Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: All the Little Children

By Jami Deise

With the country in perpetual crisis, post-apocalyptic fiction is more popular than ever, and not only with teenage boys. Women are coming to the forefront, in titles such as Amanda Hickie’s Before this is Over and Carla Buckley’s The Things That Keep Us Here, featuring female protagonists who put their families’ safety front and center. As one of Amazon Prime’s Kindle First free books for August, All the Little Children features protagonist Marlene Greene, who is forced to answer the question, what about everyone else’s family?

In Jo Furniss’s debut novel, Marlene has taken her three children, a friend of her son’s, and her sister-in-law and niece on a camping trip in the woods somewhere in the U.K. While they’re playing around and Marlene is sulking about the end of her marriage, something bad happens. When the group goes back to town, everyone’s gone but the bodies (and the flies), the electricity’s off, and other post-apocalyptic signs abound. But Marlene and her family aren’t the only ones left alive—there’s a group of schoolboys, and when Marlene’s niece Lola plays Wendy to their Lost Boys, Marlene wonders how much responsibility she has to children she did not birth.

I had trouble getting into the book in the beginning – Marlene is so arrogant, she’s difficult to root for, and I didn’t care about the end of her marriage. I was also tripped up by the quick timeline of events – the world ends pretty much in a day and a half. As the story progresses, Marlene learns that homegrown British terrorists planted multiple bombs containing manufactured Bubonic Plague that killed most of the population instantly. I found the instant death of everyone difficult to believe, as the most deadly viruses don’t kill people right away. If people die immediately, they cannot spread the disease, and the disease is contained.

But as I got deeper into the story, it differentiated itself well enough from other post-apocalyptic fiction (and Marlene became more human) that it become much more engrossing. Furniss deftly raises the stakes and reveals that Marlene’s initial impressions of the calamity were wrong. Not only does Marlene have other people’s kids to look after, she has to determine who the bad guys are, and who’s trying to help.

Near the end of the story, Furniss compares Marlene’s situation with the Lost Boys to the global response to refugees, a metaphor that worked well and that I wished she had used throughout the book. (The fact that the terrorists were homegrown has important ramifications.) What kind of world are we left with if people do not take responsibility for other people’s children? And are refugees not other people’s children?

Furniss refuses to tie up her story in a nice bow, leaving enough material for a sequel if she wishes to pursue one. All the Little Children is a nice addition to the female-driven post-apocalyptic genre, and I look forward to Furniss’s next book.

Thanks to Kaye Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Janine said...

Sounds interesting

Dianna said...

I'd like to read this!