Saturday, 21 June 2014

Review: Z for Zachariah

Title: Z for Zachariah
Author: Robert C. O'Brien
Published by: Simon Pulse on June 10th 2007 (originally 1974)
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian
Format: Paperback
Source: My Bookshelf
Buy it from Amazon or Book Depository
Check it out on Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis: Is anyone out there? 

Ann Burden is sixteen years old and completely alone. The world as she once knew it is gone, ravaged by a nuclear war that has taken everyone from her. For the past year, she has lived in a remote valley with no evidence of any other survivors. 

But the smoke from a distant campfire shatters Ann's solitude. Someone else is still alive and making his way toward the valley. Who is this man? What does he want? Can he be trusted? Both excited and terrified, Ann soon realizes there may be worse things than being the last person on Earth.

My Thoughts: I first read this for English class in school back in the mid-90s and it has always stuck with me. I have been meaning to buy it for a long time and just never got around to it but it is being made into a movie due for release next year, so I figured I should get to it before then. It is almost exactly as I remembered it, even after about 20 years and I think this is the book that started my love for post-apocalypic fiction.

Ann has been doing very well surviving by herself on her family's farm, after her family and most the world is killed after nuclear attack. Everyday she works hard to survive - fishing, hauling water form a stream, milking the cow, collecting eggs and working the land. She has gotten used to her routine and the solitude and quietness, all that changes after she sees smoke from a campfire in the distance. The lone stranger slowly gets closer and closer in his radiation suit, and so, for precaution, she moves her stuff into a cave. From the safety of the cave she watches as the man camps on her farm and as he makes a deadly mistake. Putting caution aside, she goes to the man and nurses him through sickness. At first, Ann is excited for the company and even plans their future together but that quickly changes as Mr Loomis gets better and it becomes apparent that Ann is at risk from something other than radiation.

The story is told through Ann's diary and this helps to make the events seem more immediate and tense. She is a likeable narrator, though at times she is naive but considering her somewhat sheltered upbringing that is understandable. Ann is such a strong, intelligent and resourceful young woman, and you can't help but feel proud of her for what she has accomplished and feel sympathy for her when she loses what she worked so hard for.

The story Mr Loomis is a sad one, you feel the hope of a possible future right along with Ann and then devastating disappointment and fear when his true nature is revealed. As I was reading, I kept hoping that it was just the illness making him act the way he does and that he would eventually get better, be normal and he and Ann can be happy together. I kept hoping this even though I knew exactly how it ended.

This novel isn't only about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world but a story about fortitude and survival versus humanity. It raises questions of what would you do in Ann's situation - would you be able to survive on your own with no electricity (and no books *GASP*) and would you remove the problem or remove yourself from the problem like Ann did? It might be easy to say to yourself, as you read, that you would just kill the crazy son of a gun, but could you, in all honesty end another human being's life, if there was another way out? I personally think that my self-preservation would trump my humanity in that situation, but hopefully, I will never have to find out.

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