HAV3N by Tom Easton
|HAV3N by Tom Easton|
|Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam|
|Summary: It wasn't quite what I expected, but despite a weak start, HAV3N grew into a compelling psychological thriller.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: August 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Initially, people thought it was just another media scare. Unfortunately, HAV3N is real and it is apocalyptic. Incredibly virulent, it is a strain of bird flu to which no one has any natural immunity. It spreads through global populations with the speed and ferocity of a forest fire, killing its victims within hours of infection, making them literally cough out their lungs. The small village of Great Sheen put up barricades isolating them from the infected, in a desperate bid for survival, but it does little to stop HAV3N. It is only the timely arrival of scientist Michael Pirbright with an experimental vaccine and antivirals that saves the village from eradication. However, when the villagers are finally able to freely venture outside of the village, they discover the horrible truth. Pirbright's discovery of the vaccine was an incalculable stroke of luck, one that hasn't been repeated, and by making the choice to save his family and the village Pirbright was too late to save anyone else. The rest of the population appears to have been entirely eradicated by the disease. They might be the only humans left alive…
The villagers are forced to adapt quickly to this new world. Michael Pirbright, having saved the village, is thrust into the role of president. Through a combination of foraging missions, and rapidly developed agriculture in the village, Great Sheen is able to sustain itself successfully. Seventeen-year-old Josh Pirbright and his sister Martha, along with their two friends are the only remaining teenagers in the village, where over two thirds of the population is over forty. They will be the future leaders of the village. It is perhaps understandable that the city's council, led by Josh's father, are protective of the teens, putting in place restrictions to their freedom. However, when the council starts introducing more questionable policies, which suspiciously resemble a breeding programme, only the teens seem to realise that something is wrong, and resentment turns into rebellion which sparks all out conflict.
I'm a sucker for well-written dystopia and post-apocalyptic fiction, and I was eager to get my hands on HAV3N, which promised so much. While the opening act lived up to the demands of the high scale concept, the author took a surprising turn with the rest of the book choosing to focus on a more small-scale drama, namely the conflict between the teenagers and the increasingly controlling adults. While this story is drawn out effectively, and builds to a really thrilling conclusion, I was surprised, and a little disappointed that the disease and its consequences played a more contextual role in the second half of the story. The plot is very character-centric, and while character development is executed with care, with the way in which the teenagers are forced to mature rapidly into adulthood being portrayed especially well, other elements of the story lack realism and just aren't very convincing. The characters felt bland and lacking in flavour at first, but they did grow on me and by the end of the story I found myself genuinely invested in them. Like the characters, Tom Easton's writing also grew as the story progressed, with the narrative flowing much more comfortably in the second half of the book.
Despite its faults, HAV3N is a compulsive and exciting read that I rather enjoyed.
Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If you'd like less violence and a lot more romance, within a dystopian setting, you might enjoy Matched by Ally Condie. Meanwhile, if you want to go the other way and are looking for more violence, action and gore, then The Enemy by Charlie Higson is the catastrophe novel for you, where a mysterious disease turns adults into shuffling zombies. I would also definitely recommend Gone by Michael Grant, a real dark page-turner with strong characters, plenty of action, and kids with powers living in a town where all adults have disappeared – easily one of the coolest concepts I've ever met!
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