Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Review: Seven Days on the Mountain - Scott Whitaker

Extent: ebook (404 KB)
Publisher: Self Published
Pub Date: 28th June 2011

Callie Grady wakes in the middle of the night to explosions and screams. It’s her birthday, but the only present she receives is the end of the world.

Or so she thinks. The world is on fire and Callie and her family flee their rural town and head to the mountains where they hope to hide out in the cabin that’s been in her family for generations.

Only there is a new civil war and US soldiers massacre fleeing citizens on the highway. War planes skewer the skies above. Chased into the hills, her family is attacked and her mother is killed. Helped by friends from her childhood, Callie and the surviving members of her family attempt to rebuild a life while the world rages about them.

Taken to “Uncle” Jessup’s mountain home, everyone must adjust to life in the new America, where the country reels from a new civil war. The survivors rely on solar power, elbow grease, and old fashioned hard work as they try to recover from loss.

However, isolation from the world isn’t all bad, as “Uncle” Jessup teaches them to hunt, fish, and scout the mountain and Callie wrestles with idea that she may be attracted to her childhood friend Alex Jessup, or Johnny Penny, or even worse, both of them.

It isn’t long before danger threatens and Callie, Alex, and Johnny are forced into the wilderness by marauding soldiers bent on establishing control of the mountain. They leave behind a dying “Uncle” Jess, his wife, and Callie’s father and brother. The last thing they see before they leave is the steady approach of deserted soldiers. Deep in the woods, the fate of their loved ones weighs upon them and soon Callie, Alex, and Johnny decide to return to either save their family and friends or die trying.

However the mountain has other things in mind.

Winter hurls snow and ice upon them. A deranged madman holds up in a fire watch post and sets a trap for the unsuspecting heroes; an aging actress holds court in the mysterious ruins of an apple orchard, a haunted cabin and insane bear bar the way up mountain while the back roads teem with bands of bored soldiers with itchy trigger fingers.

Will Callie and her friends survive the journey up the mountain?

Here is a story that has made me realise that the heroes of many other dystopians that I read and love have a pretty cushy existence. Seven Days on the Mountain definitely harks back to the good old dystopians that used to appear on the bookshelves as a testament to their own merit rather than as a passenger on the me-too band wagon of recent years. Not that I have anything against the majority of those passengers, a lot of my favourite books fall into that category, but Scott Whitaker’s creation makes no attempt at claiming popularity through zeitgeist, it is an examination of humanity the likes of which has endured in literature since the dawn of story-telling.

I love post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels, and the reason I love them is because they really put humanity to the test. Of all the post-apocalyptic and dystopians novels I have read, I think the most effective explorations of humanity are those that take place on the brink – just when life and society as we know it collapses. Characters undergo a deprivation, rather than a privation; they have had the luxuries of a modern, western society and then the proverbial rug is pulled out from under their feet. What do they do? How do they survive? How do the new parameters of life affect them? This is exactly what happens to Callie: one day she’s living the cushy life of an average American teen and the next the world she has adapted to is lost. Scott Whitaker plunges Callie into the gritty realities of bare bones survival. It’s a world where Darwin rings true for humans once more, where only those who can adapt fast can survive and there is no room for the weak. It’s brutal and I love it! Callie is a wonderful hero who, although she starts off as a scared little girl, soon finds out how quick she can learn and how tough she can be. The story is a testament to the strength that a person can find within them when it is really called for, not just physical strength but strength of the mind and heart too. In a survival situation, there will always be people who are driven to the edge of insanity or whose natural evil blossoms – as Scott has shown in his villains – but there will also be those whose goodness and mental fortitude strengthen and in the end prevail. Callie undergoes an extraordinary journey through the horrors and brutality of a world without rules, she goes from being a scared little girl to a female fortress, a fighter and avenger.

Seven Days on the Mountain is gritty and tragic but it is also an immensely satisfying read due largely to the realism that Scott Whitaker has created. It is a brilliant study of humanity and it gives me hope that a person could have the strength of mind and the conviction of heart to survive any situation, to root out evil and restore balance to life.

1 comment:

  1. i've read it and your review is spot-on!