Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Dead & the Gone: A Book Review

As a 5th grade teacher in New Mexico, I am responsible for teaching United States history, from pre-Columbian times to the present day. One of the things I start each year with is a study of Mayan, Incan, and Aztec cultures, and their influences on early American culture. One of the things that always comes up is the Mayan calendar, and their belief that December 21, 2012 will be the end of their long count calendar (and, as some say, the end of the world). My students, each year I teach this, become enamored by this idea, and some continue to study it on their own or ask questions on and off for the rest of the school year. This is one small example of how apocalyptic tales and/or warnings intrigue even the youngest among us.

The Dead and the Gone, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, is a companion book to Life As We Knew It(see my review HERE). In the reality crafted by Pfeffer, an asteroid has hit the moon, jarring it out of its precarious orbit with the earth, moving it slightly closer. The consequences of this event, in which the moon has a stronger gravitational pull in relation to the earth, causes massive tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and near nuclear winter conditions world wide. The apocalypse in this story seems as if it could happen anytime, from the telling of the story, there's nothing ridiculous about it on the surface.

In Life As We Knew It, the story is told from a small town in Pennsylvania, with the struggles for survival in an isolated area. The Dead and the Gone tells this same story from New York City, and as the story moves along, we see a world almost more isolated, more prison like, than the Pennsylvania story.

The Dead and the Gone, in my opinion, is a much more telling read than Life As We Knew It. It's more jarring, more true to the realities of post apocalyptic fiction, and lives up to its billing as a book for ages 12 and up. With its images of death, disease, and the decaying human condition, its a good story from beginning to end. I found that the characters of this story, Alex Morales and his sisters mainly, were easy enough to relate to, and would be for pre-adolescent/teen readers as well.

Post apocalypse has been a topic of interest for me recently, and I've tried to pick up and read books that approach this concept from different perspectives. Most recently, I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road (see my review HERE), and found slight parallels between it and this book, possibly a future topic of research, at least, it's an idea I'm throwing around. If you read both, you will see similar stories of survival, self-preservation, and the stark reality of the world after events that have put an end to life as we knew it.

So in any case, before I go on and on, I want to end this review by saying that I enjoyed The Dead and the Gone a lot, more than Life As We Knew It actually, but understand that its content is a bit more mature. This is a great book, one that I enjoyed from beginning to end.