White Horse: A Novel - Alex Adams
See the full review at my blog: image

3.5 stars (rounded up to 4 for Goodreads)
Good, want to call it great but there's several big issues for me.

First, a word of warning. There’s graphic scenes of death, murder, DIY abortion, and rape. This is not a book for the squeamish or faint of heart. The violence style isn’t the gratuitous horror/action movie type though. Often it’s described in pieces, parts, vagueness or clinical detachment - which makes what happens all the more haunting. There’s also a really misogynist douche of a bad guy and insults about weight in the beginning of the book.

THE LIST...because brevity is not my strong suit
+ Realistic portrayal of post apocalyptic society. Not the happy band of travelers looking out for one another, good finding it’s way through. This is sheer dumb luck, good people dying and those without scruples living another day. As dark, gritty & grim as the apocalypse would be.
+ I liked the writing style, though it could get heavy handed at times
+ I liked the characters, especially Zoe, in both Then and Now. I got a good sense of who they were, their personalities and found them personable.
+ Was hooked and intrigued by the mystery of the jar
+ Thought the unreliable narrator was well done and I liked the journey with this extra bit of mystery.
+ Loved the last line of this book so much.

- Misleading US Blurb. This didn’t affect my reading enjoyment but it has for others and I don't like when the blurb feels off.
- The events on the tail end of the middle, leading up the the climax are pushing it. Convenient, contrived, convoluted, and flies in the face of how realistic and grounded the rest of the book it is. Of course, it might make sense in later books, being a trilogy and all, but I was annoyed with it while reading.
- The villains are lackluster. Standard, bland, 2-D. Can’t even say they are the worst characters, because they are caricatures. There’s a star missing just for this.

Most other reviews call it hopeful and like White Horse or call it depressing and don’t like it. I didn’t see much hope, just a lone person clinging to a piece of driftwood during a hurricane , but I still enjoyed the book. Maybe I’m just more pragmatic and reserved in jumping from joy for Zoe since I immediately thought how much it would suck dying the next day. At least she made the journey worth it though. I loved how realistic it is. This book delves into the worse side of humanity and doesn’t let us forget as repulsive as we find it - it’s still human. White Horse is more about what’s acceptable, what ideals, what morals do you hold on to when everything else goes to hell but the reminder is there - evil is still human. It’s an intense internal struggle to deal with how one was raised when that world no longer exists and there’s the external struggle of learning to survive in a new world.

The graphic scenes not there for shock, awe or gore factor (though it does up the ante) but because it’s being realistic. There’s terrible things going on now even with laws, prisons, and societal expectation. It’s all part of being human, as much as we try to shun and other such actions as unhuman. I love how Zoe brings this up and doesn’t go all “Slaughter the abominations!”. That viewpoint is in the book but it’s not seen as good thing. Sure, we’d all like to be noble, brave survivors saving the day and Zoe tries because she wants that too. She wants to cling to something good in a world gone dark, it’s just pesky reality gets in the way. We go on because we can, because we must, because of instinct and sometimes being a survivor really fucking sucks.

I love how it brought up the issues of rape and abortion in a post-apocalyptic world. Hell, I worry about such things now living in a country that doesn’t respect, protect or uphold women’s rights. I may have problems with improbability during the events right before the ending but the last line in this book is killer. Seriously, it’s awesome, impacting and unexpected. The villains are another sore spot for me. I found them 2-D and stereotypical. They just made me sigh, and want more instead of the stupid standard in speculative fiction.

I loved the alternating time line of Then and Now. I love the mystery and suspense of the jar. It’s tense and things goes wrong. Terribly wrong with little things we cling to for comfort as well as survival. Shit happens. It’s dark, gritty, deadly and grim. What else could you expect from the apocalypse? And I was reading for the story, not a How to Survive the End of the World guide because that depends so much on how the world ended anyways. There’s plenty of other places to get that survivalist information if you want it, I just wanted a good story. While there’s a few issues with White Horse, I got what I wanted.