Review: Circles in the Dust by Matthew Harrop

circlesCircles in the Dust by Matthew Harrop
Release date:  March 27, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 271
Source: book provided by the author for review
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What if the world you know was taken from you tomorrow?

David spends his time staring out the window at the forest he can see from his family’s apartment window, yearning to explore the woods until war ravages the world and thrusts him into a nuclear wasteland.

Like many others, he finds security in the woods that once filled his daydreams. He takes shelter under the boughs of the ancient pines while he watches everything he knows turned upside down by a prolonged nuclear winter. Emerging from this apocalypse, he has little more than a cabin in the woods and a small store of canned food. Years of winter and constant hunger tug at the little hope he has of survival.

Struggling to make it just one more day, David must face his own demons, abandon everything he has ever known, and travel to the last vestiges of humanity where a war between starving factions threatens mankind’s last chance to make up for past mistakes.

 

Review: I love the post-apocalyptic genre. Besides the well-cooked zombie sub-genre, this literary world still has many avenues of unforeseen stories to be told by a multitude of authors. A well done tale can simultaneously creep us out, make us wonder if this could ever happen and if we could make it, haunt us, and show us something about ourselves in the present-day. Circles in the Dust by Matthew Harrop, his first novel, does all four with wit and wisdom.

This story follows the exploits of a young man named David, and his journeys in the world following a nuclear war which wipes out almost all of mankind. His family dies in the initial attacks, and young David is forced out into the woods at the young age of 7. He and other survivors either band together to fend off other survivors. David becomes more and more disconnected with humanity, until finally one day he cracks. Mentally saved by a young woman named Elizabeth, they band together to journey back to a fortress known as the Base, where David hopes to secure a new home with other people.

The beginning of this book had me captured. The protagonist’s descent into depression, sorrow, and almost Crime and Punishment-esque madness over his loneliness and not seeing another human is riveting and real. Even though we have never been through this situation, I could feel the emotion washing over this character. It does seem a little disjointed in parts, and I found myself trying to place the setting a couple times, but by the middle of the book all of the pieces fell together and I found my cohesive footing once more.

I am often disappointed by the endings of books. They often are cliched, having been guessed within the first half of the book, and are so quotidian it leaves me shaking my head. Matthew Harrop did a great job avoiding these common pitfalls that plague so many of the books of our days. I did not know how this was going to end. I didn’t even know if David would get the girl. The ending simultaneously left me angry, grumpy, and wanting more; but the ending was real, raw, the last thing I expected. If nothing else, it left me thinking about it for days afterwords, wondering how it could have turned out differently or if any other ending would have worked in this book. I found it to be excellent.

All in all, this book definitely has a place on my shelf. It was well done. The author’s style was eloquent and verbose, which I love. He didn’t pull any punches, and didn’t sacrifice any real-ness to our want of neat and tidy endings. The characters were dynamic and changing, and felt very real. The world was great. If he ever does a second book in this world, I would happily snatch that up. This book is definitely a must-read.

 

Justin