Well, you know how I’ve been talking about The Dryden Experiment lately? They’re launching the first book set in Dryden Apoc, their post-apocalyptic universe, and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy to read and review. In case you missed it: The Dryden Experiment is a way for authors and artists to publish their creations without relying on traditional publishing hierarchies or selling off the rights to their work. By using Creative Commons, people working in Dryden have the freedom to explore amazing worlds that are filled with the collective imaginings of others. The Dryden Experiment website is currently undergoing a revamp, but if you’re curious, please take a look at the Facebook page: The Dryden Author and Artists Group. Anyway, on to my review…
How do I tell you about this wonderful book without spoiling all of the fun parts? (Like the part with the axe!) I’ll tell you what it is and what it is not, and maybe you’ll begin to understand what made it such an enjoyable read.
Lorelai, You’ll Never Die is the story of one badass woman on a journey westward, through the remains of a once-thriving country that’s been ravaged by a series of catastrophes so traumatic, that what’s left is only wasteland. There’s a certain amount of ambiguity in the storyworld: we’re never told exactly where this all happens, what year it is, or what started the end of the world. And that’s the perfect setup for this book, because all of those details are extraneous to what’s really at stake here. Lorelai has a destination, but the name of that location makes little difference–it’s about how she gets there, whom she meets along the way, and everything she must do to survive. She’s going west, the world is a shell of its former self, and what’s left of society isn’t humanity’s finest. Those are all the details you need to get pulled into this book.
A close reading of the text provides hints to some of the answers, for those that simply can’t stop wondering what set everything in motion, but I never once felt that the lack of definitive answers took away from my enjoyment of the story.
Characters are the heart of this work, and there’s no shortage of interesting people along Lorelai’s way. She meets hitmen, rapists, psychopaths, cannibals, and soldiers, to name a few. At the start, few of the characters Lorelai meets linger in the story, either due to a violent turn of events or the fact that she doesn’t stay in one place for very long.
Whether they’re in the book for five lines or five pages, every character has an impact on Lorelai. Brief encounters at the start of her journey echo in the later pages, especially when we, as readers, begin to distrust every new acquaintance almost as much as Lorelai. While not every character in the book has a developed history that we’re aware of, it’s impossible to meet each new one without wondering how they’ve survived in such a world. Lorelai comes across some new, unknown survivor, and there’s a process happening in her mind as well as the reader’s–a survivalist’s mathematics, where numbers are replaced by expressions, body postures, and weapons, and every equation is a way to categorize new dangers.
The structure of the book mirrors the wandering, almost episodic nature of Lorelai’s life in the post-apocalyptic world. Instead of a novel, we’re given an assortment of short stories that form a whole. There’s a common thread running through them, but their separation allows for different kinds of stories to be told within the larger work.
This framework made reading the book an adventure in its own right, because I was never quite sure what sort of tale to expect next. It allowed for moments of surrealism to bleed into the story, or even fantastic interludes that clearly didn’t match up with the rest of the book’s general tone. The narrative has room to breathe, room for different reading experiences, and ultimately that’s what makes Lorelai, You’ll Never Die more than another apocalypse story.
Pacing is another strong point, with moments of contemplation throughout all the chaos that never slow down the story’s forward momentum. It’s indicative of the way this book was written, which is to say, it’s deep and compelling without being weighed down by its own prose. The writing doesn’t demand too much of the audience, but it isn’t simple or boring.
My only criticism of the book involves its ending, one that I felt came on too fast and didn’t show me enough impact. Again, it’s hard to talk about without spoiling anything, but I will say this: the ending left me wondering what was at stake, what had been learned, and, oddly, what it had all been for all that time. It’s not that the ending didn’t make sense, or that it was contrary to everything before it, but it lacked the conviction of the previous ninety-percent. Maybe this was intentional, as a way to express the uncertainty of Lorelai’s future as the book comes to a close; though, it felt more like the story ran out of steam. Overall, this is a minor complaint. The ending didn’t take too much away from my reading experience, and I don’t think it’s enough to deter anyone from picking this book up.
Laura Konrad has started off Dryden Apoc in stunning fashion, and I’m excited to see what she’s coming up with next. Her vision of the post-apocalyptic wasteland that Lorelai treks through is one that will delight readers with its familiarity while simultaneously unsettling their notions of what this story is or should be. It’s the foundation for a whole host of amazing stories that are yet to arrive, and it confronts many of the most difficult, troubling issues that we struggle with in our own world. You’ll cheer for Lorelai, watch her struggle over and over again, and cringe with her when the darkness of a destroyed civilization seems too much to overcome. You’ll wonder how she can continue to survive, what it will take for her to keep going, and you’ll be surprised more than once at the answers to those questions.
Lorelai, You’ll Never Die is available for pre-order on iTunes, Smashwords, Kobo, and B&N for 99 cents, and it’s live everywhere on August 20th.