REVIEW: THE OTHER LIFE

Author: Susanne Winnacker.  (rrp £6.99; Usborne Publishing ; pub’d 1st FEB 2012)

Verdict: With the current love of dystopia and zombie horror, and a solid enough romance Winnacker’s novel certainly ticks a lot of boxes.  It is tame though and against many of the other successes in each of these genres it may struggle to truly stand out.

Review: Sherry and her family have been living underground  for the last three and a half years .  Her parents argue, inside the freezer lies her recently deceased grandfather, food has just run out.  Sherry has no choice but to join her father, leave the bunker and ensure that her family can survive.  Upon leaving however they find a Los Angeles completely changed; eerily empty and run by Weepers (zombies, basically).  When her father is taken by these monsters, the mysterious Joshua comes to her aid and she must quickly adapt to this new world.

To begin, the novel is forebodingly claustrophobic – the continuous counting of days, hours, minutes combined with the fact that Sherry and her family don’t actually know what is out there is hugely effective – this is Winnacker at her best.  The reader becomes intensely intrigued by how they’ll escape  their caged like existence.  When Sherry and her Father realise what their ‘other life’ has become the reader can only expect the drama to be heightened and yet somehow the tension is diminished.  As the scope of the novel becomes wider the story becomes less effective.

Then we have the burgeoning romance between Sherry and Joshua…it’s just not that exciting.   Joshua is the dutifully brooding, handsome guy but beyond that his personality isn’t hugely developed.  And that’s problematic because this story needs that strong romantic chemistry.  Combined with the slight loss of  tension, the novel felt a little sparse.  Further to this, you begin to think this is just a prelude to some bigger story (yes, it’s a trilogy) and that’s just frustrating.

Hunger Games and Charlie Higson’s The Enemy series are automatic (perhaps lazy) comparisons.  Both, are amazingly visceral, pulling at all kinds of emotions.  Winnacker doesn’t quite achieve this, and you feel slightly short changed knowing that the real story won’t probably start until the next book.

This is a competent début, and will appeal to many readers but for those looking to be taken on a roller-coaster ride of emotion may not find that this is the book for them.

3/5

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