn scary. Zoe is a heroine that we can all identify with, she’s the kind of person that we should all strive to be, and her hope in the face of horrendous circumstances is brilliant to behold. The little moments of pure compassion in this book are nearly painful in their honesty, and made me want to be a better person, be just a little nicer to everyone in my life, and made me thankful for everything that I have.
White Horse moved me on many levels, and is frankly one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Read it, love it, then make it your mission to immediately hug everyone that will hold still, and cherish the ones you love. Yeah, I got a little sappy there, but White Horse hit me right in the soft spot. Don’t tell anyone, ok? Our secret.