Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Review: Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez

Cole has been orphaned by a flu pandemic that has not only killed his parents but also large numbers of people worldwide, creating widespread panic and chaos. After he recovers from his own infection, Cole is taken in by an evangelical couple in Salvation City who have a starkly different worldview than what he grew up with.

I’ll come right out and say that this was nearly a DNF for me. At about 100 pages in, I just really wasn’t feeling it. The apocalyptic setting did not seem integral to the story, and I felt I had been drawn in on false pretences. It’s a like a regular novel dressed up in apocalyptic clothing. At the start of the story, Cole is already with his new family and we only see snatches of his life before and what happened during the pandemic in flashbacks.

The plot is spare since this is very much a character study of Cole, a character I never really warmed to. He’s a cold sort of kid, hates reading (and is actually proud of the fact he’s never read a whole book), and at first even welcomes the pandemic:

To Cole, it was pretty exciting, albeit in a sick-making way, like watching an ultra-realistic slasher flick, or going on a roller coaster when he was still young and dumb enough to think it was a death-defying thing to do. […] It always gave him some satisfaction, seeing grown-ups lose control.” p 52-53 ARC version, may not reflect final published version.

It is an interesting idea to take a closer look at how a community who believes in the biblical end times would react to living in a post-apocalyptic world. And there are very thought provoking passages throughout. I just wish Nunez had delved deeper into the more intriguing aspects of her creation, such as the “rapture children”, or provided new insights into the evangelical Christian psyche (she isn't one herself, by the way).

I did decide to finish because the reading guide promised some scandalous happenings towards the end, but what occurs is so minor and so unexplored by the community at large that it left me with more questions than answers. Though this wasn't the best book for me at this time, if you like in-depth character studies of semi-unlikeable characters, then give it a try!
My rating? 1 Zombie Chicken - for dystopian completists only.

SALVATION CITY comes out in hardcover on September 16th. And even though the main character is 13, this is very much an adult book (as in, not YA). Find out more about it at the author's website.  (By the way, the author herself calls this "a near apocalypse and a temporary dystopia" in the Q&A on her site, and says that she was more interested in exploring Cole's circumstances than the effect of the pandemic on the world at large. Funny, I am interested in the exact opposite.)

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore


bermudaonion said...

Thanks for the warning on this stinker.

Amanda said...

Yeah, you're right, I'm glad I didn't read any further than I did.

Trisha said...

This one is still waiting on my shelves, but I think I'll put it off in favor of the 100s of other books now.

Beth F said...

Bummer. Thanks for the warning.

Jacqueline C. said...

I was actually looking into getting this one . . . Thanks for letting us know!

Zibilee said...

Oh no, this doesn't sound very good! I am glad you let me have the real scoop on it, because I had been considering reading this one. Sorry to hear it didn't work for you.

Anonymous said...

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Is this possible?

Michelle said...

Yikes! I'm thinking I'm going to take a pass on this one for sure. I can't remember if I picked it up at BEA or not but if I did I doubt I'll be reading it.