My Rating ★★★★☆ 4.5 Stars
Thanks to the publisher Penguin UK – Michael Joseph – and Net Galley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I promise you - this is a hauntingly superb read once you understand how the book is written/presented.
Let’s start with this cover – a grimy face peering out of the shadows, scoping the area, or at least that’s how I see it. There’s only one thing I love more than oxygen and that’s reading post-apocalyptic books which test the mental, emotional and physical limits of the characters. By simply looking at this cover I somehow knew I was in for some survivalist action.
Zoo, a moniker of the protagonist, is at the point in her life where she is about to have a life changing event. She wants one last adventure before she settles into motherhood; her chosen adventure – take part in a TV reality show which promises to test the endurance of twelve contestants. Challenges are given. The physically, emotionally and mentally strong will persevere while the weak get left behind (quit) but when strange things start happening, Zoo simply thinks the creators are making things harder for the contestants. She continually reminds herself throughout the journey that this is a game, none of it is real and that there’s a finish line. But is the game she’s playing still a game? Or is it her new reality within a game gone wrong?
Remember my previous statement?-The one about the presentation of the book? Well the thing is it might be a bit difficult to follow when you’ve just started reading but keep at it and it becomes tolerable; you’ll be rewarded (with a great plot). The point of view and time alternates between two narrators with each chapter; comments from a thread related to the TV show are thrown in there at the end of a few chapters. Chapter one begins with a general narrator, this unspecified gender gives a sort of play by play commentary of In The Dark challenges, behind the scenes, confessions of characters, camera angles, things that will happen in a few minutes from the now etc.; it basically follows the happenings of every character in the book. I was able to envision this as a real TV show, like I was watching it on a screen.
The second chapter has the narrator was Zoo, a couple of weeks ahead of the first narrator. It follows her present, life after team challenges – on the Solo Challenge. The timelines eventually meet near the end of the book, but don’t worry; you get the full story – past, present and the life of other characters in another part of the world.
So one chapter is general narration, the other is Zoo, the next is back to general narration and the other will be Zoo etc.
I really got into the book at the 25% mark and I didn’t want it to end. Zoo is so determined that she is oblivious to what’s going on around her. I think it was this cluelessness which brought her this far in her journey. If she only knew how much reality had changed since she left she’d have broken down, been disheartened, maybe she would have died. My heart broke for her so many times; I just wanted her to know the truth. She found meaning and hidden clues in places that were not manipulated by the creators; she followed rules till the near end that were useless.
When she finally realized the truth it was even more heart breaking. I think I teared up a bit. I felt immense pain for her after the realization.
Of all the characters, she was a survivor – not knowing game from reality yet she still made it out alive.
I recommend this 100%.