Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brian

Z for Zachariah

by Robert C. O’Brian

Source: Public library

Hardcover

2007 (1974)

Simon & Schuster Pulse

 

After a nuclear war, sixteen-year-old Ann has survived on her family’s farm, in a valley that has its own weather system. She misses her parents and brothers, who left and never returned. She has a cow for milk and chickens for eggs. The general store in town has supplies of canned goods and men’s clothing for her to use. She also works on her garden. One of the two streams in the valley stayed fresh. One day a man arrives in an anti-radiation suit. He’s John Loomis, a scientist from Cornell University in New York. He created the suit shortly before the war, then went out in search of survivors. Even with his Geiger counter, he bathes in the irradiated stream and gets radiation sickness, so Ann has to nurse him back to health.

John wants the world as it was–except with him in control of civilization.  He’s very practical for a post-apocalyptic person. Ann asks if she could take the suit to get books from the town’s library, like Shakespeare and Dickens. He refuses, because textbooks and technical manuals have “more use.” He thinks she’s stupid because she’s young, and forces her to work for him. She has to fight and escape him. It turned into a good thriller once that happened! I liked Ann as a protagonist.
I had difficulty knowing where this was set, even with the long descriptive passages of the valley, hills, and town. I thought since New York was “very far away,” Ann must have lived in the Southeast, like Kentucky or Virginia.

The “About the Author” page at the end of the book said Robert C. O’Brian left notes for this after his death in 1973, so it was finished by his wife and daughter. That only bothered me a little because the tone and writing stayed the same throughout the book.

 

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Adaptation by Malinda Lo (Adaptation #1)

AdaptationMalindaLoAdaptation (Adaptation #1)

by Malinda Lo

2012

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Ebook

Source: Public library (Overdrive)

Summary from Goodreads:
Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.
Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.
Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.
Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

This was a good YA sci-fi thriller with memorable, realistic characters. It reminded me of The X-Files.  (Or, more recently Orphan Black.) Reese discovers she has special abilities after being treated for injuries at a secret military hospital, and gets drawn into a government conspiracy.

Lo wrote memorable characters. Reese comes to understand the difference between being attracted to someone and being in love with them. She’s attracted to her debate partner David, but then realizes she’s in love with Amber, the mysterious girl she met by chance. She eventually suspects Amber of being involved with the military conspiracy, which was the other part that reminded me of Orphan Black. The supporting characters were also memorable. Reese’s best friend Julian is a conspiracy theorist, and makes her investigate the connections between the secret hospital and the government. His being biracial was a part of him, but not so much that it defined his character. The same went for Reese’s bisexuality, which I liked. So all the characters were well-rounded.

I liked that the parents were in the story, instead of absent so the plot could advance. Lo portrayed Reese’s mom’s struggle to be a good single parent well. The way she wrote about Reese’s deadbeat dad made me think he shows up more in the sequel.

Lexicon by Max Barry

LexiconLexicon by Max Barry

2013

Penguin

Source: ebook from public library

What an exciting thriller! Lexicon is one of those books I feel I can’t say too much about the plot, as it would spoil the book.

In alternating chapters, we have the stories of Wil and Emily. Wil is meeting his girlfriend at an airport when a mysterious man with a gun kidnaps him. A secret organization recruits homeless teen con artist Emily to attend their Academy. Eventually they meet each other, Emily having learned how to control people using words.

Barry brought up timely themes about the use and misuse of words in the Information Age. Yes, you lose privacy online, but the bigger issue is someone can take your information and use it to manipulate you. He also brings to mind the question “Who or what is controlling the people who control you?”

There was good character development throughout the novel, using the alternating viewpoints of Wil, Emily, and sometimes other characters. The only part I had trouble with was figuring out what was a flashback and what was in the present. That might have been because I read it so fast, though!

Like his previous novel Jennifer Government, Max Barry makes a compelling story out of current events and ideas.