Sunday, October 4, 2015

Plus ca change...

Slater brings volume two
by Christopher Key

When Bellingham’s Robert L. Slater brought forth his first novel, All is Silence, he subtitled it “A Deserted Lands Novel.”  That indicated that there might be more to come in the post-apocalyptic world he created.  Book two, Straight into Darkness, is about to be unleashed and it’s a more than worthy successor.

The action in the first installment began in Bellingham after a mysterious plague kills most of the world’s population.  Our ADHD anti-heroine, Lizzie, has been running away all her life, to the point where that’s her normal reaction to any situation.  She and a few friends take off to seek Lizzie’s biological father and eventually find him in Utah.

One thing you can count on when Lizzie runs away: things will get worse.  She may have reunited with her father, but post-apocalyptic Utah is no picnic in the park.  There are dangerous people trying to claim power in the vacuum and politicians never change.  In addition to the orphaned child Lizzie adopted, she is now carrying the result of some inebriated and unsafe sex.  The more responsibilities demand of her, the more she wants to run.

The city of Provo is struggling to reclaim civilization and is clamping down on its citizenry, something guaranteed to trigger Lizzie’s flight-or-flight syndrome.  And she always runs into more trouble.

Lizzie has matured a bit thanks to some of those responsibilities.  She now at least thinks about things before she splits, but she splits anyway.  The subtext running through both the books is the age-old dilemma of security versus freedom.  Lizzie wants one, but not at the cost of the other.  Sounds kinda like certain pre-apocalyptic societies.

Slater has also matured as a writer and his newfound confidence is evident in more polished prose and accomplished plotting.  Straight into Darkness, like its predecessor, is classified as a Young Adult novel.  Don’t let that label fool you.  Slater’s works may be about young adults, but they’re very satisfying reads for all ages.

The character of Lizzie is a powerful one and Slater, a teacher by day, understands her very well.  This is a page-turner and you might want to consider carefully before jumping into it late at night.  Signed copies are available now at Village Books [and they'll mail them anywhere in the continental U.S. for $0.99] and Cozy Corner Books and Coffee in Bellingham. 

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