I stumbled across this post-apocalyptic novel when an author in a group mentioned all the authors should read and review each others’ stuff. I offered to read anything thrown at me, despite not being an author. I am SO glad I did. This is a coming-of-age thriller for a young man who is finally, at the age of 22, forced to grow up.
Post apocalyptic is a really hard genre to write, I think, in that it’s really hard to do it in a way that doesn’t feel tired and used. There are only so many ways the world can end. Finding one that is new is nearly impossible, so we rely on the authors to make the experience of the aftermath new. J. D. Palmer does just that in his novel, The Meek. He rips you through the pages into the emotional aftermath of a world gone wrong.
The reader lives with Harlan as he stumbles through torture, captivity, and despair. A young man who was questioning his position in the world filled with people is now forced to face himself and his own demons (recent and distant past). I love a book that can make me feel, and Palmer does an amazing job of this. The horror of their captivity, the distrust of others, the despair of ever being anything more than somebody at the bottom rung, the belief that even if your place isn’t a good place, it is where you were meant to be; it all becomes something the reader experiences through Harlan. The relationship that builds between Harlan and Beryl is so real. There are ups and downs and hovering spectre of possible love alive. But there is the very real connection that people have when they have suffered alongside one another.
Palmer is a master at the perfect rollercoaster. His characters find a bit of peace to recuperate before he rips them back into the uncertainty and terror of being just 2 against the masses…and the masses are rabid. Charismatic leaders reminiscent of the Governor in TWD vie with religious nutjobs and militaristic patriots for the creepiest facet of humanity faced by the MCs. The adrenaline rushes followed by peaceful lulls in which you think they might actually get a break create a story that doesn’t compel you, it propels you. You are shoved forward into the next horror of humanity, and you start jonesing for that next adrenaline fix while silently praying for a moment of peace.
Through it all is the overwhelming question of morality. When society is no longer around to hold you accountable…what is moral? Saving the ones you love at the possible detriment to the human race? Putting your own needs above that of humanity? Sacrificing the ones you know and love for the greater good? Does turning a blind eye to things because they don’t involve you make you a monster or a survivalist? What is too much? what will force you to act? Palmer is a true storyteller, leading us on a heart-breaking chase through a plausible reality, should society come to a screeching halt. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I am definitely going to be reading the rest.
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